Escalation in the Red Sea

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Middle East

Plus: Inheritance taxes, lady gadgets, a stabbing in South Korea, and more…

Liz Wolfe |

Yemeni Houthis | Osamah Yahya/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom

(Osamah Yahya/ZUMAPRESS/Newscom)

U.S. Navy sinks three Houthi boats: Starting in October, the Houthis—a group of Iran-backed Yemeni militants—staged a series of attacks on commercial ships in the Red Sea. This past weekend, the situation got out of control: Houthis attacked a container ship, the Maersk Hangzhou, and U.S.S. Eisenhower carrier group helicopters responded to the distress call. Houthis started shooting, and the American helicopters responded, sinking three of the four Houthi boats and killing at least 10 people who were on board.

Iran claims it was not behind the attacks, but “ten days ago, the [Biden] administration declassified intelligence indicating that Iranian paramilitary groups were coordinating the Houthi attacks, providing targeting information about commercial shipping passing through the waterway and the Suez Canal.”

Now the administration “must decide whether to strike Houthi missile and drone sites in Yemen, or wait to see whether the Houthis back off after the sinking of three of their fast boats and the deaths of their fighters,” according to senior officials who spoke with The New York Times.

Yahya Saree, a Houthi spokesperson, said the Arab world ought to be “ready for all options in confronting the American escalation.”

“The American enemy bears the consequences of this crime,” said the Houthis, and no U.S. Navy actions can prevent the militants from “performing their religious, moral and humanitarian duty in support and aid of those who have been wronged in Palestine and Gaza.”

“If attacks by Iran’s proxies against U.S. forces continue, we will not hesitate to take further necessary measures to protect our people,” said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin back in October. Now, the U.S. is weighing how to handle the growing threat posed by the Houthis—as well as how to ensure safe passage for ships that must traverse the Red Sea, which is an essential route for about 12 percent of global commerce.

Scenes from New York:  

Many migrants entering from the southern border will now suffer a terrible fate—landing in New Jersey.

Over the weekend, more than a dozen buses originally supposed to end up in New York instead dropped migrants off in New Jersey. Officials in the state say this is a direct result of a new emergency order recently issued by New York City Mayor Eric Adams, which “requir[es] charter bus companies to provide 32 hours’ advance notice of the arrival of migrants and restrict[s] the times of day when they can be dropped off,” per The New York Times. The buses were sent by Texas officials intent on forcing other states to share in the burdens imposed by the migrant crisis and/or galvanize political will against letting more migrants in.

The migrants continued on to New York City from their Jersey bus depots. Adams’ attempt to impose order is in response to an untenable situation in which buses are chaotically dropping migrants off at Port Authority without notice, and the fact that the city has handled 161,500 asylum seekers since spring 2022, nearly 70,000 of whom continue to be provided housing or other social services paid for by taxpayers.


  • The keffiyeh brigades continue to try to thwart regular people’s travel plans.
  • AI applications: Finding an entirely new class of antibiotics that can help remedy infections caused by drug-resistant bacteria.
  • AI trouble: The New York Times is suing OpenAI, which makes ChatGPT, in what TechDirt‘s Mike Masnick describes as a very weak lawsuit that misunderstands many copyright law basics. “This rush of plaintiffs is hoping that maybe judges will be wowed by this newfangled ‘generative AI’ technology into ignoring the basics of copyright law and pretending that there are now rights that simply do not exist,” writes Masnick. (Disclosure: My husband works for OpenAI.)
  • Yes:

Uber is incredible and its founders are rightfully billionaires

— Chris Freiman (@cafreiman) January 1, 2024

  • Utterly absurd inheritance tax discourse popped up over the holiday:

I don’t understand why there is always an appeal to “fairness” when we discuss taking someone’s lifetime of earned money and giving it to someone else they didn’t want to give it to.

— fedaykin reepicheep (@dumbreepicheep) December 25, 2023

  • Good reading from The Atlantic‘s Amanda Mull on the Dyson Airwrap and how we’ve entered the golden age of lady gadgets.
  • Migrant-plane controversy heats up again:

Once again I am asking our 4th Estate to explain how they are “from Texas”

— David Burge (@iowahawkblog) January 1, 2024

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