We made it to Friday and our first official edition of the Mo News newsletter. We've got a little bit of everything today, from the latest on the potential for war in Ukraine, the Olympics doping scandal, to the growing number of $1 million American cities. We cap it off with some suggestions on what to watch this weekend.
We'll keep trying new things as we go, so please let us know what you think.
Have a great weekend,
TENSIONS RISING OVER LAST 24 HOURS:
Shelling by Russia-backed separatists took place in eastern Ukraine. A kindergarten was among the buildings destroyed. REMINDER: Russian-backed separatists and Ukraine's military have been at conflict in this region for the last decade since the Russians annexed the Crimea region from Ukraine. However, the level of activity now seems to be more aggressive, and there's concern Russia could use it as a "false flag" event to invade the country. 60 percent of Russia's entire land force and a significant portion of its air force now surround Ukraine.
To that end, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken made a surprise appearance at the UN yesterday to lay out how Russia could justify war: "First, Russia plans to manufacture a pretext for its attack. This could be a violent event that Russia will blame on Ukraine or an outrageous accusation that Russia will level against the Ukrainian government."
Diplomacy continues. President Biden hosts a call today with the leaders of the EU, NATO, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Romania, Britain.
Diplomacy also fails. Yesterday, Russia expelled a senior US diplomat from Moscow. The US will likely retaliate.
President Biden warned again that the threat of war is "very high" and Russia could invade "any day," but sounded more specific on Thursday. Satellite images show a new Russian military bridge less than four miles from the Ukraine border. AXIOS
WHAT'S NEXT: All eyes are on what happens after Sunday, when Russia is set to wrap its biggest military exercise in decades. POLITICO
RED ROVER, RED ROVER, LET UKRAINE COME OVER: Russian President Putin sees Ukraine as an important buffer to his west as well as historically and culturally significant to Russia. Putin wants to ensure Ukraine doesn't become the latest former Soviet republic to join the western military alliance known as NATO. A reminder that Ukraine was offered NATO membership in 2008, they still want in but Putin is demanding they rescind the invitation. But, if you want to view the world through Putin's eyes, check out the line of bright blue countries on the map below. ALL of them were under Russian military occupation and/or political influence until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. ALL of them are now in NATO as the alliance has sought to help expand and bolster democracies.
BOTTOM LINE: Thomas Graham, who served as senior director for Russia under President George W. Bush, tells the New York Times: “The current crisis is really much broader than Ukraine... Ukraine is a leverage point but it is more about Poland, Romania and the Baltics. The Russians think it is time to revise the post-Cold War settlement in Europe in their favor.” The only question is how far will they go to create a new reality on the ground. NY TIMES
🏠 REAL ESTATE: $1,000,000 CITIES
THE MILLION DOLLAR CLUB: The average home price in nearly 500 cities across the U.S. is now over a million dollars. According to Zillow, a record 146 new U.S. cities became "million dollar" cities in 2021, the highest number of new entrants in a single year. (If this is what they meant by the "new normal," we're fine with the way things were.) ZILLOW
WHERE ARE THESE CITIES?: Or should we rephrase the question: "Where else can't we afford to live?" Not surprisingly, California, Massachusetts and New York have the most new cities with home values above $1 million. But Zillow points out, "the geography of wealth in the U.S. has begun to shift." Both Idaho (Sun Valley, Hayden Lake, Ketchum) and Montana (Garrison, Gallatin Gateway, West Glacier) now have three million-dollar cities each. And in case you're wondering, Indian Creek, Florida is the most expensive city in the country, with just 88 residents, including Tom Brady and Enrique Iglesias.
BEHIND THE RISE: The typical home jumped 19.6% in value last year, driven by low mortgage rates plus a shortage of available homes and tons of demand. And with Americans now focused on a work-life balance, many people no longer want to live Willy Wonka-style just for a short commute to the office. BLOOMBERG
WHAT'S NEXT: Let's just say, good luck millennials, and for that matter, Gen Zers. Zillow says 49 more cities are on pace to join the $1 million club in the next few months, and it expects home prices will spike another 16% this year, making for an even more competitive Spring housing market. However, if the Fed raises interest rates, as expected, mortgage rates will go up, potentially slowing down surging prices. FORTUNE
⛷ OLYMPICS WRAP
We're headed into the final two days of competition. Norway has the most golds and leads in overall medals. And the 'Russia, but not really Russia' team is not far behind in the overall count.
DOPING SCANDAL: Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva-- the gold medal favorite-- finished a shocking fourth in the women's final. The 15-year-old prodigy has been at the center of a doping scandal throughout the Beijing Olympics. In a controversial move, a committee ruled she could still compete, but the IOC said there would be no medal ceremony if she placed in the top three.
Valieva made several errors in her routine, momentarily hitting the ice twice. She choked back tears after the performance.
Fellow Russian skaters Anna Shcherbakova and Alexandra Trusova took gold and silver. Kaori Sakamoto of Japan won bronze. But it wasn't pretty for the winners either. The AP has it all: "'I hate this sport!’: Rage, teen tears and Olympic collapse"
"This is a moment where you genuinely have to say- that poor kid. She should not have ever been put in this position. She shouldn’t have been out on that ice, she shouldn’t have been put in a position where she became the face of a problem bigger than her." -- Ashley Wagner, 2016 World Silver Medalist
SPEAKING OF SCANDALS: Here are six that have rocked the Olympic games. (Looks like it's not an Olympics without a figure skating scandal.)
WOMEN'S HOCKEY: Canada beat USA in the women's ice hockey gold medal match, 3-2, reclaiming the gold after Team USA's win four years ago. NYTIMES
SLOPESKI: Team USA had a 1-2 punch atop the men's freeski slopestyle podium, with Alex Hall taking gold and Nick Geopper winning silver YAHOO SPORTS
FREESKI: Eileen Gu captured Olympic gold in the women's ski halfpipe final. Gu was born in America but is representing China, her mother's home country. ESPN
📈 CHART DU JOUR
Bottom line: 17% in the U.S. are satisfied with the direction of the country, a near 40-year low, while 85% are satisfied with the way things are going in their personal lives, a 40-year high, according to a Gallup poll. (So, clearly we're the only ones still sitting home watching Netflix on Saturday night?)
🗞 OTHER BIG HEADLINES
Authorities begin targeted arrests of protesters who have blockaded downtown Ottawa in demonstrations against Covid-19 mandates. (WSJ)
A New York judge shot down a family bid to block the state attorney general's subpoenas of the former president, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. (NBC NEWS)
A giant cargo ship believed to be carrying thousands of vehicles including 1,100 Porsches was on fire and drifting in the Atlantic Ocean after its crew was rescued. (NY TIMES)
The men convicted of murdering Arbery used racial slurs in text messages and social media posts, including some violent comments Black people. (NPR)
But the show that helped Spotify catapult into a leader for podcasts has also placed it at the center of the cultural storm that has long engulfed Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. (NY TIMES)
The news comes as season four of the series starring Rachel Brosnahan returns today... To say Maisel has been an important show for Amazon would be an understatement. At a time when the streamer was looking for a hit, the show delivered a win for outstanding comedy series and a prestigious Peabody Award. (Hollywood Reporter)
🎉 CHEERS TO THE FREAKIN' WEEKEND
What We're Eating: Alex's pistachio-encrusted lamb chops. They are a game changer and surprisingly easy to make. (@alsall on Instagram)
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