Inflation is the most important issue for a growing number of Americans
Plus: Good news for the GOP’s midterm prospects, why officials are skeptical of Russia’s latest promise to pull back in Ukraine and why MIT will require applicants to submit SAT and ACT scores again.
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— 4 million refugees have now fled Ukraine since Russia launched its war, according to the United Nations. Another 6.5 million have been displaced inside the country while 13 million are trapped in affected areas and unable to leave.
— In yesterday afternoon’s newsletter, I reported that Russia committed to drastically reducing military activity near the Ukrainian capital city of Kyiv and a port city in the northern part of the country Vladimir Putin invaded a month ago.
But White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield and Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby on Tuesday expressed skepticism that any movement of forces from around Kyiv was a withdrawal but instead of a redeployment.
“The world should be prepared for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” Bedingfield said. “Everyone should expect that we’re going to continue to see attacks across Ukraine.”
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine also said there was no reason to believe Russia’s announcement based on what’s happening on the ground, Nebi Qena and Yuras Karmanau report at AP News.
“We can call those signals that we hear at the negotiations positive,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the Ukrainian people. “But those signals don’t silence the explosions of Russian shells.”
— Top US generals say an intelligence gap could be behind America’s overestimation of Russia’s military capabilities in Ukraine, Barbara Starr, Ellie Kaufman and Jeremy Herb at CNN report.
US intelligence assessed Russia would take Ukraine’s capital city in a matter of days, but Russia's military has been bogged down around the capital as the war has entered its second month.
A US military official said the Defense Department would complete a comprehensive after-action review to find out if and how it can improve its intelligence gathering and assessment.
— Less than half of Americans say they regularly wear masks, avoid crowds and skip nonessential travel, the latest sign that most people have placed the pandemic in their rearview as infections have fallen to their lowest since July, Russ Bynum and Emily Swanson at AP News report.
— The high cost of living and fuel prices are cited as the most important problem facing the US today for roughly one in five Americans, according to a new Gallup poll.
The percentage of Americans who mention inflation as their top concern has increased more in the past month than in any month since the upward trend in public concern began. Read the full survey results
Related: The average US household has to spend an extra $5,200 this year ($433 per month) compared to last year for the same consumption basket, Anna Wong at Bloomberg reports. But money saved during the pandemic and increases in wages has enabled most Americans to offset these costs so far.
— Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Republican Sen. Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia introduced a resolution that would recognize endometriosis as an unmet chronic disease for women and designate March 2022 as National Endometriosis Awareness Month.
Endometriosis is a condition resulting from the appearance of endometrial tissue outside the uterus and causing pelvic pain. The disease affects 6.5 million Americans and women can suffer up to a decade before being properly diagnosed.
The resolution would also encourage the Secretaries of Health and Human Services, Defense and Veterans Affairs to provide information on endometriosis to women, patients and providers and to improve screening tools and treatment options.
— Home prices in 20 major cities rose 19 percent in January from a year ago, Khristopher J. Brooks at CBS News reports. (Properties in Phoenix, Tampa and Miami saw an especially sharp jump.) These spikes, along with increasing mortgage rates, could price millions of Americans out of the market.
— The Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced it will once again require applicants to take the SAT or ACT, Eric Levenson at CNN reports.
“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill wrote in a blog post on Monday. “We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.” Read the full blog post
— The Senate Homeland Security Committee will vote to advance a bill to help the Civil Rights Cold Case Review Board investigate unsolved crimes from the civil rights era to secure justice for victims in their families.
The board is an independent agency that examines unsolved murders of Black Americans between 1940 and 1979. It was established in 2018 after Congress passed the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act but went unstaffed until 2021.
The bill was introduced by Democratic Sen Jon Ossoff of Georgia and Republican Ted Cruz of Texas last month. Read the full bill text
— “Racial hate isn’t an old problem,” President Biden said on Tuesday afternoon after he signed the Emmett Till Antilynching Act into law. “It’s a persistent problem.” Biden continued:
Hate never goes away, it only hides. It hides under the rocks. And given just a little bit of oxygen, it comes roaring back out, screaming. But what stops it is all of us, not a few. All of us have to stop it.
The law makes lynching, the unsanctioned group killing of someone for an alleged offense, a federal crime and is named after a 14-year-old Black boy who was lynched in Mississippi in 1955 after being accused of offending a white woman in her family's grocery store.
Vice President Kamala Harris went off script during her speech on the legislation to acknowledge the role of the Black press in speaking truth to power and “the importance of the Black press and the importance of making sure that we have the storytellers always in our community who we will support to tell the truth when no one else is willing to tell it.”
— 4.4 million Americans quit or changed jobs in February, Abha Bhattarai and Andrew Van Dam at WaPo report. 11.3 million job openings were reported last month, proof that demand for workers is still high.
— Younger women have closed the pay gap or are outpacing their male counterparts in nearly two dozen US metropolitan areas, Aaron Gregg and Jacob Bogage at WaPo report. But the wage gap widens as women start families and are passed up for promotions.
— Democrats were previously on track to net between four and five House seats from redistricting alone, but are now expected to see a more modest gain of one to two seats, David Wasserman at The Cook Political Report predicts. The updated estimate boosts the GOP's overall odds of taking back the House.
President Biden this morning will receive his daily intelligence briefing. He will have lunch with Vice President Harris at noon and then speak on the status of the US’s response to COVID-19.
Vice President Harris this morning will speak at Howard University on how the administration is helping small business owners start and grow their businesses. She will also host a meeting with Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica in her ceremonial office this afternoon.
The House is in and will take votes on several bills under the suspension of the rules.
The Senate is in and will take votes on several of President Biden’s executive nominations.
Read All About It
Magdalena Puniewska on how emergency-room nurses and doctors identify trafficking:
There isn’t a universal trafficking protocol that all hospitals follow; each one usually designs its own, borrowing from existing policies or looking to resources like HEAL. But they do typically follow a similar format: clues to look for, questions to ask, and how to offer help. The first signs can reveal themselves in small details that providers can observe. Trafficked patients often don’t have an ID or can’t provide a home address or the time or date. They may have tattoos that designate them as “property” such as bar codes, money symbols, or phrases like “Daddy’s girl.” They may come in with someone who does all the talking for them or who absolutely refuses to leave their side. Hovering is not just about physical supervision; it’s an attempt to control the narrative so the servitude can remain tucked away, a secret gasping for air beneath the surface.
Michael Schuman on how the world is splitting in two:
Changes in governments and leaders could prevent what seems an inexorable slide into a new world. Barring that, though, what could emerge are two semi-distinct spheres, with tighter economic ties within than between them. Each will use different technology and operate on different political, social, and economic norms. Each will likely point their nuclear missiles at the other and compete in a zero-sum game for power and influence. This is not the world anyone wanted. But it may be the world we’ll get anyway.
Jonathan Chait on President Biden’s proposed billionaire’s tax:
But while the voting bases of the two parties have changed some, and the thematic content of American commentary has changed a lot, the prosaic reality has changed very little. The main battle lines between the two parties are fixed around Democrats proposing more redistribution and Republicans proposing less.
There are technical critiques of Biden’s method of taxing this income. Jason Furman has mounted a persuasive defense of it.
It’s clear, however, that the thrust of the opposition on the right has nothing to do with the program’s design and everything to do with its objective.
Rebecca Jennings on Instagram Reels:
Seven years on and Facebook is still desperate to get us to watch videos on its platforms, this time in the form of Reels. Reels is a rather shameless TikTok copycat that lives in a separate tab from Instagram’s main feed. But just as IGTV failed to become a competitor to YouTube, Reels hasn’t been able to replicate the magic of TikTok’s addictive and powerful algorithm. Instead, Facebook has ensured the success of Reels by shoving its videos in your face every time you open the Instagram app. During Facebook’s most recent earnings call in February, the company maintained that Reels was seeing “tremendous growth,” but it’s unclear whether people are watching because they’re seeking it out or because Instagram won’t let them avoid it.
Aaron Mak on why GIFs almost didn’t take over the internet:
If it hadn’t been for this animation feature, GIFs may have become an obscure artifact of internet history. File formats like the JPEG would eventually be more effective at storing and transmitting still images. In 1999, there was even movement to “Burn All GIFs” after a company called Unisys tried to exert its patent rights over the Lempel-Ziv-Welch algorithm, the code that allowed GIFs to compress images. When Unisys announced that they wanted to start charging a small fee for software that employed the GIF algorithm, developers began swearing off of GIFs and migrating to new file formats, like PNGs. Yet, GIFs persevered, as nothing would replicate the distinctive looping animation style. In 2013, Wilhite won a Webby Lifetime Achievement Award for his role in creating the GIF and changing internet culture forever. Instead of giving an acceptance speech at the ceremony, he played a GIF.
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