Voting machines were checked for accuracy today as the Sanibel election approaches.
Fewer Americans filed new claims for unemployment benefits last week amid falling COVID-19 infections, but the near-term outlook for the labor market is unclear after winter storms wreaked havoc in the South region in the middle of this month. Still, the decline in claims to a three-month low reported by the Labor Department on Thursday suggested the labor market was slowly regaining traction, in line with the broader economy, after hitting a pothole in late 2020. The reports followed on the heels of news last week that retail sales increased by the most in seven months in January, and could prompt economists to further upgrade their growth estimates for the first quarter.
More allegations against the US designer emerge as a student speaks to BBC News.
The report is widely expected to implicate Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
- Associated Press
The number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell sharply last week in a sign that layoffs may have eased, though applications for aid remain at a historically high level. Jobless claims declined by 111,000 from the previous week to a seasonally adjusted 730,000, the Labor Department said Thursday. The latest figures coincide with a weakened job market that has made scant progress in the past three months.
Three men suspected of having supplied the bomb which killed Maltese anti-corruption journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017 were arrested on Tuesday, police said. Their arrest came as a man accused of carrying out the killing agreed to a plea deal, accepting his responsibility for the assassination in return for a reduced, 15-year jail term instead of possible life behind bars. A legal source said Vince Muscat had provided police with vital information about the case, which has shone a spotlight on corruption in the European Union's smallest country.
Since the couple recently announced they wouldn't be returning to royal duties, they will have more freedom this time around.
Celebrity dermatologist Dr. Pimple Popper used her fingers to squeeze and loosen the "cute" and slimy lipoma on a woman's shoulder.
- The New York Times
SAN ANTONIO — As millions of Texans shivered in dark, cold homes over the past week while a winter storm devastated the state’s power grid and froze natural gas production, those who could still summon lights with the flick of a switch felt lucky. Now, many of them are paying a severe price for it. “My savings is gone,” said Scott Willoughby, a 63-year-old Army veteran who lives on Social Security payments in a Dallas suburb. He said he had nearly emptied his savings account so that he would be able to pay the $16,752 electric bill charged to his credit card — 70 times what he usually pays for all of his utilities combined. “There’s nothing I can do about it, but it’s broken me.” Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Willoughby is among scores of Texans who have reported skyrocketing electric bills as the price of keeping lights on and refrigerators humming shot upward. For customers whose electricity prices are not fixed and are instead tied to the fluctuating wholesale price, the spikes have been astronomical. The outcry elicited angry calls for action from lawmakers from both parties and prompted Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, to hold an emergency meeting with legislators Saturday to discuss the enormous bills. “We have a responsibility to protect Texans from spikes in their energy bills that are a result of the severe winter weather and power outages,” Abbott, who has been reeling after the state’s infrastructure failure, said in a statement after the meeting. He added that Democrats and Republicans would work together to make sure people “do not get stuck with skyrocketing energy bills.” The electric bills are coming due at the end of a week in which Texans have faced a combination of crises caused by the frigid weather, beginning on Monday, when power grid failures and surging demand led to millions being left without electricity. Natural gas producers were not prepared for the freeze either, and many people’s homes were cut off from heat. Now, millions of people are discovering that they have no safe water because of burst pipes, frozen wells or water treatment plants that have been knocked offline. Power has returned in recent days for all but about 60,000 Texans as the storm moved east, where it has also caused power outages in Mississippi, Louisiana, West Virginia and Ohio. The steep electric bills in Texas are in part a result of the state’s uniquely unregulated energy market, which allows customers to pick their electricity providers among about 220 retailers in an entirely market-driven system. Under some of the plans, when demand increases, prices rise. The goal, architects of the system say, is to balance the market by encouraging consumers to reduce their usage and power suppliers to create more electricity. But when last week’s crisis hit and power systems faltered, the state’s Public Utilities Commission ordered that the price cap be raised to its maximum limit of $9 per kilowatt-hour, easily pushing many customers’ daily electric costs above $100. And in some cases, like Willoughby’s, bills rose by more than 50 times the normal cost. Many of the people who have reported extremely high charges, including Willoughby, are customers of Griddy, a small company in Houston that provides electricity at wholesale prices, which can quickly change based on supply and demand. The company passes the wholesale price directly to customers, charging an additional $9.99 monthly fee. Much of the time, the rate is considered affordable. But the model can be risky: Last week, foreseeing a huge jump in wholesale prices, the company encouraged all of its customers — about 29,000 people — to switch to another provider when the storm arrived. But many were unable to do so. Katrina Tanner, a Griddy customer who lives in Nevada, Texas, said she had been charged $6,200 already this month, more than five times what she paid in all of 2020. She began using Griddy at a friend’s suggestion a couple of years ago and was pleased at the time with how simple it was to sign up. As the storm rolled through during the past week, however, she kept opening the company’s app on her phone and seeing her bill “just rising, rising, rising,” Tanner said. Griddy was able to take the money she owed directly from her bank account, and she now has just $200 left. She suspects that she was only able to keep that much because her bank stopped Griddy from taking more. Some lawmakers and consumer advocates said the price spikes had made it clear that customers did not understand the complicated terms of the company’s model. “To the Texas Utilities Commission: What are you thinking, allowing the average type of household to sign up for this kind of program?” Tyson Slocum, director of the energy program at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy group, said of Griddy. “The risk-reward is so out of whack that it never should have been permitted in the first place.” Phil King, a Republican state lawmaker who represents an area west of Fort Worth, said some of his constituents who were on variable-rate contracts were complaining about bills in the thousands. “When something like this happens, you’re in real trouble” with such contracts, King said. “There have got to be some emergency financial waivers and other actions taken until we can work through this and get to the bottom of it.” Responding to its outraged customers, Griddy, too, appeared to try to shift anger to the Public Utilities Commission in a statement. “We intend to fight this for, and alongside, our customers for equity and accountability — to reveal why such price increases were allowed to happen as millions of Texans went without power,” the statement said. William W. Hogan, considered the architect of the Texas energy market design, said in an interview this past week that the high prices reflected the market performing as it was designed. The rapid losses of power — more than a third of the state’s available electricity production was offline at one point — increased the risk that the entire system would collapse, causing prices to rise, said Hogan, a professor of global energy policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School. “As you get closer and closer to the bare minimum, these prices get higher and higher, which is what you want,” Hogan said. Robert McCullough, an energy consultant in Portland, Oregon, and a critic of Hogan’s, said that allowing the market to drive energy policy with few protections for consumers was “idiotic” and that similar actions had devastated retailers and consumers following the California energy crisis of 2000 and 2001. “The similar situation caused a wave of bankruptcies as retailers and customers discovered that they were on the hook for bills 30 times their normal levels,” McCullough said. “We are going to see this again.” DeAndré Upshaw said his power had been on and off in his Dallas apartment throughout the storm. A lot of his neighbors had it worse, so he felt fortunate to have electricity and heat, inviting some neighbors over to warm up. Then Upshaw, 33, saw that his utility bill from Griddy had risen to more than $6,700. He usually pays about $80 a month this time of year. He had been trying to conserve power as the storm raged on, but it didn’t seem to matter. He also signed up to switch to another utility company, but he is still being charged until the change goes into effect Monday. “It’s a utility — it’s something that you need to live,” Upshaw said. “I don’t feel like I’ve used $6,700 of electricity in the last decade. That’s not a cost that any reasonable person would have to pay for five days of intermittent electric service being used at the bare minimum.” As Texas slowly thaws out, Tanner is allowing herself a small luxury after days of keeping the thermostat at 60 degrees. “I finally decided the other day, if we were going to pay these high prices, we weren’t going to freeze,” she said. “So I cranked it up to 65.” This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
- The New York Times
Even by Washington standards, this has been a particularly shameless week. With millions of Texans freezing in their homes, Sen. Ted Cruz fled to a Mexican beach, offering his constituents little more than the political cliché of wanting to be a “good dad.” (Apparently, flying your daughters to Cancún is just like carpooling — if your minivan were the Ritz-Carlton resort.) Sign up for The Morning newsletter from the New York Times Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas blamed the complete meltdown of state infrastructure not on a lack of preparation from leaders in the state but the Green New Deal — a liberal policy proposal that is not even close to becoming law. His predecessor, former Gov. Rick Perry, suggested that Texans would willingly endure days of blackouts to keep the “federal government out of their business.” It seems hard to believe that any Texan — or really any human — would choose to have to melt snow for water. The outrageous behavior extended beyond the Lone Star State. In New York, a state lawmaker said that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had vowed to “destroy” him for criticizing Cuomo’s handling of the deaths of nursing home residents in the past year — an issue that is under investigation by the Justice Department. And Ron Johnson, the Wisconsin senator, said the armed attack on the Capitol did not seem all that well armed. Apparently, he missed the many, many videos of attackers carrying guns, bats and other weapons. And yet, beneath all this noise was the sound of something even more unusual: silence. For much of the past six years, former President Donald Trump has dominated the political conversation, prompting days of outrage, finger-pointing and general news cycle havoc with nearly every tweet. The audacious behavior of other politicians was often lost amid Trump’s obsessive desire to dominate the coverage. Well, the former president has now gone nearly silent, leaving a Trump-size void in our national conversation that President Joe Biden has little desire to fill. That has been a rude awakening for some other politicians, who find themselves suddenly enmeshed in controversy that is not quickly subsumed in a deluge of Trump news. It is unclear whether any will pay a significant political price for their actions. The last administration delivered a constant stream of chaos that may have fundamentally reshaped the kind of fact-based rhetoric and norm-abiding behavior we expect from our political leaders. Already, some politicians have adopted Trump’s playbook for surviving controversy: Blame liberals, double down and never admit any mistake. Biden, at least, seems determined to set a different tone. T.J. Ducklo, a deputy press secretary who reportedly used abusive and sexist language with a female reporter, resigned last Saturday — reflecting Biden’s Inauguration Day promise that he would fire anyone he heard being disrespectful. And in his first presidential town hall Tuesday, Biden repeatedly used two words that many in Washington have not heard in a while: “I’m sorry.” Democrats in Disarray. Kind Of? After a few weeks of party unity, Democrats are showing some fresh signs of division. Over the past week, Biden indicated that he was not fully sold on two proposals backed by his progressive base: forgiving $50,000 of student debt for each borrower and raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Both plans have some high-profile champions. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have called on Biden to use his executive authority to cancel about 80% of the student loan debt run up by about 36 million borrowers. And the party is fairly united over a $15 minimum wage, with Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont committed to including it in the COVID-19 relief package currently making its way through Congress. The issue for Democrats is how quickly to move. Biden favors a more gradual phase-in of the $15 minimum wage, in part to assuage concerns from business owners. And on student debt, Biden is not convinced that he can erase so much with a stroke of his executive pen. He has also signaled that the proposals should include income caps. “My daughter went to Tulane University and then got a master’s at Penn; she graduated $103,000 in debt,” he said at a CNN town hall Tuesday. “I don’t think anybody should have to pay for that, but I do think you should be able to work it off.” Biden may simply be looking at some political realities. Polls indicate that both proposals are popular, though support for a $15 wage drops when voters are told of potential economic effects — like a Congressional Budget Office forecast that it could cost more than 1 million jobs. As for student debt, majorities back the $50,000 in relief, but support rises when the plan is targeted at lower-income families. By the Number: 16 That was the number of crossover districts — congressional districts where the two parties split results between the presidency and Congress — in 2020, according to a new analysis by Daily Kos. That is the lowest number in a century. This article originally appeared in The New York Times. © 2021 The New York Times Company
A top Jewish organization slammed Michael Che's controversial joke about Israeli vaccinations on 'SNL' and reached out to Lorne Michaels
The CEO of the Anti-Defamation League said he reached out to Lorne Michaels amid the backlash to Michael Che's Israel vaccination joke.
U.S. President Joe Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sought on Tuesday to turn the page on the Trump era, stressing the countries' deep ties and pledging to work together to counteract Chinese influence and address climate change. "The United States has no closer friend, no closer friend than Canada," Biden told Trudeau via an electronic video link with the Canadian leader and top aides. "That's why you were my first call as president (and) my first bilateral meeting," he said.
Hong Kong's government will gazette a bill later this week that will require community level district councils to pledge an oath of allegiance to the Chinese-ruled city's mini-constitution, further stifling democratic opposition. Secretary for Mainland and Constitutional Affairs Eric Tsang said politicians deemed insincere would be blocked from office, releasing details of the bill a day after a senior official in China's cabinet said provisions should be made to ensure "patriots" were running Hong Kong. "The law will fulfill the constitutional responsibility of the government," Tsang said.
- Reuters Videos
According to the commentary by the zoo, the growing tiger has been making such sounds ever since he was a little cub.Sherhan uses his vocal talent to draw his mother's attention.Sherhan is one of four tigers born in the zoo in June 2020.
- Reuters Videos
Luca Attanasio, 43, Italian military policeman Vittorio Iacovacci, 30, and a Congolese driver, whose name has not been released, were confirmed dead by the Italian government in a statement.They were killed on Monday when their convoy was attacked at about 10:15 a.m. (0815 GMT) in an attempted kidnap near the town of Kanyamahoro, about 25 km (15 miles) north of the regional capital Goma, a spokesman for the Virunga National Park told Reuters.The driver was working for the U.N. World Food Programme, it said in a statement, adding that a number of other passengers were injured.
Canada's parliament passed a non-binding motion on Monday saying China's treatment of the Uighur Muslim minority in the Xinjiang region constitutes genocide, putting pressure on Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government to follow suit. Canada's House of Commons voted 266-0 for the motion brought by the opposition Conservative Party. Trudeau and his Cabinet abstained from the vote, although Liberal backbenchers widely backed it.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned on Monday that white supremacy and neo-Nazi movements are becoming a "transnational threat" and have exploited the coronavirus pandemic to boost their support. Addressing the U.N. Human Rights Council, Guterres said the danger of hate-driven groups was growing daily. Without naming states, Guterres added: "Today, these extremist movements represent the number one internal security threat in several countries."
- The Independent
Some Texans were charged as high as $17,000 for their electric usage last week
- LA Times
The 'Saturday Night Live' skit has Chloe Fineman as Britney, on her 'Oops, You Did It Again' talk show, offering celebs a chance to apologize for public misdeeds.
Iranian lawmakers protested on Monday against Tehran's decision to permit “necessary” monitoring by the U.N. nuclear watchdog for up to three months, saying the move broke a law mandating an end to the agency's snap inspections this week. "The government has no right to decide and act arbitrarily," said Mojtaba Zolnour, chairman of the parliament’s national security committee, according to Iranian state media. Iran has been gradually breaching terms of a 2015 nuclear pact with world powers since then U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew from it in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.
- FOX News Videos
FOX News medical contributor Dr. Janette Nesheiwat weighs in on 'Fox & Friends Weekend'