Go For Broke
GUESS WHO’S BACK: I spent some time seriously sick this winter, but we’re back to publishing.
HOUSEKEEPING: Now that it’s no longer cool, I’m on Mastodon: @email@example.com.
GO FOR BROKE
U.S. President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) will meet Wednesday to haggle over the debt ceiling.
Like everyone else, the feds ran out of money. So right now, the Treasury is using “extraordinary measures” — which include halts to retirement savings for federal employees — to keep the bills paid. Congress needs to reach a deal to suspend, or, more likely, just increase the debt limit. Republicans see this as a chance to force concessions, though it’s unclear what they can actually get as Biden is unlikely to slash entitlements spending.
While these sorts of skirmishes keep journalists and politicians well-fed, they’re also the reason some economists argue for making the debt limit respond automatically to changes in the economy.
POLITICS and WORLD
AD NAUSEAM: Video of cops pummeling 29-year-old Tyre Nicols to death during a traffic stop in Memphis has sent the city into grieving. Reminiscent of the 2020 murder of George Floyd, it’s been a shot in the arm to calls for police reform in the U.S.
DISORGANIZED CRIME: A suicide bombing at a mosque in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan, has claimed at least 100 lives. The mosque was tucked inside a guarded compound, and most of those killed were police. Omar Mukaram Khorasani, a high-level member of a Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan splinter group, claimed responsibility for the act, only to have another group spokesman deny it.
WALK SOFTLY AND BLOW SHIT UP: The U.S. and Germany are shipping several dozen tanks to Ukraine to bolster its war effort. Now, Kyiv is asking for F16s. President Biden said no, but the Pentagon suspects he’ll cave. You know how it is, you get them a tank and they ask for fighter aircraft.
THE ENEMY WITHIN: Meanwhile, Ukraine is busy cracking down on corruption, a long-standing problem in the country. This round has included high-profile busts, such as Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of office for Vladimir Zelensky, as well as leaders from the front lines.
SECRET STASH: Classified documents were discovered in former vice president Mike Pence’s place in Indiana. Of course — lest you think this is a partisan issue — multiple sets of classified documents from the Obama era were found on Joe Biden’s property. Errant paperwork was also found at Mar-o-Largo. It’s surprisingly common if sketchy-sounding, it turns out, though former President Donald Trump’s alleged refusal to return the documents was unique. And there does seem to be something congenital about executives not respecting boundaries.
PANTS ON FIRE: The Republican Congressman in New York's 3rd congressional district, George Santos, recused himself from his committee seats this week. Santos’s addiction to lying and fraud is perhaps the most bizarre scandal in recent memory. The hits? Well, he lied about his mother being a 9/11 victim, lied about his grandparents living through the Holocaust and, um, lied about having an employee killed at the 2016 Pulse club shooting. Oh, and he’s also admitted to fibbing about $600,000 in loans to his campaign. That’s not to mention the fake animal charity he allegedly used to rip off a disabled veteran seeking help for a dying dog… Believe me, that was the short version.
TALK THE WALK: On a quick jaunt to the Congo, part of his larger tour to shore up faith in Africa, Pope Francis chided foreign powers for “choking Africa.” It’s true: Congo, especially, has been stripped of resources. But while it was a nice speech, one wonders how much of Africa’s plundered resources found their way to the church’s vaults. Distributing it to the poor could do some good. Just a thought.
BUSINESS and ECONOMICS
TRUST BUST: The U.S. Department of Justice is suing Google, again, for its stranglehold on digital advertising. Maybe, in this case, two times is the charm.
ALL THAT GLITTERS: Once viewed as a standard-setter for West Africa, Ghana is in the middle of a terrible financial crisis. It has cocoa and gold exports, but other sectors — notably agriculture — are in disrepair. Mismanagement hasn’t helped.
ARTIFICIAL DETECTIVES: A chorus of voices has expressed nerves over whether ChatGPT, a chatbot released this winter, will forever change society. College professors are especially concerned over the fate of the college essay now that students can generate passable prose instantly. Now, OpenAI, the company that released it, rushed out a plagiarism detector (In case you missed it, here’s my piece from December profiling Alex, a student who sold a few essays using the tool).
CLIMATE, SCIENCE and HEALTH
GREED: A research note has added to the evidence that drugmakers line their pockets by starving competition from generics. Anything to keep the lucre flowing.
FEED: A new breed of hybrid rice crops was developed. The upshot: this has the potential to drive down the cost of seeds, which would significantly help farmers — and the food supply — in developing countries.
THE OPPOSITE OF GREEN: Exxon Mobil Corp. raked in $56 billion net profit last year. That’s $6.3 million an hour, a historic high for the company. And other fossil fuel companies are expected to find themselves flush. The world economy has a long way to go before it’s really green. Big oil still makes big bucks.
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