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Daisy Edgar-Jones in ‘Where the Crawdads Sing’: Film Review

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Daisy Edgar-Jones In ‘Where The Crawdads Sing’: Film Review

Where the Crawdads Sing is the kind of tedious moral fantasy that fuels America’s misguided idealism. It’s an attempt at a complex tale about rejection, difference and survival. But the film, like the novel it’s based on, skirts the issues — of race, gender and class — that would texture its narrative and strengthen its […]

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Lower prices offer Americans slight reprieve from inflation

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Lower Prices Offer Americans Slight Reprieve From Inflation

By CHRISTOPHER RUGABER

WASHINGTON (AP) — Falling prices for gas, airline tickets and clothes helped give Americans a slight break from the pain of high inflation last month, though overall price increases slowed only modestly from the four-decade high that was reached in June.

Consumer prices jumped 8.5% in July compared with a year earlier, the government said Wednesday, down from a 9.1% year-over-year increase in June. On a monthly basis, prices were unchanged from June to July, the first time that has happened after 25 months of increases.

But the reprieve offered no certainty that prices would stay on the decline. Inflation has slowed in the recent past only to re-accelerate in subsequent months. And even if price increases continue to weaken, they are a long way from the Fed’s 2% annual target.

“There’s good reason to think inflation will continue to slow,” said Michael Pugliese, an economist at Wells Fargo. “What I think gets lost in that discussion is, slow by how much?”

Even if it were to fall to 4% — less than half its current level — Pugliese suggested that the Federal Reserve would need to keep raising interest rates or at least keep them high.

Much of the relief last month was felt by travelers: Hotel room costs fell 2.7% from June to July, airfares nearly 8% and rental car prices a whopping 9.5%. Those price drops followed steep increases in the past year after COVID-19 cases eased and travel rebounded. Airfares are still nearly 30% higher than they were a year ago.

Gas prices dropped from $5 a gallon, on average, in mid-June to $4.20 by the end of last month, and were just $4.01 on Wednesday, according to AAA. Oil prices have also fallen, and cheaper gas will likely pull down inflation this month as well, economists said.

Last month’s declines in travel-related prices helped lower core inflation, a measure that excludes the volatile food and energy categories and provides a clearer picture of underlying price trends. Core prices rose just 0.3% from June, the smallest month-to-month increase since March. Compared with a year ago, core inflation amounted to 5.9% in July, the same year-over-year increase as in June.

All told, the July figures raised hope that inflation may have peaked after more than a year of relentless increases that have strained household finances, soured Americans on the economy, led the Federal Reserve to raise borrowing rates aggressively and diminished President Joe Biden’s public approval ratings.

Biden highlighted the flat monthly inflation figure.

“I just want to say a number: zero,” he told reporters Wednesday. “Today we received news that our economy had zero percent inflation in the month of July.”

Americans are still absorbing bigger price increases than they have in decades. Grocery prices jumped 1.1% in July and are 13% higher than a year ago, the largest year-over-year increase since 1979. Bread prices leaped 2.8% last month, the most in more than two years. Rental and medical care costs rose, though slightly less than in previous months.

A strong job market and healthy wage increases have encouraged more Americans to move out on their own, reducing the number of available apartments and pushing up rental costs. Wall Street purchases of homes and trailer parks have also lifted monthly payments.

Average paychecks are rising faster than they have in decades, but not fast enough to keep up with inflation. As a result, some retirees have felt the need in recent months to return to the workforce.

Among them is Charla Bulich, who lives in San Leandro, California. For the past six months Bulich, 73, has worked a few hours a week caring for an elderly woman because her Social Security and food stamps don’t cover her rising costs.

“I go over my budget all the time — that’s why I had to go get a job,” Bulich said. “I wouldn’t even think about buying hamburger meat or a steak or something like that.”

Now she worries that she will lose her food stamps in the coming months because of her extra income.

Michael Altfest, director of community engagement at the Alameda County Community Food Bank in Oakland, said his organization now provides about 4.5 million pounds of food a month, up from below 4 million in January. The group has also budgeted for a 66% increase in fuel costs. That’s mostly because of higher gas prices but also because it’s now using more trucks to keep up with the demand for food.

Altfest’s own rent recently jumped 14%, he said, forcing him to recalibrate his budget.

“All these costs are going up, all at once,” he said. “The people here were stretched already.”

Last month’s modest slowdown in inflation might enable the Fed to slow the pace of its increases in short-term rates when it meets in late September — a possibility that sent stock prices jumping. How quickly and how far the Fed raises borrowing costs has significant effects on the economy: Sharper hikes tend to reduce consumer and business borrowing and spending and make a recession more likely.

If the Fed doesn’t have to raise rates as high to restrain prices, it has a better chance of engineering an elusive “soft landing,” whereby growth slows enough to curb high inflation but not so much as to cause a recession.

Still, Fed Chair Jerome Powell has emphasized that the central bank needs to see a series of lower readings on core inflation before it will pause rate hikes. The Fed has boosted its short term rate by 2.25 percentage points in the past four meetings, the fastest series of increases since the early 1980s.

Biden has pointed to declining gas prices as a sign that his policies — including large releases from the nation’s strategic oil reserve — are helping lessen the higher costs that have hurt household finances, particularly for lower-income Americans and Black and Hispanic households.

Republicans are stressing the persistence of high inflation as a top issue in the midterm congressional elections. Polls show that elevated prices have driven Biden’s approval ratings down sharply.

There are other signs that inflation may fade in coming months. Americans’ expectations for future inflation have fallen, according to a survey by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, likely reflecting the drop in gas prices that is highly visible to most consumers.

Inflation expectations can be self-fulfilling: If people believe inflation will stay high or worsen, they’re likely to take steps — such as demanding higher pay — that can send prices higher in a self-perpetuating cycle.

Companies then often raise prices to offset higher their higher labor costs. But the New York Fed survey found that Americans’ foresee lower inflation one, three and five years from now than they did a month ago.

Supply chain snarls are also loosening, with fewer ships moored off Southern California ports and shipping costs declining. Prices for commodities like corn, wheat and copper have fallen steeply.

Stubborn inflation isn’t just a U.S. phenomenon. Prices have jumped in the United Kingdom, Europe and in less developed nations such as Argentina.

In the U.K., inflation soared 9.4% in June from a year earlier, a four-decade high. In the 19 countries that use the euro currency, it reached 8.9% in June compared with a year earlier, the highest since record-keeping for the euro began.

___

Associated Press Writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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Amazon expands palm-swipe payment technology to 65 more Whole Foods locations – TechCrunch

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Amazon Expands Palm-Swipe Payment Technology To 65 More Whole Foods Locations – Techcrunch

Amazon’s “One” palm-scan payment technology will be launched at more than 65 Whole Foods stores in California. It’s the largest deployment to date, with stores in Malibu, Montana Avenue, Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Orange County, Sacramento, the San Francisco Bay Area and Santa Cruz receiving the technology that aims to modernize the commerce of detail.

When the payment devices were first announced in 2020, Amazon One was only available at Amazon Go stores, with a possible expansion to Whole Foods stores in Austin, Seattle, Los Angeles and New York. Customers can also try checking with their hand at the Amazon Style fashion store in Glendale, Calif., as well as select Fresh and Go stores.

Amazon One is part of the company’s mission to use “contactless” technology that speeds payment. The technology works like this: Users visit a kiosk or point-of-sale station at participating locations to link their palm and payment card to the service. Then all they have to do during the checkout process is run their hand over a scanner to complete the transaction.

Amazon One creates palm signatures using machine learning to identify customers. While the kiosk takes a picture of a user’s palm, the company says it doesn’t store the image there, but encrypts it and sends it to a server for matching.

As Amazon customers continue to give up their data for a more convenient shopping experience, privacy concerns are growing.

If you use Face ID or fingerprint scanners, you are already using biometric data. However, some users are likely to disagree with the idea that Amazon One can allow the company to track your movements.

Even a group of US senators have expressed concerns about the palm-scanning system. Senators Amy Klobuchar, Bill Cassidy and Jon Ossoff wrote in an open letter to Amazon Chief Executive Andy Jassy, ​​”Unlike biometric systems such as Apple’s Face ID and Touch ID or Samsung Pass, which store biometric information on a user’s device, Amazon One would upload biometric information to the cloud, which raises unique security risks.”

Last year, Amazon acquired ticketing company AXS, with plans to implement Amazon One at the Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver, Colorado. Shortly after the announcement, hundreds of music fans, artists and human rights groups called on Red Rocks to drop the technology and ban all biometric monitoring tools like palm scans and facial recognition. They even signed a letter raising concerns about Amazon sharing palmprint data with government agencies and potential hackers stealing data from the cloud.

People are not wrong to be bothered by this because Amazon is known to store Alexa voice data. Additionally, Amazon has sold biometric facial recognition services to US law enforcement, and its camera company Ring also works with police.

The company may also have found other ways to collect data when it acquired iRobot last week, the room-mapping smart robot vacuum cleaner with advanced sensors.

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Iranian operative charged in plot to murder John Bolton

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Iranian Operative Charged In Plot To Murder John Bolton

By ERIC TUCKER

WASHINGTON (AP) — An Iranian operative has been charged in a plot to murder former U.S. national security adviser John Bolton in presumed retaliation for a U.S. airstrike that killed the country’s most powerful general, offering $300,000 to “eliminate” the Trump administration official, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

Shahram Poursafi, identified by U.S. officials as a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the murder-for-hire plot.

Prosecutors say the scheme unfolded more than a year after Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force and an architect of Tehran’s proxy wars in the Middle East, was killed in a targeted airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020. After the strike, Bolton, who by then had left his White House post, tweeted, “Hope this is the first step to regime change in Tehran.”

In the fall of 2021, Poursafi, an Iranian citizen who officials say has never visited the United States, offered $300,000 to someone he was corresponding with in the U.S. if the person would hire someone to “eliminate” Bolton, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Wednesday. Poursafi told the person, who was actually an FBI informant, that he wanted “the guy” to be purged or eliminated.

Poursafi provided the person with Bolton’s office address, including the name and contact information for someone who worked in the office, and took screenshots of surveillance photographs of Bolton’s office, the affidavit says.

“This was not an idle threat,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security official, said in a statement released by the department. “And this is not the first time we’ve uncovered brazen acts by Iran to exact revenge against individuals in the U.S.”

In his own statement, Bolton thanked the FBI and Justice Department for their work in developing the case and the Secret Service for providing protection.

“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States,” he said.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The unsealing of the complaint comes two days after negotiators seeking to revive the Iran nuclear accord in Vienna closed on a “final text” of an agreement, with parties now consulting in their capitals on whether to agree to it it.

The 2015 deal granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for tight curbs on its atomic program. Since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement under President Donald Trump, Iran has sped up its nuclear enrichment program. Bolton has been among the most hawkish critics of the deal and efforts by the Biden administration to rejoin it.

In his statement, he said “Iran’s nuclear-weapons and terrorist activities are two sides of the same coin” and asserted that America re-entering the failed 2015 Iran nuclear deal would be an unparalleled self-inflicted wound, to ourselves and our closest Middle East allies.”

____

Associated Press writers Zeke Miller in Washington and Isabel de Bre in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.

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Georgia soldiers killed: Army says soldiers based at Fort Benning died in weather-related incident at Yonah Mountain

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Georgia Soldiers Killed: Army Says Soldiers Based At Fort Benning Died In Weather-Related Incident At Yonah Mountain

FORT BENNING, Georgia — Two soldiers based at Fort Benning, Georgia, died and three others were injured in a weather-related incident Tuesday while training on a mountain in the upstate, state officials said Tuesday. army.

An Army spokesperson told WAGA-TV that the deceased soldiers, whose names have not yet been released, were at Yonah Mountain for a training program at the Maneuver Center of Excellence. The injured soldiers were treated by army personnel before being taken to hospital. Their terms were not immediately available.

Details of what happened have not been released.

RELATED: Army soldier killed in bear attack during training at Alaska base

The Army conducts training on Yonah Mountain, including the mountain phase of Ranger School. Soldiers training on the mountain usually report to Camp Merrill in the northern part of the state.

Yonah Mountain is approximately 70 miles northeast of Atlanta and 170 miles northeast of Fort Benning.

This is the second deadly incident involving soldiers stationed in Georgia in the past month. In late July, Sgt. 1st Class Michael D. Clark was killed by a lightning strike at Fort Gordon near Augusta. Nine other soldiers were also injured in the incident.

Copyright © 2022 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill may return punts; Michael Deiter returns at joint practice in Tampa

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Dolphins’ Tyreek Hill May Return Punts; Michael Deiter Returns At Joint Practice In Tampa

Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel touched on possible kick and punt return options on the roster, the team’s trade of tight end Adam Shaheen and a few other topics at his Wednesday morning media availability ahead of the Dolphins’ first of two joint practices with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

The Dolphins interestingly placed star wide receiver Tyreek Hill as the team’s top punt returner and veteran running back Raheem Mostert as the No. 1 kick returner in Monday’s depth chart release. With Jaylen Waddle listed as the backup to each, that’s a lot of the team’s top offensive talent on returns.

McDaniel wasn’t shy on Wednesday about expressing that he may be willing to use some of Miami’s most valued investments on special teams.

“I’m willing to do anything at any given time at any moment,“ he initially quipped before later offering a more in-depth response.

”There’s an open competition everywhere. We have a lot of people that have the ability to return the ball in the punt and kickoff game, and during the season, we plan to utilize everyone that makes the most sense for the team.

“Remember: Special teams yards are yards, same as defensive yards given up, same as offensive yards gained. We’ll use our players to best move the ball down the field to score touchdowns or stop other people from moving it.”

McDaniel addressed the Dolphins’ trade of Shaheen for a late pick swap in the 2023, sending a seventh-round selection to the Houston Texans for a sixth-rounder.

“To our tight end room’s credit, we thought that we could afford in investing in the future draft capital,” McDaniel said. “We were happy for Adam. We were happy for the Dolphins that we were able to do that.”

Deiter returns

Dolphins offensive lineman Michael Deiter returned to practice on Wednesday after a two-week absence since the team’s first training camp session with a foot injury.

Deiter, who was the team’s starting center last season when healthy, missed nine games in 2021 dealing with the foot ailment.

On Wednesday, Deiter was involved in 1-on-1 and even limited team drills against the Buccaneers front, at one point helping to open up a big run for Salvon Ahmed.

Physicality rules

Joint practices are known to potentially get a little more physical than when teams open training camp against their own teammates. McDaniel set the tone for how he wants his players to stay out of extracurricular activity after the whistle against the Buccaneers.

“We’re approaching it exactly like we approach our own practices, where it’s important to me for guys not to fight with their teammates,” said McDaniel. “Sometimes it happens, but you make sure that players understand that anything outside of the whistle is only hurting the team.”

This story will be updated.

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Biden signs bill to help veterans exposed to toxic burning stoves

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Biden Signs Bill To Help Veterans Exposed To Toxic Burning Stoves

WASHINGTON — President Biden on Wednesday signed into law a bill that extends medical benefits to veterans who were exposed to toxins from burning trash pits on military bases, ending a years-long quest for support by veterans and their families.

The question is deeply personal for the president, who has long speculated that his son Beau developed brain cancer due to exposure to fire pits while serving in Iraq as a member of the Delaware National Guard. Before signing the legislation, Mr. Biden described the lingering effects of the exposures.

“Toxic smoke, thick with poisons, wafting through the air and into the lungs of our troops,” he said. “When they came home, many of the fittest and best warriors we sent to war weren’t the same. Headaches, numbness, dizziness, cancer. My son, Beau, was the one of them.

In a ceremony packed with veterans and their families in the East Room of the White House, Biden called the new law progress toward fulfilling “a sacred obligation” to those who have stood up for the nation and their families. The law passed despite a last-minute delay by Republican senators, who blocked its passage but backed down after a backlash.

“This is the most important law our country has ever passed to help millions of veterans who are exposed to toxic substances during their military service,” Mr. Biden said, adding minutes later: “This law is long overdue and we finally got it together.

The legislation addresses the effects some veterans have suffered after sleeping and working near large fires on military bases where waste – including tires, jet fuel, chemicals and other equipment – ​​has been burned, creating large clouds of smoke. Research suggests that toxins in smoke may be responsible for a range of ailments suffered by veterans, including cancer, bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, sleep apnea, bronchitis and sinusitis.

The new law, known as the PACT Act, makes it easier for veterans who believe they were exposed to toxins while on duty to apply for medical benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The act creates a $280 billion federal funding stream, making it one of the largest veterans benefit expansions in American history.

In his remarks, Mr Biden praised the many years of work by family members and activists, singling out Jon Stewart, the comedian, for his impassioned and sometimes angry demands that politicians pass the bill.

“What you’ve done, Jon, matters, and you know it,” Mr. Biden told Mr. Stewart, who was in the room for the signing ceremony. “You should know. This is really, really important. You refused to let anyone forget. Refused to let them forget, and we owe you a lot, man.

Mr Stewart, who has been pushing for the bill for years, was particularly vocal last month, when Republican senators abruptly refused to back the measure, fearing it was structured to create a new expensive law. The legislation had passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in the House, and Republican senators who opposed it had expressed strong support just weeks earlier.

Appearing on CNN after Republicans blocked the bill, Mr Stewart was livid, helping to spark an intense backlash that led to the bill’s final passage days later.

“I’m used to lies. I’m used to hypocrisy. I’m used to their cowardice,” Mr Stewart told Jake Tapper on CNN’s ‘The Lead’. “I’m not used to cruelty, occasional cruelty.”

In his remarks on Wednesday, Mr. Biden did not mention the Republican filibuster. Instead, he focused on the bipartisan nature of the deal, citing its passage as proof that he has delivered on his promise to bridge ideological divides in the nation’s capital to get things done.

“I don’t want to hear the press telling me that Democrats and Republicans can’t work together,” he said. “We did it, and we did it together.”

Danielle Robinson, wife of Sgt. Heath Robinson, who died of lung cancer after serving in Iraq, spent years leading the fight for new veterans’ benefits. The law is named after her husband.

In her own remarks to the White House, Ms Robinson described how her husband developed cancer a decade after returning from combat. She thanked Mr. Biden and other activists for pushing lawmakers to pass legislation that will make it easier to access medical treatment and benefits after similar exposures.

“So many veterans still struggle with burn heart disease today,” she said. “Too many people have also succumbed to these diseases. And I’m honored to be with the father of another military family who understands the ultimate sacrifice as we do – our Commander-in-Chief, President Joe Biden.

Beau Biden died of brain cancer in 2015.

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