The Full Belmonte, 5/20/2022
Residents stand in front of a building struck by a rocket in Bakhmur, Donbas, Ukraine.
“Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky yesterday said Donbas is ‘completely destroyed’ as a result of Russia’s constant strikes. Donbas is a heartland region that blankets much of eastern Ukraine and has been at the front of the country's conflict with Russia since 2014. ‘The bombing and shelling of other cities, the air and missile strikes of the Russian army -- all this is not just fighting during the war,’ Zelensky said. ‘This is a deliberate and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible,’ he added. In the eastern Luhansk region, Ukrainian military officials said 12 civilians were killed and 60 properties were destroyed yesterday by Russian bombardments. Separately, the US Senate approved a $40 billion emergency aid package for Ukraine. The bill will be flown to South Korea, where President Joe Biden will sign it during his first trip to Asia.” Read more at CNN
Oklahoma could implement the nation's strictest abortion ban.USA TODAY
“Oklahoma's legislature has passed one of nation's strictest abortion bills that would ban the procedure from the stage of ‘fertilization.’ The legislation also allows private citizens to sue abortion providers who ‘knowingly’ perform or induce an abortion ‘on a pregnant woman.’ Exceptions will be made for medical emergencies or if the pregnancy was a result of rape, sexual assault or incest and reported to law enforcement, the bill states. The measure now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt, who has previously pledged to sign every piece of legislation limiting abortion that comes his way. However, abortion rights advocates are vowing to mount a legal challenge should it be signed into law. The bill's passage comes as Republican-led states have been pushing strict abortion measures in anticipation of the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade next month.” Read more at CNN
“If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, an increase in births could strain safety nets, Axios' Caitlin Owens writes.
Why it matters: The red states poised to ban or severely limit abortion already tend to have limited access to health care — and fewer programs in place for mothers and children. Abortion bans would also likely put more pressure on U.S. foster and adoption systems.
‘What we’re facing as a country is hundreds of thousands of births, probably disproportionately located in the states that have been most limited in what they do for pregnant women, infants and children,’ said Sara Rosenbaum, a health law and policy professor at George Washington University.
‘We have not ever designed these programs for a world without Roe,’ she added. ‘You need a child welfare system, the likes of which we’ve never seen.’
Zoom out: Experts say there's already a growing shortage of obstetricians.
In 2020, more than 2 million women of childbearing age lived in counties that had no hospital offering obstetric care, no birth center and no obstetric provider, according to a report by March of Dimes.
Red states in the middle of the country — many of which will automatically ban abortion if Roe is overturned — are particularly likely to have a high number of maternity care deserts.” Read more at Axios
Oklahoma State Rep. Justin Humphrey (R) Lane urges lawmakers to vote yes yesterday. Photo: Nathan J. Fish/The Oklahoman via AP
The law would take effect as soon as it's signed into law. Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) has said he'll sign any anti-abortion bill that comes to his desk.
Why it matters: It would be the most restrictive abortion law in the U.S.
This is part of a state-by-state push by the GOP.
Oklahoma's near-total ban encourages private citizens to sue anyone suspected of helping a person get an abortion.
The measure, H.B. 4327, incentivizes citizens to sue anyone who ‘performs or induces’ or ‘aids of abets the performance’ of an abortion. People can also be sued if they ‘[intend] to engage’ in those actions, but haven't yet done so.
Citizens would be awarded at least $10,000 for successfully suing an abortion provider.
The law could affect embryos created through the IVF process and some forms of birth control. The bill doesn't apply to contraception.
The bill bars those who are sued from arguing the law is unconstitutional as a defense in court.” Read more at Axios
“The CDC has signed off on Covid-19 booster shots for 5- to 11-year-olds. The decision came yesterday after the CDC’s vaccine advisers voted to support recommending a single Pfizer/BioNTech booster dose, which the FDA authorized earlier this week. Studies show the Omicron variant has been particularly tough on kids -- and the effectiveness of two doses of Pfizer's vaccine for children ages 5 to 12 fell from 68% to about 12% against infection during the Omicron surge. While not at the same levels as during the Omicron wave, Covid-19 cases among children have been increasing. According to the latest report from the CDC, 1,547 children have died of Covid-19 in the US and 364 of them were between 5 and 11.” Read more at CNN
“Former Attorney General William Barr has ‘tentatively agreed to give sworn testimony behind closed doors’ to the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection, according to two sources familiar with the negotiations. Barr has talked informally with the committee, but this formal request would add to several sworn testimonies the committee has sought from other Republican lawmakers as part of its probe into circumstances leading up to the storming of the US Capitol. Separately, the committee yesterday announced it has evidence that Republican Rep. Barry Loudermilk led a tour of the US Capitol complex the day before pro-Trump rioters stormed the building. The committee is now looking for more information from Loudermilk about the purpose of the tour and its participants.” Read more at CNN
“Mental-health evaluators last year said the accused Buffalo, N.Y., shooter wasn’t a threat. In an assessment, the 18-year-old accused of shooting 13 people at a supermarket didn’t discuss any specific threats after having written that he wanted to kill himself and others, according to the local district attorney. Medical staff then sent him home. Payton Gendron, who was indicted by a grand jury and is being held without bail, briefly appeared in court on Thursday.” Read more at Wall Street Journal
“The House on Wednesday and the Senate on Thursday approved a change dealing with infant formula as part of a federal low-income supplemental nutrition program known as Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The measure to help families buy scarce supplies of baby formula now heads to Biden’s desk for his signature (The Associated Press).” Read more at The Hill
© Associated Press / Eric Gay| Infant formula in short supply in the U.S., May 13.
“House GOP leaders were among the 192 Republicans who voted against providing $28 million in aid to the Food and Drug Administration to address the shortage of baby formula — within days of criticizing President Biden for not doing enough on the issue.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), Whip Steve Scalise (La.) and Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) voted late Wednesday against the measure to provide new FDA funding, which the House approved on a largely party-line vote of 231 to 192. Twelve Republicans broke ranks and joined with Democrats in backing the money.” Read more at Washington Post
“Illinois’ governor signed a bill banning '‘ghost guns,’ untraceable weapons sometimes made from a kit purchased online that currently do not require a background check.” Read more at USA Today
Note: Monkeypox is more common and locally transmitted in West and Central Africa; Map: Axios Visuals
“New monkeypox cases may lead to the biggest outbreak outside of Africa, but are unlikely to lead to a global pandemic, Axios' Eileen Drage O'Reilly reports.
Why it matters: While the current outbreak is small and scientists continue gathering data, there may be community transmission of the virus.
The CDC has confirmed at least one case of monkeypox — related to smallpox — in the U.S.
‘I'm sure that ultimately this will be the largest outbreak of monkeypox that we've had, outside of the endemic areas in Africa,’ says Daniel Bausch, infectious disease expert and president of the American Society of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene.
The big picture: It's not likely to cause a massive pandemic like COVID, Bausch told Axios.
Monkeypox has two main types: the West African with a fatality rate of around 1%, and Congo Basin (Central African) with a fatality rate of around 10%.
The current circulating strain appears to be the milder West African type that often starts with flu-like symptoms and swelling lymph nodes, progressing to a blistering rash.
It can be transmitted by droplets and by contact with infected skin lesions or contaminated materials.
Transmission can come from animals or human-to-human, but ‘it is generally documented among very close contacts,’ Andrea McCollum, lead of the poxvirus epidemiology team at the CDC, told STAT News.
Children are at higher risk, and monkeypox can cause pregnancy complications or stillbirth, per the WHO.” Read more at Axios
“Building ties | Joe Biden started his first presidential trip to South Korea and Japan with a visit to a Samsung semiconductor complex today as he seeks to bolster supply chains that reduce US reliance on China. He’s also looking to firm up support for plans to help Ukraine fend off Russia’s invasion and counter security threats posed by Beijing and North Korea.
Biden’s visit comes as Pyongyang appears to be readying to launch another intercontinental ballistic missile and possibly conduct its first nuclear weapons test since 2017.
The US president is also expected to unveil his Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, although some Asian nations are reluctant to sign up because the specifics of the plan are unclear.” Read more at Bloomberg
“The White House is working towards a first presidential meeting with Saudi Arabia. President Biden and Saudi Arabia's de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, could meet for the first time as soon as next month, multiple sources told CNN. A meeting between American and Saudi leaders would have once been considered routine, but now marks a significant shift due to the recent strain in the relationship. It would also likely spark some controversy at home for Biden, who has been highly critical of the Saudis' record on human rights, its war in Yemen, and the role its government played in the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Biden administration’s effort to return to better relations with Saudi Arabia, the world's largest exporter of crude oil, comes as gasoline prices hit record highs in the US.” Read more at CNN
“Defense discord | German Chancellor Olaf Scholz vowed in February to end decades of military underfunding with a debt-financed $105 billion defense package, overturning key tenets of the country’s foreign policy since World War II. Now that fund is facing headwinds, with a parliamentary vote set for today being postponed because parties couldn’t agree on how to spend the money.” Read more at Bloomberg
“Final days | Australia’s election campaign is in the final sprint, with the opposition Labor Party leading the Liberal National Coalition in voter surveys. With wrong calls by pollsters in the 2019 vote hanging over tomorrow’s ballot, Labor is trying to stick the blame for rising inflation and tepid wage growth on Prime Minister Scott Morrison to deny his party a fourth term in office.” Read more at Bloomberg
“Ukraine’s war crimes trial. Vadim Shishimarin, a 21-year-old Russian soldier, has pleaded guilty to fatally shooting an unarmed Ukrainian civilian in the first war crimes trial held over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. He could face life in prison, the maximum sentence available in Ukraine.
The trial could be the first of many: Ukrainian officials have reportedly already charged 10 other Russian soldiers for war crimes, according to the Wall Street Journal.” Read more at Foreign Policy
Half a million flee northeast India flooding
“More than 500,000 people in the northeastern Indian state of Assam have evacuated from their homes, amid severe flooding and landslides caused by heavy rains that have killed at least seven people.” [Vox] Read more at Reuters / Zarir Hussain
“For several days the Brahmaputra River, one of the world’s largest, overflowed, submerging almost 1,500 villages. India has sent its military to help with rescue and recovery efforts.” [Vox] Read more at The Wire
“While flooding is typical for northeastern India, scientists say it’s been worsened by climate change melting Himalayan glaciers, causing more frequent flooding.” [Vox] Read more at CBS News / Arshad R. Zargar
“On Wednesday, the India Meteorological Department forecasted the heavy rains to last two more days.” [Vox] Read more at Times of India
“Taliban crackdown. The Taliban have demanded that female television anchors in Afghanistan cover up their faces while presenting, the latest in a long string of restrictions targeting Afghan women’s rights. Earlier in May, the Taliban also issued a burqa mandate and required women to have male chaperones when outside.” Read more at Foreign Policy
“Partygate findings. After a four-month long investigation, British authorities finally completed their inquiry into the ‘Partygate’ government gatherings on Thursday. In all, 126 fines were issued to 83 people for breaking pandemic rules on social gatherings, although British Prime Minister Boris Johnson—whose very career was threatened when he was fined last month—was spared a second fine.” Read more at Foreign Policy
“Sri Lanka’s historic default. As Sri Lanka struggles under mounting economic and political crises, the country defaulted on its foreign debt on Thursday. With the default—the first in Sri Lankan history—the country now owes an estimated $51 billion.
‘As Sri Lanka’s economic catastrophe continues, so will the demonstrations—ensuring the political crisis isn’t over yet either,’ Virginia Jeffries and Laxmanan Sanjeev wrote in Foreign Policy yesterday. Despite facing immense pressure to resign, they write, Sri Lankan President Gotabaya Rajapaksa looks to be preparing for the long haul.” Read more at Foreign Policy
“Condé Nast, the publishing giant behind Vogue magazine, has apologized to a pub in Cornwall, England, just days after threatening to sue it for bearing a similar name to the fashion publication.
As Monday’s Morning Brief noted, the pub—called Star Inn at Vogue—wrote a letter rejecting the publisher’s demand, explaining that the pub is in a village called Vogue that is much older than the magazine while noting that the singer Madonna presumably had not sought the company’s permission when choosing the title of her hit song.
‘When I opened the letter I thought some bugger in the village was having me on,’ Mark Graham, the pub landlord, told Cornwall Live.
Graham has not given up on poking fun at the publication; according to the BBC, his potential plans include publishing a local parish magazine called Vogue Magazine, and a rearrangement of Madonna’s Vogue, ‘to be performed by ‘some of the village’s larger, hairier men in skimpy clothing’ at the ale festival later this year.’” Read more at Foreign Policy
To apologize, Condé Nast sent the pub a framed letter of apology. “From one Vogue to another—please accept our apologies,” the letter said.
“A wide range of extreme weather is on tap for the West beginning today, which could include record heat, high winds, dangerous fire weather conditions and even a major snowstorm, Axios Generate co-author Andrew Freedman reports.” Read more at Axios
“Twitter unveiled a ‘crisis misinformation policy’ for international armed conflicts and crises. Inaccurate tweets will get warning labels and will be unable to be liked, retweeted or shared. Go deeper.” Read more at Axios
“Lives Lived: Donald K. Ross was one of the original Nader’s Raiders, the law students Ralph Nader mustered in the 1970s to challenge government and corporate bureaucracy. Ross promoted health care, voting rights, tax reform and other issues. He died at 78.” Read more at New York Times
Courtesy Jen Psaki
“Jen Psaki is starting a new tradition for the ‘flak jacket’ — a decades-old bipartisan gift from White House press secretaries to their successors, the N.Y. Times' Michael Grynbaum scoops (subscription).
The legacy jacket was missing after the Trump transition.
Before leaving, Psaki bought a replacement online from Macy's for Karine Jean-Pierre, who started Monday. She's the fifth woman in a row to be White House press secretary — a streak that began with Sarah Huckabee Sanders in 2017.
The replacement: a Tommy Hilfiger blazer, size 16, in Hi-Liter yellow.
‘The ritual dates to the 1970s, when Gerald Ford’s press secretary, Ron Nessen, received a blue men’s brocade vest from reporters that featured a bulletproof lining,’ Grynbaum notes. ‘He left it for his successor with a note: 'You’ll need this at some of your briefings.’