Xi and Putin’s Burgeoning Bromance

Happy Thursday! Dream job alert: The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish is seeking “professional bear huggers” (conservation officers) who are brave/stupid enough to crawl into bear dens and trust their colleagues to keep them safe.

We can only imagine the workplace insurance bills.

Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

  • The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled 5-4 this week that the state Constitution guarantees a woman may receive an abortion if her doctor concludes there’s a reasonable chance continuing the pregnancy would endanger her life. Previously, the state only allowed abortions in medical emergencies. “Requiring one to wait until there is a medical emergency would further endanger the life of the pregnant woman and does not serve a compelling state interest,” the ruling states, adding doctors don’t need “absolute certainty” of endangerment but the “mere possibility or speculation” of a life-threatening condition developing is insufficient.
  • Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Wednesday the Biden administration isn’t trying to increase the $250,000 cap on federal deposit insurance, though such a move could be considered alongside long-term systemic reforms. Bank stocks have stabilized since falls amid the collapse of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank earlier this month but dipped on the news. Shares of troubled First Republic Bank—which last week received a $30 billion cash infusion intended to reassure depositors—dropped 15.5 percent Wednesday after plummeting a whopping 47 percent Monday.
  • The mortality rate for children ages 1 to 19 in the United States rose 10.7 percent from 2019 to 2020 and 8.3 percent from 2020 to 2021, according to an analysis published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Pediatric death rates have been broadly falling for decades thanks to improved disease treatment and interventions like seatbelts. The analysis found deaths from car accidents, alcohol, and drugs all increased in recent years, and gun-related homicides and suicides accounted for nearly half the increase in 2020.
  • The Department of Homeland Security announced this week a multi-agency effort dubbed “Operation Blue Lotus” to combat fentanyl trafficking across the southwestern border with measures including new vehicle scanners, intelligence collection on drug traffickers, and canine units. DHS claimed the efforts captured more than 900 pounds of fentanyl and led to 18 arrests in the first week.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating the United States’ first recorded outbreak of a drug-resistant strain of Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which has been linked to artificial tear eye drops manufactured by EzriCare and Delsam Pharma. Of at least 68 people so far sickened, at least one person has died and four have had their eyes surgically removed. The Food and Drug Administration has issued a recall on the identified eye drops.
  • The Manhattan grand jury hearing evidence in the investigation of former president Donald Trump over an alleged hush-money payment to an adult film star didn’t meet on Wednesday amid reports Trump faces an imminent indictment. It’s not immediately clear why the grand jury didn’t convene, but NBC News reported it is expected to do so today. 
  • A panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday Trump attorney Evan Corcoran must turn over documents and answer questions related to the former president’s handling of classified documents after leaving office. The panel upheld a lower court’s ruling that attorney-client privilege didn’t apply because evidence suggested the attorney had been used to advance a crime—though the decision leaves room for an appeal. The office of special counsel Jack Smith—assigned to investigate Trump’s alleged mishandling of sensitive documents—reportedly presented evidence that Trump lied to his attorneys about his retention of classified materials.
  • In an interview with British broadcaster Piers Morgan, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis seemed to backtrack on some of his recent statements downplaying the severity of the Ukraine war and labeling it a “territorial dispute” between the neighboring countries. DeSantis told Morgan: “Russia did not have the right to go into Crimea or to go in February of 2022 and that should be clear,” adding that he believes Putin is a war criminal. “I think [Putin’s] hostile to the United States.” DeSantis reiterated, however, his belief that the U.S. “escalating with more weapons—and certainly ground troops—I think would be a mistake.”
  • Ethiopian lawmakers Wednesday agreed to remove the Tigray People’s Liberation Front’s terrorist group designation—another step strengthening a November ceasefire ending the country’s two-year civil war, which led to the deaths of as many as 400,000 civilians. Secretary of State Antony Blinken last week visited Ethiopia to unveil $331 million in humanitarian aid to help in the country’s recovery, and on Monday the State Department announced it had determined all parties in the conflict had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Xi & Vlad: A Match Made in Moscow

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023. (Photo by Pavel Byrkin / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images)
Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Kremlin in Moscow on March 21, 2023. (Photo by Pavel Byrkin / SPUTNIK / AFP via Getty Images)

Chinese President Xi Jinping traveled to Moscow on Monday for a three-day summit with Vladimir Putin, marking the first meeting between the two leaders since September and since the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for the Russian president’s arrest over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. The West has spent the better part of a year warning China against cozying up with Putin; this week’s talks are the surest sign yet those warnings have not been heeded.

In a bizarro pen-pal situation, the leaders previewed their summit by publishing op-eds in each other’s government-controlled newspapers over the weekend—Xi’s in the Rossiyskaya Gazeta, and Putin’s in the People’s Daily. On the docket: agreements to boost economic cooperation and discussions of China’s peace plan for the war in Ukraine. Details on what was decided over the course of the meetings are scarce, but the joint statements signed by Putin and Xi appear to reaffirm the already substantial economic and geopolitical ties between the two countries. 

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