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The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

UNDP says time to rebuild Ukraine is now

The Daily 202

A lunchtime newsletter featuring political analysis on the stories driving the day.

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 2018, a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School near Fort Lauderdale, Fla. He killed 17 people in what was the deadliest school shooting since the December 2012 rampage in Newtown, Conn.

The big idea

UNDP says time to rebuild Ukraine is now

Much of the news coverage of the war in Ukraine has focused on the debate over American and allied aid — what weapons to give to help Kyiv beat back Moscow’s forces, and what to withhold out of concerns about potential escalation.

But now, with the one-year anniversary of Russia’s expansion of the conflict looming at the end of next week, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Administrator Achim Steiner says the country’s survival also turns on short-term repairs and long-term reconstruction.

“Many people don’t realize that this is not just about tanks, weapons and grenades,” Steiner told The Daily 202 in an interview focused on Ukraine’s humanitarian needs ahead of the Feb. 24 benchmark date.

“It’s actually millions of people trying to survive in a war situation and part of what we, as the United Nations, do both in terms of humanitarian work, but also in terms of helping a country stay functional through government, through helping people to reestablish their livelihoods being able to return to the homes, is actually integral to helping Ukraine get through this extraordinary crisis in its history,” he said.

The devastation

Extraordinary crisis, indeed. Just look at some of the numbers UNDP provided:

  • Nearly 8 million people have fled to neighboring countries, while about 5.4 million people have become internally displaced.
  • Nearly 18 million Ukrainians, roughly 40 percent of the population, need emergency assistance.
  • Half of the country’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed, and some 12.5 million households and 400,000 businesses lack power for up to 10 hours per day.
  • Ukraine’s government assesses the cost of recovery at 600-750 billion euros.
  • Ukraine has become one of the world’s largest minefields. By some estimates, more than 160,000 square kilometers of the country — an area four times the size of Switzerland — may be mined.

“There is an extraordinary war taking place there, and its toll on people’s lives is actually extraordinarily brutal,” Steiner said. “And we could do something while even the conflict continues to try and reduce that suffering.”

UNDP has focused on issues like:

  • Helping the government keep up basic services.
  • Assess damage and support critical infrastructure repair.
  • Restore energy infrastructure, partly through the provision of generators.
  • Helping the government clear mines, unexploded ordnance, and debris.
  • Getting small businesses back on their feet.

“People want to try and make a living. They want to have their children go back to school,” Steiner said. “Nobody wants to stand at the end of a food line and collect only charity. These are the opportunities that we also see, in the midst of this conflict, in significant parts of the country, are able to sustain that economy to also invest in that early recovery.”

“What you do in the short term lays the foundation for long term recovery.”

Pressure for more success

Steiner’s comments came as my colleagues Yasmeen Abutaleb and John Hudson reported President Biden’s administration is heaping pressure on Ukraine to notch battlefield successes, worried that the flow of aid from America and its allies may dwindle.

“Despite promises to back Ukraine ‘as long as it takes,’ Biden officials say recent aid packages from Congress and America’s allies represent Kyiv’s best chance to decisively change the course of the war. Many conservatives in the Republican-led House have vowed to pull back support, and Europe’s long-term appetite for funding the war effort remains unclear,” they reported.

“‘We will continue to try to impress upon them that we can’t do anything and everything forever,’ said one senior administration official, referring to Ukraine’s leaders. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters, added that it was the administration’s ‘very strong view’ that it will be hard to keep getting the same level of security and economic assistance from Congress.”

Yasmeen and John report:

  • CIA director William Burns traveled to Ukraine in mid-January to brief President Volodymyr Zelensky on U.S. assessments of Russian military plans over the next few months.
  • A week later, deputy national security adviser Jon Finer, deputy secretary of state Wendy Sherman and undersecretary of defense Colin Kahl described “in blunt terms” how critical the next phase of the war is.
  • Vice President Harris, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas are heading to a major security summit in Germany this week.
  • President Biden is traveling to Poland next week for a speech and meetings on the first anniversary.

And the White House, Yasmeen and John reported, “is expected to announce another large military assistance package in the next week and the imposition of more sanctions on the Kremlin around the same time.”


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What’s happening now

Michigan State shooting

Citizen tip led police to gunman; all 3 killed were MSU students

A gunman killed three people and critically injured five others at Michigan State University on Monday night before fatally shooting himself, police said,” The Post reports.

The names of the victims will be released later Tuesday, police said. It was a caller’s tip that led law enforcement to the suspect, police added during a news conference Tuesday.”

The Post’s live updates on the situation are available here

Inflation eases again, but bringing prices further down will take work

Data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Tuesday morning showed prices rose 6.4 percent in January compared to the year before. That marked a slight step down from the 6.5 percent rate notched in December, and a drop from last summer’s peak of 9.1 percent. It was also the smallest 12-month increase since October 2021,” Rachel Siegel reports.

Nikki Haley announces she is running for president

Nikki Haley, who served as U.N. ambassador and governor of South Carolina, announced Tuesday that she is running for president, becoming the first major rival to officially challenge Donald Trump for the GOP nomination in 2024,” Dylan Wells reports.

Lunchtime reads from The Post

These women journalists were doing their jobs. That made them targets.

“The ordeal of [Gharida Farooqi], who covers politics and national news for News One in Pakistan, exemplifies a global epidemic of online harassment whose costs go well beyond the grief and humiliation suffered by its victims. The voices of thousands of women journalists worldwide have been muffled and, in some cases, stolen entirely as they struggle to conduct interviews, attend public events and keep their jobs in the face of relentless online smear campaigns," Taylor Lorenz reports.

Stories that might have been told — or perspectives that might have been shared — stay untold and unshared. The pattern of abuse is remarkably consistent, no matter the continent or country where the journalists operate.”

After Parkland: What we’ve learned tracking school shootings for 5 years

In the aftermath of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High massacre on Feb. 14, 2018, my colleague Steven Rich and I reported for the first time how many children in the United States had endured a shooting at a K-12 school since 1999, and the tally was far higher than what we expected: more than 187,000,” John Woodrow Cox writes.

“Now, just five years later, and despite a pandemic that closed many campuses for nearly a year, the number has exploded, climbing past 338,000.”

Teen girls ‘engulfed’ in violence and trauma, CDC finds

Nearly 1 in 3 high school girls reported in 2021 that they seriously considered suicide — up nearly 60 percent from a decade ago — according to new findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost 15 percent of teen girls said they were forced to have sex, an increase of 27 percent over two years and the first increase since the CDC began tracking it,” Donna St. George reports.

… and beyond

Democrats meddle again in a GOP primary, this time down-ballot

The Democrats are helping a far-right election denier who has become a pariah within her party in her race against a less extreme, but still election-denying, conservative. They hope that with a more vulnerable opponent, Democrats can win a seat held for decades by Republicans and deny the G.O.P. a veto-proof majority in the gerrymandered chamber,” the New York Times’s Reid J. Epstein reports.

‘We’ve failed mothers and kids so much:’ One year later, there’s no end in sight to the formula shortage

“The ongoing formula shortage, which peaked in May and June last year, has largely fallen out of public awareness. In-stock numbers have improved, and the country appears to have moved on to the next crisis. …Yet families in many parts of the country still report bare store shelves and limited options, particularly in rural communities with fewer retailers,” the 19th’s Chabeli Carrazana reports

  • “And starting next month, low-income families who rely on federal assistance to pay for formula will have even fewer options as waivers enacted during the height of the crisis begin to expire.

The Biden agenda

Biden picks Lael Brainard, top Fed official, to run economic team

Biden will appoint Lael Brainard, a top official at the Federal Reserve, to lead the White House economic team as director of the National Economic Council, according to two people familiar with the matter. He will also name Jared Bernstein, who serves as a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and was Biden’s top economics aide during the Obama administration, as that group’s chair, according to two people familiar with that decision,” Jeff Stein and Tyler Pager report.

Biden fires architect of the Capitol after Trump appointee criticized

President Biden has fired architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton, an appointee of former president Donald Trump who faced calls to resign from Republicans and Democrats after an inspector general report found ethical and administrative violations,” John Wagner and Mariana Alfaro report.

Biden to award Medal of Honor to Black Vietnam War vet who’s waited decades

The White House said Biden called retired U.S. Army Col. Paris Davis on Monday to inform him that his 'remarkable heroism during the Vietnam War’ will finally be celebrated, decades after the military lost paperwork documenting his nomination,” Alfaro reports.

The spike in gun violence at schools, visualized

For reasons that researchers are still trying to understand, gun violence soared during the pandemic, a trend that spilled onto K-12 campuses when many of them reopened in the spring of 2021,” Cox and Rich report.

  • By nearly every meaningful measure, 2022 was the worst year of school shootings in history. Across 46 acts of violence during school hours, 34 students and adults died while more than 43,000 children were exposed to gunfire at the places they go to learn and grow.”

Hot on the left

Chemical desolation in Appalachia

“In the village of East Palestine, on a late Friday evening, a Norfolk Southern freight train derailed on the Ohio side of the Pennsylvania border, causing tanker cars to rupture and catch fire, releasing thousands of tons of hazardous chemical compounds into the surrounding land and atmosphere,” Jarod Facundo writes for the American Prospect.

“In a private Facebook group, East Palestine residents have shared anecdotes of continued lung irritation, headaches, and more. Over the weekend, several residents posted images of their children suffering from rashes spread along their arms and faces. Others have described their homes as covered in residue, even after cleaning services were hired, suggesting that despite the notice that it was safe to return, residue from the accident remains in the air. Inside the group, they are urging each other to keep meticulous documentation for any future action against Norfolk Southern.”

Hot on the right

The grapple for the gavel

Inside the fight to deny Kevin McCarthy the speakership.

The battle over how Republicans would govern in the House was brewing for a long time—long before the 2022 midterm elections. During a recent appearance on American Moment’s Moment of Truth podcast, Congressman [Dan] Bishop [R-N.C.] said that the House Freedom Caucus started discussing potential procedural changes for the House as early as May of 2022,” Bradley Devlin writes for the American Conservative

Today in Washington

At 12:45 p.m., Biden will leave the White House for the Washington Hilton, where he will address the National Association of Counties at 1:15 p.m.

In closing

💕 Make your own (political) Valentine’s Day card 💕

From Agnes Lee, Emily Wright, Stephanie Hays and Aadit Tambe: Forget to grab a Valentine’s card for your political junkie partner? We’re not here to judge. We’re here to help. Just pick a color and your favorite message, and we’ll make you a card that brings a smile to even the grumpiest Valentine.

Thanks for reading. See you tomorrow.