- $3.56: The average gas price in the U.S. today.
- 6: The number of candidates that have qualified for the GOP debates so far.
- 145: The number of minutes the average person spends on social media every day.
- 15,873: The number of Starbucks stores in the U.S.
- 3.2 Million: The number of U.S. homes with solar panels installed.
- $76.8 Billion: The amount of money the U.S has sent to aid Ukraine.
DeSantis Meditates on McCain
Governor Ron DeSantis is used to the Florida sun, but now he is facing the heat in the 2024 GOP Presidential Primary Race. DeSantis is scaling back travel, reworking his media strategy, and firing campaign staffers amid a cash crunch – all while he dipped below the 20% poll mark, according to Real Clear Politics. The Trump camp saw an opportunity to attack DeSantis’ campaign amid the slippage, sending a memo to DeSantis donors urging them to rethink where they are spending their donations.
While DeSantis has some cause for concern, he is far from throwing in the towel: surge and decline is the name of the game in presidential primaries. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Senator John McCain who, during the 2008 campaign, saw a drastic drop in poll ratings only to turn his downward momentum into winning the GOP nomination. Governor DeSantis polled above 31% in late-January 2023, but currently sits just below 20%. Ben Carson, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry all saw early leads in their aspirations, but were unable to recover once their support fell as their campaigns continued.
If Governor DeSantis can summon his McCain-esque turnaround, the man to beat remains Donald Trump. Despite Trump’s clear position as a frontrunner, his favorability among Republicans has dropped since 2020 and January 6 investigations may hold him back to some degree.
926 Days Since January 6
Former President Trump used his Truth Social account to announce that he is the target of a D.C.-based grand jury investigating the January 6 riots. Sources close to the matter confirmed that Trump received the letter from Jack Smith, Special Counsel of the Department of Justice (DOJ), but it is unclear what the charges brought against him would be. The DOJ listing him as a “target” means they see him as a person with substantial evidence linking him to Jan. 6 and they notified him to provide him the opportunity to testify before the grand jury. Presidential rivals, such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence, have criticized his behavior but do not believe an indictment against him is the correct course of action. The outcome of the Grand Jury may have an impact on the 2024 Presidential race, but his largest GOP competitors do not appear to be using the events of Jan. 6 against him at this time.
Consumers Gain Momentum in the Battle for Benjamins
Retailers are selling more but for less. The Commerce Department reported that American consumers spent 0.2% more at retail stores in June than they had in May. The report also showed that the spending, excluding gasoline, car dealerships, building materials and food services, rose 0.6% from May to June. Although consumers are spending more, high-interest rates and dwindling reserves of expendable income continue to put a strain on households. If we compare prices year-over-year, subsiding inflation is playing a key role in Americans choosing to buy again. Inflation is slowing for most goods, but for furniture, building supply stores, and online retailers, prices are outright falling.
Slowed inflation and deflation is great news for consumers, enabling them to stretch their dollars further and spend more. For retailers, they will earn less per unit sale, but they will sell their inventory quicker. Additionally, American wages grew at 4% while consumer prices rose 3%, the first time that wages overtook prices in two years. While this is a promising trend for American families, many are not out of the woods yet as 57% of Americans still say they are living paycheck to paycheck despite their buying power improving for the first time since COVID-19 struck
Antibodies Saving Tiny Bodies
The FDA recently approved a new shot preventing RSV, the leading cause of infant hospitalization. The treatment, Beyfortus, was developed in collaboration between Sanofi and AstraZeneca. Beyfortus can be given as soon as birth during RSV season and will only require one round for healthy babies. However, doctors can provide the shot for infants up to two years of age to fight off the virus for babies who remain vulnerable in their second season of RSV.
Rather than a vaccine, which causes the immune system to produce antibodies, Beyfortus contains an antibody itself. In trials, the shot was 78% effective at preventing infant hospitalizations and is the second existing prevention method for RSV in babies. Previously, the illness caused hundreds of infant deaths each year and 58,000 infant trips to the hospital.
The FDA is also considering approval of an RSV vaccine for pregnant women, which would protect babies upon birth and for their first few months after birth. Another option known as Synagis, the existing method of RSV prevention, must be given monthly starting before RSV season and is only given to vulnerable premature babies. Compared to Beyfortus, Synagis lasts less time in the body, is significantly more expensive than Beyfortus’s expected price, and is not as effective since it is a monthly treatment. Beyfortus will work for longer in comparison to Synagis since the antibody that it contains is stabilized and will be usable in all infants.
Who Knows Where You Are?
Most of us participate in location sharing, from parents anxiously waiting for their kids to get home to friends wanting to check in on one another. Nearly 80% of people share their location on their phones sometimes, and 16% share it all the time. Sharing where you are can be done via many apps, with Find My Friends, Life360, and Snapchat being popular options. Apple is also working on a new location tracking app called “Check In,” intended to ensure people get to places safely. Location can also be shared for different lengths of time, making it possible to share for a few hours or the foreseeable future.
Although sharing locations is usually benign and is often done with good intentions, it can be a safety risk. Many people express concern over data collection and selling since companies are only sometimes transparent about what they do with location data. Some apps can take much more information than necessary and often sell it to other companies. In extreme scenarios, location gets into the wrong hands, leading to stalking and other criminal activities.
However, it is often a positive: sharing locations can make it possible to check on the safety of loved ones, find them in an emergency, or see where someone is if you plan to meet up with them. In some cases, sharing locations has even saved lives. Location sharing is also helpful for seeing what friends are up to and making for a good conversation, such as if you know they are on vacation. It can strengthen a bond and be positive for relationships, showing that you care about each other.
Barbenheimer Explodes at Box Office with Glitz
What do a movie about Barbie and a movie about the father of the atomic bomb have in common? The exact release date and, shockingly, much of the same audience. As moviegoers flock to theaters this weekend, many are actually on their way to see the unlikely double feature of Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” and Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer”: 19% of those going to see Oppenheimer also bought tickets to see Barbie. As a result of both movies’ extreme popularity, Barbie’s projected box office for opening weekend is upwards of $140M, and Oppenheimer’s opening weekend forecast is over $52M.
Unusual double features have long been celebrated as movies had the same release date, such as “Mamma Mia” and “The Dark Knight”, or “WALL-E” and “Wanted.” However, Barbie and Oppenheimer are the first double feature to gain much traction in years. Barbie and Oppenheimer are also much more likely to be seen together.
The key difference between “Barbenheimer” and the double features of the past is a relatively new one: the presence of meme culture. Although Barbie’s extreme marketing has played a large part in the popularity of Barbenheimer, from a Barbie-themed Air BnB to a Barbie rug collection, much of the double feature’s popularity traces back to the internet. For months, people joked about competition between the opposite movies and seeing both simultaneously. Memes joking about the extreme differences in the films range from edits of explosions in Barbie to a pink theme in Oppenheimer. The unique Barbenheimer phenomenon is where it is today with the help of the internet.
Russia Strikes at the Breadbasket of Europe
Russian President Vladimir Putin halted a critical wartime deal that will have broad repercussions for Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine, known as the Breadbasket of Europe for its massive grain production, is one of the largest bread suppliers in the region. Ukraine and Russia are both major global suppliers of wheat, but the Kremlin halted a deal that would have allowed grain to flow from Ukraine to the rest of the world. The Black Sea Grain Initiative allows for commercial food and fertilizer from three essential Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odesa, Chornomorsk, Yuzhny/Pivdennyi. The deal provides assurance that trade ships entering and leaving Ukraine will not be attacked, while a separate agreement protects Russian food and fertilizer exports. Notably, western sanctions do not apply to Moscows agricultural shipments, but private companies are free to look elsewhere for trade partners.
Russia, claiming that they have been cut out of exporting opportunities, has backed out of the deal and will only return when their economic demands are met. Russia’s decision to leave the deal will threaten an already dire hunger crisis and high food price trend in the southern hemisphere. Ukranian President Zelenskyy says that he will continue to ship exports through the ports without Russia’s safety assurances. While the threat of Russia striking Ukranian ports or placing mines in shipping routes is real, Ukraine will continue sending food to the rest of the world. Ukraine has options to continue exporting if Russia attacks trade routes, including shipping by land or river, but relying solely on those options will certainly throttle export output.
As the world watches the Russian offensive play out in Ukraine, 55 million in the Middle East and North Africa face food insecurity worsened by the crisis.