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5 things to know for October 29: Congress, Facebook, Capitol riot, Covid-19, Israel

By AJ Willingham, CNN

The pandemic has made problems for countless industries, but cannabis isn’t one of them. Sales are expected to top $26 billion this year and will probably keep growing from there.

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

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1. Congress

Congress has headed out for the week without officially coming to an agreement about either the Democratic spending bill or the bipartisan infrastructure bill despite enormous pressure to seal some deals before President Biden’s European trip. Before leaving, Biden tried to make a case for his significantly scaled-back economic bill, with a new price tag of $1.75 trillion. (Here’s exactly what’s in the bill.) Progressives signaled they support the framework but want the two bills to move together. That can’t happen yet because the spending bill isn’t fully written out. This resistance resulted in a delay of a House vote on the Senate-passed infrastructure bill. However, the House did pass an extension on transportation funding that was due to run out Sunday. They now have until December to vote before the funding lapses again, but Democratic leaders hope to have the larger bill done by then.

2. Facebook

Facebook is changing its company name to … Meta. Facebook will still exist, of course, but only as one product under the larger company umbrella. The rebranding signals the company’s growing interest in the “metaverse,” which would combine virtual and augmented reality into a new kind of online realm. It could also help distract from growing criticism about the impact of its social media platforms. CEO Mark Zuckerberg made the announcement during, appropriately, a virtual reality and augmented reality conference. He also teased new social, gaming and workplace concepts for the metaverse, illustrating what the concept may offer. Still, the release of internal documents and discussions about regulation loom large over the social media giant. In response to the Facebook Papers, Patagonia CEO Ryan Gellert has called for companies to join an ad boycott to pressure Facebook to fix its platforms.

3. Capitol riot

Members of the House select committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot are losing patience with former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and may resort to charges of criminal contempt to get him to appear. Meadows was first subpoenaed more than a month ago and has since tried to negotiate the terms of his turning over documents and appearing for a deposition. Members could extend the deadline for him to appear before the committee, but at some point, his noncompliance could undermine their efforts. They could vote to hold him in contempt, like they did with former President Trump ally Stephen Bannon. The committee is interested in Meadows’ testimony because of how close he was to Trump and his insight into how much Trump knew before the attack.

4. Coronavirus

New cases of Covid-19 are down 60% in the US since the peak of the Delta variant-driven wave in September. They’re even farther down from the country’s worst pandemic phase in mid-January. Experts are cautious about saying the worst is over, especially since similar optimism over the summer was quashed by another surge. The biggest challenge right now, besides lagging vaccination rates, is upcoming colder weather and annual holiday travel and gatherings. Meanwhile, vaccine mandates are still getting a lot of pushback. Members of the New York City Fire Department gathered yesterday to protest the city’s looming vaccine mandate as officials brace for possible mass staffing shortages.

5. Israel

Israel’s plan to green-light thousands of new Israeli housing units in the West Bank is drawing international criticism. Such settlements are illegal under international law because both the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered occupied territory — which Israel disputes. Twelve European countries yesterday urged Israel to “reverse its decision.” The US and the UK also issued strong disagreements with the plan. The US State Department said the plan to build new West Bank housing goes against efforts to lower tensions in the politically fraught area. This disagreement could further fray relations between the Biden administration and the government of Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett. However, the Israeli government is expected to attempt to smooth over the situation by also announcing new settlements for Palestinians in the same area.


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