11.16.2021

Infrastructure, Alex Jones, and Pickleball's Big Moment Everything you need to know for today in five minutes.

Good morning. It's Tuesday, Nov. 16, and we're covering US infrastructure, the latest judicial ruling against Alex Jones, and much more. Have feedback? Let us know at [email protected].

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NEED TO KNOW

 

Infrastructure Bill Signed

President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.2T bipartisan infrastructure bill yesterday, the final step in the passage of the largest transportation funding package in US history.

 

Proposed by a bipartisan group of 21 senators, the plan includes $550B in new appropriations, with the remainder largely covered by reallocating existing funds. Top-line items include roads and bridges ($110B), passenger rail ($66B), power infrastructure and broadband ($65B each), and upgrades to airports ($25B) and waterways ($17B). See more details here.

 

The plan is projected to add $256B to the deficit over 10 years. Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) has been appointed to oversee the implementation of spending. 

 

Separately, reports suggest the House will vote on a $1.85T social spending package this week. It remains unclear whether Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) will support the bill in the Senate.

Alex Jones Verdict

A Connecticut judge ruled yesterday radio host Alex Jones is liable for damages arising from his promotion of conspiracy theories around the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting. Jones, who has claimed multiple times the attack was a hoax, refused to turn over documents and was found liable by default. The ruling mirrors similar decisions in three separate defamation lawsuits in Texas. 

 

Twenty-six people, including 20 children, were killed in the attack—the worst mass shooting at an elementary school in US history. Claims by Jones and others that the attack was staged spurred conspiracy theorists to carry out extensive harassment campaigns against victims' families.  

 

Jones eventually recanted the claims during a 2019 deposition, blaming his claims on a bout of psychosis. The decision skips a highly anticipated civil trial and sends the verdict straight to a jury to determine damages, while leaving some legal questions around defamation unresolved.

Texas Governor Race

Former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke (D) announced a bid for the state's governorship yesterday, raising the possibility of a high-profile showdown with two-term incumbent Gov. Greg Abbott (R).  

 

Analysts say Abbott remains in the driver's seat in the race, despite O'Rourke's name recognition. O'Rourke, a 49-year-old El Paso native, lost an effort to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz (R) in 2018 by three points and fell short in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries. While Abbott's popularity has dipped in recent months, no Democrat has won statewide office in Texas since 1994. Former President Donald Trump carried the state last year by six points. Abbott has also reportedly already amassed $55M for his reelection campaign.

 

In related news, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is on track to have the third-longest tenure in Senate history, said he would not seek reelection next year.

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IN THE KNOW

 

Sports, Entertainment, & Culture

In partnership with The Ascent

> Nationwide strike averted as Hollywood behind-the-scenes workers voted to approve new three-year film and TV contract (More) | Snapchat partners with Sony to make its music available on the platform (More)

 

> Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena and Cincinnati Reds second baseman Jonathan India named American and National League Rookies of the Year (More)

 

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai hasn't been publicly heard from since her Nov. 2 allegations that former Vice Premier Zhang Gaoli sexually assaulted her (More)

From our partners: Say hello to a one-card wallet. The Ascent's credit card expert personally signed up for this credit card, thanks to its impressive mix of benefits. Up to 5% cash back, a big bonus, no annual fee, the list goes on.

Science & Technology

> IBM unveils its largest quantum computer to date, with 127 quantum bits (More) | Read more on how quantum computing works (More)

 

> Brain scans reveal the brain region responsible for facial recognition functions similarly in both babies and adults; research suggests that part of the visual cortex  develops much earlier than previously thought (More)

 

> Scientists confirm the existence of cold traps on the moon that may potentially contain solid carbon dioxide; such deposits could be mined for fuel for future lunar-based missions (More)

Business & Markets

> Energy giant Royal Dutch Shell plans to consolidate its dual Dutch and British corporate structure, move its headquarters to London, and drop “Royal Dutch” from name (More)

 

> Food producer Tyson Foods raises prices as costs increase; beats Q3 earnings and revenue expectations (More)

 

> Casper, the popular direct-to-consumer mattress company, to be taken private by private equity firm, shares up near 90% on the news; the move is valued at roughly half of the company’s initial public offering price of $12 in February 2020 (More)

Politics & World Affairs

> Jury deliberations begin in Kyle Rittenhouse’s homicide trial, verdict expected as early as tomorrow; judge dismisses underage gun possession charge based on phrasing of state law (More)

 

> British officials say a car explosion outside a Liverpool hospital Sunday is being treated as a terrorist incident; one person was killed, three arrested in the attack (More)

 

> Steve Bannon taken into custody on contempt of Congress charges after declining to respond to a subpoena from the Jan. 6 committee; former Trump adviser faces a maximum of two years in jail (More)

IN-DEPTH

 

Monster in Plain Sight

Rolling Stone | Kory Grow, Jason Newman. For years, rock star Marilyn Manson passed himself off as a provocateur the media loved to hate. Behind the scenes, he was allegedly even worse than his public image. (Read)

Ending the 9-9-6

MIT Tech Review | Siyuan Meng. An online campaign pushing back against China's grueling 9-9-6 schedule—an expectation to work from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week—went viral last month. But rapid censorship of the project showed how difficult it may be to enact change. (Read, paywall)

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ETCETERA

 

Why pickleball is blowing up

 

Time traveling through a dictionary.

 

The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree arrives.

 

How to stop caring what other people think about you. (paywall, Atlantic)

 

Iceland roasts Mark Zuckerberg.

 

"Sesame Street" welcomes its first Asian American muppet.

 

A snarky ranking of the Fabergé eggs (warning: language).

 

Egyptian storms unleash a scorpion plague.

 

Clickbait: When you contract out through the rent-a-hitman website.

 

Historybook: Blues musician W.C. Handy born (1873); UNESCO, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, is founded (1945); Benazir Bhutto elected prime minister of Pakistan, becomes first woman in modern history to lead Muslim-majority country (1988); RIP Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman (2006).

 

"Life is like a trumpet. If you don't put anything into it, you don't get anything out."

- W.C. Handy

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