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5 things to know for September 28: Covid-19, Afghanistan, Congress, China, R. Kelly

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Here’s what you need to know to Get Up to Speed and On with Your Day.

(You can also get “5 Things You Need to Know Today” delivered to your inbox daily. Sign up here.)

1. Coronavirus

2. Afghanistan

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley and US Central Command leader Gen. Frank McKenzie are all set to testify today before a Senate committee. The officials will undoubtedly face tough questions about the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan and likely be expected to provide more information about the Biden administration’s plans for preventing Afghanistan from being a safe haven for terrorists. Milley’s testimony will be of particular interest, since it could include accounts from his final months in the Trump administration. Some Republicans have called for Milley to face consequences for reportedly bypassing then-President Trump to assure China that Trump would not stage an attack against it. 

3. Congress

Senate Republicans blocked a House-passed bill yesterday to suspend the debt limit and avert a government shutdown. Now, there’s no clear plan among lawmakers to keep government funding from running out at the end of the month. Democrats tied the two measures together in hopes of forcing Republicans to vote in favor of suspending or raising the debt ceiling — something GOP leaders don’t want to do, despite the potentially catastrophic consequences. Republicans pinpoint the Democrats’ recent spending bills as the reason the debt ceiling needs to be raised and thus want no part of it. It’s possible Democratic leaders could now strip out the debt ceiling provision from the funding bill to meet the more immediate deadline of keeping the government open past Thursday. 

4. Canada & China

Canada and China got into a heated spat in the final hours of the UN General Assembly over allegations of hostage diplomacy following the release of Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou. Canada’s foreign minister suggested Canadian nationals Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig were imprisoned by the Chinese government in retaliation for Canada’s detention of Meng. A representative of China’s delegation later accused the US and Canada of keeping Meng under house arrest without “legal reasons.” Though the release of Meng, Spavor and Kovrig was supposed to mark the decline of a three-year point of tension between Canada and China, the conditions of their release — and reasons for their detention — are still a sore spot. 

5. R. Kelly

R&B singer R. Kelly has been found guilty on charges of racketeering and sex trafficking. Kelly faced nine counts in this federal case: one of racketeering, with 14 underlying acts that included sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and sex trafficking charges, plus eight counts of violations of the Mann Act, a sex trafficking law. He will be sentenced in May and could face decades in prison. The trial, which began in August, featured testimony from several alleged victims who said they were groomed, sexually abused and exploited by the singer. Some victims were underage at the time of the alleged abuse. Kelly also faces other criminal charges in Illinois for child pornography, obstruction and aggravated criminal sexual abuse; and in Minnesota for two counts of engaging in prostitution with a minor. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges and denies any wrongdoing.

BREAKFAST BROWSE

Nestlé recalls over 27,000 pounds of frozen DiGiorno pepperoni pizza

Check your freezer so you’re not left hanging for the next movie night

A German hamster named Mr. Goxx makes crypto picks on his hamster wheel, and he’s actually doing really well

That hamster’s got a strong crypto portfolio” is definitely a phrase from an alternate timeline.

The brand behind Silk and So Delicious wants to make a milk alternative that tastes like, well, milk

We are approaching the Non-Dairy Singularity

TikTok says it now has more than 1 billion monthly active users

The earliest bird reared by humans may have been what is now called the world’s most dangerous bird

Leave it to humans to see an animal with beady eyes and razor-sharp claws and think, “Hey, I’m gonna love this thing!

TODAY’S NUMBER

$18 million

That’s how much the gaming company Activision Blizzard will pay to settle a lawsuit by a US government agency alleging harassment and discrimination. The company is behind huge titles like Call of Duty, World of Warcraft and Candy Crush.

TODAY’S QUOTE

“If he hadn’t tried to kill the President, he would have been given unconditional release a long, long, long time ago.”

US District Judge Paul Friedman, who said he will approve a deal freeing John Hinckley Jr. from strict conditions of release that he’s been living with since he left a mental hospital in 2016. Hinckley tried to assassinate President Reagan in 1981, was found not guilty by reason of insanity and spent nearly 30 years at a mental facility.

TODAY’S WEATHER

AND FINALLY

Hello, this is bird

Oh, that all of our business calls were placed to such a delightful correspondent. (Click here to view.) 



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FreshKorn Cryptocurrency

Stocks rebound after Omicron plunge

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Reports of the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus brought back memories of last summer when the fast-spreading Delta variant put a dent in the recovery and consumer confidence. This spooked investors on a traditionally quiet day in the market following Thanksgiving, leading to one of the worst days for stocks this year.
The Dow (INDU) logged its worst day since October 2020, while the S&P 500 (SPX) had its worst performance since February. The Nasdaq Composite (COMP) recorded its steepest fall since September.

But just as the market quickly bounced back from its Delta fears, history appears to be repeating itself: Investors are taking a breath and sensing a buying opportunity.

The market opened in the green, with all three indexes sharply higher. The Dow opened up 375 points, or 1.1%, while the S&P rose 1.2%. The Nasdaq was 1.5% higher.

Other asset classes that were battered Friday — notably oil and cryptocurrencies — also recovered.

US oil prices were up 6.7%, or almost $5, at $72.69 per barrel around the time of the stock market open. That doesn’t totally make up for Friday’s drop, but it takes back a chunk of it.

The global oil benchmark Brent was up 5.7% at $76.84 per barrel.

Bitcoin was up more than 5%.

“Investors are trying to make sense of the latest Omicron Covid strain, but at this point more seems to be unknown than known,” said analysts at Bespoke Investments. “Clouding things even more, we’re unlikely to have definitive answers in the immediate future.”



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FreshKorn Cryptocurrency

Stocks tumble as fears over new Covid-19 variant grip global markets

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US equities took a dive at the open and continued their downward path in the first half hour of trading, with the Dow more some 900 points lower. Oil prices were also badly hit.

Over the summer, the Delta variant spooked consumers and weighed on sectors like leisure and hospitality. Now investors and economists worry this new variant could do the same.

Wall Street was deep in the red early Friday, with the Dow (INDU) falling 2.5%, or about 900 points, in what is shaping up to be a volatile session. The broader S&P 500 (SPX) tumbled 1.8% and the Nasdaq Composite (COMP) opened down 1.3%.

It’s a shortened trading session as the New York Stock Exchange will close at 1 pm ET after being closed Thursday for Thanksgiving. Reduced trading volume during this half-day session is also likely to exacerbate the swings in the market.

Nevertheless, it could shape up to be one of the worst days of the year for stocks.

But it’s not just stocks that are getting a beating.

Oil prices are tumbling as well. US oil futures fell 7.4%, or nearly $6, to $72.51 per barrel around the time of the stock market open. The global benchmark Brent dropped 6.8% to $76.63 per barrel.

The US dollar, measured by the ICE US Dollar Index, which pegs it against its main rivals, was down 0.6% Friday morning.

Cryptocurrencies also felt the heat, dropping across the board. Bitcoin was down nearly 7% around the time of the stock market open, according to CoinDesk data.

Meanwhile, investors are pushing into safe haven investments. The 10-year US Treasury bond got more expensive and yields fell more than 0.1 percentage points to 1.52% Friday morning. Gold prices also jumped.



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FreshKorn Cryptocurrency

‘NFT’ is Collins Dictionary’s Word of the Year for 2021, beating out ‘crypto’ and ‘cheugy’

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Written by Jack Guy, CNNLondon

“NFT,” the abbreviation of “non-fungible token,” has been named Word of the Year by dictionary publisher Collins, beating “crypto” and “cheugy” to the top spot.

An NFT is “a unique digital certificate, registered in a blockchain, that is used to record ownership of an asset such as an artwork or a collectible,” according to a blog post from Collins, published Wednesday.

Acting like virtual signatures, NFTs prove the authenticity of an artwork as the blockchain serves as incorruptible proof of ownership, meaning that “original” artworks and their owners can always be identified via the blockchain, even if an image or video is widely replicated.

They also provide scarcity, and as a result the digital art market has been booming.
In March, a digital artwork named “Everydays: The First 5000 days” sold for $69.3 million via Christie’s, making its creator, graphic designer Mike Winkelmann, better known as Beeple, one of the art market’s most valuable living artists.

The idea of a digital revolution is also captured in another of the dictionary’s candidates for Word of the Year: “crypto,” short for “cryptocurrency,” digital money that is challenging traditional forms of money, according to Collins.

It also named “metaverse” in its blog post, following Facebook’s announcement that it would change its corporate name to Meta.

Other selected words reflect the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with “double-vaxxed” and “hybrid working” making the shortlist.

“Climate anxiety” reflects growing concern about the damage humans are doing to the planet, while “neopronoun” is a way of referring to a person without using their name or traditional markers of gender, such as “he” and “she.” Collins gives “xe,” “ze” and “ve” as examples of neopronouns.

Rounding out the shortlist are “Regencycore,” which is defined as a fashion aesthetic inspired by the Georgian-era clothing seen in the Netflix show “Bridgerton,” and “cheugy,” which is used to say that something is out of date or uncool.

In 2020, Collins named “lockdown” its Word of the Year, for obvious reasons, and, earlier this month, Oxford Languages made “vax” its pick for 2021.

Defined as “a colloquialism meaning either vaccine or vaccination as a noun and vaccinate as a verb,” vax was relatively rare until this year, the company, which publishes the Oxford English Dictionary, said.

In September, vax appeared more than 72 times more frequently than the year before, said Oxford Languages, which analyzes news content to track changes in the English language.



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