👋 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/ The Biden administration is prepping another $800 million in weapons and assistance for Ukraine, which could be approved within the next 36 hours. Last week, Biden approved a package of aid for Ukraine that would provide “new capabilities include artillery systems, artillery rounds, and armored personnel carriers” as well as the transfer of additional helicopters. The Biden administration also leveled a new round of sanctions against a Russian commercial bank, a Russian oligarch, and “companies operating in Russia’s virtual currency mining industry.” Meanwhile, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell, Ukraine’s Finance Minister Serhiy Marchenko, and several other finance ministers and central bank governors walked out of a closed-door G20 session when the Russian delegate started talking. (Bloomberg / CNN / Washington Post / Associated Press / CNN / Politico / CNN)
2/ Russia test fired a new intercontinental ballistic missile, a move Putin said would “provide food for thought” for those “trying to threaten our country” to “think twice.” Putin added that the launch as a show of strength “will reliably safeguard Russia’s security from external threats.” A small group of senior Kremlin insiders, meanwhile, are reportedly quietly questioning Putin’s decision to go to war, believing the invasion was a mistake that will set the country back for years. Some said they are increasingly worried that Putin could use nuclear weapons if faced with failure. (Washington Post / Wall Street Journal / Bloomberg / The Hill / Bloomberg)
3/ The White House has discussed delaying the repeal of Title 42 border restrictions to avoid an influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, which are already at the highest level since 2000. Title 42 is scheduled to end May 23. Trump issued the order in March 2020, using the pandemic as a reason for turning away migrants attempting to enter the U.S., without the chance to seek asylum. Meanwhile, some ICE and Customs and Border Protection operations are projected to run out of funds by July. Those projections are based on estimates that as many as 14,000 migrants could begin crossing the U.S.-Mexico border per day after Title 42 ends – nearly double March’s record high. (Axios / NBC News)
4/ The Florida Senate approved a new congressional map proposed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that gives Republicans a significant advantage over Democrats. The new map, one of the nation’s most aggressive, creates 20 seats that favor Republicans compared to eight that favor Democrats. As a result, Republicans are expected to hold 71% of the seats. Trump won Florida in 2020 with 51.2% of the vote. The Florida House is expected to pass the map this week. Democrats assailed the proposed map as unconstitutional and a violation of the Voting Rights Act’s prohibition on racial gerrymandering. (New York Times / Washington Post / Politico)
5/ The judge who tossed out the federal government’s transportation mask mandate received a “not qualified” rating from the American Bar Association in 2020. Nevertheless, the Senate voted confirm U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle to a lifetime appointment following the 2020 presidential election. The Biden administration had relied on the Public Health Service Act to defend its Covid-19 mask mandate on public transportation, which gives the government broad authority to prevent the spread of communicable diseases. The administration argued that masks qualified as “sanitation” under the law, but Mizelle disagreed and instead used her own, much narrower interpretation of the term. Legal experts said she misunderstood how the federal government operates during a national public health emergency. Meanwhile, a new Omicron variant is gaining a foothold in the U.S., the CDC reports. The new strain, called BA.2.12.1, makes up about a fifth of all new Covid-19 cases. (NPR / CNN / NBC News / Vanity Fair)
poll/ 56% of Americans support mask mandates on planes, trains, and public transportation, while 24% are opposed and 20% have no opinion. (Associated Press)
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