elections, the war in Ukraine and abortion.

TikTok’s algorithm tends to keep people on the app, making it harder for them to turn to additional sources to fact-check searches, Ms. Tripodi added.

“You aren’t really clicking to anything that would lead you out of the app,” she said. “That makes it even more challenging to double-check the information you’re getting is correct.”

TikTok has leaned into becoming a venue for finding information. The app is testing a feature that identifies keywords in comments and links to search results for them. In Southeast Asia, it is also testing a feed with local content, so people can find businesses and events near them.

Building out search and location features is likely to further entrench TikTok — already the world’s most downloaded app for those ages 18 to 24, according to Sensor Tower — among young users.

TikTok “is becoming a one-stop shop for content in a way that it wasn’t in its earlier days,” said Lee Rainie, who directs internet and technology research at the Pew Research Center.

That’s certainly true for Jayla Johnson, 22. The Newtown, Pa., resident estimated that she watches 10 hours of TikTok videos a day and said she had begun using the app as a search engine because it was more convenient than Google and Instagram.

“They know what I want to see,” she said. “It’s less work for me to actually go out of my way to search.”

Ms. Johnson, a digital marketer, added that she particularly appreciated TikTok when she and her parents were searching for places to visit and things to do. Her parents often wade through pages of Google search results, she said, while she needs to scroll through only a few short videos.

“God bless,” she said she thinks. “You could have gotten that in seconds.”

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Stocks subdued by outsized rate risks, yen fragile

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  • Fed looms over broader markets, dollar rises
  • Oil tumbles on demand concerns, U.S. rail strike averted
  • Treasury yields climb while oil gold tumbles

NEW YORK, Sept 15 (Reuters) – Wall Street indexes were firmly in the red after a choppy start to Thursday’s session while bond yields rose as investors digested economic data that provided the Federal Reserve little reason to ease its aggressive interest rate hiking cycle.

Oil futures tumbled more than 3% on demand concerns and after a tentative agreement that would avert a U.S. rail strike, as well as continued U.S. dollar strength with expectations for a large U.S. rate increase. read more

Economic data showed U.S. retail sales unexpectedly rebounded in August as Americans ramped up purchases of motor vehicles and dined out more while taking advantage of lower gasoline prices. But data for July was revised downward to show retail sales declining instead of flat as previously reported.

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Separately the Labor Department said initial claims for state unemployment benefits fell for the week ended Sept. 10 to the lowest level since the end of May. read more

Investors are widely expecting an aggressive rate hike after the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) meeting next week, but nervously awaiting hints from Fed Chair Jerome Powell about future policy moves, said Quincy Krosby, chief global strategist at LPL Financial.

“The market remains choppy knowing that there’s a Fed meeting next week. Even though participants agree that it’ll be a 75 basis points rate hike, it’s what the statement adds to previous commentary and what Chairman Powell says in his press conference” that have them worried, Krosby said.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average (.DJI) fell 173.07 points, or 0.56%, to 30,962.02; the S&P 500 (.SPX) lost 44.69 points, or 1.13%, to 3,901.32 and the Nasdaq Composite (.IXIC) dropped 167.32 points, or 1.43%, to 11,552.36.

MSCI’s gauge of stocks across the globe (.MIWD00000PUS) shed 0.96% while emerging market stocks (.MSCIEF) lost 0.57%.

Stocks, bonds and currencies on Thursday were showing a market “increasingly understanding the Fed is going to hike more aggressively next week,” said Scott Ladner, chief investment officer at Horizon Investments in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Referring particularly to the still strong labor market, Ladner said “economic numbers released today are tying a bow on the situation.”

Treasury yields rose with the two-year hitting fresh 15-year highs, after data on retail sales and jobless claims showed a resilient economy that gives the Fed ample room to aggressively hike interest rates.

Also already signaling a recession warning the inverted yield curve – the gap between 2-year and 10-year treasury yields – widened further to -41.4 basis points, compared with -13.0 bps a week ago.

Benchmark 10-year notes were up 4.5 basis points to 3.457%, from 3.412% late on Wednesday. The 30-year bond last fell 5/32 in price to yield 3.4779%, from 3.469%. The 2-year note last fell 5/32 in price to yield 3.8646%, from 3.782%.

“In this vicious cycle where the data continues to remain resilient, that would imply a Fed that would likely stay the course and continue to tighten policy,” said Subadra Rajappa, head of U.S. rates strategy at Societe Generale in New York.

Also clouding investors’ moods on Thursday was the World Bank’s assessment that the world may be edging toward a global recession as central banks across the world simultaneously hike interest rates to combat persistent inflation. read more

In currencies the dollar was slightly higher against the yen while the Swiss franc hit its strongest level against the euro since 2015. read more

The dollar index , which measures the greenback against a basket of major currencies, rose 0.091%, with the euro up 0.18% to $0.9995.

The Japanese yen weakened 0.19% versus the greenback at 143.44 per dollar, while Sterling was last trading at $1.1469, down 0.57% on the day.

Before the tentative labor agreement, fears of a U.S. railroad worker strike had supported oil prices due to supply concerns on Wednesday. In addition, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said this week that oil demand growth would grind to a halt in the fourth quarter.

U.S. crude settled down 3.82% at $85.10 per barrel while Brent finished at $90.84, down 3.46% on the day.

Gold dropped to its lowest level since April 2021, hurt by elevated U.S. Treasury yields and a firm dollar, as bets of another hefty Fed rate hike eroded bullion’s appeal.

Spot gold dropped 1.9% to $1,664.46 an ounce. U.S. gold futures fell 2.02% to $1,662.30 an ounce.

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Additional reporting by Herbert Lash in New York, Marc Jones in London, Stefano Rebaudo in Milan, Tom Westbrook in Singapore and Wayne Cole in Sydney; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Jonathan Oatis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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President Biden Touts Electric Vehicles At Detroit Auto Show

The president is expected to promote the new climate, tax and health care law that offers tax incentives for buying electric vehicles.

President Joe Biden, a gearhead with his own vintage Corvette, showcased his administration’s efforts to promote electric vehicles during a visit Wednesday to the Detroit auto show.

President Biden traveled to the massive North American International Auto Show to plug the huge new climate, tax and health care law that offers tax incentives for buying electric vehicles. He toured a mix of American-manufactured hybrid, electric and combustion vehicles from Chevrolet, General Motors, Ford, and Stellantis on a closed-off convention center floor, and greeted union workers, CEOs, and local leaders.

The Democratic president, who recently took a spin in his pine-green 1967 Stingray with Jay Leno for a segment on CNBC’s “Jay Leno’s Garage,” hopped into the driver seat of a bright orange Chevrolet Corvette Z06 — not an EV —and fired up its engine, alongside GM CEO Mary Barra.

“He says he’s driving home,” she joked.

President Biden then toured the new electric Ford Mustang Mach-E, marveling with Ford executive chairman Bill Ford at the model’s performance. “It’s amazing the speed,” President Biden said, adding, “Does it have a launch button?” He also explored less-flashy vehicles, like Ford’s all-electric E-Transit van and F-150 truck.

President Biden finally got behind the wheel of a Cadillac Lyriq all electric SUV, briefly driving it down an aisle in the blue-carpeted hall. It marked a rare occasion to drive — albeit at little more than a walking pace — for the president, who typically is transported in armored U.S. Secret Service vehicles when out in public.

“Jump in, I’ll give you a ride to Washington,” he joked to reporters. “It’s a beautiful car,” he added, “But I love the Corvette.”

While President Biden has been taking credit for the recent boom in electric vehicle battery and assembly plant announcements, most were in the works long before the Inflation Reduction Act was signed into law on Aug. 16. President Biden’s 2021 infrastructure legislation could have something to do with it — it provides $5 billion over five years to help states create a network of EV charging stations.

In Detroit, President Biden was to announce approval of the first $900 million in infrastructure money to build EV chargers across 53,000 miles of the national highway system in 35 states.

Under the law, electric vehicles must be built in North America to be eligible for a new federal tax credit of up to $7,500. Batteries for qualifying vehicles also must be made in North America, and there are requirements for battery minerals to be produced or recycled on the continent. The credits are aimed at creating a U.S. electric vehicle supply chain and ending dependence on other countries, mainly China.

Passage of the measure set off a scramble by automakers to speed up efforts to find North American-made batteries and battery minerals from the U.S., Canada or Mexico to make sure EVs are eligible for the credit.

In April, Ford started building electric pickup trucks at a new Michigan factory. General Motors has revamped an older factory in Detroit to make electric Hummers and pickups.

Long before legislators reached a compromise on the legislation, each company announced three EV battery factories, all joint ventures with battery makers. A GM battery plant in Warren, Ohio, has already started manufacturing. A government loan announced in July will help GM build its battery factories.

Ford said last September it would build the next generation of electric pickups at a plant in Tennessee, and GM has announced EV assembly plants in Lansing, Michigan; Spring Hill, Tennessee; and Orion Township, Michigan. In May, Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler, said it would build another joint venture battery factory in Indiana, and it has announced a battery plant in Canada.

Hyundai announced battery and assembly plants in May to be built in Georgia, and Vietnamese automaker VinFast announced factories in North Carolina in July. Honda and Toyota both announced U.S. battery plants after the act was passed, but they had been planned for months.

President Biden has been talking for a long time about the importance of building a domestic EV supply chain, and that may have prodded some of the companies to locate factories in the U.S. But it’s also advantageous to build batteries near where EVs will be assembled because the batteries are heavy and costly to ship from overseas.

And auto companies are rolling out more affordable electric options despite battery costs. The latest came last week from General Motors, a Chevrolet Equinox small SUV. It has a starting price around $30,000 and a range-per-charge of 250 miles, or 400 kilometers. Buyers can get a range of 300 miles, or 500 kilometers, if they pay more.

The Equinox checks the North American assembly box. It will be made in Mexico. The company won’t say where the battery will be made but it is working on meeting the other criteria for getting the tax credit.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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Sandy Hook Witnesses Testify About Alex Jones’ Hoax Claims

A jury will decide how much money conspiracy theorist Alex Jones must pay to the families of victims after he was already found liable for damages.

A sister of a teacher killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook massacre and an FBI agent who responded to the school shooting became overwhelmed with emotion Tuesday as they described what it has been like to be accused of being crisis actors by conspiracy theorist Alex Jones and others.

Carlee Soto Parisi and FBI agent William Aldenberg were the first witnesses to testify as a Connecticut jury began hearing evidence in a trial to decide how much money Jones owes for spreading the lie that the 2012 mass shooting in Newtown that killed 20 first graders and six educators didn’t happen.

Soto Parisi said she has been hounded, both in Connecticut and after she moved to North Carolina, by those who believe she was acting. Some of the hoax believers went online and posted photos of grieving women, including an Associated Press photo of a distraught Soto Parisi outside Sandy Hook Elementary School after the shooting, saying they were the same actor.

“I frequently got threatening emails and messages on all social media,” she testified, crying at times. “And it got to a point where they would use the gun emoji. And I spoke with cops in Connecticut and my husband ended up having to speak with cops in North Carolina, because we were scared for our lives.”

Aldenberg also broke down as he described being among the first law enforcement officers to enter the two classrooms where 20 children died. He described watching as the phone next to Vicki Soto’s body lit up with messages from those trying to reach her.

“Was what you saw in that school fake?” asked attorney Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

“No,” Aldenberg said. “It’s awful. It’s awful.”

He also testified about how he and others in the community and law enforcement were targeted with threats and conspiracy theories, including one that claimed he was an actor who also pretended to be the father of a victim.

“It’s one of the worst things that ever happened, if not the worst thing that ever happened here, what happened to them,” Aldenberg said. “And people want to say this didn’t happen? And then they want to get rich off of it? That’s the worst part.”

The trial in Waterbury, less than 20 miles from Newtown, was attended by more than a dozen family members of victims, including David Wheeler, the father who conspiracy theorists had claimed was the same person as Aldenberg. Wheeler nodded his head as Aldenberg apologized for what Wheeler had to endure because of their resemblance.

Jones did not attend the trial on Tuesday. He is expected in court next week. Jones and his Infowars brand are based in Austin, Texas.

The Sandy Hook families and Aldenberg say they have been confronted and harassed for years by people who believed Jones’ false claim that the shooting was staged by crisis actors as part of a plot to take away people’s guns.

Some say strangers have videotaped them and their surviving children. They’ve also endured death threats and been subjected to abusive comments on social media. And some families have moved out of Newtown to avoid harassment. They accuse Jones of causing them emotional and psychological harm.

“You know, you can say whatever you want about me, I don’t care,” Aldenberg said. “Just say what you want. I’m a frigging big boy. I can take it. But then they want to make profits, they want to make millions and millions of dollars. They want to destroy people’s lives. Their children got slaughtered. I saw it myself, and now they have to sit here and listen to me say this.”

It’s the second such trial for Jones, who was ordered by a Texas jury last month to pay nearly $50 million to the parents of one of the slain children. Jones was not at the trial Tuesday and is expected to attend next week.

A jury of three men and three women along with several alternates will decide how much Jones should pay relatives of eight victims and Aldenberg. Judge Barbara Bellis found Jones liable for damages without a trial last year after he failed to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers.

The judge also sanctioned Jones on Tuesday for failing to turn over analytic data related to his website and the popularity of his show. She told his lawyers that because of that failure, they will not be allowed to argue he didn’t profit from his Sandy Hook remarks.

In opening statements, Jones was described by Mattei as a bully and by his own attorney as a crank in a town square who should be ignored.

Mattei showed jurors data indicating how Jones’ audience increased as he spread lies about the shooting. He also showed them photos and videos of things Jones had said, and told the panel they already had the tools from their own life experiences to decide what to do in this case.

Jones’ attorney, Norm Pattis, argued that his client has espoused a number of conspiracy theories over the years, something he has a Constitutional right to do.

Pattis told the jury that although Jones is liable for damages, any award should be minimal and alleged the families were overstating the harm they say Jones caused them.

On his Infowars web show on Tuesday, Jones portrayed himself as the victim of unfair show trials.

“How am I handling it? We’re at war. This is total tyranny,” he said. “I’ll tell you this, we can appeal this for years. We can beat this.”

The trial is expected to last about a month and feature testimony from more victims’ relatives. Jones also will be testifying, Pattis said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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What Is The Independent State Legislature Theory?

A case in North Carolina may change election laws nationwide, as the Supreme Court is set to review the case.

The U.S. Supreme Court is set to hear a case that could have major implications on election laws nationwide. 

The case comes from North Carolina. State courts there invalidated the new legislature-drawn congressional map, saying the partisan gerrymandering went too far. The map was revised, but the state Supreme Court rejected that one too and instead implemented court-drawn district lines for the 2022 midterms. 

“What the case in the Supreme Court is about is whether or not the North Carolina Supreme Court actually had the power to say this congressional redistricting violates the North Carolina constitution,” said Carolyn Shapiro, a professor of law at Chicago-Kent College of Law, and the co-director of Chicago-Kent’s Institute on the Supreme Court of the United States. 

North Carolina Republican lawmakers are asking the justices to adopt what’s known as the Independent State Legislature theory.

“The Independent State Legislature theory rests on the idea that there are two provisions in the US Constitution, the elections clause and the electors clause, that essentially give state legislatures the power to regulate federal elections,” said Amy Howe, the co-founder of SCOTUSblog. 

That theory, if adopted, would mean state legislatures, and only state legislatures, have the power to regulate federal election laws.

“Any backstop in the state constitution to protect democracy, to protect free elections, would just not apply when it comes to, not just congressional redistricting, but anything to do with federal elections,” said Shapiro.  

In this scenario, state lawmakers would have unchecked control over federal elections.  

Experts say there are two recent Supreme Court rulings that addressed similar questions and could come into play — one is from 2015. In that case, Arizona state lawmakers made a similar argument and said the state’s independent redistricting commission violated the U.S. Constitution because they argued only the legislature has the power to draw new district lines.  

“The Supreme Court, by a vote of five to four, rejected that argument and said, when the Constitution refers to the legislature, it’s just not simply referring to the legislative body,” said Howe. 

The other opinion came down in 2019. In that case, the justices said federal courts have no role to play in partisan gerrymandering discussions. 

“The opinion was by the Chief Justice John Roberts. And he said in his opinion, that state constitutions and state rules could still be used by state courts in partisan gerrymandering cases brought under those state laws. And state constitutions, even if federal courts can’t weigh in, state courts could,” said Howe.  

If the justices side with the North Carolina lawmakers, both those precedents could be overturned, and that could have a wide-reaching impact on longstanding election procedures across the country.  

“All kinds of other regulations might be affected. Things like voter registration, polling places, just the most basic stuff about how elections operate. To the extent that that’s in statutes, legislatures could decide they want to do something different with respect to federal elections, even if it violates the state constitution,” said Shapiro.  

This case is not on the court’s argument schedule for October or November. The earliest the court could hear arguments is December. A final opinion could come any time before the term ends in June 2023.  

Source: newsy.com

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Juul To Pay Nearly $440M To Settle States’ Teen Vaping Probe

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico.

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has agreed to pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products, which have long been blamed for sparking a national surge in teen vaping.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico, which joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s early promotions and claims about the benefits of its technology as a smoking alternative.

The settlement, which includes numerous restrictions on how Juul can market its products, resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. Additionally, Juul faces hundreds of personal lawsuits brought on behalf of teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.

The states’ investigation found that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underage teens with launch parties, product giveaways and ads and social media posts using youthful models, according to a statement.

Electronic cigarette maker Juul Labs has agreed to pay nearly $440 million to settle a two-year investigation by 33 states into the marketing of its high-nicotine vaping products, which have long been blamed for sparking a national surge in teen vaping.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong announced the deal Tuesday on behalf of the states plus Puerto Rico, which joined together in 2020 to probe Juul’s early promotions and claims about the benefits of its technology as a smoking alternative.

The settlement, which includes numerous restrictions on how Juul can market its products, resolves one of the biggest legal threats facing the beleaguered company, which still faces nine separate lawsuits from other states. Additionally, Juul faces hundreds of personal lawsuits brought on behalf of teenagers and others who say they became addicted to the company’s vaping products.

The states’ investigation found that Juul marketed its e-cigarettes to underage teens with launch parties, product giveaways and ads and social media posts using youthful models, according to a statement.

“We think that this will go a long way in stemming the flow of youth vaping,” Tong said at a news conference at his Hartford office.

“I’m under no illusions and cannot claim that it will stop youth vaping,” he said. “It continues to be an epidemic. It continues to be a huge problem. But we have essentially taken a big chunk out of what was once a market leader, and by their conduct, a major offender.”

The $438.5 million will be paid out over a period of six to 10 years. Tong said Connecticut’s payment of at least $16 million will go toward vaping prevention and education efforts. Juul previously settled lawsuits in Arizona, Louisiana, North Carolina and Washington.

The settlement total amounts to about 25% of Juul’s U.S. sales of $1.9 billion last year. Tong said it was an “agreement in principle,” meaning the states will be finalizing the settlement documents over the next several weeks.

Most of the limits imposed by Tuesday’s settlement won’t immediately affect Juul, which halted use of parties, giveaways and other promotions after coming under scrutiny several several years ago.

Teen use of e-cigarettes skyrocketed after Juul’s launch in 2015, leading the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to declare an “epidemic” of underage vaping among teenagers. Health experts said the unprecedented increase risked hooking a generation of young people on nicotine.

But since 2019 Juul has mostly been in retreat, dropping all U.S. advertising and pulling its fruit and candy flavors from store shelves.

The biggest blow came earlier this summer when the FDA moved to ban all Juul e-cigarettes from the market. Juul challenged that ruling in court, and the FDA has since reopened its scientific review of the company’s technology.

The FDA review is part of a sweeping effort by regulators to bring scrutiny to the multibillion-dollar vaping industry after years of delays. The agency has authorized a handful of e-cigarettes from Juul’s competitors for adult smokers looking for a less harmful alternative.

While Juul’s early marketing focused on young, urban consumers, the company has since shifted to pitching its product as an alternative nicotine source for older smokers.

“We remain focused on our future as we fulfill our mission to transition adult smokers away from cigarettes – the number one cause of preventable death – while combating underage use,” the company said in a statement.

Juul has agreed to refrain from a host of marketing practices as part of the settlement. They include not using cartoons, paying social media influencers, depicting people under 35, advertising on billboards and public transportation and placing ads in any outlets unless 85% of their audience are adults.The deal also includes restrictions on where Juul products may be placed in stores, age verification on all sales and limits to online and retail sales.

“These are some of the toughest mandates at any point on any industry,” Tong said, “which is incredibly important because at the end of the day this is about protecting our kids and protecting all of us from a very significant public health risk.”

Juul initially sold its high-nicotine pods in flavors like mango, mint and creme. The products became a scourge in U.S. high schools, with students vaping in bathrooms and hallways between classes.

But recent federal survey data shows that teens have been shifting away from the company. Most teens now prefer disposable e-cigarettes, some of which continue to be sold in sweet, fruity flavors.

Overall, the survey showed a drop of nearly 40% in the teen vaping rate as many kids were forced to learn from home during the pandemic. Still, federal officials cautioned about interpreting the results given they were collected online for the first time, instead of in classrooms.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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How Abbott Kept Sick Babies From Becoming a Scandal

But in any individual case, it can be hard to prove what caused an infection. The potentially deadly bacteria resides in dirt and water; studies have found it in kitchens. Because the bacteria can clump together in formula containers, it’s possible for a sample to test negative even if Cronobacter was in the powder that went into a baby’s bottle.

Nick Stein, a lawyer with a small practice in Indiana, recalled the first time he encountered a case involving contaminated formula. A woman walked into his office with her toddler, limp in her arms, and explained that the child had suffered brain damage after being fed formula. Mr. Stein negotiated a settlement. More cases followed, and they, too, resulted in settlements that required Mr. Stein and his clients to keep quiet.

In 2005, Mr. Stein received an email from Kimberly Sisk in rural Pisgah Forest, N.C. Her son, Slade, had suffered debilitating brain damage after consuming Abbott’s Similac powdered infant formula in 2004. Ms. Sisk, who lived in a mobile home and worked as a house cleaner, faced a lifetime of medical costs. In February 2007, Mr. Stein and a colleague, Stephen Meyer, sued Abbott in state court in North Carolina.

The ensuing seven-year battle would become a case study for how firms like Jones Day use their mastery of the legal system to grind down — and in some cases attack — plaintiffs who have limited money and time on their hands.

The first volley came in late 2007. Jones Day filed a motion seeking to remove Mr. Stein and Mr. Meyer from the case. The rationale was that, in an unrelated infant-formula case in Kentucky, Mr. Meyer had been in touch with an expert witness that Abbott had used in a different case. It turned out the expert had an ongoing relationship with Abbott. None of this had anything to do with Ms. Sisk’s case. But the trial judge concluded that the contact with the expert “constitutes the appearance of impropriety” and granted Abbott’s motion. An appeals court reversed the decision. Then, in 2010, the State Supreme Court upheld the initial ruling.

More than three years had passed since Ms. Sisk’s lawsuit was filed, and the case hadn’t progressed. Now she had no lawyers. Mr. Stoffel, the Abbott spokesman, denied that the company was trying to delay the legal proceedings, but Ms. Sisk was skeptical. “Time is on their side,” she said. “It behooves them to stretch it out.”

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Democrats Defend Control Of U.S. Senate

Democrats seem to have found a bright spot for their chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

It’s Labor Day and we’re just over two months out from the general election. But despite legislative wins over the summer, Democrats across the country are fighting for reelection in the shadow of President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings. But they seem to have found a bright spot for democratic chances in recent months over the battle for control of the U.S. Senate.

Heidi Heitkamp served as a Democratic U.S. Senator in North Dakota. She was elected in 2012 but lost her seat in the 2018 midterms. 

“I think that there is a critical importance not to run away from the president,” the One Country Project Founder said.

Heitkamp is no stranger to hyper-partisan politics where even the word “bipartisanship” might not sit well with swing state voters.

“Well, I think the first thing is, don’t use the word “bipartisan,” she said. “I think you say, ‘Do you want to get stuff done?’ … Don’t talk in generalities. Talk in specifics. What [does] this means to people’s lives?”

But, if history is any indication, it might be nearly impossible for Democrats to hold on to the House of Representatives in the midterm elections.

But in the Senate, the president’s party remains on the offensive, hoping to expand their majority in 2022.

Ed Pagano served as President Barack Obama’s liaison to the Democratic-led U.S. Senate from 2012 to 2014. He was charged with pushing the Obama administration’s policies on Capitol Hill.  

“The control of the senate really is critical,” the Akin Gump Partner said. “It determines what bills are on the floor, what nominations move forward? Who is the chairman or the chair of the committees of jurisdiction?”  

Pagano is no stranger to just how hard it can be to get Republicans on board with a Democratic president’s agenda.

“Social issues? I don’t see any agreement. And as for spending, very little,” he continued.

Right now, the Senate has 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans. It’s a simple majority when Vice President Kamala Harris exercises her role as president of the Senate and casts the tie breaking vote for Democrats.

This year, Democrats are defending vulnerable Senators in Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and New Hampshire. But on the offensive they’re looking to flip seats in Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

Three of those states are up for grabs, with incumbent Republicans not seeking re-election.

Despite the number of competitive races, recent polls show several Democratic candidates leading in key swing states.

“I think we’ve nominated some great candidates to deliver that message in the middle of the country. And then they’ve nominated just outrageously extreme candidates,” Heitkamp said.

But if Democrats lose just one seat in the Senate, they could end up in the same situation as President Obama’s final two years in office after he lost the Senate and the House with little Democrats to do other than hope for executive action — but leaving them virtually powerless to push through the president’s nominees. 

“Losing the Senate can actually be more detrimental because you lose the nominations/ You lose the ability to put in lifetime appointments on the judiciary,” Prime Policy Group Senior Adviser Marty Paone said. “I mean, you just look at the Merrick Garland failure for one.” 

And if Democrats do lose the Senate, it could mean a major roadblock to Biden’s agenda — something Republican Senate candidates are campaigning on, making the race all about President Biden in many of the 34 states with Senators up for re-election.

Source: newsy.com

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Some States Could Tax Biden’s Student Loan Debt Relief

Some states tax forgiven debt as income, which means borrowers who are still paying down student loans could owe taxes on money taken off their bill.

President Joe Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan could lift crushing debt burdens from millions of borrowers, but the tax man may demand a cut of the relief in some states.

That’s because some states tax forgiven debt as income, which means borrowers who are still paying down student loans could owe taxes on as much as $10,000 or even $20,000 that was taken off their bill. In Mississippi, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Arkansas and North Carolina, forgiven student loans will be subject to state income taxes unless they change their laws to conform with a federal tax exemption for student loans, according to a tally by the Tax Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

That dismays Cathy Newman, a Louisiana State University graduate who just took a job teaching freshman biology at the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg. She figures she could end up owing a few hundred dollars of money that she could have kept had she stayed in Louisiana.

Newman said she can come up with the cash because she has a good job, but she knows of a lot of other borrowers who will still be stuck in difficult financial positions even with their loans forgiven.

“If they stay in the state, they could end up with a pretty hefty tax burden if things don’t change,” Newman said. “I won’t be happy if I have to do it. I can do it. But a lot of people can’t.”

More than 40 million Americans could see their student loan debt cut or eliminated under the forgiveness plan President Biden announced late last month. The president is erasing $10,000 in federal student loan debt for individuals with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000. He’s canceling an additional $10,000 for those who also used federal Pell Grants to pay for college. But it only applies to those whose loans were paid out before July 1, which leaves out current high school seniors and students who will follow them.

Although having $10,000 or $20,000 in loan payments eliminated will be a boon over the long term to borrowers who qualify, those in the affected states might be required to declare that as income. Depending on a state’s tax rates, the taxpayer’s other income and the deductions and exemptions they’re able to claim, that could add up to several hundred extra tax dollars that they’ll owe.

Spokespeople for tax agencies in several states — including Virginia, Idaho, New York, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Kentucky — told The Associated Press that their states definitely won’t tax student loans forgiven under President Biden’s program. Revenue officials in a few other states said they needed to do more research to know.

Newman, 38, went into debt to pay for graduate school. She had already set herself up for relief under the federal Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, though that requires five more years of teaching on top of the five she already taught at the University of Louisiana Monroe. President Biden’s program would cut $10,000 off her debt load when it takes effect, but under existing Mississippi tax law, the relief won’t come free.

“It’s not a huge burden for me, but it could be for a lot of other people, which is what I’m worried about, especially if it’s unexpected, and I think a lot of people don’t realize that,” Newman said.

Any relief in states that would tax the forgiven debt would have to come from their Legislatures. Leaders of the Minnesota Legislature and Democratic Gov. Tim Walz have indicated in recent media interviews that there’s broad support for a fix, which could come during the 2023 session, or even earlier on the remote chance of a special session.

In Wisconsin, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers’ administration plans to propose a fix in the state budget next year, but that would have to be approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature. And Evers needs to get reelected in November before he can formally make that request. Republican legislative leaders and Evers’ GOP challenger, Tim Michels, did not reply to messages seeking comment on the student loan tax issue.

However, in Mississippi, the chairman of the state Senate committee in charge of taxes said he’s willing to take a look when the Legislature convenes next year. Republican state Sen. Josh Harkins, of Brandon, said he needs to learn more about what his state’s tax laws say on debt forgiveness.

“I’m sure people will want to look at adjusting that or making some changes in the law, but a lot of factors have to be considered,” Harkins said, noting that Mississippi enacted its biggest-ever tax cut earlier this year and adding that he wants to gauge the impact of inflation before making big tax policy decisions. “This all just hit in the last week.”

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.

Source: newsy.com

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U.S. Life Expectancy Plunged Again In 2021, Down Nearly A Year

U.S. life expectancy rose for decades, but progress stalled before the pandemic and then declined during the pandemic.

U.S. life expectancy dropped for the second consecutive year in 2021, falling by nearly a year from 2020, according to a government report being released Wednesday.

In the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, the estimated American lifespan has shortened by nearly three years. The last comparable decrease happened in the early 1940s, during the height of World War II.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials blamed COVID-19 for about half the decline in 2021, a year when vaccinations became widely available but new coronavirus variants caused waves of hospitalizations and deaths. Other contributors to the decline are longstanding problems: drug overdoses, heart disease, suicide and chronic liver disease.

“It’s a dismal situation. It was bad before and it’s gotten worse,” said Samuel Preston, a University of Pennsylvania demographer.

Life expectancy is an estimate of the average number of years a baby born in a given year might expect to live, given death rates at that time. It is “the most fundamental indicator of population health in this country,” said Robert Hummer, a University of North Carolina researcher focused on population health patterns.

U.S. life expectancy rose for decades, but progress stalled before the pandemic.

It was 78 years, 10 months in 2019. In 2020, it dropped to 77 years. Last year, it fell to about 76 years, 1 month.

The last time it was that low was in 1996.

Declines during the pandemic were worse for some racial groups, and some gaps widened. For example, life expectancy for American Indian and Alaskan Native people saw a decline of more than 6 1/2 years since the pandemic began, and is at 65 years. In the same span, life expectancy for Asian Americans dropped by about two years, and stands at 83 1/2.

Experts say there are many possible reasons for such differences, including lack of access to quality health care, lower vaccination rates, and a greater share of the population in lower-paying jobs that required them to keep working when the pandemic was at its worst.

The new report is based on provisional data. Life expectancy estimates can change with the addition of more data and further analysis. For example, the CDC initially said life expectancy in 2020 declined by about 1 year 6 months. But after more death reports and analysis came in, it ended up being about 1 year 10 months.

But it’s likely the declines in 2020 and 2021 will stand as the first two consecutive years of declining life expectancy in the U.S. since the early 1960s, CDC officials said.

Findings in the report:

—Life expectancy for women in the United States dropped about 10 months, from just under 80 years in 2020 to slightly more than 79 in 2021. Life expectancy for men dropped a full year, from about 74 years to 73.

—COVID-19 deaths were the main reason for the decline. The second largest contributor was deaths from accidental injuries — primarily from drug overdoses, which killed a record-breaking 107,000 Americans last year.

—White people saw the second-biggest drop among racial and ethnic groups, with life expectancy falling one year, to about 76 years, 5 months. Black Americans had the third largest decline, falling more than eight months, to 70 years, 10 months

—Hispanic Americans had seen a huge drop in life expectancy in 2020 — four years. But in 2021, life expectancy for them dropped by about two months, to about 77 years, 7 months. Preston thinks good vaccination rates among Hispanics played a role.

The report also suggests gains against suicide are being undone.

U.S. suicides rose from the early 2000s until 2018. But they fell a little in 2019 and then more in 2020, the first year of the pandemic. Experts had wondered if that may have been related to a phenomenon seen in the early stages of wars and national disasters in which people band together and support each other.

The new report said suicide contributed to the decline in life expectancy in 2021, but it did not provide detail. According to provisional numbers from a public CDC database, the number of U.S. suicides increased last year by about 2,000, to 48,000. The U.S. suicide rate rose as well, from 13.5 per 100,000 to 14.1 — bringing it back up to about where it was in 2018.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988 or text “HOME” to the Crisis Text Line at 741741. 

Source: newsy.com

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