The daily business briefing: August 10, 2021
Democrats tee up $3.5 trillion budget plan, Apple responds to backlash over new image-scanning software, and more
Democrats tee up $3.5 trillion budget plan to follow infrastructure passage
The Senate is expected to approve a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill Tuesday morning, then the chamber will begin considering a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint Senate Democrats released Monday. The budget blueprint, expected to pass with only Democratic votes, will unlock the reconciliation process, allowing the ambitious spending proposal to move out of the Senate with no Republican support. The budget package envisions two years of free community college, universal pre-kindergarten, expanded Medicare coverage of dental and vision, and efforts to combat climate change and poverty, paid for mostly through higher taxes on profitable corporations and wealthy households. The $3.5 trillion price tag is a ceiling, and agreeing on the actual measures and funding mechanisms will pit moderate and progressive Democrats against each other.
Apple responds to backlash over new image-scanning software
Apple on Monday fended off criticism aimed at its recently-announced plan to enable iPhones and other devices to scan photos for child-abuse imagery before they're uploaded to the company's cloud service, iCloud. Security experts worry the new software is a privacy nightmare, and could open the door to further surveillance techniques across the globe. "This will break the dam — governments will demand it from everyone," said Matthew Green, a security professor at Johns Hopkins University. In response to the backlash, Apple pledged not to "expand" the program, and touted various safeguards it had put in place to prevent the system from being abused. "We have faced demands to build and deploy government-mandated changes that degrade the privacy of users before, and have steadfastly refused those demands," the company said.
NBC's Tokyo Olympics viewership hits new network low
U.S. athletes won more medals, 113, and more gold medals, 39, at the Tokyo Olympics than any other country, but fewer Americans tuned in to watch them than in previous years, NBCUniversal said Monday. The average prime-time viewership over the 17 days, 15.5 million households, was the lowest since NBC started broadcasting the Games in 1988 and represented a 42 percent drop from the Rio Olympics in 2016. NBC Sports Chairman Pete Bevacqua said NBC was "prepared for these numbers," adding, "For better or worse, I really do believe the pandemic and postponement impacted these Games," but they still "will be very, very profitable for NBCUniversal." NBC owns the U.S. media rights to the Olympics through 2032.
'Jeopardy!' producer Mike Richards faces backlash over hosting rumors
Mike Richards, the executive producer of Jeopardy!, told the show's staff on Monday that he's "humbled and deeply honored" by reports he's in advanced negotiations to permanently replace the late Alex Trebek at host, but "the choice on this is not my decision and never has been." Before his name surfaced as frontrunner for the job, former Jeopardy! champion Ken Jennings was believed to be the top contender. Richards said several other candidates are also in discussions about taking over as host. He also addressed a 2010 discrimination lawsuit he was involved in at The Price is Right, saying his comments and actions have been mischaracterized.
Markets waver ahead of inflation data
U.S. stock futures wavered Tuesday morning as investors waited for clues from Fed officials about how and when the central bank will end economic stimulus measures and tighten its economic policy. Markets are also waiting for U.S. inflation figures, which will be released Wednesday. "While inflation data has so far not been a major market mover, Wednesday's July consumer price index release has the potential to cause volatility, especially given expectations that inflation has passed the peak," said Mark Haefele, chief investment officer at UBS Global Wealth Management. Futures for the S&P 500 were little changed hours before the opening bell Tuesday, while those for the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropped 0.1 percent. Nasdaq futures were up slightly by 0.1 percent.