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ACROSS OUR STATE & NATION

White House punts economic update as election draws near

WASHINGTON (AP) — The economic news is likely to continue to be bad throughout much of this year. Now, the White House is taking the unusual step of deciding not to release an updated economic forecast for this year. It’s a fresh sign of the administration’s anxiety about how the coronavirus has ravaged the nation just months before the November presidential election. The decision was revealed by a senior Trump administration official who was not authorized to publicly comment on it and spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity. An astonishing 41 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits since shutdowns intended to prevent the spread of the coronavirus began in mid-March.

Trump takes aim

at WHO as US

economy worsens

WASHINGTON (AP) — With new U.S. economic numbers highlighting the rough road ahead for a hoped-for rebound, President Donald Trump on Friday took aim at the World Health Organization and China, blaming both for their roles in the pandemic’s devastation.

Trump announced that the United States will end its support for WHO, charging it didn’t respond adequately to the health crisis because of China’s “total control” over the global organization. Trump said Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the agency to mislead the world when the virus was first discovered.

Earlier Friday, U.S. Commerce Department statistics showed a record-shattering 13.6% drop in spending in April, a day after a federal jobs report showed another 2 million-plus Americans went out of work last week. The depth of the spending drop is particularly damaging because consumer spending is the primary driver of the economy.

The bad economic news was echoed in Europe, where an extensive social welfare net was showing signs of fraying, as protests erupted for a second day in Spain against layoffs by French carmaker Renault and Italy’s chief central banker warned that “uncertainty is rife.”

Some U.S. states were going ahead with steps to reopen businesses and leisure activities needed to spur spending and restore jobs, but there were also reminders of the risks of moving too quickly.

Trump strikes China over virus, Hong Kong, visas

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump announced Friday he would withdraw funding from the World Health Organization, end Hong Kong’s special trade status and suspend visas of Chinese graduate students suspected of conducting research on behalf of their government — escalating tensions with China that have surged during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump has been expressing anger at the World Health Organization for weeks over what he has portrayed as an inadequate response to the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in China’s Wuhan province late last year.

The president said in a White House announcement that Chinese officials “ignored” their reporting obligations to the WHO and pressured the organization to mislead the public about an outbreak that has now killed more than 100,000 people in the United States.

“We have detailed the reforms that it must make and engaged with them directly, but they have refused to act,” the president said. “Because they have failed to make the requested and greatly needed reforms, we will be today terminating the relationship.”

The U.S. is the largest source of financial support for the WHO and its exit is expected to significantly weaken the organization. Trump said the U.S. would be “redirecting” the money to “other worldwide and deserving urgent global public health needs,” without providing specifics.

Minneapolis protest misinformation stokes tensions

CHICAGO (AP) — The false social media posts started just hours after protesters first began chanting and carrying banners around the Minneapolis neighborhood where George Floyd, an African American man, died handcuffed in police custody.

“The cop who killed George Floyd,” Facebook and Twitter users claimed, wrongly identifying a man pictured laughing alongside President Donald Trump at a rally as former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

More fake videos and photos followed as the demonstrations turned violent the next day. Some speculated, without evidence, that Floyd’s death was staged or that protesters had been paid to stir up trouble, in tweets collectively shared thousands of times. Others said a video showed a protester driving a car through a shopping complex in Minneapolis, when in fact the footage was taken during an incident at an Illinois mall last year.

Since a video of an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck first surfaced, internet troublemakers and even celebrities have posted misleading or unsubstantiated claims around his death and the ensuing protests. The social media inaccuracies have created confusion around the unfolding news, tearing at the already loosely woven seams of America’s racial tapestry.

“A good deal of this, if not all of this, is intentionally trying to stoke the racial flame that has been ablaze in the United States almost since slavery started 400-plus years ago,” said Lanier Holt, a communications professor at Ohio State University who studied in Minneapolis.

Slaughterhouses

reopen but farmers still euthanizing pigs

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Meatpacking plants that had to briefly close due to coronavirus outbreaks have been back up and running for weeks, but production backlogs are forcing farmers to euthanize thousands of hogs that can’t be processed, drawing complaints from animal welfare advocates. The preferred methods of euthanizing hogs include gunshots or electrocution, but when thousands must be destroyed en masse, producers shut off the ventilation, causing heat to build up in barns and kill them. Animal welfare groups say that is inhumane and should be stopped. An estimated 2.5 million hogs are backed up on farms nationwide.

Minn. governor apologizes for

arrest of TV crew

NEW YORK (AP) — Following the arrest of a CNN crew on live television by police on Friday, an apologetic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz promised that journalists would not be interfered with in reporting on violent protests following the death of George Floyd. CNN correspondent Omar Jimenez and two colleagues were released within an hour after network chief executive Jeff Zucker called Walz to demand answers about why they were led away and held in a police van. “We have got to ensure that there is a safe spot for journalism to tell this story,” Walz said. Jimenez and colleagues Bill Kirkos and Leonel Mendez were doing a live shot for CNN’s “New Day” shortly after 5 a.m. Central Time, describing a night of fire and anger in the wake of Floyd’s death after a Minneapolis police office knelt on his neck. Fired officer Derek Chauvin was charged with murder in that case later Friday. When first approached by officers, Jimenez, who is black, told them, “put us back where you want us. We are getting out of your way.”

Kylie Jenner, Forbes spar over story on billionaire status

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Forbes magazine, which once declared Kylie Jenner a billionaire on its cover, says she no longer deserves the title, but Jenner is pushing back. Forbes said in a story posted Friday that an examination of financial filings after the reality star and beauty mogul sold a majority share in her cosmetics company revealed that Jenner’s worth was inflated. Jenner sold 51% of her Kylie Cosmetics company to Coty in a deal valued at $1.2 billion early this year. “Kylie’s business is significantly smaller, and less profitable, than the family has spent years leading the cosmetics industry and media outlets, including Forbes, to believe,” the magazine said in the story. “Forbes now thinks that Kylie Jenner, even after pocketing an estimated $340 million after taxes from the sale, is not a billionaire.” Jenner responded in a series of tweets, saying “what am i even waking up to. i thought this was a reputable site.. all i see are a number of inaccurate statements and unproven assumptions lol. i’ve never asked for any title or tried to lie my way there EVER. period.” She later tweeted, “but okay, i am blessed beyond my years, i have a beautiful daughter, and a successful business and i’m doing perfectly fine. i can name a list of 100 things more important right now than fixating on how much money i have.”

Stocks erase a loss as worries over China tensions sink

NEW YORK (AP) — The stock market erased an early drop and ended mixed, capping a strong week and month. Major U.S. indexes had started the day lower Friday as traders worried that President Donald Trump would reignite a trade war with China, but in a late-afternoon announcement from the White House he instead said the U.S. would cut ties with the World Health Organization, saying it had failed to adequately respond to the coronavirus because China has “total control” over the global organization. The S&P 500 rose 0.5% and closed out its second straight monthly gain. Bond yields fell.

Powell: Fed to soon begin ‘challenging’ Main Street lending

WASHINGTON (AP) — Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell acknowledged that the Fed faces a major challenge with the launch in the coming days of a program through which the Fed will lend directly to private companies for the first time since the Great Depression. The Fed’s Main Street Lending is geared toward medium-sized companies that are too large for the government’s small business lending program and too small to sell bonds or stock to the public. The loans will technically be made by banks, but the Fed will buy 85% to 95% of each loan, thereby reducing the risk to banks and freeing them to do more lending.

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