👋 Away Message: It's infrastructure week at WTF HQ! This will be the last edition of WTFJHT until May 31. WTF is taking a much needed break to retool ahead of what is shaping up to be a very consequential midterm cycle (we've also had a few unresolvable scheduling snafus/conflicts here, so I'm just going to take a mulligan on this one). In the mean time, we've built a little news aggregator tool – currentstatus.io – to keep you up-to-date on the daily shock and awe. Thanks for understanding! I'm going to miss you. You'll hear from us again on Tuesday, May 31. Thanks for being here.
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1/ U.S. inflation hit a 40-year high of 8.5% in March – the sharpest year-over-year increase since December 1981. It’s the sixth-straight month of inflation above 6%. The Federal Reserve’s average target is 2%. From February to March, inflation rose 1.2% – the biggest month-to-month jump since 2005 – with gasoline prices tied to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine driving more than half that increase. Since then, however, the national average for a gallon of gasoline has dropped to $4.10 – down from $4.33 – and several economists say March may be a high-water mark for overall inflation. (Associated Press / NBC News / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Washington Post / CNBC)
2/ The Biden administration will temporarily allow E15 gasoline to be sold this summer to help ease gas prices. Gasoline that uses a 15% ethanol blend is usually banned from from June to September under the Clean Air Act because the blend’s higher volatility contributes to smog in warmer weather. The White House believes that the use of E15 can shave 10 cents off each gallon of gasoline, casting the decision as a move toward “energy independence.” Energy experts, however, say it would have a marginal impact at the pump because E15 gas is only available at about 2,300 fueling stations. Biden acknowledged that the move is “not going to solve all our problems, but it’s going to help some people,” adding that Americans’ ability to fill their gas tanks should not “hinge on whether a dictator declares war and commits genocide half a world away.” (NPR / Bloomberg / Washington Post / New York Times / CNBC / NBC News)
3/ Putin declared that peace talks with Kyiv had reached a “dead end” and that Russia’s “military operation will continue until its full completion” and its goals are met. Putin also dismissed evidence of Russian atrocities – dead civilians lying in the streets with bound hands, close-range gunshot wounds to the head, and signs of torture – in Bucha as “fake.” Separately, the U.S., Britain, and Australia said they were investigating an allegation that Russia had used “a poisonous substance of unknown origin” in Mariupol that may have sickened a handful of people. The Pentagon called the potential use of chemical weapons “deeply concerning” and said it was planning to expand the weapons it’s sending Ukraine to include Mi-17 helicopters that can be equipped to attack Russian vehicles, armored Humvees, and a range of other arms. (New York Times / Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / BBC)
4/ The U.S. ordered all non-emergency staff to leave its consulate in Shanghai as more than 200,000 Covid-19 cases have been reported since the start of March – its worst outbreak since the initial phase of the pandemic in early 2020. Most of Shanghai’s 25 million residents have been confined to their homes for up to three weeks as China maintains its “zero-Covid” strategy of handling outbreaks. The State Department had issued a travel advisory on April 8 warning U.S. citizens about “arbitrary enforcement of local laws” and Covid-19. restrictions. (Bloomberg / NPR / CNBC)
5/ Oklahoma Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a bill into law that makes performing an abortion a felony, punishable by up to 10 years in prison. The bill does not provide exceptions in cases of rape and incest – only in the case of a medical emergency. (CNN / Associated Press)
6/ Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey signed legislation that makes it a felony to provide gender-affirming medical care to people under 19. The law makes Alabama the third state in the country to pass a restriction on gender-affirming care for minors, though it is the first state to impose criminal penalties. Ivey also signed legislation that requires students to use school facilities for the sex listed on their original birth certificates and prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity in grades K-5 – adopting language used in Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill. (NBC News / New York Times)
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