April 15, 2021

The Senate on Wednesday confirmed President Biden's pick to lead the Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, 53 to 45. Gensler, a former Goldman Sachs partner who cracked down on Wall Street as head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission after the 2008 financial crisis, has laid out an ambitious ramping up of regulatory enforcement after four years of deregulation.

Along with policing Wall Street banks, Gensler will also have to contend with the rise of "stonks," or meme stocks like GameStop, and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs). The Chamber of Commerce endorsed Gensler's nomination, suggesting he will be "a balanced leader of the SEC and strong supporter of competitive capital markets." But only three Republicans — Susan Collins (Maine), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), and Cynthia Lummis (Wyo.) — voted to confirm him. Peter Weber

April 13, 2021

The White House said Tuesday night that President Biden has accepted an invitation from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to address a joint session of Congress on April 28, the night before his 100th day in office. Pelosi extended the invitation earlier Tuesday, suggesting Biden could "share your vision for addressing the challenges and opportunities of this historic moment."

It isn't clear yet how the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the speech, traditionally attended by all members of the House and Senate, plus Supreme Court justices and Cabinet members. The House, which will host the address in its chamber, has enacted social distancing measures and requires everyone to wear a mask, and the visitor gallery, usually full during such speeches, has been closed to the public.

Biden is delivering his inaugural address to Congress later in his first year than his predecessors Donald Trump and Barack Obama did. Although the April 28 event will resemble a State of the Union address, presidents don't deliver that speech until their second year in office. Peter Weber

March 18, 2021

The Secret Service detained a man outside the official vice presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory on Wednesday and District of Columbia police arrested him on a weapons charge, D.C.'s Metropolitan Police said. Vice President Kamala Harris has not yet moved into the residence due to ongoing renovations.

The Secret Service had been tipped off by an intelligence bulletin from Texas. The man they detained, identified as Paul Murray of San Antonio, is being held on charges of carrying a dangerous weapon, a rifle, unregistered ammunition, and a device that feeds 30-round clips of ammunition to the rifle.

Nobody was injured. Peter Weber

February 18, 2021

Life expectancy in the U.S. dropped by an entire year in the first half of 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic started ravaging the northeastern part of the country and spreading south, according to preliminary data released Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). "This is a huge decline," Robert Anderson, who oversees the numbers for the CDC, told The Associated Press. "You have to go back to World War II, the 1940s, to find a decline like this."

The decline in life expectancy means that a baby born in the first half of 2020 can expect to live 77.8 years, down from 78.8 years in 2019. Life expectancy for Black Americans dropped a stunning 2.7 years, to 72 years old, reversing a 27-year gradual closure of the gap between white and Black life expectancy. White Americans saw their life expectancy drop 0.8 years, to 78, and Hispanics experienced a 1.9-year decline, to 79.9 years old.

"What is really quite striking in these numbers is that they only reflect the first half of the year," Dr. Kirsten Bibbins-Domingo at the University of California, San Francisco, told AP. "I would expect that these numbers would only get worse." They will get worse for everyone, but because the deaths in the first half of the year were concentrated in areas with large Black and Latino populations, there will probably be a greater share of white deaths in the full-year numbers, the NCHS's Elizabeth Arias, lead author of the paper, told The Washington Post.

COVID-19 wasn't the only reason for the decrease in life expectancy. With more than 3 million recorded deaths. 2020 was the deadliest year in U.S. history. Included in those statistics are an uptick in fatal strokes and heart attacks and a record number of drug overdose deaths, 81,000 from May 2019 to May 2020. Life expectancy, with few modest exceptions, had risen steadily in the U.S. since the mid-20th century. Peter Weber

February 11, 2021

The National Park Service confirmed Wednesday that Bruce Springsteen was arrested last November on charges of driving while intoxicated, reckless driving, and consuming alcohol in a closed area at Gateway National Recreation Area in New Jersey. Springsteen, 71, "was cooperative throughout the process," an NPS spokeswoman tells The Wall Street Journal. He will appear in federal court, probably remotely, later this month.

Springsteen was featured in a two-minute Jeep ad that aired during Sunday's Super Bowl, and Jeep said it has removed the ad from its YouTube and social media pages. "It would be inappropriate for us to comment on the details of a matter we have only read about and we cannot substantiate," Jeep said in a statement. "But it's also right that we pause our Big Game commercial until the actual facts can be established. Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever. As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned."

The Gateway National Recreation Area covers 27,000 acres in New York and New Jersey, circling New York Harbor; the New Jersey segment centers around Sandy Hook beach. Springsteen was arrested Nov. 14. Peter Weber

February 2, 2021

The Atlanta rapper Silento, best known for his 2015 hit "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)," was arrested Monday and charged with the murder of his cousin, Frederick Rooks, the DeKalb County Police Department said. Silento, the stage name of 23-year-old Ricky Lamar Hawk, was being held without bond in a DeKalb County jail late Monday, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. Police found Rooks, 34, dead with multiple gunshot wounds early Jan. 21, and they used security cameras from multiple residents to recreate what happened.

Hawk told the Journal-Constitution in 2015 that he put "Watch Me" on YouTube after he lost the talent show at DeKalb's Redan High School, to prove the haters wrong. It has since been watched more than 1.8 billion times and spawned its own dance craze. His first album, Fresh Outta High School, came in out in 2018. Hawk has more recently gotten in trouble with the law, the Journal-Constitution reports. He was arrested twice in one week last April, for domestic violence and gun charges in California, then arrested again in DeKalb County in October for driving at more than 140 mph on I-85. Peter Weber

January 25, 2021

President Biden plans to sign an executive order on Monday requiring government agencies to increase purchases of American-made products, Reuters and The Wall Street Journal reports. The policy is part of the "Buy American" initiative Biden promised during his campaign. Biden reportedly hopes to harness the purchasing power of the U.S. government, the biggest buyer in the world, to boost domestic manufacturing and supply chains hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic. Biden's Buy American initiative shares some elements of former President Donald Trump's domestic preference policy under his America First plan, which centered around tariff hikes targeting China and other trading partners.

Canada's foreign minister, Marc Garneau, said Sunday that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had expressed concerns to Biden about the Buy American program in a Friday phone call. A senior Biden administration official told the Journal that Biden's order seeks to strengthen the U.S. supply chain, after the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted critical weaknesses. "We remain very committed to working with partners and allies to modernize international trade rules to make sure that we can use our taxpayer dollars to stir investments in our own countries and strengthen supply chains," the official said. Harold Maass

January 4, 2021

With just over two weeks left in President Trump's presidency, the White House is still putting out his daily schedule, but the schedules keep "sounding weirder and weirder," CNN's Kevin Liptak observed Sunday night. He was specifically pointing to the guidance for how Trump will spend Monday, before he heads to Georgia to campaign for the Republican incumbents in twin Senate special elections on Tuesday. "President Trump will work from early in the morning until late in the evening," the White House said late Sunday. "He will make many calls and have many meetings."

There's a clear didn't-read-the-book-report vibe to Trump's official schedule, but we also know, thanks to Georgia's secretary of state and Trump's Twitter feed, that what Trump is working on and calling people about these days is his doomed effort to overturn his loss in the Nov. 3 election. The man who defeated him, President-elect Joe Biden, is also traveling to Georgia to campaign, his office said Sunday. Biden may have meetings and phone calls planned for Monday as well, but that didn't make his schedule. Peter Weber

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