The Death of a Russian Warlord

Happy Monday! We cannot adequately capture in just a few sentences how great it was to have college football back on our TVs this weekend.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Speaking at the Kansas City Fed’s annual symposium in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, last week, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell suggested that additional interest-rate hikes could be necessary later this year. Noting that inflation remains “too high,” Powell made clear the Fed is prepared to raise rates further “if appropriate,” and that the central bankers intend to “hold policy at a restrictive level” until they are “confident that inflation is moving sustainably down.” Investors are currently pricing in about a 20 percent chance the Fed hikes rates by 25 basis points at its next meeting in late September, and an 80 percent chance it holds steady. 
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics issued a preliminary benchmark revision of its employment numbers last week, revising the total number of jobs added in the year ending March 2023 down by 306,000. Hiring remained robust for the year despite the revisions—the updated figures only reduced total employment by 0.2 percent—but the data indicate the economy is not running quite as hot as previously believed. The transportation, warehousing, and professional/business services sectors accounted for most of the downward revisions.
  • A 21-year-old gunman shot and killed three people at a Dollar General store in Jacksonville, Florida, on Saturday before dying of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. The gunman—who was white—reportedly left behind three racist manifestos, leading law enforcement officials to classify the shooting as racially motivated. Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters told reporters the shooter “hated black people,” and Attorney General Merrick Garland said Sunday the Justice Department will investigate the shooting as a hate crime. The shooter had no previous criminal record and had legally obtained the two firearms—a Glock pistol and an AR-15 rifle with white swastikas drawn on it—used in the shooting. Gov. Ron DeSantis put his presidential campaign on hold Sunday, returning to Florida to attend a vigil for the shooting victims and prepare for Idalia, a storm that is expected to make landfall along the Gulf Coast as a hurricane later this week.
  • At least seven confirmed tornadoes swept through southeastern Michigan late last week, resulting in at least five deaths and hundreds of thousands of people without power. The severe weather toppled trees and downed power lines across the region.
  • A U.S. Marine pilot died on Friday after his F/A-18 Hornet jet crashed late Thursday night during a training flight in Miramar, California, near San Diego. The cause of the crash is still unknown and an investigation is ongoing. Three more Marines died in Australia on Sunday when an Osprey aircraft carrying a total of 23 Marines crashed during a training exercise. The cause of that crash—which injured several others—is also under investigation
  • Federal prosecutors are considering charges against Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey after a years-long  investigation into possible corruption, the Wall Street Journal reported Friday. The U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York will likely meet with Menendez’s lawyers in the coming weeks as they decide whether to bring charges related to gifts the senator allegedly received in exchange for political favors. Menendez was previously indicted in 2015 for allegedly exchanging political favors for luxury gifts, but the trial concluded in a mistrial in 2017 after a deadlocked jury failed to reach a verdict.
  • President Joe Biden said Friday the special counsel investigating his handling of classified documents has thus far not requested an interview. “There’s no such request and no such interest,” he told reporters. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur back in January to probe whether Biden broke any laws after classified documents were found at both Biden’s Delaware home and an office he used in Washington, D.C.
  • In an effort to remove the case to federal court, three Georgia Republicans who are co-defendants with former President Donald Trump in Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ case involving efforts to overturn the 2020 election in the state wrote in a series of court filings last week that they only participated in the alleged fraudulent electors scheme because the former president and his campaign told them to, leading them to believe they had the federal government’s approval for their actions.
  • The 2028 GOP nominating convention will be held in Houston, Texas, the Republican National Committee (RNC) announced Friday. The RNC took the unprecedented step of announcing the 2028 convention a year before the next one—set to take place in Milwaukee, Wisconsin—had even occurred, as part of their plan to begin selecting convention locations six years in advance.
  • Charlie Gerow, the vice chair of the Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), resigned Friday after nearly two decades with the organization. Gerow is reportedly the fifth CPAC board member to step down in recent months, after Matt Schlapp, the chair of CPAC’s parent organization, was sued earlier this year over allegations of sexual assault that Schlapp denies. In announcing his resignation, Gerow urged the board to authorize an investigation into both Schlapp’s conduct as well as CPAC’s finances. “The situation at CPAC has become such that I felt compelled to resign,” Gerow told Politico.
  • French Education Minister Gabriel Attal announced Sunday France will no longer allow students to wear the abaya, a Muslim religious covering for women, in public schools, arguing the religious dress runs counter to the French law requiring secularism. The rule adds to the growing number of religious symbols, like the kippah and hijab, explicitly banned in public schools and will go into effect as soon as the new school year starts on September 4.
  • Bob Barker, the longtime host of The Price is Right, died on Saturday at the age of 99. Barker—an avowed animal rights activist—hosted the popular game show from 1972 to 2007.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, 1961-2023

A makeshift memorial for Prigozhin in front of the Private Military Company (PMC) Wagner Centre in Saint Petersburg on Saturday. (Photo by Olga MALTSEVA / AFP) (Photo by OLGA MALTSEVA/AFP via Getty Images)

For the average American, the odds of dying in a plane crash in any given year are about one in 11 million. We don’t have data specifically for Russian warlords-turned-mutineers, but we have to imagine the odds are a little higher. Just ask Yevgeny Prigozhin, who appears to have been killed last week when a private aircraft he was supposedly aboard went down.

It wasn’t the first time. In October 2019, Prigozhin—the head of Wagner Group, the private military company—was reportedly on a jet that crashed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Within days, however, it became clear that reports of his death were greatly exaggerated. A source close to Prigozhin apparently told Russian state media at the time that he was “very surprised to be considered dead.”

Such a resurrection seems less likely this time around. On Wednesday—exactly two months after Prigozhin launched his abortive putsch against top Russian military brass—a private plane with his name on the passenger manifest crashed halfway between Moscow and Prigozhin’s hometown of St. Petersburg. The crash apparently killed all ten people aboard—including Prigozhin and his lieutenant, Dmitri Utkin—and evidence is mounting to suggest the warlord is, in fact, dead. The cause of the crash is still shrouded in mystery, and questions abound regarding what this death means for the future of Prigozhin’s sprawling mercenary enterprise, for its activities across the globe, and for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. 

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