[guest post by Dana]
First news item
The current situation with infant formula, on the other hand, really does seem quite serious. In particular, a February/March 2022 FDA recall of Abbott Nutrition formula products made at a problematic Michigan facility has pushed an already-stressed U.S. market into full-on panic mode. Not only are supplies desperately short in numerous states, but prices have (as they do when supplies are low) spiked, leaving families—especially ones with low incomes or babies that need special products—in desperate shape.
Unfortunately, the infant formula crisis isn’t simply another case of a one-off event causing pandemic-related supply chain pressures to boil over. Instead, U.S. policy has exacerbated the nation’s infant formula problem by depressing potential supply. First, as my Cato colleague Gabby Beaumont-Smith just documented, the United States maintains high tariff barriers to imports of formula from other nations—all part of our government’s longstanding subsidization and protection of the politically powerful U.S. dairy industry. Imports of formula from most places, such as the European Union, are subject to a complex system of “tariff rate quotas,” under which already-high tariffs (usually 17.5 percent, but it depends on the product) increase even further once a certain quantity threshold is hit.
We even restrict imports of formula from most “free trade” (scare quotes intended!) agreement partners, including major dairy producing nations like Canada. In fact, a key provision of the renegotiated NAFTA—the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA)—actually tightened restrictions on Canadian baby formula to ensure that new investments in Ontario production capacity by Chinese company Feihe would never threaten the U.S. market:
Also, this by Elizabeth Nolan Brown is an eye-opening must-read too.
Second news item
Russia has said it will be forced to take “retaliatory steps” over its neighbour Finland’s move to join Nato.
A foreign ministry statement said the move would seriously damage bilateral relations, as well as security and stability in northern Europe.
Earlier, Finland’s president and PM called for the country to apply for Nato membership “without delay”.
Russia had previously warned both Sweden and Finland if they joined NATO. Both countries are expected to announce their decisions regarding Nato this weekend. Turkey’s Erdogan doesn’t support either country joining NATO.
Third news item
Former Vice President Mike Pence will headline a get-out-the-vote rally with Gov. Brian Kemp on the eve of Georgia’s May 24 primary, marking a new split with Donald Trump as each maneuver for a possible 2024 White House run.
Pence called Kemp “one of the most successful conservative governors in America” in a statement announcing the May 23 rally to help the incumbent stave off a Trump-backed challenge from former U.S. Sen. David Perdue…
The former vice president’s visit is part of Kemp’s take-no-prisoners approach to the primary. The governor’s advisers don’t want to simply defeat Perdue and avoid an unpredictable June runoff; they want to rout him.
Fourth news item
Yeah, we all knew “safe, legal, and rare” was meaningless manipulation:
NEW: The Pro Choice Caucus has just sent out messaging materials to House Dems on Roe draft.
One of the recommendations: Don't use "choice." pic.twitter.com/nqVA8W1nWT
— Sarah Ferris (@sarahnferris) May 12, 2022
Fifth news item
More than 1,000 bodies of civilians have been recovered in areas around Kyiv that were previously occupied by Russian forces, United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet said Thursday.
What they’re saying: “Some of these people were killed in hostilities, others appear to have been summarily executed,” Bachelet added while speaking before a session of the UN Human Rights Council. “Others still have died because of stress to their health caused by hostilities and the lack of medical aid.”
The scale of unlawful killings, including summary executions, has been “shocking,” she said.
Britain’s ambassador to the United Nations said Thursday that there were “credible” claims Russian forces have committed sexual violence against children in Ukraine, as U.N. agencies said Vladimir Putin’s invasion had driven more than 6 million people to flee the country. The U.N. refugee agency reported the grim statistic, which, combined with the roughly 8 million Ukrainians who have been displaced within their country, means a third of Ukraine’s people have been forced from their homes.
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, citing the U.N. humanitarian agency, said at least 238 children were believed to be among the thousands of civilians killed since Russia launched its war, with 347 more injured.
Sixth news item
But of course they can’t agree:
Lawmakers in both parties agree on the need to boost security protections for Supreme Court justices…But there’s an intensifying debate between the House and Senate over just how to get there.
…Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) is blasting the House for pursuing legislation that would extend protections to the families of both justices and judicial clerks. He prefers his Senate’s bipartisan version, which passed unanimously on Monday, that only focuses on expanding security to the immediate families of justices…
Side note: A 2019 law had already authorized protections for judicial clerks, according to [Rep. Greg] Stanton’s office.
…House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer voiced support for the Stanton bill, arguing “we believe that it is critical to safeguard the families of those who choose to serve their country and their communities as judicial clerks and staff as well.” He said House Democrats would continue negotiating with Republicans on the legislation.
Seventh news item
A Republican lawmaker in Louisiana on Thursday pulled a bill that would have allowed prosecutors to charge a person with homicide if they get an abortion — effectively ending the chance it would become law this legislative session.
Eighth news item
Alexander Subbotin is at least the seventh Russian oligarch to die under strange circumstances this year.
Subbotin, the billionaire former top manager of Russian oil producer Lukoil, was found dead on Sunday in a shaman’s home in Mytishchi, a city just northeast of Moscow, Russian news agency TASS reported.
The billionaire’s death is the latest in a grim trend of Russian businessmen being found dead in unusual circumstances amid Russia’s ongoing assault on neighboring Ukraine.
Bill Browder, a financier who was once the largest foreign portfolio investor in Russia, previously told Newsweek that people should assume the worst “any time you see a wealthy Russian dying in suspicious circumstances.”
He added: “There has been enough empirical evidence of assassinations organized by the Kremlin or business rivals in Russia, to make it likely that these were murders and not suicides and other explanations that have been bandied about by the Russian authorities.”
In an unprecedented move, the House select committee on the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has issued subpoenas for five House Republicans, including GOP leader Kevin McCarthy.
All five had previously been asked to appear voluntarily and quickly refused. Now, their testimony is being compelled by month’s end, a move most of them quickly slammed on Thursday.
In addition to McCarthy, the panel also subpoenaed GOP Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, Andy Biggs of Arizona and Mo Brooks of Alabama.
None have said yet if they’ll comply with the subpoenas.
Ninth news item
President Biden’s approval rating remains underwater and more than 80% of registered voters say the U.S. is on the wrong track, according to a Thursday poll from Monmouth University.
The Thursday poll found that Biden’s approval rating is sitting at 38%, with 57% disapproval. Those numbers are down from March when Biden had a 39% approval and 54% disapproval. Monmouth also found that just 18% of Americans say the country is on the right track.
Biden’s White House making false claims like this doesn’t help the situation:
When President Biden took office, millions were unemployed and there was no vaccine available.
In the last 15 months, the economy has created 8.3M jobs and the unemployment rate stands at 3.6% — the fastest decline in unemployment to start a President's term ever recorded.
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) May 12, 2022
After all, the guy in charge already told us he had taken the vaccine before he took office:
Today, I received the COVID-19 vaccine.
To the scientists and researchers who worked tirelessly to make this possible — thank you. We owe you an awful lot.
And to the American people — know there is nothing to worry about. When the vaccine is available, I urge you to take it. pic.twitter.com/QBtB620i2V
— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) December 22, 2020
Have a great weekend!