Until recently, staffing shortages at Biggby Coffee were so severe that many of the chain’s 300-plus stores had to close early some days, or in some cases not open at all. But while hiring remains a challenge, the pressure has begun to ease, said Mike McFall, the company’s co-founder and co-chief executive. One franchisee recently told him that 22 of his 25 locations were fully staffed and that only one was experiencing a severe shortage.

“We are definitely feeling the burden is lifting in terms of getting people to take the job,” Mr. McFall said. “We’re getting more applications, we’re getting more people through training now.”

The shift is a welcome one for business owners like Mr. McFall. He said franchisees have had to raise wages 50 percent or more to attract and retain workers — a cost increase they have offset by raising prices.

“The expectation by the consumer is that you are raising prices, and so if you don’t take advantage of that moment, you are going to be in a pickle,” he said, referring to the pressure to increase wages. “So you manage it by raising prices.”

So far, Mr. McFall said, higher prices haven’t deterred customers. Still, he said, the period of severe staffing shortages is not without its costs. He has seen a loss in sales, as well as a loss of efficiency and experienced workers. That will take time to rebuild, he said.

“When we were in crisis, it was all we were focused on,” he said. “So now that it feels like the crisis is mitigating, that it’s getting a little better, we can now begin to focus on the culture in the stores and try to build that up again.”

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China’s ‘Absurd’ Covid Propaganda Stirs Rebellion

“We have won the great battle against Covid!”

“History will remember those who contributed!”

“Extinguish every outbreak!”

These are among the many battle-style slogans that Beijing has unleashed to rally support around its top-down, zero-tolerance coronavirus policies.

China is now one of the last places on earth trying to eliminate Covid-19, and the Communist Party has relied heavily on propaganda to justify increasingly long lockdowns and burdensome testing requirements that can sometimes lead to three tests a week.

The barrage of messages — online and on television, loudspeakers and social platforms — has become so overbearing that some citizens say it has drowned out their frustrations, downplayed the reality of the country’s tough coronavirus rules and, occasionally, bordered on the absurd.

citywide lockdown in Shanghai this spring, Jason Xue had no more food left in his fridge. Yet when he clicked on the government’s social media account, he noticed that a top city official had vowed to “make every possible endeavor” to address food shortages.

Government assistance didn’t show up until four weeks later, Mr. Xue said.

“I was extremely angry, panicked and despairing,” said Mr. Xue, who works for a financial communications firm. He eventually turned to neighbors for help. “The propaganda was resolute and decisive, but it was different from the reality that we didn’t even know whether we could have the next meal.”

Xi Jinping, China’s leader, has made controlling the virus a “top political priority.” Thousands of state media outlets and social media accounts have echoed Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy and praised the sacrifice of workers trying to control Covid-19.

at least 120 Covid-related propaganda phrases have been created since the beginning of the pandemic.

blocking them from seeking safety.

Videos of the episode were posted online and quickly deleted by censors, who said people should “at least bring masks before escaping from buildings,” even when an earthquake is “highly destructive.”

For some, the video was a reminder of how the government had used the pandemic to tighten its grip on their private lives, telling them when they can leave their apartments, what kind of food they can buy and what hospitals they can enter.

Kong Lingwanyu, a 22-year-old marketing intern in Shanghai, was upset that officials used the phrase “unless necessary” when describing restrictions around things like leaving the home, dining out or gathering with others.

Ms. Kong said a local official responsible for carrying out coronavirus policies had told her that she should not “buy unnecessary food.” She said she asked the official what standards the government used to determine what kind of food was necessary.

“Who are you to decide the ‘necessity’ for others?” she said. “It’s totally absurd and nonsense.”

On state television, Beijing’s “nine storm fortification actions” around the pandemic are frequently repeated to keep people in line with Covid policies. The nine actions are: neighborhood lockdowns, mass testing, contact tracing, disinfection, quarantine centers, increased health care capacity, traditional Chinese medicine, screening of neighborhoods and prevention of local transmission.

Yang Xiao, a 33-year-old cinematographer in Shanghai who was confined to his apartment for two months during a lockdown this year, had grown tired of them all.

“With the Covid control, propaganda and state power expanded and occupied all aspects of our life,” he said in a phone interview. Day after day, Mr. Yang heard loudspeakers in his neighborhood repeatedly broadcasting a notice for P.C.R. testing. He said the announcements had disturbed his sleep at night and woke him up at dawn.

“Our life was dictated and disciplined by propaganda and state power,” he said.

To communicate his frustrations, Mr. Yang selected 600 common Chinese propaganda phrases, such as “core awareness,” “obey the overall situation” and “the supremacy of nationhood.” He gave each phrase a number and then put the numbers into Google’s Random Generator, a program that scrambles data.

He ended up with senseless phrases such as “detect citizens’ life and death line,” “strictly implement functions” and “specialize overall plans without slack.” Then he used a voice program to read the phrases aloud and played the audio on a loudspeaker in his neighborhood.

No one seemed to notice the five minutes of computer-generated nonsense.

When Mr. Yang uploaded a video of the scene online, however, more than 1.3 million people viewed it. Many praised the way he used government language as satire. Chinese propaganda was “too absurd to be criticized using logic,” Mr. Yang said. “I simulated the discourse like a mirror, reflecting its own absurdity.”

His video was taken down by censors.

Mr. Yang added that he hoped to inspire others to speak out against China’s Covid policies and its use of propaganda in the pandemic. He wasn’t the only Shanghai resident to rebel when the city was locked down.

In June, dozens of residents protested against the police and Covid control workers who installed chain-link fences around neighborhood apartments. When a protester was shoved into a police car and taken away, one man shouted: “Freedom! Equality! Justice! Rule of law!” Those words would be familiar to most Chinese citizens: They are commonly cited by state media as core socialist values under Mr. Xi.

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KTNV: More Latinos Are Becoming Homeowners, But Roadblocks Remain

By Tricia Kean

and KTNV-TV
September 19, 2022

More than 650,000 Latinos became homeowners nationwide from 2019 to 2021and now over half of all Latino-Americans own a home.

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — 700,000 Latinos live in Clark County, and many of them are buying homes. In fact, a recent report by the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals says Latinos across the country are buying homes more than ever before.

Today, nearly half of all Hispanics are homeowners. But are they buying in Las Vegas?

“I for sure wanted to have at least three bedrooms in the house,” Hugo Organista told KTNV.

He bought a home last November. Organista says he came to Las Vegas after struggling to find something in the Phoenix area.

“(I) realized that I probably wasn’t going to get what I wanted and placed four offers on a house there, got beat out by a cash buyer every time,” Organista said.

Fortunately, he was able to scoop up a move-in-ready house near Boulder Highway and Tropicana Avenue. It’s a dream the Mexican native says he still can’t believe.

“When my family came here, we were eating pizza on the floor. We didn’t even have enough for a dining room table,” Organista said.

Organista said he was able to buy a home at a young age thanks to his mom. He credits her with teaching him how to work hard, save money and pay bills on time.

“You know, like she would drag me down to JC Penney’s to go make a cash payment for her credit card because she didn’t want it to be late. So, I kind of grew up with that in mind,” he said.

LATINO HOUSEHOLDS

In the Latino community, Organista isn’t alone. More than 650,000 Latinos became homeowners nationwide from 2019 to 2021. A lot of them are buying in the Las Vegas valley, says Myra Rivera, with the local chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Real Estate Professionals.

“(In) 2021, we went up a little bit over 48 percent in Latino households, and that’s projected to continue to go up,” Rivera said. “I think in the last few years that I’ve been in business, and also just looking at the stats, those numbers have been increasing every single year.”

In fact, as of 2021, more than 40% of Hispanic adults 45 years old and younger are mortgage ready.

“And in the next few years, we’re going to see a lot of those Latinos come into the market because now they’re ready. Their next step is finding a home,” Rivera said.

Many interested homebuyers are looking here in Las Vegas because they want new construction, Rivera added.

FROM CALIFORNIA

“We get people from California coming in, used to the older homes, and they see Vegas homes mostly in the 2000s and they’re like, Oh, wow, this is new,” says Rivera.

Rivera admits it’s still a tough market for some Hispanic families. Many still struggle with poor credit and are looking for homes at a lower price point.

“Latino households usually are larger. They have a lot of kids or their parents living with them. So, they need at least 3 to 5 bedrooms. Finding a house that’s 3 to 5 bedrooms in that little price point… is sometimes a little difficult,” says Rivera.

But Rivera is happy to see the situation is improving. She says many younger Latinos see the benefits to buying versus renting.

“You’re starting to see the next generations or the next one in the family is buying younger or they’re upgrading sooner… They see it as ‘I’m investing, I’m upgrading. My family needs it.’ They’re not scared of the process,” says Rivera.

Organista says it’s encouraging to hear Latinos his age and younger are learning, anything is possible.

“It’s a testament to what happens when we start to tackle systematic injustices… Knowledge is like step number one. That’s like half the battle. Then the other half of that is actually putting it into practice,” says Organista.

This story was originally published by Tricia Kean on ktnv.com.

Source: newsy.com

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Shock Waves Hit the Global Economy, Posing Grave Risk to Europe

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the continuing effects of the pandemic have hobbled countries around the globe, but the relentless series of crises has hit Europe the hardest, causing the steepest jump in energy prices, some of the highest inflation rates and the biggest risk of recession.

The fallout from the war is menacing the continent with what some fear could become its most challenging economic and financial crisis in decades.

While growth is slowing worldwide, “in Europe it’s altogether more serious because it’s driven by a more fundamental deterioration,” said Neil Shearing, group chief economist at Capital Economics. Real incomes and living standards are falling, he added. “Europe and Britain are just worse off.”

eightfold increase in natural gas prices since the war began presents a historic threat to Europe’s industrial might, living standards, and social peace and cohesion. Plans for factory closings, rolling blackouts and rationing are being drawn up in case of severe shortages this winter.

China, a powerful engine of global growth and a major market for European exports like cars, machinery and food, is facing its own set of problems. Beijing’s policy of continuing to freeze all activity during Covid-19 outbreaks has repeatedly paralyzed large swaths of the economy and added to worldwide supply chain disruptions. In the last few weeks alone, dozens of cities and more than 300 million people have been under full or partial lockdowns. Extreme heat and drought have hamstrung hydropower generation, forcing additional factory closings and rolling blackouts.

refusing to pay their mortgages because they have lost confidence that developers will ever deliver their unfinished housing units. Trade with the rest of the world took a hit in August, and overall economic growth, although likely to outrun rates in the United States and Europe, looks as if it will slip to its slowest pace in a decade this year. The prospect has prompted China’s central bank to cut interest rates in hopes of stimulating the economy.

“The global economy is undoubtedly slowing,” said Gregory Daco, chief economist at the global consulting firm EY- Parthenon, but it’s “happening at different speeds.”

In other parts of the world, countries that are able to supply vital materials and goods — particularly energy producers in the Middle East and North Africa — are seeing windfall gains.

And India and Indonesia are growing at unexpectedly fast paces as domestic demand increases and multinational companies look to vary their supply chains. Vietnam, too, is benefiting as manufacturers switch operations to its shores.

head-spinning energy bills this winter ratcheted up this week after Gazprom, Russia’s state-owned energy company, declared it would not resume the flow of natural gas through its Nord Stream 1 pipeline until Europe lifted Ukraine-related sanctions.

Daily average electricity prices in Western Europe have reached record levels, according to Rystad Energy, surging past 600 euros ($599) per megawatt-hour in Germany and €700 in France, with peak-hour rates as high as €1,500.

In the Czech Republic, roughly 70,000 angry protesters, many with links to far-right groups, gathered in Wenceslas Square in Prague this past weekend to demonstrate against soaring energy bills.

The German, French and Finnish governments have already stepped in to save domestic power companies from bankruptcy. Even so, Uniper, which is based in Germany and one of Europe’s largest natural gas buyers and suppliers, said last week that it was losing more than €100 million a day because of the rise in prices.

International Monetary Fund this week to issue a proposal to reform the European Union’s framework for government public spending and deficits.

caps blunt the incentive to reduce energy consumption — the chief goal in a world of shortages.

Central banks in the West are expected to keep raising interest rates to make borrowing more expensive and force down inflation. On Thursday, the European Central Bank raised interest rates by three-quarters of a point, matching its biggest increase ever. The U.S. Federal Reserve is likely to do the same when it meets this month. The Bank of England has taken a similar position.

The worry is that the vigorous push to bring down prices will plunge economies into recessions. Higher interest rates alone won’t bring down the price of oil and gas — except by crashing economies so much that demand is severely reduced. Many analysts are already predicting a recession in Germany, Italy and the rest of the eurozone before the end of the year. For poor and emerging countries, higher interest rates mean more debt and less money to spend on the most vulnerable.

“I think we’re living through the biggest development disaster in history, with more people being pushed more quickly into dire poverty than has every happened before,” said Mr. Goldin, the Oxford professor. “It’s a particularly perilous time for the world economy.”

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Odesa’s Catacombs: Same Strange Bomb Shelter, Different Enemy

Young Ukrainians are transforming a network of underground tunnels in Ukraine’s southern port city into bomb shelters.

Five stories below the streets of Odesa, there’s a labyrinth of tunnels. 1,500 miles of them have provided, in the best of times, a challenge for urban explorers like Roman Mauser. 

In the worst of times, it’s been a sanctuary for the unthinkable.  

“In Soviet times, it was decided to make bomb shelter inside the catacombs because they lay very deep underground,” said Mauser. 

The foe then was the United States and the fear of nuclear bombs dropping on Odesa.  

“It was designed to protect from nuclear blast wave to doors,” said Mauser. 

The Cold War thawed, the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine gained its independence and the catacombs’ relevance slid into that of a rusty, dusty curiosity. 

But then Russian President Vladimir Putin trained his missiles on the prized seaport city above it. Since February, strikes have killed more than 30 people. 

And with front-line fighting just 90 miles away, the city remains under constant threat. 

ROMAN MAUSER: The idea to use this place as a bomb shelter came almost immediately when the first shock from the first cruise missiles came. We understood that it will be a long-term war.   

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: What did you have to do to prepare it for people to be down here?   

MAUSER: First of all, build places people can rest.  

BELLINI: This doesn’t seem very comfortable. 

MAUSER: It’s comfortable enough. If you hide from cruise missiles. 

Mauser and his friends hauled down wood and plastic crates to build beds, benches and a dining table.  

MAUSER: For me when the war started. I donated almost all my resources I could. 

An electrical engineer by profession, Mauser established a way to maintain contact with the world above. And he strung electrical wires down into the dark depths. 

MAUSER: The waves go through this cable and you will have internet. I brought more than 200 meters of my own cable here. 

BELLINI: You brought electricity down here where it wasn’t before? 

MAUSER: Nothing. It was completely abandoned. We cleaned this place.  

BELLINI: All this stuff down here. The water, these plastic bags. Who do those belong to?

MAUSER: This supplies were brought by people who live nearby, and everybody has his own place here.  

Back in May, on Russia’s victory day, more than 100 people sought shelter in the catacombs. 

MAUSER: People with children, dogs, cats, old people, everybody. Because people are really afraid that Putin will launch lots of cruise missiles.

In finding safety beneath their city, they became part of a long line of the underground’s hiders and seekers. 

MAUSER: During the time of the Russian empire, catacombs were used by criminals to hide from policemen and [for smuggling]. During the time of the Second World War, catacombs were used by partisans as shelters to fight with Nazi invaders. And now, in 2022, we again make a bomb shelter in this place. So every period of time, catacombs were used somehow. These drawings are very old. Made by miners, I think.  

Miners of the 19th century excavated the limestone with which Odesans built their city by the sea into a world-renowned metropolis.  

Eventually, 20th century high-rises caused the collapse of some sections of the catacombs. Other parts can only be accessed with specialized equipment.  

BELLINI: Past this point it gets a lot narrower and there’s a lot less headspace. And I’m told if you keep walking for about an hour through these tunnels, you’ll eventually come to an area where it’s flooded, and a natural lake under the city exists.  

MAUSER: It’s very difficult to live in catacombs, very difficult for one week, maybe for one month is some sort of hell — for one year it’s like a post-apocalypse game.  

Despite the dangers of war, Mauser continues his YouTube channel documenting his Odesian underground odysseys.

MAUSER: We do not know what will happen in this war. We do not know what Putin will do. We also, we are really afraid of nuclear attack. If he will get a lack of conventional weapons, the only power he will still have is his nuclear weapons. And this place can save you for a long time. The underground world will save lives if there will be a need for it.

Source: newsy.com

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Odessa’s Catacombs: Same Strange Bomb Shelter, Different Enemy

Young Ukrainians are transforming a network of underground tunnels in Ukraine’s southern port city into bomb shelters.

Five stories below the streets of Odessa, there’s a labyrinth of tunnels. 1,500 miles of them have provided, in the best of times, a challenge for urban explorers like Roman Mauser. 

In the worst of times, it’s been a sanctuary for the unthinkable.  

“In Soviet times, it was decided to make bomb shelter inside the catacombs because they lay very deep underground,” said Mauser. 

The foe then was the United States and the fear of nuclear bombs dropping on Odessa.  

“It was designed to protect from nuclear blast wave to doors,” said Mauser. 

The Cold War thawed, the Soviet Union dissolved, Ukraine gained its independence and the catacomb’s relevance slid into that of a rusty, dusty curiosity. 

But then Putin trained his missiles on the prized seaport city above it. Since February, strikes have killed more than 30 people. 

And with frontline fighting just 90 miles away, the city remains under constant threat. 

ROMAN MAUSER: The idea to use this place as a bomb shelter came almost immediately when the first shock from the first cruise missiles came. We understood that it will be a long term war.   

NEWSY’S JASON BELLINI: What did you have to do to prepare it for people to be down here?   

MAUSER: First of all, build places people can rest.  

BELLINI: This doesn’t seem very comfortable. 

MAUSER: It’s comfortable enough. If you hide from cruise missiles. 

Mauser and his friends hauled down wood, and plastic crates, to build beds, benches and a dining table.  

MAUSER: For me when the war started. I donated almost all my resources I could. 

An electrical engineer by profession, Mauser established a way to maintain contact with the world above. And he strung electrical wires down into the dark depths. 

MAUSER: The waves go through this cable and you will have internet. I brought more than 200 meters of my own cable here. 

BELLINI: You brought electricity down here where it wasn’t before? 

MAUSER: Nothing. It was completely abandoned. We cleaned this place.  

BELLINI: All this stuff down here. The water, these plastic bags. Who do those belong to?

MAUSER: This supplies were brought by people who live nearby, and everybody has his own place here.  

Back in May, on Russia’s victory day, more than 100 people sought shelter in the catacombs. 

MAUSER: People with children, dogs, cats, old people, everybody. Because people are really afraid that Putin will launch lots of cruise missiles.

In finding safety beneath their city, they became part of a long line of the underground’s hiders and seekers. 

MAUSER: During the time of the Russian empire, catacombs were used by criminals to hide from policemen and [for smuggling]. During the time of the Second World War, catacombs were used by partisans as shelters to fight with Nazi invaders. And now, in 2022, we again make a bomb shelter in this place. So every period of time, catacombs were used somehow. These drawings are very old. Made by miners, I think.  

Miners of the 19th century who excavated the limestone with which Odessans built their city by the sea into a world-renowned metropolis.  

Eventually, 20th century highrises caused the collapse of some sections of the catacombs. Other parts can only be accessed with specialized equipment.  

BELLINI: Past this point it gets a lot narrower and a lot less headspace. And I’m told if you keep walking for about an hour through these tunnels, you’ll eventually come to an area where it’s flooded and a natural lake under the city exists.  

MAUSER: It’s very difficult to live in catacombs, very difficult for one week, maybe for one month is some sort of hell — for one year it’s like a post-apocalypse game.  

Despite the dangers of war, Mauser continues his YouTube channel documenting his Odesian underground odysseys.

MAUSER: We do not know what will happen in this war. We do not know what Putin will do. We also, we are really afraid of nuclear attack. If he will get a lack of conventional weapons, the only power he will still have is his nuclear weapons. And this place can save you for a long time. The underground world will save lives if there will be a need for it.  

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden To Help Unveil Obama White House Portraits

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president.

It’s been more than a decade since President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, welcomed back George W. Bush and his wife, Laura, for the unveiling of their White House portraits, part of a beloved Washington tradition that for decades managed to transcend partisan politics.

President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, are set to revive that ritual — after an awkward and anomalous gap in the Trump years — when they host the Obamas on Wednesday for the big reveal of their portraits in front of scores of friends, family and staff.

The Obama paintings will not look like any in the White House portrait collection to which they will be added: They were America’s first Black president and first lady.

The ceremony will also mark Michelle Obama’s first visit to the White House since Obama’s presidency ended in January 2017, and only the second visit for Barack Obama. He was at the White House in April to mark the 12th anniversary of the health care law he signed in 2010.

Portrait ceremonies often give past presidents an opportunity to showcase their comedic timing.

“I am pleased that my portrait brings an interesting symmetry to the White House collection. It now starts and ends with a George W,” Bush quipped at his ceremony in 2012.

Bill Clinton joked in 2004 that “most of the time, till you get your picture hung like this, the only artists that draw you are cartoonists.”

Recent tradition, no matter the party affiliation, has had the current president genially hosting his immediate predecessor for the unveiling — as Clinton did for George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush did for Clinton and Obama did for the younger Bush.

Then there was an unexplained pause when Donald Trump did not host Obama.

Two spokespeople for Trump did not respond to emailed requests for comment on the lack of a ceremony for Obama, and whether artists are working on portraits of Trump and former first lady Melania Trump.

The White House portrait collection starts with George Washington, America’s first president. Congress bought his portrait.

Other portraits of early presidents and first ladies often came to the White House as gifts. Since the middle of the last century, the White House Historical Association has paid for the paintings.

The first portraits financed by the association were of Lyndon Johnson and Lady Bird Johnson, and John F. Kennedy and Jacqueline Kennedy, said Stewart McLaurin, president of the private, nonprofit organization established by first lady Kennedy.

Before presidents and first ladies leave office, the association explains the portrait process. The former president and first lady choose the artist or artists, and offer guidance on how they want to be portrayed.

“It really involves how that president and first lady see themselves,” McLaurin said in an interview with The Associated Press.

The collection includes an iconic, full-length portrait of Washington that adorns the East Room. It is the only item still in the White House that was in the executive mansion in November 1800 when John Adams and Abigail Adams became the first president and first lady to live in the White House.

Years later, first lady Dolley Madison saved Gilbert Stuart’s portrait of Washington from almost certain ruin. She had White House staff take it out of the city before advancing British forces burned the mansion in 1814. The painting was held in storage until the White House was rebuilt.

President and first lady portraits are seen by millions of White House visitors, though not all are on display. Some are undergoing conservation or are in storage.

Those that are on display line hallways and rooms in public areas of the mansion, such as the Ground Floor and its Vermeil and China Rooms, and the State Floor one level above, which has the famous Green, Blue and Red Rooms, the East Room and State Dining Room.

Portraits of Mamie Eisenhower, Pat Nixon, Lady Bird Johnson and Lou Henry Hoover grace the Vermeil Room, along with a full-length image of Jacqueline Kennedy. Michelle Obama’s portrait likely will join Barbara Bush, Hillary Clinton and Laura Bush along the Ground Floor hallway.

The State Floor hallway one floor above features recent presidents: John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Gerald Ford’s portrait and the likeness of Richard Nixon — the only president to resign from office — are on view on the Grand Staircase leading to the private living quarters on the second floor.

Past presidents’ images move around the White House, depending on their standing with the current occupants. Ronald Reagan, for example, moved Thomas Jefferson and Harry S. Truman out of the Cabinet Room and swapped in Dwight Eisenhower and Calvin Coolidge.

In the Clinton era, portraits of Richard Nixon and Reagan, idols of the Republican Party, lost their showcase spot in the Grand Foyer and were replaced with pictures of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Truman, heroes of the Democrats. Nancy Reagan temporarily moved Eleanor Roosevelt to a place of prominence in the East Room in 1984 to mark the centennial of her birth.

One of the most prominent spots for a portrait is above the mantle in the State Dining Room and it has been occupied for decades by a painting of a seated Abraham Lincoln, hand supporting his chin. It was placed there by Franklin Roosevelt.

Bill Clinton’s and George W. Bush’s portraits hang on opposing walls in the Grand Foyer.

Clinton’s would be relocated to make room for Barack Obama’s if the White House sticks to tradition and keeps the two most recent Oval Office occupants there, McLaurin said.

“That’s up to the White House, to the curators,” he said.

The association, which is funded through private donations and the sale of books and an annual White House Christmas ornament, keeps the portrait price well below market value because of the “extraordinary honor” an artist derives from having “their work of art hanging perpetually in the White House,” McLaurin said.

Details about the Obamas’ portraits will stay under wraps until Wednesday.

President Biden will be the rare president to host a former boss for the unveiling; he was Obama’s vice president. George H.W. Bush, who held Ronald Reagan’s ceremony, was Reagan’s No. 2.

Betty Monkman, a former White House curator, said during a 2017 podcast for the White House Historical Association that the ceremony is a “statement of generosity” by the president and first lady. “It’s a very warm, lovely moment.”

The White House portraits are one of two sets of portraits of presidents and first ladies. The National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum, maintains its own collection and those portraits are unveiled before the White House pair. The Obamas unveiled their museum portraits in February 2018.

Linda St. Thomas, chief spokesperson for the Smithsonian Institution, said in an email that a $650,000 donation in July from Save America, Trump’s political action committee, was earmarked for the couple’s museum portraits. Two artists have been commissioned, one for each painting, and work has begun, St. Thomas said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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President Biden Signs Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation

President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday.

President Joe Biden signed Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill into law on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

In a triumphant signing event at the White House, President Biden pointed to the law as proof that democracy — no matter how long or messy the process — can still deliver for voters in America as he road-tested a line he will likely repeat later this fall ahead of the midterms: “The American people won, and the special interests lost.”

“In this historic moment, Democrats sided with the American people, and every single Republican in the Congress sided with the special interests in this vote,” President Biden said, repeatedly seizing on the contrast between his party and the GOP. “Every single one.”

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

“In normal times, getting these bills done would be a huge achievement,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said during the White House ceremony. “But to do it now, with only 50 Democratic votes in the Senate, over an intransigent Republican minority, is nothing short of amazing.”

President Biden signed the bill into law during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for President Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and overwhelmingly supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With President Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy President Biden and members of his Cabinet on a “Building a Better America Tour” to promote the recent victories. One of President Biden’s trips will be to Ohio, where he’ll view the groundbreaking of a semiconductor plant that will benefit from the recent law to bolster production of such computer chips. He will also stop in Pennsylvania to promote his administration’s plan for safer communities, a visit that had been planned the same day he tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

“In the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, will travel across the country to highlight how the bill will help the American people, and will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on September 6th,” the White House said in a statement.

Republicans say the legislation’s new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its highest inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune, R-S.D., on Tuesday continued those same criticisms, although he acknowledged there would be “benefit” through extensions on tax credits for renewable energy projects like solar and wind.

“I think it’s too much spending, too much taxing, and in my view wrong priorities, and a super-charged, super-sized IRS that is going to be going after a lot of not just high-income taxpayers but a lot of mid-income taxpayers,” said Thune, speaking at a Chamber of Commerce event in Sioux Falls. The administration has disputed that anyone but high earners will face increased tax scrutiny, with Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen directing the tax agency to focus solely on businesses and people earning more than $400,000 per year for the new audits.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

President Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

During the signing event, President Biden addressed Manchin, who struck the critical deal with Schumer on the package last month, saying, “Joe, I never had a doubt” as the crowd chuckled.

Though the law is considerably smaller than their initial ambitions, President Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation’s West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 annually starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., a powerful political ally to President Biden, noted during the White House ceremony that his late wife, Emily, who battled diabetes for three decades, would be “beyond joy” if she were alive today because of the insulin cap.

“Many seem surprised at your successes,” Clyburn told President Biden. “I am not. I know you.”

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Biden To Sign Massive Climate And Health Care Legislation

By Associated Press
August 16, 2022

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change and would cap prescription drug costs.

President Joe Biden will sign Democrats’ landmark climate change and health care bill on Tuesday, delivering what he has called the “final piece” of his pared-down domestic agenda, as he aims to boost his party’s standing with voters less than three months before the midterm elections.

The legislation includes the most substantial federal investment in history to fight climate change — some $375 billion over the decade — and would cap prescription drug costs at $2,000 out-of-pocket annually for Medicare recipients. It also would help an estimated 13 million Americans pay for health care insurance by extending subsidies provided during the coronavirus pandemic.

The measure is paid for by new taxes on large companies and stepped-up IRS enforcement of wealthy individuals and entities, with additional funds going to reduce the federal deficit.

The House on Friday approved the measure on a party-line 220-207 vote. It passed the Senate days earlier with Vice President Kamala Harris breaking a 50-50 tie in that chamber.

President Biden is set to sign the bill during a small ceremony in the State Dining Room of the White House, sandwiched between his return from a six-day beachside vacation in South Carolina and his departure for his home in Wilmington, Delaware. He plans to hold a larger “celebration” for the legislation on Sept. 6 once lawmakers return to Washington.

The signing caps a spurt of legislative productivity for President Biden and Congress, who in three months have approved legislation on veterans’ benefits, the semiconductor industry and gun checks for young buyers. The president and lawmakers have also responded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and supported NATO membership for Sweden and Finland.

With President Biden’s approval rating lagging, Democrats are hoping that the string of successes will jump-start their chances of maintaining control in Washington in the November midterms. The 79-year-old president aims to restore his own standing with voters as he contemplates a reelection bid.

The White House announced Monday that it was going to deploy President Biden and members of his Cabinet on a “Building a Better America Tour” to promote the recent victories, though the administration has yet to announce specific travel by the president.

“In the coming weeks, the President will host a Cabinet meeting focused on implementing the Inflation Reduction Act, will travel across the country to highlight how the bill will help the American people, and will host an event to celebrate the enactment of the bill at the White House on September 6th,” the White House said in a statement.

Republicans say the legislation’s new business taxes will increase prices, worsening the nation’s bout with its highest inflation since 1981. Though Democrats have labeled the measure the Inflation Reduction Act, nonpartisan analysts say it will have a barely perceptible impact on prices.

The measure is a slimmed-down version of the more ambitious plan to supercharge environment and social programs that President Biden and his party unveiled early last year.

President Biden’s initial 10-year, $3.5 trillion proposal also envisioned free prekindergarten, paid family and medical leave, expanded Medicare benefits and eased immigration restrictions. That crashed after centrist Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat, said it was too costly, using the leverage every Democrat has in the evenly divided Senate.

Still, President Biden and Democrats are hailing the legislation as a once-in-a-generation investment in addressing the long-term effects of climate change, as well as drought in the nation’s West.

The bill will direct spending, tax credits and loans to bolster technology like solar panels, consumer efforts to improve home energy efficiency, emission-reducing equipment for coal- and gas-powered power plants, and air pollution controls for farms, ports and low-income communities.

Another $64 billion would help 13 million people pay premiums over the next three years for privately bought health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. Medicare would gain the power to negotiate its costs for pharmaceuticals, initially in 2026 for only 10 drugs. Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket prescription costs would be limited to $2,000 annually starting in 2025, and beginning next year would pay no more than $35 monthly for insulin, the costly diabetes drug.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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How Bach Parties Turned Into A Vacation

Bachelorette parties are starting to become more popular, leading more businesses to profit off of these celebrations.

A tradition that used to only last one evening has turned into its own vacation — bachelorette and bachelor parties.   

As social media has gained popularity, experts say these bach parties, as they’re commonly known, may have become a bigger and bigger deal thanks to the growing need for everything to be “Instagrammable.” 

According to data from The Bach, a popular app for bachelorette party planning, 42% of survey respondents planned to attend two or more bachelorette or bachelor parties in 2021. The average party spent $5,500-$7,000 in total on their trip. 

77% of people surveyed said they rented a home for their party. These are typically big groups of about 10 people, and half of travelers said they planned on spending $250 or more on housing each.  

Then there’s also all the other spending. From dining at local restaurants to shopping at local stores, these parties can be pricey. They can also include things like private chefs and transportainment — like party buses, pedal pubs and booze cruises.  

Newsy hit the streets of Nashville, Tennessee, the number one bach party destination, to speak with transportainment companies. They’ve experienced a lot of growth in recent years.  

Companies we spoke with said bachelor and bachelorette parties have been coming here for a while. But as Nashville has become a more popular bach party destination, these transportainment companies have really taken off. Honky Tonk Party Express was one of the first bus companies in Nashville and they operate 38 buses. 

Grant Rosenblatt is the owner of Honky Tonk Party Express.  

“We do 1,800 bachelorette individuals a weekend individual that equates any party comes between 12 and a half is a rough average per group,” Rosenblatt said. “There are other party buses and other in other cities like your Miamis or Austins, but there’s nothing that’s quite where this open air experience is. And when our company started in 2016, there was nothing like that in the country. Now, since then, it’s became so popular that other cities are emulating it.”

While many cities struggled with tourism throughout the pandemic, bach parties provided a boost to local economies. For instance, data from The Bach shows that in 2021, 13,000 bach parties were hosted in Nashville, and this year, 31,000 are planned there. The more parties, the more people are spending money in these cities. The Extreme Experience in Nashville actually launched during the pandemic. 

Parris McKinney Jr. is the owner of Extreme Experience.

“Extreme is designed to have your own club on the bus. So, as you say, you have a lounge. You have your bar and you have your dance floor. So, I came up with the concept as to, you know, you’re more safe on here than you are out there,” McKinney said.  

These types of activities got so popular, Nashville has worked on adding new regulations for these companies, like applying for permits and allowing alcohol only on enclosed vehicles, after complaints from local residents that some visitors were getting out of hand. 

Scottsdale, Arizona, is another popular destination to go to for these kinds of parties. It jumped from number five to number two on the bach travel trends report. 

We spoke with bachelorette party planning companies that offer services like decorating rental properties with popular themes, creating itineraries and stocking the fridge.  

Scottsdale Bachelorette is one of them. Casey Hohman started it in 2018 as a side hustle, but last year it became profitable enough to become his full-time gig.  

“Throughout the pandemic, you know, Arizona was one of the states and Scottsdale was one of those cities where there weren’t a lot of restrictions when it came to nightlife, when it came to restaurants, mask mandates, things like that. So, a lot of people actually detoured their bachelorette parties from other cities like Vegas and Florida to Scottsdale,” Hohman said. “This year we already have over 750 parties booked for this year and that’s up from about 300 last year. So, we’re thinking we’re probably going to end up tripling the business this year, just in one year, which is pretty awesome.”

Most parties come Thursday through Sunday. Scottsdale Bachelorette sees about 20 to 30 a week with services that cost anywhere from $800 to $1000.  

Girl About Town is another bachelorette party planning company in Scottsdale that sees about the same number of parties per week and with services that range from $175 to $2000. Meghan Alfonso, the founder of the company, says they, too, are benefiting from the increased popularity of bach parties in the city.  

“We already hit our goal or our last shared goal now. So, we already have had 400 plus parties that have come through right now, which is July, the end of July. And so, it’s just wild how fast the city has grown as well as how many people want to come here for their bachelorette. And so, each year we’re just anticipating almost double,” Alfonso said. 

There are also other cities on the list that are up and coming. Girl About Town has expanded their business to some of them, and is looking to continue expanding into more. 

“We’re also in New Orleans and Denver. And so, we have two girls that are in Denver that work it together. And then we have another girl in New Orleans who just does it by herself,” Alfonso said. 

Bachelor parties do come through some of these popular cities, too, but experts say they don’t tend to have all the decorations and services that bachelorette parties have.  

A survey from Savings.com found that bachelor party guests tend to spend more on activities like golf or sporting events. These groups also tend to go to far-away places, making their costs of airfare higher.

“I think just in general, the wedding industry has really grown from just the wedding to all these other things that happened before that. I think bridal showers have gotten bigger, engagement parties have gotten bigger. Even if you look at like gender reveal party that didn’t exist before, you know, and now that’s like a big party. So, I think, especially post-pandemic and, just thinking about what a special time this is, people are extending that party from just the wedding to all these other fun things that they can do leading up to it,” Hohman said. 

Source: newsy.com

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