CEOs are in space and life expectancy is falling. Here’s your top news headlines.

Welcome to a new edition of The Weekender… where we are looking at the change in Americans’ life expectancy following the Covid-19 pandemic. Plus—Jeff Bezos reached for the stars… and actually made it happen. Will we be seeing the moon and the stars in our Amazon carts next? Also—most Americans don’t think the Olympics should happen, but it won’t stop them from watching this year’s Games. Find out why and more below in this week’s The Weekender. We appreciate you joining us.

U.S. life expectancy fell by more than a year due to the pandemic: CDC study.

In its most recent report, researchers at the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics found that U.S. life expectancy was 77.3 years, the lowest since 2003. Covid-19 had the most significant effect on the decline in life expectancy, but unintentional injuries, homicide, diabetes, and chronic liver disease, and cirrhosis were also highly reported factors. Racial disparities emerged from the data, finding that Hispanic people experienced the largest decline in life expectancy, decreasing by three years, something experts attribute to lack of access to healthcare in minority communities. Covid-19 contributed to 73.8 percent of the record-breaking decline, making its grave mark on the world that much darker, and begging the questions as to what impact the virus may have on the lifespan of those who survived more serious cases. To this day, more than 91 million Americans live in U.S. counties with high Covid-19 infections. A Pew Research Center survey shows that 68 percent of Americans say that children will be worse off financially than their parents due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many counties across the U.S. are starting to implement face masks policies again, with the Biden administration hoping the Food and Drug Administration fully approves the Covid-19 vaccine for all ages by the fall. Note: the U.S. vaccination rate (102 vaccinations per 100 people) places it outside the top 25 countries in the world, in spite of the U.S. being ranked number one for Covid-19 cases. Read more in CNN. 

U.S. politics update: Infrastructure bill faces set back and Jan. 6 riot commission drama.

In a seemingly endless battle, the infrastructure proposal was blocked from a debate on Wednesday as the bipartisan group works around the clock working to finalize their agreement. While the end is in sight, Democrats are being pushed from the inside to advance the plan. Republicans refuse to begin debate on a proposal that is not yet finalized, leaving Democratic Leaders in a tight spot no matter what course of action they take. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has given the bipartisan group of 22 U.S. Senators working on the package until Wednesday to be ready to move forward on a budget resolution, a deadline that Senator Mitt Romney attests will be met. Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi shocked Republicans this week after vetoing two of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s selections for a panel investigating the Jan. 6 riots, sending shocks throughout the House. McCarthy responded by pulling all of his selections. Only in D.C. can the drama take place before the show even begins… Read more in The Hill. 

Space Amazonifaction: Jeff Bezos sees space as ‘sacrifice zones.’

After the man behind Amazon launched himself into space, joining the trend of billionaires redefining space travel, Jeff Bezos revealed his new vision behind the use of space and how it can simultaneously keep the Earth clean. With the acknowledgment that these big ideas will take decades to accomplish, Bezos explained that “we need to take all heavy industry, all polluting industry, and move it into space and keep Earth as this beautiful gem of a planet that it is,” referencing what experts call “sacrifice zones.” For many environmental advocates, the answer isn’t to pull some elaborate stunt by moving pollution into space; it’s for the pollution to stop in the first place. Furthermore, what was once the domain of big governments across the globe seems now to be the domain of big tech. Sales for the flight (though not available generally) were approaching $100 million, with Bezos adding, “The demand is very, very high.” It adds a whole new meaning to “reach for the stars.” Literally.Healthcare spending is on track to reach pre-pandemic levels. Read more in The Verge. 

Ridesharing drivers nationwide execute a strike, calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the PRO Act.
Have you had trouble finding an Uber or Lyft driver in the past few days? Here’s why: drivers of both Uber and Lyft went on strike this week, protesting their decline in earnings and calling on the U.S. Senate to pass the PRO Act, which would require drivers to be treated as employees instead of independent contractors or gig workers as they’re also known. Uber and Lyft relate high prices for ridership due to lack of drivers, but some drivers say it’s just not adding up. Brian Dolber, an Associate Professor at California State University, San Marcos, says drivers out of LAX have had a decline in pay over the past several years, dropping nearly $1 per mile. Long-term drivers have seen substantial declines in pay. These companies hooked people in, where people were making a decent living, but without legal protection, drivers saw their rates lowered repeatedly. Uber and Lyft push back on these assertions, claiming that in top markets drivers are making more than $30 per hour–a significant increase since the pandemic started. Until they can find an equilibrium, you may want to dust that bike off again or head to the nearest metro. Read more in Market Watch. 

Cryptocurrencies receive global scrutiny.

As weeks go on, cryptocurrencies like bitcoin continue falling on the stock market and receive global scrutiny. On Wednesday, Cathie Wood (ARK Invest CEO and CIO), Jack Dorsey (Twitter and Square CEO), and Elon Musk (Tesla and SpaceX CEO) chatted about all things crypto, laying out their hopes for the future of the industry. “My hope for crypto, in general, is that it can improve [the] core efficiency of money [to have] less error, any government interference or fraud,” Musk said during the virtual discussion. This comes after a recent increase in global scrutiny toward cryptocurrency exchanges and mining, with proponents working to gather strength. With leaders from innovative tech giants at the table, it’s clear bitcoin isn’t going away… but exactly where it goes (and how) reminds to be seen. Read more in Axios. 


Olympics: Lack of spectators could cost Japan money. 
The highly anticipated Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo kick off this week with the famous opening ceremony where super athletes gather to make their countries proud, but this year will look anything but normal. With no foreign spectators, mandatory Covid-19 testing, and “bubble-like” living quarters, Japan has effectively been divided in half on whether hosting the biggest global event is worth it. The majority of Japan’s population hasn’t been vaccinated against the deadly virus, putting their country at risk of plunging into a significant Covid-19 outbreak and the human and economic toll it brings. A bare majority of Americans think the Games should go on. Despite muted interest, a new Ipsos Global Advisor poll conducted in 28 countries worldwide reveals that 66 percent of Americans believe the Olympics bring the country together and inspire the next generation to participate in sports. Gymnastics land first on the list of sports that Americans are most interested in watching this year, followed by aquatics (swimming, diving, etc.) and track and field. Only time will tell whether the price of normalcy will set a course of recovery or cost for Japan. Read more in Associated Press. 


97%: The percentage of people currently hospitalized for severe Covid-19 infections that are unvaccinated. The new resurgence of cases in the United States is what experts call the “pandemic of the unvaccinated.”

200: The number of people who lost their lives in the deadly floods that ravished Western Europe last week. More than 700 are injured and an estimated 300 are still unaccounted for as the region begins recovery efforts from its worst natural disaster in decades.

$14.7 billion: The amount video conferencing platform Zoom acquired cloud contact center software provider Five9 in an all-stock transaction. Zoom’s first billion-dollar acquisition is an indication of how the pandemic relied on Zoom for its services.

8: The number of months Paul Hodgkins will spend in prison after pleading guilty to obstruction of an official proceeding, a felony charge stemming from his participation in the Capitol riot on January 6th. Hodgkins is the first rioter to be sentenced for a felony.

50/50: The number of years since the Milwaukee Bucks won an NBA championship and the number of points MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo put away in the Bucks’ NBA Finals-clinching win Tuesday night against the Phoenix Suns.

3: The number of times Australia has been selected to host the Summer Olympic Games. On Wednesday, the IOC awarded the 2032 Olympics to Brisbane, Australia.

82: Wally Funk’s age as he entered space with Mark and Jeff Bezos on Tuesday. As part of the Blue Origin’s New Shepard crew, Funk became the oldest to ever fly to space.

6: The number of new sports featured at the Tokyo Summer Olympic Games, starting this week. This year’s Games have a record of 41 disciplines and 339 gold medals. New sports include surfing, skateboarding, sport climbing, karate, baseball, and softball.

1.5: The decline in years of U.S. life expectancy in 2020, the most significant decline in generations. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed hundreds of thousands, along with crises in drug overdoses, homicides, and chronic diseases.


Credit: ESPN SportsCenter