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    President Joe Biden is set to mark his second Fourth of July since taking office, and he's finding a far different political atmosphere today than a year ago. At this time last year, the United States had been making steady progress against the pandemic, and Biden said the country was “closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.” But in the past year, two variants proved the coronavirus remained a threat, and Biden's presidency has become bogged down in other challenges, some of them outside of his control. His approval rating has fallen 20 percentage points between his first and second Independence Days, according to polls from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

      State legislatures will be in the spotlight as a result of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling giving the power to regulate abortion to the states. While overturning Roe v. Wade, the high court's majority said it was time to “return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.” But some question whether gerrymandering has diminished the ability of state legislatures to truly represent the people's will. Analyses of election data show that some state legislatures are skewed to the right or left because of the way districts have been drawn to favor Republicans or Democrats.

        Nationwide, workers at clinics that shuttered abortion services are feeling fear and stress as they chart a path forward following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. At what was West Virginia's only abortion clinic, the days following the historic court ruling have been filled with grief for staff as their new reality sets in. Women's Health Center of West Virginia Chief Nurse Executive Maness said conversations she had with frantic patients when she had to cancel abortion appointments in her head in an inescapable loop. But staff are determined that the clinic remain open, providing services such as cervical exams and cancer screenings for patients with nowhere else to go.

          California voters will weigh in on seven ballot measures this fall. It's the fewest number to appear on a statewide general election ballot since 2014. Thursday was the deadline to qualify measures for the November ballot. One question was placed on the ballot by the state Legislature and six are initiatives that gathered enough verified signatures to go before voters. Voters will be asked to weigh in on issues including whether to enshrine the right to an abortion in the California Constitution, whether to expand sports betting and whether to set aside public school funding for arts and music.

            Clinics are shutting down abortion services in Texas after the Supreme Court in the nation's second-largest state blocked an order that briefly allowed the procedure to resume in some cases. It's the latest development in legal scrambles taking place across the country following the reversal of reversal of Roe v. Wade. The Friday night ruling stopped a three-day-old order allowing abortions to resume up to six weeks into pregnancy. On Saturday, the American Civil Liberties Union said it doubted that any abortions were now being provided in the state. One provider, Whole Woman’s Health, says the ruling forced it to stop offering the procedure in its four Texas clinics.

              Egyptian authorities have closed off a stretch of the country's Red Sea coastline, a day after a shark attack killed an Austrian woman swimming near the resort of Hurghada. The closure is to last three days, starting on Saturday. That's according to a document from the local governor's office shared with The Associated Press. The 68-year-old woman lost a leg and an arm in the shark attack and died shortly after she was brought to the private Nile Hospital in Hurghada on Friday. A health official says attempts by medical staff to resuscitate her failed. Shark attacks have been relatively rare in Egypt’s Red Sea coastal region in recent years.

              The Hard Rock casino has reached agreement with Atlantic City’s main casino workers union, removing the last threat of a strike during the busy holiday weekend. Local 54 of the Unite Here union said it reached a tentative agreement with Hard Rock, avoiding a strike that had been threatened for 12:01 a.m. Sunday. Combined with agreements reached Thursday with the Borgata, Caesars, Harrah’s and the Tropicana, Hard Rock’s deal leaves only two smaller casinos, Resorts and the Golden Nugget, without a contract. But the union says it expects both of them to agree to one in the coming days.

              Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics and other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies. The company behind the internet’s dominant internet search engine and Android phone software outlined the new privacy protections in a Friday blog post. Other places Google plans to erase from location histories include counseling centers and fertility centers. The move is made as Google and other Big Tech companies face escalating pressure to safeguard the sensitive personal information collected through their products.

              The Fourth of July holiday weekend is jamming U.S. airports with the biggest crowds since the pandemic began in 2020. Newly released numbers show 2.49 million passengers went through security checkpoints at U.S. airports Friday, surpassing the previous pandemic-era record of 2.46 million reached earlier in the week. The increase is the latest sign that leisure travelers aren’t being deterred from flying by rising fares, the ongoing spread of COVID-19 or worries about recurring flight delays and cancellations. In an even more telling indication, the average passenger volume at U.S. airports for the past week is nearing the same level as in 2019.

              Tesla’s sales from April through June fell to their lowest quarterly level since last fall as supply chain issues and pandemic restrictions in China hobbled production of its electric vehicles. The company on Saturday disclosed it sold more than 254,000 cars and SUVs from April through June, an 18% drop from the first three months of this year and also well below the pace in last year’s final quarter. The last time Tesla sold fewer vehicles globally was in the third quarter of 2021 when it delivered 241,000. The erosion may put further pressure on Tesla's stock price, which has plunged by 35% this year.

              The 12 jurors chosen this past week to decide whether Florida school shooter Nikolas Cruz is executed will be exposed to horrific images and emotional testimony, but must deal with any mental anguish alone. The jurors and their alternates will tour the bloodstained building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland where Cruz murdered 17 in 2018. They will see graphic security videos of teens being shot point-blank. They will hear tearful testimony from survivors and parents. And they will be told not to talk about any of it with anyone. If jurors need help, they are on their own. Florida and most states do not provide post-trial mental health counseling.

              Medication abortions were the preferred method for ending pregnancy in the U.S. even before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. As more states seek abortion limits, demand is expected to grow. They involve using two prescription medicines days apart _ pills that can be taken at home or in a clinic. The drug mifepristone is taken first. It blocks the effects of the hormone progesterone, which is needed to sustain a pregnancy. Misoprostol is taken 24 to 48 hours later. It cause the womb to contract, expelling the pregnancy. Use of the pills has been increasing in recent years.

              The fast-changing coronavirus has kicked off summer in the U.S. with lots of infections but relatively few deaths compared to its prior incarnations. COVID-19 is still killing hundreds of Americans each day, but for many people the virus is not nearly as dangerous as it was. It’s easy to feel confused by the mixed picture: Repeat infections are increasingly likely, and a sizeable share of those infected will face the lingering symptoms of long COVID-19. Yet, the stark danger of death has diminished for many people. How long the interlude will last is impossible to know. A new more dangerous variant could be around the corner.

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              Content by Brand Ave. Studios. The annual Amazon Prime Day is coming July 12 and 13, and per usual will offer discounts on many of your favorite things.

              Content by Brand Ave. Studios. The annual Amazon Prime Day is coming July 12 and 13, and per usual will offer discounts on many of your favorite things.

              Tourism is booming again in France, and so is COVID-19. French government officials have “invited” or “recommended” people to go back to using face masks but stopped short of renewing restrictions that would scare visitors away or revive protests. From Paris commuters to tourists on the French Riviera, many people seem to welcome the government’s light touch, while some worry that required prevention measures may be needed. Infections are rising across Europe and the United States, but government data shows France had nearly 1,000 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 per day over the past two weeks. Local officials are contemplating new measures, including indoor mask mandates, but nothing that would potentially curb economic activity.

              The Texas Supreme Court has blocked a lower court order that had given some abortion clinics confidence to resume performing abortions. The order handed down Friday night by the state’s highest court comes just days after some abortion providers rushed to resume services. An lower court order issued this week by a Houston judge had reassured some doctors they could temporarily resume abortions up to six weeks into pregnancy. Before that, doctors across Texas had stopped performing abortions in the state after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and ended the constitutional right to abortion.

              The North Carolina General Assembly has wrapped up its chief work session for the year. It adjourned on Friday after finalizing proposed state budget adjustments for the new fiscal year and crossing off other must-do legislation. The budget bill headed to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper, who must decide whether to sign it, veto it or let it become law. More than 30 Democrats joined all Republicans on Friday in voting for the spending measure. Some big policy matters like Medicaid expansion, medical marijuana and sports betting remain unresolved or were thwarted during the six-week session. The legislature could consider any Cooper vetoes in a few weeks.

              The Biden administration is proposing up to 10 oil and gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and one in Alaska over the next five years. Friday’s announcement goes against the Democratic administration’s promises to end new drilling on public lands and waters. But it scales back a Trump-era plan that called for dozens of offshore sales, including in undeveloped areas. Interior Department officials said fewer lease sales — or even no lease sales — could occur. A final decision is months away. Interior had suspended oil and gas lease sales in 2021 because of climate concerns but was forced to resume them by a federal judge in Louisiana.

              A Manhattan woman has been awarded over $400,000 by a jury after suing New York City and its police department, saying she suffered a traumatic brain injury when she was thrown to the ground while serving as a medic for protesters during 2012 Occupy Wall Street events. The Friday federal court verdict favored Mary Tardif. She sued in 2013, saying her epileptic condition was ignored after she suffered violent abuses from police officers who arrested her. She said they kicked her, walked on her limbs and tossed her to the ground. A city Law Department spokesperson said the city was disappointed with the verdict.

              A former Southern California woman who, along with her doctor husband, billed insurers $44 million for unnecessary cosmetic surgeries has been given an eight-year prison sentence. Federal prosecutors say Linda Morrow also was ordered Friday to pay $14 million in restitution. She and her husband ran The Morrow Institute, a surgical clinic in Rancho Mirage. Authorities say they billed insurers tens of millions for breast implants and other cosmetic procedures that were falsely written up as “medically necessary" operations. The couple fled the country in 2017 but were later deported from Israel. David Morrow is serving a 20-year prison sentence.

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