Diplomacy, subpoenas, and a new federal holiday: The Weekender

Welcome to a new edition of The Weekender, where investors are hopeful that the nation’s rising prices, supply chain issues, and inflation is temporary. Plus—President Joe Biden and President Vladimir Putin meet again, and this time, Biden lays out 16 areas of infrastructure that should be off-limits to any future cyberattacks. Also—Juneteenth becomes a federal holiday, and companies are stepping up their marketing game to show their support. Check out the top headlines from this week below. We’re glad you could join us for The Weekender.

PS- Check out one of our newest team members, Hayley Wade, who joined us after spending the entirety of the 116th Congress serving on the staff of U.S. Congresswoman Kay Granger, the ranking member of the House Appropriations Committee and the most senior Republican woman in Congress.


Transitory or here-to-stay?

Investors try to read the inflation clues. Even as the economy is now on a clear path to a full reopening, the pandemic’s impact is creating new whiplash. High demand mixed with a materials shortage and supply chain issues is pushing prices higher. That trend, which has been taking place all year, continued again last month. Between May 2020 and May 2021, prices increased 6.6 percent–the biggest jump recorded since the Bureau of Labor Statistics started collecting this data in November 2010. Many employers are offering incentives and raising pay in hopes of hiring workers for unfilled positions, which is affecting inventory and causing shipping and production delays. As investors obsess over reading the clues around inflation, the Federal Reserve’s outlook on inflation is “transitory.” Experts think inflation will run above trend lines well into 2022, given the bottlenecks in the global supply chain; however, disinflationary factors such as tech efficiency and an aging global population will limit any 1970s-style inflation scare. The United States isn’t the only nation facing inflation issues: last week, China reported the highest level of producer price inflation in nearly 13 years. Read more in Reuters.

Putin and Biden meet amid high stakes.

After almost four hours of discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin behind closed doors, President Joe Biden tells reporters he did what he came to do, making it clear to Putin he will always defend Democratic values. Both leaders called the summit productive; though they had disagreements, the tone overall was positive (hear from a body language expert here for more). Biden told Putin there must be some basic “rules of the road” that countries need to abide by when it comes to presidential elections. He also raised human rights and the recent and increasing cyberattacks on American infrastructure by criminals based in Russia, telling Putin there are 16 areas of critical infrastructure that should be off-limits to attacks—from the energy sector to the water supply. While Putin still denies Russia harbors cybercriminals or engages in cyber warfare, he agreed to have high-level cybersecurity negotiations with the U.S. Biden—who has previously called Putin a killer with no soul—says he is taking the wait-and-see approach on whether the summit consisted of a strategic dialogue that mattered. There was also a healthy dose of skepticism about the summit’s effectiveness; nonetheless, the meeting was significant in the attempt between the countries to build a relationship based on “mutual distrust.” Read more in AP News

How Juneteenth becomes commercial. 

More Americans are now celebrating Juneteenth, which became the 12th federal holiday this week. Juneteenth—or June 19th—commemorates June 19, 1865, when Union soldiers brought news of freedom to enslaved Black people in Galveston, Texas—more than two years after the Emancipation Proclamation freed slaves. The Juneteenth federal holiday bill, which is the first national holiday since MLK Jr. Day was created in 1983, was signed into law by President Joe Biden on Thursday. While celebrations have been a part of the African American tradition since 1866, many Americans learned about the holiday only recently in the aftermath of Black American killings, including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Perhaps in an effort to show their support for African Americans, some companies have gone above and beyond to make Juneteenth a key part of their public channels, pledging support for the Black community with a focus on diversity, racial equity and social justice efforts. More companies now recognize Juneteenth as a company-wide holiday, while others, like Airbnb, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations like the NAACP. As always, the approach matters: as marketers implement new branding and advertising strategies around Juneteenth this year, experts say they risk appearing tone-deaf, or worse. Read more in POLITICO.

Leaks, secret subpoenas, and more: the next collision course on Capitol Hill.
A new revelation has Capitol Hill scrambling this week, drawing a fresh line in the debate between privacy and government authority. New details reveal that the Trump-era Justice Department took significant steps to attain phone and email records through secret subpoenas. The subpoenas were carried out not just on Members of Congress but also on reporters and even Trump’s former White House counsel. The origin of these actions was tied to investigations about potential government leaks, including classified information. In response, there has been the expected partisan reaction on both sides – but this debate drives a deeper question to consider about what the right balance should be between stopping genuinely dangerous leaks and ensuring a truly free press. In the middle of that question exists the extraordinary power that we must acknowledge the government can wield in these situations. While this occurred under the Trump administration, you may remember the Obama administration took action on reporters in 2013 in an attempt to uncover another leak. The Bush administration considered a similar move but ultimately took different measures to investigate a leak. Information has never been more valuable, and the debate over how to handle it at the most public level has never been muddier. Read more in The Hill.


End of an era: the impact of Netanyahu’s ousting.
The long and eventful reign of Benjamin Netanyahu—the longest-serving leader in the country’s history—has come to an end, at least for the time being. Ironically, a 49-year-old former aide to Netanyahu, Naftali Bennet, has replaced him as prime minister after winning by just a single vote. The new Israeli government has vowed change, and while Palestinians are celebrating the move, the prime minister has also expressed skepticism about any shift in Israeli policy. The shift in power comes after a surge in interethnic violence between Jewish and Arab citizens during one of the worst periods of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in years. The tension between the two countries and the fight over settlements, land, and housing will likely continue. Netanyahu has shaped 21-century Israel arguably more than any other figure, shifting its policies aggressively and consolidating power, which ultimately led to controversies around corruption allegations. Even in defeat, he has since vowed to stay at the helm of his party. How will this impact the relationship in the U.S.? So far, expect the same level of relations, but the shakeup is real in Israel. Read more in The Guardian


15 million. The amount of unsold Girl Scout Cookie boxes due to the pandemic. The organization typically sells around 200 million boxes a year, or $800 million worth.

90,500. The number of people headed to Tokyo for the Olympic Summer Games starting July 23rd; 11,500 athletes and 79,000 overseas officials, journalists, and support staff. The International Olympic Committee expects 80% of those staying in Olympic Village to have been fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

9.3 million. The number of unfilled jobs in the United States. Job openings are surging, especially in the hospitality sector, as businesses look to staff up ahead of what is expected to be a busy summer season.

61%. The proportion of Americans in favor of requiring college students to be vaccinated to attend classes in the fall. As vaccines become available for younger age groups, experts predict the same support for middle and high schools.

31%. The percentage of U.S. office workers who have returned to the workspaces they occupied before Covid-19.

$2.74 billion. The amount of money MacKenzie Scott, the former wife of Jeff Bezos and one of the richest women in the world, donated to 286 different organizations this week, including community-based nonprofits and organizations focused on racial justice.

60%. The likelihood that French vineyards experienced a climate change disaster known as “false spring,” bringing catastrophe to France’s wine industry. After a record-warm early spring, an extraordinary cold snap gripped France in early April, devastating grapes and other fruit crops.

$8.2 billion. The amount Americans spent on bicycles and accessories in Q1 2021, up from pre-pandemic spending that hovered around $6 billion for years. As a safe, socially distanced form of exercise and transportation, bicycles became a scarce commodity peak Covid-19.

27. The number of European countries Americans are now free to visit for the first time since March of 2020. While many EU countries are heavily dependent on tourism and suffered shrinking economies during the pandemic, countries can add their own requirements for tourist entry.


Sam Sweeney is an ABC reporter overseeing transportation coverage.