It’s Wednesday, February 9th, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Olympic Games Heat Up
The Topline: The Beijing Winter Olympics are in full swing, and the spotlight is on one American-born athlete who is winning, but not for the United States.
Eileen Gu was born and raised in San Francisco, but she’s not skiing under the American flag in Beijing. Gu is representing China — her mother’s home country — in the 2022 Games.
On Tuesday morning in Beijing, Gu won gold in the women’s big air event. Afterwards, she was asked about her citizenship, but she didn’t give a direct answer. China does not allow dual citizenships, making many wonder whether Gu was forced to give up her U.S. citizenship in order to compete, or if China made an exemption in order to allow Gu to compete on the Chinese Olympic roster.
Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai was in attendance at the women’s big air competition a day after denying ever making sexual assault claims against a senior Chinese official and announcing her retirement from competitive tennis.
Peng also met with IOC president Thomas Bach at the event. The IOC has essentially gone along with what China and Peng have said regarding the sexual assault allegations, while others, such as the Women’s Tennis Association, have stated their belief that Peng was pressured into recanting her allegations by the Chinese Communist Party.
The Athletes: Athletes have complained of receiving the same exact meal three times each day, with one Olympian sharing a picture of the food, which many commented looked deeply unappetizing. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has supported China on this matter, saying they “feel for” the athletes.
2) Biden Administration’s Crack Pipe Program For Addicts
The Topline: A controversial new $30 million federal program will provide free smoking kits for drug users along with other drug paraphernalia.
The Biden administration is pioneering a program to distribute clean syringes as well as “safe smoking kits” to users as part of a controversial effort to make smoking crack cocaine, crystal meth, and other illegal drugs more “safe.”
The effort comes from a $30 million grant program funded by the Department of Health and Human Services and will help nonprofit groups and local governments distribute the supplies. The idea behind the program is that it will reduce infections among drug users. The program goes into effect in May and is set to last three years.
The Biden administration is emphasizing “health equity” in this program. The grant specifies the need for treatment and addiction-related support in black communities, and specifically among black women. This has led some critics to dub the program “crack pipes for equity.”
The plan also seeks to provide “harm reduction” vending machines to distribute other supplies and also funds HIV and drug testing kits, overdose reversal medication, safe sex kits which include condoms, and hepatitis vaccination services, among other items.
The drug crisis has gotten worse in recent years with the massive influx of fentanyl. Crystal meth is also flooding the drug market and is one of the drugs these smoking kits are designed for.
Many experts agree that the rapid spread of meth, opioids and other drugs have contributed to a mental illness and homelessness crisis over the last two decades.
Police chiefs in Oregon and Washington state, where illegal drug use is rampant, have criticized laws that make it harder to address drug use. They say lenient laws are misguided and very often contribute to a vicious cycle of violence and addiction.
3) Update On Ukraine
The Topline: With Russia threatening to invade Ukraine, world leaders are attempting to de-escalate tensions in Eastern Europe.
Quote Of The Day: “We are in the window. Any day now, Russia could take military action against Ukraine, or it could be a couple of weeks from now, or Russia could choose to take the diplomatic path instead.”
– National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan
On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. In an interview with a French weekly journal before leaving for Russia, he said, “the intensity of the dialogue we have had with Russia and this visit to Moscow are likely to prevent a military invasion from happening.”
He said he wants to build “historic solutions” with Putin, before saying the geopolitical objective of Russia is not the occupation of Ukraine, but the clarification of rules of “cohabitation” with NATO and the EU.
“The security and sovereignty of Ukraine or any other European state cannot be a subject for compromise,” he said,” adding that it is “also legitimate for Russia to pose the question of its own security.” This seemed to add credence to Russia’s messaging on the subject, that they are reacting to the potential expansion of NATO to encompass the western-leaning Ukraine.
On Tuesday, Macron said Putin assured him there will be no further military escalation, but it’s unclear whether the Russian government is supporting this.
President Joe Biden is hosting German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Washington, D.C. following criticism of Germany that they’re not doing enough to help Ukraine after their refusal to send weapons.
Remember: Germany relies on Russia for energy, and Biden is now threatening to cut off the Nord Stream 2 pipeline if Russia does invade.
New satellite images have shown Russia’s movement of military equipment has accelerated, and White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan has said military action could happen at any time.
NATO has announced they’re considering a “longer-term military posture in eastern Europe to strengthen deterrence.”
Other Stories We’re Tracking
The Biden administration has assembled a task force to work on recalculating the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. The group is asking hospitals to report with more clarity whether patients are there because of COVID, or for other reasons, but happen to test positive.
A survey from the National Federation of Independent Businesses found that 61% of small businesses raised their prices in January, the highest rate seen in 48 years.
Some “soft on crime” policies are being walked back in New York. On Monday, Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg announced that all armed burglaries will again be charged as a felony, rather than downgraded to petty larceny, whether or not the weapon is operable, loaded, or pointed at the victim. Bragg also walked back directives on suspects resisting arrest. The office now will prosecute attacks on police occurring during arrests.
Dave Portnoy, founder of Barstool Sports, has filed a lawsuit against Insider.com over two stories containing allegations from women of sexual misconduct. Portnoy has consistently denied the allegations and is accusing Insider of “willful and unlawful defamation” and “privacy rights violations.”
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