The Durham Report
Happy Friday! A hearty congratulations to Chicago, Illinois, which placed a better-than-expected #123 in the just-released U.S. News & World Report 150 “Best Places to Live in the United States,” an analysis that compares metro areas across the country. One factor that may have prevented an even more impressive showing? The abysmal performance of Chicago’s sports teams. None of Chicago’s professional teams currently have (MLB) or had this past season (NBA, NHL, NFL) a winning record. (The Blackhawks finished with more losses than any other team in the NHL and the Bears were, once again, the NFL’s worst team.)
The U.S. News analysis doesn’t directly cite Chicago’s embarrassing sports futility as a factor, but context clues elsewhere in the survey support such an inference. Take, for example, the write-up of the best place to live in the U.S.: Green Bay, Wisconsin.
“Home to one of the most storied football franchises in the NFL, the Green Bay Packers, Green Bay has the perfect mix of big-city amenities complemented with a Midwestern, small-town feel.”
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Walt Disney Company announced Thursday it is scrapping a planned $1 billion corporate office expansion in Florida, an apparent escalation of the battle between the Magic Kingdom and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis. According to a Florida Department of Economic Opportunity estimate, the project would have brought more than 2,000 jobs to the state—with an average salary of $120,000—but a DeSantis spokeswoman claimed it was “unsurprising” a company in dire “financial straits” would cancel an “unsuccessful” venture. The project’s cancellation comes after hints earlier this month from Disney CEO Bob Iger that the company was reconsidering its investments in Florida.
- An FDA advisory panel voted Thursday to recommend approving Pfizer’s Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine for use in pregnant mothers to protect infants. While the panel unanimously agreed the vaccine was effective, some members raised concerns over the slightly elevated rate of premature births among mothers who received the vaccine in the clinical trial compared to the placebo group. If approved by the FDA—a decision is expected to come in August—the vaccine would be the first to provide RSV protection for infants.
- The Supreme Court on Wednesday denied a request to block two gun laws in Illinois prohibiting the sale of high-capacity magazines and 26 kinds of firearms—including the AR-15 and the AK-47—while challenges to the laws play out in lower court. The National Association for Gun Rights and an Illinois gun store owner are contesting the constitutionality of the laws, and had asked the court for emergency relief while they appeal a federal district court decision.
- Ukraine’s National Anti-corruption Bureau apprehended the chief justice of the country’s supreme court this week and formally arrested him on Thursday. Vsevolod Knyazev is alleged to have accepted a nearly $2 million bribe to rule in favor of a Ukrainian oligarch, and has been charged with graft.
- The New York Times reported Thursday that Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s recent bout with shingles—which kept her out of Washington for nearly three months—was more serious than her office let on. Feinstein developed complications from the infection, including Ramsay Hunt syndrome—which causes facial paralysis and vision impairments—and encephalitis, or brain inflammation. A spokesperson for the senator said the encephalitis had “resolved itself” in March, but the 89-year-old lawmaker appeared visibly weakened and at times disoriented during her first days back on Capitol Hill.
- The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday the median sale price for existing homes in the U.S. was $388,800 in April—down 1.7 percent from April 2022, the largest annual price drop since January 2012. Sales of previously owned homes decreased 3.4 percent from March and were down 23.2 percent year-over-year.
- The Department of Labor reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 22,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 242,000 claims last week. The decline reversed the uptick in claims from the previous week—exaggerated by fraudulent claims in Massachusetts—and defied expectations of a cooling labor market.
‘Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity’
Four years and one day after he was first appointed to probe the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation—Operation Crossfire Hurricane—special counsel John Durham’s final report was made available to the public. Did it uncover “the crime of the century?” Was it a “sinister flop” that “ended with a whimper”? Or did it identify numerous instances of unprofessional, incompetent, and prejudiced conduct by federal law enforcement officials that’s incredibly damning for those involved while not necessarily rising to the level of criminality?