US to max out on debt soon, setting up political fight
WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government is on track to max out on its $31.4 trillion borrowing authority as soon as this month. That starts the clock on an expected standoff between President Joe Biden and the new House Republican majority. Both parties’ ability to navigate a divided Washington will be tested, with the fragile global economy at stake. Once the cap is hit the Treasury Department will be unable to issue new debt without congressional action. The government could be at risk of defaulting, possibly in mid-summer, unless lawmakers and the president agree to lift the limit on the U.S. government’s ability to borrow.
School lawsuits over social media harm face tough legal road
SEATTLE (AP) — Like the tobacco, oil, gun, opioid and vaping industries before them, the big U.S. social media companies are now facing lawsuits brought by public entities that seek to hold them accountable for a huge societal problem in the mental health crisis among youth. But the new lawsuits — one by the public school district in Seattle last week, with a second filed by a suburban district on Monday and almost certainly more to come — face an uncertain legal road. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments next month over the extent to which federal law protects the tech industry from such claims when social media algorithms push potentially harmful content.
Davos report: Cost-of-living crisis overshadows climate
LONDON (AP) — A report by the World Economic Forum says climate change is the global economy’s biggest long-term challenge but one the world is least prepared to tackle because of short-term problems led by a cost-of-living crisis. The group released its Global Risks Report ahead of its annual gathering of government leaders and business elites next week in the Swiss Alpine resort of Davos. The report offers a bleak outlook. It’s based on a survey of 1,200 risk experts, industry bosses and policymakers. It says the biggest challenges over the next decade involve the environment, yet more immediate challenges are distracting world leaders.
Soaring US egg prices put pressure on consumers, businesses
OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — Chickens may not be able to fly very far, but the price of eggs is soaring. A lingering bird flu outbreak, combined with soaring feed, fuel and labor costs, has led to U.S. egg prices more than doubling over the past year, and hatched a lot of sticker shock on grocery aisles. The latest government data shows that the national average price for a dozen eggs hit $3.59 in November. That’s putting stress on consumer budgets and the bottom line of food producers and restaurants that rely heavily on eggs as an ingredient. More than 43 million of the 58 million birds slaughtered over the past year to help control bird flu were egg-laying chickens. But even with the price increases, eggs remain relatively affordable compared to other proteins like chicken and beef.
As Starbucks unionizing slows, some strike, others skeptical
Labor organizers hope this will be the year that Starbucks’ U.S. workers finally negotiate a union contract. But bargaining is at a standstill and thousands of employees are still unconvinced of the union’s value. Since December of 2021, 358 U.S. Starbucks stores have petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to hold union elections. Petition activity peaked last March, when 69 stores asked to hold elections. But just 11 stores filed election petitions in December. Labor organizers say Starbucks’ anti-union tactics are putting a chill on organizing. But unions are also facing resistance from some Starbucks employees. So far, employees have voted to unionize at 274 stores, or 3% of Starbucks’ 9,000 company-owned U.S. locations. Sixty-three stores have voted not to unionize.
Global stocks mostly rise as US inflation report looms
TOKYO (AP) — Global shares have advanced following a rally on Wall Street ahead of some potentially market-moving reports scheduled for later in the week. Shares rose in Europe after a mixed trading session in Asia. Oil prices edged higher and U.S. futures were flat. Japanese fashion company Fast Retailing said it would raise wages by up to 40% in a rare example, for Japan, of a strong shift upward in compensation. An update is due Thursday on U.S. consumer inflation in December. On Tuesday the S&P 500 rose 0.7% while the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained 0.6%. The tech-heavy Nasdaq composite climbed 1%.
World Bank: Recession a looming threat for global economy
WASHINGTON (AP) — The World Bank warns the global economy will come “perilously close” to a recession this year, led by weaker growth in the world’s top economies — the United States, Europe and China. The World Bank lends money to poorer countries for development projects. The bank said Tuesday it had slashed its forecast for global growth this year by nearly half, to just 1.7%, from its previous projection of 3%. Though the U.S. might avoid a recession this year, the World Bank predicts global weakness will pose another headwind for America’s businesses and consumers, on top of high prices and more expensive borrowing rates.
Europe has avoided energy collapse. But is the crisis over?
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) — Warm weather is helping Europe keep the lights and heat on this winter despite Russia cutting off most of its natural gas supply to the continent. Record highs have left Europe’s gas reserves practically untouched well into the winter heating season. That’s highly unusual — and politicians and analysts say it means the risk of blackouts or rationing is over. Households and businesses may avoid further extreme price spikes, but bills will stay higher than usual because gas prices are still far above where they were in early 2021. There’s also still uncertainty. A rebound in Chinese demand for natural gas after the end of severe COVID-19 lockdowns could put new strains on the energy market.
Powell: Fed has only narrow role to play on climate change
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Federal Reserve has only a limited role to play in combating climate change, Chair Jerome Powell said Tuesday, a stance that puts him at odds with environmental activists who have pushed central banks worldwide to take steps to restrict lending to energy companies. Powell said that maintaining the Fed’s independence includes steering clear of issues that are more properly overseen by elected officials. “Without explicit congressional legislation, it would be inappropriate for us to use our monetary policy or supervisory tools to promote a greener economy or to achieve other climate-based goals,” Powell said during a panel discussion in Stockholm. “We are not, and will not be, a ‘climate policymaker.’ ”
German coal mine clash pits laws against climate
ERKELENZ, Germany (AP) — The fate of a tiny village has sparked heated debate in Germany over the country’s continued use of coal and whether tackling climate change justifies breaking the law. Environmental activists were locked in a standoff with police this week around the hamlet of Luetzerath that’s due to be bulldozed for the expansion of a nearby lignite mine. Activists say doing so would prevent Germany meeting its climate goals and international commitments. Officials counter that the courts have ruled the activists must leave. They argue that ignoring the law undermines democracy and continued efforts to prevent the village being razed could harm the climate cause.
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