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.
Jan 12, 2022
President Biden gave a fiery speech in Atlanta yesterday in support of ending the filibuster in order to pass new voters’ rights legislation. The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, spoke to America’s inflation woes yesterday in his Senate confirmation hearing. COVID-19 continues to break records in the U.S., with no signs of slowing down. And Republicans in the House are gearing up to potentially retake the chamber this year. All this and more in today’s Presidential Daily Brief.
1 - Biden Strikes Back
The President gave an impassioned speech yesterday on voting rights
And, most importantly, he voiced support for getting rid of the filibuster in order to pass the two voting rights bills coming to the Senate. Both President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris, who also spoke at Tuesday’s event in Atlanta, used the opportunity to stress the importance of strong voting protections in the face of Republican efforts to disenfranchise citizens. Biden did not mince words when he put the question to the American people: “Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice?” Still, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema stand in the way of discarding the filibuster. (Sources: Axios, NYT)
Fed chairman Jerome Powell speaks to inflation fears in confirmation hearing
Inflation has been driving up the cost of everything from food to rent; and shows no sign of slowing down. Yesterday, Powell made it clear the Federal Reserve is ready to raise interest rates more than they’ve already projected, if it means keeping inflation under control. While some Democratic senators suggested that rate hikes could hurt employment, Powell countered that high inflation is already threatening the Fed’s goal of maximum employment. Powell has broad, bipartisan support in Congress and is expected to be easily confirmed for a second four-year term. (Sources: AP, NYT)
3 - A Bleak Record
COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S. have topped all previous peaks
145,982 people are currently hospitalized with COVID-19, which soundly beats the previous peak of around 142,000 set in January 2021, which was before any vaccines were widely available. Nationwide, hospitals are seeing it is still overwhelmingly those that are unvaccinated that are being hospitalized. And there’s no sign of this surge abating: right now, the U.S. is averaging over 700,000 cases a day. More of these cases are mild, though, partially because of how the omicron variant seems to act but also due to a high vaccination rate. Currently, an average of 1,600 Americans die of COVID every day. (Sources: TheHill, CNN)
4 - Impending Red Revenge
Kevin McCarthy promises retaliation if Republicans win House
The current House Minority Leader said he would take some of his Democratic colleagues off of important committee assignments if Republicans win a majority in the chamber this upcoming midterms season. He singled out three specific lawmakers: Representatives Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, and Ilhan Omar. This would be in response to what McCarthy calls the “new standard” Democrats created by removing Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar. Democrats removed Greene and Gosar over inflammatory and violent rhetoric and posts, whereas it’s unclear what reasoning McCarthy would use to dismiss the three Democrats. (Source: CNN)
5 - Briefly
Here are some things you should know about today:
Deadly Bronx blaze that killed 17 blamed on space heater. Tenants have lodged multiple complaints in the past over lack of heat. (Source: NBCNews) Dr. Anthony Fauci calls out Senator Rand Paul’s “personal attacks”. Dr. Fauci said during a Senate health hearing that he has received death threats because of Paul’s false claims. (Source: CNN) Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will seek another term as leader. McConnell has held the post since 2007. (Source: FoxNews)
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1 - Smart…Guns?
This year, two companies will rollout smart guns to U.S. markets
No, that doesn’t mean you can order food or FaceTime your family on a gun. What makes these guns smart is the cutting edge tech that can prevent unauthorized users from firing the weapon. LodeStar Works and SmartGunz LLC plan to make their respective smart handguns commercially available later this year. LodeStar’s model integrates a fingerprint reader, a phone app and a PIN pad, all of which can unlock the gun. SmartGunz’s model uses radio frequency identification. Many companies have attempted to develop smart guns but they’ve historically stalled due to push back from defenders of the 2nd Amendment, as well as hackers. (Source: NBCNews)
2 - A Poet for Change
The U.S. Mint has begun shipping out quarters featuring Maya Angelou
The legendary American poet and Civil Rights activist is being featured as part of the American Women Quarters Program. Under the program, the Mint will issue 20 quarters over the next four years, each of which will honor different historically important women and their contributions to the nation’s history. Angelou’s quarter depicts the author standing with open arms, backed by a flying bird and a rising sun. This year, you can look forward to quarters honoring Sally Ride, Wilma Mankiller, Nina Otero-Warren, and Anna May Wong. But don’t ask the Mint to put Harriet on the $20. They just do change. (Source: ABCNews)
An appeals court backed the firing of two former cops over a video game
The Los Angeles Police Department fired officers Louis Lozano and Eric Mitchell in 2017 for choosing to play Pokémon Go instead of responding to a nearby robbery. Instead of responding to a request for backup at a nearby Macy’s, the two spent 20 minutes in pursuit of a virtual reality “Snorlax”. The two disgraced ex-officers appealed their dismissal, arguing that the city broke the law by submitting footage from their police car’s internal video system as evidence. But an appeals court upheld their firing, as detailed in a 32-page decision. (Source: NPR)
4 - Robot Road Rage
Tesla will allow its customers to make their self-driving cars… rude
Tesla has released a new “Full Self-Driving” beta software that allows users to choose the level of aggression a car should use when driving itself. There are three options: Chill, Average or Assertive, each of which will determine how the car should handle different scenarios. Choosing Assertive will have your car swapping lanes more often, following other cars more closely and pulling a “rolling stop” at stop signs. It also means the car will try to travel exclusively in the left lane, which is not allowed on most highways. Critics say this shows Tesla is dangerously irresponsible with automated driving. (Source: Axios)
The Grand Ole Opry allowed Morgan Wallen to perform on its stage
That’s Morgan Wallen, the recently disgraced country singer who used a racial slur on camera. The Grand Ole Opry, considered country music’s most important venue, allowed Wallen to surprise fans at its regular Saturday broadcast show. Many big-name country performers pushed back against the move, given that the Opry is a mostly-white institution. Renowned up-and-coming singer Joy Oladokun embodied the sentiment when she tweeted “Morgan Wallen’s thoughtless redemption tour is the nail in the coffin of me realizing these systems, and this town is not really for us”. (Source: AP)
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