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Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whose new book “Facts and Fears” is out now, told me in our interview last week that Russia presents the most urgent national security threat to the U.S., and China the biggest long-term threat.

The big picture: Clapper says Russia is “bent on undermining our system any way they can” and will be as long as Vladimir Putin remains in power, while China's "economic power" and "scientific and technical prowess" present big long-term challenges.

Russia
  • “They want to exploit our schisms and the polarization in this country and unfortunately we are a ripe target. It starts with Putin, who has intense animus for this country and the values it stands for."
  • "They're waging this sort of soft war against us, and the other dimension that nobody pays too much attention to is their strategic nuclear weapons arsenal modernization."
  • "They're doing all this with one adversary in mind — the United States. So Russia, in my mind, poses a huge threat to this country and we should pay a lot more attention to it, starting with the president."
China
  • They are very committed to what they're doing in areas like artificial intelligence, genetic engineering, quantum computing. And I'm not sure we're keeping up."
  • "And they too have embarked on a very aggressive, impressive and scary military modernization strategy, which is keyed exactly to what they believe are our strengths."

Worth noting: I also asked Clapper about a man he worked directly with for years and who features fairly prominently in his book: Michael Flynn. Clapper saluted Flynn’s military service and noted that he had supported his appointment as director of the Defense Intelligence Agency before playing a role in removing him from that post.

"I think it ate at him that he was terminated early and retired early, and I think he became an angry man. He was trying to reach out to several Republican candidates and latched onto Trump — and the rest was history."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

Updated 27 mins ago - Health

2 federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates

President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

58 mins ago - World

Honduras elects first female president

Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro, of the Libertad y Refundacion (Libre) Party, in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, on Sunday. Photo: Inti Ocon/Getty Images

Former Honduras first lady Xiomara Castro is set to become the country's first female president president, after the ruling party conceded defeat in the country's elections on Tuesday night, per AP.

Why it matters: The democratic socialist and her Libre Party have broken a 12-year run for the conservative National Party, which U.S. prosecutors alleged fostered a "narco-state," note Axios' Latinos' Marina E. Franco and Russell Contreras.

Food delivery "ghost kitchens" face major obstacles

Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The growing popularity of food delivery has given rise to startups that open "ghost kitchens" — kitchens in warehouses or trailers that prepare food solely for delivery and have no option to dine in.

  • But they can come with a whole host of problems.

The big picture: The concept of "ghost kitchens" has been dubbed the next big thing in the future of services, with high profile backers like Uber founder Travis Kalanick. But these kitchens can be hard to run or unsafe.