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The Morning Rundown™

Blinken arrives in Israel for tense talks on Gaza

Mar 22


U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Israel amid growing tension between the two countries, and the Justice Department is suing Campbell’s, one of several suits filed against the soup company. These stories and more highlight The Morning Rundown for Friday, March 22, 2024.

Blinken arrives in Israel to discuss Rafah, cease-fire talks

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has arrived in Israel, landing Friday, March 22, in Tel Aviv amid growing tensions between the two allies over the conflict in Gaza.

Blinken is set to discuss with Israeli officials the United States’ position that Israel’s planned invasion of the city of Rafah would be a mistake. Rafah is currently a refuge for more than one million Palestinians.

Following meetings with leaders in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, Blinken’s visit to Israel aims to address the ongoing crisis. In Cairo, he informed reporters the U.S. is advocating for a deal leading to a temporary cease-fire and the release of more hostages, though he acknowledged the challenges ahead, stating, “There is still more difficult work to get there.”

CIA Director William Burns is in Qatar, meeting with other intelligence officials to advance negotiations with Hamas.

Additionally, the U.N. Security Council is expected to vote today on a U.S.-sponsored resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and condemning Hamas’ attack on Israel.

Congress racing to approve $1.2 trillion spending package to avert shutdown

Congress is working quickly to pass a $1.2 trillion spending package to prevent a partial government shutdown before Friday night’s deadline. This package combines six spending bills, primarily focusing on defense.

The bill includes a 5.2% pay raise for service members and allocates funds to the Department of Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, among other departments.

The House must pass the $1.2 trillion spending package with a two-thirds vote. In the Senate, unanimous consent from all 100 senators is required for swift passage. Any dissent could potentially slow the process and delay the package’s approval.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said he expects the bill to pass.

Sen. Bob Menendez won’t seek reelection as a Democrat

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez will not seek reelection this year in New Jersey’s Democratic primary but is keeping the door open to an independent run, announced his office following a 14-count federal bribery indictment.

The indictment states that, in exchange for lavish gifts and hundreds of thousands of dollars, Menendez performed ‘official acts’ such as sharing ‘cabinet-level information’ with governments in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar, among others.

He has pleaded not guilty to all charges, claiming they have subjected him and his extensive public service of more than 25 years to “a cloud of suspicion.”

Menendez posted a nine-minute video to social media on Thursday, March 21.

“I know many of you are hurt and disappointed in me with the accusations I’m facing. Believe me, I am disappointed at the false accusations as well,” Menendez said. “All I can ask of you is to withhold judgment until justice takes place. Until then, I will continue to work my heart out each and every day, as I have for the past years, to fight for New Jersey, for you, your family, and a more prosperous, secure future.”

With Menendez stepping out of the Democratic primary, the race is expected to intensify. Democrats are bracing for a fierce primary battle between incumbent Congressman Andy Kim and Tammy Murphy. The state’s November election is anticipated to be highly competitive.

Department of Justice sues Campbell Soup over pollution at Ohio plant

The U.S. government has filed a lawsuit against the Campbell Soup Company, accusing the company of polluting a river that flows into Lake Erie.

According to the Justice Department, Campbell has been violating pollution limits at its northwestern Ohio plant since 2018. The pollutants identified in the water coming from Campbell’s plant include bacteria and E. coli.

The lawsuit was filed just hours after two environmental groups brought similar suits against the company. These suits seek to have the court fine Campbell for more than 5,000 violations and require the company to upgrade its plant’s wastewater treatment facility.

In response, Campbell issued a statement saying the company is taking the concerns very seriously and is acting to permanently resolve them.

FAA warns of total solar eclipse impacting air travel

In just over two weeks, 30 million Americans will have the opportunity to witness a total solar eclipse from their home states, as millions more are expected to travel across the country for the event. The Federal Aviation Administration issued a warning on Thursday, March 21, in anticipation of the April 8 eclipse.

In a bulletin titled “Special Air Traffic Procedures,” the FAA alerted travelers to potential disruptions to air travel before and after the eclipse. The agency warned of higher than normal traffic volumes and delays at airports along the eclipse’s path, including in cities like Cleveland, Dallas, and Indianapolis.

Fifteen states are located in what is known as the path of totality, where the moon completely blocks the sun for several minutes. However, every state will experience at least a partial solar eclipse.

For more information, look out for a special report on the total solar eclipse on in the coming days.

More than 2,000 brackets remain perfect after 16 games

With the first round of the men’s NCAA tournament underway, many fans are facing busted brackets this morning. However, not everyone is out of the running; some brackets remain perfect.

After 16 games, more than 2,000 brackets are still intact out of over 29 million entries across major online tournament challenges, including those hosted by the NCAA, ESPN, CBS, and Yahoo.

The NCAA noted that most brackets were busted after the first two games, with victories by No. 9 Michigan State and No. 11 Duquesne. The upset of No. 14 Oakland defeating No. 3 Kentucky eliminated even more brackets — 6.5 percent of participants had Kentucky winning the championship.

Despite the widespread bracket failures, fans have made more accurate predictions than last year, when only 787 brackets remained perfect after the first day.

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