Three U.S. troops were killed and over two dozen injured in a drone attack on a U.S. base in Jordan, marking the first U.S. military deaths in the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began. The attack was blamed on Iranian-backed militias by President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The Islamic Resistance, an Iranian-backed militia group, claimed responsibility for attacking three U.S. bases in Syria. The attack in Jordan occurred at Tower 22, a logistics hub serving the Al-Tanf base in Syria. The number of wounded troops may increase. It remains unclear why air defenses failed to intercept the drone. Iranian-backed militias have attacked U.S. military installations over 150 times, including a significant attack on the Al-Assad Air Base in Iraq. Austin expressed outrage and sadness over the attack. Iran-backed fighters in east Syria have started evacuating their posts, fearing U.S. airstrikes.
Anti-Israel protesters, from states as far as Florida and Wisconsin, surged against a reinforced fence outside the White House, leading to the evacuation of nonessential personnel. The crowd grew violent, with instances of illegal behavior reported in Lafayette Park, including items being thrown at officers. The protesters, shouting slogans against Israel and President Biden, engaged in confrontations with the Secret Service. Attempts were made to breach the reinforced fence, and objects were thrown at law enforcement. The protest, termed “the March on Washington for Gaza,” was organized by the American Muslim Task Force for Palestine and other groups, to highlight alleged Israeli “crimes against humanity.” In a previous protest, the White House was vandalized with red paint. Last month, Doctors Against Genocide called for a rally at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, causing controversy due to the exploitation of Holocaust history. The event was subsequently canceled.
Anti-Israel protesters gathered outside the White House, chanting slogans and waving Palestinian flags. Some demonstrators damaged security fencing and threw objects at police. Chants included "Ceasefire Now," "Free, Free Palestine," and references to Yemen. The U.S. Secret Service reported damage to a portion of the anti-scale fencing, leading to the relocation of staff and journalists. The White House confirmed President Biden's absence, as he is at Camp David. The Metropolitan Police Department condemned illegal behavior, noting instances of violence and destructive acts. Some officers were reportedly assaulted in Lafayette Park. The protest occurred amid heightened tensions globally, particularly in regions like Israel and Yemen. Authorities are investigating the incidents and pledged to hold those responsible accountable.
Swedish officials' warnings about the possibility of war as the country approaches NATO membership have triggered panic, causing supplies to fly off shelves. The Swedish Civil Defense Minister, Carl-Oskar Bohlin, stated at a national conference that there could be war in Sweden, urging citizens to prepare. The commander in chief of the Swedish armed forces, General Micael Byden, stressed the need for mental preparedness. The warnings come as Sweden is two steps away from NATO membership. The increased concern has led to panic buying of emergency supplies. The government is taking steps to strengthen preparedness for extreme war scenarios, emphasizing the responsibility of citizens in defending the country. Neighboring Finland, a recent NATO addition, was warned by Russia about potential consequences.
NATO is commencing its largest exercise since the Cold War with Steadfast Defender 2024, involving around 90,000 troops and spanning through May. The drills focus on rehearsing the rapid deployment of U.S. troops to reinforce European allies bordering Russia in response to a conflict with a "near-peer" adversary. Over 50 ships, including aircraft carriers and destroyers, along with 80 fighter jets, helicopters, drones, and 1,100 combat vehicles, will participate. The exercises aim to test NATO's execution of regional plans developed to respond to a potential Russian attack. Although Russia is not explicitly mentioned, NATO's strategic document identifies it as the most significant threat. The drills include simulations of troop deployment and ground exercises. The second part will specifically focus on deploying NATO's quick reaction force to Poland on the eastern flank.
A secret document from the German Armed Forces suggests an imminent armed conflict between NATO and Russia, foreseeing a potential Russian invasion of NATO's Baltic states as early as July. The German Armed Forces are reportedly preparing for a hybrid attack on NATO's eastern flank by Russia in February. The confidential document outlines a scenario with escalating tensions between NATO and Russia month by month, culminating in the deployment of hundreds of thousands of NATO soldiers and the onset of war in the summer of 2025. The scenario predicts Russian mobilization in February 2024, a Spring offensive in Ukraine, and a July attack on the Baltic countries. Border conflicts and unrest are anticipated in the Suwalki corridor in December 2024, raising questions about NATO's ability to contain Russia.
The Biden administration has reportedly asked China to pressure Iran to halt Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping. However, these requests have been largely ignored by Beijing. Despite the ongoing attacks, China has only issued a general statement asking for the safety of Red Sea shipping. The U.S. and U.K. have conducted airstrikes against Houthi missile batteries, but these have not deterred the attacks. China has criticized the U.S. and U.K. for their use of force and insists that a ceasefire in Gaza is the only solution. Some believe China might become more involved due to the impact of the attacks on Chinese exporters. However, experts suggest that China values its ties with Iran and other Middle Eastern powers more than its economic losses in the Red Sea. China’s Foreign Ministry has called for an end to disturbances to civilian ships, linking the tension in the Red Sea to the conflict in Gaza.
The United States will no longer be able to use its weapons stockpile to aid Ukraine in its fight against Russian forces due to a congressional hold on additional funding. Major General Pat Ryder, the Defense Department's press secretary, explained during a Pentagon briefing that the lack of additional funding is preventing the U.S. from meeting Ukraine's urgent battlefield needs, including artillery rounds, anti-tank weapons, and air defense interceptors. This marks the first time, since the establishment of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in April 2022, that the U.S. has been unable to commit to sending additional ammunition and missiles to Kyiv. Ryder emphasized the importance of securing supplemental funding from Congress to provide Ukraine with the necessary equipment. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, recovering from prostate cancer surgery, urged the group to continue supporting Ukraine's military in the face of ongoing Russian aggression.
Former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), Tom Homan, testified before Congress, asserting that President Joe Biden is the first president in U.S. history to intentionally "unsecure the border." Homan, who served under six administrations, argued that Biden's open-border policies have led to the greatest national security crisis since 9/11. He highlighted the reversal of successful border security measures implemented during the Trump administration, resulting in chaos and a surge in illegal crossings. Homan also raised concerns about the record number of unaccompanied minors being smuggled, with thousands lost and vulnerable to exploitation. The Biden administration, in response, has blamed various factors, including the Trump administration and climate change. Homan's testimony emphasized the critical link between border security and national security.
The U.S. Supreme Court has vacated a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, allowing Border Patrol agents to maintain a barrier along the Texas-Mexico border. In a brief order, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Amy Coney Barrett, Ketanji Brown Jackson, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor sided with the Biden administration, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh voted against vacating the lower court injunction. The decision is seen as a victory for President Biden's administration, which argued that Texas hindered federal agents from performing their duties. The administration claimed that barriers prevented agents from reaching already-entered illegal immigrants. Texas countered that federal law enforcement cut razor wire to aid illegal crossings. This legal dispute is part of broader tensions over immigration policies at the Texas-Mexico border.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott expressed defiance after the U.S. Supreme Court granted an emergency appeal from the Biden administration, allowing federal agents to cut razor-wire border barriers along the Rio Grande. Abbott, who has implemented Operation Lone Star to install razor wire barriers on private property, tweeted, "This is not over," emphasizing that Texas' razor wire is an effective deterrent to illegal crossings. The Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling paused a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which temporarily blocked Border Patrol agents from cutting the razor wire. The Biden administration aims to remove the barriers installed by the Texas Military Department, leading to ongoing legal battles. The Supreme Court's decision raises concerns about the Biden administration's approach to border security and adds complexity to the broader immigration debate.
Mexico is urging for a thorough investigation into the increasing number of U.S. military-grade weapons falling into the hands of Mexican drug cartels. Foreign Relations Secretary Alicia Bárcena expressed grave concern over the discovery of weapons exclusively for the U.S. army, including belt-fed machine guns, rocket launchers, and grenades. The Mexican army has seized such weapons, raising concerns about arms trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border. A federal indictment revealed a gun trafficking ring in Wisconsin linked to the Cartel Jalisco Nueva Generacion. U.S. intelligence documents suggest up to a million firearms are smuggled annually into Mexico. The U.S. ambassador to Mexico has committed to investigating the issue. Additionally, a Boston appeals court revived a $10 billion lawsuit against U.S. gun manufacturers and distributors, alleging their role in contributing to violence in Mexico through arms trafficking.
Vice President Kamala Harris called for a "meaningful pathway to citizenship" during an interview on CNN, addressing the broken U.S. immigration system and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. Harris expressed frustration with the lack of bipartisanship on the issue and criticized political games played by some lawmakers. The Biden administration has been engaged in talks with Congressional leaders to reach a bipartisan deal on national security, border enforcement, and military aid for Ukraine. The ongoing negotiations have faced challenges, with House Speaker Mike Johnson seeking changes to border security as part of additional aid to Ukraine. The absence of a "pathway to citizenship" in recent border-deal discussions was noted, and Harris did not disclose details of the ongoing negotiations. The border crisis remains a vulnerability for the Biden administration, and mayors, both Democratic and Republican, are under pressure to address the challenges posed by the influx of migrants.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has declared the migrant crisis at the state's border an "invasion" and invoked Texas's constitutional authority to protect itself. Abbott asserts that state authority supersedes federal statutes, deploying the Texas National Guard and other personnel to secure the border. Tensions escalated at Eagle Pass, where the National Guard controls a park used by illegal immigrants after crossing the Rio Grande. Razor wire has been placed along the river, though the Supreme Court allowed the Biden administration to remove it during a legal battle. The White House contends that President Biden has the authority to nationalize the Texas National Guard but hasn't made that determination. Abbott continues installing razor wire to deter illegal border crossings, raising the prospect of federal-state conflict over the migrant influx. Multiple Republican Governors are prepared to support TX in their border fight with the Biden Admin. The Texas response has drawn backing from several other Republican-led states, fueling a growing standoff between state and federal authorities. Governors from Virginia, Florida, South Dakota, Georgia, Utah, Montana, and Oklahoma have publicly declared their support for Texas’s right to self-defense against the lawless Biden regime.
A makeshift camp of nearly 100 migrant families, including young children, has been set up at Logan International Airport in Boston, highlighting Massachusetts' struggle to find shelter for the growing migrant population. Migrants are sleeping on cots in the airport's international terminal, resembling scenes from O'Hare Airport in Chicago. Massachusetts State Police officers are on overtime to patrol the area, with Governor Maura Healey blaming the Biden administration for the situation. Healey is urging Congress and President Biden to act, requesting an additional $250 million to address the crisis. Massachusetts has already reached its capacity to house 7,500 families in emergency shelters and is facing challenges in finding suitable accommodations for the increasing number of asylum seekers. The situation underscores the strain on state resources and the urgent need for immigration policy changes.
A Pentagon report reveals that over $1 billion worth of shoulder-fired missiles, kamikaze drones, and night-vision devices sent by the United States to Ukraine have not been properly tracked. The report raises concerns about potential theft or smuggling, as nearly 40,000 weapons were not adequately monitored due to the failure of U.S. defense officials and diplomats. While there is no evidence of misuse, the high rate of missing or unaccounted-for weapons increases the risk of theft or diversion. The report comes at a time when Congress is debating whether to send more military aid to Ukraine. The weapons reviewed represent a fraction of the $50 billion in military equipment sent to Ukraine since 2014, with concerns growing among lawmakers about the oversight and costs of supporting Ukraine's military efforts. Tracking additional material in the dynamic and hostile wartime environment is deemed difficult by the report.
Biden Reverses Course, Specifies Houthis as Terrorist After Removing Trump Imposed Designation Back in 2021
President Biden has designated Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a “specially designated global terrorist” group, partially reversing his earlier decision to remove them from the list of foreign terrorist organizations. The move aims to address the humanitarian crisis and facilitate diplomatic efforts to end Yemen’s civil war. Recent U.S. strikes on Houthi facilities followed months of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. Despite the strikes, the Houthis launched another armed drone attack on an American vessel. The designation, set to take effect in 30 days, allows for international aid protections to ensure it doesn't impact shipments of food and medicine to Yemeni civilians. The decision stops short of the more severe “foreign terrorist organization” designation imposed by Trump in his final days.
Statement from National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on the Terrorist Designation of the Houthis | The White House
US Plans ‘Sustained Military Campaign’ Against Houthis, But Biden Officials Assure It Won’t Take Years
The Biden administration is planning a “sustained military campaign” against the Iran-backed Yemeni rebels, the Houthis, who have been disrupting international shipping in the Red Sea. This comes despite concerns that an open-ended operation could destabilize Yemen’s fragile peace and draw the US into another Middle Eastern conflict. The strategy aims to degrade the Houthis’ military capability to a point where they can no longer target shipping or, at least, deter risk-averse shipping companies from avoiding the region’s waterways. However, officials acknowledge that it will be difficult to completely halt all Houthi attacks in the near term. Critics argue for a major peace deal or permanent ceasefire, but this has been dismissed. The conflict has implications for the upcoming US presidential election and is causing concern given the pattern of US intervention in the region over the past two decades.
$1.2B Artillery Shell Deal Signed by NATO
NATO has signed contracts worth $1.2 billion to acquire over 200,000 artillery shells in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Western alliance members, having depleted their ammunition stocks supporting Ukraine, signed deals with French firm Nexter and Germany’s Junghans Microtec. The contracts, covering approximately 220,000 shells, will be delivered to NATO members starting in late 2025. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg emphasized the importance of allies refilling stocks while supporting Ukraine. The US-led alliance, with a $10 billion defense production plan, recently signed contracts for European-produced Patriot air defense missiles. The European Union, aiming to supply Kyiv with one million artillery shells by March, falls short. Concerns arise over future US support for Ukraine, but Stoltenberg assures continued backing for Kyiv's sovereignty. NATO sees no direct threat from Russia but has enhanced eastern defenses to deter aggression.
The UK's highest-ranking Army official, General Patrick Sanders, warns that the British military is "too small" to survive a war if the Russian invasion of Ukraine escalates to NATO. He suggests that the public may be called up to fight and emphasizes the need for preparatory steps to place the UK on a war footing. While not supporting conscription, Sanders advocates a shift in the mindset of regular British people to be mentally prepared for the possibility of a war with Russia. He calls for an army strength of 120,000 troops within three years, including regular soldiers, reserves, and a strategic reserve group. The current strength of the British Army is 75,983, and Sanders's remarks follow NATO military commander Admiral Rob Bauer's statement that the alliance needs to prepare for conflict with Russia in the next 20 years, with the potential mobilization of civilians.
Ukrainian counterintelligence agencies uncovered a major embezzlement scheme, revealing that multiple officials stole $39 million intended for purchasing military ammunition. The Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) reported that the embezzlement was detected in December, leading to the arrest of a Ministry of Defense "directorate head." The SSU, along with the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Ministry of Defense, prevented the misappropriation of state funds designated for artillery shell purchases for Ukraine’s Armed Forces. The operation successfully recovered nearly UAH 1.5 billion (USD 39 million), which had been illegally transferred abroad. The embezzlement involved funds from Ukraine's state budget, not foreign aid. Several individuals, including Yuriy Zbitnev and Oleksandr Liev, have been arrested, facing potential 15-year prison sentences. The investigation is ongoing, with the embezzlement occurring during the tenure of former Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov, who faced corruption allegations but is not directly linked to the $39 million scheme.
President Joe Biden has appointed Palestinian-American attorney Maher al-Bitar as the new director of the National Security Council (NSC) intelligence service. Al-Bitar, a Georgetown University graduate and former Foreign Affairs Officer in the Office of the Special Envoy for Middle East Peace, previously served on Obama’s NSC as Director for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs. He played a key role in the first impeachment of former President Donald Trump as Rep. Adam Schiff’s top legal adviser. Schiff described al-Bitar as a “superb choice” for the NSC role, praising his talent and expertise. Robert Malley, expected to be Biden’s special envoy to Iran, and Ziad Asali, founder of the American Task Force on Palestine, also endorsed al-Bitar. Meanwhile, the Turkish Clash Report noted that Jews, who make up only 1% of the U.S. population, hold over 50% of Biden’s cabinet positions.
More Strikes Launched by US on Houti Sites in Yemen
The U.S. military has launched another round of missile strikes against Houthi-controlled sites in Yemen, marking the fourth such operation in recent days. The strikes targeted 14 missiles deemed an imminent threat to merchant vessels and U.S. Navy ships. This follows the U.S.'s re-designation of the Houthis as a global terrorist group, aiming to cut off their financing. Despite these measures, the Houthis continue to harass commercial and military ships. The U.S. has warned Iran to stop supplying weapons to the Houthis. Recent incidents include a Houthi drone attack on a U.S.-owned ship and the firing of an anti-ship cruise missile at a U.S. Navy destroyer. In response, the U.S. struck four anti-ship ballistic missiles. The Houthis later claimed responsibility for an attack on a Malta-flagged bulk carrier. The Pentagon has vowed to continue military action to prevent further attacks.
The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) launched airstrikes in Somalia on January 21, marking the first known U.S. bombing of the country in 2024. The strikes targeted al-Shabaab militants near Kismaayo, a southern port city, at the request of the U.S.-backed Mogadishu-based government. AFRICOM reported that three al-Shabaab fighters were killed and no civilians were harmed. U.S. airstrikes in Somalia escalated in 2022 after President Biden ordered the deployment of up to 500 troops to the country. U.S. troops in Somalia train a special force known as the Danab Brigade. Al-Shabaab, a radical offshoot of the Islamic Courts Union, is considered a threat due to its size and al-Qaeda affiliation, but it is widely believed that the group does not have ambitions outside of Somalia.
The United States is reportedly planning to station an undisclosed number of B61-12 gravity bombs, each three times more powerful than the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima, in the UK at RAF Lakenheath. Classified documents from the Pentagon cited by The Telegraph reveal that the move is in response to growing threats from Russia. These bombs are expected to be part of an imminent "nuclear mission." The US is also preparing to build a new nuclear weapons facility at the base. While the British Ministry of Defense neither confirmed nor denied the report, Russia warned in September 2023 that any such deployment on British soil would be considered a "step towards escalation." This development coincides with a leaked German military document suggesting Russia may wage war against a NATO country after its invasion of Ukraine. NATO officials have been urging member nations to prepare for a potential all-out war with Moscow.
US Approves Sale of F-16 Fighter Jets to Turkey
The US government approved a $23 billion deal to sell F-16 warplanes to Turkey after Ankara ratified Sweden's NATO membership, according to the State Department. Turkey will receive 40 new F-16s and upgrades to 79 of its existing fleet, as part of the agreement. The US State Department notified Congress of this deal, along with a separate $8.6 billion sale of 40 F-35s to Greece. Turkey's parliament ratified Sweden's NATO membership after over a year of delays, resolving a key obstacle in the negotiation. The US agreement with Turkey was contingent on Greece not obstructing the sale, and Greece, in turn, was granted more advanced F-35s.
The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) conducted extensive airstrikes and artillery fire against targets in the Saluki valley in southern Lebanon, following repeated attacks by Hezbollah. The IDF stated that Hezbollah extensively uses the valley for its activities, concealing its weapons and infrastructure in the area’s forests. Hezbollah launched a drone infiltration attempt and fired rockets at Misgav Am and Ramot Naftali. The IDF also reported that Israeli special forces attacked during the night to remove a threat in the town of Aita al-Sha’ab. However, Lebanese news outlet Al-Mayadeen claimed that three IDF commando soldiers were exposed while trying to cross the border and had to retreat. The IDF stated that the Israeli Air Force destroyed an anti-tank missile launcher in Kfar Kila overnight. Tensions on Israel’s northern border have escalated following the alleged Israeli assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Beirut and subsequent attacks on the IDF’s aerial control center and the headquarters of the Northern Command.
Ukraine Claims Hit on Two Russian Command Aircraft
Ukraine reported downing a Russian military jet over the Azov Sea, initially claiming both an A-50 reconnaissance plane and an Il-22 bomber were destroyed. Later clarification stated the Il-22 returned to base severely damaged. Ukrainian Commander-in-Chief Valery Zaluzhny expressed gratitude for the operation. The A-50 is equivalent to NATO's AWACS plane. Russian authorities made no official comment, but military bloggers acknowledged the incident. The WarGonzo channel confirmed the A-50's downing and reported the Il-22's return. The war in Ukraine has witnessed increased hostilities, and this event adds to the recent escalation in attacks. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov urged directing questions to the defense ministry.
Ukraine Spy Chief Says, “Not Even Conceivable” That We Can Win Without Massive Mobilization
The Ukrainian military's top spy chief, Lieutenant General Kyrylo Budanov, has highlighted the manpower shortage as the most pressing issue facing Ukraine after nearly two years of war. Budanov warned that mobilization is necessary, reflecting the consensus of the military leadership. While the official casualty count has not been revealed, Ukraine is likely facing staggering losses. Ukrainian President Zelensky recently revealed that army chiefs requested the mobilization of about 400,000 to 500,000 new soldiers. Despite the challenges, Budanov tried to paint an optimistic picture, mentioning raids into Crimea and cross-border attacks against Russian regions. However, many analysts see these actions as signs of desperation. Reports suggest that any new mass mobilization may face pushback within the population and government officials. Ukraine's prospects look bleak, with ongoing shelling incidents and the frontlines remaining largely unchanged.
NATO Allies Refute Rumors of Secret F-16 Combat Mission in Ukraine
Romania has rejected an unverified report alleging that an F-16 fighter aircraft took off from a Romanian base to bomb Russian forces in southern Ukraine. The claim originated from the Ukraine Front Lines X Twitter account, known for false reports. The report suggested that an F-16C operating from a Romanian air force base near Constanța conducted an airstrike on Russian troops in the partially occupied Kherson region of Ukraine. The information lacks evidence, and Romania has dismissed the assertion. NATO nations are preparing to transfer dozens of F-16s to Ukraine to enhance its air force, raising speculation and rumors about their deployment and use in the conflict.
‘Worst-Case Scenario’ of Russia-Ukraine War Revealed in Leaked German Docs
Leaked German military documents outline worst-case scenarios of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, obtained by Bild. The classified documents suggest a situation where Russia, having won in Ukraine, goes to war with NATO. In this scenario, Russia could attack from its westernmost territory, pressuring its border with Poland and deploying troops in Belarus, with the alleged scaled-up aggression starting in February 2024. Approximately 200,000 new Russian recruits would support Moscow's "hybrid warfare" against Baltic states. NATO is projected to deploy troops to Eastern Europe in response. The scenario also includes severe cyberattacks on NATO, aiming to incite chaos in Baltic states. The leaked documents suggest the peak of the war could occur in early 2025. A German defense ministry spokesperson stated that considering different scenarios, even if unlikely, is part of everyday military planning.
Beijing Proposes Multi-Trillion Dollar Market Rescue Package as China Stocks Crash
China is reportedly considering a package of measures to stabilize its plummeting stock market, including mobilizing about 2 trillion yuan ($278 billion) mainly from the offshore accounts of Chinese state-owned enterprises. The funds would be used to create a stabilization fund to buy shares onshore through the Hong Kong exchange link. Additionally, at least 300 billion yuan of local funds would be earmarked to invest in onshore shares through China Securities Finance Corp. or Central Huijin Investment Ltd. This move suggests a further nationalization of China's stock market, with official state authorities becoming more involved in market purchases. However, there is uncertainty about the effectiveness of these measures in ending the ongoing market rout. The panic in China's financial markets is fueled by a combination of factors, including the property crisis, depressed consumer sentiment, foreign investment decline, and diminished confidence among local businesses.
Despite US Ban Chinese Government and Military Acquire Nvidia Chips
Chinese military bodies, state-run AI research institutes, and universities have reportedly purchased Nvidia semiconductors banned by the U.S. from export to China, according to a Reuters review of tender documents. The sales, made by lesser-known Chinese suppliers, underscore the challenges the U.S. faces in entirely cutting off China's access to advanced U.S. chips. Despite the bans, it's legal to buy or sell high-end U.S. chips in China. The review found purchases of Nvidia's A100 and H100 chips, including those banned in 2022. The demand highlights the lack of good alternatives for Chinese firms despite the emergence of rival products. The review includes over 100 tenders where state entities procured A100 chips and dozens since the October ban showing A800 purchases.
Iran Admits Responsibility for Deadly Drone Strike on Pakistan Territory
The Iranian government has admitted to carrying out a missile and drone attack on western Pakistan, targeting the militant group Jaish al-Adl. The operation resulted in two children killed and three others injured in Balochistan. In response, Pakistan recalled its ambassador to Iran and blocked Tehran's envoy from returning. Iran's Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, stated that only members of Jaish al-Adl were targeted, not Pakistani citizens. Tensions have escalated, with Pakistan denouncing the "illegal" attack and warning of "serious consequences." The strike follows recent Iranian attacks in Iraq and Syria, contributing to heightened regional tensions. China urged both countries to show restraint, emphasizing their status as close neighbors. The strike on Pakistan marks a dramatic escalation, considering the delicate relationship between the two nations.
Iranian Uranium Stockpiles Grow Frustrating Nuclear Inspection Efforts
Iran is reportedly frustrating international efforts to inspect its nuclear program while accelerating the production of uranium enriched close to the level required for weapons. According to Rafael Mariano Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran now possesses sufficient quantities of highly-enriched uranium to construct several atomic warheads. Grossi expressed frustration over Iran's lack of transparency in its nuclear activities. Despite no evidence of uranium diversion for weapons, the significant increase in enrichment is a cause for concern. Iran tripled its uranium enrichment rate in December, reversing previous measures amid diplomatic discussions with the U.S. Tensions have risen regionally with recent missile launches by Iran in Iraq and Pakistan and the U.S. designating Iran's Houthi allies in Yemen as terrorists.
Houthi Militants Claim to Have Made a Direct Hit on a US Warship
Houthi militants in Yemen, backed by Iran, claimed they hit a U.S. warship in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. The U.S. Central Command, however, stated that the Houthis attacked a U.S. commercial shipping vessel, the M/V Maersk Detroit. The Houthis fired three anti-ship ballistic missiles, one of which hit the sea, while the other two were intercepted by the USS Gravely. There were no reported injuries or damage to the ship. The continued Houthi attacks on commercial shipping vessels have forced many cargo ships and oil tankers to divert from the Red Sea/Suez Canal route to the longer route via the Cape of Good Hope. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper of the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet stated that Iran was directly involved in the attacks. U.S. and UK forces recently carried out attacks on Houthi targets in Yemen.
Iran is preparing to launch its first drone carrier, the Shahdid Bagheri, a converted boxship previously named Sarvin. The ship, now controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, has been reconfigured to accommodate a large fleet of fixed-wing long-range drones. Iran’s hardware and intelligence have been assisting the Houthis in Yemen in targeting merchant vessels, with around 35 ships targeted by drones and missiles. The semi-official Fars news agency described the vessel as a “mobile naval city” capable of ensuring the security of Iran’s trade lines. Samir Madani, who has been tracking Iranian vessels, anticipates that Iran’s drone carrier will eventually wreak havoc against commercial vessels in the Arabian Sea. Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, head of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet, confirmed Iran’s direct involvement in supplying and training the Houthis.
After $1.8 Billion Loss, Citigroup Expects to Cut 20,000 Jobs by 2026
Citigroup is set to cut around 20,000 jobs, constituting about 10% of its workforce, over the next two years. The decision comes after a "very disappointing" fourth quarter, with the bank reporting a $1.8 billion loss, its worst quarterly financial results since 2009. CEO Jane Fraser emphasized the need for organizational simplification. The layoffs are part of Citigroup's ongoing effort to streamline operations, boost stock prices, and enhance profits. The job cuts, expected to be completed by 2026, could save the bank up to $2.5 billion annually. Fraser expressed confidence in the company's ability to adapt to evolving environments and return capital to shareholders in 2024, which she views as a turning point year.
Fed Analysts Warn with Delinquencies Spiking, Banks are Granting Fewer Credit Lines
Credit card delinquency rates in the U.S. have reached their highest levels in more than a decade, posing challenges for consumers seeking new lines of credit. According to a report from the Philadelphia Fed, 3.19% of credit card balances were at least 30 days past due by the end of the third quarter of 2023, marking the highest level since 2012. Delinquency rates for longer periods, such as 60 days and 90 days, also rose to levels not seen since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The share of accounts paying their balance in full declined to 33.18%, the highest since 2020. The increase in delinquencies is making banks more cautious about approving new lines of credit. Analysts are divided on the severity of the issue, with some attributing it to a natural rebound from low delinquencies in 2022, while others see it as a sign of consumer fragility and potential risks for banks, particularly credit card issuers like Capital One and Ally Financial.
Red Sea Crisis Sees “Out of Control” Shipping Rate; Charters Hit $100,000 Per Day
The Red Sea blockage by Iranian proxies has triggered a significant increase in shipping costs, raising concerns about inflation. The Baltic Exchange's key Clean Tanker rate, reflecting the expense of shipping fuel from the Middle East to Japan, surged to nearly $100,000 per day due to disruptions. Simultaneously, the flow of oil through the Bab-El-Mandeb has suffered, impacting global freight rates for both clean and dirty oil tankers. This blockage poses an inflationary challenge for global freight, impacting container spot rates from Asia to the US and Europe. Some shippers are facing reduced allocations, compelling them to turn to the spot market. Container spot rates are on the rise, intensifying worries about growing inflationary pressures on shipping costs.
U.S. President Joe Biden has halted approvals for pending and future applications to export liquefied natural gas (LNG) from new projects. The Department of Energy (DOE) will conduct a review during the pause, focusing on the economic and environmental impacts of projects seeking approval to export LNG to Europe and Asia. The review, expected to take months, will be followed by a public comment period. Biden said the pause would assess the impacts of LNG exports on energy costs, America's energy security, and the environment, framing it as addressing the climate crisis. The move has been praised by climate activists but criticized by some who argue it undermines economic and national security. The pause includes an exemption for national security emergencies. Environmentalists and youth groups oppose new LNG projects, citing pollution, fossil fuel reliance, and greenhouse gas emissions concerns.
Supply Lines Tighten Causing US Pork Belly Prices to Soar
The US is experiencing a decline in pork production, particularly in pork bellies, a cut of meat used to make bacon. Cold storage of pork bellies has been below a 5-year average since the latter part of 2023, leading to tightening supplies and a rally in wholesale spot prices. Since mid-December, wholesale spot prices for boxed pork belly 200 pounds have increased by about 66%, rising from $80 to over $133. This trend is attributed to challenging conditions for pork producers, with many facing losses. The situation has prompted Smithfield Foods, a major pork processor, to close hog operations and plants. Analysts expect profitability challenges for pork producers to continue in 2024. The USDA's World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates report on Feb. 8 is anticipated to provide further insights into the pork market.
Following Large Explosion, Fire Engulfs Chicken Plant in Texas
A massive fire has erupted at Feather Crest Farms, east of Kurten, Texas, triggering a substantial response from multiple fire departments. The blaze, reported after 5 p.m. near Fickey Road, prompted concerns among local authorities and residents. Bryan Texas Utilities temporarily disconnected service for about 140 customers around 6:30 p.m. to ensure firefighter safety. Early reports suggest the fire engulfed a building and tanks, accompanied by eyewitnesses hearing a loud explosion before the outbreak. Authorities issued warnings to the public to avoid the area for unimpeded emergency access. Firefighters are strenuously working to contain the flames, with ground footage indicating the fire's persistence into the night. The cause remains unconfirmed, and investigators are on-site to determine its origin and any connection to reported explosions. Residents in proximity are advised to stay vigilant and heed safety instructions from local authorities.
Measles Cases Surge Prompting UK to Declare it a National Incident
A measles outbreak in the West Midlands in the UK has been declared a national incident as the number of confirmed cases reached 216, mainly in Birmingham. Health officials are concerned that the virus could gain a foothold in other towns and cities. Many of the cases are believed to be in members of the Muslim community, and health officials urged unvaccinated children and adults to come forward to receive the MMR jab. The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) highlighted the availability of a halal version of the vaccine and called on people born between 1998 and 2004 to check their vaccination status, as they may have missed vaccinations due to concerns about the MMR-autism link 25 years ago.
After Taiwan Elections President Biden Says US Doesn’t Support Taiwan Independence
President Joe Biden stated that the U.S. does not support independence for Taiwan following the island's elections, where the Democratic Progressive Party secured a third consecutive term. The president's remarks aim to address Chinese concerns as Taiwan's vice president, Lai Ching-te, with close ties to the U.S., emerged as the president-elect. China has long claimed sovereignty over Taiwan, with President Xi Jinping advocating for unification. While the U.S. traditionally follows a policy of strategic ambiguity, Biden's previous suggestions of potential military intervention in the event of a Chinese invasion have strained U.S.-China relations. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the strength of Taiwan's democratic system and reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to maintaining cross-Strait peace and stability. House Speaker Mike Johnson plans to send a delegation of lawmakers to Taipei after Lai's inauguration in May.
“The West is in Danger”, Warns Argentina’s Javier Milei at Davos
Argentine President Javier Milei delivered a passionate speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, condemning socialism and urging world leaders to embrace capitalism. Milei, a libertarian economist, criticized the "radical feminist" and "environmental" agendas fueled by socialism, categorizing them as versions of the same collectivist ideology. He argued that socialism leads to poverty, emphasizing that the state is not the solution but the problem itself. Milei lamented that world leaders have abandoned the values of freedom, warning that embracing socialism could lead to "poverty, misery, and stagnation." He highlighted Argentina's historical experience with collectivist ideas and stressed that capitalism has brought unprecedented prosperity, making the world freer, richer, and more peaceful. Milei also criticized socialism for fueling a "ridiculous fight between men and women" through feminist movements.
EU President Wants Globalists to Have Control Over All Information
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, spoke at the World Economic Forum in Davos, emphasizing that the top concern of the next two years is disinformation and misinformation. She called for global control over information flow in the digital age, urging the development of a new global framework for AI risks and collaboration between governments and businesses to combat threats like climate change and disinformation. Von der Leyen expressed concern about the risks associated with freedom, mentioning the EU Digital Services Act as a tool to regulate content on social media platforms. The speech raised concerns about potential restrictions on freedom of speech and the influence of unelected technocrats over digital platforms.
US Suspends Funding to UNRWA, Other Countries Follow Suit
Several countries, including the US, UK, Finland, Canada, Australia, and Italy, have temporarily halted funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), which is controlled by Hamas in Gaza. This decision follows allegations of UNRWA staff involvement in the October 7 attack against Israel. The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office expressed its condemnation of the attack and stated that it is reviewing these allegations while remaining committed to providing humanitarian aid to Gaza. Italy’s Foreign Minister, Antonio Tajani, announced the suspension of UNRWA financing after the attack. Canada’s Minister of International Development, Ahmed Hussen, expressed deep concern over the allegations involving some UNRWA employees and instructed Global Affairs Canada to pause all additional funding to UNRWA pending the outcome of the investigation.
Trump Breaks Vote Record, Wins Big in New Hampshire
Former President Donald Trump secured a significant victory in New Hampshire's Republican primary election, winning with 54.5% of the vote and breaking the state's primary election record with 165,629 votes. Trump's triumph dealt a blow to former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley's campaign, who received 43.2% of the vote. Despite having the endorsement of New Hampshire Republican Governor Chris Sununu, Haley fell short, securing nine delegates. Trump celebrated the record-breaking victory on Truth Social, emphasizing the historical significance. Polls had suggested a close race between Trump and Haley, but the former president's dominant win in the Iowa Caucuses and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis's endorsement contributed to his lead. Despite the defeat, Haley has vowed to continue her campaign, stating that the race is "far from over."
After Release of Alleged Bribery Recording, AZ GOP Chair Resigns
Arizona Republican Party chairman Jeff DeWit resigned following the leak of an audio recording where he allegedly offered a bribe to Kari Lake to suspend her U.S. Senate campaign. The audio, recorded in March of the previous year, purportedly captured DeWit offering Lake a price to convince her to halt her campaign for two years. DeWit accused Lake of selectively leaking the audio and undermining the party. In his resignation statement, DeWit claimed he was "set up" and couldn't compete with Lake's "massive megaphone." Lake, who called for DeWit's resignation, emphasized the need to avoid corruption in party leadership. DeWit served as the Chief Financial Officer of NASA in the Trump administration and was active in Trump's 2016 and 2020 campaigns.
NBC News Admits that the ‘Deep State’ Exists...To Save Us from Another Trump Presidency
Mary McCord, executive director of the Institution for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection at Georgetown Law, has outed the ‘Deep State’ for allegedly promoting a hoax and collaborating with the "deep state" against Donald Trump. McCord, known for her role in Michael Flynn's case and Trump's impeachment, claims the "deep state" is preparing for Trump's return, aiming to limit his power and prevent him from becoming a dictator. The article dismisses these claims as a "hoax" and "yellow journalism," portraying them as efforts to undermine Trump. It questions the credibility of the allegations, ridicules quotes from the NBC report, and accuses McCord of perpetuating unfounded fears. The piece suggests that the so-called "deep state" is creating a narrative to oppose Trump's potential return to power.