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Ukraine's Bold Pitch To West

Your unbiased daily news brief

Good morning and happy Thursday! Enjoy those snarky digital road messages while you can. The Federal Highway Administration has given states two years to meet updated regulations on traffic control devices and signs. Among the new rules: Overhead signs that are humorous or use pop culture references will be banned since they can confuse or distract drivers. Have a great day!

In Today’s Brief

  • Supreme Court: Hints at big change

  • Red Sea: Houthis refuse to stop attacks

  • Trump: Courtroom ejection threat

  • Musk: Throws down Tesla ultimatum

  • Regional sports nets: Amazon bailout

... and more

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Top Tips

1) Ruble and roll

Ukraine wants to use seized Russian assets to rebuild its country, and the West is listening to the unprecedented suggestion.

  • The pitch: Between $300-350B in Russian central bank holdings were frozen in G7 and allied countries when the Kremlin's invasion began. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is pushing for the funds to be sent to his war-torn nation while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

  • The response: The United Kingdom has endorsed the idea. The U.S. is supportive, but more lukewarm. Many countries sympathize with the sentiment but are skeptical about international legal precedents and undermining the global economy and banking standards.

  • Big picture: The laws and mechanisms that would allow a transfer are unclear, as are potential consequences. And Russia has threatened to retaliate in kind. But G7 nations appear to be following through on investigating the proposal.

2) Talk, but no action yet

It will be wait and see after President Joe Biden's meeting with congressional leaders yesterday.

  • On the border: Congress remains at an impasse on a deal over immigration and foreign military aid for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine. House and Senate leaders agreed on the importance of the issues and expressed optimism. But Speaker of the House Mike Johnson's stance on the border is unlikely to mesh with an anticipated bipartisan agreement in the Senate.

  • Shutdown deadline: While it was not the focus of the meeting, Congress has until tomorrow to avert a partial government shutdown. Both chambers are scrambling to pass a short-term spending bill that will fund the government into March. Johnson and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have agreed to a tentative budget number.

  • Big picture: Biden has prioritized Ukrainian aid and indicated a willingness to compromise on border security. He is also beginning to face more Democratic opposition on the border. But Johnson's pressure from the Republican right flank could limit his ability to work with Democrats.

3) The Firm is on the mend

The British royal family delivered a pair of unexpected health announcements yesterday.

  • King Charles: Buckingham Palace said the 75-year-old monarch will undergo a corrective procedure for an enlarged prostate next week. The palace said the issue is benign and will only require a short recovery period and a brief halt to Charles' public engagements.

  • Princess Kate: The future queen, 42, will be hospitalized for two weeks after abdominal surgery. Kensington Palace only said the procedure was planned; it is not believed to be due to cancer. Kate will not return to royal duties for several months; Prince William will also step back from public engagements.

  • Big picture: The Windsors have had a rough start to 2024. Prince Andrew has faced renewed scrutiny after the Jeffrey Epstein document release. And the drama with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle never seems to cease.

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Quick Tips

U.S. News

  • The Supreme Court has signaled it may restrict federal regulatory power and roll back decades-long precedent. The justices appeared focused on the "Chevron deference" legal doctrine while hearing a case involving commercial fishing rules (More)

  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders' push to tie Palestinian human rights conditions to Israeli military aid was rejected. The Senate voted 72-11 to table the resolution (More)

  • Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley has been hospitalized with an infection. Grassley, 90, is the oldest member of Congress; he was first elected in 1980 (More)

World News

  • The U.S. launched a fourth round of missile strikes on Houthi rebel-held sites in Yemen. The Iranian-backed militants have continued to attack ships in the Red Sea despite the strikes and repeated warnings (More)

  • President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reportedly have not spoken since before Christmas. The U.S. has expressed increasing frustration with how Israel is handling its war with Hamas in Gaza (More)

  • An Ecuadorian prosecutor was assassinated amid a probe into the recent armed hijacking of a television network. The South American country is currently engulfed with violence sparked by drug trafficking gangs (More)

Campaign News

  • A New York judge threatened to expel Donald Trump from the courtroom after the former president talked over E. Jean Carroll's civil trial testimony. Trump has already been ruled liable for the writer's allegations of sexual assault; the current trial will decide additional defamation damages (More)

  • CNN has canceled its upcoming GOP presidential debate in New Hampshire. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis was the only candidate who agreed to participate (More)

  • The White House apologized to former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson after the Democratic National Committee mocked his GOP presidential run on social media. Hutchinson, a Trump critic, dropped out this week after failing to gain traction (More)

Business & Markets

  • Major indexes closed down yesterday as expectations for March rate cuts dwindle. The Dow Jones suffered through its third straight losing session (Dow -0.25%, Nasdaq -0.59%, S&P 500 -0.56%). 

  • Elon Musk said he will not steer Tesla into the artificial intelligence sector unless he is given more ownership control. Musk owns 13% of the electric automaker after cashing out stock to buy X; he said he wants to be at 25% (More)

  • The Biden Administration has proposed a federal regulation limiting overdraft fees at major banks to nominal amounts. Banks make about $9B annually on the fees, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (More)

Entertainment & Sports

  • Amazon has agreed to invest in regional sports network owner Diamond Sports as it restructures following bankruptcy. The proposed deal would see Amazon Prime carry local game broadcasts for 37 professional teams (More)

  • Comedian Pauly Shore said he will star as Richard Simmons in a feature film about the fitness guru's life. Simmons, who retired from public life in 2014, said he did not grant permission for the project (More)

  • Golden State Warriors assistant coach Dejan Milojevic died at 46. He suffered a heart attack while the NBA team was having dinner on a road trip in Salt Lake City (More)

Quick Hitters

  • Life Hack: There is a simple method that can improve your sleep, give you more energy and deliver other positive benefits. And it requires little effort. The trick? Go outside as soon as possible once you wake up and get some sun. We said it was simple. And this is why it works.

  • Chow Down: Life is hectic and it can be hard to put together a quality dinner after a long day. Before you pull out your phone and order takeout, give some thought to these 30-minute meals that will fill you right up.

  • Go Deep: Hydrox sounds like a cleaning product. But it was the original chocolate sandwich cookie before Nabisco released Oreo, an almost carbon copy knockoff, and created a snack food behemoth. The entire saga is examined here.

  • Take Note: Just because your vacuum cleaner can pick something up does not mean it should. Some objects should always be avoided to keep your vacuum operating at peak efficiency. Among them: Broken glass, no matter how convenient it is.

  • Be Well: Pop quiz: What’s the body’s most abundant protein? The answer: Collagen. NativePath's Certified Grass-Fed Collagen Powder is made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and contains 18 grams of protein per suggested serving. Start incorporating it daily to support skin elasticity, joint health, bone strength, and muscle growth and maintenance.*


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Who knows if the full-length Richard Simmons film will get made. But Pauly Shore will definitely play him in an upcoming short film titled The Court Jester; the trailer was released yesterday after all the hubbub.

Looking Ahead …

If you thought the original version of Mickey Mouse entering the public domain was a big deal, think again. The first itineration of Superman is a decade away from exiting copyright and early-days Batman is not far behind. But DC Comics and Warner Bros. have been preparing for this inevitability for some time -- and they have built-in advantages Disney does not necessarily enjoy.

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