Happy Friday! In case you need any more evidence that tech billionaires are the weirdest people on the planet, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg have apparently challenged one another to a cage match. No matter who wins, America loses.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed a joint session of Congress yesterday during his first state visit to the United States, applauding the “bond between the world’s two great democracies” and calling U.S.-India relations “a defining partnership of this century”—echoing comments made by President Joe Biden at a joint press conference earlier in the day. Several progressive lawmakers boycotted the speech, citing repressive actions taken by Modi’s government to target religious minorities and political opponents.
- Ukrainian forces on Thursday struck a key bridge connecting Crimea and southern Ukraine, damaging one of the few links between the occupied peninsula and the front line. The attack is part of the Ukrainian military’s strategy of degrading Russian supply lines as the counteroffensive has slowed in recent days.
- The House Ways and Means Committee on Thursday released redacted transcripts of testimony from two IRS employees who claimed the Justice Department and Delaware U.S. Attorney’s office interfered with the agency’s investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes by delaying its conclusion, blocking enforcement actions, and coordinating with Hunter’s attorneys. The allegations—which a DOJ spokesperson claimed were untrue—were publicized just days after Hunter agreed to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax counts and agreed to enter a pretrial diversion agreement to resolve an illegal firearm possession charge.
- Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell told the Senate Banking Committee on Thursday the central bank will likely need to resume its interest rate hiking campaign in the coming months to return inflation to the Fed’s 2 percent target rate. Powell’s comments come one day after he addressed the House Financial Services Committee, cautioning that the Fed’s decision last week not to raise rates for the first time in months does not mean rates won’t continue to climb later this year.
- A Russian court on Thursday rejected an appeal from Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter who was arrested in March on unsubstantiated allegations of espionage. The appeal sought to overturn a May court ruling that extended his pretrial detention until at least August 30. The editors of more than three dozen top global news outlets and President Biden have called for Gershkovich’s release.
- All five passengers aboard the Titan submersible that went missing Sunday while touring the wreckage of the Titanic are presumed dead, the U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday afternoon. The revelation—which came after the Coast Guard found a debris field near the Titanic that was later assessed to be from the missing vessel—concluded an extensive four-day search that involved American, Canadian, and French ships and aircraft and covered more than 10,000 square miles.
- Former GOP Rep. Will Hurd announced Thursday he’s running for president, arguing the Republican Party must reject Donald Trump and embrace “common-sense leadership.” The former CIA intelligence officer enters the race as a self-described “dark horse candidate” with little name recognition in an already crowded GOP field. To qualify for the first primary debate in August, he will need to earn at least 1 percent support nationally in multiple polls and have at least 40,000 unique donors.
- Democratic Rep. Lisa Blunt Rochester of Delaware announced Wednesday she is running for the U.S. Senate, looking to succeed the retiring Democratic Sen. Tom Carper—who has endorsed her bid.
Mad about Modi
Yoga outside the United Nations, a chat with Elon Musk, a speech before Congress, and a rare state dinner at the White House, complete with a vegetarian menu: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States this week demonstrated just how far he’s come since being denied a U.S. visa in 2005 over his alleged role in the deaths of nearly 1,000 Muslims during the 2002 Gujarat riots.
He’s got China to thank.
That’s not the whole story, of course—the United States has plenty of other reasons to pursue strong ties with Modi. India became the world’s most populous country this year and is increasingly attractive to foreign investment and influential in South Asia. And Modi is that country’s democratically elected, enormously popular leader—boasting an approval rating near 80 percent—who is likely to win reelection next year.