Your Daily Brief

August 5th, 2022

Good morning, and happy Friday! Before you ring in your well-deserved weekend, we’re covering coral levels in the Great Barrier Reef, bribes taken by the former governor of Puerto Rico, and more. Here’s what we have for you:

In Today’s Brief

  • Great Barrier Reef: Coral amounts in some parts reach their highest levels in 36 years
  • Alex Jones: Jury orders radio host to pay $4 million in compensatory damages
  • Lady Gaga: Starring in the ‘Joker’ sequel alongside Joaquin Phoenix
  • Mortgages: Average rates for 30-year fixed mortgages fall below 5%
  • Ne-Yo: Singer’s wife files for divorce and claims he recently fathered a child with another woman
  • Top Tips: WNBA player Brittney Griner found guilty of drug charges and sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison, Bank of England makes its largest rate hike since 1995, U.S. declares the monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency

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Brittney Griner is sentenced to 9 years in a Russian prison

A Russian court found WNBA player Brittney Griner guilty of drug possession and smuggling charges yesterday and sentenced her to nine years in prison.

Detained in Russia after airport officials discovered cannabis-infused vape cartridges in her luggage, Griner pleaded guilty to the charges last month. Prosecutors asked for a prison term of 10 years prior to the sentencing, while Griner asked the court for leniency in her final statement, saying, “I never meant to break any laws here. I made an honest mistake and I hope that in your ruling that it doesn’t end my life here.” Russian Judge Anna Sotnikova then found that Griner intentionally broke the law, and sentenced her to a fine of 1 million rubles (over $16,000) in addition to the prison term.

Upon news of the sentencing, President Biden issued a statement in which he called Griner’s punishment “unacceptable,” and added that his “administration will continue to work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue” to bring her and Paul Whelan–another American detained in Russia–back to the United States.

Bank of England raises interest rates by the largest increment since 1995

The Bank of England raised interest rates by 50 basis points yesterday to help bring down inflation, marking the British central bank’s largest rate increase in 27 years.

In addition to imposing the 0.50% rate increase–which brings the United Kingdom’s key interest rate to 1.75% from 1.25%–the Bank of England published minutes of yesterday’s meeting, in which it said it expects inflation to rise to over 13% in Q4 of this year. The bank wrote in its minutes that current inflation levels were due to a near-doubling of wholesale gas prices that came as a result of Russia restricting its gas supplies to Europe, and added that “the United Kingdom is now projected to enter recession from the fourth quarter of this year.”

Yesterday’s increase lifts the United Kingdom's key interest rate to its highest level since 2008, and follows two consecutive months of rate hikes of 75 basis points (0.75%) from the United States Federal Reserve to ease inflationary pressures.

U.S. government declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency

United States health officials have declared the monkeypox virus outbreak a public health emergency.

Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra announced the declaration during a briefing yesterday, and Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the declaration will free up funding and resources to help fight the spread of the disease. The Biden administration’s declaration follows a similar move from the World Health Organization, when the intercontinental agency called the outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” on July 25th.

As of yesterday’s data from the CDC, there have been over 6,600 reported cases of monkeypox in the United States, with the majority of them found in men who have sex with men. The United States has the highest case count globally.

Around the Globe

  • China launched 11 ballistic missiles into waters around the northeast and southwest coasts of Taiwan following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island earlier this week
  • Coral amounts in some areas of the Great Barrier Reef have reached their highest levels in 36 years, according to a report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science
  • Three ships carrying over 58,000 metric tons of corn are set to leave Ukrainian ports today as part of the deal between Russia and Ukraine to unblock grain exports

On the Homefront

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland announced civil rights offenses, unlawful conspiracy, and unconstitutional use of force and obstruction charges against the four officers involved in the 2020 shooting of Breonna Taylor
  • The FBI arrested former governor of Puerto Rico Wanda Vázquez and accused her of accepting bribes while in office from a campaign donor; it is the first time a former leader of Puerto Rico faces federal charges
  • A Texas jury ordered radio host Alex Jones to pay about $4 million in compensatory damages to the parents of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting that Jones claimed was a hoax

Glitz and Games

  • Lady Gaga confirmed she will star alongside Joaquin Phoenix in 2024’s Joker: Folie à Deux; see the musical teaser she posted to social media here
  • Kevin Spacey lost a bid to overturn a fine of $31 million he was ordered to pay to House of Cards producers for breaching his contract for sexually harassing crew members
  • James Franco has been cast as former Cuban President Fidel Castro in the upcoming film Alina of Cuba

Money Moves

  • Major indexes in the stock market ended mixed after relatively flat trading activity (Dow -0.26%, Nasdaq +0.41%, S&P 500 -0.08%)
  • Movie theater chain AMC Entertainment (NYSE: AMC) plans to issue a dividend to all shareholders in the form of 517 million shares of preferred stock; the stock will trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol “APE”
  • Average rates for a 30-year fixed mortgage have fallen below 5% for the first time in 4 months, according to a survey from Freddie Mac

Tips & Tricks

  • Bump This: Kick off your weekend with some chill shuffle vibes in the new track “Coast” from Hailee Steinfeld and Anderson .Paak - listen on Apple Music and Spotify
  • Chow Down: Grilling this weekend? Check out this recipe for Filipino-style barbecue skewers (and try to keep your mouth from watering)
  • Nerd Out: Check out this electric high-speed magnetic train developed by Canadian startup TransPod that can hit speeds of 621 miles per hour and reduce emissions at the same time
  • Go Deep: Browse this list of the funniest rappers on social media right now, ranked according to Complex (don’t worry–Snoop Dogg is in there)
  • Say What: "I feel blessed to have worked among absolute greats and forged relationships for a lifetime in the process! To every Batgirl fan — THANK YOU for the love and belief, allowing me to take on the cape and become, as Babs said best, 'my own damn hero!'” actress Leslie Grace said after Warner Brothers announced it had shelved the upcoming Batgirl film in which she acted in the titular role
  • Hot Goss: Singer Ne-Yo’s wife Crystal Smith has filed for divorce days after publicly accusing the singer of infidelity, claiming he recently fathered a child with another woman
  • Life Hack: Putting a small glass of water in the microwave when you heat up your pizza helps the crust from getting chewy (or, you know, just stick it in the oven)

Looking Back…

On August 5th: Henry I is crowned King of England (1100); magician Harry Houdini stays in an underwater airtight coffin for roughly 90 minutes in his last public stunt (1926); Dick Clark’s American Bandstand airs nationally for the first time (1957); actress Marilyn Monroe dies (1962).

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