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5 things to know for July 28: Prisoner swap, Congress, Fed, Drought, Facebook


By Alexandra Meeks, CNN

There was a time not long ago when no one paid the full sticker price when buying a new car, but with vehicle inventories limited due to supply chain problems, retail car prices are through the roof. And while that’s bad news for buyers, some automakers have seen their earnings and revenue soar.

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

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1. Prisoner swap

The Biden administration has proposed a prisoner swap to secure the release of two Americans held by Russia, Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan. President Joe Biden has offered to exchange Viktor Bout, a convicted Russian arms trafficker serving a 25-year US prison sentence. Multiple sources told CNN that the plan to trade Bout for Whelan and Griner received the backing of Biden after being under discussion since earlier this year. The President’s support for the swap overrides opposition from the Department of Justice, which is generally against prisoner trades. Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Wednesday that the US presented the “substantial proposal” to Moscow “weeks ago” for Whelan and Griner. When asked about the possible swap, Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov said “so far, there is no agreement on this issue.”

2. Congress

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin on Wednesday announced a deal on an energy and health care bill, representing a breakthrough after more than a year of negotiations that have collapsed time and again. The deal now stands a serious chance of becoming law as soon as August — but will likely face furious GOP opposition and several other hurdles. Manchin’s support of the bill is notable given his stance earlier this month that he “unequivocally” wouldn’t support the climate or tax provisions of the Democratic economic package, which appeared to torpedo any hope the party had of passing legislation to fight climate change in the near future. The announcement comes at a crucial time for Congress as the Senate is a little over a week away from starting a monthlong recess when many Democrats will campaign for reelection.

3. Interest rates

For the second month in a row, the Federal Reserve aggressively raised interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point. Members of the central bank on Wednesday voted in favor of the rate hike to help ease inflation. The action emphasizes how far the Fed is willing to push the economy to temper rising costs for Americans amid the highest price increases since the 1980s. Inflation is hovering stubbornly at 40-year-highs due to a variety of factors, including the Fed’s own pandemic-era policies. The Fed moving decisively shows confidence in the health of the job market. But the speed with which interest rates are expected to go up underscores its growing concern about the soaring cost of living.

4. Drought

The extreme heat gripping parts of the US in recent weeks is worsening drought conditions and causing devastating consequences — including heat-related deaths and damaging wildfires. Many Southern states have been particularly impacted by the heat waves, including Texas, where vital water and lush fields are needed to sustain livestock. Texas cattle ranchers have been especially hit hard by drought, as dry land and triple-digit temperatures make it difficult to maintain healthy cattle. As a result, ranchers are selling off animals at a startling pace not seen in more than a decade, foreshadowing troubling trends for consumer beef prices. Meanwhile, an unrelenting heat wave will continue scorching the Northwest and parts of the South today, with more than 30 million people in the US under various heat alerts.

5. Facebook

Meta, Facebook’s parent company, posted its first revenue drop since going public in 2012 — a sign Facebook is in decline. During the course of three months ending in June, the company’s profit fell 36% year-over-year to nearly $6.7 billion, a huge reversal from the year prior when its profit doubled. The number of monthly active users on the Facebook app also declined slightly. This comes a few weeks after Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg said that the company would cut plans to hire engineers by at least 30% this year, telling employees in a Q&A that “this might be one of the worst downturns that we’ve seen in recent history,” according to a Reuters report. Meta shares fell as much as 5% in after-hours trading Wednesday following the earnings report before rebounding somewhat.


Saudi Arabia unveils designs for 106-mile-long vertical city

The internet is fascinated with this design of a one-building city that could potentially house millions of people. Watch this short video to see what it would look like.

Sprite will no longer be sold in green bottles

After more than 60 years, Sprite is getting a makeover.

Rick Astley celebrates ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ turning 35

Let’s have some fun. Finish the lyrics! Never gonna give you up. Never gonna let you down. Never gonna run around and…

Brendan Fraser transforms into a 600-pound man in ‘The Whale

Check out the actor’s major transformation here.

‘Jeopardy’ now has two permanent co-hosts

It won’t exactly be a daily double, but “Jeopardy!” has decided that two hosts are better than one.


President Biden will speak with Chinese President Xi Jinping today

A call is expected between President Biden and Chinese leader Xi Jinping today, amid poor relations between the two countries. The call comes as the US faces backlash from Beijing over a proposed visit by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to Taiwan. The trip has raised concerns within the Biden administration, with national security officials quietly working to convince Pelosi of the risks a visit could pose during a highly sensitive moment between Taiwan and China.


Tony Dow, an actor and director best known for portraying Wally Cleaver on the sitcom “Leave It to Beaver,” died Wednesday morning, according to his manager Frank Bilotta, citing Dow’s son Christopher. He was 77. News of the actor’s passing comes one day after a premature announcement of his death. No cause of death was shared, but Dow revealed in May that he had been diagnosed with cancer.


170 carats

That’s the size of a massive pink diamond recently discovered in the African nation of Angola. Named the “Lulo Rose,” the diamond may be the largest such gemstone found in 300 years, according to Australian miner Lucapa Diamond Company. It is now being valued to determine its approximate cost, the company said. Large colored diamonds have fetched millions at auctions in recent years.


“I will second guess myself for the rest of my life.”

— Robb Elementary Principal Mandy Gutierrez, defending herself Wednesday against criticism about her handling of school security before the massacre that left 19 children and two teachers dead. “I feel that I followed the training that I was provided with to the best of my abilities,” she said when asked whether she felt she should lose her job.


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Breeding the World’s Hottest Pepper

Meet the man behind the world’s hottest pepper — the “Carolina Reaper.” (Click here to view)

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