Welcome to The Weekender, where new mask guidance released this week makes life feel a little more normal (minus the plastic bags filled with gasoline incident
). Also dominating headlines are cybersecurity threats and the push for more national infrastructure protections. Plus: the cost of food, flights, homes, and gas has spiked, causing concern over inflation in the U.S. And finally: GOP leaders oust Cheney and stir another “cancel culture” debate. Check out these stories and more below… and thanks for joining us.
P.S. POLITICO Playbook
featured one of our new hires this week, former ACT Communications Director Jillian Newhard
. If you missed it, you can catch it here and learn more about Newhard’s addition on our website
THE BIG FIVE
U.S. pipeline cyberattack is a wake-up call for the nation. Americans from at least 11 states and Washington, D.C., are rushing to the gas stations to fill up after experiencing gas shortages due to a ransomware attack on a critical pipeline running from New York to Texas. The Department of Transportation’s Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration issued a regional emergency declaration this week as gasoline demand increased by almost 15 percent compared to last week. The attack has exposed critical vulnerabilities in our nation’s critical infrastructure, impacting large regions of the country and posing significant threats to nationwide energy operations. The incident reveals the United States’ dire need to increase cybersecurity protections – and is a wake-up call that ransomware is here to stay as the preferred method of attack. Many power plants, refineries, and machines that control our nation’s infrastructure are revisiting their existing protections against future attacks. Stopping ransomware attacks will require sophisticated and complex coordination between private and public sectors in dozens—if not hundreds—of countries. On Wednesday, President Biden signed an executive order that aims to create a standardized playbook for responding to “cyber incidents.” Being prepared for what could become a global ransomware pandemic is the new normal, and no part of our infrastructure is exempt. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.
Innovation in the healthcare industry is a priority thanks to Covid-19.
With the success of vaccinations, the country is back on a more regular track after a year of lockdowns and restrictions, which begs the question: how did the pandemic impact the healthcare industry? Health policy experts are weighing in on what the healthcare industry has done to adapt and how Americans should receive healthcare coverage. Even after one of the most challenging years in our nation’s history, there is a renewed sense of optimism. The drastic changes last year have led to a spur in innovation, and leading insurers are finding new ways for patients to receive coverage. Enhancing access to telehealth has become a priority as well as new investments in other types of care. Data points on coverage are utilized to identify areas with lower vaccination rates, providing insight for targeted outreach campaigns. Many believe this trend will continue beyond the pandemic, increasing the flexibility and options for receiving care. Read more in NPR.
Biden administration approves the nation’s first major offshore wind farm.
The reemergence of the immigration debate and the citizenship question. The U.S. will soon see its first-ever major offshore wind farm, thanks to the Biden administration’s approval of the Vineyard Wind project, which is set to be located off the coast of Massachusetts. The announcement comes as Biden continues to push the administration’s broader agenda for clean energy development in the U.S. While the nation has seen an acceleration in onshore growth, America continues to lag behind European countries on the offshore side. Europe has 25 gigawatts (GW) while the U.S. has only 42 megawatts (MW) in its current offshore capacity, totaling just 4.2 percent of Europe’s offshore generating capacity. A successful boom in offshore wind development would be a significant milestone for the U.S. and generate more clean energy for generations to come. Read more in New York Times.
The GOP leadership war and the war over cancel culture.
House Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, is no longer the third-highest ranking House Republican due to disagreements over President Trump’s actions following the 2016 presidential election. The move was a stark one in Congress and brought to light the growing conversation surrounding “cancel culture,” where public figures are subject to quick removal based on disagreements or comments they made. As many House GOP leaders look to Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to step in for Cheney, her public castigation has potentially given her a new platform to voice her concerns. However, many people and brands have been targeted or become victims of cancel culture, and the move to oust Cheney has raised the issue once again. Regardless of political affiliation, one thing is for sure: cancel culture is becoming more common across the spectrum. Read more in National Review.
Grocery store sticker shock: inflation grows as the U.S. economy bounces back.
Aided by trillions of dollars in fiscal stimulus funds and a growing vaccinated population, the economy is finding itself on the mend following the pandemic. However, the quick economic turnaround has also affected the expected inflation and is causing the economy to “overheat.” The Labor Department reported its Consumer Price Index jumped 4.2 percent in April from the year before, accelerating at its fastest pace in more than 12 years. Americans are paying more now for gas, groceries, cars, clothing, and everyday expenses. The reason? Rapid consumer spending combined with supply chain setbacks is driving prices higher and decreasing purchasing power over time. Experts now anticipate the inflation rate to increase to more than 3.4 percent over the next year. With job openings reaching a high without the workers needed to fill the positions, it may prompt a move on interest rates sooner than expected. Price rebounds from a recession are common, but experts say Americans may need to ride out this inflated period until temperatures cool down. Read more in CNBC.
- 45%: The percentage of the East Coast’s fuel supplied by the Colonial Pipeline, which had to pause operations this week after hackers broke into its servers.
- 119 million: The number of Americans now fully vaccinated, and who the CDC says can now go most places without a mask, according to new guidelines.
- 8.1 million: The number of job openings in March posted in the U.S. – that’s the highest number on record since the government starting tracking job numbers back in 2000.
- 11: The number of states to date that have announced it will be ending the federal unemployment benefits that have been in place since the pandemic began. The American Rescue Plan initially expected to offer these funds through Sept. 6th.
- $1 million: The amount that five randomly chosen, fully vaccinated Ohioans will receive in a state lottery. The announcement is making national headlines as a controversial move to incentivize getting vaccinated.
- 4.2%: The percentage increase in U.S. inflation year over year, raising concerns that the U.S. economy is overheating.
- $365 billion: The amount of cryptocurrency estimated to be wiped off the market after Tesla announced it would stop purchasing cars with bitcoin.
- 10 months ago: The last time COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. were this low, as the country continues to see a decline with more Americans vaccinated.
- 17: The number of games that will be played in the NFL regular season. Previously, seasons consisted of 16 games.
Image credit: CNN