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Another Congressional Bribery Indictment

Your unbiased daily news brief

Good morning and happy Monday. The star-studded Met Gala is tonight in New York. The dress code is "The Garden of Time," and all the celebrities in eye-popping outfits are required to adhere to a few surprising event rules. Have a great start to your week!

In Today’s Brief

  • Washington: Runaway zebra corralled

  • Brazil: Devastating floods

  • RNC: Top lawyer exits

  • Warren Buffett: Tax prediction

  • Mystik Dan: Wins Kentucky Derby

... and more

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Top Tips

1) Partners in (alleged) crime

Make that two congressional couples facing foreign bribery charges.

  • The news: Texas Rep. Henry Cuellar and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, were indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges last Friday. They are accused of taking over $600K in bribes to advance the U.S. interests of Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank; they each posted $100K bond after appearing in Houston federal court and say they are innocent.

  • The allegations: Cuellar, a 10-term Democrat, is said to have taken the money to influence legislation friendly to Azerbaijan, a former Soviet Union state that has begun moving toward warmer ties with Russia. The indictment also says he delivered a pro-Ajerbaijani speech on the House floor. Cuellar's house was raided by the FBI in 2022; he claims his actions were legal and cleared by the House Ethics Committee.

  • Big picture: Cuellar joins fellow Democrat and New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez as sitting legislators accused of taking payoffs to work for other countries. Menendez's wife, Nadine, was also charged. But while Menendez is not currently seeking re-election in a safely Democratic seat, Cuellar has vowed to forge on despite having won by fewer than 300 votes in 2022. His legal woes could impact who holds the House in 2025.

2) Party favors

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s independent presidential campaign is getting clever with its long-shot bid.

  • What's happening: Kennedy has begun reaching out to small political parties across the country, attempting to earn their nomination and automatic ballot access in some states in patchwork fashion. Kennedy has also created his own We the People Party in some states where party candidate have lower qualification thresholds.

  • So far: Kennedy is officially on the ballot in four states. His campaign says he has met qualification criteria in six more. The party approach, coupled with qualification efforts as an independent candidate, could help him get on the ballot in many more. Kennedy has pledged he has a path to being on the ballot in all 50 states, but he will face legal challenges from allies of President Joe Biden (and potentially former President Donald Trump).

  • Big picture: Kennedy is polling better than any third-party candidate in over 30 years. But his ability to make a significant impact in the race -- and to qualify for presidential debates -- will hinge on whether he can gain widespread ballot access. That remains in question at this point.

3) Ruff reality

The U.S. is grappling with a growing veterinarian shortage.

  • The numbers: An additional 55K vets will be needed by 2030 to meet the demand for animal care, according to Mars Veterinary Health. The report also found it would take over 30 years of graduates to meet demand for veterinary technicians.

  • The causes: More Americans are becoming pet owners and pet health services should increase 3-4% beyond inflation over the next 8-10 years. Education is also an issue; most vets need 8-10 years of schooling and rack up significant student loan debt. But schools also have more applicants than they can accommodate.

  • Big picture: Shortages of vets for companion animals is a concern, but the bigger issue is a lack of lifestock vets accessible to farmers, ranchers and rural communities. There are fears food supply chains could be impacted as a result. Federal and state programs to encourage veterinary pursuits have been launched with those areas in mind.

Quick Tips

U.S. News

  • An escaped zebra was captured after six days on the run in Washington state. The animal was recovered in good condition after breaking out of a trailer (More)

  • New York City officials claimed about half the pro-Palestinian protestors arrested at two campus demonstrations were not affiliated with either school. About 30% of the arrests at Columbia University were unaffiliated people, with 60% unaffiliated at City College of New York (More)

  • A U.S. Army member was charged in a failed murder-for-hire scheme in Connecticut. Sgt. Jeremiah Peikert allegedly conspired to hire a hitman to kill four people, including two children, with his incarcerated brother (More)

World News

  • At least 75 people have died after heavy rains caused flooding in southern Brazil. Over 100 people are still missing; almost 100K have been displaced from their homes (More)

  • The Biden administration reportedly held back a planned shipment of American-made ammunition to Israel last week. The White House was motivated by concerns about Israeli plans to invade the Gaza city of Rafah (More)

  • Dick Rutan, who co-piloted the first non-stop flight around the world, died at 85. Rutan and Jeana Yeager made the Voyager flight in 1985; he was also a decorated U.S. Air Force pilot who survived two ejections, including one under enemy fire during the Vietnam War (More)

Campaign News

  • Charlie Spies is out as the Republican National Committee's chief counsel after just two months. Spies' appointment was controversial among former President Trump's allies given his past work with political rivals like Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney (More)

  • Virginia Lt. Gov. Winsome Sears has reportedly emerged as a potential Trump running mate. Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson, a former Democrat who joined the GOP last year, is also said to be on the radar (More)

  • About half of Americans are extremely or very concerned news organizations will report inaccuracies or misinformation during the presidential campaign. Over 80% have some level of concern, according to a recent Associated Press survey (More)

Business & Markets

  • Major indexes closed higher on Friday. A soft April jobs report signaled potential progress toward interest rate cuts (Dow +1.18%, Nasdaq +1.99%, S&P 500 +1.26%).

  • Warren Buffett thinks the federal government will raise taxes due to growing fiscal deficits. The Berkshire Hathaway CEO's prediction came at his holding company's annual meeting in Omaha (More)

  • Paramount Global will begin negotiations with Apollo Global and Sony after a $26B purchase proposal. The media company will also continue separate acquisition talks with Skydance Media; the latter deal would not face regulatory hurdles (More)

Entertainment & Sports

  • Mystik Dan won the 150th Kentucky Derby by a nose as an 18-1 longshot. Sierra Leone finished second in the kickoff to the Triple Crown; Forever Young was third (More)

  • Madonna held a free concert for a reported crowd of 1.6M on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro. Rod Stewart still holds the record for the biggest free concert with 4M on the beach on New Year's Eve in 1994 (More)

  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is coming back. ABC will revive the game show to celebrate its 25th anniversary; Jimmy Kimmel will return as host after helming previous reboots in 2020-21 (More)

Quick Hitters

  • Survey Says: Almost 80% of Americans think social media companies wield too much political power. And two-thirds of participants in Pew Research Center's recent survey think the apps negatively impact society.

  • Be Safe, Part 1: Over 31K Igloo water bottles for children have been recalled. A silicone cover on the sippers can come off, becoming a choking hazard.

  • Be Safe, Part 2: Two varieties of Planters nuts have been recalled for potential listeria contamination. Planters' Deluxe Lightly Salted Mixed Nuts and Honey Roasted Peanuts are impacted.

  • Galactic Sweat: You know the cylindrical "wall of death" that motorcycle daredevils ride parallel to the ground? Scientists think they may be the secret to keeping astronauts fit in space.

  • Feel Good: A young boy in Oregon got a puppy as a Christmas present. His reaction, caught on video, was heartwarming.

  • OPTIMIZE ME: Researchers “found convincing evidence that higher intake of ultra-processed foods was associated with 50% increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related death, a 48% to 53% higher risk of anxiety and common mental disorders, and a 12% greater risk of type 2 diabetes”

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Why solar storms represent a serious threat to modern infrastructure.

Looking Ahead …

The WWE announced that WrestleMania 41 will be held in Las Vegas next year. The two-day professional wrestling event will be April 19-20 at Allegiant Stadium, a few weeks later than usual to avoid overlapping with the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball Final Fours.

Question of the Day

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Last week’s results:

Which classic game show should be revived next?

  • The Newlywed Game (32%)

  • Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? (26%)*

  • The Match Game (21%)

  • The Gong Show (21%)

* — we had no prior knowledge about ABC’s plans!