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Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker has signed the state’s $50.4 billion fiscal year 2024 budget into law, hailing it for being balanced and its “transformative investments” in early childhood, K-12 schools and higher education. Pritzker, flanked by his fellow Democrats Senate President Don Harmon and House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch, signed the budget Wednesday. The signing was held at Christopher House, a pre-K through eighth grade nonprofit school in Chicago, to highlight an initial $250 million investment in a new program called Smart Start that aims to expand preschool access. The budget also invests $350 million for K-12 education and $100 million for college scholarships and to provide free access to community colleges.

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Lionel Messi says he is coming to Inter Miami and joining Major League Soccer. After months of speculation, Messi announced his decision to join a Miami franchise that has been led by another global soccer icon in David Beckham since its inception but has yet to make any real splashes on the field. That will likely soon change. One of Inter Miami’s owners, Jorge Mas, tweeted out a photo of a darkly silhouetted Messi jersey shortly before the Argentinian great revealed his decision in interviews with Spanish news outlets Mundo Deportivo and Sport. The seven-time Ballon d’Or winner makes his move after two years with Paris Saint-Germain.

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Intense smoke blanketed the northeastern United States for a second day Wednesday, turning the air a yellowish gray and prompting warnings for people to stay inside and keep windows closed. The smoke is flowing from dozens of wildfires burning in several Canadian provinces. The effects reach as far south as North Carolina and west to Ohio, blotting out skylines and irritating throats. Conditions were especially bad in parts of central New York, where the airborne soot was at hazardous levels.

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