Happy Tuesday! The 10th annual World Happiness Report was released yesterday, and, for the sixth consecutive year, it crowned Finland the happiest country on Earth.
That survey was conducted before Turkey finally cleared the way last week for Finland to join NATO. Just imagine how jubilant those Nordic rascals will be once an armed attack against them shall be considered an attack against us all.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping kicked off their bilateral summit in Moscow on Monday with synchronized op-eds in Russian and Chinese state media. Putin called Xi his “good old friend,” while the Chinese leader described the meeting as a “journey of friendship, cooperation, and peace.” The summit comes just days after the International Criminal Court issued a largely symbolic arrest warrant for Putin on war crimes charges related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
- French President Emmanuel Macron’s ruling coalition survived two no-confidence votes Monday, allowing the government to enact the controversial pension reform law that has prompted months of protests, riots, and labor strikes. The no-confidence motions were filed after Macron decided on Thursday to invoke a special provision muscling the measure—which raises the retirement age from 62 to 64 for most French workers—through Parliament without a full vote in the National Assembly. Protests and riots continued overnight as opposition leaders vowed to continue fighting the law.
- American aid worker Jeffery Woodke and French journalist Olivier Dubois were freed Monday from captivity in West Africa. Woodke was kidnapped in 2016 in Niger and Olivier in 2021 in Mali. Nigerien authorities negotiated the release of the two men, who arrived in the Nigerien capital of Niamey yesterday. United States officials said the U.S. had neither paid ransom nor made concessions in exchange for Woodke’s safe return.
- President Joe Biden issued the first veto of his presidency on Monday, blocking bipartisan legislation that would have repealed a Labor Department rule allowing retirement fund managers to consider environmental, social, and governance (ESG) principles in investment decisions. A Trump-era rule had required retirement portfolio managers to consider only financial gains to the exclusion of other factors.
- Biden signed a bill Monday requiring Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines to declassify all information—with the exception of sources and methods for intelligence collection—related to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic within 90 days. Passed unanimously in the House and by unanimous consent in the Senate, the measure aims to provide greater transparency on an issue over which U.S. intelligence agencies are divided.
- Seven sheriff’s deputies and three hospital workers in Henrico County, Virginia, were charged with second-degree murder last week after allegedly suffocating Irvo Otieno—a 28-year-old man who was reportedly mentally ill—during his transfer to a local hospital after he was placed under an emergency custody order. Ann Cabell Baskerville, the Dinwiddie County commonwealth’s attorney, said the seven deputies and three hospital workers piled on top of Otieno for 12 minutes during the intake process, “smothering” him while he was in both handcuffs and leg irons. Video footage of the incident released this morning seems to confirm that account.
- The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Friday denied a request from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ administration to block a November injunction to the “Stop WOKE Act,” officially the Individual Freedom Act. The law already applies in K-12 classrooms and would, if fully enacted, impose restrictions on how college professors and private companies can talk about race. It passed in April 2022.
- Citing economic uncertainty, Amazon CEO Andy Jassy announced Monday the company would be laying off 9,000 people, in addition to the 18,000 layoffs announced between November and January. Amazon shares were down 1 percent Monday when trading closed.
Indictment (Reportedly) Incoming
It’s like watching a classic rom-com “will they, won’t they”—everybody seems to agree Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is about to order Donald Trump’s arrest and indictment, but nobody knows quite when. Today, as Trump predicted? Saturday? Tomorrow? Not until closer to the subsequent arraignment, reportedly set for sometime next week as law enforcement officials prepare security measures in case of rioting?
Whatever the timing, if and when the camera shutter snaps on his mugshot, it’ll mark the first time a former president of the United States has faced criminal indictment. But it’s far from clear the expected charges will stick: Bragg reportedly plans to charge the Florida resident in connection with a grand jury investigation of a hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels (née Stephanie Clifford), a now years-old incident other law enforcement officials—and previously Bragg himself—have declined to pursue. The precise details of the expected indictment have yet to emerge, but the possibility is already causing a political ruckus.