The House Speaker McCarthy plans to take a trip to Taiwan; the FDA suggests an annual COVID-19 vaccine; and more Big Tech layoffs. These stories and more highlight the daily midday rundown for Jan. 23, 2023.
Potential McCarthy trip to Taiwan
The Pentagon is in the process of planning the places House Speaker Kevin McCarthy will travel to this year in effort to strengthen relationships among U.S. allies. One of those places being Taiwan, according to reports.
It could create another sticky situation after former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made the same trip last year. It sparked outrage, threats and military drills from China, creating a tense political climate between the two countries.
McCarthy’s trip could potentially come as soon as the spring.
FDA to provide COVID-19 vaccine guidance
Within the past few years the world has learned that COVID-19 is something everyone will have to learn to live with. It’s not a “one time pandemic,” but a virus that evolves into multiple strains, making it very similar to the flu. The FDA is releasing new guidance Monday on how people should vaccinate against COVID-19 moving forward. The guidance is expected to be similar to how people vaccinate against the flu.
The FDA is recommending an annual shot that would be taken in the fall to best protect people before the winter. Vaccine makers would update the shot to try and match it with whatever COVID-19 variant seems to be most dominant that year.
Supporters of this approach say it simplifies the process, because people wouldn’t have to worry about how many shots or boosters they have received or when they were received them. Critics say COVID-19 hasn’t settled into a seasonal pattern like the flu yet, so they think more than an annual shot is needed.
Spotify lays off 6% of workforce
Last week, it was Microsoft and Google. This week, Spotify is laying off employees.
600 employees, or 6% of its workforce, are now without a job after cuts were made Monday morning. The trend of tech layoffs is only deepening. Meta, Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Twitter and Lyft are just a few of the companies who have made sweeping cuts to their staff.
Tech layoffs in 2023 have already reached one-third of last year’s total, and it’s only January.
Things to know before filing taxes
Monday is the start of tax season, and returns can start to be filed. But there are a few slight changes to this year’s tax credits that could end up shrinking refunds as the IRS drops many “pandemic-era perks.”
Due to the pandemic last year, there was an “enhanced child credit” that gave families $3,600 for every child under 6 years old and up, and $3,000 for children 6 to 17. This year, the child tax credit is going back to pre-pandemic amounts. The credit will shrink to a maximum of $2,000 per child.
Another “pandemic-era tax break” for charitable deductions was nixed. And those stimulus payments people received a few years back? A lot of taxpayers received a “recovery rebate credit” from it. Those credits are also gone.
Because of the changes, tax experts say to expect a smaller refund this year.
Tax season starts Monday and will end on April 18, since April 15 falls on a weekend.
Nike vacates downtown Seattle due to crime
A Nike store in Seattle, that has been operating for 26 years, has shut down. Customers are now wondering if it’s because of a lack of sales, or rather a lack of safety.
Businesses leaving the area has been a recent trend in downtown Seattle. A multiplex cinema also decided not to renew its lease and left the area, as violent crime persists in the city. Last year 310 homeless people were killed, which is more than ever before.
A new Nike store is opening up this year, but it’ll be about an hour away from Seattle’s downtown area.
UFO-like cloud formation
A rare phenomenon prompted residents in Turkey to fear their time on earth was coming to a close as they waited to be abducted into a spaceship from above. Really, it’s just a rare and bizarre formation of clouds.
The cloud hovered above for about an hour. Not surprisingly, the formation ended up all over social media for people to have some fun with.