The Collapse of Kakhovka Dam

Happy Thursday! The Dispatch softball team remains undefeated!

Sure, our first game was postponed last night due to a code red air quality alert in D.C.—but we’ve got a big old zero in the loss column.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories  

  • Smoke from more than 400 wildfires in Canada—which have forced 120,000 Canadians to evacuate—is blanketing much of the Northeast, placing nearly 100 million people in 18 states under air quality alerts. In New York City yesterday, the Air Quality Index topped 400 out of 500, the worst in the world, and the Federal Aviation Administration temporarily grounded flights at LaGuardia Airport due to low visibility. The White House has deployed more than 600 U.S. firefighters and support personnel to Canada, along with equipment to help quench the fires, but the National Weather Service predicts little improvement today.
  • Former Vice President Mike Pence announced Wednesday he’s running for president, promising to uphold the Constitution and arguing Donald Trump’s actions on January 6, 2021, disqualified him for the presidency. Pence also portrayed himself as more traditionally conservative than other candidates on abortion, spending, and foreign policy, pledging continued support for Ukraine and exhibiting a willingness to reform Social Security and Medicare to address the national debt. He’s currently polling under 4 percent nationally to Trump’s 53 percent. Former software executive and current North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum also announced Wednesday he’s running for the GOP presidential nomination, highlighting his experience passing pension reform, term limits, and tax cuts.
  • Prosecutors have reportedly informed Trump’s legal team he’s the target of a criminal investigation—a step that often, though not always, precedes an indictment—over his mishandling of classified documents. Special counsel Jack Smith has been investigating the handling of documents, as well as Trump’s efforts to remain in office after the 2020 election. A federal grand jury in Florida has reportedly been hearing testimony on the latter investigation, and former White House official Steve Bannon has been subpoenaed to testify. The news comes one day after the New York Times reported former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows had testified before a grand jury as part of Smith’s probe.
  • Former Attorney General Bill Barr contradicted Democratic Rep. Jamie Raskin’s recent claim that the Trump Department of Justice had closed an investigation into bribery allegations against then-Vice President Joe Biden that are now at the center of a dispute between House Republicans and the FBI. “On the contrary, it was sent to Delaware for further investigation,” Barr said on Wednesday. Republican House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer on Wednesday dropped plans to hold FBI head Christopher Wray in contempt of Congress after Wray agreed to let the full committee see a document detailing the bribery allegations, plus two related documents. Previously, only Comer and Raskin, his Democratic counterpart, had been allowed to view the report.
  • The Commerce Department reported Wednesday the United States’ imports rose 1.5 percent in April from March to a seasonally adjusted $323.6 billion, reflecting higher prices from ongoing inflation as well as rising demand for cars and car parts, industrial supplies, and cell phones and household goods. The proportion of goods imported from China dropped to 15.4 percent over the year ending in April, the lowest level since October 2006. U.S. exports, meanwhile, fell 3.6 percent amid softening global demand. 
  • President Biden on Wednesday vetoed a Republican-led resolution that would have blocked his plan to cancel up to $20,000 in federal student loans per borrower. It’s the fifth veto of Biden’s presidency—and comes as the Supreme Court considers the constitutionality of the plan. Loan payments are set to resume in August.
  • House leadership has canceled votes for the rest of the week as several hardline GOP lawmakers deployed stall tactics to protest the debt ceiling deal Speaker Kevin McCarthy brokered with Democrats. The members reportedly want to renegotiate the deal struck in January to give McCarthy the speakership gavel, though McCarthy said they hadn’t offered specific demands. 
  • Portland, Oregon’s city council voted 3-1 to drop its rarely enforced ban on camping on public property, instead allowing overnight camping provided campers don’t block private property, schools, or businesses. Three-time violators of the restrictions may face fines and up to 30-day prison terms. The homeless population in Oregon climbed nearly 23 percent from 2020 to 2022, and a state law taking effect July 1 requires cities and counties to adopt “objectively reasonable” rules for what homeless people can do on public property, codifying a federal court ruling banning local governments from arresting people for sleeping rough if the municipality offers insufficient shelter capacity.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Wednesday his nation will open 10 new embassies in Africa—starting in Rwanda and Mozambique—and will increase agricultural exports and military cooperation on the continent. Ukraine’s efforts to strengthen ties follow some African nations’ reluctance to oppose Russia’s invasion. South Africa, for instance, abstained from a United Nations resolution condemning Russia’s aggression, has since conducted naval exercises with Russia, and has invited Russian President Vladimir Putin to a summit in August despite an international warrant against him.

Dam Russians

A view from the roof of residential building on flooded area of Kherson on June 7. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)
A view from the roof of residential building on flooded area of Kherson on June 7. (Photo by Yan Dobronosov/Global Images Ukraine via Getty Images)

In the summer of 1941, Joseph Stalin’s secret police committed what one British war correspondent called an “unparalleled stroke of patriotic destruction”: blowing up the Dnipro Dam near Zaporizhzhia in Soviet-era Ukraine to slow the Nazi advance. An official death toll was never released, but thousands of civilians are believed to have died in the resulting flooding. “People were screaming for help,” one eyewitness told a Ukrainian TV station decades later. “Cows were mooing, pigs were squealing. People were climbing on trees.”

The Russian playbook may not have changed much in the intervening 82 years. In the early hours of Tuesday morning—June 6, when much of the world commemorates D-Day, the beginning of the operation that would liberate Europe during World War II—Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam, under Russian control, burst. The cause of the dam’s failure is still unknown with both sides of the conflict blaming one another, but the flooding only compounds humanitarian and environmental disasters ravaging the war-torn country—and does so just as Ukraine is beginning its counteroffensive against the invading Russian forces.

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