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Last month saw the most tornadoes ever recorded in March in the US, and it was the second record-breaking March in a row. In general, scientists are seeing more severe weather earlier in the year, and yes, climate change is likely a factor.
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced the immediate “partial mobilization” of Russian citizens in an escalation of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine and pledged to use “all means” to defend the country and its people. The mobilization would mean Russian citizens who are in the reserve and those with military experience could be enlisted to serve in the country’s army. According to Russian officials, about 300,000 reservists will be called up as part of the mobilization. In a televised national address earlier today, Putin also referenced his potential use of nuclear weapons, saying “those who try to blackmail us with nuclear weapons should know that the prevailing winds can turn in their direction.” A top UK official, however, claims that Putin’s announcement is an acknowledgment that Moscow’s invasion “is failing.”
2. Oil and gas
The International Energy Agency is planning to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss ways to stabilize oil markets – possibly following suit with President Joe Biden’s decision to release millions of barrels of oil from emergency reserves. Oil prices dropped sharply after Biden’s announcement yesterday, but even the release of a million barrels a day would only cover about a third of lost production from Russia. Industry experts warn that gas prices could still hit new highs in the US this spring and summer. Biden also announced plans yesterday to ramp up domestic production of minerals needed to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles and long-term energy storage. The hope is that by doing so, the US can lessen its dependence on fossil fuels – and be less vulnerable to wild swings in oil prices during international conflicts.
3. LGBTQ rights
Florida’s controversial law, which is dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, is already inviting feuds and fallout. After the bill was signed into law, the Walt Disney Company wrote in a statement that its “goal” was to get the law repealed or defeated in the courts. Disney is Florida’s largest private employer, and had come under pressure to speak out about the measure. Now, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has signaled support for a Republican-led effort to repeal a 55-year-old provision that allows the entertainment company to operate as an independent government around its Orlando-area theme park. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger joined voices condemning the law, telling Chris Wallace on CNN+ that it’s not political, “it’s about right and wrong.” Two LGBTQ rights advocacy groups, joined by students, parents and a teacher, have already filed the first federal lawsuit challenging the new rule.
Republicans have struck an “agreement in principle” with Democrats on a $10 billion package to provide further pandemic relief, according to GOP Sen. Mitt Romney. The White House has been appealing to Congress to pass more funding, saying the administration doesn’t have the money to purchase monoclonal antibody therapies, vaccines, and more tests – as well as reimburse providers and provide personal protection equipment. The $10 billion price tag is about half of what the White House was seeking. Some Democrats say the deal is a little farther afield than Romney has suggested. Meanwhile, another bipartisan group of senators is trying to extend pandemic school meal waivers that gave federal funds and flexibilities to provide free food to more kids and to cope with supply chain and labor issues.
5. North Korea
The US and its allies are growing concerned that North Korea may be making preparations for an underground nuclear test for the first time since 2017. North Korea has recently resumed digging tunnels and other construction activities at its underground nuclear test site, officials say. The US intelligence community estimates North Korea could be ready to conduct a nuclear test this year, a concern heightened by the country’s recent demonstration of a missile that could potentially reach the US. The Defense Department is currently considering military responses to that missile test, which could include flying bombers or sailing warships in the region, or beefing up exercises and training in concert with regional allies like Japan and South Korea.
Otter takes surfer’s board
Drop the beat, granny! An 80-year-old grandma running for the Utah Senate has gone viral for this rap campaign video introducing herself to voters.
Billionaire MacKenzie Scott files for divorce from her second husband