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In honor of Independence Day, The Muscatine Journal is providing unlimited access to all of our content from June 28th-July 4th! Presented by Quad City Bank & Trust Member FDIC
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China’s top diplomat has arrived on his first visit to Myanmar since the military seized power last year to attend a regional meeting. The government says it's a recognition of its legitimacy while opponents protested it as a violation of peace efforts. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi will join counterparts from Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in a meeting of the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation group in the central city of Bagan. The grouping is a Chinese-led initiative that includes the countries of the Mekong Delta, a potential source of regional tensions due to an increasing number of hydroelectric projects that are altering the flow and raising concerns of ecological damage. China has built 10 dams along the upper stretch of the Mekong.

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California voters will weigh in on seven ballot measures this fall. It's the fewest number to appear on a statewide general election ballot since 2014. Thursday was the deadline to qualify measures for the November ballot. One question was placed on the ballot by the state Legislature and six are initiatives that gathered enough verified signatures to go before voters. Voters will be asked to weigh in on issues including whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in the California Constitution, whether to expand sports betting and whether to set aside public school funding for arts and music.

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Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province. The regional governor said Saturday that Russians "opened fire from all available kinds of weapons” in the last day.  A presidential adviser said its fate will be decided within the next two days. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas region, where Russia has focused its offensive since the spring.

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Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy is calling on residents to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases. Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged property owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency. Mueller told the Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher. on Saturday that residents need to use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to get ready. He says families should start talking now about “whether every room needs to be set at its usual temperature in the winter, or whether some rooms can be a little colder.”

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Egyptian authorities have closed off a stretch of the country's Red Sea coastline, a day after a shark attack killed an Austrian woman swimming near the resort of Hurghada. The closure is to last three days, starting on Saturday. That's according to a document from the local governor's office shared with The Associated Press. The 68-year-old woman lost a leg and an arm in the shark attack and died shortly after she was brought to the private Nile Hospital in Hurghada on Friday. A health official says attempts by medical staff to resuscitate her failed. Shark attacks have been relatively rare in Egypt’s Red Sea coastal region in recent years.

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The Hard Rock casino has reached agreement with Atlantic City’s main casino workers union, removing the last threat of a strike during the busy holiday weekend. Local 54 of the Unite Here union said it reached a tentative agreement with Hard Rock, avoiding a strike that had been threatened for 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Combined with agreements reached Thursday with the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana, Hard Rock’s deal leaves only two smaller casinos, Resorts and the Golden Nugget, without a contract. But the union says it expects both of them to agree to one in the coming days.

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Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics and other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies. The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and Android phone software outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post. Other places Google plans to erase from location histories include counseling centers and fertility centers. The move is made as Google and other Big Tech companies face escalating pressure to safeguard the sensitive personal information collected through their products.

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The Fourth of July holiday weekend is jamming U.S. airports with the biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020. Newly released numbers show 2.49 million passengers went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million reached earlier in the week. The increase is the latest sign that leisure travelers aren’t being deterred from flying by rising fares, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or worries about recurring flight delays and cancellations. In an even more telling indication, the average passenger volume at U.S. airports for the past week is nearing the same level as in 2019.

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Tesla’s sales from April through June fell to their lowest quarterly level since last fall as supply chain issues and pandemic restrictions in China hobbled production of its electric vehicles. The company on Saturday disclosed it sold more than 254,000 cars and SUVs from April through June, an 18% drop from the first three months of this year and also well below the pace in last year’s final quarter. The last time Tesla sold fewer vehicles globally was in the third quarter of 2021 when it delivered 241,000. The erosion may put further pressure on Tesla's stock price, which has plunged by 35% this year.

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Tesla CEO Elon Musk has used Twitter to announce he had met with Pope Francis. Musk used the @Pontifex handle in tweeting that he was “honored” to meet with Francis on Friday. He tweeted a photo showing Musk, Francis and four of Musk’s teenage children. The Vatican didn’t announce the audience or provide any information about what was discussed. Musk’s tweet followed one of a street scene in Venice. It suggested he might have had other stops on his tour. Francis frequently meets with high-profile figures in strictly private audiences that are held in a reception room of the Vatican hotel where he lives. A common talking point he uses when meeting with corporate CEOs is to appeal for them to use wealth and technology to help the poorest while caring for God’s creation.

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U.S. officials are testing a new wildfire retardant after two decades of buying millions of gallons annually from one supplier, but watchdogs say the expensive strategy is overly fixated on aerial attacks at the expense of hiring more fire-line digging ground crews. The Forest Service says tests started last summer are continuing this summer with a magnesium-chloride-based retardant from Fortress. Fortress contends its retardants are effective and better for the environment than products offered by Perimeter Solutions. That company says its ammonium-phosphate-based retardants are superior. The Forest Service used more than 50 million gallons of retardant for the first time in 2020 as increasingly destructive wildfires plague the West.

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The Vatican kept mum but the Tesla CEO tweeted a pic of him, Pope Francis and his four kids. The pope often meets privately with the rich and powerful, usually making an appeal for them to do more good.

The moves in the NBA right now are big and bold. That's what it takes now to win championships. It took Golden State about $340 million to win this past season's championship between payroll and luxury tax. And other teams now are getting in on the spending. Rudy Gobert getting traded to Minnesota is the latest example. The Timberwolves have nearly a half-billion dollars now committed to just Gobert and Karl-Anthony Towns. But if such moves lead to a championship, they'll all obviously have been a bargain.

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The Supreme Court's ruling on carbon emission controls on power plants this past week has cast light on the world of federal regulation. The ruling is seen as a potential blow to the fight against global warming, and it may have broader implications, too. Federal regulations run through American life, touching on everything we consume, the air we breathe, the water we drink. Regulation has become the go-to way for presidents to make policy when they can’t get Congress to pass a law, as on climate change. Barack Obama and Donald Trump did it, and so does Joe Biden. But the court’s conservative majority said not so fast to Biden.

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An Iowa woman is facing criminal charges after more than 1,000 pigs were found dead on a property. KCCI-TV reports that the Sac County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call Thursday and found the animals dead at two confinement sites. Authorities say 33-year-old Elana Laber was responsible for maintaining the sites. The sheriff’s office said the pigs had been dead for at least a week and had no access to food or water. Laber is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal mischief and two counts of livestock neglect. It isn't clear if she has an attorney.

An Iowa woman is facing criminal charges after more than 1,000 pigs were found dead on a property. KCCI-TV reports that the Sac County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call Thursday and found the animals dead at two confinement sites. Authorities say 33-year-old Elana Laber was responsible for maintaining the sites. The sheriff’s office said the pigs had been dead for at least a week and had no access to food or water. Laber is charged with two counts of first-degree criminal mischief and two counts of livestock neglect. It isn't clear if she has an attorney.

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Medication abortions were the preferred method for ending pregnancy in the U.S. even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As more states seek abortion limits, demand is expected to grow. They involve using two prescription medicines days apart _ pills that can be taken at home or in a clinic. The drug mifepristone is taken first. It blocks the effects of the hormone progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later. It cause the womb to contract, expelling the pregnancy. Use of the pills has been increasing in recent years.

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Tourism is booming again in France, and so is COVID-19. French government officials have “invited” or “recommended” people to go back to using face masks but stopped short of renewing restrictions that would scare visitors away or revive protests. From Paris commuters to tourists on the French Riviera, many people seem to welcome the government’s light touch, while some worry that required prevention measures may be needed. Infections are rising across Europe and the United States, but government data shows France had nearly 1,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 per day over the past two weeks. Local officials are contemplating new measures, including indoor mask mandates, but nothing that would potentially curb economic activity.

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Australia’s new government is putting climate change at the top of its legislative agenda when Parliament sits next month for the first time since the May 21 election, with bills to enshrine a cut in greenhouse gas emissions and make electric cars cheaper. Minister for Climate Change and Energy Chris Bowen told the National Press Club on Wednesday a bill will be introduced to commit Australia to reducing its emissions by 43% below 2005 levels by 2030 when Parliament sits on July 26. Another bill would abolish import tariffs and taxes for electric vehicles that are cheaper than a luxury car threshold. Bowen says legislating the 43% target would create greater confidence.

The Golden State Warriors were determined to keep their winning roster together to chase another championship — to make a run at a repeat.As the NBA’s free agency period began, Golden State retained center Kevon Looney when he agreed to a $25.5 million, three-year contract, but lost several other key faces.The reigning champs lost guard Gary Payton II to the Portland Trail Blazers on a $28 million, three-year contract and saw Otto Porter Jr.’s departure to the Toronto Raptors.

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The North Carolina General Assembly has wrapped up its chief work session for the year. It adjourned on Friday after finalizing proposed state budget adjustments for the new fiscal year and crossing off other must-do legislation. The budget bill headed to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who must decide whether to sign it, veto it or let it become law. More than 30 Democrats joined all Republicans on Friday in voting for the spending measure. Some big policy matters like Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and sports betting remain unresolved or were thwarted during the six-week session. The legislature could consider any Cooper vetoes in a few weeks.

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Some Hawaii residents, including Native Hawaiians and military families, say an investigation blaming a water contamination crisis on shoddy management and human error doesn’t help restore their trust in the U.S. Navy. Navy spouse Lauren Wright says her family continues avoiding water in their military home because she doesn't trust that it's safe. The leak poisoned thousands of people and forced military families to evacuate their homes for hotels. A Navy investigation released Thursday blamed the water crisis on shoddy management and human error.  The report listed a cascading series of mistakes from May through November 2021 when fuel got into a drinking water well.

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The Biden administration is proposing up to 10 oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska over the next five years. Friday’s announcement goes against the Democratic administration’s promises to end new drilling on public lands and waters. But it scales back a Trump-era plan that called for dozens of offshore sales, including in undeveloped areas. Interior Department officials said fewer lease sales — or even no lease sales — could occur. A final decision is months away. Interior had suspended oil and gas lease sales in 2021 because of climate concerns but was forced to resume them by a federal judge in Louisiana.

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A former Southern California woman who, along with her doctor husband, billed insurers $44 million for unnecessary cosmetic surgeries has been given an eight-year prison sentence. Federal prosecutors say Linda Morrow also was ordered Friday to pay $14 million in restitution. She and her husband ran The Morrow Institute, a surgical clinic in Rancho Mirage. Authorities say they billed insurers tens of millions for breast implants and other cosmetic procedures that were falsely written up as “medically necessary" operations. The couple fled the country in 2017 but were later deported from Israel. David Morrow is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

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