Good morning, happy Thursday and welcome to February. Which means tomorrow is Groundhog Day. While we await Punxsutawney Phil's annual moment of glory (and hope he does not see his shadow), here is an in-depth look at the history of the tradition. Have a great day!
In Today’s Brief
California: Slavery reparations bill
Jordan attack: Response campaign
Trump: Swing state leads on Biden
Walmart: Announces expansion plan
Baltimore Orioles: $1.7B sale deal
1) Tech leaders lambasted
The Senate Judiciary Committee lit into top social media CEOs during a fiery hearing on child exploitation and digital safety.
The headline: Meta's Mark Zuckerberg apologized to attending child victims and their families when prompted by Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley during a heated back-and-forth. Zuckerberg said Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn's claim that Meta's Facebook platform aims to be a top sex trafficking site was ridiculous.
Other news: TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew denied he is a member of the Chinese Communist Party or has a Chinese passport under questioning by Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton. Chew is a native of Singapore; TikTok is owned by Chinese company ByteDance, but has many U.S. functions in a domestic entity. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham told the CEOs, "you have a product that's killing people."
Big picture: Lawmakers profess bipartisan support for stricter social media regulations, and the CEOs conceded more safeguards are needed. However, legislators have yet to take significant action.
2) Slow that roll
The word: Fed Chairman Jerome Powell said he does not believe the central bank will be comfortable enough to cut rates when it meets again in March. Powell did say he believes cuts are likely this year.
Markets react: Major indexes closed down after sliding on the new guidance. The Dow Jones was down 0.82%, the Nasdaq fell 2.23% and the S&P 500 was down 1.61%.
Big picture: The Fed needs to see inflation move closer to its 2% goal before cutting rates. The focus will shift to the bank's May meeting; Powell's comments suggest the Fed's forecast for three rate cuts in 2024 is more likely than the 5-6 some optimistic analysts predicted.
3) Border backpedal?
Capitol Hill's ongoing battle over a supplemental spending package could take an unexpected turn.
State of play: Congressional Republicans have taken a hard line with President Joe Biden and Democrats, insisting stricter border security measures be tied to $106B in foreign aid, chiefly for Ukraine. But that may be shifting.
Next steps: The Senate is reportedly finalizing a substantial bipartisan deal. But Speaker of the House Mike Johnson has already suggested the unreleased bill would go nowhere and former President Donald Trump, the presumed GOP nominee, has railed against it. Johnson and other party leaders now say they may split Ukrainian aid from border security.
Big picture: Johnson (and Trump) have insisted their opposition to the Senate deal is policy, not politics. But immigration has emerged as a significant issue in the 2024 race, and it appears to be energizing Trump's candidacy.
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California lawmakers introduced several reparations bills yesterday. The package is the first in the nation; it does not include financial compensation to direct descendants of enslaved peoples (More)
FBI Director Christopher Wray said Chinese hackers are positioning to attack national infrastructure. Electrical grids and water treatment plants are among the potential targets (More)
House Republicans do not currently have the votes to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, but still plan a floor vote next week. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has not committed to holding a trial if Mayorkas is impeached (More)
The U.S. response to a deadly attack on a military outpost in Jordan will be tiered and could last days or weeks. The campaign is expected to target Iranian-backed militias, but no direct strikes on Iran are anticipated (More)
The State Department is reviewing policy options for a Palestinian state after the war in Gaza, including bilateral recognition. Existing U.S. policy states recognition would only come as a result of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (More)
U.S. weapon sales abroad reached a record almost $240B in 2023. Ukraine's war against Russia drove the 56% YoY increase, which includes sales by the Pentagon and deals by defense companies (More)
Former President Trump leads President Biden by 3-10 points in seven swing states, according to polls commissioned by Bloomberg. Biden has a six-point lead in a Quinnipiac national survey (More)
Super PACs tied to Trump spent close to $50M on legal fees for the former president and his associates last year, according to federal filings. Political donations cannot be used to pay civil penalties levied against Trump (More)
Trump met with the Teamsters union yesterday, but expressed skepticism he will win the labor group's endorsement. The United Auto Workers endorsed Biden last week (More)
Business & Markets
Walmart plans to build or convert over 150 large-format stores in the U.S. by 2029. The majority will be new stores; the company employs 1.6M people at over 4.6K locations nationwide (More)
A federal judge dismissed Disney's lawsuit against Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis alleging political retaliation. The entertainment giant indicated it plans to appeal (More)
Businessman Byron Allen has offered $30B to acquire Paramount Global and its debt. Allen's Entertainment Studios owns The Weather Channel; he tried to buy the NFL's Denver Broncos in 2022 (More)
Entertainment & Sports
A group led by private equity billionaire David Rubenstein has agreed to pay $1.7B for the Baltimore Orioles. The proposed deal needs to be approved by MLB owners; the Angelos family has controlled the team for 31 years (More)
The PGA Tour finalized a $3B investment deal with a consortium led by professional sports team owners. The golf circuit could still enter an agreement with Saudi Arabia's Public Investment Fund (More)
Digital news startup The Messenger ceased operations after just eight months. The company launched with $50M last year and hired over 300 journalists, but could not secure new investment to stay afloat (More)
Feel Good: Melanie Harper figured she had lost her wedding band forever when it slipped off her finger at a South Carolina recycling center. But after emailing Greenville's public works department, several staffers started digging. A few hours later, they found the ring.
Go Deep: Intermittent fasting has become popular for its health and weight loss benefits. But dieticians and doctors caution it is more complex than condensing your meal schedule. Here is a look at the dos and don'ts.
Self Care: Sometimes friends grow apart as they age. That is normal, experts say, and people should not blame themselves if friendships drift away.
New Idea: A Lithuanian company has invented a potentially revolutionary wheelchair. It self-balances like a Segway and allows people to be upright and navigate the world more comfortably.
Life Hack: Your microwave can do much more than heat up food. Here are four hidden uses, including making your stale potato chips crispy again.
Get Healthy: Pop quiz: What’s the body’s most abundant protein? The answer: Collagen. NativePath's Certified Grass-Fed Collagen Powder is made from grass-fed, pasture-raised cows and contains 18 grams of protein per suggested serving. Start incorporating it daily to support skin elasticity, joint health, bone strength, and muscle growth and maintenance.*
ABC has released a trailer for the 20th season of Grey's Academy, which includes confirmation Ellen Pompeo will return as Dr. Meredith Grey.
Looking Ahead …
Dubai will host the world's first jet suit race later this month. Over 50 participants are expected to put futuristic flying suits to the test at the event on Feb. 28.
What is your favorite Peter Sellers movie?