The COVID-19 National Emergency Finally Set to End
Happy Monday! Things that can bring a grown man to tears: Chris Stapleton singing the national anthem, referees calling the softest holding penalty in football history, and stepping on a scale the morning after a Super Bowl party.
Congratulations to Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs on their 38-35 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last night.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The U.S. military shot down three airborne objects over the weekend, one Friday evening off the Alaskan coast, the second Saturday in Canadian airspace, and a third Sunday afternoon in Michigan over Lake Huron. The Pentagon has yet to announce whether the objects were surveillance balloons like the Chinese one shot down off the coast of South Carolina last week; all three were reportedly smaller than the Chinese device. Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder said Friday the object shot down over Alaska was flying at an altitude that made it a risk to civilian aircraft, and it is being recovered by U.S. officials after reportedly breaking apart when it hit ocean ice. On Saturday, American jets shot down an object—described by the Canadian Defense Minister Anita Anand as “cylindrical”—in concert with the Canadians as part of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), and the Canadian military is collecting the debris from the object in the Yukon Territory. Airspace was closed over Montana Saturday afternoon after NORAD spotted an object on radar. While jets scrambled to confirm its presence originally found nothing, the object reappeared Sunday over Michigan’s Lake Huron and an F-16 shot it down with the same Sidewinder air-to-air missiles that downed the previous three objects (including the Chinese balloon). Like the object over Alaska, this object was flying at altitudes that threatened civilian aircraft. The objects’ origins—and whether they carried any surveillance equipment—have yet to be determined. The rash of unidentified flying objects could be due to increased sensitivity in military radar after the Chinese balloon’s incursion. Meanwhile, the U.S. Commerce Department added six Chinese companies linked to the balloon’s production to its “entity list,” preventing American firms from selling them parts and technology without special approval.
- The death toll from last week’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria has reportedly surpassed 33,000 people as the window for search-and-rescue operations—hampered by security concerns—draws to a close. Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, meanwhile, announced the government is investigating nearly 150 people involved in the construction of buildings unable to withstand the quakes. Three people have reportedly been arrested, seven detained, and seven more barred from leaving Turkey.
- Russia launched a mass air attack on Friday targeting Ukrainian electricity infrastructure, with one missile reportedly flying over Moldova and coming within 25 miles of the border with Romania, a NATO member. The commander of Ukraine’s armed forces, Valeriy Zaluzhnyi, said the Ukrainian military shot down 61 of the 71 cruise missiles and five of the seven drones the Russians deployed.
- The FBI found one additional document with classified markings in its search of former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home on Friday, an adviser to Pence announced. The search was coordinated by Pence’s legal team and the Justice Department after advisers to the former vice president turned over several classified documents found in Pence’s home last month. Meanwhile, ABC News reported Friday former President Donald Trump’s legal team had discovered a folder and a document with classified markings at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home in recent months and turned them over to the Justice Department in December and January. A laptop allegedly belonging to a current aide of the former president—which reportedly had scans of those documents—was also turned over to federal authorities.
- U.S. Africa Command announced Sunday that—at the request of the Somalian government—U.S. forces conducted a “self-defense” airstrike near the coastal Somali city of Hobyo, killing approximately 12 members of the al-Shabaab terrorist group. U.S. officials believe no civilians were injured or killed in the strike due to the “remote location of the operation.”
- Three people in East Jerusalem—including a pair of brothers, ages 6 and 8—were killed Friday in what authorities described as a “ramming terror attack” when a Palestinian man—who was shot dead by an off-duty detective at the scene—drove his car into a bus stop. The attacker’s family said the man was unwell and had been released from a psychiatric ward hours earlier; Israeli security officials have reportedly come to a similar conclusion.
- The Somerset County (New Jersey) Prosecutor’s Office announced last week a Republican local council member had been fatally shot, days after a GOP city councilwoman in a different county was killed—though authorities don’t currently believe the deaths are connected. Russell Heller, a councilman from Milford, was shot in his car outside the office building where he worked. The shooter, who worked at Heller’s company, was later found dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Sayreville councilwoman Eunice Dwumfour died from multiple gunshot wounds inflicted near her home last Wednesday. Authorities have not identified any suspects in Dwumfour’s murder, but believe the crime may be related to the church she attended.
- Toronto Mayor John Tory resigned Friday after revealing a romantic relationship with a staff member that began during the pandemic and ended earlier this year. Having just been elected in October to his third term as mayor, Tory said he was stepping down to begin “rebuilding the trust” of his family. A special election to replace Tory will be held in the coming months.
911, What’s Your National Emergency?
We don’t want to scare you, but the United States isn’t just facing a national emergency—it’s facing dozens of them and has been for decades. Iranian oil? Somalian pirates? The Japanese mafia, Colombian drugs, Belarusian election fraud? There’s an emergency for that, a declaration giving the president extra powers to tackle the problem. No wonder everyone’s so on edge all the time.
But as of May 11, we’ll all be able to breathe just a little easier. That’s when President Joe Biden says he’ll allow the COVID-19 national emergency—and accompanying public health emergency—to expire. The step is part recognition of a new phase of the pandemic, and part a response to pressure from congressional Republicans. It’ll affect health and immigration policy, and it could help put a permanent kibosh on Biden’s student loan forgiveness program.