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Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported yesterday the producer price index (PPI)—a measure of what suppliers and wholesalers are charging customers—rose 0.7 percent month-over-month in January after falling 0.2 percent in December and increasing 0.3 percent in November. Producer prices were up 6 percent year-over-year in January, and Thursday’s reading—along with recent labor market and consumer spending data—will likely lead Federal Reserve officials to decide additional interest-rate hikes are necessary to cool inflation. The Department of Labor also reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 1,000 week-over-week to a seasonally-adjusted 194,000 claims last week, suggesting the labor market remains tight despite recent layoffs at many high-profile companies, especially in the tech sector.
- President Joe Biden delivered a speech at the White House on Thursday addressing the three unidentified objects the U.S. military shot down in American and Canadian airspace last weekend. “The intelligence community’s current assessment is that these three objects were most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions studying weather or conducting other scientific research,” he said, adding there is no indication the objects were related to the Chinese spy balloon that recently traversed the country. “We don’t have any evidence that there has been a sudden increase in the number of objects in the sky. We’re now just seeing more of them, partially because [of] the steps we’ve taken to increase our radars.”
- North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) announced yesterday F-16 fighters scrambled Tuesday—for the second time this week—to intercept four Russian jets in the Alaskan Air Defense Identification Zone. The Russian planes—which NORAD said weren’t seen as a threat—did not enter U.S. or Canadian airspace.
- U.S. Africa Command announced Thursday that—at the request of the Somalian government—U.S. forces conducted a “self-defense” strike near the town of Bacaadweyn along Somalia’s border with Ethiopia, reportedly killing five 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.”
- The Defense Department on Thursday announced a host of policy changes regarding service members’ reproductive healthcare, including granting military personnel expense reimbursement and up to three weeks of leave to travel for abortions, in vitro fertilization (IVF), and other procedures that could be prohibited in states where they’re stationed. “While [service members] certainly have a voice in the process of where they’re assigned, ultimately, decisions are made in the best interest of the department’s mission requirements,” a senior defense official told Military Times. “And we strongly believe that these moves should not impact their access to essential health care.”
- Another Norfolk Southern train derailed 30 miles west of Detroit on Thursday, weeks after one of the company’s trains crashed in East Palestine, Ohio, spilling hazardous chemicals and requiring residents to be temporarily evacuated. Michigan officials reported no injuries resulted from Thursday morning’s derailment, and assessed there was no risk to public safety. Only one of the two dozen derailed cars contained cargo—agricultural grain—while a car containing liquid chlorine remained safely on the tracks.
- President Biden had a routine physical exam on Thursday, after which his longtime physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, issued a summary concluding the 80-year-old “remains fit for duty, and fully executes all of his responsibilities without exemptions or accommodations.” Biden is currently being treated for atrial fibrillation, hyperlipidemia, and gastroesophageal reflux, but all three conditions are considered stable. One “small lesion” on Biden’s chest was excised yesterday and sent for a biopsy.
- On the recommendation of Congress’ attending physician, Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday to receive treatment for clinical depression, Fetterman’s chief of staff Adam Jentleson announced yesterday. Fetterman has struggled with depression “off and on” throughout his life, Jentleson said, but his condition “only became severe” in recent weeks. The freshman Democrat suffered a stroke last May, and was briefly hospitalized last week after he felt “lightheaded.” Aides reportedly expect Fetterman’s stay at Walter Reed to be “longer than a few days.”
- Tesla issued a safety recall on Thursday affecting more than 360,000 vehicles due to problems with cars’ “Full Self-Driving” Beta, which the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes may cause crashes by “allow[ing] the vehicle to act unsafe around intersections.” The recall will not require the cars to be taken off the road, but Tesla plans to release an “over-the-air” software update addressing the issues in the coming months.
- YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki announced Thursday she is stepping down from her role after nine years running the video platform and almost 25 years with Google. Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, will take charge of the streaming service.
2024 Is Upon Us
Like the first soldier to stick their head over the parapet—desperately hoping not to get decapitated—Nikki Haley officially joined the Republican presidential primary this week.
“We’re ready to move past the stale ideas and faded names of the past, and we are more than ready for a new generation to lead us into the future,” the former governor of South Carolina declared in her announcement speech on Wednesday. “Our moment is now, our mission is clear. Let’s save our country.”