Welcome back to a new edition of The Weekender… And yet again, COVID-19 dominates news headlines worldwide, with controversies from athlete’s vaccine status to record-high rates. Plus—2021 was the year of extreme, record-breaking weather… we’re bringing you details on what it means for Americans nationwide. Also—a stark warning about phishing scams, and we’re taking a look at how Dr. King’s dream is playing out in 2022. As always, thank you for joining The Weekender.
THE BIG FIVE
Breaking bad (records): The negative costs of inflation
As if the fallout of the pandemic could not be any worse, the U.S. is now breaking records—and not in a good way. Inflation is at a record high, gas prices are soaring, and COVID-19 rates are at an all-time high—all unwelcome news, and there is no end in sight. Gas prices are now $3.30 as the national average, with some states as high as $4.65 per gallon. Inflation is at the highest it has been since 1982. COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive rates hit a high last week, but this week grew even higher. A solution to these trends must occur soon; families and businesses are suffering. Read more at NBC News.
2021 rained on our parade… and the extreme weather issues continue
Freezes, droughts, fires, and heat waves—2021 was all over the map for weather, and experts are saying that may be the new norm. With extreme weather becoming a regular occurrence, experts encourage Americans to expect (and prepare for) anything. Across the country, cities were hit with record low lows and record high temperatures. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) experts report that extreme weather last year cost 688 American lives and $145 billion. Not to make matters worse, but the Red Cross is warning of a national blood shortage, so if any significant disasters hit and blood is needed, the country will be in a challenging situation. How can Americans help? Donate blood, prepare homes for disasters, and go green. Read more at NPR News.
That text you received last night from your boss wasn’t really your boss
The end of the holiday season usually means a decrease in phishing scams. Experts say scammers and hackers typically take advantage when people’s guards are down. However, after only two weeks into the new year, scams are trending in the opposite direction, and fraud numbers have soared, with Americans receiving an overwhelming number of fake texts. In 2019, Congress and the Trump administration created legislation on something everyone hates: robocalls. However, when measures are used to combat phishing, often, the scammer has a more elaborate countermeasure. While we hope 2022 marks the end of phishing, it is essential to stay vigilant and skeptical about fighting against falling victim to these scams. Learn how to protect yourself here. Read more at ABC News.
Celebs, competition controversies, and COVID-19
This week had its fair share of celebrity COVID-19 controversies—especially in the sports world with the tennis champion, Novak Djokovic. As the Australian Open gears up, Djokovic found himself in the middle of a scandal surrounding his vaccine status. Australia has had one of the strictest COVID-19 guidelines globally, with lockdown recently lifting after nearly two years. When Djokovic entered the country for the Open without being vaccinated, he was promptly detained at immigration. He has since been released while his visa is under review, but it has caused quite a stir internationally. With more athlete’s vaccine status becoming a topic of conversation, people are questioning whether they should be exempt from the rules. The COVID-19 controversy is not happening with just Djokovic and tennis players; NFL’s Aaron Rodgers has become a figure in this conversation, as well as golf’s Bryson DeChambeau. It seems like no sport is off-limits. Is vaccine status going to be another stat that sports analysts ring off, like a number of passing yards or under par holes? Read more in The New York Times.
Living Dr. Martin Luther King’s dream today
Nearly sixty years after the March on Washington, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dreams are still yet to be fulfilled. While the country has taken strides, there is still a lot of work to be done. Dr. King said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” which still rings true in America today. There are still massive inequalities and work to be done. This MLK Day, and every day, we pledge to actively work together to find solutions and move our country closer to Dr. King’s dream that he painted while speaking on those marble steps all those years ago. Read more in Chicago Defender.
North Korea’s latest missile moves
Following a recent North Korean missile test, the United States has officially hit North Korea with economic sanctions. The long-standing diplomatic battle between the two countries has increased over the last year with the Biden administration. The sanction has been the first that Biden has imposed. Secretary of State Blinken explained this missile test may be North Korea seeking attention from the defense world, as many are focused on the ongoing battle between Russia and Ukraine. Nonetheless, the missile test must have worked because experts expect North Korea to jump back into the conversation after its latest move. Read more in The Associated Press.
- 6.2%: The percentage increase of greenhouse gas emissions in 2021 compared to 2020. While emission levels are still 5% below pre-pandemic levels, experts say greenhouse gases increased in 2021 primarily due to a jump in coal use.
- 65: The age Bob Saget passed away in his Orlando hotel room while on a stand-up tour. Known for his iconic role as single dad Danny Tanner on the sitcom “Full House” and host of “America’s Funniest Home Videos,” Saget’s last Instagram post expresses his gratitude for comedy and all it brought him.
- $21.6 billion: The total amount of money wagered in sports betting in New Jersey from June 2018 to date. New York launched mobile sports betting last weekend, opening the opportunity for the Empire state to eventually contend with New Jersey and Nevada for the state with the most money wagered.
- 26: The number of House Democrats who say they won’t run for re-election this fall, compared to just 12 Republicans. This shuffling of numbers is leading experts to predict the left to potentially not be able to keep its slim majority in the House.
- 1970: The last time the IRS workforce was the same size as it is now in 2022. Staff shortages are creating a massive backlog in the Treasury Department, so be prepared for this year’s tax refunds to be delayed!
- 15: The number of points the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide by in the college football championship in Indianapolis on Monday night. The Ringer’s Kevin Clark writes, “College football has been chasing the Crimson Tide for more than a decade, the Bulldogs caught up.”
- 5: The number of honorees part of the American Women Quarters Program with the U.S. Mint shipped each year from 2022 to 2025. Maya Angelou is the first in the series and is the first Black woman to be featured on a U.S. quarter, celebrating her contributions to the U.S.
- 0.14%: The risk of COVID-19 infection between infected and non-infected individuals who both wear an N95 mask with a nosepiece, adding to evidence that indicates the quality of masks makes a significant difference in the spread of the new Omicron variant.
- 75: The number of NFL games that made the top 100 most-watched TV broadcasts of 2021. Live sports snapped up 94 of the top slots. The only non-NFL programming in the top 30 was President Biden’s inauguration and first address to Congress.
Credit: United States Mint
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