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US consumer prices surge in June by the most since 2008
WASHINGTON — Prices for U.S. consumers jumped in June by the most in 13 years, evidence that a swift rebound in spending has run up against widespread supply shortages that have escalated the costs of many goods and services.
Tuesday’s report from the Labor Department showed that consumer prices in June rose 0.9% from May and 5.4% over the past year — the sharpest 12-month inflation spike since August 2008. Excluding volatile oil and gas prices, so-called core inflation rose 4.5% in the past year, the largest increase since November 1991.
The pickup in inflation, which has coincided with the economy’s rapid recovery from the pandemic recession, will likely intensify a debate at the Federal Reserve and between the Biden administration and congressional Republicans about how persistent the accelerating price increases will prove to be.
The Fed and the White House have made clear their belief that the current bout of inflation will prove temporary. As supply chain bottlenecks are resolved and the economy returns to normal, they suggest, the price spikes for such items as used cars, hotel rooms and clothing will fade. Some economists, along with Wall Street investors, have indicated that they agree.
“The headline inflation numbers have been eye-popping in recent months, but underlying inflation remains under control,” said Gus Faucher, an economist at PNC Financial Services. “Once again a few categories — used vehicles, airfares, rental cars, hotels — are experiencing huge price gains because of the recovery from the pandemic.”
Texas Dems act
PHILADELPHIA — President Joe Biden declared preserving voting rights an urgent national “test of our time” on Tuesday but offered few concrete proposals to meet it. Texas Democrats took their own dramatic action to stymie Republican efforts to tighten ballot restrictions in their state.
Biden, who has proclaimed protecting ballot access the central cause of his presidency, has faced sharp criticism from allies for not doing more, though political headwinds and stubborn Senate math have limited his ability to act. Despite his ringing words on Tuesday, he avoided any mention of trying to alter the Senate filibuster rule that stands in the path of federal legislation.
Speaking at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia, Biden called state efforts to curtail voting accessibility “un-American” and “un-democratic” and launched a broadside against his predecessor, Donald Trump, who baselessly alleged misconduct in the 2020 election after his defeat. Biden called passage of congressional proposals to override new state voting restrictions and to restore parts of the Voting Rights Act that were curbed in recent years by the Supreme Court “a national imperative.”
Yet, instead of raising the possibility of fighting the filibuster, he appeared to tacitly acknowledge the fading hopes for the bills, saying he would launch a nationwide campaign to arm voters with information on rule changes and restrictions ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
“We have to prepare now,” the president said.
Bipartisan infrastructure deal stalls as bigger
WASHINGTON — A $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal senators struck with President Joe Biden is at risk of stalling out as Republicans mount stiff resistance over ways to pay for it and momentum shifts to a more robust Democratic proposal coming into focus Tuesday.
Biden’s big infrastructure proposals are moving on parallel tracks in Congress in a race against time and political headwinds to make a once-in-a-generation investment in the nation. Senators from both groups are huddling privately again late Tuesday evening to shore up their proposals. But the bipartisan deal is running into opposition from business leaders, outside activists and GOP senators potentially denying it the support that’s needed for passage.
From wire sources
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Democratic colleagues to remain united — “Don’t draw any lines in the sand,” he said — as they draft the bigger, multitrillion-dollar package of once-in-a-generation investments for the nation that are the top priority for the president and his party. As Democrats push ahead, Republican leadership said it’s unlikely that the smaller, bipartisan effort would be ready for a Senate vote next week, as hoped.
“I’m going to take this day by day and participate in the process and see where we end up,” said Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., who is part of the bipartisan group of 21 senators but is not fully committed to the plan.
Paying for the new infrastructure was always going to be a challenge, which is partly why public works investments have lagged over time. Biden has proposed raising taxes on corporations and wealthy Americans earning more than $400,000 a year, which would cover not only the nearly $1 trillion proposal, but also the broader Democratic plan that is now swelling beyond $3.5 trillion. Republicans reject that approach.
Deaths climb to 72 in South Africa riots after Zuma jailed
JOHANNESBURG — The death toll climbed to 72 from rioting in South Africa on Tuesday, with many people trampled to death during looting at stores, as police and the military fired stun grenades and rubber bullets to try to halt the unrest set off by the imprisonment of former President Jacob Zuma.
More than 1,200 people have been arrested in the lawlessness that has raged in poor areas of two provinces, where a community radio station was ransacked and forced off the air Tuesday and some COVID-19 vaccination centers were closed, disrupting urgently needed inoculations.
Many of the deaths in Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal provinces occurred in chaotic stampedes as thousands of people stole food, electric appliances, liquor and clothing from stores, police Maj. Gen. Mathapelo Peters said in a statement Tuesday night.
He said 27 deaths were being investigated in KwaZulu-Natal province and 45 in Gauteng province. In addition to the people crushed, he said police were investigating deaths caused by explosions when people tried to break into ATM machines, as well as other fatalities caused by shootings.
The violence broke out after Zuma began serving a 15-month sentence for contempt of court on Thursday. He had refused to comply with a court order to testify at a state-backed inquiry investigating allegations of corruption while he was president from 2009 to 2018.
Searchers recover personal possessions from collapse rubble
SURFSIDE, Fla. — When the body of 4-year-old Emma Guara was pulled from the rubble of last month’s Florida condominium collapse, she was wearing the silver necklace her mother recently gave her, the pendant shaped like half a heart and inscribed “Little Sis.”
When firefighters found her 11-year-old sister, Lucia Guara, she was not wearing her near-matching necklace, the pendant shaped like the other half of the heart and inscribed “Big Sis.” Lucia had developed an allergic reaction and had temporarily stopped wearing hers, said their aunt, Digna Rodriguez.
“We would like to get that necklace back,” Rodriguez said. “They loved those necklaces.”
The girls’ parents, Anaely Rodriguez and Marcus Guara, also died in the June 24 collapse of the Champlain Towers South that killed at least 95 people and left 14 unaccounted for. They were among the first recovered from the rubble. The girls were buried in the same coffin last week, Emma wearing her necklace.
As they search through tons of broken concrete and twisted rebar for more remains, authorities are also trying to recover keepsakes for families that have lost relatives and for surviving residents of the building. They have set up a database for people to upload information about missing property.
Five years on, Rio de Janeiro chases elusive Olympics legacy
RIO DE JANEIRO — With the Olympics about to kick off in Tokyo, the prior host is struggling to make good on legacy promises.
Brazil’s government is providing assurances that Rio de Janeiro’s Olympic Park venues won’t be abandoned, while City Hall rebuilds a beleaguered bus system and is again pledging to create schools from the dismantled Arena of the Future.
Recreational spaces in areas that previously had none were welcome, as was Rio’s revamped port area with new tunnels and museums, even if it didn’t lure hoped-for residents or companies. And demolition of an elevated highway allowed for sweeping views of the Guanabara Bay where sailing competitions took place, but its waters weren’t cleaned of sewage, as had been promised. There are fresh commitments to finally do so.
The postcard city’s bid for the Olympics drew inspiration from Barcelona’s urban renewal with the 1992 games. There are reasons Rio’s golden dream didn’t fully pan out, some justifiable: the nation suffered its worst recession in a century.
Others are indefensible. Prosecutors found corruption in subway works; the Olympics-era governor is in jail for that and other offenses. An incomplete station is a pit containing millions of gallons of water.
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