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Elton John States Gay Rights Are Going Backwards In The US

Famous singer Elton John has stated that gay rights are moving backwards in the US in response to the slew of anti-LGBT+ legislation being brought up throughout the nation’s governments.

for sale

Is The All-Cash Offer Trend Going To Last In The Real Estate Market? 

The Covid-19 rocked the housing market in a multitude of ways. Real estate agencies saw an uptick in individuals moving out of cities and investing in homes in more rural/suburban areas. 

In 2022, nearly one third of all US homes were purchased using all-cash offers, according to the National Association of Realtors. However, experts are wondering if this trend of all-cash purchases is going to continue, or decline as time goes on. 

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Lawrence Yun is the chief economist at the National Association of Realtors, and recently spoke with the Wall Street Journal regarding this trend and new data in housing trends as reported by Redfin

“Only the wealthy are essentially buying homes. If this trend was to continue, that means something fundamentally is wrong with society.”

The Wall Street Journal also reported that the trend of all-cash purchases isn’t equal across the entire nation. For example, nearly one fifth of all homes purchased in Washington D.C. and its surrounding cities were made in cash. 

On Long Island, almost half of the home purchases between 2020 and now were made using all-cash offers across both Nassau and Suffolk county. 

“What we found was those who already were more well-off were able to take advantage of the strong housing market and add to their wealth, while those trying to better their situation were often pushed to the side,” Ali Wolf, chief economist at Zonda, a housing data and consulting firm, said to the Journal.

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Wolf explained that the main population of buyers making all cash offers are retired, international, investors, and wealthy individuals in general. 

The current rate of all-cash home purchases hasn’t been this high since 2014, when the housing market saw its biggest rebound after the Great Recession. 

“FHA loans, which typically allow for lower down payments, have ticked up in popularity in response to the slowdown in housing-market competition,” Redfin noted, detailing government-backed mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

“FHA loans, which typically allow for lower down payments, have ticked up in popularity in response to the slowdown in housing-market competition,” Redfin noted, detailing government-backed mortgages insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

“Americans who sell a home in a pricey place like San Francisco may use equity to pay cash in a more affordable area like Las Vegas,” Redfin concluded.

missile

North Korea Fires Ballistic Missile Over Japan, South Korea And US Respond 

According to the Japanese Ministry of Defense, North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan early on Tuesday morning. South Korea and the US responded by conducting a joint strike package flight and precision bombing drill, South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff told ABC News Tuesday. 

The Japanese government initially issued a “J-Alert” to citizens through its emergency warning system, telling residents to remain indoors in sturdy buildings or underground for safety. 

The government didn’t try to attempt to shoot the missile from North Korea down after determining it didn’t pose a threat, according to a spokesperson from Japan’s government. 

Residents in both Hokkaido and Aomori, and surrounding northern areas, were advised to report any debris sightings to police or fire officials immediately. 

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The last time North Korea flew a missile over Japan was in 2017, but this launch marks the seventh time that the nation has witnessed a missile from North Korea. 

Since January of this year, North Korea has shot 21 ballistic missiles and two cruise missiles, which is considered a record-breaking number of launches in a single year, according to reports from ABC. Tuesday’s launch was North Korea’s fifth missile test in a week. 

Japanese government chief spokesperson Hirokazu Matsuno spoke with the media at a press conference where he warned citizens not to touch or pick up any debris. 

“We ask that people return to life as usual, calmly,” Matsuno emphasized. 

“No damage has been reported so far and a search is underway for debris. Officials are gathering information and will work with South Korea and the U.S.,” another spokesperson said. 

“North Korea’s actions threaten Japan and the international community. Missile launches like this go against the U.N. resolutions. Japan will launch a strong protest against North Korea in light of this. All new information will be shared promptly.”

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“The United States strongly condemns the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) dangerous and reckless decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan,” The White House said in a statement Tuesday. 

Jake Sullivan, US National Security Adviser, spoke with his counterparts from Japan and South Korea about the launch as well, according to Adrienne Watson, a White House National Security Council spokesperson. 

“In both calls, the National Security Advisors consulted on appropriate and robust joint and international responses, and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan reinforced the United States’ ironclad commitments to the defense of Japan and the ROK [South Korea],” Watson explained. 

In response, Jaechun Kim, a professor in South Korea, stated that the US, Korea, and Japan need to “mobilize cooperation from like-minded countries in non-UN sanctions to thwart North Korea’s provocations.” 

“A unified front must be established that imposes sanctions on North Korea, as they did on Russia. This is the only way to penalize North Korea for its bad behavior.” 

“North Korea just does what it needs to do these days. So, with or without China’s support, it is quite likely for the North to conduct the 7th nuke test. It will be interesting to see whether Xi Jinping will throw his weight behind Kim Jong Un,” Kim said.

chess

Chess Grandmaster Quits Abruptly During Game, Fueling Cheating Scandal

Chess World Champion Magnus Carlsen abruptly quit an online chess match against Grandmaster Hans Niemann Monday, sending shockwaves throughout the chess community. Commentators are speculating that Carlsen believes Niemann cheated during their previous match.

terror

At Least Eight People, Including Five Americans, Injured In Jerusalem Shooting Terror Attack 

Around 1:30 am local time Sunday, police responded to reports of a “terrorist armed with weapons who shot at a bus and vehicles in a parking lot near the Old City of Jerusalem.” The attack took place near the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City, where the shooter targeted a bus in the area. 

At least eight people, including five Americans, were wounded in the attack. Two of the Americans are being treated at the Hadassah Medical Center, and three at Shaare Zedek Medical Center, according to reports from the hospitals. 

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The hospitals stated that at least two of the injured Americans were tourists and Israeli media confirmed that four of the American victims were tourists and members of the same family. 

Emergency services reported that two of the victims are in serious condition while the other six victims are mildly or moderately injured. One of the wounded individuals was pregnant and had to endure an emergency cesarean operation, both the mother and baby are in serious condition, according to the Shaare Zedek hospital. 

The US Embassy in Jerusalem said that they are “shocked and saddened by the attack,” and are currently gathering more information. A spokesperson released a statement to CNN today regarding the attack: 

We strongly condemn all acts of terrorism and actions that exacerbate tensions. Our thoughts are with the loved ones of the victims and we wish all of them a quick and full recovery.”

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Tom Nides, the US Ambassador to Israel, also released a statement via his Twitter condemning the attack: 

“Strongly condemn the terrorist attack outside the Old City of Jerusalem. I am praying for a quick recovery for all of the innocent victims,” Nides said.

“Deeply saddened to confirm that Americans were injured in this attack. I’ve spoken with the families and will keep them in my prayers. Continuing to monitor the situation.”

According to a police spokesperson, the shooter initially fled the scene with both security forces, the Shin Bet, and the IDF in pursuit. The suspect later turned himself into the police with his weapon being immediately seized. 

The suspect is an Israeli citizen born in 1996. While he’s not known for any terror related offenses, he has a criminal record and spent time in prison, his identity has not been released. 

Israeli media outlets described the suspect as a Palestinian who holds Israeli citizenship. Police and forensic investigators have begun a full investigation into the attack.

Airport TSA

TSA Warns Of Travel ‘Hiccups For Very, Very Busy Summer’

David Pekoske, the nation’s TSA chief, and airport and airline leaders throughout the nation have stated that there will be inevitable “hiccups” this summer, as the agency is expecting the largest airport passenger crowds since the Covid-19 pandemic first began. 

Pkoske said that labor shortages and an increased demand for travel have already begun to overwhelm airlines. The agency is gearing up to deploy as many as 1,000 TSA agents and K-9 units to the nation’s busiest airports to ideally counter any potential delays at security checkpoints. 

“We expect the summer to be very, very busy. That’s not to say that there will not be some hiccups along the way — those things will happen, but we’ll do everything we can to recover quickly.”

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Some expect airport crowds surpass 3 million passengers per day on the busiest travel days for the summer. The increased demand for travel has also led to pilots complaining about fatigue and flight cancellations heading into the summer at airlines including American Airlines, Southwest, Alaska, and Delta. 

 “Everybody is facing labor shortages; airlines and TSA are no different. At just about every level you can think of in the airline industry we can speak of we’re having labor shortages,” said Paul Doell, vice president for the National Air Carrier Association.

Airline restaurants and car rental companies have also been dealing with labor shortages. Customer service call centers for airlines and passengers who need wheelchair assistance, as well as ground airport employers, have also been struggling to maintain a steady supply of workers to deal with the demand for flights. 

Airlines themselves are cutting thousands of flights from their schedules as a means of helping scheduled flights run on time. This also means that TSA agents and other airline workers will likely have to work harder to get travelers to their flights on time.

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“But regional air carriers, which fly about 43% of all scheduled flights in the U.S., say they are facing labor shortages as employees such as pilots are being poached by the larger airlines. That could create issues connecting smaller destinations to larger hub airports,” said Kevin Burke, head of Airports Council International-North America.

“The pilot shortage is impacting the regionals, and we expect to see the small communities hit the hardest. We expect this to continue to be a trend, but those pain points will assert themselves at hubs as well.”

Pekoske warned that “many travelers this summer could be getting on a plane for the first time in three years, especially as masking and Covid-19 restrictions have fallen in many parts of the country and international travel restrictions are being lifted.”

“The amount of people that worked concessions prior to the pandemic are not there now, they’ve come back, but they’re nowhere near where they need to be,” Burke explained. 

“So we really ask that we try to have patience and understanding when they are dealing with employees at the airport. Everybody’s trying to do the best job they can to make sure this is safe, secure and also as comfortable as it can be under normal circumstances but especially when you have those tough days where you have storms that are disrupting the system,” Doell said. 

Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

FDA Places Strict Limits On Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 Vaccine 

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced last week that it is limiting the emergency use authorization of the Johnson & Johnson Covid-19 vaccine for individuals 18 and older. The vaccine is now available for adults who don’t have access to other vaccinations and for adults who aren’t able to receive the other Covid-19 vaccine for personal medical reasons. 

The FDA released a statement in which they detailed the changes and why they’re being made. They explained that the change is being implemented due to the rare risk of a dangerous clotting condition known as thrombosis with thrombocytopenia syndrome (TTS) after receiving the vaccine. 

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“We’ve been closely monitoring the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine and occurrence of TTS following its administration and have used updated information from our safety surveillance systems to revise the EUA,” Dr. Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement. 

“We recognize that the Janssen COVID-19 Vaccine still has a role in the current pandemic response in the United States and across the global community. Today’s action demonstrates the robustness of our safety surveillance systems and our commitment to ensuring that science and data guide our actions.”

The agency also confirmed that the updated authorizations apply to booster doses as well. The FDA also emphasized that the benefits of the J&J vaccine outweigh the risks for certain individuals as well. 

In their statement, they wrote that individuals who had a severe allergic reaction to an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna), have personal concerns over mRNA vaccines, or don’t have access to mRNA vaccines should definitely receive the J&J jab. 

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 18.7 million doses of the J&J vaccine have been administered in the US, and of all the Americans who are currently fully vaccinated, about 7.7% got the J&J vaccine. 

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The CDC’s vaccine advisory committee issued their own statement on Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine, saying it “makes a preferential recommendation for the use of mRNA COVID-19 vaccines over the Janssen adenoviral-vectored COVID-19 vaccine in all persons aged  ≥ 18 years in the United States.”

Both the CDC and FDA have made these statements mainly due to TTS concerns. When rare clotting events began appearing in the initial periods of vaccination in the US, Johnson & Johnson made a statement emphasizing their commitment to giving Americans a safe and effective vaccine. 

“The safety and well-being of the people who use our products is our number one priority. We are aware of an extremely rare disorder involving people with blood clots in combination with low platelets in a small number of individuals who have received our COVID-19 vaccine. … We have been working closely with medical experts and health authorities, and we strongly support the open communication of this information to healthcare professionals and the public.”

The FDA released data that showed around 60 cases of TTS since the J&J vaccine began its distribution, nine of those unfortunately were fatal. 

The FDA emphasized, however, that the risk for TTS is extremely rare. Current data shows that there’s about three cases of TTS for every million doses administered. 

Symptoms of TTS can appear within one to two weeks after vaccination, and they include shortness of breath, chest pain, leg swelling, persistent abdominal pain, neurological symptoms like headaches or blurred vision, and red spots appearing under the skin at the site of vaccination.

COVID-19

US Covid-19 Infections Likely To Rise Again, According To Fauci 

 Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of Joe Biden’s top advisers, said this week that a likely rise in Covid-19 cases will probably not result in a full-scale surge, or prompt a renewal of widespread health and safety procedures. 

“The bottom line is we will likely see an uptick in cases, as we’ve seen in European countries, particularly the U.K.. Hopefully we won’t see a surge. I don’t think we will.”

The BA.2 subvariant of the omicron variant is driving up cases in both Europe and Asia, specifically in Hong Kong which has been dealing with a sudden major surge of new cases within the past couple of weeks. 

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The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has made the argument that the US needs to be prepared to resume health and safety measures in public spaces, while Fauci claims that he doesn’t think that’s going to happen: “right now, at this point, I don’t see that happening.”

Covid-19 hospitalizations, deaths, and cases in general have been continuing to decline in the US. BA.2 is reportedly 50% more transmissible than the original strain of omicron, however, like omicron it doesn’t cause more severe illness or evade immunity from vaccinations or an earlier infection, according to Fauci. 

Fauci and US Surgeon General Vivek Murthy have been urging Congress to pass a Covid-19 relief package that has been stalled for quite some time now. The White House has sought out $22.5 billion in funding for relief efforts and supplies. 

The Biden Administration, however, has also warned that it will have to wind down certain programs and therapeutic treatments soon due to a lack of funding. 

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“As much work as we’ve done in the last two years to get the right tools, we’ve got to continue funding them and supporting them so they’re available to people across the country.”

“That’s why Congress moving to provide that funding is so critical,” Murthy said on Sunday.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has also argued that too much of the money meant to be allocated for Covid-19 programs and protocols has yet to be spent. 

“They ought to reprogram some of this massive amount that was spent last year that’s not out the door yet,” McConnell said on Sunday.

Fauci, 81, also discussed speculation over his retirement: “I can’t stay at this job forever. I want to make sure we’re really out of this before I really seriously consider doing anything different. We’re still in this. We have a way to go. I think we are clearly going in the right direction. I hope we stay that way.”

US Unlikely To End Covid Testing Rules For International Travel 

Throughout the past month many countries have made international travel a lot easier as the Covid-19 pandemic continues around the world. Vaccinated travelers have found it much easier to book and experience travel again, however, US travelers returning from abroad must still present negative Covid-19 test results before they’re able to safely return.

The US Virgin Islands became the latest territory to announce that vaccinated travelers no longer need to provide a negative test upon arrival, a move that other international countries, like the UK, have had in place for nearly a month. 

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According to the US Centers for Disease Control And Prevention’s (CDC) last updated guidance for international travel, which was made in December, the US requires all incoming travelers over the age of 2 to submit a negative Covid test taken within one day of departure from a foreign country in order to enter the US. 

It’s become much easier to find at-home Covid-19 tests in the US, which will allow travelers to have greater access to testing in order to go abroad and return safely. The US government’s international travel guidance allows at-home tests as an accurate result for re-entry into the country. 

The provision within the guidelines also provides a list of approved at-home tests that travelers can take before and after traveling abroad. The CDC accepts Ellume, Quered, and BinaxNow at-home tests, which are some of the most commonly sold brands throughout the US. 

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The CDC also requires that the tests are supervised by a live attendant via a video call. BinaxNow tests can even be purchased through the website eMed, which will provide an at-home test shipped directly to your home prior to your trip with instructions on how to take it with live video guidance. 

In a statement to the media, a CVS spokesperson said the company’s stores “have the ability to meet our customers’ needs with at-home test kits both in store and at CVS.com,. We have simplified the digital process so customers can order and pick up a test kit with no up-front, out-of-pocket cost or the need to submit a claim to insurance.”

Walgreens said it “worked diligently with our suppliers to ensure we have enough supply to meet customer demand at nearly all locations.”

While other countries may continue to lift certain Covid-19 protocols for international travel, the US is unlikely to follow suit anytime soon, as it is one of the nation’s with the highest rate of infection.

Uber Lyft

Uber And Lyft Now Adding Fuel Surcharges To Rides As Gas Prices Continue To Rise 

Uber and Lyft announced this week that customers will be paying more for rides temporarily, as both companies are now adding a surcharge to deal with the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

In a statement made to the media, Lyft said that the company is asking riders to pay a “temporary fuel surcharge” which will go directly to the drivers as a means of compensation for the rise in gas prices nationwide. 

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“We’ve been closely monitoring rising gas prices and their impact on our driver community,” a company spokesperson said.

The company didn’t specify how much the surcharge would be, but it will likely be dependent on the length of the trip for the rider. Uber announced last week that they would also be adding a surcharge on all Uber trips and Uber Eats services for the next 60 days. After that, the company will reassess the charges. 

“We know that prices have been going up across the economy, so we’ve done our best to help drivers and couriers without placing too much additional burden on consumers,” Uber said in a statement.

Uber customers will be paying a surcharge of either $0.45 or $0.55 on every trip, while Uber Eats deliveries will now include a charge of either $0.35 or $0.45 on each order, depending on the location of delivery. 

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Uber said the surcharges will also go directly to the drivers. Uber also clarified that the surcharge will not apply to rides that begin in New York City of Uber Eats deliveries within the city’s limits because drivers there are receiving a 5.3% increase to the city’s minimum earnings standard for the past month. 

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, gas prices have risen exponentially all around the nation. Uber and Lyft have both stated that the rise in fuel prices is the reason they’re both implementing the surcharges into their ride policies. 

As of this Monday, the average cost of a regular gallon of gas has reached $4.325, according to AAA. That price reflects a 26 cent increase in the past week alone.

Around this time last year the average price for a gallon of regular gas cost around $2.859. 

President Biden announced a ban on all US imports of Russian oil and gas, a move that he acknowledged would likely cause the price of gas to increase nationwide. Biden also pledged to do everything in his power to not have the rise in gas prices impact Americans and their wallets. 

“Defending freedom is going to cost, however, it’s going to cost us as well in the United States,” Biden said.