The Disney-DeSantis Feud Escalates

Happy Friday! Typically, a story about a black bear wandering through a suburban neighborhood and rummaging through trash cans would be a great set-up for a joke about last night’s NFL draft, but Steve decided to take the morning off. 

Welcome to Chicago, Darnell Wright!

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • In international waters in the Gulf of Oman Thursday, the Iranian Navy seized a Turkish-operated tanker bound for the U.S., according to the U.S. Navy. Iran says the vessel, chartered by Chevron and carrying 750,000 barrels of crude oil, collided with an Iranian fishing boat and attempted to flee. The U.S. Naval Central Command described the seizure as “contrary to international law and disruptive to regional security and stability,” and called on Iran to release the tanker. 
  • The Treasury Department on Thursday imposed sanctions on Russian and Iranian security services and individuals for their role in illegally detaining Americans. This tranche of sanctions is the first to rely on the additional powers unlocked by an executive order President Joe Biden signed in July aimed at bringing detained Americans home. The penalties are largely symbolic but come as Russia rejected a U.S. request for officials to visit jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Moscow.
  • Multiple outlets reported former Vice President Mike Pence appeared Thursday before a grand jury in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s probe into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The testimony comes one day after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Trump’s last-ditch attempts to claim executive privilege to keep his former vice president from testifying. Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg had already ruled Pence did not have to testify specifically about his actions on January 6, 2021, as president of the Senate, which were protected under the Constitution’s “speech and debate” clause.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced Thursday the U.S. plans to open migrant processing centers in Central and Latin America ahead of Title 42—pandemic-era border controls—expiring in May. The centers—the first of which will open in Colombia and Guatemala—will offer additional legal pathways to the U.S. for roughly 5,000-6,000 people initially and scale up capacity later. 
  • Pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly said Thursday it will seek Food and Drug Administration approval to market its Type-2 diabetes drug, Mounjaro, as a weight-loss drug after a new study found patients taking the drug who are also obese or overweight lost as much as 15.7 percent of their body weight. The drug’s approval as a weight-loss treatment would pave the way for insurers to cover Mounjaro, which has a list price of almost $1,000 a month for that use.
  • Republican West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice filed paperwork Thursday to run for Senate in 2024, potentially against Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin, who currently holds the seat but has not yet said he will run for reelection. Justice, a former Democrat, joins GOP Rep. Alex Mooney in the Republican Senate primary that is set to be expensive—the conservative Club for Growth PAC has promised to spend $10 million on the race. 
  • The Commerce Department reported Thursday that real gross domestic product (GDP) grew at an annual rate of 1.1 percent in the first quarter of 2023, a significant slowdown from a 2.6 percent annual rate of growth in the fourth quarter of 2022 but still the third straight quarter of growth. The bulk of this increase came from consumer spending, which rose at a rate of 3.7 percent in the first quarter but slowed as the quarter progressed, reflecting rising interest rates, instability in the banking sector, and fears of a recession.
  • The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 16,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 230,000 claims last week, a sharp decrease amid high-profile layoffs, indicating the labor market remains strong despite weaknesses in other parts of the U.S. economy.

Another Round of Man v. Mouse

An aerial view of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
An aerial view of Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The tone of the Walt Disney Company’s first filing in its new lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other state officials is very much reminiscent of Widow Tweed having to return Tod to the forest after his disastrous encounter with Chief and Amos in The Fox and the Hound. “Disney wishes that things could have been resolved a different way,” the complaint reads. “Disney regrets that it has come to this.”

For more than a year, the DeSantis-Disney feud has forced hapless tourist websites like The Disney Food Blog and BlogMickey to take a stab at political punditry and legal analysis. After the governor’s allies tried to wrench back power over the special district that governs Walt Disney World, the company escalated the fight Wednesday with a lawsuit alleging DeSantis and his allies were retaliating against executives’ political speech.

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