Welcome to the Weekly Scan. Here’s what we’re following for the week of June 28, 2021.
The rubber hits the road. President Biden announced last week that the administration had reached a deal with bipartisan lawmakers over an infrastructure plan. The proposed $579 billion bill would allocate $312 billion for transportation, $15 billion for electric vehicle infrastructure and electric vehicle buses and transit, $73 billion for power, $65 billion for broadband internet, and $55 billion for water. The deal has been backed by 11 Republicans and 10 Democrats, but will reportedly need to gain support to achieve the 60 votes needed to pass a Democrat-controlled Senate.
- The takeaway: President Biden acknowledged that passing the bill would require lawmakers from both parties to make concessions. For one, the $15 billion proposed for electric vehicles would be much less than the $174 billion Biden initially asked for. Some Democrats have said that they would require a larger second bill around fighting climate change to support the infrastructure compromise. (In fact, the entire plan was almost derailed due to ill-considered remarks by the president about the larger bill over the weekend.)The deal aims to improve infrastructure while also providing jobs and increasing access to things like broadband internet, which could help close a “digital divide” among Americans.
Re-Buffed. Berkshire Hathaway CEO and chairman Warren Buffett resigned from his position as a trustee of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The resignation came weeks after Bill and Melinda French Gates announced their divorce. Buffett has promised the majority of his $105.3 billion fortune to five nonprofit groups, including the Gates Foundation. When Buffett announced his exit from the foundation, he also said he donated $3.2 billion to the organization, adding to the $31 billion he gave in 2006. Although the foundation has 1,600 staff members in 135 countries, it only had three trustees: Bill and Melinda Gates, and Buffett.
- The takeaway: Buffett’s decision to leave the foundation has added more uncertainty to the future of the organization, which directs giving of some $5 billion annually, since the divorce announcement. Mark Suzman, the chief executive officer of the Gates Foundation reportedly said via an email to employees that the leadership change did raise “questions about the foundation’s governance.” Some have suggested that the Gateses might create a board for the company following their split. One of the most prominent philanthropic firms currently, the Gates Foundation gives to global health and other initiatives.
Toxic. Pop singer Britney Spears pleaded to a Los Angeles Superior Court to end her conservatorship, which has given her father James Spears control over her finances, career, and some aspects of her personal life for the past 13 years. Courts placed Spears under conservatorship, a legal form of guardianship to manage someone’s affairs when they are unable, in 2008 following a mental health crisis for the pop star. In her speech, Spears pleaded with the judge to end the conservatorship without requiring a mental health examination. Spears cited her struggles under the conservatorship, including not being permitted to remove an intrauterine device (IUD) in order to conceive a child and being put on the drug lithium against her wishes. She’s expected to formally petition the court to end the conservatorship.
- The takeaway: The story of Britney Spears’ conservatorship and the movement to end it, known as #FreeBritney, has shed light on the nature of conservatorships. The conservatorship gives James Spears control over her $60 million fortune, and enables him to negotiate business opportunities and other financial concerns. In response to Britney Spears’ request, the court removed James Spears as conservator of Britney’s personal affairs in 2019.
Antivirus creator dies. John McAfee, founder of the McAfee antivirus software company, was reportedly found dead by an apparent suicide in his jail cell in Spain last week. Days earlier, the Spanish court ruled that McAfee could be extradited to the United States, where he faces charges for evading taxes in Tennessee. Known as an eccentric, McAfee reportedly failed to report income earned from promoting cryptocurrencies while he was doing consulting work. The state of Tennessee claimed that McAfee owed the state more than $4.2 million. Throughout his life, McAfee encountered legal problems in the U.S., Central America, and the Carribean.
- The takeaway: Known as an eccentric, McAfee built his software company in 1987 and then sold his stake in the company during the 1990s for a reported $100 million. Following the sale, McAfee focused on various interests and lines of business including yoga, ultralight aircraft, and herbal medications. He also made two attempts to run for president in the U.S. In 2019, McAfee was ordered to pay $25 million to the estate of Gregory Viant Faull, a neighbor in Belize found shot to death, for wrongful death.
Find out what we covered in last week’s Scan.