Welcome to Wednesday. 🐪 Get ready to learn about the UAE’s mission to Mars, a hacker’s attempt to poison Florida city water, and the official report on the crash that killed Kobe Bryant.
⏰🚀Ready, Set, Go: Today’s newsletter takes 4.53 minutes to read.
“You can change the world if you change your mind.”
–Kinky Boots (the Broadway musical)
🇺🇸 Stimulus Update
House Democrats introduced the biggest piece of their COVID-19 relief bill in the Ways and Means Committee late Monday ahead of a committee vote this week.
The measure would extend a $400-per-week federal unemployment insurance payment through August 29, as well as send one-time payments of $1,400 to individuals with incomes of up to $75K and married couples with incomes up to $150K – the same cutoffs as previous stimulus payments.
It will be combined with measures advancing through other House committees with the aim of getting through the full chamber later this month. Together, they make up President Biden’s $1.9T stimulus plan. (The full details)
A deeper dive…
Both congressional chambers approved a budget measure on Friday unlocking the next phase of drafting the relief bill, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote in the Senate.
Democrats are planning to proceed with a legislative tool called reconciliation, which allows them to pass the relief plan with a simple majority in the Senate (meaning it could be approved entirely along party lines).
However, this also constrains which policy provisions can be passed, possibly endangering the proposed $15 minimum wage hike included in the bill.
Biden over the weekend said he does not expect the wage increase provision to survive relief talks, and that he would push for a stand-alone bill to raise the minimum wage.
Biden’s announcement came as the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office published a new report that said boosting the minimum wage to $15 per hour would reduce overall employment by 1.4M people, but also reduce the number of people living in poverty by 900k. (It said other things, too – here’s the full report.)
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💻☠️ Hacker Tries to Poison Water
A computer hacker gained remote access to the water system of a city near Tampa Bay, FL, on Friday and tried to pump a “dangerous” amount of sodium hydroxide (also known as lye) into the drinking water.
Federal investigators said an operator monitoring the water plant in Oldsmar, FL, noticed two separate breaches where the hacker took control of the computer system’s mouse and opened various functions on the screen, changing the sodium hydroxide levels from 100 parts per million to more than 11,100 parts per million (the changes were immediately reverted).
Investigators are unsure where the attack came from. The FBI, along with the Secret Service and the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, are investigating the case.
📝 Report on Kobe Bryant’s Crash
The National Transportation Safety Board released a report yesterday determining last year’s helicopter crash that killed Kobe Bryant and eight others was caused by the pilot’s decision to fly into thick clouds against federal regulations. The report noted the January 26 crash was preceded by the aircraft climbing and then descending rapidly in a left turn, a series of actions it said signified the ‘spatial disorientation’ that comes from limited pilot visibility.
🦠 On the Origins of COVID
Scientists from the WHO and Chinese health bodies jointly presented preliminary findings yesterday after two weeks of investigating the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan. The WHO team said it’s “extremely unlikely” the virus leaked from a Chinese lab and that initial findings suggest the virus was first introduced to humans via an animal like a bat or other small mammal, though further targeted research is necessary.
More: China at first did not allow the WHO mission to enter the country until the global health agency lodged a protest with Beijing. The team was let in last month.
Lawyers on both sides presented their opening arguments in the Senate’s impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump yesterday.
The Senatevoted 56-44 to reject arguments by ex-President Donald Trump’s attorneys that holding an impeachment trial of a former president is unconstitutional, with six Republicans joining all 50 Democratic senators.
Tomorrow, the chamber is expected to start consideration of the “incitement of insurrection” article of impeachment sent by the House.
The family of Alex Kearns, a 20-year-old novice stock trader who killed himself after mistakenly believing he had a negative balance of over $730K, filed a lawsuit against Robinhood on Monday claiming the stock-trading platform’s business practices “directly” led to Alex’s death. The complaint seeks unspecified damages on behalf of the parents and sister of Alex Kearns for wrongful death, negligent infliction of emotional distress, and unfair business practices. (Full lawsuit)
Even More: Robinhood is also the subject of dozens of class-action lawsuits for restricting users’ ability to buy (but not sell) several stocks last month, including GameStop.
🚀 Starlink Blasts Off
SpaceX began accepting preorders yesterday for its Starlink satellite internet service. The preorders are “fully refundable” and available for $99 in the U.S., Canada, and the UK, with the fine print noting that “placing a deposit does not guarantee service.” The company said orders may take up to six months to fulfill depending on the customer’s location.
🪐 Mars Milestone
The United Arab Emirates’ Hope Mars mission entered the red planet’s atmosphere yesterday afternoon and sent a signal back to Earth 204 days after it first launched. With the successful entry, the UAE becomes the first Arab country and fifth globally to reach Mars.
More: Experts estimated the chance of successfully entering Mars’ orbit at ~50% since around half of all Mars missions ultimately fail.
Even More: China’s first independent interplanetary mission, Tianwen-1, is due to enter Mars’ orbit later today.
In Other News…
💰 Redditraised over $250M in a funding round valuing the company at $6B (2x its last funding round in Feb. 2019).
💉 Uber is launching a pilot program in Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, and El Paso, offering free rides to Walgreens stores and clinics to expand COVID-19 vaccine access for underserved communities.
📺 Super Bowl LV was watched by a total of 96.4M viewers according to Nielsen ratings, down from last year’s 102M total viewers. The broadcast broke records as the most live-streamed NFL game ever, up 65% over last year’s Super Bowl.
After nearly a year of distancing from his family, this 93-year-old was thrilled to finally meet his “great-grandpuppy” that was adopted mid-2020. They visited his favorite ice cream spot to celebrate receiving his vaccination.
Paying it forward…
After giving up all her birthday presents and asking for monetary donations instead, one 12-year-old in California gifted $700 to the homeless man who returned her grandmother’s wallet – which had found its way into a dumpster just days before.
NYC’s Girl Scout Troop 6000 is the first of its kind: a troop dedicated to serving kids in the city’s shelter system. Providing a sense of community to homeless youth, 100% of their cookie sales go back to providing resources for the girls’ families.
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⚡ Anyway the Wind Blows… Denmark, currently the largest oil producer in the European Union, announced plans to construct an artificial island miles off its coast serving as a hub for up to 600 massive wind turbines. The project will send electricity to an estimated 3M homes.
🤖 Face the Facts… Computer scientists at UC San Diego demonstrated for the first time that AI systems designed to detect deepfakes can be deceived, heightening the potential threat of counterfeit videos.
👃 On the Nose
What is the medical term for a runny nose?
(keep scrolling for the answer)
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All of the above options are scary-looking medical terms for common symptoms. Rhinorrhea describes a runny nose, obdormition is the feeling of a body part falling asleep, borborygmus refers to the noise your stomach makes when hungry or struggling to digest, and xerosis is simply dry skin.