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Government report says baby foods found with high levels of toxins failed to be recalled by manufacturers

A new government report out Wednesday from the House Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy finds more cases of major manufacturers selling baby food with high levels of toxic heavy metals, just eight months after a congressional report shed light on the issue of toxins in baby food. The report describes dangerous levels of arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury and other toxins, which can be particularly dangerous to developing babies and toddlers.

Investigators said two of Gerber’s Infant Rice Cereal products contained inorganic arsenic levels over the Food and Drug Administration’s limit. They said Gerber “failed to recall” those products. Most of Plum Organics’ products contained heavy metals too, including popular Superpuff snacks.  Illinois Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, the chairman of the economic and consumer policy subcommittee, said: “No level of toxic heavy metals and exposure to them is safe for a baby.”  Krishnamoorthi wants stronger federal standards, saying of the manufactures: “They haven’t so far shown either the capacity or the willingness to regulate themselves. You need a federal regulator in the form of FDA to be regulating them closely.”

The FDA’s “closer to zero” program would set allowable federal levels for some heavy metals, but final guidance isn’t scheduled until 2024.  Krishnamoorthi wants to have some of those timelines moved up, but the agency said “it’s crucial that measures to limit toxic elements in foods do not have unintended consequences.”

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CDC urges pregnant women to get COVID-19 vaccination

According to data released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fewer than one-third of pregnant women in the United States are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. More than 125,000 confirmed cases of the virus were reported among those pregmant, of which 22,000 required hospitalization and 161 died, including 22 deaths in August alone. Pregnant women who experience illness, with symptoms, are twice as likely to be admitted to a hospital intensive care unit and 70% more likely to die from the disease.

CDC Director Dr. Rochelle P. Walensky said in a press release: “Pregnancy can be both a special time and also a stressful time — and pregnancy during a pandemic is an added concern for families. I strongly encourage those who are pregnant or considering pregnancy to talk with their healthcare provider about the protective benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine to keep their babies and themselves safe.” CDC research found that the COVID-19 vaccines from Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech are all safe for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Given this evidence, the CDC issued an urgent health advisory last month to increase COVID-19 vaccination among those who are pregnant, recently pregnant, trying to become pregnant or who might become pregnant. Vaccination can help prevent serious illness, deaths and adverse pregnancy outcomes caused by COVID-19.

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NBA: unvaccinated players who miss games will not get paid

NBA spokesperson Mike Bass said on Wednesday that NBA players who do not comply with local vaccination requirements will not be paid for the games that they miss due to their status. The policy could impact players on the Warriors, Nets and Knicks, as all three teams play in areas in which local jurisdictions are requiring people to be fully vaccinated to be allowed indoors for entertainment.

Knicks general manager Scott Perry said the entire New York roster is vaccinated; however the policy can still impact the Warriors and Nets. Brooklyn guard Kyrie Irving did not attend Nets media day in person Monday due to New York City’s health and safety protocols, and would not comment on his specific vaccination status, saying that he “prefers to keep that stuff private.”  And when asked to clarify his vaccination status on Monday, Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins declined, saying, “it’s none of your business.”  The NBA denied Wiggins’s request to get a religious exemption for the vaccine on Friday.

On Tuesday, the league informed teams that it was close to finalizing an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association on health and safety protocols for the upcoming season. NBPA executive director Michele Roberts said Tuesday that more than 90% of the league’s players are fully vaccinated.

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Manny Pacquiao announces retirement from professional boxing

Former world champion Manny Pacquiao announced his retirement from professional boxing after 26 years and 72 professional bouts. Pacquiao released a 15-minute video on his Facebook page sharing the news; he also announced last week he will run for president of the Philippines in 2022.

Pacquiao’s statement read: “To the greatest fans and the greatest sport in the world, thank you! Thank you for all the wonderful memories. This is the hardest decision I’ve ever made, but I’m at peace with it. Chase your dreams, work hard, and watch what happens. Good bye boxing.” In the video, Pacquiao thanked a long list of people who have helped and supported him throughout his esteemed career and also thanked the sport of boxing itself for shaping his life all those years ago. “You gave me the chance to fight our way out of poverty. Because of you, I was able to inspire people all over the world. Because of you, I have been given the courage to change more lives. I will never forget what I have done and accomplished in my life, I can’t imagine. I just heard the final bell.”

Pacquiao made his professional debut in 1995 at age 16 and became the first boxer to win the lineal championship in five different weight classes. He is also the only boxer to hold world championships across four different decades. Pacquiao held the welterweight title as recently as 2019 at age 40, making him the oldest boxer to ever do so. He last fought in Las Vegas on Aug. 21, which was his first bout in over two years.

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Jarrod Ramos, gunman in Capital Gazette shooting, is sentenced to multiple life terms

A judge ordered on Tuesday that Jarrod Ramos, the 41-year-old man who opened fire in an attack at a Maryland newspaper three years ago that killed five journalists, will spend the rest of his life in prison.

Ramos took a gun to the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md., in June 2018 and began indiscriminately firing at employees inside. Prosecutors said at trial that the attack was revenge for a story the paper published about him harassing a former classmate a decade ago. Ramos pleaded guilty in 2019 to five counts of first-degree murder, one count of attempted first-degree murder, six counts of first-degree assault and 11 counts of using a firearm in a felony crime of violence.

Ramos’ attorneys argued at trial that he should not be held criminally responsible due to mental illness. On Tuesday, Ramos was sentenced to five life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 345 years. Judge Michael Wachs said before sentence: “To say the defendant showed a callous and cruel disregard for the sanctity of human life is simply an understatement. What I impose is what the defendant deserves.”

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Tresury Secretary Yellen warns U.S. may run out of money by Oct. 18 if debt ceiling is not raised

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned Congress on Tuesday that the U.S. government could run out of money to pay its bills by Oct. 18 if lawmakers fail to raise the debt ceiling. Powell and Yellen said there would be a “devastating” impact if the United States defaults on its debt during testimony before the Senate banking committee. They said that any economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic could come to a halt.

Yellen said in her opening statement: “While our economy continues to expand and recapture a substantial share of the jobs lost during 2020, significant challenges from the Delta variant continue to suppress the speed of the recovery and present substantial barriers to a vibrant economy. I remain optimistic about the medium-term trajectory of our economy, and I expect we will return to full employment next year. A rebound like this was never a foregone conclusion. In fact, the American recovery is stronger than those of other wealthy nations.”

Yellen warned: “It is imperative that Congress address the debt limit. If not, our current estimate is that treasury will likely exhaust its extraordinary measures by October 18. At that point, we expect treasury would be left with very limited resources that would be depleted quickly. America would default for the first time in history. The full faith and credit of the United States would be impaired and our country would likely face a financial crisis and economic recession as a result….It would be disastrous for the American economy, for global financial markets, and for millions of families and workers.”

Powell told senators in his opening statement that “inflation is elevated and will likely remain so in coming months before moderating…As the economy continues to reopen and spending rebounds, we are seeing upward pressure on prices, particularly due to supply bottlenecks in some sectors. These effects have been larger and longer-lasting than anticipated, but they will abate, and as they do, inflation is expected to drop back toward our longer-run 2% goal.”

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Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman travels to Florida for workout with Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Veteran cornerback Richard Sherman traveled to Tampa Bay for a workout with the Buccaneers on Tuesday that could potentially lead to a deal with the team. According to multiple reports, Sherman — a three-time All-Pro — traveled to Florida after quarterback Tom Brady made a push to recruit the longtime Seattle Seahawks star. The Bucs reached out to Sherman weeks ago; sources told ESPN that Sherman would require at least a week or two before he can begin playing, making him ineligible for Sunday’s game against the New England Patriots if the deal happens.

Sherman was arrested over the summer on accusations of drunkenly crashing his SUV into a construction zone and trying to break into his in-laws’ suburban Seattle home. He pleaded not guilty to drunken driving, criminal trespassing, resisting arrest and other charges. He has reportedly been undergoing therapy since his arrest and is scheduled for a pretrial hearing on Friday.

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New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood confirms he is unvaccinated; won’t rule out he will get vaccinated ‘eventually’

New Jersey Devils goaltender Mackenzie Blackwood confirmed that he has not received a COVID-19 vaccination, making him the only Devils player not vaccinated and potentially unavailable for some of his team’s games this season. The 24-year-old said he’s “not currently” vaccinated, but is leaving open the possibility that he could still get the vaccine. Said Blackwood: “I’ve not decided one way or the other whether I’m doing it. I’m taking a little bit of extra time. I have a couple of health concerns and health reasons why I’m working through it a little slower. I wanted to check off a couple of boxes, and not rush to do it.”

The NHL estimates that around 98% of its players will have been vaccinated before the season begins Oct. 12. There was no vaccine mandate by the league, but teams have strongly encouraged their players to get vaccinated, especially due to travel restrictions. Per an NHL and the NHLPA agreement on COVID-19 protocols, teams will have the ability to suspend unvaccinated players without pay if they can’t participate in hockey activities. That includes the inability to play games in Canada. The Devils will play teams in Canada nine times this season.

Blackwood said: “I’m not trying to be a distraction to them while I work through it. I don’t like making life more difficult for the staff or my fellow teammates. I would rather things be normal.”  Blackwood had a severe case of COVID-19 last season, right before an outbreak on the Devils. He had a heavy cough and trouble breathing, saying at the time that he “didn’t have the greatest lungs my whole life” and knew COVID-19 would impact him. He’s now “100% healthy” from COVID-19 and had no further complications from his illness during the offseason.

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President Biden receives Pfizer-BioNTech booster shot just days after CDC approval for those 65 and older

President Joe Biden received his booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine on Monday during a televised event. Said Biden: “Like I did my first and second COVID-19 vaccination booster shot, I’m about to get my booster shot and do it publicly. That’s because the FDA and the CDC looked at all the data, completed their review, and determined that boosters for the Pfizer vaccines are safe and effective.” The president said he didn’t experience any side effects after he got his first dose on live television in December 2020 and his second one in the following month. His booster shot comes nine months after.

The 78-year-old Biden is among those that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recommended on Thursday to get the booster shot. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices said it favored booster shots at least six months after the two-dose regimen for those 65 years and older and those over 18 who have underlying medical conditions or are at greater risk of getting COVID-19 because of their jobs.

Biden urged Americans to get their vaccinations, and said that “this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated.” He announced travel to Chicago on Wednesday to talk about the importance of vaccinations in businesses. Some 60 million Americans fall under the categories approved for the Pfizer vaccine. For those who received the Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines, scientists are evaluating data to determine whether additional shots are needed.

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R. Kelly found guilty on all charges of racketeering in sex trafficking case

R. Kelly was convicted by a federal jury on Monday of racketeering in his sex trafficking trial. Kelly was found guilty of charges including sexual exploitation of a child, bribery, racketeering and sex trafficking involving five victims. He faces a possible sentence of 10 years to life in prison.

Federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of New York successfully proved to a jury of seven men and five women that Kelly was a predator and the head of a criminal enterprise, whose purpose was to lure girls, boys and women to the R&B singer for his sexual gratification. Prosecutors portrayed Kelly as a predator who over a quarter-century subjected his victims to violent physical and sexual abuse, some of which he recorded.

In addition to awaiting sentencing on the case in NY, Kelly will face a second federal trial on charges of child pornography and obstruction of justice in Illinois. Some of those accusations are related to a 2008 child pornography trial in Chicago, in which he was acquitted of all charges. Kelly also faces outstanding criminal charges in both Cook County, Ill., where he was indicted by the state attorney in Feb. 2019 for aggravated criminal sexual abuse involving four victims (three of them minors), and in Minnesota, where Mr. Kelly was charged in Aug. 2019 with engaging in prostitution with a minor.

Sentencing in New York is scheduled for May 4.

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