Happy Monday! Today could be just a regular old Monday, or it could be the first step in your journey to break Jeff Reitz’s world record for consecutive daily visits to Disneyland.
If you start today—and take literally no days off—victory will be yours on May 12, 2031!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend that, according to a classified intelligence report recently provided to the White House and certain congressional leaders, the Energy Department has shifted its assessment of COVID-19’s origins to conclude the virus most likely originated from a laboratory leak, though it reportedly made its judgment with “low confidence.”
- The Federal Reserve’s preferred measure of inflation—the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) price index—rose 5.4 percent year-over-year in January, the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reported Friday, up from a 5 percent annual increase in December. The core index, which excludes volatile food and energy prices and is considered a better measure of future inflation, was up 4.7 percent annually, a slight increase from December’s 4.4 percent annual rise. Consumer spending, meanwhile, increased 1.8 percent from December to January—the largest month-over-month spike in nearly two years. The BEA report—in conjunction with other data showing a still-hot economy—could lead Federal Reserve governors to hike interest rates higher than previously expected at their meeting next month.
- The Environmental Protection Agency temporarily halted the further transport of contaminated water and soil out of East Palestine, Ohio, over the weekend to review Norfolk Southern’s disposal plans and ensure the company was authorized to move the hazardous materials through other states. Shipments are set to resume today, but will now be going to two EPA-certified facilities in Ohio.
- On the one-year anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the U.S. Treasury Department announced Friday it was imposing a slate of new sanctions targeting more than 250 individuals, financial institutions, and other entities involved in Russia’s defense, technology, mining, and energy sectors.
- Tens of thousands of people protested across Mexico on Sunday in opposition to a new law—pushed by leftist President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO)—that will weaken and partially defund Mexico’s National Electoral Institute, an independent agency that oversees the country’s federal elections. AMLO’s proposed reforms—which he claims are necessary to rein in spending—passed Mexico’s Congress last week, but protesters hope the country’s Supreme Court will rule them unconstitutional.
- At least 59 people—including 12 children—drowned Sunday after a fishing boat carrying more than 150 migrants smashed into reefs in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Italy. The Italian Coast Guard said roughly 80 people have been rescued from the boat, which set sail from Turkey and was carrying migrants from Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran.
- First Lady Jill Biden indicated in an Associated Press interview on Friday President Joe Biden is likely to announce his 2024 reelection bid soon, telling reporter Darlene Superville “pretty much” all that remains is determining a time and place for the announcement. “He says he’s not done,” she said. “He’s not finished what he started.”
- Biden will have at least one fringe primary challenger, with self-help author and spiritual adviser Marianne Williamson confirming over the weekend she will launch a bid for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination after a failed run in 2020.
- GOP Rep. John James on Friday filed to run for reelection to his Detroit-area House seat next year, seemingly forgoing a run at the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Democratic Sen. Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Democratic Rep. Elissa Slotkin appears to be gearing up for a run at Stabenow’s seat, while Reps. Bill Huizinga and Lisa McClain—and former Rep. Peter Meijer—have been discussed as possible candidates on the Republican side.
The China-Russia “No Limits” Bromance
For Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s birthday in 2019, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave him ice cream. For Putin’s birthday in 2022, Xi gave him a promise of China’s continued partnership amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. And for Putin’s birthday this year—or sooner—U.S. officials say China is considering giving Russia lethal aid to help in the ongoing attack.
While nearly the entire West has coalesced to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the last year, China has struck a different tone, continually pushing for peace without punishing Russia as the two countries’ economic ties deepen. On Friday, China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a 12-point policy paper calling for—among other things—an end to unilateral sanctions, resumed peace talks, and a ceasefire potentially locking in Russia’s territorial gains in Ukraine. It’s unclear whether China will work to facilitate the diplomatic off-ramp it outlined, but the bulletin is the latest example of Beijing’s ostensibly neutral stance just happening to favor the Kremlin.