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December 10th, 2021: President Biden Speaks with Putin, an Omicron Variant Update, and Economic Forecasts for 2022

This week, Correspondent Paul Brandus shares his insights on President Biden's talk with his "frenemy" - Russia's Vladimir Putin, the rapidly spreading Omicron variant, and that you're likely to get a big raise in 2022. Our special guests this week include CIA veteran John Sipher, economist Diane Swonk, and Freedom House President Mike Abramowitz.

President Biden talks with his frenemy — Russia’s Vladimir Putin — I’ll talk with a former CIA officer who served in Moscow.

The Omicron variant — is spreading in the U-S — but there’s good news on the vaccine front.

And you could be in for a big raise next year -- how big? Stay tuned.

I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports— it’s Friday, December 10th.

The United States is worried that Russia COULD invade Ukraine. So worried that President Biden held a video call with Vladimir Putin this week.

Putin, of course, is the longtime Russian leader. He’s got a nasty background. His regime has been linked to the murder of political opponents — with attacks sometimes occurring in Western countries like Britain. His regime has been linked to the murder of journalists. He has spoken of nuclear war with the West, propped up dictators like Syria’s Bashar Al-Assad and more. And he has attacked his neighbors before — Georgia and in 2014, parts of Ukraine itself.

Now, U-S intelligence officials think Putin could invade in force — with maybe 175-thousand troops in early 2022. President told us about their chat:

Given Putin’s track record, no one in Washington trusts him. That includes longtime CIA officer John Sipher — who served IN Moscow — and ran the CIA’s operations there.

With Putin, of course, it’s important to remember that you can take the man out of the KGB — but never the KGB out of the man.

The latest on the so-called “Omicron variant” — the Centers for Disease Control says cases have now been confirmed in at least 19 states. Meanwhile, a top epidemiologist in BRITAIN estimates that case loads are doubling every “three days or less.” A Japanese study says it’s four times more transmissible than the Delta variant.

But even though it appears to be spreading rapidly, the CEO of Pfizer — the pharmaceutical giant — says the Omicron variant appears to be milder than previous strains — but he warns it could lead to still more mutations in the future. Pfizer also says a third dose of its Covid-19 vaccine neutralized the Omicron variant in lab tests. All the more reason to get not just with your shots — but your booster shot as well. It seems that people ARE heeding the call — the federal officials said this week that more than 200 million Americans — over 60 percent of the population — have now been fully vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Help wanted — everywhere. The Labor Department says there were 11 million job openings across the U-S — as of October 31st. 11 million. With all these openings, it’s no surprise that layoffs are nearly non-existent — employers are going the extra mile to hang on to their workers — and that means you’re likely to get a pretty good raise next year. Diane Swonk is chief economist at Grant Thornton.

Beyond so many covid deaths, the work force has also been depleted by two other things — the booming stock and real estate markets have allowed a lot of older people to retire. Then there is the sharp drop in LEGAL immigration:

Democracy is on the decline around the world — a report by Freedom House says it has been slipping for 15 years. That decline — by the way, includes democracy here in the United States. President Biden held a virtual conference this week — with leaders from some 110 countries:

Biden cited that Freedom House report — so I called its president — Michael Abramowitz — who says reversing democracy’s decline cannot be done easily:

My thanks to Michael Abramowitz — president of Freedom House here in Washington.

In a minute — I’ll open up the West Wing Report archives — but first —

lets hear about ANOTHER Evergreen podcast — that I know you'll enjoy”

Welcome back — I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports — from Washington. Now let’s open up the West Wing Reports archives — and take a look at what made history this week in the past:

1796: John Adams was declared the winner of the presidential election — with Thomas Jefferson becoming VP. The election, held from Nov. 4 to Dec. 7, was the first contested presidential election and the only one in which a President and Vice President were elected from opposing tickets.

1865: Slavery was abolished — thanks to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln, assassinated eight months earlier, would have been gratified. He had come to the conclusion early in his presidency that a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery was necessary.

And 1941:

That’s Franklin D. Roosevelt — the day after the event that thrust America into World War II. The president went on to say:

By the way — the vote to declare war on Japan was 82–to nothing in the Senate and 388–to-one in the House. Montana's Jeannette Rankin, a pacifist and the first woman elected to Congress (in 1916), cast the only vote against the declaration - as she did ahead of World War I — a quarter-century earlier.

Want more history? Check out my books on Amazon — I’ll sign ‘em for you too — just shoot me an email: [email protected]

That’s p-b-r-a-n-d-u-s. @evergreen And need a speaker for your event? I do that too — current events, economics, analysis — history — I connect the dots — would love to hear from you.

By the way, I have an app too — West Wing Reports — available everywhere — download it on your phone — there’s a button called “What’s on your mind?” Just push, talk and send. And the question I have for you: “How do you rate President Biden's performance so far?" He’s been in office nearly a year — how’s he doing? Again — just push talk and send.

I like to end each week with a quote — something you might find thoughtful: This week: it’s from Robert Dole — the longtime senator from Kansas — World War II hero — and 1996 nominee for president. He died this week at age 98.

Just two weeks ago — he wrote an opinion piece for my paper — USA Today — and here’s what he said — this is really good:

"Too many of us have sacrificed too much in defending freedom from foreign adversaries to allow our democracy to crumble under a state of infighting that grows more unacceptable by the day.”

So true — Americans need to realize that we’re tearing ourselves apart — it’s a great gift for adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea — they love it when we fight among ourselves.

Think about it.

That’s all for this week.

West Wing Reports is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.

Special thanks to CSPAN and the National Archives for the audio clips.

Our producer and sound designer and engineer: Noah Foutz

Executive producers: Michael D’Aleoia and Gerardo Orlando.

I’m Paul Brandus — thanks for listening — see you next week

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