Welcome to a new edition of The Weekender, where an extraordinary heatwave is sweeping across the U.S., reaching some areas with triple-digit temperatures. Things are also heating up in Washington D.C. this week where Senators and White House officials have reached a bipartisan agreement on an infrastructure deal, paving the way for parts of President Joe Biden’s domestic plan. However, experts say President Biden is sure to miss the mark when it comes to his July 4th goal to vaccinate 70 percent of Americans, right as the nation prepares itself for the new Covid-19 variant known as “Delta.” Plus, hundreds of flights throughout the summer have been canceled in anticipation of the shortage of airline staff and the soaring demand to fly during the popular vacation months. Check out these stories and more below in this week’s The Weekender. Thanks for joining us.
THE BIG FIVE
Infrastructure, voting rights, and gun violence: what’s heating up in Washington D.C. this week
As temperatures rise in D.C., so has the attention on several major issues – and we may actually be experiencing an actual “infrastructure week.” Politicians from both sides of the aisle emerged from the White House this week to declare an agreement on a bipartisan infrastructure bill. Yet, there are still many hurdles ahead. Some Democrats see the plan as paltry, while many Republicans have yet to embrace the proposal. Many politicians agree with the framework of the bill. The challenge remains the different views on how to pay for the plan. Alongside infrastructure, Biden’s priority of new policing legislation is also heating up as he announced recent efforts to stem an increase of violent crime across the country, focusing on ending gun violence and providing funding to cities that need more police. President Biden could gain bipartisan wins on both issues, but his week was not without defeat. The legislation, called For The People Act, failed on the U.S. Senate floor with a 50-50 vote. If passed, For The People Act would have banned gerrymandering, publicized the names of super PACs big donors, and ushered in the most significant expansion of voting rights federally in more than 50 years. The summer grind in Congress has started with much to watch out for, and it will not be letting up anytime soon. Read more in The Hill.
Canceled flights and unruly passengers: what flyers have to look forward this summer when traveling by airWith more Americans vaccinated, many feel more confident to take much-needed vacations and buy tickets to return to the skies again. However, many of the old aggravations and inconveniences of airline travel are back as well, and experts say travelers should expect ongoing problems throughout the busy summer months. American Airlines made waves recently for coming out to say it would need to cancel hundreds of flights due to staffing shortages and weather. As airlines find ways to keep up with the increase in travel, they are in many cases acting preemptively to minimize future cancelations and last-minute travel surprises. And if that wasn’t enough to make you want to avoid flying this summer, the Federal Aviation Administration has received approximately 3,100 reports of unruly passenger behavior since the start of the year, totaling $563,800 in fines as part of their “zero tolerance” policy. It is going to be a bumpy ride for a while as we return to the skies. Read more in TIME.
Why investors still view Covid-19 as a market risk for the second half of 2021
The Federal Reserve has turned heads this week after revealing new hints about a potential move to taper its emergency market support following the economic recovery. While some investors were relieved to hear the Fed will continue to help keep the market from getting overheated, others were more concerned about the possibility of the Fed taking its foot off the pedal. Fed Chair Jerome Powell has acknowledged they are just “talking about talking about tapering,” showing that the Fed still isn’t likely to hike interest rates for years. For now, rates remain near zero in the face of the rising Covid-19 “Delta variant,” which is starting to worry global experts as a threat to the recovery as it is much more easily transmissible. Despite the threat, the vaccination game still appears to beat Delta and any current variant. However, a “likely association” between Pfizer and Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine shot and a rare heart inflammatory condition in young adults and kids, as well as the news about President Biden’s July 4th vaccination goal likely falling short, has caused the recovery to lose some steam. Whatever action the Fed takes, investors can already see the recovery in clear view—we are not out of the woods just yet. Read more in Axios.
Amazon and other tech giants race to buy up renewable energy
As tech companies continue to reshape the renewable energy market, corporations continue to invest millions of dollars to fight climate change and reduce emissions. With millions of dollars being poured into solar, wind, and other renewable energy projects, tech companies are emerging as the main drivers of clean power investment. According to research from BloombergNEF, Amazon, Google, Facebook, and Microsoft are four of the top six corporate buyers of publicly disclosed renewable-energy purchase agreements, accounting for 30 percent of the total from corporations worldwide. Amazon is the largest corporate buyer globally and in the U.S., and the race to go green while lowering the carbon footprint is getting faster by the day. Read more in the Wall Street Journal.
Where we stand in return to ‘normal’
How close to a pre-pandemic “normal” are we? According to the Back-to-Normal Index by CNN Business and Moody Analytics that tracks unemployment claims, job postings, travel bookings, and other data, Americans are 94 percent there. While we have come a long way since the start of the pandemic, the last stretch may be the most challenging, as some important economic fundamentals have shifted. A new perspective on work-life balance has shaken the foundation of much of our workforce. While the rise in vaccinations and ease in mask requirements have people flocking to restaurants and in-person activities again, many office chairs remain vacant. According to Kastle Systems, less than one-third of white-collar employees have returned to the office across 10 major cities in the U.S., including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. The nationwide security company found that, so far, only 31 percent of office workers have returned to the workspaces they occupied before the pandemic. Many other companies are waiting until the fall—when vaccinations will likely be more widespread, and kids of all ages have returned to school. The path to full recovery may be a slow walk the rest of the way, and the status quo will likely look different when we finally reach our destination. Read more on CNN.
Iran’s election unsettles Biden’s hope for a nuclear deal
Iran’s new president is giving President Biden a headache in the face of his efforts to revive the Iran nuclear deal. Since being elected president, Ebrahim Raisi has wasted no time in setting out his hardline agenda. This week, Raisi said that he would not meet with President Biden, even if the opportunity arose. Raisi’s remarks set the stage for Iran to take a more contentious stance. Raisi’s candidacy has fueled widespread accusations of manipulation after his election drew the lowest voter turnout in the Islamic Republic’s history. The Biden administration has been negotiating with Iran’s outgoing government for weeks, hoping to reach an agreement that would allow the countries to return to the terms of the international pact. The Biden administration hopes to keep Raisi from going nuclear himself in the country’s negotiations and that future talks can cover issues like Iran’s ballistic missile program and its support for militias and terrorist groups. Read more in POLITICO.
4%. That’s how much the U.S. birth rate fell last year, likely due to the pandemic. The number is the largest annual decline since 1973, according to CDC researchers.
$11 billion. The total amount of e-commerce sales during Amazon’s 48-hour Prime Day event, representing 6.1% growth compared with last year’s October Prime Day event. Amazon’s Prime membership service now has 200 million members worldwide as of April 2021.
56 million. The number of individuals who control $191.6 trillion – that is just 1.1% of the world’s population who controls nearly half of global household wealth. Despite the difficult circumstances of the pandemic, the U.S. added 1.73 million individuals to the “millionaires club.”
$1 billion. The cost of a new initiative created by the Rockefeller and Ikea foundations to help deliver clean energy to many people worldwide who lack electricity access.
53%. The percentage of Americans who would switch to an entirely new industry if they could retrain. An estimated 40% of U.S. workers may quit their jobs post-pandemic as the U.S. faces a major workforce reshuffle.
950. The number of flights American Airlines has slashed for July. The airline is shuffling to keep up with the travel surge as they experience a pilot shortage.
$100,000. The amount of money Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib is donating to the Trevor Project: an organization that provides crisis intervention services to LGBTQ youth. Nassib is the first active NFL player to come out as gay.
200,000. The number of entrepreneurs who filed to start a new business in 2020, hitting a record high despite the calamity of the pandemic.
2. The number of trustees that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is governed by after Warren Buffet announced that he has resigned from his position with the foundation. Buffet is now halfway toward his goal of giving all his Berkshire Hathaway shares to charity.
Google delays its plan to remove third-party cookies from Chrome in the face of pressure from competition regulators, privacy zealots and the digital-media industry, @patiencehaggin @samschech @VranicaWSJ report https://t.co/GhelGkKakr via @WSJ— keachhagey (@keachhagey) June 24, 2021
Keach Hagey is a Wall Street Journal investigative reporter for media and tech.
A 2009 Google Doodle celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Sesame Street.