US Special Forces Kill ISIS Leader – Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashimi al-Qurayshi died Wednesday during a US military raid on his home in northwest Syria, according to officials. Al-Qurayshi reportedly detonated a suicide bomb, killing himself and members of his family before he could be captured by special forces.
The blast took place on the third floor of a residential building. An unnamed Islamic State lieutenant was also killed after barricading the second floor and engaging with US troops. At least 13 people died, including children and women, according to Syrian first responders. US troops suffered no casualties and were able to evacuate 10 people, the Pentagon said.
The operation comes after US forces last month backed a Kurdish-led militia in retaking a prison seized by Islamic State fighters.
Al-Qurayshi took global control of the Islamic State in 2019 after the group’s former leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed during a US raid. Al-Baghdadi also detonated a suicide bomb.
US Deploys Troops to Europe – The Biden administration announced that thousands of US troops will be temporarily deployed to Eastern Europe to reassure NATO allies in response to Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s borders. After 8,500 US troops were put on alert last week, nearly 2,000 troops will be sent to Germany and Poland, while 1,000 troops currently in Germany will be sent to Romania. No troops will be sent directly to Ukraine; the US currently has fewer than 200 members of the Florida National Guard in the country to train the Ukrainian army.
Russia objects to claims it is planning to invade Ukraine, though more than 100,000 Russian troops are believed to be near the border.
Separately, a leaked proposal suggested the US offered to reduce NATO military exercises in exchange for Russia deescalating the Ukrainian border threat.
Biden Restarts “Cancer Moonshot” – President Biden has been pledging to “cure” cancer for the past six years, beginning with his moonshot effort as vice president. He re-upped that pledge on the campaign trail, too, vowing again: “If I’m elected, we’re going to cure cancer.”
This time, though, Biden’s no longer promising a “cure.”
Instead, Biden relaunched the White House Cancer Moonshot on Wednesday with an ambitious but noticeably more measured goal: Cutting the cancer death rate in half within 25 years. In substance and tone, the effort is modest when compared to 2016. Most notably, it doesn’t call for any new research funding — a key pillar of the Obama-era push.
Instead, the program will create a White House “Cancer Cabinet” geared toward expanding cancer screening and prevention, improving the experiences of cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers, and addressing racial disparities in cancer outcomes.
The effort represents Biden’s first attempt, as president, to tackle one of his signature issues. Since his son Beau Biden’s death in 2015 from glioblastoma, a form of brain tumor, cancer has been a deeply ingrained part of the president’s political identity.
Pfizer Applies for Covid Shots for Kids Under 5 – Pfizer and its partner BioNTech are seeking federal authorization to allow children 6 months to 4 years old to receive two COVID-19 shots. The move comes at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, the companies said, and as pediatric COVID-19 cases top 10 million.
The companies on Tuesday asked the FDA to review data on the safety and efficacy of their vaccine, given in a low-dose format, for younger children.
In late December, the companies said the two-dose vaccine provided to 2- to 4-year-olds had not been shown to be effective against COVID-19. The children in the trial did not mount enough of an immune response to suggest they would be protected against severe disease.
But children aged 6 months to 2 years did show an adequate immune response.
UN Council Meets Over Ukraine – Russia’s military buildup on the border of Ukraine took center stage at an open UN Security Council meeting as the US and its Western allies tried to de-escalate the situation through negotiations. They say Russia is preparing to invade Ukraine and have threatened sanctions on Moscow. Russia denies any plans to attack.
The vote to hold the emergency meeting passed 10-2, with China and Russia opposing. The US sought the meeting as Norway ended its rotating presidency of the council yesterday and Russia is set to take over this month. Talks between the US and Russia have so far failed to smooth out tensions over Ukraine, according to reports.
About 100,000 Russian troops have been stationed near Ukraine’s eastern border for months. Russia has demanded NATO to pull out forces from Eastern Europe, halt deployment of weapons near its borders, and promise that Ukraine will never join the organization.
US National Debt Tops $30 Trillion – The U.S. national debt topped $30 trillion Tuesday, the highest it’s ever been, according to Treasury Department data.
National debt grew significantly during the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing by $7 trillion since the end of 2019. Almost $8 trillion of the total $30 trillion in national debt is owed to foreign investors, with Japan and China the top creditors, which must be repaid with interest.
“That means American taxpayers will be paying for the retirement of the people in China and Japan, who are our creditors,” David Kelly, chief global strategist at JPMorgan Asset Management, said.
More than $6 trillion of the national debt is owed by the U.S. government to itself through government trust funds.
Debt has skyrocketed in past decades, beginning with the Great Recession of 2008 and exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.