Happy Monday! The Memphis Zoo held a farewell party on Saturday for Ya Ya—the giant panda on loan from the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens since 2003—before her expected departure later this month.
Forget the spy balloon. It’s only a matter of time before we learn Ya Ya was here on a reconnaissance mission, ordered to gather intel about Graceland and boost the CCP’s efforts to replicate our booming rock n’ roll industry.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- The Bureau of Labor statistics reported Friday that U.S. employers added 236,000 jobs in March–down from February’s upwardly revised 326,000 jobs, but still slightly exceeding economists’ expectations. The unemployment rate ticked down slightly from 3.6 to 3.5 percent, and more people sought out work, with the labor force participation rate increasing from 62.5 percent in February to 62.6 percent in March. Average hourly earnings–a measure the Federal Reserve is watching closely in its fight against inflation–rose 0.3 percent month-over-month in March and 4.2 percent year-over-year. Those figures were 0.2 percent and 4.6 percent in February, respectively.
- The Justice Department has opened an investigation into leaks of U.S. military and intelligence documents, with reports surfacing on social media in recent weeks purporting to show the degree to which the American intelligence community has infiltrated Russia’s security services. The documents—which a senior U.S. official said “look real”—reveal both the Russian and Ukrainian militaries to be severely weakened, with the Ukrainian military facing “critical shortages” of air defense munitions. The Biden administration announced a new $2.6 billion security assistance package for Ukraine last week that included HIMARS ammunition and air defense interceptors, among other materiel.
- The U.S. military announced Saturday the USS Florida—a nuclear-powered submarine capable of carrying more than 150 Tomahawk cruise missiles—has moved into the Red Sea. The military rarely announces submarine movements publicly, and disclosing the relocation is likely intended to send a message to Iran in the wake of recent attacks by Iranian-backed groups on American bases in the Middle East that killed one U.S. contractor and injured a dozen other Americans.
- A drone strike in northern Iraq on Friday targeted a Syrian Kurdish leader, Gen. Mazloum Abdi, whose Syrian Democratic Forces have been a key U.S. ally in the fight against ISIS. The general was traveling in a convoy that also included U.S. military personnel, but a spokesperson for U.S. Central Command said there were no casualties. The origin of the attack is unknown, but some observers suspect Turkey, a longtime opponent of Kurdish forces in Syria.
- Hours after Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen returned home from California—where she met with a bipartisan delegation of U.S. lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy—the Chinese Communist Party announced plans to conduct live-fire military exercises in the Taiwan Strait. The drills, which began over the weekend, have thus far involved dozens of Chinese aircraft and at least 11 ships. The U.S. Seventh Fleet, meanwhile, announced this morning a Navy destroyer had sailed through the South China Sea in a manner “consistent with international law.” The head of Taiwan’s legislature said he still expects McCarthy to visit Taipei, a move that could inflame tensions with China even further.
- At least 44 people were killed in Burkina Faso on Thursday in two suspected terrorist attacks targeting villages near the country’s border with Niger. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are known to operate in the afflicted Sahel region, and local officials blamed “armed terror groups” for the killings.
- Two federal court decisions on Friday reached conflicting conclusions regarding the abortion drug mifepristone. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed judge for the Northern District of Texas, issued a hold on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) 2000 approval of the drug, while in a separate case, Judge Thomas Rice, an Obama-appointed judge for the Eastern District of Washington, barred the FDA from rescinding its approval. Attorney General Merrick Garland said on Friday the Justice Department will appeal the Texas decision and asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for a stay pending appeal.
- Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas responded Friday to a ProPublica report detailing undisclosed luxury trips he has taken over several decades sponsored by real estate magnate and Republican donor Harlan Crow. “Early in my tenure at the Court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable,” Thomas said in a statement. The Judicial Conference—the body responsible for setting ethics codes for federal courts—clarified its rules guidance last month to make clear personal hospitality (including trips paid for by friends) are subject to disclosure requirements. Thomas said that in compliance with the updated guidance, he would disclose any future personal hospitality. (Disclaimer: Harlan Crow is a minority investor in The Dispatch and a friend of the founders.)
- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell issued a bipartisan call for Russia to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on Friday, as Russian state media reported he was formally charged with espionage. The leaders’ statement also demanded the Kremlin release former U.S. Marine Paul Whelan, who has been held in Russia since 2018 and is serving a 16-year prison sentence for espionage, a charge he—like Gershkovich—denies.
- Spanish golfer Jon Rahm shot a three-under 69 on Sunday to secure a come-from-behind Masters win, defeating Phil Mickelson and Brooks Koepka, who tied for second place. With the victory, Rahm—who also won the U.S. Open in 2021—reclaimed his status as the top-ranked golfer in the world.
Fielding Transgender Student Athletes
The Biden administration has proposed a new rule governing how schools handle transgender students’ participation in athletics—forbidding blanket bans, but allowing more tailored restrictions—and approximately no one is happy about it.
“I can’t read this any other way than a betrayal,” tweeted trans activist and researcher Erin Reed. Sasha Buchert, a senior attorney at the pro-LGBTQ advocacy organization Lambda Legal, said the group was “concerned about whether the proposed rule can properly eliminate the discrimination that transgender students experience.” Meanwhile, Christiana Kiefer, senior counsel for the Christian advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom, labeled the proposed regulation a “slap in the face to female athletes.”