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More than 110M COVID vaccines sent to 60 countries, US says

47 min 23 sec fa

By ZEKE MILLER and DARLENE SUPERVILLE

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. has donated and shipped more than 110 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to more than 60 countries, ranging from Afghanistan to Zambia, the White House announced Tuesday.

President Joe Biden was expected to discuss that milestone and more later Tuesday in remarks updating the public on the U.S. strategy to slow the spread of coronavirus abroad.

The announcement comes amid a rise in infections in the U.S., fueled by the highly contagious delta strain of the virus, which led U.S. public health officials last week to recommend that people who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19 resume wearing face coverings in some public indoor settings.

Biden has promised that the U.S. will be the “arsenal of vaccines” for the world, and it has shipped the most vaccines abroad of any donor nation.

But while notable, the 110 million doses the U.S. has donated largely through a global vaccine program known as COVAX represent a fraction of what is needed worldwide.

The White House said in a statement Tuesday that U.S. at the end of August will begin shipping 500 million doses of Pfizer vaccine that it has pledged to 100 low-income countries by June 2022.

The 110 million donated doses came from U.S. surplus vaccine stock as the pace of domestic vaccinations slowed amid widespread vaccine hesitancy in the country.

Roughly 90 million eligible Americans aged 12 and over have yet to receive one dose of vaccine.

Biden had pledged to ship more than 80 million doses overseas by the end of June, but had only been able to share a fraction of that due to logistical and regulatory hurdles in recipient countries.

The pace of shipments picked up significantly through July.

Under Biden’s sharing plan, about 75% of U.S. doses are shared through COVAX, which aims to help lower- and middle-income nations, with the balance being sent to U.S. partners and allies.

The White House insists that nothing is being sought in return for the shots, contrasting its approach to Russia and China, which it alleges have used access to their domestically produced vaccines as a tool of geopolitical leverage.

Record wildfire burns amid drought on Hawaii’s Big Island

56 min 32 sec fa

By CALEB JONES | The Associated Press

HONOLULU  — Firefighters gained more control over a wildfire in Hawaii that forced thousands of people to evacuate over the weekend and destroyed at least two homes on the Big Island, but officials warned that strong winds will return on Tuesday, raising the danger again.

Authorities have lifted evacuation orders but warned they could be reinstated at any time and that people should be ready to go.

“It’s the biggest (fire) we’ve ever had on this island,” Big Island Mayor Mitch Roth said of the more than 62-square-mile (160-square-kilometer) blaze. “With the drought conditions that we’ve had, it is of concern. You see something like this where you’re putting thousands of homes in danger, it’s very concerning.”

Fires in Hawaii are unlike many of those burning in the U.S. West. They tend to break out in large grasslands on the dry sides of the islands and are generally much smaller than mainland fires.

Even though Hawaii has a wet, tropical climate that isn’t typically at risk from large fires, blazes could become more frequent as climate change-related weather patterns intensify.

The islands have seen a downward trend in overall rainfall in recent years. Drought conditions have reached the most severe level in some parts of Hawaii in recent years, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. Drought that is tied to climate change has made wildfires harder to fight.

Two homes were confirmed destroyed in the Hawaii fire. One homeowner said he tried to protect his property but lost the battle as the wind picked up.

“I had a dozer on my lawn, my land, and I tried to make a fire break,” Joshua Kihe of the community of Waimea told Hawaii News Now. He said the fire destroyed his home.

“I definitely need to think of a plan because it’s a life-changer,” he said.

Others scrambled to evacuate.

“I just seen the flames coming,” Waimea resident Kanani Malakaua said. “I mainly got my important papers, made sure my kids were in the car, got my animals — but this is a very, very scary time for us.”

Some nearby roads were closed, making certain neighborhoods inaccessible, but there was no imminent threat to those houses.

According to the National Weather Service, strong winds and generally dry conditions will continue throughout the islands on Tuesday, and ease only slightly on Wednesday.

“Our current wind forecast is showing wind patterns between 18 to 20 mph, with gusts up to 40 mph,” Hawaii County Fire Chief Kazuo Todd said Sunday night. “and so while throughout the evening our crews will be working to build fire breaks with dozers and back burns, this temporary lift on the mandatory evacuation may have to be reinforced later on due to prevailing weather patterns.”

The fire chief said nearby communities could be inundated with smoke and that anyone with health or breathing problems should find somewhere else to stay.

Roth, the Big Island mayor, said the way the wind comes through the area makes it difficult to fight the flames and that officials and residents must stay vigilant.

“The winds kind of swirl, so they’ll be coming at one direction for a couple of minutes and then all of a sudden, they’re blowing in a different direction; that makes it really very difficult to fight a fire when you have swirling winds,” Roth said.

Several wildfires also were burning in drought-stricken California and Oregon.

Containment on Monday reached 35% for California’s largest, the Dixie Fire, which covered about 388 square miles (1,005 square kilometers) in mountains where 45 homes and other buildings have been destroyed.

A mandatory evacuation order was issued Monday for Greenville, a town of about 1,000 people, as gusts pushed flames through Plumas and Butte counties in Northern California.

Other evacuation orders and warnings were lifted over the weekend for several areas in Northern California but an estimated 3,000 homes remained threatened by the Dixie Fire as winds pushed flames through dry fuels on remote hillsides.

Over the weekend, a lightning-sparked wildfire threatened remote homes along the Trinity River in California’s Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The 5-square-mile (13-square-mile) McFarland Fire was 5% contained Monday.

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In southern Oregon, lightning struck parched forests hundreds of times in 24 hours, igniting some 50 new wildfires as the nation’s largest blaze burned less than 100 miles (161 kilometers) away, officials said Monday.

Firefighters and aircraft pounced on the new fires before they could spread out of control. No homes were immediately threatened.

The Bootleg Fire, the nation’s largest at 647 square miles (1,676 square kilometers), was 84% contained Monday, though it isn’t expected to be fully under control until Oct. 1.

Stocks open mixed as investors pore over earnings reports

1 ora 8 min fa

The Associated Press

Stocks are off to a mixed start on Wall Street as traders weigh another big set of company earnings reports, which have been coming in largely ahead of analysts’ forecasts. They’re also remaining cautious amid the spread of the more contagious delta variant of COVID-19. The S&P 500 was up a little less than 0.1% in the early going Monday. Clorox slumped 11% after reporting results that fell short of forecasts, while Ralph Lauren rose 9% after its results beat estimates. U.S. shares of Tencent fell 3.5% after China’s biggest gaming company said it would limit gaming time for minors.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below.

BEIJING (AP) — European stocks opened higher Tuesday while Asian markets declined as jitters about the spread of the coronavirus’s delta variant in China and the United States dented enthusiasm about strong corporate profits.

London and Frankfurt advanced while Shanghai, Tokyo and Hong Kong fell.

Wall Street futures were higher after the benchmark S&P 500 index closed lower Monday, weighed down by declines for tech, energy, industrial and communications stocks.

Investors were encouraged by unexpectedly strong U.S. earnings but are more uneasy as China, the United States and other governments try to stop the spread of the more contagious delta variant.

“Concerns (are) rising once again that the global recovery could be thrown off track by the virus,” Jeffrey Halley of Oanda said in a report.

“What is spooking markets is China,” Halley said. “It’s not a huge reach to extrapolate even more supply chain disruptions, especially if it proves as elusive to control for Chinese authorities as it has to officials globally.”

In early trading, the FTSE 100 in London gained 0.3% to 7,103.62 and the DAX in Frankfurt added under 0.1% to 15,579.92. The CAC 40 in Paris advanced 0.8% to 6,727.16.

On Wall Street, the future for the S&P 500 index was up 0.3%. That for the Dow Jones Industrial Average was 0.4% higher.

On Monday, the S&P 500 slipped 0.2% while the Dow dropped 0.3%. The Nasdaq composite added 0.1%.

A slide in technology, industrial, raw materials and communication companies weighed on the market. Energy stocks also fell in tandem with crude oil prices. Gains by health care stocks, utilities and a variety of retailers and other companies that rely on direct consumer spending helped keep the losses in check.

In Asia, the Shanghai Composite Index fell 0.5% to 3,447.99 and the Nikkei 225 in Tokyo sank 0.5% to 27,641.83. The Hang Seng in Hong Kong was 0.2% lower at 26,194.82.

The Kospi in South Korea gained 0.4% to 3,237.14 and Sydney’s S&P-ASX 200 was off 0.2% at 7,474.50.

India’s Sensex rose 1.1% to 53,516.34. New Zealand and Singapore declined while Bangkok and Indonesia gained.

Investors looked ahead to U.S. employment data due out Friday for indications of whether hiring has held up.

On Monday, U.S. markets appeared to shrug off a report by the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group, that manufacturing slowed in July. Many companies are being held back by supply chain disruptions.

Also this week, some 150 companies in the S&P 500 are due to report results.

In energy markets, benchmark U.S. crude rose 32 cents to $71.58 per barrel in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. On Monday, the contract fell $2.69 to $71.26. Brent crude, the price basis for international oils, added 30 cents to $73.19 per barrel in London. It tumbled $2.52 the previous session to $72.89 a barrel.

The dollar declined to 109.16 yen from Monday’s 109.25 yen The euro gained to $1.1882 from $1.1874.

Head of group for exiled Belarusians found hanged in Ukraine

1 ora 22 min fa

By YURAS KARMANAU

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A Belarusian activist who ran a group in Ukraine helping Belarusians fleeing persecution was found dead in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, local police said Tuesday.

Vitaly Shishov, leader of the Kyiv-based Belarusian House in Ukraine, was found hanged in one of the city’s parks not far from his home, police said in a statement.

A probe has been launched, with police investigating whether it was a suicide or a murder made to look like suicide, head of Ukraine’s National Police Igor Klymenko told reporters on Tuesday.

The Belarusian House in Ukraine reported Monday that Shishov had gone missing during a morning run. The Belarusian human rights center Viasna cited Shishov’s friends as saying that he has recently been followed by strangers during his runs.

The Belarusian House in Ukraine helps Belarusians fleeing persecution with their legal status in Ukraine, accommodation and employment.

In Belarus in recent weeks, authorities have ramped up the pressure against non-governmental organizations and independent media, conducting more than 200 raids of offices and apartments of activists and journalists in July alone, and detaining dozens of people.

Authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko has vowed to continue what he called a “mopping-up operation” against civil society activists whom he has denounced as “bandits and foreign agents.”

Lukashenko faced months of protests triggered by his being awarded a sixth term in an August 2020 vote that the opposition and the West saw as rigged. He responded to demonstrations with a massive crackdown that saw more than 35,000 people arrested and thousands beaten by police.

Belarus’ authoritarian government has at times gone to extremes in its crackdown on dissent, including recently diverting a plane to the capital of Minsk and arresting a dissident aboard.

The Belarusian House in Ukraine said in a statement Tuesday that Shishov was forced to move to Ukraine in the fall of 2020, when antigovernment protests and crackdown on demonstrators in Belarus were in full swing.

In Ukraine, he was under surveillance, and “both local sources and our people in Belarus” have alerted the group to the possibility of “various provocations, including kidnapping and liquidation.”

“There is no doubt that this was a planned operation by security operatives to liquidate a Belarusian, dangerous for the regime. We will continue to fight for the truth about Vitaly’s death,” the group said.

Yury Shchuchko from the Belarusian House in Ukraine told The Associated Press that Shishov was found with marks of beating on his face. “Nothing was stolen, he was in regular clothes people put on to work out, and he only had his phone with him,” Shchuchko said.

He also said that Shishov has previously noticed surveillance during his runs and that strangers would approach him and try to start a conversation.

“We have been warned to be more careful, because a network of Belarus KGB agents is operating here and everything is possible,” Shchuchko said. “Vitaly asked me to take care of his loved ones, he had a weird feeling.”

Klymenko of the National Police told reporters on Tuesday that there were indeed injuries discovered on Shishov’s body — scratched skin on his nose, a cut on his lip and an injury on his left knee. He wouldn’t say, however, whether these resulted from violence. Klymenko added that police haven’t received any complaints about surveillance from Shishov.

Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Lukashenko’s main challenger in the August 2020 election who left for Lithuania under pressure from the authorities, expressed condolences to Shishov’s family on Tuesday.

“Belarusians can’t be safe even abroad, as long as there are those who are trying to inflict revenge on them,” Tsikhnaouskaya said in an online statement.

“Vitaly Shishov was helping Belarusians and was found hanged … It happened on another country’s soil. Just like the hostage-taking took place on another country’s plane. Just like the attempt to forcefully bring a disloyal athlete back to Belarus from another country’s territory,” she said.

Earlier this week, Belarus Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya accused the country’s officials of hustling her to the airport and trying to put her on a plane back to Belarus after she publicly criticized the management of her team at the Tokyo Games. Tsimanouskaya refused to board the plane and instead will seek refuge in Europe.

In an interview Tuesday, she told the AP she feared she wouldn’t be safe in Belarus.

European officials on Tuesday urged Ukraine to conduct a thorough investigation into the death of the activist.

“We are deeply shocked by the news of the death of the Belarusian activist Vitaly Shishov,” Austria’s Foreign Ministry said on Twitter. “Our thoughts are with his loved ones. Austria calls for a thorough and transparent investigation into the circumstances leading to his death.”

Marta Hurtado, a spokeswoman for the U.N. human rights office, told reporters in Geneva that the office hoped the authorities in Ukraine would conduct “a thorough, impartial and effective investigation on what happened and see if it was just a suicide, if it was a regular criminal murder, or if there is a relation with his activism.”

___

Associated Press writer Jamey Keaten in Geneva contributed to this report.

PepsiCo to sell Tropicana, other juices, in $3.3B deal

1 ora 22 min fa

By MICHELLE CHAPMAN

PepsiCo will sell Tropicana and other juices to a private equity firm in a $3.3 billion deal.

The New York drink and snack company will keep a 39% non-controlling stake in a newly formed joint venture in the deal with PAI Partners.

The sale reflects the industry’s uncertainty about demand for fruit juice as consumers look for healthier options with less sugar, said Howard Telford, head of soft drinks at Euromonitor International, a market research firm.

“This deal reflects the desire of the industry to focus and innovate around a smaller core of categories and brands, including water, energy drinks, coffee and the staple carbonated soft drinks,” Telford said.

U.S. juice sales volumes actually rose last year as more people enjoyed breakfast at home during the pandemic and sought the immunity benefits of vitamin C, Telford said. But that was a blip in a longer-term decline. Overall juice sales fell 3% between 2015 and 2020, the data firm said.

Juice consumption in the U.S. peaked in 2003 at 4.2 billion gallons, but by 2017, that had fallen to 3 billion gallons, wrote Brian Sudano, the managing partner of Beverage Marketing Corp. The group does not see that trend changing.

Pepsi rival Coca-Cola Co. has also been shedding slow-selling brands, including Odwalla and Zico juices, over the last year so it can focus on stronger performers. But Coke is holding on to its Minute Maid and Simply juice brands for now.

The juice business delivered about $3 billion in revenue for PepsiCo last year, but at operating profit margins that were below the company’s overall margins, it said. In its annual report, Pepsi said falling juice sales offset gains for other products in North America, including water, sports drinks like Gatorade and energy drinks like Propel.

PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta said in a prepared statement Tuesday that the deal “will free us to concentrate on our current portfolio of diverse offerings, including growing our portfolio of healthier snacks, zero-calorie beverages, and products like SodaStream.”

PepsiCo bought Tropicana in 1998 and the Naked juice brand, also part of the sale Tuesday, about 10 years later. It was heading in another direction by 2018 when it bought SodaStream, the carbonated drink machine company, for more than $3 billion.

PepsiCo Inc., based in New York, has the option to sell certain juice businesses in Europe.

The deal is expected to close late this year or early next year.

Pepsi shares were flat in early trading Tuesday.

___

AP Business Writer Dee-Ann Durbin contributed to this report.

Drive to charge packagers for recycling, but industry fights

1 ora 49 min fa

By PATRICK WHITTLE

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — States across the U.S. are looking to adopt new recycling regimes that require producers of packaging to pay for its inevitable disposal — but industry is digging in to try to halt the movement.

Maine became the first state to adopt such a program in July when Democratic Gov. Janet Mills signed a bill that requires producers of products that involve packaging materials to pay into a new state fund. The fund will be used to reimburse municipalities for recycling and waste management costs.

Oregon has approved a similar bill that is awaiting signature from Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, and at least six other state legislatures have similar bills pending, said Yinka Bode-George, environmental health manager for the National Caucus of Environmental Legislators. Lawmakers in at least four other states have also expressed interest in such bills, she said.

The states with active bills — most of them Democratic-leaning — include large, influential economies like New York and California. Environmentalists in those states and others believe shifting packaging disposal costs away from taxpayers and toward producers is long overdue.

More laws like Maine’s would incentivize industry to stop creating excessive packaging in the first place, Bode-George said. “This culture of throwing things away after one use is part of the problem,” she added. “It’s important for the producers of these materials to really take ownership of them.”

Maine’s bill is designed to cut down on plastic, cardboard, paper and other packaging waste by requiring what the state called “producer payments.” The companies can lower the payments by implementing their own, independent recycling programs or simply reducing packaging. The fees will go to a private organization that will reimburse municipalities for recycling and waste management costs and invest in education geared at reducing packaging and improving recycling.

Oregon’s proposed law is slightly different in that it would require producers and manufacturers of packaging to create a nonprofit group tasked with developing a recycling plan for packaging materials.

Advocates of these strategies sometimes call them “extended producer responsibility.” They are widely used in Europe as well as in some Canadian provinces. The National Waste & Recycling Association, a Virginia-based trade group, has said it can support such programs when they focus on “incentives to create new markets for recycling materials,” because buyers are needed for all these recyclables.

“The most important thing is that there’s a market for it,” said Brandon Wright, a spokesperson for the group.

But the moves have ignited heavy pushback from several sectors of American industry where fears are widespread that the new laws will drive up the cost of doing business in some states. New recycling obligations could cause companies to pull out of those states or pass on costs to consumers, industry members say.

The American Institute for Packaging and the Environment, or AMERIPEN, which represents the packaging industry, had asked Mills to veto Maine’s bill and plans to play an active role in an upcoming rulemaking process about it, said Dan Felton, the group’s executive director.

AMERIPEN hoped to work with Maine on a different new recycling scheme, but the approved law leaves “producers and the people of Maine on the outside of the process and forced to foot the bill for a system where the Maine Department of Environmental Protection is the sole decision-maker,” Felton said.

The proposed recycling laws have also generated pushback from industries that don’t work directly in packaging, but rely on it. Robert Luria, government relations manager for Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, told a state committee that Maine’s law “has the potential to increase inefficiencies in Maine’s recycling system.”

Recycling, particularly of plastics, has been further complicated by China’s decision to stop accepting plastic waste from other countries.

Advocates say the new recycling bills could help with that waste disposal problem by decreasing reliance on single-use plastic products. Maine’s bill sent “a strong signal that it’s time for big corporations and brands to do their part to curb plastic pollution and reduce wasteful packaging,” said Sarah Nichols of the Natural Resources Council of Maine.

In Maine, industry representatives who opposed the bill know the changes are coming and are working with the state to craft rules they can live with.

Industry is also preparing for other states to follow Maine’s lead, said Christine Cummings, executive director of the Maine Grocers & Food Producers Association.

“I think this is just the very start of what this program will evolve into both in Maine and around the country,” Cummings said.

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Follow Patrick Whittle on Twitter: @pxwhittle

Harris to focus on security, economic ties on SE Asia trip

1 ora 51 min fa

By ALEXANDRA JAFFE

WASHINGTON (AP) — Vice President Kamala Harris will visit Southeast Asia later this month aiming to bolster U.S. engagement in the region in an effort to counter China’s growing influence globally.

In an early preview of the goals for her trip to Singapore and Vietnam, Harris deputy national security adviser Phil Gordon said the vice president will emphasize the Biden administration’s commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region, with a focus on reinforcing regional security in the area.

“The vice president will meet with government officials, leaders, people in the private sector and civil society, and she’ll focus on strengthening U.S. leadership, expanding security cooperation, deepening economic partnerships, defending the international rules-based order, in particular in the South China Sea, and standing up for our values as we do with all of our friends and partners,” he said.

The full details of Harris’ trip are still being worked out, but for her second foreign trip and first trip as vice president overseas, she is planning a weeklong engagement in the region — from Aug. 20 to 26 — a significantly longer trip than her two-day tour through Guatemala and Mexico in June. Then, she met with the leaders of both countries to discuss ways to address the root causes of migration to the U.S. from the region, a central focus of her portfolio as vice president.

Harris has had less public engagement in Southeast Asia, but Asia has been a central focus for the Biden administration from the beginning of Joe Biden’s presidency, as he’s sought to counter China’s diplomatic and military incursions in the region.

Relations between the U.S. and China deteriorated sharply under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, and the two sides remain at odds over a host of issues including technology, cybersecurity and human rights.

Last week, during a speech at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Biden warned that Chinese President Xi Jinping is “deadly earnest about becoming the most powerful military force in the world, as well as the largest and most prominent economy in the world by the mid-’40s, the 2040s.”

The president has sent some of his top Cabinet officials to Asia to show support for U.S. allies in the region.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin made their first overseas trip to Japan and South Korea. Austin traveled to Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines last month where he vowed U.S. support against Beijing’s intrusions in the South China Sea.

Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman traveled to Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia in May and early June. Last month she visited Japan, South Korea and Mongolia before heading to China for high-level talks that ultimately did little to resolve many of the deep divisions between the two countries.

Harris will be the first U.S. vice president to visit Vietnam, and her trip is meant to show the depth of the U.S. commitment to the region.

“The National Security Council was very supportive of the notion that the vice president would be well placed to complement those other meetings and visits with travel to Singapore and Vietnam,” Gordon said. “It’s really part of an overall unified administration engagement strategy that shows our comprehensive engagement in East Asia, South Asia and Southeast Asia as well.”

How drug warriors made the ‘opioid epidemic’ deadlier

1 ora 57 min fa

According to the lawsuits that four drug companies agreed to settle last week, the “opioid epidemic” was caused by overprescription of pain medication, which suggests that curtailing the supply of analgesics such as hydrocodone and oxycodone is the key to reducing opioid-related deaths. But that assumption has proven disastrously wrong and revealed how prohibition makes drug use deadlier.

Per capita opioid prescriptions in the United States, which began rising in 2006, fell steadily after 2012, reflecting the impact of government efforts to restrict and discourage medical use of these drugs. Yet in 2019, when the dispensing rate was lower than it had been since 2005, the U.S. saw more opioid-related deaths than ever before.

Last year, according to preliminary estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that record was broken once again: Opioid-related deaths jumped by almost 30%. As opioid prescriptions fell, the upward trend in fatalities (which typically involve more than one drug) not only continued but accelerated.

That perverse effect was entirely predictable. The crackdown on pain pills drove nonmedical users toward black-market substitutes, replacing legally manufactured and reliably dosed products with drugs of unknown provenance and composition.

While that was happening, illicit fentanyl became increasingly common as a heroin booster or replacement, making potency even more variable and unpredictable. In 2020, according to the CDC’s projections, “synthetic opioids other than methadone” — the category that includes fentanyl and its analogs — were involved in 83% of opioid-related deaths, up from 14% in 2010.

Nowadays, fentanyl is showing up in black-market pills sold as hydrocodone or oxycodone and even in stimulants such as cocaine and methamphetamine. Its proliferation is a response to the very supply control measures that were supposed to reduce drug-related deaths.

To the extent that the government succeeds in exerting pressure on the supply of illegal intoxicants, it encourages traffickers to distribute more potent drugs, which are easier to conceal and smuggle. Since fentanyl is far more potent than heroin, a package weighing less than an ounce can replace one that weighs a couple of pounds.

Synthesizing opioids is also a less vulnerable and much cheaper process than production that relies on poppy crops. RAND Corporation researchers estimated that heroin is at least 100 times more expensive to produce than fentanyl, adjusting for potency.

Black-market drugs were already iffy because of prohibition; the prohibition-driven rise of fentanyl has made them even more of a crapshoot. And these are the substitutes that nonmedical opioid users resorted to after drug warriors succeeded in reducing the supply of pain pills.

That policy also has hurt bona fide patients by depriving them of the medication they need to make their lives bearable. Last week, the American Medical Association again urged the CDC to revise its opioid-prescribing advice, which has been widely interpreted as imposing hard caps on daily doses.

“Patients with pain continue to suffer from the undertreatment of pain and the stigma of having pain,” AMA Board of Trustees Chair Bobby Mukkamala wrote. “This is a direct result of the arbitrary thresholds on dose and quantity contained in the 2016 CDC Guideline.”

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Although “physicians have reduced opioid prescribing by more than 44% since 2012,” Mukkamala noted, “the drug overdose epidemic has gotten worse.” The government mistakenly assumed that the availability of particular intoxicants was causing drug-related deaths, which is clearly not true in light of the social, economic and psychological factors that plausibly explain last year’s surge, such as financial insecurity, emotional stress, isolation and disengagement from meaningful activities.

The COVID-19 pandemic magnified those problems, but it did not create them. A 2019 Joint Economic Committee report on “deaths of despair” noted that “drug-related deaths have been rising since the late 1950s.”

The increase in opioid fatalities is the latest manifestation of that long-term trend. By now it should be clear that when it comes to drug-related “deaths of despair,” the root problem is the despair, not the drugs.

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine, a syndicated columnist and a drug policy blogger at Forbes.

Bipartisan bill leaves out key climate, clean energy steps

2 ore 5 min fa

By MATTHEW DALY

WASHINGTON (AP) — The $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package unveiled by the Senate includes more than $150 billion to boost clean energy and promote “climate resilience” by making schools, ports and other structures better able to withstand extreme weather events such as storms and wildfires.

But the bill, headed for a Senate vote this week, falls far short of President Joe Biden’s pledge to transform the nation’s heavily fossil-fuel powered economy into a clean-burning one and stop climate-damaging emissions from U.S. power plants by 2035.

Notably, the deal omits mention of a Clean Electricity Standard, a key element of Biden’s climate plan that would require the electric grid to replace fossil fuels with renewable sources such as solar, wind and hydropower.

Nor does it include a Civilian Climate Corps, a Biden favorite and a nod to the Great Depression-era New Deal that would put millions of Americans to work on conservation projects, renewable energy and helping communities recover from climate disasters.

The White House says the bipartisan deal is just the first step, with a proposed $3.5 trillion, Democratic-only package following close behind. The larger bill, still being developed in Congress, will meet Biden’s promise to move the country toward carbon-free electricity, make America a global leader in electric vehicles and create millions of jobs in solar, wind and other clean-energy industries, supporters say.

While the bipartisan plan is “a good start,” lawmakers will “deal with the climate crisis in the magnitude, scope and scale that’s required” in the Democratic-only bill, said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass.

For now, the focus is on the bipartisan deal, which includes $550 billion in new spending for public works projects, $73 billion of that to update the electric grid and more than $50 billion to bolster infrastructure against cyberattacks and climate change. There’s also $7.5 billion for electric charging stations.

Citing the deadly Texas power outages earlier this year, the White House touted spending to upgrade the nation’s power grid and boost renewable energy. An Energy Department study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion a year. The bill also invests in demonstration projects for advanced nuclear reactors, carbon capture and storage and so-called clean hydrogen that can be burned with few emissions.

Still, the measure falls far short of meeting Biden’s promise to address the climate crisis, even as triple-digit temperatures across the West caused hundreds of deaths this summer and a busy Atlantic hurricane season causes extensive damage.

“It is clear that the deal does not meet the moment on climate or justice,” said Tiernan Sittenfeld, a senior vice president of the League of Conservation Voters.

“This looks like the Exxon Infrastructure Bill,” said Janet Redman of Greenpeace USA. “An infrastructure bill that doesn’t prevent a full-blown climate catastrophe by funding a swift transition to renewable energy would kill millions of Americans.”

The bill offers “glimmers of hope” such as a multibillion-dollar commitment to clean up and remediate old oil wells and mines, Redman said, calling on Democrats to demonstrate “the courage to be visionary and go bigger” in the partisan bill expected later this year.

One of the lead negotiators, Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, acknowledged that no one got everything they wanted in the bipartisan bill. “But we came up with a good compromise that’s going to help the American people,” he said.

“This is about infrastructure,” Portman said at the White House. “This is roads and bridges, but also lots of other kinds of infrastructure, including broadband, our water system and our rail system — all of which is good for the economy. This will lead to more efficiency and higher productivity, more economic growth.”

The plan includes $21 billion to clean up brownfields and other polluted sites, reclaim abandoned mine land and cap orphaned oil and gas wells. The plan will help communities near contaminated industrial sites and rural areas where abandoned oil wells pose a continuing a hazard, the White House said.

The Senate voted, 66-28, Friday to advance the bill, but it’s unclear if enough Republicans will eventually join Democrats to support final passage. Senate rules require 60 votes in the evenly split 50-50 chamber to advance the bill but a simple majority to pass it.

The measure also faces turbulence in the closely divided House, where progressives are pushing for increased spending on climate change and other issues and centrist lawmakers are wary of adding to the federal debt.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, called the Senate bill inadequate and pledged to push for changes in the House, which passed a separate, $715 billion transportation and water bill in early July. Transportation is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

DeFazio, the House bill’s lead sponsor, said his bill “charts our path forward,” adding that he is “fighting to make sure we enact a transformative bill that supports our recovery and combats the existential threat of climate change.”

Gov. Newsom can’t tie recall to GOP in voter guide, lawsuit says

2 ore 20 min fa

By KATHLEEN RONAYNE | The Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — Top supporters of the recall against California Gov. Gavin Newsom want to block him from branding the contest as a Republican effort in the official election guide that will be sent to voters ahead of the Sept. 14 contest.

His contention that the effort is led by Republicans seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election and an “attempt by national Republicans and Trump supporters to force an election and grab power in California” are “at best misleading, at worst flat-out false, and in all events a hyperbolic outrage,” according to a lawsuit filed Friday by two Republican activists who led the campaign to get the recall on the ballot.

The case is scheduled for a court hearing Wednesday afternoon.

Orrin Heatlie and Mike Netter are asking a judge to strike portions of Newsom’s ballot statement and edit other parts. Newsom, a Democrat, was unable to get his party affiliation listed on the ballot because of a filing error and has sought to brand the recall as a power grab by right-wing activists in the nation’s most populous state.

He makes that argument in two campaign ads, one of which features video of people storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. It’s aimed at motivating Democrats, who outnumber Republicans significantly in the state and strongly dislike former President Donald Trump.

Heatlie and Netter argue that the effort is not a “Republican recall” because its supporters come from various political parties and more than half of the 46 candidates vying to replace Newsom are not Republicans. They want the word “Republican” stripped from the statement in all but one place. In that instance, they suggest Newsom’s language that the effort is led by “national Republicans who fought to overturn the presidential election” should be changed to say “the recall’s supporters include national Republicans.”

Every registered voter will be mailed a copy of the voter guide, which includes statements from Newsom and Heatlie arguing over the merits of the recall and from candidates looking to replace him if the recall succeeds. County election officials will start mailing the ballots on Aug. 16. The guidelines to Newsom and Heatlie stated their arguments could not include “any demonstrably false, slanderous, or libelous statements.”

State elections officials take no position on the issues raised about the text of the arguments, according to a response filed Monday by Attorney General Rob Bonta. They asked the court to make a ruling before Friday, when the text of the voter guide must be finalized.

The recall supporters also want the court to remove a sentence in Newsom’s statement that characterizes the effort as an abuse of the state’s recall laws. The recall organizers collected the roughly 1.5 million signatures required under state law to place the question on the ballot.

Voters will be asked two questions: Should Newsom be recalled, and if so who should replace him. He will be removed from office if more than half of voters say yes on the first question.

Newsom campaign spokesman Nathan Click called the arguments “totally baseless,” noting that the effort was launched by Republicans, including Heatlie, and has raised money from the Republican Party.

“Republicans know they can’t win in a normal election year, so they are trying to force a special election and grab power,” he said in a statement.

Gun shows are the kind of event state fairgrounds were designed for

2 ore 58 min fa

Gun shows are safe, appropriate events that frequently take place across California. Yet many gun control advocates cite dubious statistics about gun shows to justify support for legislation to end gun shows on state property, such as fairgrounds.

Some would have you believe that California gun shows are lawless events where vendors sell guns to violent gangs or without paperwork. Nothing could be further from the truth: California gun shows are more highly regulated than brick-and-mortar gun shops.

No California politician has been able to provide statistics specific to any criminal activity or to any danger at California gun shows. Government should not discriminate against lawful activity because some politicians do not agree with it.

California gun shows are not a place where criminals get guns. Every firearm dealer at a gun show has passed a background check and is licensed with both the state and federal government. Law enforcement officers are stationed across the venue, background checks of buyers must take place, and no one leaves a California gun show with a firearm. There is a 10-day waiting period in California for firearms transactions, and that applies to weapons sold at gun shows, too.

Gun shows are family-friendly events — the kind state fair properties were designed to host.

Only about 30% of gun show exhibitors sell guns or ammunition (which a buyer also cannot acquire the same day). The rest sell collectibles, merchandise and food, much like a flea market with hot dogs.

Gun shows draw multiple generations of families who share a love of hunting and the outdoors.

Gun shows draw couples who often are introducing their spouse to firearms and self-protection.

Gun shows draw new gun owners, such as the more than 1 million gun buyers in 2020, who want to learn more about protecting themselves and their families.

Most important, gun shows provide a large venue for those who choose to own a firearm for lawful purposes to learn more about firearms and discuss issues that are important to gun owners in California.

Simply put, state fairgrounds are the only type of venue with the space to host events of this size effectively, safely and without incident.

An attempt by a local fair board to shut out gun shows at the Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County was rebuffed by a federal court in 2020. The court made it clear that banning gun shows in these venues was an unconstitutional attack on free speech and association. The state paid $500,000 to the gun show operator to settle the case.

Why are elected officials such as state Sen. Dave Min, the author of legislation to ban gun shows from state fairgrounds, continuing to try to limit the rights of law-abiding Californians?

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Californians should know that gun shows are not dangerous and absolutely belong on government property. Under the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, Americans have the right to keep and bear arms. The government is supposed to protect our constitutional rights, not take them away.

The California Rifle & Pistol Association, the state’s oldest Second Amendment rights organization, encourages all California firearms owners to tell their state senator to oppose Senate Bill 264, which would effectively — and unfairly — end gun shows on all state-owned property in California.

Tiffany Cheuvront is a civil rights attorney who represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association, tcheuvront@crpa.org. She wrote this commentary for CalMatters.

Olympics: Simone Biles captures historic 7th medal in her return

5 ore 5 min fa

TOKYO >> They stood on the edge of the competition area at the Ariake Gymnastics Center early Tuesday evening, Simone Biles and her coach Cecile Landi, awaiting the scores of the previous gymnast in the Olympic Games balance beam competition to be posted.

Landi put her right around Biles and tried to lighten the moment.

And then Biles was alone, turning to face the beam and a moment the world had waited a week for.

Biles took a deep breath.

She wasn’t alone.

Biles, seven days after she stunned these Olympics by withdrawing in the middle of the team finals, returned to the Games she has been the face of earning a bronze medal on the beam with a solid, if safe, routine.

It was the Hollywood ending her millions of fans –or NBC–might have wanted, but if nothing else Biles has reminded us this past week that life is complicated.

China’s Guan Chenchen, competing last, won the gold medal with a 14.633 score followed by teammate Tang Xijing (14.233) and Biles (14.00).

It was Biles sixth Olympic medal but her presence in Tokyo will be best remembered for her withdrawal from the team final, individual all around, and earlier apparatus finals forcing her country and her sport to have real discussions, often heated, about mental health, especially in regards to young athletes.

“It’s great that she is speaking out about these issues,” said Sweden’s Mondo Duplantis, the world record holder in the pole vault. “It can be tough as an athlete and it’s good that the issues are being raised now.”

And elevating that discussion as she has her sport will be as much of a legacy as her four Olympic and 19 World Championship titles.

“I think just recognizing that it’s so hard and the mental aspect is such a big thing and having the confidence to draw the line and say you know I need to step back here and take some time for myself to center myself,” U.S. beach volleyball player April Ross said. “I think that’s really empowering and that’s something that youths should feel like they can do too, so I think what she did will really impact the future generation.”

Biles withdrawal came with the Larry Nassar sex abuse scandal still looming over the sport and the Olympic movement.

Biles is a Nassar survivor and has been the highest profile and one of the most vocal critics of USA Gymnastics and its prioritize athlete safety over medals and corporate sponsorships and to fix the culture of abuse within the sport that enabled Nassar, the former Olympic and national team doctor to sexually abuse more than 500 women under the guise of medical treatment.

Biles was not only the ultimate champion in the #MeToo era, with Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt and American swimmer Michael Phelps retiring after the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro she was the face of the Olympic Games.

“I live in the United States and anything that came on the TV, NBC or commercials about the Olympics was Simone Biles,” golfer Rory McIlroy said. “I mean it was the Simone Biles Olympics, right. To have the weight of what 300 whatever million (people in the USA). So, the weight on her shoulders is massive.”

In the days and weeks leading up to Tokyo that weight became overwhelming, Biles said.

“In the back gym, coming in today, it was like fighting all those demons, ‘I have to put my pride aside, I have to do it for the team,’” Biles said on the night of her withdrawal from the team competition, referring to the Olympic practice gym. “At the end of the day, I have to do what’s right for me and focus on my mental health, and not jeopardize my health and well-being. …

“I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I don’t know if it’s age. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun, and I know that this Olympic Games,” she continued, starting to weep, “I wanted it to be for myself.

“I was still doing it for other people, so it hurts my heart that doing what I love has been kind of taken away from me to please other people.”Related Articles

The stress contributed to Biles developing spatial awareness issues when she was airborne, what gymnasts refer to as the “twisties.”

“If you struggle with disorientation in the air,” Italian gymnast Vanessa Ferrari said “it can be very scary. I feel very sorry for her that she struggles with it, as she is such a great gymnast.”

Biles had planned to do a Yurcenko 2½ vault on the opening rotation of the team competition final. But only managed 1½ rotations before stumbling on the landing. She received a 13.766 score, well before her usual marks in an event in which she was the reigning Olympic champion and a two-time World Championships gold medalist.

“I did not choose to do a one-and-a-half,” Biles said laughing. “I tried to do a two-and-a-half, and that just was not clicking. It’s very uncharacteristic of me, and it just sucks that it happened here at the Olympic Games. With the year that it’s been, I’m really not surprised how it played out.

“So it definitely wasn’t my best work.”

Returning to the sideline, Biles informed her coaches and teammates she was withdrawing.

People need to understand that athletes are no robots, but humans,” said Rebeca Andrade of Brazil, who succeeded Biles as Olympic vault champion. “The decision she made was the wisest thing to do and it had nothing to do with others.”

Missing Bay Area man with dementia, 84, found safe in LA

7 ore 3 min fa

ANTIOCH — An 84-year-old man whose concerning absence spurred a large volunteer-led weekend search has been found about 350 miles away in Los Angeles, authorities said.

In a statement Monday afternoon, police said Ramon Fernandez was located safe and alone around 3 p.m. Police said Los Angeles County adult-protective services staff would coordinate his return.

Fernandez had last been seen about 7:30 a.m. Friday in the 1200 block of A Street. In his wake, Antioch police officers and detectives as well as more than 45 volunteers from the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team combed the city for signs of him, and the California Highway Patrol had issued a “silver alert” for him.

Fernandez has dementia and usually uses a wheelchair but had been seen on video surveillance without it, authorities said.

Antioch police noted the Alzheimer’s Association has posted information here on wandering behaviors for those afflicted with dementia.

Contact George Kelly at 408-859-5180.

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Kevin Durant, Team USA bounce Spain to reach Olympic semifinals

8 ore 12 min fa

SAITAMA, Japan — Back and forth they went, the reigning Olympic champions from the U.S. on one side, the reigning Basketball World Cup champions from Spain on the other.

The difference: The Americans had Kevin Durant.

He’s never gone to the Olympics and not won gold – and clearly, doesn’t plan on that changing. Durant scored 29 points to keep his quest for a third Olympic title alive, and the Americans are headed to the medal round after ousting Spain, 95-81, on Tuesday (Monday night PT) in a quarterfinal matchup at the Tokyo Games.

Jayson Tatum scored 13 and Jrue Holiday added 12 for the U.S., which will play the winner of the Australia-Argentina game (Tuesday, 5 a.m. PT) in the semifinals on Thursday. Luka Doncic-led Slovenia (4-0) and France (3-0 going into its quarterfinal against Italy) are on the other side of the bracket.

The Americans also gave themselves the chance of extending a streak like none other in Olympic basketball history – in all 18 of their previous Olympic men’s basketball appearances, they’ve gone home with a medal.

Ricky Rubio was brilliant for Spain, scoring 38 points and Sergio Rodriguez added 16.

It wasn’t easy, and rarely is against Spain. This was the fifth time the teams had met in the Olympic quarterfinals or later since 2004; the U.S. is now 5-0 in those games, but the margin of victory in those is a close-by-American-Olympic-standards: 9.2 points.

And this one was no different. Spain actually led by 10 in the second quarter, before the U.S. went on what became a 36-10 run over the next nine minutes to take control for good.

Spain had won three consecutive Olympic medals, taking silvers after losing to the U.S. in the gold-medal games in 2008 and 2012, followed by a bronze in 2016 after falling to the U.S. in the semifinals. And this might be the last time that the Spanish roster has some of its longtime mainstays; Pau Gasol is 41, other top players like Marc Gasol and Rudy Fernandez are much closer to the end than the beginning, and this might have been Spain’s best chance to beat the U.S. at the Olympics.

Spain got down seven early, then simply did whatever it wanted against the U.S. for a 10-minute stretch of the first half. It was a 29-12 run by the time it was over, a burst that turned a 17-10 early deficit into a 39-29 lead with 3:25 left until halftime.

Spain shot 13 for 22 during that stretch, the U.S. just 5 for 22 – missing 12 of its last 13 shots in the run. But just when it looked like the Americans were in big trouble, it was their turn to rally.

A 14-4 U.S. run to close the half made it a 43-43 game at intermission, the burst capped by seven consecutive points over the final 70 seconds. And with that, it was a 20-minute game to decide who would play for medals and who would be going home earlier than planned.

The Americans didn’t trail again.

They opened the second half on a 15-4 run – making it a 22-4 run going back to late in the second quarter – and went on to lead by as many as 16 before taking a 69-63 edge into the fourth.

U.S. WOMEN DRAW AUSTRALIA FOR QUARTERFINALS

The next challenge for the U.S. women’s basketball team in its quest to win a seventh consecutive Olympic gold medal is Australia as the Americans on Monday drew their rival in the quarterfinals (Tuesday, 9:40 p.m. PT).

The Opals beat the U.S. in an exhibition last month in Las Vegas and will be the latest test for a U.S. team that has been challenged at the Tokyo Games unlike any other time during its gold medal run.

“Australia will be a formidable opponent because we know each other so well and we look forward to the challenge of getting out of the quarterfinals,” U.S. coach Dawn Staley said. “We certainly have to execute on both sides of the ball and continue to get better to advance.”

The U.S. and Australia are ranked Nos. 1 and 2 in the world and usually meet later in the Olympics, but the Aussies barely qualified for the quarters. The Opals needed to beat Puerto Rico by 24 points on Monday night to advance after dropping their first two games of the tournament.

Despite their struggles, there won’t be a fear factor for the Australians after the victory over the U.S. in Las Vegas.

“Obviously not the team we wanted to play in the quarterfinals, but we will fight and hope to play our best game,” Australia coach Sandy Brondello said.

Australia has never beaten the U.S. in the Olympics, losing to the Americans in the gold medal game in 2000, ’04 and ’08. The Australians also lost in the semifinals of the 1996 and 2012 Olympics to the U.S. as well.

The Americans have won 52 consecutive Olympic contests dating to the bronze medal game of the 1992 Olympics. They went undefeated in group play – albeit not in the dominant fashion the team is used to.

“It’s encouraging to continue to win knowing what we’re faced against,” Staley said. “We are a lot different than what we’ve been in the Olympic Games leading up to this one, in that we have just half of the team that’s been around and then the other half really hasn’t. When your makeup is such, you have a tendency to lean heavily on the people that have done it a whole lot.”

Nigeria became the first team to come within single digits of the U.S. since 2004 and France held an early fourth-quarter lead. Still, the Americans found ways to win and haven’t lost a game in group play since women’s basketball was added to the Olympics in 1976.

“The countries here at the Olympic Games, they pour into their women’s teams, and now you’re seeing the effects of it,” Staley said. “And that is great women’s basketball play. We know we’re in a dogfight every time we step on the floor. It’s great for those who just put the television on and sit down and watch players that they haven’t seen before, countries that they haven’t seen before, and see them play a great game.”

The other quarterfinals matchups on Wednesday include: Group A winner Spain (3-0) will face France (1-2, third place in Group B), Group C winner China (3-0) plays Serbia (2-1, second place in Group A), and Group C second-place finisher Belgium (2-1) drew a matchup with Japan (2-1, second place in Group B).

The U.S.-Australia winner will play the China-Serbia winner in one semifinal, and the Belgium-Japan winner plays the Spain-France victor in the other. The quarterfinals are win-or-go-home; a victory means teams are assured of two more games – the semifinals followed by a gold- or bronze-medal contest – before leaving Tokyo. The gold medal game is on Sunday.

Japan advanced to the quarterfinals for the second consecutive Olympics and coach Tom Hovasse likes the team’s chances of medaling for the first time in the country’s history.

“Now it’s an open field for us,” he said. “Yeah, I’m happy. We have confidence. We’ve beaten pretty much everybody left in the field. If we can play our game and shoot like we did today we’re going to be a tough out for anybody.”

More to come on this story.

Olympic beach volleyball: April Ross, Alix Klineman into semifinals

10 ore 3 min fa

By JIMMY GOLEN AP Sports Writer

TOKYO — Three-time gold medalist Kerri Walsh Jennings missed out on her bid to qualify for a sixth trip to the Summer Games. Fortysomething four-time Olympians Phil Dalhausser and Jake Gibb both retired after getting knocked out in Tokyo.

Defending Olympic champion Laura Ludwig is heading back to Germany after losing to the Americans in the quarterfinals on Tuesday (Monday night PT).

April Ross just keeps on playing.

The 2012 silver and 2016 bronze medalist joined with Alix Klineman to beat Ludwig and Maggie Kozuch, 21-19, 21-19, leaving Ross as the last woman with an Olympic medal still standing at the Shiokaze Park beach volleyball venue.

“It’s not like: ‘Oh, I have a medal. So, you know, I know how to do it,’” Ross said. “We just have to fight really, really hard. … So we’re stoked to still be in, and to be in the semis is amazing.”

The victory put the Southern Californians one more win away from a medal. A victory in the semifinals against Switzerland’s Joana Heidrich and Anouk Verge-Depre on Thursday (Wednesday night PT) would clinch at worst a silver; a loss would put them in the third-place match.

“Staying motivated is really easy at this point, at this stage of the game,” Klineman said. “I mean, we can pretty much taste a medal.”

A 39-year-old who already has said she is eyeing the 2024 Paris Games, Ross (Newport Harbor High, USC) inherited senior status on the U.S. beach volleyball team this week when first Dalhausser, then Gibb said after they were eliminated that they are going to retire.

But there’s no reason for Ross to think about the future – at least not beyond Thursday’s semifinal against the Swiss, who beat Brazil’s Rebecca Silva and Ana Patricia Silva Ramos, 21-19, 18-21, 15-12, on Tuesday.

“I just have no answer to those questions,” Ross said. “I’m here. I’m feeling good and ready to keep fighting.”

And this time she has the 31-year-old Klineman (Mira Costa High, Stanford) to keep her young. She is Ross’ third partner in as many Olympics and the first one who is younger.

“I’m not surprised at her success,” said Klineman, a first-time Olympian. “I train with her every day, and I’m around her all the time. And I just see how motivated and driven she is in all aspects of her life.”

Klineman said spending time with Ross has taught her what it takes to have sustained success – not just during practice but also on the road, when Ross might be reading a book about improving one’s mindset or listening to a podcast about recovery after working out.

“She’s taught me a lot in this journey. And so I’m really grateful to be by her side,” Klineman said. “She was just always trying to be at her best. And so I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she’s been here three times.”

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Ludwig, 35, opened her fourth Olympics with a loss to Switzerland, but then beat Japan in the next match of the round-robin and took the third by default because of a positive COVID-19 test that sent the Czechs home from Tokyo. She and Kozuch outlasted Brazil’s Agatha Bednarczuk and Eduarda Santos Lisboa in three tight sets to reach the quarterfinals.

They led the Americans by three points early on and still had an 18-17 lead before Ross and Klineman took the first set. In the second, the Americans pulled away after a 16-all tie.

For Ludwig, who took time off to have a baby after the Rio de Janeiro Games, the struggle was to focus on these Olympics and not what she had done in the past.

“It’s more about the pressure from yourself, because you achieved something and you want to achieve the same or more,” she said. “And you feel the potential and want to have everything. But it’s good to stay focused on what you have now and reflect what is possible now … and not think already about the future – what could have been, medal or not. I think that makes it more difficult and frustrating if you don’t make it.”

LAPD officer dies from COVID-19 complications

10 ore 22 min fa

A 27-year veteran officer with the Los Angeles Police Department died from COVID-19 related complications on Monday morning, Aug. 2, the department announced.

Officer Becky Strong was identified by the LAPD on Monday evening and was at least the eighth LAPD officer to die as a result of COVID-19. She began working for the department in 1994 and was recently assigned to the South Traffic Division, the LAPD said.

“Our deepest condolences go out to Officer Strong’s entire family, colleagues, and friends in this most difficult time,” the LAPD said in a tweet.

It is with an extremely heavy heart that we mourn the loss of LAPD Police Officer Becky Strong, who passed away this morning from complications of COVID-19. Our deepest condolences go out to Officer Strong's entire family, colleagues, and friends in this most difficult time. pic.twitter.com/iZANUFlIyN

— LAPD HQ (@LAPDHQ) August 3, 2021

As of July 27, the LAPD had reported nine deaths related to COVID-19 infections, with seven being sworn officers and two civilian employees, the City of Los Angeles said on Friday, July 30.

In total, the LAPD has had 2,787 employees test positive for COVID-19 and one reported reinfection, the city reported. As of Friday, 102 LAPD  employees were self-isolating at home due to exposure, the city said.

Prior to Strong’s death, the last reported COVID-19 death reported among LAPD officers was that of Sgt. Anthony White in April.

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Karsten Warholm beats Rai Benjamin, crushes 400 hurdles world record in Olympic race for the ages

10 ore 41 min fa

TOKYO — The 400-meter hurdles field had just settled into the starting blocks at Olympic Stadium on a brutally hot early Tuesday afternoon.

Norway’s Karsten Warhold, the World champion and pre-race co-favorite, nervously shrugged his shoulders twice and then turned to his left, looking back at Team USA’s Rai Benjamin, the other co-favorite, one lane behind him.

Warholm wouldn’t see Benjamin again for another 46 seconds.

Warholm triumphed in an Olympic final for the ages even more mind-blowing than the two years of relentless hype that  preceded it, rocketing to a 45.94 clocking to become the first person to break 46 seconds in the event.

“I mean, man it’s so crazy,” Warholm said.

Crazy? So was Benjamin finishing in 46.17, well under the previous world record of 46.70 the Norwegian set last month, and still finishing two-tenths back. Or Brazil’s Alison Dos Santos clocking 46.72 to become the third fastest man in history yet had to settle for the bronze medal.

“It was so strong, so strong, amazing,” Dos Santos said. “the race, I could see the results and whoa, so, so strong. Really, really amazing.”

In less than a month Warholm has knocked nearly a second off what had been for parts of three decades one of the sport’s most unapproachable world records—Kevin Young’s 46.76 winning time at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

“It’s just so big. It’s almost like history here,” Warholm, who also gets the gold medal for the understatement of the Games.

Not all the drama was on the track Tuesday morning.

Heading into the sixth and final round of the long jump, Brittney Reese was within reached of a second Olympic gold medal, tied with Nigeria’s Ese Brume at 22-feet, 10 1/2 inches, but leading on the tie breaker of second best jump.

But Reese could only watch helplessly as Germany’s Malaika Mihambo stole the gold medal on her final jump, landing at 22-11 3/4, and resigning Reese to silver in her final Olympics Tara Davis, the NCAA indoor and outdoor champion for Texas and former Agoura High standout, was sixth at 22-5 1/4.

“I think it was maybe the most exciting competition in women’s long jump history,” Mihambo said.

Five years earlier Reese lost the Olympic title in the fifth round. In the last two Games, Reese, a four-time World champion, has lost the gold medal by a total of two inches.

“It is a great feeling. I had a great career, and a great journey,” Reese said. “I have been in this sport for 13 years, and I can’t complain for finishing my career with a silver. It was a great competition, won by inches. I have  (Olympic and World Indoor and Outdoor) 11 medals, and I am at my fourth Olympics and got medals in three of them. There is no reason to hang my head, I just got beaten today.

“I am used to beating people in the sixth jump, and I got beaten in the sixth jump today, so that is funny.”

Young’s world record seemed more untouchable the longer it stood.

Until recently, Bryan Bronson had come the “closest” with a 47.03 clocking in 1998. Kerron Clement was the fastest man this century, running 47.24 in 2005.

While Warholm won the 2017 World Championships, it was Benjamin who got the sport thinking Young’s record might be vulnerable after all.

After Benjamin ran 47.02 to win the 2018 NCAA title for USC, equaling Edwin Moses as the second fastest man ever, Young predicted he would take the world record to 45.9.

Benjamin only fueled the world record speculation when he opened the 2019 season running 44.31 over the flat 400 behind then roommate Michael Norman’s 43.45 at the Mt. SAC Relays.

But he picked up a heel injury in the lead up to the 2019 World Championships in Doha where Warholm defended his title 47.42 to 47.66.

Healthy again, Benjamin just missed the mark in winning the Olympic Trials uncontested in 46.83 on June 29. It was no long longer a question of if Young’s record would fall, only when.

Two days later, Warholm finally erased Young from the record book, running 46.70 at the Bislett Games in Oslo.

“I think it’s an event that has gone through a renaissance and in the women’s I think the record has been broken a couple of times in the recent years,” Warholm said referring to Olympic and World champion Dalilah Muhammad lowering the women’s world record twice in 2019 and then Sydney McLaughlin breaking the 52-second barrier, going 51.90 at the Olympic Trials.

“As for the men’s, it’s been something that we’ve been talking a lot about and there have been some guys that have been running the time, so I was able to track the new world record, so it was about time someone broke it, and I’m just happy to be him.”

Benjamin, however, refused to engage in the world record conversation.

“To be honest with you, I’ve been trying to avoid that question because the Norwegian media has been butchering me about that, they say I talk about it too much,” he said during the prelims. “I’m just here to win a gold medal for Team USA and for myself. I’m really ready. I am just focused on winning, that is it.”

In a sneak preview of the final only hours later, Warholm and Benjamin were paired in the same semifinal Monday night, the Norwegian unnecessarily surging in the final meters to edge the American 47.30 to 47.37.

“The final will be so strong,” Dos Santos said. “It will be the beautiful race and that’s good for everybody.”

And it was indeed a thing of beauty.

Like Benjamin, Warholm tuned out the world record noise, focusing on plugging the missing hole in his otherwise glittering resume–an Olympic gold medal.

“It was the only thing missing from my collection,” he said. “I had a world championships (gold). I had European championships, I had the world record, the European record.

“The Olympic gold medal is what everybody talks about. I knew this race was going to be the toughest of my life, but I was ready.”

And he was.

Warholm, running in lane 6, bolting at the gun, opened a sizable lead down the backstretch. Benjamin began to reel him in around the final turn and then pulled close over the ninth hurdle, almost even at the 10th and final hurdle and seemed to have momentum. But Warholm surged again and Benjamin could not respond.

“I didn’t touch one hurdle,” Warholm said. “I was even able to find another gear coming home, so ‘wow’.”

That he had also ran well under the two previous world records provided little consolation for Benjamin.

“Knowing that you want to be the best, this is what it costs,” he said. “It’s hard. It hurts. But it is what it is.

“I always give myself 24 hours to process things. Right now I am just full of emotion. I have worked so hard. This is what matters. I got a medal but it just hurts to lose.”

Viewing the race from a few steps further back Dos Santos had a different perspective.

“Every guy can be better and (this race) broke the world record, it’s amazing,” he said.

Benjamin and Dos Santos, and especially Warholm hadn’t just run historically fast. They had changed the mindset that been entrenched in their sport for nearly 30 years.

Dos Santos recalled his first reaction as he looked up at the stadium scoreboard above the finish line as the results began to flash on the screen.

“This is possible.”

 

 

Angels’ youth movement continues with Chris Rodriguez’s first big-league start, and a loss

12 ore 13 min fa
  • Angels right fielder Adam Eaton leaps to catch a flyout by the Rangers’ Eli White in the second inning of Monday’s game in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Texas Rangers starting pitcher Dane Dunning throws to a Los Angeles Angels batter during the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani swings at a pitch from Texas Rangers starter Dane Dunning in the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Ohtani grounded out to shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa on the at-bat. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Rangers shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa is unable to reach a single hit by the Angels’ Jose Iglesias in the second inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the first inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Rangers’ Andy Ibanez shakes his left hand after being hit by a pitch thrown by Angels starter Chris Rodriguez in the second inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. Ibanez continued playing in the game. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Andy Ibanez of the Rangers scores on a passed ball against the Angels in the second inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Andy Ibanez is greeted by Rangers teammate Eli White after scoring in the second inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels first baseman Phil Gosselin reaches out to field a groundout by Texas Rangers’ Jason Martin in the fourth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Dane Dunning of the Rangers pitches against the Angels in the third inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels swings as he strikes out in the third inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Phil Gosselin of the Angels is greeted in the dugout after scoring in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani adjust his helmet during his at-bat in the fifth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez throws to the plate during the fifth inning of Monday’s game against the Rangers in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels shortstop Jose Iglesias, left, catches a throw to the bag as Texas Rangers’ Isiah Kiner-Falefa steals second base in the fifth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez pitches in the first inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Brock Holt is greeted by Rangers teammate Adolis Garcia after stealing home against the Angels in the sixth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Adolis Garci aof the Rangers is tagged out by Phil Gosselin of the Angels in the sixth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels starting pitcher Chris Rodriguez, left, and catcher Max Stassi, right, greet each other after working against the Texas Rangers in the sixth inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • The Rangers’ Brock Holt, left, connects for a run-scoring sacrifice fly in the seventh inning of a baseball game as Los Angeles Angels’ Max Stassi, center, and umpire Joe West, right, look on in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels tosses a ball as he sits in the dugout during a game against the Rangers on Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Angels center fielder Brandon Marsh reaches to field a single hit by the Rangers’ Curtis Terry in the seventh inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Angels manager Joe Maddon, left, takes the ball from starter Chris Rodriguez, center, as catcher Max Stassi, right, stands by in the seventh inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Joe Barlow of the Rangers crouches behind the mound before pitching against the Angels in the eighth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels adjusts his helmet during his final at-bat of the game in the eighth inning against the Rangers at Globe Life Field on Monday night in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Joe Barlow of the Rangers pitches against the Angels in the eighth inning at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • A fan holds up a sign with the likeness of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani on it as Ohtani, rear, stands on deck during the eighth inning of the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • Shohei Ohtani of the Angels walks back to the dugout after striking out in the eighth inning against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Spencer Patton of the Rangers pitches in the ninth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Rangers pitcher Spencer Patton and catcher Jonah Heim celebrate their 4-1 victory over the Angels on Monday night at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • Eli White #41, Jason Martin #50, and Adolis Garcia #53 of the Texas Rangers run to the infield after the 4-1 win over the Los Angeles Angels at Globe Life Field on August 02, 2021 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Richard Rodriguez/Getty Images)

  • The Angels’ Shohei Ohtani warms up before the team’s baseball game against the Texas Rangers in Arlington, Texas, Monday, Aug. 2, 2021. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

  • A fan looks at the screen on his phone, with an image of the Angels’ Shohei Ohtani standing by the on-deck circle during the first inning of the team’s game against the Rangers on Monday night in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

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ARLINGTON, Texas — When everyone else flipped their calendars from July to August, the Angels flipped theirs from 2021 to 2022.

The Angels gave the ball to their top two pitching prospects – neither of whom had ever started a big-league game before – on the first two days of August.

Chris Rodriguez, who had been up earlier this season as a reliever, pitched into the seventh inning in the Angels’ 4-1 loss to the Texas Rangers on Monday.

Rodriguez gave up four runs – three earned runs, two of which scored after he was out of the game – a day after top prospect Reid Detmers also took the loss in his big-league debut.

The moves with Rodriguez and Detmers were accompanied by the promotion of former top prospect Jo Adell, who didn’t play on Monday.

Before the game, Angels manager Joe Maddon straddled the line between the future and the present when explaining the philosophy behind the promotions.

“We’re at that point, organizationally, right now (when) it’s the right time to give opportunity to young players like this,” Maddon said. “It’s very important for us going in the offseason to know exactly what we have, and what we need to do to move forward for next year. Having said that, that does not mean conceding anything at all.”

Maddon certainly isn’t going to publicly say this season is over, not with two months to play. But their playoff chances are slim, and they currently have no idea when center fielder Mike Trout and third baseman Anthony Rendon will be back, further muddying the situation.

Few would question the decision to begin building toward 2022 by getting a look at some of the players who might or might not be key pieces, most notably the starters.

Rodriguez, 23, had shown the Angels impressive stuff in spring training, so much that they opened the season with him in the bullpen despite his lack of experience. A back injury in 2018 and 2019 and the pandemic in 2020 had limited him to three games in the previous three seasons.

He had a 3.66 ERA in 13 games in relief, sandwiched around a month with a shoulder injury. The Angels eventually decided they wanted to try him as a starter, because he could be more valuable and also because it was difficult to manage around him in the bullpen when they wanted to build in so many days off for him.

Rodriguez had a 4.87 ERA in just 20-1/3 minor league innings, but he apparently showed enough to warrant a return to the big leagues.

And in his first game back he clearly showed the potential to be a reliable major-league starter.

“I feel like it was a quality start,” Rodriguez said. “Things can always be better. I like the way I competed, and I got out of some jams. But then again, there are some situations where I can be better and I can avoid those runs. That being said, I’ve got to build off this one and keep it going.”

Rodriguez retired the Rangers in order in four of his six full innings. One of the runs he allowed was on a passed ball, and the second was on a double-steal. With runners at the corners and two outs in the fifth, Isaiah Kiner-Falefa broke from first and catcher Max Stassi’s throw to second was in the dirt. Shortstop José Iglesias’ return throw to the plate was too late to get Brock Holt.

Maddon said the Angels “got messed up” on the double-steal defense they had intended on that play.

The last two runs charged to Rodriguez scored after he was pulled in the seventh inning.

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Rodriguez threw 86 pitches, including 58 two-seam fastballs. He averaged 94.7 mph and hit 96 mph with his two-seamer. Rodriguez got called strikes or whiffs with 38 percent of his pitches, which is well above average.

“He kept getting better,” Maddon said. “That sinker came alive. He seemed to get more confidence in it. He got more relaxed on the mound.”

Rodriguez said he was happy to get the opportunity to start: “When I am a starter I feel like I’m in control of the game. I feel like the team is on my back and I like that feeling. That, to me, is important. I want to be in charge of the winning and losing. It’s such a blessing I was able to come up and start a game in the big leagues.”

Rodriguez certainly gave the Angels a chance to win, but their depleted lineup couldn’t support him. The Angels scored just one run in five innings against Dane Dunning, and then nothing against the Texas bullpen.

Matthew Stafford hurts his thumb, Rams cross their fingers

12 ore 22 min fa

IRVINE — Among the questions hanging over the Rams’ high expectations this season, one looms like a pin over a Super Bowl party balloon.

What if quarterback Matthew Stafford gets hurt?

The Rams found themselves facing that worry head-on Monday when Stafford went to the sideline after hitting his right thumb on a teammate’s helmet as he followed through on a pass late in a training camp practice.

There was no immediate indication of the severity of the injury, which affects the thumb on which Stafford had surgery in March to repair a ligament tear that hampered him the second half of the 2020 season.

“I don’t know anything yet. No more information yet,” said Coach Sean McVay, who dispenses all official Rams injury information.

McVay was asked what his gut reaction was when he saw this happen to his offense’s $27 million-per-year leader, for whom the Rams traded quarterback Jared Goff and three draft picks to the Lions in January.

“Probably what you’d expect,” McVay said with a slight smile.

Let’s guess: Two words. Oh, blank.

“I think he’ll be OK. We’ll just see what happens,” McVay said.

The injury happened during the Rams’ last practice in shorts and helmets before they’re permitted to start working out in pads on Tuesday, and five days before they scrimmage against the Dallas Cowboys on Saturday in Oxnard. Scrimmages are the closest thing to game action Rams starters will get before the regular season opens on Sept. 12. McVay holds them out of preseason games to reduce the risk they’ll get hurt.

Other context only worsens the blow if Stafford has to miss any time.

It comes after the Rams lost No. 1 running back Cam Akers to an Achilles tear sustained in an offseason workout on July 19, leaving Darrell Henderson as the team’s only experienced ball carrier.

And the way it happened bears an eerie resemblance to Goff’s thumb injury in the second-to-last regular-season game of 2020.

Goff needed surgery, missed the final regular-season game and was benched in favor of John Wolford, one of the first public signs that the 2018 Super Bowl quarterback had fallen out of favor.

Monday, Wolford, 25, stepped up and took first-unit practice reps as Stafford, 33, had the hand bandaged by Reggie Scott, the Rams’ vice president of sports medicine and performance.

Wolford, former Steelers backup Devlin “Duck” Hodges and second-year undrafted player Bryce Perkins are the other quarterbacks on the 90-man roster.

Stafford walked off the field with the rest of the team after practice, the thumb wrapped, his helmet dangling by the face guard from his other fingers, briefly covering it all with a towel as he walked past reporters.

Later, Stafford was seen walking out of the Rams’ UC Irvine facilities with the right hand still in a wrap, working his phone with his left.

McVay wouldn’t speculate immediately after practice, at which point Stafford hadn’t been examined.

But the coach sounded hopeful that it’s not serious – or that if it is serious, Stafford could return sooner than most players, the way legend says he did in 12 seasons in Detroit.

“Look at what he played through all last year, having to get the thumb cleaned up,” McVay said.

Without referring to Goff’s identical incident, McVay called a hand-on-helmet mishap “something that consistently occurs” as quarterbacks follow through on throws over a rush.

“It’s one of those things where I’m saying to myself, man, I feel stupid that I didn’t implement some of the things to prevent that,” McVay said. “I’ve seen some teams around the league that have those shells on their helmet where you can at least soften the blow when you do come down on top of it.

“What you say is hopefully you don’t have to learn the hard way, and you start to implement things like that to try and minimize the risk of injury.”

In other injury news, McVay said he had no updates on rookie defensive back Robert Rochell (wrist) and defensive lineman Bobby Brown III (thumb).

But suddenly, those weren’t the biggest questions.