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 28, 2021
Progressives frowned while Democrats and Republicans exulted as President Joe Biden signed the highest defense bill ever into law. Omicron continues to blaze its way around the globe wreaking havoc in its path. More extreme weather hit the West Coast, bringing record snow, high winds and low temperatures. And a new study from the National Institutes of Health has mapped the coronavirus throughout the human body, where it can hide out for months. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Through the Roof
US Military spending reaches a new high as Biden signs bill into law
President Joe Biden signed a $770 billion defense bill on Monday in a rare case of across-the-aisle agreement. The bill marks the country’s highest military spending increase, exceeding former President Donald Trump’s recent peak of $740 billion. Progressives, who voted against the bill, would rather have seen the funds spent domestically, citing that it exceeds Biden's Build Back Better plan — defeated by Sen. Joe Manchin over deficit worries — by four times. Wins for Democrats include an overhaul in the military's handling of sexual assault cases and Republicans cheered a provision that bars dishonorable discharge for refusing COVID vaccines. (Sources: Aljazeera, Politico, NYT)
2 - New Year, Old News
Omicron variant puts the pause on celebrations and travel worldwide
Omicron continued its global shakeup of life and livelihoods around the world, as a winter surge caused economists to downgrade American and global growth forecasts for early 2022. Air travel in the U.S. and abroad saw more airlines scrapping flights Monday, bringing the holiday total to 8,000 grounded flights globally. Meanwhile, leaders in Europe weigh new limits as New Year’s celebrations approach, with France announcing Monday that office workers must work from home at least three days of the week. But the U.K. will not impose further restrictions, though England and Scotland reported their highest case numbers yet over the Christmas holidays. (Sources: WSJ,France24,BBC)
3 - From Fire to Ice
Fierce winter storm dumps up to 16 feet of snow on the West Coast
While extreme weather is the new normal, the West Coast is suffering whiplash as raging fires turn to record low temperatures, snow and torrential rains. Heavy mountain snows, stretching from Canada to the Mexican border, brought 100-mile-an-hour wind gusts and dangerously cold temperatures in normally temperate Portland after a summer of record highs. The Weather Service warned people to stay indoors, but said when outdoors to “remember to dress in layers and cover exposed skin.” Wintery weather dumped a record 16 feet of snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, and clocked temperatures as low as 55 below zero in Montana. (Source: WaPo, The Guardian)
4 - Deadly Damage
NIH study confirms long-term, system-wide effects of coronavirus infection
Though COVID fatigue is very real, don't relax your guard just yet. A new study by scientists at the NIH confirmed that the coronavirus can spread from the respiratory tract to most other organs in the body, like the heart and brain, and stay there for months. The finding may help researchers understand what's now known as “long COVID-19,” a multitude of long-term conditions — including neurological damage — documented in some survivors of the virus. Scientists found the virus along multiple organ systems, even in people with mild cases, as long as 230 days after the onset of symptoms. (Sources:The Hill,Scientific American,NYT)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Elizabeth Holmes jury enters fourth day of deliberations. No verdict yet, as Holmes faces up to 20 years in prison after her four-month trial for fraud involving her blood-testing company Theranos.(Source: NYT); Nuclear talks resume in Vienna over agreement scuttled in 2018. Five nations have joined the latest round of talks to restore the 2015 agreement after former President Donald Trump withdrew from the deal.(Source: AP); Disney cartoons enter the hallowed halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The show, titled Inspiring Walt Disney: The Animation of French Decorative Art, puts some 150 Disney works from classic films on display. (Source:NYT)
Watch Elizabeth Nyamayaro
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1 - Time is Running Out
Straight-talking climate activist decodes the failures of COP26
Greta Thunberg may be 18, but for this seasoned activist being young never kept her from speaking truth to power. And she’s not stopping now. Calling the recent COP26 a “failure” she notes that the “f-word” — fossil fuels — was included in the talks for the first time, though they are the leading cause of climate change. Thunberg insists people can mobilize to “go out on the streets and demand change,” since politicians have proven largely impotent in the face of the crisis. When it comes to climate justice, Thunberg says, taking care of our planet means taking care “of each other.” (Source: WaPo)
2 - Food Choices Have Huge Impact
A new study confirms you are what you eat — and so is the planet
A new study published in Nature Food shows that seemingly minor shifts in our food choices can have major health benefits for both us and the planet. Looking at the nutritional makeup of nearly 6,000 foods, the study calculated that foods like hot dogs could cost us about 35 minutes of life, while most fruits gain us a few extra minutes. The same with the planet: Cut foods like red or processed meats with a high health cost and we also lower greenhouse gas emissions, waste and deforestation from cattle. “Small changes can make big impacts,” said study researcher Michael Clark. (Source: National Geographic)
3 - Royal Scare
Windsor Castle grounds breached by armed intruder on Christmas Day
Scary videos emerged on social media of an armed masked man saying he wants to “assassinate the queen.” Scarier still, the footage is being linked to an intruder who managed to breach the security walls of Windsor Castle on Christmas Day, where Queen Elizabeth was celebrating the holiday with Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall. Armed with a crossbow, the 19-year-old man was caught “within moments” of entering the castle grounds. The man is reported to have scaled a castle fence using a rope and ladder. He is being held by police under the Mental Health Act. (Sources: WaPo, Daily Mail)
4 - Push Back for Choice
The FDA makes groundbreaking decision to lift ban on abortion pill delivery
The FDA issued a monumental decision last week to lift a longstanding rule that says mifepristone — aka the abortion pill — must be distributed in person. The decision opens the door to obtaining the pills online, as restrictions on the procedure limit access to many U.S. women. The advocacy group Plan C, which provides information on its website for obtaining the pills by mail, has seen an increase of 88% in traffic over the last few months, with 25% of that from the state of Texas, where the country’s strictest abortion laws were recently upheld. (Source: Ms)
5 - Hobbled But Undaunted
COVID dominates sports headlines as athletes test positive in droves
Olympic champion and U.S. star skier Mikaela Shiffrin announced a positive COVID test on Monday, forcing her to cancel World Cup races this week in Austria and complicating her upcoming turn in the Beijing Winter Olympics. In the NFL, Indianapolis Colts coach Frank Reich announced six more players had tested positive for the virus, severely thinning the team’s ranks. The NHL, which had suspended all play for six days over the holidays, will resume on Tuesday night, as Tampa Bay prepares to play Montreal, both teams minus their goalies — who tested positive for the virus. (Sources: NYT, AP )
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