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Going into the weekend. Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories

This article is from The Dispatch.

  • OPEC+ oil producers agreed Thursday to ramp up oil production in July and August—by 648,000 barrels per day—to partially make up for shortfalls as Europe and other countries eschew Russian energy. The White House has been pushing Saudi Arabia—a key member of OPEC—to increase drilling as energy costs soar, and President Joe Biden will reportedly visit the country in the coming months, despite vowing during his 2020 campaign to make the kingdom a global “pariah” for its killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
  • Texas State Sen. Roland Gutierrez, who represents Uvalde, claimed Thursday he was told by the Commission on State Emergency Communications that Peter Arredondo—chief of police for the Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District and incident commander during last week’s shooting—was not aware of the repeat 911 calls coming from students within the classroom as police officers waited more than an hour to confront and kill the gunman. “Uvalde PD was the one receiving the 911 calls for 45 minutes while … 19 officers were sitting in a hallway for 45 minutes,” he said. “We don’t know if it was being communicated to those people or not.”
  • Dr. Ashish Jha—the White House’s COVID-19 Response Coordinator—told reporters Thursday that COVID-19 vaccines could be authorized and available for children under five years of age as early as June 21, if the remaining regulatory hurdles go as expected. A Food and Drug Administration advisory committee is set to meet and review Pfizer and Moderna’s data on June 14 and 15, after which the Centers for Disease Control will need to make its own determination and formal recommendation.
  • In a ruling issued Thursday, a Pennsylvania judge directed counties to count mail-in and absentee ballots from last month’s primary that had no handwritten date on the return envelope. The ruling is a minor victory for David McCormick—the former hedge fund executive who currently trails Dr. Mehmet Oz by less than 1,000 votes in the state’s Republican U.S. Senate primary—but it’s unclear how many additional ballots will be affected.
  • Former President Donald Trump on Thursday endorsed venture capitalist Blake Masters in Arizona’s Republican U.S. Senate primary over Attorney General Mark Brnovich and businessman Jim Lamon. The winner of the primary—set to be held on August 2—will face Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly in November. 
  • The Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security announced Thursday it was adding 71 entities based in Russia and Belarus to its Entity List, prohibiting American firms from doing business with them unless granted a specific waiver. The BIS has now added 322 such entities to the list since Russia’s invasion began in February.
  • The Labor Department reported Thursday that initial jobless claims—a proxy for layoffs—decreased by 11,000 week-over-week to 200,000 last week, remaining near historic lows.
  • The latest COVID-19 surge appears to have peaked in recent days, with the average number of daily confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States declining 21 percent over the past week. The average number of daily deaths attributed to COVID-19 continue to fall as well, down 40 percent over the same time period and below 200 per day for the first time since March 2020.
  • The war in Ukraine is about to turn 100 days old. 
  • The grim milestone is in some ways a victory for Ukraine, which many Western analysts—and arguably Russian President Vladimir Putin himself—believed would fold under Russian might within a month or two, if not a couple of weeks. Kyiv would fall, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky would either flee or be killed, and Russian forces would grind down a determined—but outgunned—Ukrainian insurgency.
  • Worth Your Time

    • In the Washington Post, Josh Rogin argues some congressional Republicans are forgetting one of the key takeaways from the Cold War: that exploiting brain drain from autocratic societies is a “smart and righteous” strategy. “The whole world is competing for the talents of those who are fleeing from Hong Kong and Putin’s Russia,” Rogin writes, noting Republicans have blocked efforts to ease visa restrictions for high-skilled workers from those regions. “Cruz claimed that accepting Hong Kongers was the first step to opening our borders and that the Chinese Communist Party could exploit the program to send spies to the United States. This ignores the fact that China has much easier ways to get spies into our country and that the CCP is trying to stop Hong Kongers from leaving because Beijing knows the brain-drain risk for China is real. … Republicans’ excessive fear of immigration should not waste a strategic opportunity for the United States to strengthen itself and weaken its rivals at the same time. Congress should work to ensure that China’s and Russia’s losses are America’s gains.”
    • President Biden published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal this week describing inflation as his “top economic priority,” but Peter Suderman isn’t convinced. “On the same day that Biden’s inflation op-ed appeared, Bloomberg News reported that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had renewed an antitrust investigation into Amazon,” he writes for Reason. “[Biden’s hand-picked FTC Chair Lina] Khan’s approach to antitrust is focused on discarding what has long been the legal test for antitrust actions: whether a merger enhances consumer welfare. Instead, progressive antitrust activists in the Khan mold have focused more on scale—or bigness—itself, often under the justification that limiting corporate size promotes competition with smaller firms. … [But] antitrust efforts that target bigness alone end up decreasing corporate efficiency since mergers and acquisitions can allow for more streamlined production processes. Reducing efficiency, in turn, drives up prices, contributing to the inflation that Biden says he’s determined to fight.”
    • The Reagan Foundation continued its “A Time for Choosing” speaker series on Thursday, inviting Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska to outline his vision for the future of the Republican Party. “Think how long it’s been since the American people have heard a big, optimistic, Reagan-like aspirational message,” Sasse said. “A 33-year-old American has only seen a Republican president win the popular vote once in her entire lifetime, and that was in the aftermath of 9/11 when the Dems decided to run a throwback, anti-war candidate from the 1960s. Who is trying to win this woman’s vote? Shouldn’t the Republican Party have something to say to her? We’ve got to do better. We’ve got to be speaking to people who tuned both parties out long ago. We’ve got to be speaking to men and women who can’t stand preach-to-the-choir-politics because in the real world they’re the ones getting things done.”
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