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Warren Buffett just revealed his company plowed $4 billion into stocks last quarter. Here are 8 key takeaways from a new interview.

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:51pm
Warren Buffett.
  • Warren Buffett piled about $4 billion into stocks in the first quarter, he revealed this week.
  • The investor spoke about banks, bitcoin, Apple, Paramount, inflation, recession, and interest rates.
  • Here are eight key insights from Buffett's recent interview.

Warren Buffett piled about $4 billion into stocks in the first quarter, he revealed in a rare interview with CNBC on Wednesday.

The famed investor disclosed that Berkshire Hathaway's government bonds are now yielding $5 billion a year. Moreover, he sold a bunch of bank stocks in recent years because he saw trouble brewing in the sector, he said.

Berkshire's CEO also shed light on his company's integration of Alleghany, and warned inflation and recession are serious threats that shouldn't be taken lightly. He touted Apple's indispensable products, compared bitcoin to playing roulette, and hinted that he's soured on Paramount Global as well.

Here are eight key takeaways from Buffett's interview this week:

1. Carving up Alleghany

Shortly after acquiring Alleghany last year, Berkshire sold all the stocks in the insurer's portfolio except Apple and Berkshire, Buffett said. That suggests he dumped Alleghany's stakes in the likes of Amazon, Alphabet, JPMorgan, Microsoft, Visa, and Wells Fargo.

Ajit Jain, the boss of Berkshire's insurance operations, took control of Alleghany's main insurance business, Buffett said. Greg Abel, Berkshire's head of non-insurance operations, has taken charge of Alleghany's other subsidiaries, which include steel and real estate companies.

2. Stocks, cash, and Treasurys

Berkshire spent roughly $4 billion on stocks in the first quarter, Buffett said. The conglomerate spent an average of $17 billion on stocks per quarter in 2022, or $8.5 billion on a net basis.

Buffett noted the surge in interest rates over the past year has boosted Berkshire's income from its Treasury bills. It now earns around $5 billion or an almost 5% annual return, up from $40 million when rates were virtually zero.

"Buffett is earning crazy money from his Treasury bills," Tesla CEO Elon Musk tweeted on Wednesday.

Moreover, Buffett estimated that Berkshire generates about $100 million each working day, giving the investor plenty of cash to put to work inside and outside of his company.

3. Bank stocks and failures

Buffett has exited positions in several banks over the past few years. He dumped them because he spotted red flags in their financials, and feared they would run into problems, he revealed.

"I did think that banking could get in a lot of trouble just because of the kind of things that they did," he noted. "I didn't like the banking business as well as I did before."

Buffett accused several banks of using deceptive accounting to flatter their profits, and forgetting basic banking principles such as not borrowing short and buying long. Moreover, he called for heavier punishments for bank CEOs who make big mistakes.

"I would suggest that anybody that's CEO of a bank that screws up and costs shareholders a lot of money, they get no pension from the bank," he said. "There's got to be consequences to the people who make the decisions and penalize the shareholders later on by having billions of dollars' worth of fines paid to the government."

The investor expects more lenders to collapse, but said he would bet $1 million that no American depositors would lose money in bank failures over the next year. He invited someone to match his wager, and said the combined $2 million would be donated to a charity of the winner's choice.

4. Inflation, recession, and rates

Both inflation and recession can "cause a lot of trouble," Buffett said, noting that surging prices hurt ordinary people, and recessions can morph into prolonged depressions.

The 92-year-old investor warned the economic backdrop has worsened in recent months.

"It's a tougher world out there in a great many businesses," he said, noting that most of the bosses of Berkshire subsidiaries didn't expect conditions to deteriorate so quickly.

Buffett also suggested that interest rates, which the Federal Reserve has hiked from virtually zero to upwards of 4.75% over the past year or so, threaten to weigh on stocks and house prices.

The availability of much larger bond yields today "changes the value of real estate, changes the value of equities," he said.

5. Apple's appeal

Buffett emphasized the immense value of Apple's products to its customers, and how indispensable devices like the iPhone are to them.

The Berkshire chief asserted that most people, if you offered them $10,000 to give up the iPhone forever, would refuse. In contrast, they would swap a Ford for a Chevy in a heartbeat, he said.

"It's an incredibly valuable utility," he said. "We'll never own a business that makes so many people happier."

6. Bitcoin betting

The bitcoin boom has been fueled by people's love of gambling, desire to get rich fast, and fear of missing out, Buffett said.

The investor described bitcoin as a "gambling token" with no intrinsic value. He compared it to playing a roulette wheel with terrible odds, and likened the massive hype around crypto winners to slot machines making a lot of noise when they pay out — both are designed to get people excited to spend money.

7. Second thoughts about Paramount?

Berkshire, which steadily built a sizeable stake in Paramount Global last year, may have soured on the entertainment giant.

Buffett was asked about the investment, and laid out several reasons why he's no fan of the movie industry. He described streaming as "not really a very good business," and said attracting subscribers comes at a "terrible price." He also noted that shareholders of Hollywood companies have rarely done well, and Paramount has to contend with deep-pocketed rivals that won't quit.

When the investor was asked why Berkshire bet on the company, he replied, "Well, we'll see what happens."

8. Doubling down on Japan

Berkshire revealed roughly 5% stakes in Itochu, Marubeni, Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and Sumitomo in August 2020. It has now raised its ownership to about 7.4% in each of Japan's five largest trading houses, Buffett said.

The five stakes are worth about $15 billion combined, a Markets Insider analysis shows. Buffett noted that Berkshire has more money invested in Japanese equities than any other country bar the US.

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Sen. Feinstein requested to temporarily have someone replace her on the Judiciary Committee amid health concerns, but Republicans could prevent that from happening

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:46pm
Dianne Feinstein.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to temporarily replace her on the Judiciary Committee.
  • She's been absent from the Senate since mid-February as she recovers from shingles.
  • Without her in Washington, DC, Democrats have been unable to confirm as many Biden judges as preferred.

After two Democratic representatives publicly called on her to resign, Sen. Dianne Feinstein announced that she asked Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to temporarily have someone replace her on the Judiciary Committee amidst health concerns. 

Feinstein, who's 89 years old and has served in the Senate for more than 30 years, contracted shingles in mid-February. Whilst she first expected she'd return to Washington, DC by the "end of the March work period," she said in a release that her "return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis."

Feinstein currently sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats hold 11 seats compared to the Republican Party's 10. To send a judicial nominee to the Senate floor, the 21-person panel requires a majority of its members be present to vote for the nominee. If a tie vote happens, the nominee never makes it to the Senate.

Without Feinstein in Washington, DC, committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin has had to ask to delay meetings on several occasions when Feinstein was to be the pivotal tiebreaking vote, according to NBC News

This problem came to a head on Wednesday, after two Democratic congressmen — including one from California — called on Feinstein to resign.

"It's time for @SenFeinstein to resign," Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted on Wednesday. "We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people."

Feinstein released a statement saying that she asked Schumer to have a Democrat temporarily replace her on the Judiciary Committee until her health concerns subside. 

However, this is unconventional, and could fail due to GOP opposition. Politico noted on Thursday, it's not typical to change someone's committee assignment mid-session, even temporarily, and it will require either 60 votes or unanimous consent to occur. Democrats can count on 51 votes typically, and it's not obvious which if any Republicans will break rank to aid Democrats in appointing judges.

Michael Thorning, a former Senate Democratic aide who now works on governance issues at the Bipartisan Policy Center, warned that cooperation is hard to come by in today's highly politicized environment.  

"While the Senate has traditionally handled these matters by unanimous consent, Sen. Feinstein's request for a temporary replacement is likely unprecedented," Thorning said of the impromptu proposal. 

Democratic Rep. John Garamendi of California rose to Feinstein's defense, urging Senate Democrats to honor her wishes and slot in a short-term substitute. 

"I both respect and support her decision, and I do not believe it is necessary for Senator Feinstein to resign," the eight-term lawmaker wrote in a statement, adding that the "steward of progress" had earned the right to serve out her remaining term. 

No Republicans have publicly said just yet if they'll vote against Feinstein's request, though it could serve as an opportunity for the party to further prevent or slow down the Senate from confirming President Joe Biden's preferred judges. It's not obvious which if any Republicans will break rank to aid Democrats in appointing judges. 

If Republicans in the Senate prevent the committee change from happening, it could lead to even more pressure from Democrats for Feinstein to resign.  If she does choose to step down before her term ends, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the power to appoint a replacement for her to finish off her Senate term.

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'Costco will give you exactly what you know you didn't need': a customer says the retailer's bakery botched his cake decoration

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:46pm
It's unclear which Costco location was responsible for the misinterpreted cake design, but it could become a tradition in the Walker household.
  • Stephen Walker says he was getting the cake for his daughter's 3rd birthday, but it didn't go as planned.
  • He compared the instructions — including the drawing — he gave to a Costco bakery to the end result.
  • The mishap sent both Reddit and Twitter into an uproar over the bakery's hilarious interpretation.

One Reddit user has the internet confused and laughing about a cake mix-up at his local Costco.

Stephen Walker, also known as u/FlipDemStocks on Reddit, posted to the r/funny subreddit about the very specific cake decoration instructions he left when he ordered a cake at the store's bakery.

"Costco will give you exactly what you know you didn't need," Walker captioned the post, which has gained nearly 2,000 comments.

Costco will give you exactly what you know you didn't need.
by u/FlipDemStocks in funny

The post's images included Walker's detailed request for a white half-sheet cake with "no writing/ no designs" and "red frosting on perimeter for top/bottom." He even drew an example of what he wanted the cake to look like.

"I used a black pen to draw a quick sketch of what I thought a cake would look like," Walker told "I was like, 'I got directions and a little illustration here. They can't mess this up. Right?'"

Unfortunately for Walker — and fortunately for internet jokesters — he got a white sheet cake, but it featured a version of his drawing in frosting on the middle of the cake.

Walker's photos of the Costco cake, which was for his daughter's 3rd birthday, were uploaded to Twitter where the jokes only continued. The mix-up reminded some users of their own quirky misunderstandings when ordering customized items.

—Hannah Kirk ♍︎ (@FilthyHan) April 7, 2023

And, apparently, there are more hilarious cake decorations that went awry out there.

—Andrea Sunflower

Surging oil prices amid war in Ukraine helped push Exxon CEO's pay up more than 50% in 2022

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:35pm
Darren Woods
  • Exxon Mobil CEO's total compensation increased 52% last year to $35.9 million.
  • The company notched record profits on an oil boom amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
  • Executive-level pay increased along with Exxon's share price, which surged nearly 80% in 2022.

Exxon Mobil CEO Darren Woods received a staggering $35.9 million in total compensation last year, rising 52% from 2021 after the war in Ukraine triggered higher oil prices.

Most of that came from stock awards, and Woods was among the top five executives at Exxon who received a combined $120 million, according to a regulatory filing published on Thursday. 

Elsewhere, pay for rank-and-file employees at Exxon decreased. The median income fell 9% to $171,582 last year.

Meanwhile, Woods' salary will increase 10% to $1.9 million in 2023. So far this year, Exxon stock is up about 5%.

The oil major notched record profits and saw shares jump nearly 80% last year as commodity markets whipsawed in 2022. Oil and natural gas prices surged as Russia's invasion sparked supply fears and led to Western sanctions on Moscow's exports. 

President Joe Biden previously took aim at Exxon in June, accusing the firm of making "more money than God" and exploiting the rise in gasoline prices.

Woods has pushed back, and said again on Thursday that Exxon is reaping the benefits of a long-term plan.

"While our results benefited from a favorable market, our work to meet demand began years ago, well before the pandemic," he wrote in a letter to shareholders. "We chose to invest counter-cyclically, leaning in when others leaned out. As a result, we made strong progress against our strategic priorities, including delivering industry-leading earnings, cash flows, and shareholder returns."

Read the original article on Business Insider

Elon Musk made Time's 100 Most Influential People of 2023 list — but was called an 'online troll' fiddling on a 'toxic violin' while Twitter 'burns'

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:17pm
Elon Musk attends Time's Person of the Year event on December 13, 2021 in New York City.
  • Elon Musk was on Time's list of the most influential people, but his profile was less than flattering.
  • Kara Swisher dubbed Musk an "online troll" that is "fiddling on his toxic violin" on Twitter.
  • The Tesla CEO has said in the past that he has "been under constant attack" from news outlets.

Elon Musk was included in Time's 100 Most Influential People list this year for the fifth time, but his profile was less than flattering.

In a short blurb for the magazine, journalist Kara Swisher dubbed the billionaire "the world's richest online troll," pointing to his acquisition of Twitter late last year.

"It's a shame, because much of what he has tried to do over his career — even if some of it is still an aspiration — has been bold and inspirational, especially compared with most of the more anodyne techies for whom a better online dating service is the peak of innovation," Swisher wrote. "But under Musk's erratic rule, Twitter has become a nonstop grievance tantrum we must all endure, and he wastes far too much of his time fiddling on his toxic violin while it burns. What's the opposite of progress? Elon Musk 2023."

At one point, Swisher — who has covered tech since the 1990s and previously interviewed the Tesla CEO on multiple occasions — was a supporter of Musk. Last year, she said in her podcast "On With Kara Swisher" that she was initially excited about his plans to buy Twitter.

"Honestly, when he started going after it, I thought this is the best person," Swisher said. "Yeah. He could do it."

But Swisher said on the podcast that more recently Musk has cut off communication with her after they publicly disagreed about some of his decisions regarding politics and Twitter.

In 2021, Musk was Time's Person of the Year. The Tesla CEO was also on the publication's list of most influential people in the world in 2010, 2013, 2018, and 2021.

Time has said its list of the most influential people is curated by its editors, and individuals on the list are nominated by previous honorees, as well as the magazine's writing staff. The publication typically has well known contributors from outside the publication, like Swisher, write the individual profiles.

In the 2010 profile, "Iron Man," director Jon Favreau called Musk "a paragon of enthusiasm, good humor and curiosity — a Renaissance man in an era that needs them." And more recently, when Musk was included on the list in 2021, Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington wrote a similarly glowing profile.

"Musk isn't just changing how we transport ourselves, he's augmenting human possibilities," Huffington wrote. "And by doing it all with his relentlessly optimistic, space-half-full showmanship, he's offering a model for how we can solve the big, existential challenges in front of us."

The billionaire has faced scrutiny over the years, from reports of the Tesla CEO rage-firing employees to criticism of his handling of content moderation on Twitter. However, since completing his turbulent $44 billion purchase of Twitter he has become more outspoken regarding negative press.

Earlier this week, Musk said in an interview with a BBC reporter that reports about him being a "horrible person" have been "hurtful."

"I've been under constant attack," he said. "It's not like I have a stone-cold heart or something. It's rough."


Read the original article on Business Insider

Meet Blake Resnick, a 23-year-old college dropout who went on to win a Peter Thiel-backed fellowship, supplies drones to Ukraine, and is now worth over $100 million

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:32am
Meet Blake Resnick, the 23-year-old college dropout who won a Peter Thiel-backed fellowship, supplies drones to Ukraine and is now worth over $100 million.
  • Blake Resnick, the founder and CEO of Brinc Drones, is now worth $100 million, per Bloomberg.
  • Resnick founded drone-maker Brinc Drones in 2019 and grew it to a $300 million operation.
  • Brinc is backed by OpenAI founder Sam Altman and former acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan.

There's a newly minted centimillionaire — and he's just 23.

Blake Resnick, the founder and CEO of drone manufacturer Brinc Drones, hit the milestone after the startup he founded in 2019 grew to a valuation of $300 million as of April 10, according to Bloomberg.

Resnick owns about half of the privately-held startup — one of the largest drone makers in the US employing about 100 people — putting net worth at $100 million now, per Bloomberg.

Brinc's backers include OpenAI founder Sam Altman, former acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, and disgraced former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried.

Resnick appears to have an early start to his career. At the age of 14, he started college at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, before transferring to Northwestern two years later, according to his LinkedIn profile. However, he dropped out of Northwestern to start Brinc.

In 2020, Resnick won the Thiel Fellowship — backed by Paypal cofounder Peter Thiel — which grants $100,000 to young people to "build new things instead of sitting in a classroom."

Described on its website as a startup "working to build technology in the service of public safety," Brinc focuses on tech devices that enhance public safety.

"We want to make the police helicopter obsolete and respond to all serious emergencies in seconds," Resnick told Insider's Aaron Holmes in 2021.

Resnick was inspired to found the drone company in 2017 after the deadliest mass shooting at a country music festival in his hometown of Las Vegas killed 58 people. After the shooting, he cold-called the lieutenant in charge of the Las Vegas SWAT team to ask about technology that could've helped the police identify and stop an active shooter.

He wound up with a contract — Brinc's first — to custom-make a drone for crisis situations. The business has since expanded to supply police and fire departments worldwide. 

Today, Brinc's website features a drone, the Lemur 2, and the BrincBall, a communication device for crisis situations.

The Lemur drone was being used in search-and-rescue operations in Ukraine, The Seattle Times reported in June 2022. In 2021, Resnick delivered a drone to help to inspect the partial collapse of an apartment building in Surfside, Florida.

Resnick was featured on Forbes 30 under 30 and interned at high-profile companies.

Born in Las Vegas to a doctor and a special education teacher, Resnick's adventures with science began early on in his childhood. At 14, he built a nuclear fusion reaction in his parent's garage in Las Vegas, according to a bio on his website.

By the time Resnick dropped out of college, he had already interned — as a teenager — at some of the most high-profile companies in the world: including British supercar maker McLaren, Tesla, and Chinese drone giant DJI, according to his LinkedIn profile. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Resnick features among the Forbes 30 under 30 list of achievers in the age group in 2021 and 2022. But, there's a tiny hiccup. 

"I don't think my mom has forgiven me for dropping out of school. She hated that," Resnick jokingly told The Seattle Times. "At any opportunity she gets, she tells people about my sister going to Stanford before she'll even give a second thought to mentioning Brinc."

Resnick did not immediately respond to Insider's request for further comment, which was sent outside regular business hours.

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Budget airline launches 11-hour flight between San Francisco and Tokyo this summer for under $100

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 2:31am
ZipAir Boeing 787-8 takes off from Tokyo Narita International Airport.
  • Zipair is set to launch flights between San Francisco and Tokyo this summer. 
  • One-way tickets for the flights start from just $91 for children aged six and under. 
  • San Francisco is the fourth US destination where the airline operates.

A budget airline is set to launch some of the cheapest long-haul flights between the US and Japan. 

Japanese low-cost airline Zipair announced that it's offering a new route between San Francisco and Tokyo, according to the airline's press release on April 7. 

A one-way flight ticket from San Francisco International Airport to Narita International starts from just 10,000 Japanese yen, or $91. To obtain this ultra-low fare, the passenger should be six years old or younger, and the ticket must be purchased in Japan.

One-way tickets for passengers who are seven years old or older start from 35,000 yen, or $325. The flights are scheduled to begin operations on June 2. 

"Through our relationship with SFO, we are confident this service will provide a valuable link for commercial and cultural exchange for our mutual customers," Zipair president Shingo Nishida said in the press release.

The airline is set to operate five flights a week between San Francisco and Tokyo. It's the airline's third flight route across the Pacific.

The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo.

It currently operates flights between Tokyo and six cities — Los Angeles, San Jose, Honolulu, Bangkok, Seoul, and Singapore. 

Zipair, a subsidiary of Japan Airlines, launched commercial flights in October 2020. Last year, airline review site Skytrax ranked Zipair sixth on its list of the world's best long haul low-cost airlines.

But the airline has mixed reviews from passengers online. On Skytrax's customer reviews, the airline has an average rating of 3 out of 10 from 31 reviews. 

One passenger who flew on round-trip flights with the airline from Los Angeles to Tokyo, and Singapore to Tokyo in March said that several of the flights were delayed and canceled. 

But some passengers felt more positive about their experience flying with the airline. Another passenger, who flew economy with the airline from Singapore to Tokyo in February, said they had an "excellent experience" and noted that check-in was smooth.

Tickets for Zipair flights between San Francisco and Tokyo are available for booking on its website.

Zipair did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

Read the original article on Business Insider

The man who may have leaked top-secret Pentagon documents was a fit and armed military guy who controlled a group of young gamers united by their worship of guns and God: WaPo

Thu, 04/13/2023 - 1:22am
The Pentagon leak is being traced to a man on Discord who sent around two dozen young gamers hundreds of secrets over months.
  • The Washington Post traced the Pentagon papers leak to a man named OG on Discord.
  • He was the leader of a group of young gamers who loved guns, military gear, and God, per the outlet.
  • OG said he worked on a military base and sent his gamer friends hundreds of secrets, per WaPo.

 The Washington Post has traced the recent Pentagon intelligence leak to a man who shared hundreds of secret files with a small group of young gamers on a private Discord server.

The unnamed man, nicknamed OG by the other server members, said he worked on a military base and claimed to know high-level government secrets withheld from the public, two unnamed group members told The Post.

Their invite-only server on Discord — a messaging and voice chat platform for gamers — had around two dozen male members worldwide who shared a passion for guns, military gear, and God, The Post reported.

As early as 2020, OG began sending the classified information to his Discord server, which was once named "Thug Shaker Central," per The Post.

OG, the server's administrator, expected the group's members to pay close attention to the flood of information he fed them, one of the two young Discord users told The Post.

"He's fit. He's strong. He's armed. He's trained. Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie," the member said.

But at the time, OG was only sharing his own rewritten transcripts of the documents, hand-typing them with annotations, one of the Discord members told The Post. The transcripts were extensive and contained information such as the locations of top politicians and military secrets, the outlet reported.

Then in late 2022, OG became irate with the gamers for not paying attention to the secrets he shared and started sending photographs of the actual documents instead, per The Post. Furniture and household items like Gorilla Glue and nail clippers can be seen in some of his images, offering potential clues that might help authorities track him down, The Post reported.

The Post reviewed around 300 photos of classified documents, some of which have yet to be made public. An estimated 100 intelligence files have been discovered on the internet so far.

Dozens of the sensitive documents from OG's "Thug Shaker Central" Discord server eventually emerged on Russian Telegram channels and 4Chan forums in late March and early April, when authorities first became aware of the leak.

The photos had earlier circulated on several Discord servers, making their way from "Thug Shaker Central" to another server founded by YouTuber Wow_Mao in March, Bellingcat analyst Aric Toler reported.

And at least 10 documents were later sent to another Discord server dedicated to the video game "Minecraft," Toler reported. It was there that the files gained wider attention, per Toler.

After The New York Times reported on the leak on April 7, OG told everyone in Thug Shaker Central to delete messages that he sent them, as well as the classified information he had been sharing, per The Post.

"He said something had happened, and he prayed to God that his event would not happen," one of the young Discord members told The Post.

The members of his group "full-on sobbed and cried" as though they were "losing a family member," the Discord member said, per The Post.

The "Thug Shaker Central" server has been deleted, Bellingcat reported.

US officials are still trying to determine the implications of the leak and exactly how many documents were exposed.

In a previous statement to Insider, a spokesperson for Discord said the platform is "cooperating with law enforcement" but could not comment on an active investigation.

Representatives for Discord and the Pentagon did not immediately respond to Insider's requests for comment for this story, sent outside regular business hours.

Read the original article on Business Insider

A Missouri lawmaker defended child marriage, saying kids he knows who got married at age 12 are 'still married'

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 11:14pm
Republican Missouri state Sen. Mike Moon speaks in his Capitol office on Feb. 1, 2022, in Jefferson City, Mo.
  • Missouri State Sen. Mike Moon defended child marriage on Tuesday, citing a couple he knows.
  • Moon said the couple married at age 12 and that they were still together.
  • He added they had gotten pregnant and that their parents consented to the marriage.

Missouri State Sen. Mike Moon defended child marriage on Tuesday, touting the apparently successful marriage of people he knows who got married when they were 12.

The Republican made the comments during a debate on a bill he introduced that would ban gender-affirming care for transgender youth in the state. 

Video of the exchange showed Democratic state Rep. Peter Meredith confronting Moon over past comments he made about parents' rights to make decisions concerning their own children.

"You voted 'no' on making it illegal for kids to be married to adults at the age of 12 if their parents consented to it," Meredith told Moon. "You said actually that should be the law because it's the parents' right and the kid's right to decide what's best for them. To be raped by an adult."

"Do you know any kids who have been married at age 12?" Moon asked in response.

"I don't need to," Meredith said.

"I do. And guess what? They're still married," Moon replied.

—philip lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) April 12, 2023


Moon did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment but defended his statement on Twitter. He wrote that the "back story" was missing, explaining "a 12-year-old impregnated a minor of similar age."

"With consent of the parents, they married… and are still married today," he said, adding, "their marriage is thriving."

The Springfield News-Leader reported that Moon has a documented history of supporting child marriage with parental consent.

In 2018 the Missouri legislature passed a bill raising the state's minimum marriage age from 15 to 16, with teens under 18 requiring parental consent. Moon voted against the bill, claiming he knew a couple who had been married since they were 12, according to the outlet.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump's fingers were so dry during his arraignment he needed lotion before he could be fingerprinted, according to a new report from Yahoo News

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 10:18pm

The only thing that slowed down Donald Trump's arraignment last week was his own fingers, according to a new report from Yahoo News. A court employee had to provide lotion because his fingers were too dry to be fingerprinted, the report, which cited a law enforcement source, claimed.

According to Yahoo News, no one was visibly crying in the courthouse when Trump was arrested, which the former president claimed to Tucker Carlson in an interview that aired on Tuesday. The only delay in his arraignment came when he needed to moisten his fingers with lotion, because they were too dry for authorities to take his fingerprints, per the report.

Last Tuesday, a Manhattan grand jury indicted Trump on 34 felony business fraud charges, related to allegations of a $130,000 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.

Trump's lawyer did not immediately return Insider's request for comment. The Manhattan DA's office did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.

In an interview with Tucker Carlson that aired on Tuesday night, Trump said that employees wept as he was arrested.

"It's a tough, tough place, and they were crying. They were actually crying. They said, 'I'm sorry.' They said, '2024, sir. 2024.' And tears were pouring down their eyes," Trump told Carlson.

A law enforcement source told Yahoo News, the claim was "absolute BS."

"There were zero people crying. There were zero people saying 'I'm sorry,'" the source told Yahoo.

Read the original article on Business Insider

House Dems start to call on Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 8:59pm
Rep. Ro Khanna, D-Calif., speaks at a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019, on a reintroduction of a resolution to end U.S. support for the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
  • Two Democratic members of Congress just called on Sen. Dianne Feinstein to retire.
  • Feinstein has been away from the Senate dealing with health issues after contracting shingles.
  • Democrats have been unable to confirm several federal judges in her absence.

Two Democratic members of Congress just called on longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein to resign.

"It's time for @SenFeinstein to resign," Rep. Ro Khanna tweeted on Wednesday. "We need to put the country ahead of personal loyalty. While she has had a lifetime of public service, it is obvious she can no longer fulfill her duties. Not speaking out undermines our credibility as elected representatives of the people."

Shortly after Khanna's tweet, Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota tweeted in support.

"I agree with @RoKhanna," Phillips wrote, "Senator Feinstein is a remarkable American whose contributions to our country are immeasurable. But I believe it's now a dereliction of duty to remain in the Senate and a dereliction of duty for those who agree to remain quiet."

Feinstein, who's 89 years old, hasn't cast a vote since mid-February, around the time of her shingles diagnosis. After contracting the infection, she said in early March that she spent time in the hospital before being released.

Hours after her colleagues' tweets calling for her resignation, Feinstein issued a statement asking Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to ask the Senate to allow another Democrat to step into her committee positions until she is able to resume her work.

Schumer's office responded that "per Sen. Feinstein's wishes, Majority Leader Schumer will ask the Senate next week to allow another Democratic Senator to temporarily serve on the Judiciary Committee."

Feinstein currently sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee, where Democrats hold 11 votes to the Republican Party's 10. In order to send judicial nominees to the Senate floor, the 21-person panel needs a majority of its members to be present to vote for the nominee. A tie vote for the nominee means they won't see the floor. 

Without Feinstein present, committee chair Sen. Dick Durbin had asked to delay committee meetings on multiple occasions when Feinstein would be the pivotal 11th vote, according to NBC News.  

"When I was first diagnosed with shingles, I expected to return by the end of the March work period," Feinstein wrote in the Wednesday email update. "Unfortunately, my return to Washington has been delayed due to continued complications related to my diagnosis."

According to a Politico piece published Wednesday, two people in touch with Feinstein said they thought she could serve out the rest of her term but didn't think she'd be able to return to Washington, DC.  

The Senate is currently on a two-week recess and is set to return on Monday. When asked about Feinstein's timetable for return to office, her spokesperson told NBC News they "don't have an update at this time." 

"I intend to return as soon as possible once my medical team advises that it's safe for me to travel. In the meantime, I remain committed to the job and will continue to work from home in San Francisco," the lawmaker wrote. 

On February 14, 2023, Feinstein announced in a release that she was not running for another term in the Senate and that she'd work until her term ends. Prominent California Democrats Reps. Katie Porter, Barbara Lee, and Adam Schiff have each thrown their hats into the ring to replace Feinstein in 2024. Khanna was expected to run for Feinstein's seat but has since endorsed Lee and is co-chairing her campaign.

If Feinstein steps down from her position before her term ends, California Gov. Gavin Newsom has the authority to appoint her successor to hold the position until the end of the term.

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Juul settlement: E-cigarette maker to pay $462 million in several states for marketing nicotine for youth vaping

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 7:15pm
Close-up of logo for e-cigarette or vape company Juul on glass window of convenience store in San Ramon, California
  • Juul Labs Inc. will pay $462 million for its role in the youth vaping surge.
  • The settlement includes restrictions on Juul's marketing and distribution of vaping products.
  • Juul faced multiple lawsuits and accusations of targeting minors with addictive nicotine products.

NEW YORK (AP) — Electronic cigarette-maker Juul Labs Inc. will pay $462 million to six states and the District of Columbia, marking the largest settlement the company has reached so far for its role in the youth vaping surge, the attorneys general in several states announced Wednesday.

The agreement with New York, California, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Washington, D.C. is the latest in a string of recent legal agreements Juul has reached to settle lawsuits related to the way it marketed addictive nicotine products. Critics said Juul was trying to lure children too young to smoke.

Like some other settlements reached by Juul, this latest includes restrictions on the marketing and distribution of the company's vaping products. For example, it is barred from any direct or indirect marketing that targets youth, which includes anyone under age 35. Juul will also limit the amount of purchases customers can make in retail stores and online.

"Juul lit a nationwide public health crisis by putting addictive products in the hands of minors and convincing them that it's harmless," New York Attorney General Letitia James said in a statement. "Today they are paying the price for the harm they caused."

A spokesperson for Juul said with Wednesday's settlement, the Washington D.C.-based company was "nearing total resolution of the company's historical legal challenges and securing certainty for our future."

The spokesperson added that underage use of Juul products has declined by 95% since 2019 based on the National Youth Tobacco Survey. According to the CDC though, since surveys were administered online instead of on school campuses during the pandemic, the results cannot be compared to prior years.

Juul rocketed to the top of the U.S. vaping market about five years ago with the popularity of flavors like mango, mint and crème brûlée. But the startup's rise was fueled by use among teenagers, some of whom became hooked on Juul's high-nicotine pods.

Parents, school administrators and politicians have largely blamed the company for a surge in underage vaping.

District of Columbia Attorney General Brian Schwalb said in a statement that Juul "knew how addictive and dangerous its products were and actively tried to cover up that medical truth."

In September, Juul agreed to pay nearly $440 million over a period of six to 10 years to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products to young people. That settlement amounted to about 25% of Juul's U.S. sales of $1.9 billion in 2021.

Three months later, the company said it had secured an equity investment to settle thousands of lawsuits over its e-cigarettes brought by individuals and families of Juul users, school districts, city governments and Native American tribes.

The vaping company, which has laid off hundreds of employees, recently agreed to pay West Virginia $7.9 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the company violated the state's Consumer Credit and Protection Act by marketing to underage users, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Monday. Last month, the company paid Chicago $23.8 million to settle a lawsuit.

Minnesota's case against Juul went to trial last month with the state's Attorney General Keith Ellison asserting that the company "baited, deceived and addicted a whole new generation of kids" as youth cigarette smoking rates fell.

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Russia lost the first Crimean War because of widespread alcoholism. Drinking is killing their troops in Ukraine, too, intel shows.

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 6:59pm
Soldiers battle during the Crimean War. Russia, ca. 1855.
  • Alcohol could have influenced the defeat of Russia during the 1853 Crimean War.
  • As Russia fights in Ukraine, alcohol abuse is again becoming a concern. 
  • A political scientist told Insider that drinking and the Russian military have a long history.

Almost exactly 170 years ago, in a battle against the Ottoman Empire, Russia suffered a catastrophic defeat in the Crimean War — in part due to the drinking habits taken up by the military during the fighting. 

Mark Lawrence Schrad, director of Russian Area Studies at Villanova University and author of Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State, wrote in 2014 that drunkenness plagued the Russian army under Tsar Nicholas I, from the lowly rank and file soldiers to the high command military leaders, as they stumbled their way through battles, only to lose 100,000 soldiers and the war itself. 

Schrad, in the book, details instances of befuddled Russian armies left to fight without commanders, hospitals drenched in the scent of vodka, and soldiers complaining after being deprived of their vodka rations.

The Crimean War would become another example of the county's war drinking problem cataloged in the annals of Russian history. Another example Schrad writes about includes the Russo-Japanese War, which Japan won despite being heavily outnumbered. Schrad cites a St. Petersburg newspaper writing, "the Japanese found several thousand Russian soldiers so dead drunk that they were able to bayonet them like so many pigs."

Although not the sole reason that these wars were lost, Schrad argues that vodka played a significant part in Russia's failures. 

During World War I, the Tsar instituted Prohibition that lasted until Joseph Stalin took power, but Schrad writes of riots over conscription and looting of liquor stores, warehouses, and distilleries.

Drinking and military history have always been entwined — the practice fueled by myths that drinking would grant soldiers courage — but Schrad argues that Russia has a particularly unique history with drinking that follows many through lines, particularly the country's history dominating the vodka trade, and the Russian conscription system, a relic of the 17th-century ruler Peter the Great.

Why does it matter now? A recent UK defense ministry intelligence update reported that many Russian troops are dying in Ukraine due to non-combat issues such as alcohol consumption, among other things. The death toll among Russian troops is now two times that of their opponents, estimates from leaked US intelligence documents reveal.

Schrad told Insider that he doesn't want to make "direct analogies with stuff that happened 150 years ago," but the parallels are there.

"The alcohol angles are interesting. I don't think it's nearly as important nowadays, as it was during the Russo-Japanese War or World War One, but it's significant, right?" Schrad told Insider. "It's not something that you can just kind of brush aside either, right? You've got a demoralized Russian army and they're going up against a very enthusiastic Ukrainian fighting force that's there to defend their homeland defend their turf."

In an interview with Insider, Schrad expanded on the history of Russian drinking during wartime.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

I read one of your articles from last year and you had basically — I don't know if I want to say called it — but you used historical precedent to predict that alcohol would play a role in the war. I want to hear from you why you felt that this was going to be an issue coming into the Ukrainian war.

A lot of it is the consequence of my research topic, which has been alcohol and Russian history. It's been my bread and butter for ages. And a lot of it kind of revolved around my book "Vodka Politics." The thesis of the book was "Why do Russians drink so much?" Yes, there are cultural stereotypes. But the explanation I came up with was that it wasn't so much some sort of cultural or genetic trait, as much as it was the consequence of generations of autocratic decision-making that put the interest of the Russian state ahead of the health and well-being of the Russian people. 

Historically, the thing that was most profitable to the Russian state was vodka. The monopolization of alcohol and tavern trade in Russia, going back to the czars, constituted 1/3 of all the income of the Russian state under the czars, and then even into the Soviet era, one-quarter of all revenue came from selling vodka to their own people. I think a lot of where it comes from. The book traced this thread of alcohol through all sorts of different things, including war-fighting, and you find that every time that Russia goes to war, there is this alcohol calamity. The Crimean War, the Russo-Japanese War, World War I, in particular, were all drunken fiascos. 

And so as that gets into sort of the current scenario with Russia and Ukraine. Ukrainians inherited a lot of that legacy as well — I suppose, a kind of societal alcoholism — but has also moved in a lot of ways towards more European systems, not only when it comes to alcohol use, but also regulation.

When the war started, on the Ukrainian side, they instituted kind of a blanket prohibition during the first months of the war. The idea was that alcohol wasn't necessary to maintain discipline and morale in a time of crisis.

Obviously, on the Russian side, you had just the opposite. You had people stumbling into the war, completely drunk. You have a lot of these reports coming out of Ukraine from survivors of Russians committing mass atrocities, oftentimes while drunk, which is another consistent theme of history. 

When Russia started later on in 2022, with mass conscription, it was the same thing as what we saw in 1904-1905 or 1914 with World War I — that people would show up half drunk and get into fights with the draft officers and continued the drinking straight through till they get on the battlefield. 

One thing that in history we've seen is there have been a lot of cultures that drink during wartime. What circumstances make Russia's current drinking problem unique?

What's fascinating is that Russia becomes the first Prohibition country after World War I because it learned its lesson after the Russo-Japanese war, and that kind of became the cult of military sobriety. All countries that got involved in World War I were restricting availability to alcohol because all these militaries around the world learned their lesson, like Russia did, that whether you have a good fighting force or a drunken fighting force can really make the difference between victory and defeat. So I would say since World War I there has been more of an international consensus towards limiting alcohol in the ranks, especially when it comes to warfighting. 

I think when it comes to especially more modern forces, Russia is still very much stuck in the past of having that pervasiveness of alcohol whereas a more modern army might not have that. Russia's armies in a lot of ways are kind of a relic of the past. It's still pretty much a conscript army. It's not a modern volunteer army. And so you've got a lot of those holdovers from the past, and I think that that might be part of it as well. But the fact is that you're getting people in wartime positions, who really didn't sign up for this, as opposed to American soldiers or British soldiers who choose this lifestyle right for one reason or another.

You know, the last time that we had a draft in the United States, during Vietnam, there was a lot of drug abuse and alcoholism that came with that as well. That could be part of the dynamic, too.

It seems like Russia is aware of this. Why does Russia continue to hold on to this conscription system despite evidence that it could lead to drinking issues among servicemen?

I think it's been hard to reform for one. But then, more importantly, Russia has also, in more recent years, been undergoing something of a demographic crisis. When the Soviet Union falls apart in the early 1990s, there was just, economic decay, disorder, and depression. In Russia, they had sort of a baby bust from the '90s through the mid-2000s. That's the generation now that would be coming up for military service, and there are just not enough people there.

When it comes to this demographic crisis that's plagued Russia for a long time the military has been sort of the most astute at this. They've been sort of raising alarm bells for the last 20 years, in terms of wanting to reform and make a more modern army, but also recognizing that they needed to sort of maintain conscription just because if they were to give it up, they wouldn't have enough warm bodies to man all the turrets and field all the positions that they need.

Correction: April 12, 2023 — This story has been corrected to show the correct number of years since the Crimean War. It has been 17o years, not 150 years.

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Two shipwrecks found in Lake Superior help finish the 109-year-old story of the 'darkest day in lumber history'

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 6:30pm
An image of one of the wrecked ships found in Lake Superior with the name of Edward Hines Lumbar Company on the side.
  • Michigan researchers found two shipwrecks in Lake Superior. They hope the discovery will help find a third.
  • The ships disappeared as storms swept through while they were hauling lumber across the lake in 1914.
  • Scientists are the first people to lay eyes on the ships in 109 years.

CHICAGO (AP) — Michigan researchers have found the wreckage of two ships that disappeared into Lake Superior in 1914 and hope the discovery will lead them to a third that sank at the same time, killing nearly 30 people aboard the trio of lumber-shipping vessels.

The Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society announced the discoveries this month after confirming details with other researchers. Ric Mixter, a board member of the society and a maritime historian, called witnessing the discoveries "a career highlight."

"It not only solved a chapter in the nation's darkest day in lumber history, but also showcased a team of historians who have dedicated their lives towards making sure these stories aren't forgotten," Mixter said.

The vessels owned by the Edward Hines Lumber Company sank into the ice-cold lake on Nov. 18, 1914, when a storm swept through as they moved lumber from Baraga, Michigan, to Tonawanda, New York. The steamship C.F. Curtis was towing the schooner barges Selden E. Marvin and Annie M. Peterson; all 28 people aboard were killed.

The society's team found the wreck of the Curtis during the summer of 2021 and the Marvin a year later within a few miles of the first discovery. The organization operates a museum in Whitefish Point and regularly runs searches for shipwrecks, aiming to tell "the lost history of all the Great Lakes" with a focus on Lake Superior, said Corey Adkins, the society's content and communications director.

"One of the things that makes us proud when we discover these things is helping piece the puzzle together of what happened to these 28 people," Adkins said. "It's been 109 years, but maybe there are still some family members that want to know what happened. We're able to start answering those questions."

Both wrecks were discovered about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Grand Marais, Michigan, farther into the lake than the 1914 accounts suggested the ships sank, Adkins said. There was also damage to the Marvin's bow and the Curtis' stern, making researchers wonder whether a collision contributed, he said.

"Those are all questions we want to consider when we go back out this summer," Adkins said.

Video footage from the Curtis wreckage showed the maintained hull of the steamship, its wheel, anchor, boiler and still shining gauges — all preserved by Lake Superior's cold waters, along with other artifacts.

Another recording captured the team's jubilant cheers as the words "Selden E. Marvin" on the hull came into clear view for the first time on a video feed shot by an underwater drone at the barge wreck site.

"We're the first human eyes to see it since 1914, since World War I," one team member mused.

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Arizona's GOP-led legislature expels lawmaker — a Republican — for promoting conspiracy theory about Democrats and drug cartels

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 6:19pm
Arizona lawmakers voted 48-11 to expel Republican Rep. Liz Harris on April 12, 2023.
  • The Arizona state House on Wednesday voted to expel Rep. Liz Harris, a Republican.
  • Harris was expelled after inviting a conspiracy theorist to a committee hearing in February.
  • First elected in 2022, Harris was removed just three months into her term.

An Arizona Republican has been kicked out of the state legislature for inviting a conspiracy theorist to a committee hearing who falsely claimed Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs and a number of other lawmakers — as well as leaders of the Mormon church — were being paid off by Mexican drug cartels.

In February, just a month after taking office, Rep. Liz Harris, a Republican from outside Phoenix, invited a speaker who spent 40 minutes detailing an alleged scheme, involving members of both parties and the Church of Latter-day Saints, to accept bribes from narcotics traffickers in the form of phony deeds to property, the Arizona Mirror reported.

Harris had previously promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory and authored a debunked report alleging mass voter fraud in the 2020 election.

Elected last Novemberan election she has also claimed was fraudulent Harris has said she did not know the speaker planned to make the unsubstantiated claims, which included a charge of bribery against her fellow Republican, House Speaker Ben Toma. But at an ethics committee hearing earlier this month, Harris asserted that she was scared following the February hearing because she thought she would be targeted by drug cartels for airing the conspiracy theories, claiming she thought: "I'm about to be beheaded," per the Arizona Mirror.

In a report on Tuesday, the ethics committee said Harris, because she allowed false claims of criminal wrongdoing to be aired against her colleagues, of having violated the "institutional integrity of the house." A day later, by a 48-11 vote, members of the GOP-led legislature elected to kick her out immediately, passing a resolution that charged her with having "engaged in disorderly behavior" that "violated the order and decorum necessary to complete the people's work in the State of Arizona."

Harris did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did the Arizona Republican Party.

In a statement, House Democratic leader Andrés Cano praised Wednesday's vote, saying Harris had done "real damage" to innocent people.

"Misinformation, lies, and conspiracies are not harmless, and it's not just politics," Cano said. "The defamatory allegations that Representative Harris' invited her guest speaker to make are patently absurd, but there are many people who believe them. They believe the lies, and they continue to threaten retribution because we dispute them."

Harris is the third state lawmaker to be removed from office by her colleagues this year. Earlier this month, Republicans in Tennessee voted to expel two Democratic members for joining with protesters on the House floor demanding gun control legislation in the wake of the Nashville school shooting. One of those lawmakers, Rep. Justin Jones, was reinstated earlier this week, and another, Rep. Justin Pearson, was reinstated on Wednesday.

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The US Navy's Super Hornets are having trouble keeping up with the rest of the military's fighter jets

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 6:09pm
An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from USS Abraham Lincoln in February 2012.
  • F/A-18E/F Super Hornets have mostly replaced F/A-18 Hornets as the US Navy's carrier-based fighters.
  • The Super Hornet is bigger, has more powerful engines and longer range, and can carry a larger payload.
  • But when it comes to readiness to fly, the older Hornet still beats its younger cousin.

Though the US Navy's Hornet and Super Hornet fighters share a name and look fairly similar, they are far from the same plane.

The earliest version of the Hornet, the F/A-18A, first flew in 1978. The Super Hornet — which includes the single-seat F/A-18E and the two-seat F/A-18F — made its maiden flight in 1995.

Despite a similar name, the Super Hornet is essentially a new aircraft, with a bigger airframe, more powerful engines, a longer range, and the ability to carry a larger payload.

When it comes to readiness to fly, however, the older Hornet beats its younger cousin. In fact, the F/A-18E/F has lower availability rates than US Air Force jets, and that has experts wondering about the long-term viability of the Super Hornet fleet.

The Super Hornet has mostly replaced the Hornet as the Navy's carrier-based fighter. The service is also adding the F-35C to its carrier air wings. But the Marine Corps will continue flying F/A-18C/D Hornets until they are replaced by the F-35B.

Sailors replace a valve on an F/A-18E Super Hornet aboard USS Nimitz in December 2022.

Because the Super Hornet entered service in 1999 — a decade later than the original Hornet — it's a newer plane and thus tends to have higher average availability, which the Congressional Budget Office defines as the "percentage of time an aircraft can be flown on training or operational missions."

Super Hornet availability is now about 41% compared to about 26% for the Hornet, whose readiness dropped sharply at about the 25-year mark. But the CBO asked a more specific question: How did Hornets compare to Super Hornets at a similar age?

"When compared with F/A-18C/Ds of the same age, the Super Hornet fleet has had lower availability rates," according to a CBO report published in February. "For example, Super Hornet availability at age 10 was about 18 percentage points lower than F/A-18C/D availability at age 10 and is comparable to F/A-18C/D availability at age 20."

Was the discrepancy caused by Super Hornets flying more hours than Hornets? Typical lifetime flying hours for F/A-18E/Fs were higher than for F/A-18C/Ds until the six-year mark, after which the Hornet surpassed its successor.

An F/A-18F Super Hornet, left, and an E/A-18G Growler on one of USS Gerald R. Ford's aircraft elevators in January 2020.

On the other hand, F/A-18E/Fs have higher availability than the E/A-18G Growler, the electronic-warfare version of the Super Hornet. But the Growler, which is packed with jamming gear, is a more complex aircraft and would be expected to have more frequent maintenance issues.

What is particularly interesting is how the Super Hornet compares to US Air Force fighter and attack aircraft. The Air Force has suffered major problems with aircraft readiness, including a mission-capable rate of about 52% for F-22 fighters and B-1 bombers in 2022. (The aircraft with the highest mission-capable rate the time was actually the MQ-9 Reaper drone, at 91%.)

But availability has been more a problem for the Navy: A 2022 CBO study found that while both Air Force and Navy availability rates decreased between 2001 and 2019, the drop was steeper for the Navy, particularly because aging F/A-18C/Ds were not ready to fly.

Despite the Super Hornet being a newer aircraft than many Air Force combat jets, it actually had lower availability compared to Air Force planes, such as the older F-15C/D fighter and the A-10 Warthog. Yet there may be good reason for this.

First, Navy planes simply fly more. CBO research has found that "the Navy flies its fighter and attack aircraft more hours per month than the Air Force flies its aircraft."

An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from USS George H.W. Bush in February 2022.

Just as important is the natural wear and tear on Navy fighter jets that operate from floating airfields. "Air Force aircraft do not take off from and land on aircraft carriers, so they are not subject to the related stresses and the saltwater corrosion that Super Hornets face," the CBO said.

The question is what all this means for the Super Hornet's long-term prospects. The Navy already plans to stop buying Super Hornets after 2025 and focus instead on the F/A-XX project, about which details are murky, as well as on the F-35 and carrier-based drones. (Navy officials say they hope to have drones compose 60% of future carrier air wings.)

Aircraft do enter a period of graceful aging at some point. For example, availability rates for the F-15E stabilized at the 10- to 25-year mark, and for the A-10 at age 25 to 35. Because the Super Hornet is relatively new — especially compared to 1970s aircraft like the A-10 and F-15 — the Navy might be able to keep F/18E/Fs in service longer.

For example, the Department of the Navy "could replace existing parts with new ones that have been redesigned for greater reliability or longevity," CBO concluded. "Or it could devote more resources to routine maintenance (such as keeping on hand a more robust supply of spare parts)."

Michael Peck is a defense writer whose work has appeared in Forbes, Defense News, Foreign Policy magazine, and other publications. He holds a master's in political science. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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Swiss watch execs say the market is 'slowing down' — but that just means waitlists for new Rolexes or Patek Philippes are a little less long

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 5:54pm
Swiss exports boomed during the pandemic to a record 25 billion Swiss francs ($27.6 billion).
  • The frenzy for new Swiss luxury watches is softening from its pandemic peak, when exports hit $27.6 billion.
  • "The market is a little bit slower than before," Patek Philippe chairman Thierry Stern told Bloomberg.
  • That doesn't mean watches from top brands are suddenly available to buy — it just means waitlists are slightly shorter.

The all-out global frenzy for Swiss luxury watches is coming down from its pandemic-era peak, according to executives at leading brands, including Patek Philippe.

"I see in the past two months, the market is a little bit slower than before," chairman Thierry Stern told Bloomberg.

"I don't say that it's very bad — not at all. But I just see that it's slowing down," he added.

Oris Co-CEO Rolf Studer similarly told the outlet that dealers have been clearing inventories, though his company is seeing slightly lower restocking orders.

Patek — maker of the highly coveted Nautilus steel sports watch — manufactures 60,000 to 70,000 watches per year, which sell for $30,000 and up.

Swiss exports boomed during the pandemic to a record 25 billion Swiss francs ($27.6 billion), but even with the recent softening, Stern told Bloomberg demand still vastly outstrips supply.

"It's not so bad if we see a certain slowdown," he said.

And even though Rolex reportedly produces more than ten times as many watches as Patek does, waitlists for some models can stretch out to months or even years.

In other words, just because the line to buy a top brand like Patek, Rolex, or Audemars Piguet is perhaps getting slightly shorter, that doesn't mean would-be buyers can simply walk into their local dealer and buy a new watch.

The executives' comments follow almost one year after the secondary market peaked and entered a long slide that has taken much of the froth out of "unsustainable" price appreciation.

With the secondary market appearing to be leveling out, the news out of Switzerland suggests the popularity of top-tier watches is still quite high, even if it may not return to the extremes of recent years.

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The best smart light bulbs in 2023

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 5:42pm

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Smart light bulbs are the easiest way to smarten up your home.

Smart lights are easily the best place to start when you're looking to up the IQ of your home. The best smart light bulbs also last longer than traditional bulbs, help conserve energy, and offer an abundance of customizations for different moods or scenarios.

Practically speaking, the ability to create schedules, turn on a lamp from across the room, and change the hue or color temperature of the light are all attractive features of smart bulbs. Over the years, we've tested a wide selection of smart lights and bulbs, from color-changing to white, and dedicated fixtures to outdoor floodlights. 

When you're ready to take your home's smart lightning system to the next level, be sure to check our guide on the best LED light strips.

Our top picks for the best smart light bulbs

Best overall: Lifx Color A19 1100 Lumen Bulb - See at Amazon
The Lifx Color 1100-lumen Bulb is the brightest bulb we've ever tested and beams the most accurate and vibrant colors.

Best white-only: Wyze White Bulb - See at Amazon
Impressively bright, the Wyze White Bulb is easy to install and use and offers a tunable white light at an affordable price.

Best budget: Wyze Color Bulb - See at Amazon
With vibrant colors accompanied by an intuitive app, the Wyze Color Bulb has exceptional functionality at an affordable price point.

Best ecosystem: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Bulb - See at Amazon
For a bulb that has wide compatibility and is easy to expand on, it's hard to beat the Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance.

Best outdoor: GE Cync Direct Connect Outdoor Smart Light - See at Amazon
The GE Cync Direct Connect Outdoor Bulb is an easy-to-install floodlight that can illuminate outdoor areas and fill them with color.

Best LED light strip: Lifx Light Strip with Color Zones - See at Amazon
The Lifx Light Strip with Color Zones lets you customize how you want to display its bright, vibrant colors.

Best overall: Lifx Color A19 1100 Lumen BulbIf you're looking for the brightest smart bulb, the Lifx performs for both whites and colors.
  • Brightness: 1100 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 11.5 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Apple HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT
  • Hub needed: No

Some smart light bulbs require dedicated hubs that plug into your router, which can get needlessly complicated. If you're only looking to install a few smart lights, we recommend the hubless, WiFi-only Lifx Color Bulb. It's beautiful, bright, and compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and HomeKit. Plus, installation is easy.

We're partial to Lifx's Color Bulb that gives you 1100 lumens, but it also offers a cheaper bulb that supports 800 lumens. We say this because the 1100-lumen variant is admittedly expensive at around $50 a bulb. But in terms of brightness, color accuracy, ease of use, and smart-home compatibility, the Lifx Color Bulb is the best out there. 

The Lifx Color bulb sports a flat-top design instead of being a traditional orb, but it still managed to be by far the brightest bulb we tested, even against other bulbs with the same lumens. Due to this design, the 1100-lumen bulb is slightly wider than other bulbs, so it's a good idea to double-check your fixtures. For example, there's a 0.2-inch difference between the Lifx and Philips Hue bulbs. 

If you're looking at the lineup and wondering why we're not readily recommending Lifx's plain old white bulb, it's because we don't want you to miss out on our pick's vivid color accuracy. Whether the bulb is warm or cool white, red, pink, blue, or violet, the colors are properly balanced, bright, and pleasing to the eye. 

Lifx smart lights support several options for preset color themes, like "mellow" and "spacey," which are useful for setting just the right mood. If you have multiple bulbs in a group, the app applies the theme to all, so if you spring for the "romance" theme, you might get bulbs that are pinkish white and others that are a bright red.

Lifx's mobile app is relatively straightforward to use. You'll be able to control every light in your home with a few taps, and you can schedule the bulb to come on at specific times each day. There are also existing, editable routines, like O.K. to wake and circadian rhythm. We came across a few quirks when trying to set up custom scenes but no major deal breakers.  

Despite its higher price tag, the Lifx Color Bulb is the best pick if you want the brightest bulb with vibrant colors and fun lighting effects. Lifx also makes smart switches and our favorite light strip. If you plan on going all-in on smart bulbs, remember that Lifx smart lights are connected via WiFI, which could cause some reliability issues. For entire home setups, we recommend a hub-based bulb, like the Philips Hue lights, which is our pick for the best smart lighting ecosystem. 

Best white-only: Wyze White BulbThe Wyze White Bulb is an affordable smart bulb that still lets you change the color temperature from cool to warm.
  • Brightness: 800 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 9.5 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT
  • Hub needed: No

If you're not interested in color or paying a great deal for smart lights, the Wyze White Bulb is the most affordable tunable white light bulb we tested — a two-pack will only set you back around $25. In terms of brightness, the 800-lumen Wyze White Bulb even beats out the 1100-lumen Philips Hue White Bulb.

You'll be able to control the bulbs with your voice via Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant or through the Wyze app, which is straightforward to use. A clickable wheel ranging from blue to yellow shows you the temperature in Kelvins as you tap. There are four preset options: night light, cozy, bright, and energized. The night light setting is warm and impressively dim. You can also create your own presets with your desired temperature and brightness settings. 

If you prefer not to pull out your phone all the time, the app offers the ability to set schedules and custom scenes. The sun-match setting will turn your lights bluer in the morning and warmer yellow in the evenings. Wake-up and sleep routines will also turn the bulbs into a rudimentary sunrise alarm clock, gradually brightening and dimming when it's time to get up or go to sleep.  

Our main concern with recommending Wyze bulbs is the company's reputation for handling privacy and security. Wyze's security cameras had a flaw that made them vulnerable to hackers but didn't report the issue to customers for three years. While light bulbs present a lower risk of privacy invasion than cameras, it's still something to keep in mind when purchasing Wyze products. 

Best budget: Wyze Color BulbThe Wyze Color Bulb was one of the brightest we tested and also one of the most affordable.
  • Brightness: 1100 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 12 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, IFTTT
  • Hub needed: No

While you can buy white-only bulbs, we generally recommend going for white and color bulbs, meaning bulbs that can beam colors but also different temperatures of white. Our budget pick, the Wyze Color Bulb, can do just that. Plus, it's affordable enough to put in a few fixtures in your home without breaking the bank. They're only a few bucks more than Wyze's white bulbs.

Though no match for the Lifx Color Bulb, the Wyze Color Bulb is still very bright for its white light settings. It's actually brighter from the side than the Lifx, so it might be a better choice if you're using it in a lamp instead of overhead. 

When it comes to colors, the Wyze isn't as bright or vibrant as the Lifx. Oranges are always a bit washed out, even with the "pumpkin" preset color. The red colors look either orange or pink. Preset themes will turn several bulbs different colors, but it's not as customizable as we'd like. 

For smart features like gradient or strobe effects, you'll need to pair the Wyze Color Bulb with the Wyze Light Strip to unlock them, which is worth it if that's what you're looking for. There are nine patterns like "sea wave" and "flicker" that cause the bulbs and strips to flash different colors. Though you can set the speed of the color transitions, even the slowest setting is pretty fast. You can select up to four colors to apply to the effects. 

Like the Wyze white bulbs, the color bulbs have schedules, vacation mode, sun match, and wake and sleep routines. And as with the Wyze white bulbs, you'll want to take the company's reputation for privacy and security into account before purchasing.

Best ecosystem: Philips Hue White and Color Ambiance Bulb
  • Brightness: 1100 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 10.5 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, and IFTTT
  • Hub needed: For some features

Philips Hue bulbs are among the most well-known smart bulbs on the market, and for good reason. They're very reliable; integrate with many smart-home devices, platforms, and assistants; and come in a wide range of options, from bulbs to lamps and smart switches and outdoor lights.

Hue bulbs once required the Hue bridge, which made them a little harder to recommend because of the added investment. While you still need the Hue Bridge for some features, you can now use Bluetooth to connect and control them, which should please anyone who wants to test a few bulbs (up to 10) before investing in the entire ecosystem. You can always purchase the Hue Bridge later, which supports up to 50 bulbs. 

The White and Color Ambiance Bulbs are bright from the top and side, and in terms of color, they emit millions of hues, which are excellent. Oranges and yellows are particularly balanced, though the blues don't get very deep. For comparison sake, none of the colors are as bright as those that shine from our best overall pick, the Lifx Color Bulb. 

Where Hue's bulbs stand out is the scenes gallery. There are over 50 presets with floral motifs, city-inspired lights, sunset scenes, and more. You can set a static scene with each bulb in a group taking on a different color, and you can cycle through until each bulb is set with your preferred hue. The scenes are also dynamic, so the bulbs will simultaneously transition into each color. You can change the speed and brightness and edit the bulbs' colors.

Other automations include wake-up and sleep lights, coming and leaving home, timers, vacation mode, and custom schedules. The bulbs also stay reliably connected and respond quickly to commands from Alexa and Google Assistant. 

Philips Hue works with a lot of other smart-home products. The lights also have a sync mode that lets you pair them with your Spotify account, a Philips Hue Play box for your TV, or with your PC or Mac. Many of the advanced features require a Hue bridge.

Even without a hub, a pair of Hue White and Color Ambiance bulbs cost $100, making them the most expensive options we tested. But you're buying into the Philips product line, which includes a ton of bulb types, letting you expand your setup indoors and out. Even in areas with spotty WiFi, the Hue bridge delivers a seamless, reliable experience that's well worth the price.

Best outdoor: GE Cync Direct Connect Outdoor Smart LightThe GE Cync Direct Connect outshone the competition for outdoor bulbs for both white and color options.
  • Brightness: 1300 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 15 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant
  • Hub needed: No

If you're looking to build a robust smart light system, either Lifx's outdoor bulb or Philips Hue's flood light might be a better fit for your setup. But if you're more interested in smart lighting for the outdoors instead of inside, the affordable GE Cync PAR38 bulb may have everything you're looking for.

The 1300-lumen GE Cync Direct Connect Outdoor Bulb was the brightest option we tested. It's a weather-resistant floodlight that's suitable for outdoor fixtures and can light up the night in a range of shades. At $25 per bulb, it was by far the lowest-priced outdoor bulb we tried. 

A few caveats: Though all the colors are bright, they weren't all the most balanced. It was difficult to select a red that didn't look a tad orange, for example. There are 11 preset scenes that cycle through colors with themes like Aurora, Vegas, and Halloween. You can add your own scenes, with choices for different types of transitions, speeds, fade times, and colors. 

While the light is very powerful from the top, its floodlight shape means it's pretty dim from the sides. If you're looking for something that gives a bit more light from the side, the Lifx Nightvision Bulb was dimmer overall but doesn't have the same floodlight shape as the GE Cync. It's also a better choice if you want an outdoor bulb that can get very dim. The GE Cync was still brighter than some 800-lumen bulbs on its lowest setting. 

GE Cync bulbs work with Amazon's Alexa and Google Assistant, but they don't work with Apple's HomeKit, Samsung SmartThings, or IFTTT. The app can also be a bit confusing. It takes a couple of clicks to get to the different screens that control the individual bulbs, and you can't delete scenes if your bulbs are offline. You can create your own schedules, but there aren't premade ones that you can edit, like a circadian rhythm routine. 

For the brightest outdoor bulb and the lowest price, the GE Cync Direct Connect is your best bet. 

Best LED light strip: Lifx Light Strip with Color ZonesThe Lifx Light Strip adds bold and bright color around your home.
  • Brightness: 700 lumens
  • Lifetime: 25,000 hours
  • Power usage: 8 watts
  • Compatibility: Amazon Alexa, Apple HomeKit, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, IFTTT
  • Hub needed: No

The Lifx Light Strip with Color Zones offers the best mix of brightness and functionality of all the options we tested. Its white settings were dimmer than a few others, like the Nanoleaf Essentials Smart Lightstrip, our pick for the best task lighting in our light strip guide. However, no other strip came close to matching the brightness of its red, green, blue, and violet settings. 

If you're planning on using a light strip for task lighting, you may prefer the brighter whites of the Nanoleaf. But if you're mostly interested in rich colors and fun effects, the Lifx delivers. There are nine options for lighting effects, including strobe, pastels, and twinkle. You can adjust the speed for all of them, and some of them allow you to opt for different themes. 

In addition to schedules, preset routines, like O.K. to wake and circadian rhythm, are editable to fit when you want to get up and go to sleep. 

However, the biggest frustration with the Lifx strip is that you can't save effects. There's no way to always display a certain color scheme on twinkle, for example. It's something most other light strips offer, so it's a fairly large omission. But you can customize static colors with the paint function. It lets you add a few colors along the length of the strip. You can't select by segments like you can with the Govee M1 and Tapo Multicolor Light Strips. 

One starter kit comes in a 40-inch length, but to cover almost any space, you'll likely want to opt for the 80- or 120-inch options. If you're looking for a more budget-friendly or brighter white option, check out this guide to our favorite LED light strips

What to look for in smart light bulbsEvery smart light bulb looks a little different, whether it's giving off a warm white or pale blue light.

When choosing a smart bulb, you'll want to consider brightness, dimming and color-tuning capabilities, smart-home compatibility, features, and price. 

Smart lighting comes in all shapes and sizes, but all of them have their brightness listed in lumens. There's some variation between manufacturers, meaning not all 800-lumen bulbs are equally bright. In general, choosing a higher-lumen bulb will give you a brighter light. 

Before you buy smart light bulbs, you should take into account where you want to put them, noting how many rooms, fixtures, and spaces you want to illuminate. You'll also want to consider if you want white-only bulbs or color bulbs. For white-only bulbs, double-check you're getting a bulb that can span warm white to cool, typically from 2500 to 6000 Kelvin. 

Pre-planning on the type and number bulbs will help inform whether you need a hub. For those wanting to add smart bulbs to every fixture in the house, a hub makes sense because it creates a mesh network that will extend their range and keep the individual bulbs from overburdening your WiFi connection.  

In terms of features, it's all about flexibility and control. If you like the idea of having bulbs that mimic the way the sun's light changes, several bulbs in our list can automatically tune themselves to do so. Vacation mode, timers, and an easy-to-access night light are other settings that appeal to many smart-bulb users. 

Every bulb we tested works with both Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant. Apple HomeKit works with fewer bulbs, so you'll want to ensure a bulb is compatible if that's your main smart-home ecosystem. With the new Matter standard now up and running, you should eventually be able to control the majority of brands from any ecosystem, but it requires a Matter controller (like an Apple HomePod or second-generation Nest Hub) to work. 

LED bulbs cost less than they did a few years ago. While they're more expensive than traditional bulbs, they last far longer, and you'll have to replace them less often. White bulbs cost less than color-changing ones, and some pricier bulbs have more features in terms of customizability and smart-home compatibility.

How we test smart light bulbsWe test smart light bulbs over the course of several days to get a feel for their brightness, smart-home compatibility, and ease of use.

To test smart light bulbs, we use benchmark tests and use them in our homes to see how they perform in everyday circumstances. Using a light meter, we test every bulb's brightness from the top and side on both its brightest cool white and warm white settings. 

We then dim the bulb by 50%, 10%, and 1% to see how accurate and useful the dimming settings are. Color bulbs are set to red, green, blue, and violet to test each hue's brightness. 

For each bulb, we time how long it takes to install the app and set up the light, including assigning rooms and waiting through firmware updates. We note any snags in the pairing process. After the bulb has been offline for several days, we check and see if we need to go through the setup process again. When using the app, we consider how easy it is to navigate, the features and scheduling options available, and the privacy settings and permissions. 

We also test each bulb with an Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant device to see how well it responds to verbal commands. We also add it to Apple HomeKit, if the bulb is compatible. If the bulb works with IFTTT, we look at the number and type of available automations.

Smart light bulb FAQsHow long do smart bulbs last?

All of the bulbs we recommend last 25,000 hours, according to their manufacturers. That works out to about 8.5 years if you run the bulb for eight hours every day. In contrast, traditional incandescent light bulbs last only a year or two, and fluorescents are closer to five. 

Are smart light bulbs energy efficient?

Yes. The bulbs on this list use between 8 and 15 watts of electricity, far less than 60-, 75-, and 100-watt incandescent bulbs. Plus, you can schedule them to only come on at certain times or have them automatically turn off when you leave to save more energy. 

Are smart light bulbs worth it? 

Smart bulbs can be very useful for anyone with difficult-to-reach lamps, who likes to add some drama with colorful lighting, or who accidentally leaves the lights on when they leave home. While a bit pricier than non-connected bulbs, they offer a lot of benefits and last years.

Read the original article on Business Insider

What is a red flag warning? What to know as fire weather conditions affect more parts of the US

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 5:31pm
A Cal Fire firefighter monitors a blaze near Mariposa, California. But wildfires aren't just increasing in the West.
  • Red flag warnings have been issued across the US, stretching from New Mexico to Massachusetts. 
  • The warnings go by many names and signal arid weather that can lead to rapidly spreading wildfires.
  • Here's what to know when you see a red flag warning in your area, and how to protect yourself.

You may have seen the alert in the news or on your phone's weather app: red flag warning. They've been more common in certain parts of the US, especially California, where scientists and officials now believe some parts of the state are in a year-round fire season.

But what do red flag warnings mean? Red flag warnings indicate dry, arid weather and strong wind conditions that increase the possibility of dangerous wildfires. Unlike a fire weather watch, which is issued 72 hours before conditions are ripening for a fire, red flag warnings can be issued during a fire or up to 24 hours beforehand.

With the right winds and dry vegetative fuel, wildfires can spread quickly to burn down homes and even entire towns. In a single day in December 2021, a blaze in the suburbs of Denver and Boulder, Colorado forced 30,000 people to evacuate and destroyed nearly 1,000 homes.

A home burns on Coronado Pointe during the Coastal Fire in Laguna Niguel, California, on May 11, 2022.

Fires are burning more acreage across the US, over a longer fire season, than they did in the 1980s and 90s, according to government data. So it's no surprise that many parts of the country, from California to Colorado to Nebraska, are seeing more frequent red flag warnings for fire weather.

As of Wednesday, nine states have issued red flag warnings. One map shared on Twitter by climate reporter Dave Levitan shows the latest range of red flag warnings stretching from New Mexico to Massachusetts. 

—Dave Levitan (@davelevitan) April 12, 2023

Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers declared a state of emergency to free up wildfire response resources in light of the state's red flag warning.

Why fire weather is a growing threat

Human activities have drastically altered the planet's climate, and therefore weather patterns, over the last few decades. By burning fossil fuels like coal and oil for energy, humans have released immense quantities of heat-trapping gases like carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere.

As a result, global temperatures are rising. Many parts of the world, like the western US, are becoming drier as a result. More extreme and extensive droughts, alongside higher temperatures and more frequent hot days, are a perfect recipe for wildfires.

Fires have burned more acreage over a longer season in the last two decades than they did in the prior two decades.

As a result, fire seasons in many regions are getting longer and more active. Increasing fire weather in the western US is mainly driven by climate change, according to a 2021 study supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The most recent National Climate Assessment, released in 2018, projected an increase in wildfire risk in the Southeastern US, with a longer fire season and more land area burning from lightning-ignited fires. Increasing drought conditions are already causing larger, more destructive wildfires in the West.

A law enforcement officer watches flames launch into the air as fire continues to spread at the Bear fire in Oroville, California on September 9, 2020.

Other factors, like overzealous fire suppression policies and overgrown forests, have contributed to an abundance of wildfire fuel in Western states like California.

What to do if a red flag warning is issued in your area

If you're under a red flag warning, check for burn bans in your area before you start any outdoor fires, don't leave fires unattended, and don't toss cigarettes on the ground.

To stay up-to-date on the weather, evacuations, and the progress of any fires that break out, follow updates from your local government and National Weather Service office.

Be careful with cigarettes during a red flag warning.

Planning ahead is crucial to protecting yourself in the event of any disaster. It helps to have a "go bag" with food, water, first aid, medications, money, important documents, and other emergency supplies, in case you have to leave home in a rush.

Smoke from wildfires carries a host of health risks, so you can protect yourself by keeping N95 respirator masks at home and in your go bag.

You can prepare for any future evacuations by planning your evacuation route (and being ready to adjust it according to real-time official instructions), having a plan to take pets with you, and scanning important documents and storing them on a cloud service.

The US government website features step-by-step guides to prepare for any disasters, including wildfires.

You can check overall wildfire risk for your property using the online tool Risk Factor, developed by the climate-data nonprofit First Street Foundation.

Lastly, the NWS has some basic guidelines to avoid igniting fires during a red flag warning:

  • If you are allowed to burn in your area, all burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch.

  • Do not throw cigarettes or matches out of a moving vehicle. They may ignite dry grass on the side of the road and become a wildfire.

  • Extinguish all outdoor fires properly. Drown fires with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground and leave it.

  • Never leave a fire unattended. Sparks or embers can blow into leaves or grass, ignite a fire, and quickly spread.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Trump is trying to win more GOP voters with bizarre takes on the Ukraine war and praise for Putin

Wed, 04/12/2023 - 5:26pm
In 2019, then-President Donald Trump met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
  • Trump made repeated false and misleading claims about the Ukraine war during a Fox News interview.
  • Trump praised Putin as "very smart" amid the stalemated and brutal fight the Russian leader ordered.
  • Trump's grasp of the war's appeared spotty and an echo of Russia's propaganda.

Former President Donald Trump, the current frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, used a Fox News interview on Tuesday to repeatedly make false and misleading claims about the war in Ukraine while offering high praise for the Russian leader and accused war criminal who launched it. 

Trump said Russian President Vladimir Putin "loved" Ukraine, while acknowledging that the unprovoked war Putin ordered has devastated the former Soviet republic. "He considers it to be a part of Russia," Trump said of Putin's view on Ukraine, which was among the few accurate remarks the former president made on the subject during the interview with Fox News' Tucker Carlson — who also has routinely echoed the Kremlin's propaganda on the war. 

"Ukraine is being obliterated," Trump said at another point in the interview, while falsely suggesting that Ukrainian forces are not performing "better than anticipated." Russia has seized large swathes of southern and eastern Ukraine since launching their invasion in February 2022, and the areas that have seen the heaviest fighting are devastated — in large part because of Russia's scorched earth tactics. But Russia's forces have been embarrassed before the world by the war, and top military experts have said that Moscow has already suffered what amounts to a strategic defeat — underscoring that it will take years for the Russian military to be rebuilt. 

Indeed, Ukraine's stiff resistance has shocked Putin's advisors and Western intelligence services, who had projected that Kyiv would fall in a matter of days. The brutal fight in Ukraine has morphed into a grinding war of attrition, but Russia refuses to give up on its major goals even as it finds itself with a shrinking economy and fewer trading partners.

Trump's high praise for an American adversary and parroting of the Kremlin's talking points appears to be part of his America First pitch to voters worried about the costs and risks of extensive US support, an effort his potential rival for the GOP presidential nomination, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, has also questioned. It also may be an effort to undermine President Joe Biden's successful backing of underdog Ukraine, an achievement strongly supported by many Republican lawmakers.

Trump has been calling US aid to other countries into question for years. His first impeachment was also linked, in part, to his decision to freeze security assistance to Kyiv as he simultaneously pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to launch an investigation into then-Democratic presidential candidate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden, over bogus allegations of corruption. 

Trump, whose amicable stance toward Russia and its authoritarian leader has long been criticized, may see a political upside to continuing to question assistance to Ukraine as he vies for the presidency once again despite his two impeachments and a recent criminal indictment in New York. Polling has shown that Republican voters are less likely than Democratic voters to support continued assistance to Ukraine. 

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 12, 2023

At one point in the interview, Trump also appeared to suggest — without evidence — that the US was responsible for explosions that damaged the Nord Stream pipelines, the kind of attack line often heard in Russian state-run media.

"I don't want to get our country in trouble," Trump said when asked about the Nord Stream sabotage. 

To be sure, investigations into the pipeline explosions are ongoing and inconclusive.


—Acyn (@Acyn) April 12, 2023


The former president also falsely said that the Biden administration has "taken the military that I've rebuilt, and they've given it all to Ukraine."

The extent to which the US military was "rebuilt" under Trump, who continued the war in Afghanistan throughout his presidency, is open to debate. Regardless, Trump's statement is misleading on a few levels: US spending on the military has increased under the Biden administration, which has simultaneously refused to fulfill many of Ukraine's requests for advanced weapons. 

The US has provided Ukraine with billions in security assistance, including vital lethal aid, since Russia invaded. But the Biden administration has pushed against calls for it to provide Kyiv with long-range weapons and has so far ruled out sending F-16 fighter jets. Under Biden, the US has given over $35 billion in security aid to Ukraine. For perspective, the US defense budget for this fiscal year is $858 billion.

—Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 12, 2023


At times, Trump was unintelligible during the interview with Carlson as he jumped from one topic to another. But the former president was quite clear when it came to praising of US adversaries, as he lauded Putin as "very smart," North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un as "smart," and Chinese leader Xi Jinping as "brilliant." It was not the first time Trump has expressed admiration for some of the most repressive leaders in the world. Trump, for example, previously described Putin's justification for invading Ukraine as "genius."

Meanwhile, Carlson, who's privately said he hates Trump "passionately," described the former president as "moderate, sensible, and wise" in comments to his audience. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

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