Start your day smarter with a dossier on the most important world news, rounded off with a shot of intriguing and offbeat stories. Like the president, you deserve no less.
Dec 23, 2021
The FDA approved the use of Pfizer’s Paxlovid yesterday, the world's first anti-COVID treatment in pill form. Millions carrying student loan debt breathed a sigh of relief as the Biden administration extended its popular moratorium on student loan payments by 90 days. Early studies out of the U.K. and South Africa show a 30% to 70% reduction in hospitalizations due to omicron compared with earlier waves of the variant. And the House select committee investigating the January 6 riots has tapped Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio for questioning in his possible role in the attacks. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Bring It on Home
Groundbreaking pill makes COVID-19 treatment a lot easier
The FDA gave the green light yesterday to Pfizer’s new drug Paxlovid. Taken orally in pill form after infection with the virus, the drug has shown only mild side effects and a 90% reduction in hospitalizations and deaths for patients most at risk. The FDA emphasized that the drug is not meant to replace the vaccine, but will be prescribed for home use to stave off the worst symptoms in the unvaccinated. The pill has been authorized for people aged 12 and up who are symptomatic, have tested positive for the virus and face a high risk of hospitalization. (Source: AP)
2 - A Welcome Reprieve
Biden extends deadline for student loan payments from January to May
The millions with lingering student loan debt breathed a temporary sigh of relief yesterday as the popular moratorium on student loan payments was extended from Jan. 31 to May 1. Reversing its previous stance, the Biden administration cited the worsening pandemic and a period for those hardest hit to benefit from a recovering economy as reason enough to delay the resumption of payments. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren released a statement approving of the move, but encouraged President Biden to go further and cancel $50,000 in student debt to “help close the wealth gap.” (Source: Axios)
3 - A Ray of Hope
Studies suggest omicron is more contagious but less intense
Early studies out of the U.K. and South Africa, both hard hit by omicron, show a 30% to 70% reduction in hospitalizations compared with earlier waves of the variant. The news comes after countries everywhere have been bowled over by the speed at which omicron seems to spread. Though news of the newer variant’s milder symptoms in healthy individuals is hopeful, its high case numbers could still overwhelm hospitals. Once hospitalized, patients with omicron generally show the same outcomes as patients with other variants, according to the South African study. Neither study focused on elderly or at-risk individuals. (Source: BBC)
4 - Next at Bat
Representative Jim Jordan is the latest called to testify for House committee
The House select committee investigating the January 6 riots has asked Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio to voluntarily share information on the events leading up to the attack on the nation’s Capitol. Documents show Jordan, a staunch ally of former President Donald Trump, was in communication with the president during the insurrection. Jordan maintains he’s been “straightforward all along,” and has threatened political retribution for anyone targeting GOP lawmakers if Republicans take back the house. The committee has requested information on all communications Jordan may have had with Trump and those in the Willard room preceding the riots. (Source: CNN)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell woos centrist Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin. McConnell said Manchin might feel less “like a man alone” if he switched to the Republican party. (Source: AP) Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon held at gunpoint in Philadelphia. The democrat from Pennsylvania was carjacked yesterday by two armed men in a Philadelphia park. (Source: NBC News)
Watch Ex-CIA Director John McLaughlin
As He Suspects Russian Interference at Capitol Hill Insurrection
1 - The Real Killer
Fentanyl is now the leading cause of death in Americans aged 18 to 45
The pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands of Americans since its start, but another deadly killer is racking up shocking numbers: fentanyl. The synthetic opioid, which can be 100 times stronger than morphine, has surpassed COVID, car accidents, gun violence and suicide as the leading killer of young Americans. Since 2020, 41,587 people have overdosed on the drug, which was first introduced as an adulterant or replacement for heroin. Fentanyl overdose has particularly skyrocketed during COVID, and now accounts for 64% of drug fatalities. Experts say the stress of the pandemic has pushed more people toward street drugs. (Sources: Families Against Fentanyl, USNews)
2 - Eyes on the Road!
Regulators investigate Tesla for video games on automobile touchscreens
It seems gaming and driving do mix, at least in a Tesla. Over 500,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with touchscreens that allow users to play games, as one Tesla driver — who reported the company as “recklessly negligent” — discovered. Although the feature, called Passenger Play, warns that the games are “only for passengers,” the U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration worries it could distract drivers, resulting in accidents. The NHTSA has launched an investigation into some 580,000 Teslas because it’s not all fun and games: In 2019 alone, 3,142 road deaths were caused by distracted drivers. (Source: BBC)
3 - Move Over Gold
Legos may be a more reliable investment than than the precious metal
Researchers at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow have stumbled upon an unusual statistic that will interest investors around the world: Select unopened Lego sets have an average annual return of 11% on the resale market. That’s a remarkably high number, beating out many stock indexes and even gold. Special-edition releases of pop culture-linked Lego sets often pull in the big bucks, but there are plenty of low-budget Lego artists who have made their own creations and sold the design to Lego for 1% of the royalties. Maybe it’s time to revisit your old collection… (Source: NPR)
4 - Time to Unplug
A new study shows smartphone overuse linked to rise in negative thinking
German researchers have found that more than 500 smartphone users aged 18 and up reported a reduced sense of control, more frequent negative thinking and the fear of missing out — or FOMO — correlating with increased smartphone use. Though the statistical analysis, performed over a month last spring, can’t prove causation, it does suggest an interdependent relationship between the phones, FOMO, feelings of helplessness and negative thoughts. The study also suggests that detaching from our phones and focusing on physical activity or mindfulness practices can reverse the negative trends linked with screen time. (Source: TheHill)
5 - Frozen in Time
The last American slave ship found buried in mud largely intact
The remarkably preserved wreck of the last U.S. slave ship, scuttled off the Alabama coastline in 1860, is the most “intact (slave ship) wreck ever discoverd,” said maritime archaeologist James Delgado. Researchers found that most of the schooner — called the Clotilda — is still intact, save for the upper portion, including the pen used to imprison African captives. The wreck offers a rare glimpse into the miserable physical conditions endured by its human cargo fewer than two hundred years ago. The ship was illegally running enslaved persons across the Atlantic well after the slave trade was outlawed in 1808. (Source: AP)
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