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Oil prices are high, and drivers are paying more at the pump. But the OPEC oil cartel and allied producing nations may not be much help at their meeting Thursday. The OPEC+ alliance, which includes Russia, is having trouble meeting its production quotas. So even an expected increase of 648,000 barrels per day for August may not do much to bring down prices as demand for fuel rebounds strongly from the pandemic. Experts also say countries like Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that can increase production have little incentive to do so. Plus, some oil from major producer Russia has been lost to the market as traders shun it over the war in Ukraine.

    Sri Lanka’s strategic location on Indian Ocean shipping lanes has long attracted outsized interest in the small island nation from regional giants China and India. Beijing and its free-flowing loans and infrastructure investments were widely seen as having gained the upper hand in the quest for influence in recent years. But Sri Lanka’s economic collapse has proved an opportunity for India to swing the pendulum back. New Delhi has been stepping in with massive financial and material assistance to its neighbor. As one analyst notes: "There is no such thing as charity in international politics."

      President Joe Biden’s point man for global energy problems knows, he says, that transitioning away from the climate-wrecking pollution of fossil fuels is the only way to go. As a U.S. energy adviser, Amos Hochstein advocates urgently for renewable energy, for energy-smart thermostats and heat pumps. But when it comes to tackling the pressing energy challenges presented by Russia’s war on Ukraine, Hochstein also can sound like nothing as much as the West’s oilfield roustabout. Republican and Democratic lawmakers alike are welcoming his efforts to move Europe to non-Russian supplies of natural gas. But some climate advocates worry the Biden administration is overemphasizing new natural gas infrastructure, locking in more climate damage for years to come.

        Amazon is limiting how many emergency contraceptives consumers can buy, joining other retailers who put in place similar caps following the Supreme Court decision overruling Roe v. Wade. A company spokesperson confirmed Amazon's temporarily cap of three units per week went into effect on Monday. The company did not share further details on what emergency contraceptive products were limited for purchase. But a listing showed the cap was applied to the popular Plan B “morning after" pill. Rite Aid also limited sales of Plan B to three units per customer on Monday due to increased demand. Walmart, Amazon’s top competitor, has also capped online purchases of Plan B to 10 units.

          The parents of a teenager wounded during a mass shooting at Oxford High School in Michigan are suing the shop that sold the handgun used to kill four students and injure six other people. The federal complaint filed Tuesday on behalf of Matthew and Mary Mueller accuses Acme Shooting Goods LLC of negligently or unlawfully supplying the gun through a straw sale. Authorities have said James Crumbley bought the 9 mm semiautomatic handgun used in the Nov. 30 shooting as an early Christmas gift for his 15-year-old son Ethan. An employee at the gun shop in Oxford declined to comment Wednesday on the lawsuit.

            A federal appeals court has thrown out the 2020 conspiracy and bribery convictions of a former major political donor in North Carolina and his associate. A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the convictions and ordered new trials for Greg E. Lindberg and John D. Gray. The appeals court declared Wednesday that the trial judge erred in his jury instructions to the point that it called the verdicts into question. Lindberg is a wealthy insurance and investment firm founder accused by federal investigators of attempting to bribe North Carolina’s insurance commissioner to secure preferential regulatory treatment for his business.

              A few years ago, Sri Lanka had an economy strong enough to provide jobs and financial security for its 22 million people. Now, its economy is in a state of collapse, the nation is dependent on aid and its leaders desperately are trying to negotiate a bailout with the International Monetary Fund. The situation is worse than typical financial crises in the developing world: It’s a complete economic breakdown that has left ordinary people struggling to buy food, fuel and other necessities, has brought political unrest and violence and is veering quickly into a humanitarian crisis.

              Twenty-five years after Britain handed Hong Kong over to China, the city is in limbo. Beijing has been expanding its influence and control over this vibrant, bustling global business hub and has curbed freedoms it promised to respect for at least 50 years after taking sovereignty over the territory. Pro-democracy newspapers openly critical of the government have been forced to close. Hong Kong residents still enjoy greater autonomy and more civil liberties than other Chinese, but many protests are now banned. As one expert puts it, Hong Kong is in a “middle ground," without leverage to determine its future, while Beijing is “learning as it goes."

              Shareholders of Spirit Airlines will vote next month on a proposed merger with Frontier Airlines. If that deal fails, Spirit could be sold to JetBlue Airways. A vote on the Frontier deal had been scheduled for Thursday but was delayed until July 8. The outcome could affect fares for millions of air travelers who depend on the budget airlines. Some industry experts think a Frontier-Spirit combination would keep fares lower than if JetBlue buys Spirit. Either way, consumers will probably find something to complain about. Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue had the highest complaint rates in the industry last year.

              Despite a growing recognition of the newspaper industry's problems among politicians and philanthropists, a new report says a downward trend continues. A report from Northwestern University says local newspapers in the United States are dying at the rate of two per week. There has been growth in digital alternatives, but not nearly enough to compensate for what has been lost. Northwestern says the number of counties with no newspapers or only one outlet continues to expand, and the underserved areas tend to have residents who are poorer, older and less-educated than those covered well, Many digital-only sites are clustered in or near big cities, since that's where the money is to fund them.

              The U.S. government will purchase another 105 million doses of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine in anticipation of a fall booster campaign. The $3.2 billion agreement comes as federal scientists weigh whether and how to update the vaccines to better protect Americans from the rapidly evolving virus. Federal officials say the purchase agreement includes the option to purchase a total of 300 million doses, including a mix of doses for both adults and children. The first shots would be delivered by early fall, pending a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to revamp and authorize new versions of the currently available vaccines.

              It appears North Carolina’s hemp industry will avoid a shutdown. The General Assembly gave its final approval Wednesday to legislation that would make its products permanently exempt from the state’s controlled substances law. The Senate voted for a House measure that keeps lawful the production and sale of industrial hemp and products derived from hemp like CBD. The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk for his expected signature. North Carolina’s industrial hemp program began as a pilot several years ago and is now operated through a federal production program. Without the legislation, the products would become illegal later this week.

              North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper’s most recent Cabinet replacements have been confirmed unanimously by the state Senate. The chamber voted separately on Wednesday to confirm Department Health and Human Services Secretary Kody Kinsley and Eddie Buffaloe, the Department of Public Safety secretary. Kinsley is the first openly gay Cabinet member in state government history. He succeeded Dr. Mandy Cohen. Buffaloe is the former Elizabeth City police chief and succeeded Secretary Erik Hooks. The General Assembly passed a law in late 2016 subjecting gubernatorial Cabinet appointments to Senate confirmation. Only one of Cooper’s secretaries has been formally rejected since he took office in early 2017.

              A new poll shows an overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats. The poll, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that deep pessimism about the economy continues to plague President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults polled say the country is on the wrong track. Seventy-nine percent describe the economy as poor. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to cast ballots for Democrats in November’s midterm elections. The poll shows only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s leadership overall, while 60% disapprove.

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              Gov. Ned Lamont and members of his administration say the impact of the predicted tsunami of Connecticut state employees retiring from government service appears smaller than first feared. On Wednesday, he credited an uptick in hiring and some current state workers withdrawing their retirement paperwork in advance of Friday’s deadline. While he noted the state is on track to end the fiscal year with the same number of employees that it had a year ago, state employee unions says there remains a crisis. They argue there were serious staffing shortages in state government that predicate the current surge in retirements.

              The U.S. government this week is holding its first onshore oil and natural gas sales from public lands since President Joe Biden took office. The lease auctions start Wednesday and conclude Thursday. They come after a federal court blocked the administration’s attempt to suspend federal lease sales because of climate change worries. About 200 square miles of public lands are up for sale in eight western states. Most of the parcels are in Wyoming. A coalition of environmental groups says in a lawsuit that the sales are illegal because officials ignored climate change impacts from burning fossil fuels.

              The new head of the government’s road safety agency says he will intensify efforts to understand the risks posed by automated vehicle technology. Steven Cliff says the aim is to help National Highway Traffic Safety Administration decide what regulations may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. Cliff said in an interview Wednesday with The Associated Press that agency is assessing crash data recently reported by automakers and tech companies. Any new regulations that the agency may impose would fill what critics say is an urgent need to address the growing use of driver assisted systems. The systems have been linked to crashes involving deaths and serious injuries, though they also have enormous potential to prevent crashes.

              Fox News Channel is airing the Jan. 6 committee hearings when they occur during daytime hours, and ratings show that a striking number of their viewers are tuning it out. Nielsen figures show the extent to which Fox viewers leave the network when the hearings come on, then return when Fox's regular programming resumes. Fox generally has more viewers than MSNBC and CNN combined during a typical day, but the viewing patterns are flipped during the hearings. Nielsen says CNN and MSNBC's viewer figures go up during the hearings, which have also been shown on broadcast networks ABC, CBS and NBC.

              An associate of Rudy Giuliani who was a figure in former President Donald Trump’s first impeachment investigation was sentenced Wednesday to a year and eight months in prison for fraud and campaign finance crimes. Lev Parnas had sought leniency on the grounds that he'd helped the Congressional probe of Trump and his efforts to get the leaders of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden's son. Prosecutors said the Soviet-born businessman's aid was in response to a subpoena and deserved little credit. They had asked for a sentence of more than 6 years. Parnas was convicted of using the riches of a wealthy Russian to make illegal donations to politicians who might aid the launch of a legal recreational-marijuana business.

              Union negotiators were meeting Wednesday with management of three Atlantic City casinos in an attempt to reach a new contract and avoid a threatened Friday strike. Local 54 of the Unite Here union was in talks with representatives of Caesars Entertainment, which owns three of Atlantic City’s nine casinos: Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana. The union has set a deadline of 12:01 a.m. Friday to reach a new labor agreement with those casinos and with the Borgata, which is owned by MGM Resorts International. A second strike deadline is in place for early Sunday against Hard Rock.

              A small ski area in Vermont has announced that it’s retiring its name, Suicide Six, this summer amid growing concerns about the insensitive nature of the name. The historical resort said on its website on Tuesday that it shares those concerns and “embraces the increasing awareness surrounding mental health.” A new name will be announced in the coming weeks. The resort said the ski area has a legacy spanning nearly nine decades, and it is vital that the name better represents and celebrates it.

              With abortion now or soon to be illegal in over a dozen states and severely restricted in many more, Big Tech companies that collect personal details of their users are facing new calls to limit that tracking and surveillance. One fear is that law enforcement or vigilantes could use data troves from Facebook, Google and other social platforms against people seeking ways to end unwanted pregnancies. History has repeatedly demonstrated that whenever people’s personal data is tracked and stored, there’s always a risk that it could be misused or abused.

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