The Weekender: The End of an Era: McConnell Stepping Aside

The Weekender


  • 4: The number of days until Super Tuesday
  • $5.84: The tooth fairy’s average gift value, down from $6.23 last year
  • 8.7%: The percentage of beer purchased during the Super Bowl produced by Modelo Especial – unseating Bud Light whose sales represented 7.3%
  • 1,024: The number of delegates Trump has secured out of the 1,215 required to obtain the Republican nomination
  • 24,000: The number of empty positions cut by the U.S. Army during this year’s restructuring
  • 101,436: The number of voters who chose “uncommitted” in Michigan’s Democratic Primary, winning 2 delegates

The Big 5 News Updates

The End of an Era: McConnell Stepping Aside

As the longest-serving Senate leader in U.S. history, Mitch McConnell has seen it all in his two decades running the party’s chamber. He was first elected to the Senate in 1985 when President Reagan’s traditional conservatism led the party and held his seat and leadership position through President Trump’s controversial leadership style and fire-branded isolationism. First elected as the Senate GOP Leader in 2006, he has won nine consecutive elections to hold the seat. His party, and even President Biden, expressed melancholy at his departure announcement.

During his tenure, McConnell maneuvered political shifts within his own party. The rise of the Tea Party, the red-hat-sporting MAGA voters, and a slew of further-right additions to the Republican ranks in both the House and Senate gained purview. He faced all of it in stride saying “Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them.” Despite growing opposition to his leadership from the far-right within his own party, he approached his position with strategy and tactical thinking with his ability to understand the needs of his fellow GOP Senators.

Now, the race to find a new Senate Party Leader will coincide with the other elections taking place this November. Interestingly, the campaigning is expected to be a fight among the Johns: Minority Whip John Thune of SD, former whip John Cornyn of TX, and GOP Conference Chair John Barrasso of WY.

Read More at The Associated Press

The Blue Loves the Green, but the Green Prefers the Red

The climate initiatives passed by President Biden two years ago hit the ground running – and Republican strongholds are gaining a majority of the benefits. Companies across industries have announced a cumulative $170 billion in new or expanded factories and mining operations, with 200,000 new industrial jobs resulting from these climate packages. Wind turbine manufacturing, battery and electric vehicle production, solar panel development, and electrical grid revitalization and just a few of the products receiving the boost, and new analyses shows that companies are taking their operations to GOP-stronghold states. The combination of federal funding, Republican-leaning state policies, and wide-open spaces is enticing companies to choose red communities to break ground; more than ¾ of factory and mining operations have gone to Congressional districts held by Republicans.

This could be a winning campaign message for President Biden and the Democrats; however, no good deed goes unnoticed. The majority of voters are largely unaware of the Biden Administration’s role in supporting economic growth for their communities. Even if they were given direct notice, many projects won’t set sail until 2025 when it will be too late for Democrats to use it as a campaign point. Additionally, climate policy is not a significant rallying cry for Republican voters, even if their states are the ones receiving the economic impact and job growth.

Read More at The Wall Street Journal

Nothing Plain About Electric Planes

121 years ago, the Ohio-born Wright Brothers changed the world by successfully flying a manmade vehicle for 12 seconds. Suffice it to say, the air travel industry has taken off since then. Aircraft changed the way humans navigated the once-massive Earth. Years of scientific development, in part due to being used in every major conflict since 1911, solidified the not-so-humble airplane’s position as one of the greatest inventions the human brain has produced – so far. The next frontier in the aircraft revolution is dealing with the emissions they produce.

Although smaller, shorter-range electric aircraft and taxis (utilizing vertical takeoff and landing) could become a reality as soon as next year, eyes are on the prize of something greater. There is an abundance of R&D left to be done, but on the horizon are electric aircrafts that could carry hundreds of people for thousands of miles. Developing these types of airplanes requires a great deal of power and enough sustainable energy to keep them in the air for long periods. Innovations in battery technology and fuel cells may hold the key to unlocking electric flight. Toshiba and Airbus are hoping superconducting motors will generate enough megawatts to sustain long-term flight, so long as the superconducting materials can be kept at the extremely low temperatures they need to operate.

If you are ever in need of a dose of “wow, what a time to be alive,” tune into The Weekender to see some positive news about the next generation of humans doing the science that humans love doing.

Read More at Axios

Immigration: Growing Even More Controversial (and Our Economy)

For the first time in five years, immigration is the most pressing issue for Americans. New data from Gallup reports that immigration surpassed inflation and the economy as the most important issue to Americans, increasing from 20% to 28% on their “Most Important Problem” list. The topic is 33% more important to Republicans than Democrats, with both percentages rising significantly in the past year.

Driving the issue is a dramatic rise in illegal crossings at the southwest border. Crossings are up 40% from just two years ago and set a monthly record in December with nearly 270,000.

While it remains a front-row political issue, surging legal and illegal immigration played a role in the U.S. economy’s place as the most robust economy worldwide post pandemic. Increasing immigration numbers and open job rates harmonized to return businesses to pre-pandemic success. Immigrants are strengthening the job market, accounting for 50% of growth between January 2023 and 2024.

Economic fortitude isn’t enough to create unity in Congress, though. The Senate recently rejected a bipartisan immigration bill while senators continue to search for solutions. Trump and Biden both visited the border this week in their presidential campaigns to discuss their ideas for solutions.

Read More at The Washington Post

Is AI Coming for your Cheeseburger?

A decade ago, when people thought about the threat of AI, their imagination would typically lead them to Terminator-esque dystopian futures – not AI using surge pricing (sorry, ahem, “dynamic pricing”) to determine the cost of fast-food burgers.

While we have not caught wind of killer robots quite yet, Wendy’s will invest nearly $20 million in 2025 to install digital menu boards nationwide where generative AI will take customers’ orders. These boards could enable changes the price of menu items depending on the time of day, grilling up concerns from consumers whose chronic heartburn over similar practices in Uber has lasted years. While Wendy’s explicitly stated it will not implement “surge pricing,” it appears it failed to accurately gauge how much the American populace harbors growing fear of AI implementation in daily life. If the AI application is the patty, the threat against the beloved cheeseburger is the condiments and fixings; that may be a sandwich that Americans are unwilling to eat.

Read More at Axios

International Spotlight

The Offensive Will Not Be Televised (For Long)

It has been two years since Russia invaded Ukraine, which at the time, dominated the media cycle. Western nations flocked to Ukraine’s defense fearing that a swift, decisive Russian victory would threaten peace throughout Europe. That did not happen, however, as military support from allies such as the U.S. effectively deterred Russian progression.

Two years later, international eyes have shifted attention elsewhere, like Israel’s actions in Gaza and the West Bank, which spells trouble for the Ukrainian people. Emmy Award-winning journalist Johnny Harris underscored the impact of our attention saying “global conflict really relies on global attention. A conflict like the war in Ukraine could be won or lost based on how much we pay attention to it.”

The U.S. has already spent more than $75 billion supporting Ukraine, and although President Biden maintains resolve to support the effort, public opinion in support of the effort is waning, including a majority of Republicans. As Russia shows no signs of slowing its aggression, the offensive has slowly become an attrition war of media, funding, and international support.

Read More at ABC News

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