U.S. Reservists to Boost NATO

Happy Monday! The hammerhead worm—a 22-inch invasive species that we hear looks like a strand of whole wheat spaghetti if spaghetti could wrap around your ankles, secrete a neurotoxin, and split into multiple wormlets—has arrived in the Washington, D.C., area.

Anyone have a couch we can crash on? Our only requirement is that it be far, far away from here.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • Former President Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents will be held in May 2024, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon ordered on Friday. That’s later than the December trial date special counsel Jack Smith requested, but Cannon declined to postpone the trial until after the 2024 elections, as Trump’s legal team requested.
  • The United States and 12 allies this weekend began a military exercise involving a record-setting 30,000 troops in Australia—part of broader efforts to prepare for and deter a Chinese attack on Taiwan. The two-week biennial drills coincided with a Chinese show of force as Beijing sent dozens of warplanes toward Taiwan Saturday morning. Taiwan is also set to hold its annual military drills—focused on preventing and responding to Chinese escalations—next week.
  • A month after the Supreme Court ruled against an Alabama congressional district map that included only one majority-black voting district, Republican lawmakers in the state have approved a new congressional map. It increases the concentration of black voters from 30 percent to 40 percent of voters in one district, but still includes just one majority-black district—and has reduced the black majority in that district from 55 to 51 percent. A federal court will evaluate the proposed map next month.
  • The White House announced Friday that seven technology companies—including Google, Meta, Microsoft, and ChatGPT parent company OpenAI—have agreed to voluntary safeguards on artificial intelligence. Under the agreement, the companies will commit to security testing of AI systems before rolling them out, develop tools like watermarks to denote AI-generated content, and share risk management information with academics and governments.
  • Iran has reportedly detained a fourth American citizen, adding pressure to the Biden administration’s attempts to negotiate the release of three other U.S. citizens—possibly in exchange for unfreezing billions of dollars of Iranian assets. The Pentagon also announced Thursday that it was upping the U.S. Navy and Marines’ presence in the Middle East in response to two failed attempts by Iran to seize oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman earlier this month.
  • A landslide triggered by torrential rains in India last week killed at least 27 people in Irshalwadi, a village about 50 miles from Mumbai. Rescuers—working without heavy equipment, which couldn’t reach the sludge-surrounded village—ended a four-day search this weekend with at least 78 people still missing. More than 100 people have died in northern India in the last few weeks amid record monsoon rains.
  • Israel’s Parliament is expected to vote today on a judicial reform law despite ongoing demonstrations against it—and the Biden administration’s call to postpone the vote, fearing the security implications if thousands of Israeli reservists fulfill their promise to skip duty if the measure passes. Some 20,000 protesters arrived in Jerusalem Saturday, many after marching five days from Tel Aviv. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had an emergency procedure this weekend to implant a pacemaker, but promised to attend the parliamentary session today. If passed, the law would limit the Israeli high court’s use of the “reasonableness” test to strike down laws it deems not in the public good. 
  • South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said North Korea fired several cruise missiles into the Yellow Sea—west of the Korean Peninsula—shortly after the departure of a U.S. nuclear submarine sent as a show of strength against North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats. North Korea has also so far ignored U.S. officials’ efforts to make contact after a U.S. soldier crossed into North Korea last Tuesday.
  • Spain’s center-right Popular Party came in first in yesterday’s parliamentary election, but no party won the working majority needed to form a government. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is expected to remain in office, with his center-left Socialist party winning 122 seats behind PP’s 136. The election will likely lead to lengthy negotiations to form a governing coalition, with the potential for either the Socialists or the opposition to do so—PP could form a coalition with the far-right Vox party, forecast to win 33 seats. 

Shipping out?

U.S. troops take part in a military training session in Nowa Deba, Poland. (Photo by Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
U.S. troops take part in a military training session in Nowa Deba, Poland. (Photo by Artur Widak/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

We hope 3,000 U.S. military reservists have pet sitters on standby—they could be getting a drop-everything phone call soon, after President Joe Biden authorized additional mobilizations to Eastern Europe earlier this month. 

In addition to the potential troop call-up, the administration adjusted the legal designation of the military’s operations bolstering eastern NATO allies. Administration officials say the steps will increase operational flexibility, but they also reveal how U.S. support to Ukraine and NATO allies has stretched the military’s pre-existing capabilities in the region. 

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