“U.S. job growth continued at a robust pace in March while the unemployment rate fell, signs the labor market is booming as the Covid-19 pandemic recedes and more workers return to the labor force,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Employers added 431,000 jobs in March, and the jobless rate fell to 3.6% from 3.8% a month earlier… The report marked the 11th straight month of job gains above 400,000, the longest such stretch of growth in records dating back to 1939.”
“President Joe Biden delivered his strongest endorsement of oil on Thursday, ordering an unprecedented release of emergency U.S. crude in a move that gambled his climate-saving credentials on lowering gasoline prices in an election year,” Bloomberg reports.
“If the strategy works, Biden may help stave off both a recession and crushing defeats for his party in midterm elections, while drawing the ire of climate activists and potentially derailing his green goals. If it fails — and it very well might — he risks looking like Jimmy Carter, snubbed by oil-rich Mideast nations and powerless to rein in prices at the pump.”
“It’s a remarkable shift for a president who campaigned on promises to combat climate change, accelerate renewable fuels and block drilling permits on public lands and waters. In the space of a week, he’s instead ordered the emergency release of 180 million barrels of crude from U.S. stockpiles and presided over a plan to boost exports of American natural gas to Europe.”
New York Times: As gas prices soar, Biden’s climate ambitions sputter.
AP: “The president said it was not known how much gasoline prices could decline as a result of his move, but he suggested it might be ‘anything from 10 cents to 35 cents a gallon.’”
“Russia’s war on Ukraine shifted gears this week, as Moscow, lacking the strength to pursue rapid offensives on multiple fronts, began pulling back from Kyiv and other cities in the north, and refocused for now on seizing parts of the country’s east,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The pivot, after five weeks of intense fighting, was a gauge of the intensity and effectiveness of Ukrainian resistance and signaled a decision by the Kremlin to pursue what is likely to become a prolonged war of attrition.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he had fired two top Ukrainian security officials whom he accused of being “traitors,” Insider reports.
The Guardian: “Ukraine accused of helicopter attack on oil depot inside Russia”
Al-Jazeera: “Russia alleges Ukrainian helicopters struck Belgorod fuel depot”
The New York Times: “Ukrainian helicopters strike an oil depot in Russia, an official there says.”
“Russia is running its military campaign against Ukraine out of Moscow, with no central war commander on the ground to call the shots, according to American officials who have studied the five-week-old war,” the New York Times reports.
“That centralized approach may go a long way to explain why the Russian war effort has struggled in the face of stiffer-than-expected Ukrainian resistance.”
“The lack of a unifying military leader in Ukraine has meant that Russian air, ground and sea units are not in sync. Their disjointed battlefield campaigns have been plagued by poor logistics, flagging morale and between 7,000 and 15,000 military deaths.”
Phillips Payson O’Brien: “Let me tell you a story about a military that was supposedly one of the best in the world. This military had some of the best equipment: the heaviest and most modern tanks, next-generation aircraft, and advanced naval vessels. It had invested in modernization, and made what were considered some of Europe’s most sophisticated plans for conflict. Moreover, it had planned and trained specifically for a war it was about to fight, a war it seemed extremely well prepared for and that many, perhaps most, people believed it would win.”
“All of these descriptions could apply to the Russian army that invaded Ukraine last month. But I’m talking about the French army of the 1930s. That French force was considered one of the finest on the planet. Winston Churchill believed that it represented the world’s best hope for keeping Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany at bay. As he said famously in 1933, and repeated a number of times afterward, ‘Thank God for the French army.’”
“Of course, when this French army was actually tested in battle, it was found wanting. Germany conquered France in less than two months in 1940.”
Jared Kushner spoke to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, U.S. Capitol riot for more than six hours, the HuffPost reports.
Rep. Elaine Luria (D-VA), a member of the committee, said she couldn’t give details but that the information he provided was “really valuable.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) “signaled support for stripping Disney of its 55-year-old special status that allows the entertainment company to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme park,” CNN reports.
“It’s the latest fallout in the feud between DeSantis, a Republican widely seen as a potential 2024 presidential contender, and Disney (DIS), Florida’s largest private employer, over a measure that bans schools from teaching young children about sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Oliver Darcy: “Right now Fox News, conservative talk radio, and a constellation of right-wing websites and influencers are all training their firepower on the entertainment giant.”
Florida has overstated how many residents are vaccinated against Covid-19 by more than half a million people, the Palm Beach Post reports.
Jonathan Chait: “Many towns in Florida report vaccine-uptake rates above 100 percent — a phenomenon that appears to be a result of tourists getting jabbed in Florida and being counted in the state’s total of residents getting doses.”
Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), under fire from fellow Republicans for saying that some of them engage in orgies and use cocaine, put out a new ad blaming the “the entire left-wing establishment” for trying to “take him down.”
“I can tell you firsthand that these parties happen… Madison Cawthorn told me yesterday that he had not retracted what he said.”nn— Roger Stone, on InfoWars, vouching for Rep. Madison Cawthorn’s claims of cocaine-fueled orgies.
Politico: “Not everyone in the GOP is prepared to turn on Cawthorn, despite a string of recent missteps that range from charges for driving with a revoked license to describing Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky as a ‘thug.’ Some Republican colleagues privately express sympathy for a younger man they believe is beginning to crack, citing his recent divorce and personal struggles, including the car accident that left him using a wheelchair.”
“But none of his colleagues appear willing to defend him publicly, either. The GOP consensus is that Cawthorn’s behavior, no matter his age or position, remains unacceptable.”
“Workers at Amazon’s massive warehouse on Staten Island voted by a wide margin to form a union, in a stunning win for a campaign targeting the country’s second-largest employer and one of the biggest victories for organized labor in a generation,” the New York Times reports.
“No union victory is bigger than the first win in the United States at Amazon, which many union leaders regard as an existential threat to labor standards across the economy because it touches so many industries and frequently dominates them.”
The New Yorker has obtained a video of an American hostage who has been missing for two years and is pleading to be released from Taliban custody.
“The Taliban rulers of Afghanistan continue to chip away at the freedoms the country knew for two decades, dragging Afghans back under their draconian version of Islamic sharia law and defiantly distancing their regime from the international community in the process,” CBS News reports.
“The latest moves — both official and unofficial — include restrictions on women traveling, men’s grooming, and access to international media and even public parks.”
“We survived the War of 1812, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War. But now today we face the greatest danger we’ve ever faced. The militant left wing in our country has become the enemy within.” — Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), quoted by the HuffPost.
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confirmed that he plans to run for another term as the GOP’s leader in the chamber but said, “I don’t own the job,” when asked about a potential challenge by Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), Axios reports.
Said McConnell:”Anybody in the conference can run if they choose to.”
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) further distanced himself from Donald Trump while discussing the prospect of Republicans reclaiming the majority in the Senate, saying the views of potential candidates on the former president are “irrelevant” to him heading into the midterm elections, the Boston Globe reports.
“Key senators are nearing a deal on a roughly $10 billion package of coronavirus relief, setting Congress on a path to deliver funding Democrats had hoped to pass weeks ago,” Politico reports. “But some in the majority party are deeply unhappy with the compromise being negotiated with Republicans, warning that leaving out global aid will have consequences. That spells possible trouble for the package’s fate in the House.”
New York Times: “Therein lies a Washington controversy. The funds, which Congress approved at a moment when the pandemic was still raging, are allowed to be used for far broader purposes than combating the virus, including water projects like those in Kentucky. Most states will get another round of “‘fiscal recovery funds’ — part of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan — next month.”
“But in Washington, Mr. Biden is out of money to pay for the most basic means of protecting people during the pandemic — medications, vaccines, testing and reimbursement for care. Republicans have refused to sign off on new spending, citing the state recovery funds as an example of money that could be repurposed for urgent national priorities.”
Associated Press: Bipartisan deal near on trimmed $10 billion Covid bill.
A Wisconsin judge has ordered Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) “to be held in contempt after he failed to produce records from an investigation he had launched into the 2020 presidential election,” the Washington Post reports.
South Dakota Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg (R), who seems likely to avoid impeachment over a fatal hit-and-run in 2020, apparently used his office to regularly wriggle out of traffic tickets, KELO reports. Ravnsborg was reportedly pulled over by law enforcement 15 times in the two years before the 2020 accident but was ticketed only twice.
“A political action committee run by the wife of Mark Meadows, former President Donald Trump’s chief of staff, has significantly increased its spending on legal bills, paying a high-profile law firm that handles cases including white-collar crime and congressional investigations,” the Charlotte Observer reports.
Washington Post: “The Biden administration’s plan to end a pandemic order barring many migrants from entering the United States could trigger a rush of crossings at the border with Mexico — threatening to exacerbate a political liability for Democrats ahead of November’s midterm elections.”
“Top Democrats on Thursday lashed out at the administration and each other over the fate of an emergency order that the Biden and Trump administrations have used to expel undocumented immigrants during the pandemic, with some arguing for a quicker policy change and others warning not to move ahead. Republicans pounced on President Biden, accusing him of inviting chaos and danger.”
Here’s how Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) reacted to the news: “Oh my goodness. Just watch the news y’all put out every day, what’s coming across.”
Axios: “Immigration is about to roar back as a major crisis for President Biden: Republicans are already testing harsh new border messages for the coming midterm ad war.”
Playbook: “The news at the end of this week makes it clear that Biden has entered the ‘long slog’ period of his first term. The bold ambitions of year one have been downsized. And even with more modest goals, unifying Democrats in Congress has become tougher — and winning over Republicans harder — than ever. Many problems, like inflation, don’t have readily available solutions. And even when Biden is able to act, like on immigration, his choices are politically perilous.”
“Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) says he has ‘concerns’ about the sexual harassment allegations surrounding Eric Garcetti, publicly raising the possibility he could oppose President Biden’s nominee for ambassador to India,” Axios reports.
“A group of Facebook engineers identified a ‘massive ranking failure’ that exposed as much as half of all News Feed views to ‘integrity risks’ over the past six months,” The Verge reports.
“The engineers first noticed the issue last October, when a sudden surge of misinformation began flowing through the News Feed… Instead of suppressing dubious posts reviewed by the company’s network of outside fact-checkers, the News Feed was instead giving the posts distribution, spiking views by as much as 30 percent globally.”
“As President Donald Trump’s tenure came to an end, the chief White House photographer, who had traveled the world with him and spent countless hours inside the White House snapping pictures, notified Mr. Trump’s aides that she intended to publish a book collecting some of her most memorable images,” the New York Times reports.
“This was hardly a radical idea: Official photographers from every White House since President Ronald Reagan’s have published their own books… But like so much else involving Mr. Trump, the plan by his chief photographer, Shealah Craighead, did not follow this bipartisan norm.”
“First, aides to Mr. Trump asked her for a cut of her book advance payment, in exchange for his writing a foreword and helping promote the book.”
“Then Mr. Trump’s team asked Ms. Craighead to hold off on her book project to allow the former president to take Ms. Craighead’s photos and those of other White House staff photographers and publish his own book, which is now selling for as much as $230 a copy.”
Josh Barro: “People will point at the burden of one specific tax — like Sen. Rick Scott complaining about the large fraction of Americans who don’t pay federal personal income tax — and use that observation to make a claim about how fair the whole tax system is.”
“Federal personal income tax only makes up about 30% of all the taxes collected by federal, state and local governments in the US. So, if you want to assess whether the overall system tax system is fair, you have to place that tax in context with all the other taxes that provide the remaining 70% of the tax revenue.”
“People in the bottom income quintile (that is, with household incomes less than $26,000) pay about 15% of their income in taxes, mostly to state and local governments. The largest chunk of that tax burden comes from sales taxes. People in the top 1% pay closer to 36% of their incomes in tax, with by far the largest component being federal personal income tax.”