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 Today’s Top Stories

  • Thanks to The Dispatch for this article.
  • The death toll from Monday’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria passed 21,700 and is expected to rise throughout the day as rescue workers continue their search through the rubble.
  • State Department officials said Thursday the Chinese surveillance balloon that flew over the U.S. earlier this month carried multiple antennas to collect signals intelligence—like communications and geolocation data—as part of a larger surveillance program targeting more than 40 countries on five continents. The Defense Intelligence Agency was reportedly aware of the balloon the day before it entered U.S. airspace but didn’t flag it as an urgent threat, instead moving to collect intelligence on it. The House of Representatives voted unanimously Thursday to condemn China for the incursion.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Thursday Nicaragua has released 222 political prisoners—including one U.S. citizen—who arrived in the United States yesterday morning. Blinken said Nicaragua freed the prisoners unilaterally, without U.S. concessions or inducements, suggesting President Daniel Ortega’s administration—known for its repressive tactics and close ties to Russia—may be interested in improving relations with the United States.
  • Special Counsel Jack Smith has subpoenaed former Vice President Mike Pence as part of an investigation into former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, ABC News reported last night. The subpoena—which compels the former vice president to provide relevant documents and testimony—is the result of months of negotiations between federal prosecutors and Pence’s lawyers. Former National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien also received a subpoena as part of the probe.
  • Meta reinstated Trump’s Instagram and Facebook accounts Thursday, ending his suspension for praising people involved in violence during the January 6 Capitol riot. Trump has not yet posted on either of the two social media platforms, and also has yet to post on Twitter, which restored his access in November.
  • Newly-elected Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman was hospitalized Wednesday evening after feeling lightheaded at a retreat with other Senate Democrats. Fetterman—who suffered a stroke while on the campaign trail in May—remains in the hospital, though doctors have ruled out another stroke.
  • Pop music composer and songwriter Burt Bacharach died Wednesday at the age of 94. He had more than 70 Top-40 hits over the course of his career, including “I Say A Little Prayer”—sung by Aretha Franklin—and the Oscar-winning “Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head.”
  • Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes was named NFL MVP on Thursday, his second time winning the award in his six-year career. Minnesota Vikings receiver Justin Jefferson won Offensive Player of the Year, San Francisco 49ers defensive end Nick Bosa won Defensive Player, and Brian Daboll of the New York Giants won Coach of the Year.

Entitlement Reform Debates Resume

Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) during a news conference to discuss the ongoing negotiations over the national debt ceiling. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)
Remember Tuesday? Us neither. For reference: President Joe Biden delivered his second State of the Union address that evening and received a lot of boos and shouts of “liar” when he suggested some Republicans—“I’m not saying it’s a majority”—want to cut Medicare or Social Security in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.
Republicans really hate this line of attack—and the French protests over modest pension reforms we discussed last week might explain why. “The only people talking about cutting Social Security and Medicare right now are the Democrats using it as a scare tactic because they can’t defend their failed economic policies,” Nebraska Rep. Adrian Smith told The Dispatch on Thursday.

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