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1) Bipartisan Support Grows For Congressional Stock Trading Ban
The Topline: A new bipartisan effort is underway to ban members of Congress from trading individual stocks after multiple studies have brought into question whether members have been using inside information to get rich.
Quote Of The Day: “Members of Congress shouldn’t be padding their own pockets and lining their own wallets, they ought to be focused on doing what the people sent them there to do, and that means they shouldn’t be trying to make a quick buck on the stock market.”
– Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO)
Members of Congress are currently allowed to buy and sell individual stocks as long as they aren’t trading with “nonpublic knowledge.” Critics say this is too vague a definition, and leaves the door open for members of Congress to unfairly leverage the information they hear in closed door meetings to their advantage.
Numerous politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, made significant profits buying and selling stocks related to vaccines and other COVID-19 products. In multiple instances, it looked as if they were trading with information they’d received in closed door briefings during the early days of the pandemic.
In a recent poll, 75% of voters said Members shouldn’t be playing the stock market. Though House Speaker Nancy Pelosi initially said she opposed the measure because “we’re a free market economy,” she changed her message last week as pressure built, saying “If members want to do that, I’m okay with that.”
Leaders from both sides, including Republican Senator Josh Hawley (MO) and Democratic Senator John Osoff (GA), have proposed similar laws that would ban members of Congress and their immediate families from buying individual stocks. If they wanted to invest in the market, they’d have to put their money in a blind trust instead. Under Hawley’s proposal, members who violated the law would have to pay all of their profits directly to the U.S. Treasury, while under Osoff’s bill, they’d have to pay a fine roughly equal to their congressional salary.
In November, Lockheed Martin won a $10 billion contract with the U.S. government to modernize the F-22. Two weeks before the deal, House Democrat Kathy Manning bought $30,000 worth of Lockheed stock. She sits on the House Foreign Affairs committee and presumably would’ve known that this contract was coming. House Republican Kevin Hern, who sits on the Budget committee, did the same, buying $100,000 worth of Lockheed stock just weeks before the contract was announced.
On March 19th, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her husband bought over $3 million worth of Microsoft Stock, and 12 days later, the stock spiked 12% when it was announced that Microsoft had secured a $22 billion contract with the U.S. military. Many traders started following Members’ stock activity and copying their moves, which resulted in them turning a profit. It became a popular trend on TikTok and Twitter.
2) Biden Administration Pressures Spotify Over Rogan Content
The Topline: A leading health official in the Biden administration is suggesting that Big Tech needs to do more to reign in Joe Rogan’s influence.
Quote Of The Day: “Now when it comes to how we root out the misinformation in society right now, and give people access to accurate information, we’ve got to do several things. Number one, we’ve got to recognize that our technology platforms, whether particularly social media, these have an important role to play. These are the predominant places where we’re seeing misinformation spread.”
– U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy
Last week, citing concerns over vaccine ‘misinformation,’ Neil Young asked Spotify to choose between his music and Joe Rogan, and Spotify chose Rogan. Joni Mitchell joined Young saying she’s going to take her music off the platform if it continues to host Rogan’s show. Yesterday, Prince Harry and Megan Markle challenged the streaming platform to “meet the moment.”
Now, the Biden administration has signaled it wants Spotify to reign in Rogan, with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy making a pointed statement on MSNBC last week.
Some conservative legal scholars argue that part of Big Tech’s free speech is having the liberty to censor speech on their platforms as they see fit as private companies.
Other constitutional experts have said this is too simplistic because the government has been coercing Big Tech to suppress speech. In that case, Big Tech is acting as an arm of the government engaging in censorship.
In July, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki outlined a series of “asks” she said the Biden administration has presented to Big Tech companies.
Since then, YouTube and Twitter have taken action against Rogan. YouTube has removed some of his episodes which centered on COVID treatments and Twitter banned one of his most popular guests, Dr. Robert Malone, the doctor who helped pioneer mRNA vaccines.
Yesterday, Bloomberg reported on a leaked internal email which said Spotify is planning to add warning labels to Rogan’s show.
3) Controversy Ahead Of Beijing Winter Olympics
The Topline: With just a few days until the beginning of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, the news is not centered on the games or the Olympians, but rather on the location, as Beijing’s Communist government cracks down on free speech and their human rights abuses continue.
Quote Of The Day: “…the IOC deserves all of the disdain and the disgust that comes their way for going back to China yet again…the restrictions on press freedom and the sense that everyone there is being monitored in some way. We had that feeling in 2008 in Beijing. I think, if anything, it’s been ramped up now.”
– Veteran sports broadcaster Bob Costas
In December, the Biden Administration announced a diplomatic boycott of the games, citing China’s “ongoing genocide and crimes against humanity.” China’s communist government responded by saying “[t]he U.S. will pay a price for its wrong practices.”
However, many feel that the diplomatic boycott is not enough. Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) said the administration “has no plan to protect our athletes.”
All athletes will be separated from the rest of society due to COVID. They will be in a “closed loop,” and participants will also be subject to daily testing throughout their time in China. Athletes who break protocol will face repercussions, such as expulsion from the Games. Athletes and team officials must be fully vaccinated in order to avoid a 21-day quarantine. Unlike at the Tokyo Games, the vaccine will be a requirement for members of the U.S. Olympic Team.
China announced a change in plans regarding fan attendance in mid-January, with the organizing committee announcing the original plan to offer event tickets to the general public had been scrapped, with tickets now being offered to “selected groups.”
NBC Sports will not send announcers to the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games in China over growing COVID concerns.
Freedom Of Speech
The IOC has said athletes will be allowed “freedom of speech” in China when it comes to speaking with journalists and posting on social media, though how the IOC will protect athletes against Chinese law is unclear.
Two weeks ago, the deputy director general of Beijing 2022’s International Relations Department, Yang Shu, told reporters that Olympians who violate the “Olympic spirit” will be subject to punishment.
Yang said, “Any expression that is in line with the Olympic spirit I’m sure will be protected. Any behaviour or speech that is against the Olympic spirit, especially against Chinese laws and regulations, are also subject to certain punishment.”
While political demonstrations are not allowed at the Olympics, the IOC announced in July 2021 that protests would be allowed prior to the start of competition and during the introduction of an athlete, but whether those actions will be allowed in Beijing is another issue.
Other Stories We’re Tracking
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