Tonight’s news awaits your comments. Everyone is encouraged to share their 2¢ or articles, stories, and tweets. This is an open thread.
New IPCC Report: ‘Rapidly Closing Window of Opportunity’ to Reverse Climate Change
We need to cut global greenhouse gas emissions by more than half over the next decade in order to stave off the worst impacts of climate change, says a blockbuster new report. The next few years represent a crucial crossroads, the international group of scientists said, as the choices we make could make or break our efforts to avert catastrophe.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world’s leading scientific body on climate change, put out its latest report on Monday. While the world has made some progress in cutting emissions, carbon pollution is outpacing that progress, continuing to rise each year—and the impacts are becoming even more dire. Climate change is reshaping the world and its ecosystems quicker than previous forecasts had predicted. However, there’s still a path forward to reverse the tide—but it’s a “rapidly closing window of opportunity,” the report states.
Biden’s Canada agenda stacked: NORAD, migration deals likely
President Joe Biden arrived in Canada on Thursday for talks with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on several of the world’s most difficult challenges: the war in Ukraine, climate change, trade, mass migration and an increasingly assertive China.
Two important agreements appeared to be in hand before Biden even departed Washington. Canada will escalate its timeline for military upgrades to the North American Aerospace Defense Command and the two nations have reached an agreement to update rules for migrants seeking asylum, according to U.S. and Canadian officials. The officials were not authorized to comment publicly and request anonymity.
The migration deal eliminates a loophole under existing rules that will allow both countries to turn away asylum seekers at the countries’ borders. The loophole resulted in thousands of migrants annually crossing into Canada from the U.S. at a non-official checkpoint, enabling them to stay in the country as they seek asylum instead of letting the process play out while staying in the U.S.
The House fails to override Biden’s first veto
The Republican-led House on Thursday failed to override President Biden’s first veto, falling short of the two-thirds majority needed to revive the resolution targeting an administration rule related to ESG investing, which takes environmental and social factors into account.
The chamber voted 219-200, with one Democrat voting with every Republican in favor of overriding the veto.
Republicans Say Spending Is Fueling Inflation. The Fed Chair Disagrees.
The New York Times
The chair of the Federal Reserve, Jerome H. Powell, has repeatedly undercut a central claim Republicans make as they seek sharp cuts in federal spending: Government spending is driving the nation’s still-hot inflation rate. […]
Asked whether federal tax and spending policies were contributing to price growth, Mr. Powell pointed to a decline in federal spending from the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“You have to look at the fiscal impulse from spending,” Mr. Powell said on Wednesday, referring to a measure of how much tax and spending policies are adding or subtracting to economic growth. “Fiscal impulse is actually not what’s driving inflation right now. It was at the beginning perhaps, but that’s not the story right now.”
Instead, Mr. Powell — along with Mr. Biden and his advisers — says rapid price growth is primarily being driven by factors like snarled supply chains, an oil shock following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a shift among American consumers from spending money on services like travel and dining out to goods like furniture.
The fight over the debt ceiling could sink the economy. This is how we got here
President Biden and Republicans in Congress are on a partisan collision course over raising the debt ceiling — the legislatively mandated limit on how much the U.S. can borrow. And the clock is ticking. The $31.4 trillion ceiling has already been reached, so now the Department of the Treasury is using accounting gimmicks to pay the government's bills. But those maneuvers — what Treasury calls "extraordinary measures" — may only stave off default through early June by the department's current estimate. […]
In the last half-century, there have been only a handful of years when the government didn't spend more than it collected in taxes. […]
Meanwhile, tax revenue hasn't kept pace with that spending, in part because of the tax cuts approved during the George W. Bush administration (and extended in some cases by the Obama administration) and the Trump administration. By contrast, tax increases passed during the first Bush administration and the Clinton administration helped set the stage for one of those rare budget surpluses between 1998 and 2001.
‘We’re ready to make history.’ After 10 years, NC legislature approves Medicaid expansion
The News & Observer
The North Carolina General Assembly approved Medicaid expansion Thursday and sent the legislation to Gov. Roy Cooper, who is expected to sign it.
The House voted 87 to 24 in favor of House Bill 76, “Access to Health Care Options,” which would extend federally subsidized health care to thousands of North Carolinians. Members of the House applauded the bill’s passage and rose in a standing ovation, prompting House Speaker Tim Moore to call for order.
The bill would allow adults who make below 138% of the federal poverty level to be eligible, which the state’s Department of Health and Human Services has said would apply to around 600,000 low-income North Carolinians.
Thanks, Obama! The reason why a judge just blocked Wyoming’s abortion ban.
On Wednesday, a judge in the deep-red state of Wyoming temporarily blocked a state law that would make performing nearly any abortion in that state a felony. She relied on a 2012 amendment to the state constitution that was intended to spite then-President Barack Obama. […]
In many states, opponents of Obamacare effectively took the GOP’s talking points and turned them into state constitutional amendments protecting patients’ ability to obtain health care that the government might not want them to have. Wyoming’s amendment, for example, provides that “each competent adult shall have the right to make his or her own health care decisions.”[…]
It remains to be seen whether the highest courts in these states, some of which are extremely conservative, will ultimately agree that these anti-Obamacare amendments prohibit abortion bans.
'Bestial savagery': Russia kills students in drone strikes
Moscow unleashed a flurry of missile and drone strikes on Ukraine, killing students and civilians on Wednesday.
“Russia is shelling the city with bestial savagery,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy wrote on Telegram, posting a video that purported to show a missile hitting an apartment in Zaporizhzhia, a southeastern Ukrainian city.
“Residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at,” he added. […]
At least eight people were killed after an exploding drone struck a student dormitory near Kyiv.
Ukraine says Russia's Bakhmut assault loses steam, counterstrike coming soon
Ukrainian troops, on the defensive for four months, will launch a long-awaited counterassault "very soon" now that Russia's huge winter offensive is losing steam without taking Bakhmut, Ukraine's top ground forces commander said on Thursday.
The remarks were the strongest indication yet from Kyiv that it is close to shifting tactics, having absorbed Russia's onslaught through a brutal winter and prevented Moscow from claiming its first victory since last August.
Russia's Wagner mercenaries, trying to capture Bakhmut in the longest and bloodiest battle of the war, "are losing considerable strength and are running out of steam", Kyiv's ground forces commander Oleksandr Syrskyi said in a social media post.
Ukraine receives fighter jets from Slovakia, says Bakhmut counterattack possible
The Kyiv Independent
Slovakia delivered four of the 13 promised MiG-29 jets to Ukraine, the Slovak Defense Ministry reported on March 23. Ukrainian pilots, assisted by the Slovak Air Force, coordinated the transfer.
"As a nation, we have written ourselves in capital letters in the modern world's history, showcasing timely help, sincere solidarity, and the greatness of our country," Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said, praising everyone involved in the transfer.
Kyiv has repeatedly requested fighter jets from Western allies, underlining the need for air superiority on the battlefield.
EU leaders agree 1m artillery shells for Ukraine
EU leaders have endorsed a plan to send Ukraine 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition in the next 12 months to help fight Russia's invasion. […]
Estonia's prime minister Kaja Kallas had pushed to send ammo to Ukraine at a previous summit last month, as Ukraine is facing shortages a year into its defence against Russian forces.
‘Democracy at stake’: French protesters vent fury at Macron over pension push
French protesters downed their tools and marched once again in Paris and other cities on Thursday, galvanised by President Emmanuel Macron’s decision to ram his deeply unpopular pension reform through parliament without a vote, in what critics have branded a “denial of democracy”.
More than two months into a bitter battle that has roiled the nation, opponents of Macron’s plans to raise the retirement age showed no sign of relenting, with the number of protesters on the rise again after dipping in recent weeks.
The rallies marked the ninth day of nationwide strikes and protests, and the first since Macron ordered his prime minister to use special executive powers to bypass parliament, turning an already festering dispute into a political and institutional crisis.
Deutsche Bahn cancels all long-distance trains on Monday
German rail operator Deutsche Bahn on Thursday announced that no long-distance trains would operate on Monday due to nationwide transport strikes.
The decision came after the trade unions EVG and Verdi announced strike action intended to paralyze large sections of the public transport system.
The strikes come with German employees in many sectors seeking significant wage hikes to keep up with persistently high inflation.
US calls conditions in Rwanda’s detention centres harsh to life-threatening
Britain’s closest ally, the US, has criticised Rwanda’s dire human rights record, describing conditions in the country’s detention centres as harsh to life-threatening.
The British home secretary, Suella Braverman, took a group of journalists on a trip last week to reveal details of her £120m scheme to send all migrants arriving in the UK through irregular means to Rwanda whether they claim asylum or not. The legality of the scheme is due to be tested shortly in the UK court of appeal.
But the US, in its annual human rights assessment published on Monday said Rwanda operated a system including harsh and life-threatening prison conditions, arbitrary detention, serious restrictions on free expression including the imprisonment of journalists, and no effective system of collective bargaining.
Israel passes law shielding Netanyahu from being removed amid protests over judicial changes
Benjamin Netanyahu resisted calls to drop his controversial overhaul of Israel’s judiciary in a fiery televised address Thursday, hours after his government passed a law that was condemned by critics as an effort to protect his position.
Israeli opposition politicians earlier condemned the new law, which would limit the ways a sitting prime minister can be declared unfit for office, describing it as a way to protect Netanyahu, who is facing an ongoing corruption trial.
By a 61-to-47 final vote, the Knesset approved the bill that states that only the prime minister himself or the cabinet, with a two-thirds majority, can declare the leader unfit. The cabinet vote would then need to be ratified by a super majority in the parliament.
A Utah parent says the Bible contains porn and should be removed from school libraries
The Salt Lake Tribune
Frustrated by the books being removed from school libraries, a Utah parent says there’s one that hasn’t been challenged yet, but that they believe should be, for being “one of the most sex-ridden books around.”
So they’ve submitted a request for their school district in Davis County to now review the Bible for any inappropriate content.
“Incest, onanism, bestiality, prostitution, genital mutilation, fellatio, dildos, rape, and even infanticide,” the parent wrote in their request, listing topics they found concerning in the religious text. “You’ll no doubt find that the Bible, under Utah Code Ann. § 76-10-1227, has ‘no serious values for minors’ because it’s pornographic by our new definition.”
Lindsey Graham publicly admonished for fundraising on Capitol grounds
The Washington Post
A nine-minute Fox News appearance last year has earned Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) a public admonishment from the Senate ethics select committee because, during it, he solicited campaign contributions for former Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker while standing on Capitol grounds.
In a letter to Graham, the ethics committee’s chairman, Sen. Christopher A. Coons (D-Del.), and vice chairman, Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), detailed that the South Carolina Republican violated Senate rules and standards of conduct by soliciting campaign contributions in a federal building.
The committee issued only a public admonition but no sanction in response to Graham’s actions.
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s lawyer tells GOP leaders probing his Trump hush money investigation to back off
New York Daily News
Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg has a message for Republican lawmakers looking into his office’s investigation of former President Donald Trump’s role into the hush money payment made to Stormy Daniels: Back off.
If criminal charges are brought against Donald Trump in Manhattan, “it will be because the rule of law and faithful execution” of Bragg’s duty requires it, reads a letter sent Thursday by the DA’s lawyer to GOP leaders.
Bragg’s general counsel Leslie Dubeck was responding to demands from House GOP committee chairs accusing him of investigating Trump as part of a political conspiracy. The committee led by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) demanded Bragg voluntarily testify before Congress about the probe.
After Trump's calls for protest, judge orders anonymous jury in his upcoming sexual assault trial
A New York federal judge has ordered the use of an anonymous jury for … Donald Trump's sexual assault civil trial next month, saying that his recent calls for protest could lead to harassment against the jurors.
The case centers on writer E. Jean Carrol's civil suit alleging Trump raped her in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Trump has repeatedly denied the allegations.
U.S. District Court Judge Lewis Kaplan said Thursday that Trump's calls for protest against his potential indictment on a hush-money charge he also is facing creates "a very strong risk that jurors will fear harassment."
What to know about the Waco siege anniversary as Trump prepares to host rally
Donald Trump plans to hold his first campaign rally Saturday in Waco as the city marks the 30th anniversary of the federal raid of the Branch Davidian compound that left dozens dead.
The rally comes as [Trump] faces a potential indictment for alleged hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for sexual favors. The New York Times reported that Trump "told friends and associates that he welcomes the idea of being paraded by the authorities before a throng of reporters and news cameras." […]
A Trump presidential campaign spokesman said they chose Waco due to its central location, not for any larger symbolic meaning. […]
"Waco is hugely symbolic on the far right," Heidi Beirich, co-founder of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, told USA Today. "There's not really another place in the U.S. that you could pick that would tap into these deep veins of anti-government hatred – Christian nationalist skepticism of the government – and I find it hard to believe that Trump doesn't know that Waco represents all of these things."
Far-right extremist Riley Williams sentenced to 3 years in prison for storming Capitol on Jan. 6
A far-right extremist … was sentenced Thursday to three years in prison for storming the U.S. Capitol and directing a mob toward the office of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, where another rioter stole a laptop.
In delivering the sentence, U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson called Riley Williams' actions “utterly reprehensible." […]
Williams was ultimately convicted on six counts: felony civil disorder, resisting and impeding certain officers, and four misdemeanor charges. The jury deadlocked on a count of obstruction of an official proceeding as well as on the question of whether Williams aided and abetted the theft of Pelosi’s laptop.
Proud Boys attorneys: Informant had contact with defense team, defendants
Attorneys for five Proud Boys on trial on charges of seditious conspiracy said on Wednesday that the Justice Department had informed them that a witness one of them had been prepared to call as part of the defense this week has been a government informant since 2021.
“During this period of time, the [informant] has been in contact via telephone, text messaging and other electronic means, with one or more of the counsel for the defense and at least one defendant,” said Carmen Hernandez, an attorney for one of the five Proud Boys, Zachary Rehl, in a motion seeking more details of prosecutors’ use of informants in the case.
According to Hernandez, who filed the motion on behalf of all five defendants — including Enrique Tarrio, the Proud Boys’ former national chairman — the informant also attended “prayer meetings” with at least one of the defendants’ families and, at one point, discussed the composition of the defense team.
Gavin Newsom’s oil penalty blazes through California Senate. Some lawmakers say it’s too rushed
The Sacramento Bee
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s plan to penalize oil companies for alleged gas price gouging has moved through the state Legislature at lightning speed — much to the chagrin of Republicans, and even some Democrats.
The Senate on Thursday advanced a special session bill from Sen. Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, that would empower the California Energy Commission to gather information on the oil industry and potentially cap profits in the name of preventing gas price spikes.
Senators voted 30-8 to send Senate Bill X1-2 to the Assembly, which will likely consider it next week. Skinner provided updated bill language on Monday after Newsom reached an agreement with Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Lakewood.
Destructive tornadoes battered Southern California. They are more common than you might think
Los Angeles Times
Two tornadoes that caused significant damage in Los Angeles and Santa Barbara counties Tuesday were part of a series of wild weather events across California this week.
But they were not as uncommon as you might think.
“People feel like we don’t get tornadoes in California, but we do actually get them here,” said Carol Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. “To get a tornado in any one spot is very rare, but to see a few of them a year is not uncommon.”
Deadly parasite threatens California sea otters
Melissa Miller knew something was off when she began to examine a sea otter that had died in San Simeon, a coastal California town about halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, in the winter of 2020. Nearly all of the animal’s body fat was inflamed. “It felt like there were little bumps all through it,” she says—a condition the veterinary pathologist had never seen in her 25 years examining sea otters for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. She also found unusual lesions in the pancreas and heart.
When Miller looked at the sea otter’s tissues under a microscope, she spotted a familiar foe: Toxoplasma gondii, the parasite that causes toxoplasmosis. But this strain wasn’t acting like the usual Toxoplasma, which typically causes mainly brain and heart inflammation in immune-suppressed animals, and is far less lethal. The San Simeon sea otter, in contrast, had very few parasites in its central nervous system, which suggests it died quickly of an acute infection before the parasite could extensively invade its brain.
Since then, several more sea otters have been found dead on California beaches, all with similar lesions—and all harboring this troubling new strain of toxoplasmosis.
How fentanyl journeys from China to Mexico to North Texas
Dallas Morning News
It begins as a white powder in Chinese chemical factories.
A mix of illegal drugs and chemical compounds, the powder, sometimes disguised as soap, journeys across oceans in massive container ships bound for Mexico’s western ports.
From there, Mexican drug cartel workers press the fentanyl powder into small pills with blue coloring and stamp them. The pills are hidden inside secret compartments within trucks, trailers and other vehicles that couriers drive across the U.S.-Mexico border headed toward markets in Dallas and beyond.
DNA From Beethoven’s Hair Unlocks Medical and Family Secrets
The New York Times
It was March 1827 and Ludwig van Beethoven was dying. As he lay in bed, wracked with abdominal pain and jaundiced, grieving friends and acquaintances came to visit. And some asked a favor: Could they clip a lock of his hair for remembrance? […]
Now, an analysis of strands of his hair has upended long held beliefs about his health. The report provides an explanation for his debilitating ailments and even his death, while also raising new questions about his genealogical origins and hinting at a dark family secret.
The paper, by an international group of researchers, was published Wednesday in the journal Current Biology.
War with China ‘not inevitable’, but helping Russia in Ukraine widens conflict: US General Mark Milley
South China Morning Post
America’s top general stressed on Thursday that a war with China was “not inevitable”, but predicted that any attempts by the Asian giant to give lethal aid to Russia in its war with Ukraine “will broaden the conflict beyond the region”.
US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley made the remarks during his testimony before the US House Appropriations Committee regarding a 2024 budget for the Pentagon that he described as driven by a strategy to “deter” war. The formal request to Congress totalled US$842 billion, up 3.2 per cent from 2023.
“War with Russia or China is neither inevitable nor imminent,” Milley said, describing Beijing’s actions as “moving it down the path towards confrontation and potential conflict with its neighbours and possibly the United States”.
TikTok CEO fails to convince Congress that the app is not a “weapon” for China
For nearly five hours, Congress members of the House Committee on Energy & Commerce grilled TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew over concerns about the platform's risks to minor safety, data privacy, and national security for American users. […]
In his testimony, Chew defended TikTok’s $1.5 billion solution to these concerns, Project Texas, as a more appropriate measure than forcing a sale of TikTok from its owner, China-controlled ByteDance, or banning TikTok in the US. Chew said that with Project Texas, TikTok has launched an “unprecedented” effort to be more transparent about its algorithm and data collection than any other big tech company.
“American companies don’t have a good track record with data privacy,” Chew reminded the committee while repeatedly telling Congress members that the questions that they had about TikTok reflected industry-wide problems that go well beyond one app.