Putin’s annual press conference returns and Draymond Green suspended: Morning Rundown

Biden’s criticisms of Israel don’t match his actions. Putin appears ”buoyant” in his first annual press conference since invading Ukraine. And lead poisoning in dozens of children exposes a gap in federal regulations. Here’s what to know today.

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The mismatch between Biden’s words and actions on Israel

President Joe Biden’s tough criticism this week of Israel’s government follows calls to rein in the country’s assault on Gaza. Global support for Israel is souring because of its “indiscriminate bombing,” he claimed at a fundraising event. In saying that, Biden seemed to signal that his patience was also running out.

But Biden’s actions have so far not matched his harsher tone. He hasn’t imposed conditions on the military aid that the U.S. sends to Israel, and he hasn’t demanded a cease-fire or an end date to the war. Just this week, he bypassed Congress and expedited the sale of tank ammunition to Israel. 

With pressure growing by the day and dissent spreading through the White House, Biden’s hands-off approach could soon become untenable.

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More on the Israel-Hamas war

  • Another significant divide is emerging between the U.S. and Israel, with a senior Israeli diplomat saying the country “absolutely” would not accept a two-state solution following the war. This runs counter to longstanding U.S. policy objectives in the region, as well as recent Biden comments. Follow our live blog for the latest.
  • In a tent city near Gaza’s border with Egypt, desperation is running high. A 15-year-old girl wondered whether it would be better to die “instead of living this black life.”
  • Videos circulating of soldiers breaking children’s toys and setting fire to items at a candy factory in the Gaza Strip — actions the IDF called “inappropriate” — is raising questions over the Israeli military’s conduct

Putin appearsbuoyant’’ in annual press conference 

For the first time since he ordered the invasion of Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin is facing the Russian public and media in a year-end press conference. The Russian president has held a video conference where regular Russian citizens could come to him with personal requests and complaints for years. Separately, he’s held a year-end, often hours-long news conference with members of domestic and foreign media.

The Russian leader skipped both events last year as his army waged war in neighboring Ukraine, but it appears he is now ready to address a number of pressing issues — his endgame in Ukraine, the state of the heavily-sanctioned Russian economy, the country’s nuclear ambitions and his vision for Russia’s future.

NBC’s Keir Simmons, who is attending the press conference in Moscow, says Putin appeared buoyant and confident as he claimed his endgame in Ukraine has not changed, and said he wants to re-build relations with the United States. 

Why there aren’t more limits on lead in baby food

As of this week, at least 65 children, all younger than 6, were reported to have lead poisoning after eating now-recalled pouches of cinnamon apple puree and cinnamon applesauce. While the U.S. government doesn’t broadly limit lead levels in food, experts say it’s a blind spot that is becoming more apparent.

Efforts to set guidelines to limit lead exposure go as far back as the 1980s. However, it wasn’t until last year that the FDA introduced limits for levels of lead in apple juice, juice blend drinks and candy made with sugar. The organization is currently working to set limits in baby food, but those guidelines aren’t expected for another few years. Even with new rules, some experts fear limits won’t be low enough.

House GOP authorizes Biden impeachment inquiry after Hunter Biden skips closed-door subpoena

For House Republicans looking to advance the impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden, the day went about as expected, albeit with an unexpected twist in the morning. Yesterday afternoon, all 221 Republicans voted in favor of authorizing the impeachment inquiry (all 212 Democrats voted no). Before the vote, Republicans were confident they had the votes they needed. 

Hunter Biden, President Joe Biden’s son, speaks at the Capitol on Wednesday.Drew Angerer / Getty Images

But earlier in the day, when Republicans had hoped to depose Hunter Biden behind closed doors, the president’s son instead appeared at a news conference outside of the Capitol, where he offered to testify in a public hearing. He admitted to being “extremely irresponsible” with his finances during an addiction, “but to suggest that is grounds for an impeachment inquiry is beyond the absurd,” he said. “It’s shameless.” Read the full story here.

Guyana’s president calls Venezuelan President Maduro an ‘outlaw’ in escalating border dispute

A day before their scheduled meeting, Guyanese President Mohamed Irfaan Ali called Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro an “outlaw” who is “acting recklessly” in trying to wrest oil-rich land from Guyana. Ali’s comments during an interview with NBC News’ Tom Llamas come after the United Nation’s International Court of Justice ordered Venezuela to refrain from changes to the status quo in the Essequibo region of Guyana. The two nations have been moving forces to their shared border as Venezuela threatens to defy the order. Watch the exclusive interview here.

Trump’s presidential immunity appeal expedited

A federal court will take up an expedited appeal in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump, which Trump’s team argues should be dismissed on presidential immunity grounds. The decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals of the District Court of Columbia Circuit to take up the appeal threatens to push back the trial’s start date, currently scheduled for early March.

Special counsel Jack Smith had previously filed a motion to expedite appeals court proceedings that he said “will avoid undue delay.” Trump’s lawyers shot back at the motion — unsuccessfully, it would turn out — and compared Smith to the Grinch because of deadlines that would require attorneys and staff “to work round-the-clock through the holidays.”   

Hours earlier, U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is presiding over the federal election interference case against Trump, halted all proceedings in the criminal case pending the outcome of the appeal. 

Today’s Talker: Draymond Green’s swipe at an opponent resulted in…

…an indefinite NBA suspension. The league announced the punishment of the Golden State Warriors power forward a day after Green struck Phoenix Suns center Jusuf Nurkić in the face during a game, leading to his 18th ejection of his career. To get back on the court, Green will have to meet some “league and team conditions.”

Politics in Brief 

National defense bill: The Senate passed a defense policy bill that authorizes the biggest pay raise for troops in more than two decades. Most notably, it does not include language blocking the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy and restricting gender-affirming health care.

Foreign aid fight: A flurry of activity in the past day injected some fresh hope into Senate immigration negotiations, key lawmakers and sources with knowledge of the talks said, but they warned there is not yet an agreement. To pass the bill, which includes aid for Israel and Ukraine, Democratic lawmakers and the White House may be considering expanding migrant detention and deportation, a move that immigration advocates said would be like “Title 42 on Steroids.” DHS officials had a more dire warning about the policy considerations, saying they “would break the border.”

Abortion pill fight: The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments early next year in a high-stakes legal battle over the drug used for medication abortions, with a ruling due by the end of June. The ruling could lead to a decision on whether the drug will continue to be easily available. 

Staff Pick: From unmarketable to ‘transcendental’

After agreeing to a record-breaking $700 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Shohei Ohtani has suddenly become the world’s most famous baseball player. So what does it mean that the best-known practitioner of America’s pastime is not American and doesn’t speak English in public? We take a closer look at Ohtani’s allure both on and off the field. — David K. Li, senior breaking news reporter

News. Culture. The stories we’re talking about across our communities. Sign up for our newsletter from NBC Asian America. 

In Case You Missed It

  •  Brett Hankison, the ex-Kentucky police officer accused of violating Breonna Taylor’s civil rights in the 2020 apartment raid that led to her death, will be retried. A jury deadlocked in his first trial.
  • A man held in connection with the fatal stabbing of Detroit synagogue leader Samantha Woll was charged with murder.
  • A fact-checking feature on Instagram meant to give users more control over how content appears their feeds is sparking backlash and speculation.
  • A couple who appeared on the reality TV show “Below Deck” are accused of stealing the identities of other cast members to obtain oxycodone.
  • A 10-year-old Black child in Mississippi who urinated in public was sentenced to three months’ probation, a decision the child’s attorney says was influenced by race.
  • Country star Luke Combs issued a public apology to a Florida woman hit with a $250,000 copyright fine and promised to pay her back double the money that was frozen in the legal action.

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

The Select team’s first-ever Best of Giftable Tech Awards comes after months of testing portable speakers, earbuds, travel accessories and more. See which gift-worthy gadgets made the list.

Sign up to The Selection newsletter for exclusive reviews and shopping content from NBC Select.

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