Happy Thursday! And May the Fourth be with you.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Russian officials claimed Wednesday Ukrainian forces attempted to assassinate President Vladimir Putin in a drone attack—an accusation Ukraine strongly denies. Verified video footage depicts two drones exploding in the vicinity of the Kremlin. Some analysts have suggested it could have been part of a Russian false-flag operation, but little evidence has emerged that could identify who was behind the assault.
- The Biden administration announced a new $300 million security assistance package for Ukraine on Wednesday, tapping into previously approved congressional aid to send Ukraine HIMARS ammunition, howitzers, artillery and mortar rounds, TOW missiles, Hydra-70 aircraft rockets, anti-armor weapons systems, and more. The aid package will come from Pentagon stockpiles in an effort to get the materiel into Ukrainian hands as Kyiv prepares to launch its much-anticipated spring counteroffensive.
- Members of the Federal Reserve’s Open Market Committee approved another 25-basis-point interest rate hike on Wednesday, raising the central bank’s target federal funds rate to a range between 5 percent and 5.25 percent—the highest level since early 2008—while signaling they may pause on additional hikes going forward. “People did talk about pausing, but not so much at this meeting,” Fed chair Jerome Powell told reporters. “We feel like we’re getting closer or maybe even there.”
- The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday another merchant vessel—this one a Panamanian-flagged oil tanker—was seized by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy earlier in the day while traversing the Strait of Hormuz en route to the United Arab Emirates. Iran had seized a tanker on April 27, making yesterday’s incident the second in a week. Iranian officials did not deny the seizure took place, but declined to explain why the ships were forced to turn around.
- A new Centers for Disease Control report released this week found the rate of U.S. drug overdose deaths involving fentanyl has nearly quadrupled in recent years, from 5.7 fatal overdoses per 100,000 people in 2016 to 21.6 in 2021. Although fatal overdoses involving methamphetamines, cocaine, and heroin also increased slightly over that time period, fentanyl now accounts for the distinct plurality of overdoses in the country.
- The Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday approved the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a contagious pathogen that kills thousands of people in the U.S. over the age of 65 every year. The single-dose shot—created by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline (GSK)—is approved for people ages 60 and older, and it was found in clinical trials to be 94 percent effective against severe illness. Pending a final recommendation from the CDC, GSK is hoping to have shots available at scale ahead of the next RSV season in late fall and early winter.
- New York’s state legislature voted Tuesday to advance a bill that would ban the use of gas-powered stoves, water heaters, furnaces, and dryers in most new buildings starting in 2026 for structures less than eight stories and 2029 for anything taller. If Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul signs the legislation into law as expected, New York will become the first state to enact such a ban—though some cities have already restricted gas hookups in new buildings.
- Democratic Rep. Colin Allred of Texas—a former NFL linebacker—announced Wednesday he is launching a U.S. Senate bid, hoping to unseat Republican Sen. Ted Cruz in 2024.
Preparing for a Migrant Surge
Active-duty marines and soldiers hailing from the American Southwest may get an unexpected homecoming in the next few weeks when they’re deployed not to some faraway desert, but to the U.S. border with Mexico.
Defense Department press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder announced Tuesday that 1,500 active-duty U.S. troops would join Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at the southern border for 90 days to perform administrative tasks, freeing up the CBP agents to do enforcement at the border. “Military personnel will not directly participate in law enforcement activities,” Ryder said.
Immigration restrictions under Title 42—a pandemic-era set of rules designed to keep individuals with the virus from remaining in the U.S.—are set to expire next week, and the Biden administration has been scrambling to piece together an immigration framework that prevents a flood of immigrants crossing the border. This week’s troop deployment is but one in a flurry of such moves, but it’s unclear how effective the policies will be at managing an influx of migrants.