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Trump Tweeted Pfizer Should Be ‘Ashamed.‘ Pfizer Responds

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Last week, Pfizer jacked up the price for several dozen prescription drugs; this week it received a dressing down from President Trump. Now, per the Wall Street Journal, the pharmaceuticals giant has responded to his criticism with a postponement on those price hikes after the company said CEO Ian Read had a sit-down with Trump on Tuesday. “The company will return these prices to their pre-July 1 levels as soon as technically possible,“ Pfizer announced in a statement, vowing to keep them in place until the end of 2018 or until Trump can implement a new price-reducing plan (whichever comes first). “We applaud Pfizer for this decision and hope other companies do the same. Great news for the American people!,“ the president tweeted Tuesday evening after Pfizer’s decision. It was a major change in tone from his tweet the previous day, in which he blasted the company.

“Pfizer & others should be ashamed that they have raised drug prices for no reason,“ he wrote Monday. “They are merely taking advantage of the poor & others unable to defend themselves, while at the same time giving bargain basement prices to other countries in Europe & elsewhere. We will respond!“ NPR notes lowering drug costs had been part of Trump’s 2016 campaign, and in May, the White House issued a “blueprint” to do so. NBC News reports HHS Secretary Alex Azar was also in attendance at the meeting between Trump and Read, a Trump supporter the Journal describes as “an odd target of Mr. Trump’s ire and unlikely executive to buckle under a president’s criticism.“ Fortune expresses caution on the possibly temporary price reversal, noting the Trump administration’s pricing blueprint had a “lack of detail” that “left many skeptical” it could force Big Pharma’s hand.

Girl, 10, Electrocuted Trying to Save Kittens

The Free Press WV

A Texas family says they are trying to “make sense of the senseless” in the tragic death of their 10-year-old daughter, who was electrocuted in their home. Greenlee Marie Buckley’s mother says the girl, who loved animals, died while trying to rescue two kittens that had become trapped behind their dryer on Saturday night, People reports. Police say the family has told them they previously complained about electrical issues in the rented home in New Boston, around 20 miles west of Texarkana, though Chief Gary McCrary says it’s “too early right now to start placing blame and responsibility.“ Police and power company investigators have visited the house, which the family had lived in for around 15 months.

Experts say that when a dryer gives off an electrical shock to the touch, it is a sign of one or more common but potentially lethal electrical issues, the Fort-Worth Star-Telegram reports. Greenlee’s grieving parents say there’s no reason their daughter should be gone. “Landlords need to be held accountable for the conditions of the homes that they let people live in,“ mother Shelby Roos tells KSLA. “All we want is a voice for our daughter who left us over a senseless act.“ Greenlee always “enjoyed helping those less fortunate than herself, and had always planned when she was older to become a veterinarian and to help rescue more animals,“ the family says in a GoFundMe campaign to honor her memory by helping animals in the community.

Critics Blast Nevada’s Plan to Execute Inmate With Fentanyl

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Critics are warning about the “very real risk of a botched execution” in what is to be the first US case of capital punishment using fentanyl. With manufacturers unwilling to sell any drugs to be used in executions, Nevada’s Department of Corrections quietly purchased small doses of fentanyl from Cardinal Health over several months and plans to use the prescription painkiller in combination with paralytic drug cisatracurium and sedative midazolam in the state’s first execution in 12 years, scheduled for Wednesday, per the Guardian and Vice. Critics, however, are putting up a fuss, and not only due to the secretive way officials went about acquiring the drug. Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid well known for its role in the opioid epidemic, has “never been used in an execution before. It’s extremely experimental,“ as Amy Rose of the American Civil Liberties Union puts it.

Especially concerning is the fact that the fentanyl will be mixed with midazolam, which “has been at the center of executions that have gone visibly wrong in every single state in which it has been used,“ says Maya Foa of anti-death penalty group Reprieve. She tells the Guardian execution strategies are normally reviewed by courts through inmate appeals. Not so in this case, as double murderer Scott Dozier—convicted of second-degree murder in 2005 and first-degree murder in 2007—accepts his fate and says he wants to die. It’s unclear if there’s enough opposition to stave off the execution, though the ACLU is looking into the legality of how Nevada obtained the fentanyl. But if it goes ahead, Gov. Brian Sandoval “is in danger of creating the very black market he is trying to eliminate,“ pharmaceutical expert Donald Downing argues at the Reno Gazette Journal.

You Should Stop Eating Kellogg’s Honey Smacks

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The number of people with salmonella linked to Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal has grown to 100 across the US, prompting the CDC to issue a blunt warning via tweet: “Do not eat this cereal.“ The company voluntarily recalled the cereal last month, but the FDA says it’s apparently still on grocery shelves and in kitchen cupboards, reports CNN. Though the official recall notice covers boxes with a date from June 2018 to June 2019, federal health officials now say consumers shouldn’t bother checking dates or sizes and just avoid all boxes.

“Products with earlier dates could also potentially be contaminated,“ says the FDA update. People in 33 states have been sickened, and 30 of the 100 people who have fallen ill wound up in the hospital. Pennsylvania (8), Massachusetts (7), and California (6) have the most cases, but illnesses are widespread and affecting all ages. The first cases were reported in March and the most recent ones on July 2. Symptoms include diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps. The source of the outbreak remains under investigation.

US budget deficit totals $74.9 billion in June

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The federal government recorded a $74.9 billion deficit in June, a month when the government often runs a surplus, as corporate taxes dropped sharply compared to a year ago.

The Treasury Department reports that the June deficit pushed the imbalance so far this year to $607.1 billion, 16.1 percent higher than the same period a year ago.

The Congressional Budget Office is forecasting that the deficit for the entire budget year will total $793 billion, reflecting in part the impact of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that Congress approved in December plus increases in government spending lawmakers approved earlier this year.

Treasury’s monthly report showed that revenue from corporate tax payments totaled $41 billion in June, a month when corporations make quarterly payments, down $20 billion from a year ago.

5 takeaways from the Russian election hacking indictment

The Free Press WV

As the American presidential election entered the final stretch in 2016, a dozen Russian military intelligence officers were scattered throughout Moscow, unleashing a massive cyber operation to disrupt the vote.

That’s according to an indictment issued Friday that says the officers developed malicious computer code known as malware, hacked into Democratic Party computers and silently watched as unknowing staffers typed.

The Russians stole the Democrats’ secret files. They took snapshots of their screens. They used fake emails to dupe Hillary Clinton’s staffers into exposing their passwords.

And then, the indictment says, the Russians released their stolen information to the world.

Here’s a look at what’s in the indictment:

THE HACKING WAS CONNECTED TO THE HIGHEST LEVELS OF RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT

The indictment said Russia’s Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff — known as GRU — had multiple units that “conducted large scale cyber operations” to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

One of the units was based on an unassuming side street in the Moscow suburb of Khimki, in a building referred to within the GRU as the “Tower,” according to the indictment. Another was based near central Moscow, not far from Defense Ministry headquarters.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has consistently asserted that Russia was not involved in the hacking or any attempt to interfere with U.S. elections. But GRU is part of the state machine, and their participation would indicate that Putin was closely involved in the effort.

THE HACKING WAS A SOPHISTICATED OPERATION

According to the indictment, the Russian hacking operation was so precise that they were able to pinpoint specific computers within the House Democratic campaign arm, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, and the Democratic National Committee that stored information related to the election. They were able to search the computers for certain terms, like “Hillary,” ″Cruz,” and “Trump.” They also copied folders, including opposition research and field operation plans.

The Russians hid their involvement through fake email addresses and identities and a network of computers located around the world — including in the United States. They paid for their infrastructure using cryptocurrency.

TRUMP ASKED THE RUSSIANS TO HACK CLINTON — AND THEY DID

The indictment says the Russians used “spearphishing” — a technique used to steal passwords or otherwise gain access to computers — throughout the summer of 2016 to hack individuals associated with the Clinton campaign.

One attempt noted in the indictment appeared to come hours after Donald Trump suggested Russians look for Clinton’s emails. On the morning of July 27, 2016, Trump gave a speech in which he said “Russia, if you’re listening,” he’d love to get a look at the thousands of emails Clinton had said she deleted from her tenure as secretary of state.

The indictment points to a hacking attempt that same day, saying that “after hours” the Russians attempted to “spearphish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton’s personal office.” Around the same time, the indictment says, they targeted 76 email addresses at the Clinton campaign’s domain.

In all, the indictment says the Russians targeted over 300 individuals associated with the Clinton campaign, the DCCC and the DNC.

THE RUSSIANS COMMUNICATED WITH A TRUMP-AFFILIATED PERSON

The indictment does not allege that that any Americans, including Trump campaign officials, were knowingly in contact with Russian intelligence officers. But it does say that Russians wrote to an unnamed person “who was in regular contact with senior members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump.”

On August 15, 2016, the Russians wrote, according to the indictment: “thank u for writing back ... do u find anyt(h)ing interesting in the docs i posted?”

Two days later, the Russians added, “please tell me if i can help u anyhow ... it would be a great pleasure to me.”

In September, the Russians wrote the person again and referred to a stolen DCCC document posted online. “What do u think of the info on the turnout model for the democrats entire presidential campaign.”

The person responded, “(p)retty standard,” according to the indictment.

THE RUSSIANS STOLE VOTER INFORMATION

The indictment says the Russians hacked the website of a state board of elections and stole the information of roughly 500,000 voters, including names, addresses, partial Social Security numbers, dates of birth and driver’s license numbers. They also hacked into a national election vendor that supplied software used to verify voter registration information.

Federal officials have said state election sites in at least 18 states were probed by the Russians. The indictment adds county offices — specifically in Georgia, Florida and Iowa — to the list of election administration sites they allegedly visited “to identify vulnerabilities.”

Department of Homeland Security officials have said there is no evidence of any election results being tampered with during the 2016 intrusions.

US inflation reaches 2.9 percent in June, highest in 6 years

The Free Press WV

Consumer prices rose in June from a year earlier at the fastest pace in more than six years, lifted by more expensive gas, car insurance, and higher rent.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the consumer price index ticked up just 0.1 percent in June. But inflation jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the largest annual gain since February 2012. Core prices, which exclude the volatile food and energy categories, rose 0.2 percent in June and 2.3 percent from a year earlier.

Solid economic growth and supply bottlenecks have pushed inflation past the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target, after price gains had languished below that level for six years. That is a key reason that Fed officials expect to raise short-term rates twice more this year.

Price gains may intensify if President Donald Trump makes good on his threat Tuesday to slap tariffs on $200 billion of Chinese goods, including furniture, hats, and handbags. If implemented, those duties, combined with tariffs put in place last week, would mean about half of China’s imports would be subject to extra duties, likely boosting costs for consumers.

Andrew Hunter, an economist at Capital Economics, said overall inflation may decline in the coming months as the recent gas price spikes level off. Prices at the pump averaged $2.88 a gallon nationwide Thursday, down 3 cents from mid-June.

“Nonetheless, with the labor market exceptionally tight and activity expanding strongly, we think that core inflation has further to rise,” Hunter said in a research note. “The prospect of further tariffs on Chinese imports will only add to that upward pressure.”

Household appliance prices rose in June from a year earlier at the fastest pace in five years, Hunter noted, lifted by a 13 percent increase in washing machine costs. Trump imposed tariffs on washing machines in January.

The Fed’s preferred inflation gauge has increased at a slower pace, up 2.3 percent in the past year. But most economists expect the Fed will raise rates a total of four times this year as it attempts to keep inflation in check without cutting off growth.

With consumers and businesses spending more, trucking firms have struggled to hire enough workers to keep goods moving. That has boosted shipping prices, lifting costs for businesses that may soon be passed on to consumers.

In June, gas prices increased 0.5 percent and have soared 24.3 percent in the past 12 months. That has sent prices at the pump toward nearly $3 a gallon, sucking more money from consumers’ wallets and offsetting roughly a third of the benefit from last year’s tax cuts.

Fuel oil has surged nearly 31 percent in the past year, pressuring airlines. Delta cut its full-year profit outlook Thursday, citing a $2 billion surge in fuel prices. Airlines have tried to offset rising fuel costs in a number of ways, including additional charges for passengers like bag fees.

Rents rose 0.3 percent in June and overall housing costs have increased 3.4 percent in the past year. Auto insurance prices also increased 0.3 percent last month and have jumped 7.6 percent from a year earlier.

New and used cars and medical care have also become more expensive. Clothes and household furniture fell in price last month.

Man With Autism, Lost in Woods, Uses Scout Training to Survive

The Free Press WV

A man with autism relied on his Boy Scout skills to find drinkable water and stay safe while he was lost in New York’s Adirondack woods for 50 hours during a heat wave, according to forest rangers and family members. Bruce Williams floated on his back in a lake to conserve his energy, located safe drinking water from a stream and stayed calm as he awaited his rescuers, who found him sitting on a rock Monday afternoon, according to the Times-Union of Albany. The 29-year-old was an Eagle Scout, the highest Boy Scout rank. The Albany-area resident has problems communicating. He also has weak peripheral vision and motor dysfunction, the AP reports. “He knew enough not to eat anything from the forest. He knew to drink water and stay hydrated. He knew to stay visible on that rock. He didn’t panic,“ said Lt. Brian Dubay, a state forest ranger who led the search. “So I think some of those skills are innate from that Boy Scout background and training.“

Williams left his family’s camp in the Adirondack foothills for a lake swim at about 2:30pm Saturday, when temperatures climbed into the 90s. Forest rangers using four-wheelers and drones began their search that evening. On Sunday, Williams found a tent site and lean-to near a lake and decided to take a swim to stay cool. “The current carried me all the way away,“ Williams told the newspaper. Far from shore and tired from swimming, he thought of the Boy Scouts, relaxed his body, and began to float. Rangers found him after 4pm Monday on a rock near the eastern shore of the lake. He was sunburned, bug-bitten and scratched up, but otherwise in good health and spirits, Dubay said. “It was a happy ending,“ said his mother, Janet Williams. “You don’t really hear too many happy endings.“

Social media users respond to Sacha Baron Cohen impersonating U.S. veteran and tricking Sarah Palin

The Free Press WV

Needless to say, after this incident, Sarah Palin is probably not a fan of comedian Sacha Baron Cohen.

The former vice presidential candidate posted on her Facebook that she was unknowingly involved in Cohen’s new show Who Is America?

Palin wrote that she initially agreed to sit down with the comedian, known for creating the characters Ali G and Borat, when she was told she would be speaking to an American veteran. Cohen, in his new CBS/Showtime show, allegedly poses as a disabled U.S. veteran and has tricked some politicians, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, whom he asked to sign his “waterboard kit.”

Sarah wrote: “Yup – we were duped. Ya’ got me, Sacha. Feel better now? I join a long list of American public personalities who have fallen victim to the evil, exploitive, sick ‘humor’ of the British ‘comedian’ Sacha Baron Cohen, enabled and sponsored by CBS/Showtime.”  Read More…

Bear Plays in Hot Tub, Drinks Margarita

Mark Hough had barely taken a sip of his Friday afternoon margarita when he heard twigs snapping and leaves rustling in his lush Altadena, California, backyard. At first he brushed it off as the sounds of his neighbor next door, but the noise grew louder. “So I got up, looked over in the bushes and lo and behold there’s a bear climbing up over my fence,“ Hough said Monday. The sighting was the first of many encounters Hough would have with the bear that particularly hot Friday afternoon—over the course of a few hours the bear availed itself of Hough’s backyard, his hot tub, and the cocktail he left behind, the AP reports.

After first spotting the bear, Hough retreated inside, only to later find the furry intruder “bobbling away in the Jacuzzi enjoying himself.“ Hough recorded video of the bear lolling in the unheated hot tub with the jets on. The creature played with the chlorinator and tossed the thermometer in the air, Hough said: “He was playing, having a grand old time.“ The bear’s dip only last a few minutes before it emerged and lumbered around the yard. Then it “popped out of the bushes, walked right over to the margarita, knocked it over and lapped it,“ Hough said. About an hour later, Hough saw the bear slumbering in a tree: “So he had his margarita, he had his Jacuzzi, and now he’s ready for an hour nap.“

Gator Forces Teen Up Tree, Then Waits, Hissing

The Free Press WV

It is a 911 call that is pure Florida: “My daughter’s stuck in a #######’ tree and there’s gators surrounding her!“ a woman tells the dispatcher. “Oh my God! Please hurry! Please hurry!“ All ended well, except for the gator. As the Orlando Sentinel reports, 15-year-old Jordan Broderick was floating along on a raft on a creek in Ocala National Forest when the alligator starting quickly heading toward her. Jordan grabbed a tree limb and climbed up the tree overhanging the creek, but the alligator remained in the water below, hissing, according to a police report.

“My presence failed to scare the alligator away, and it began encroaching on my area at which time I fired one single 223 round from my Bushmaster AR15 killing the alligator,” wrote the responding deputy. He estimated the gator was about 11 feet long, reports ClickOrlando, and the deputy says Jordan didn’t think she could hang on in the tree much longer. She was up there for about an hour, all told. The latter website adds some gator info: Hissing is generally a defensive behavior, suggesting that the alligator viewed Jordan more as a predator than a meal.

PepsiCo’s beverage sales dip, but snack sales increase

The Free Press WV

PepsiCo’s beverage sales are still struggling as the company tries to adjust to Americans’ changing drinking habits.

The maker of Gatorade, Mountain Dew and Tropicana said Tuesday that sales volume declined for its North American beverage unit in the second quarter. The dip came despite the company’s efforts in recent years to introduce new drinks that are in line with trends. Earlier this year, for instance, PepsiCo launched a sparkling, flavored water brand called Bubly, a nod to the success of drinks like La Croix.

Rival Coca-Cola has also been trying to update its lineup of drinks. It reports quarterly results later this month.

Even as Coke and Pepsi try to update their beverage lineups, they’re trying to find ways to keep people interested in their namesake brands. PepsiCo, for instance, has tried changing the artificial sweetener in Diet Pepsi, and Coca-Cola more recently started putting Diet Coke in taller, thinner cans and adding flavors to the drinks.

For the period ended June 16, higher sales in PepsiCo’s Frito Lay in North America covered some of the weakness in the beverage unit.

The company’s profit was weighed down by a higher tax rate, which it said was the result of a provisional transition tax expense. For the quarter, PepsiCo Inc. earned $1.82 billion, or $1.28 per share.

A year earlier it earned $2.11 billion, or $1.46 per share.

Stripping out certain items, earnings were $1.61 per share. That was 10 cents better than Wall Street had expected, according to a poll by Zacks Investment Research.

Total revenue rose to $16.09 billion from $15.71 billion, driven by higher sales in its Europe Sub-Saharan Africa unit and its Frito-Lay North America division. The performance was just shy of most projections.

PepsiCo still stuck to its full-year earnings forecast of $5.70 per share. Its shares rose nearly 3 percent to $110.80 in pre-market trading.

US Mint Lost $69M Making Pennies Last Year

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It costs more than a penny to make a penny. The US Mint produced more than 8.4 billion of the one-cent coins last year, at a cost of $0.0182 each with production costs and shipping taken into account. That means $69 million was lost when compared to the pennies’ total value, Quartz reports, the biggest loss in nine years. That’s probably because zinc (pennies are made mostly of zinc, with a small amount of copper) has been rising in price. Nickels, which are worth five cents, cost seven cents each to make, but dimes and quarters cost less than their value to produce, which ends up making up for the losses associated with pennies and nickels. Even so, petitions abound on the internet to abolish the penny and nickel.

Statue of Liberty Goof Costs the USPS $3.5M

The Free Press WV

The United States Postal Service’s money woes just got $3.5 million worse, and the Statue of Liberty is to blame. A judge ruled last week that the agency did commit copyright infringement when it used an image of Robert S. Davidson’s Statue of Liberty on a stamp it issued in 2011. The Lady Liberty that towers over New York Harbor was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi; Davidson’s replica stands before the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, reports Fast Company. The Washington Post (which has an image of the stamp) in December 2013 reported that the USPS had obtained the image from Getty Images but didn’t also seek permission from Davidson, likely because the USPS assumed what it was using was in the public domain. Not so.

A stamp collector had identified the mix-up in 2011, and the USPS was made aware—but then it printed another 1.13 billion of the stamps on top of the 3.5 billion it had already made, reported Artsy in 2017. As such, the suit claimed the infringement was knowingly committed. Identical copies of works in the public domain (which the statue is) aren’t covered by copyright infringement protections. But Davidson argued in his suit that he wasn’t trying to create a replica but rather to craft a fresher, more feminine version. Per the ruling, “he envisioned his mother-in-law as inspiration ... and viewed her picture every night during the construction of the face of the statue.“ The judge ruled the “plaintiff succeeded in making the statue his own creation, particularly the face.“ The amount owed: $3,554,946.95 in royalties, plus interest.

Baby found alive buried under debris in Montana woods

The Free Press WV

A 5-month-old infant who miraculously survived more than nine hours being buried under a pile of sticks and debris in the woods of western Montana suffered only minor injuries despite wearing wet and soiled clothes in cold weather, authorities said.

The baby boy is otherwise in good condition, authorities said.

Missoula County Sheriff’s deputies were called about 8 p.m. Saturday about a man threatening people in the Lolo Hot Springs area of the Lolo National Forest. Deputies apprehended the man, who indicated that a baby was buried somewhere in the woods.

The sheriff’s office hastily put together a search crew of federal, state and local officials that combed the forest outside the hot springs for six hours before a deputy heard a baby’s cry at about 2:30 a.m. Sunday.

He found the baby face-down under the pile of sticks and debris, dressed only in a wet and soiled onesie in the 46-degree (8-degree Celsius) weather.

“He suffered some minor scrapes and bruising but overall is in good health,” sheriff’s spokeswoman Brenda Bassett said in a statement Monday.

The baby was taken to a hospital. Custody of the child has been referred to the state Division of Child and Family Services. Spokesman Chuck Council declined to answer any questions about where the child will be placed or how the baby will be cared for, citing medical privacy.

Francis Crowley, 32, was being held on $50,000 bail on a charge of criminal endangerment. Additional charges will follow, the sheriff’s office said in a statement Sunday.

“For all of us at the sheriff’s office, this is what we call a miracle,” the statement said. “For the officers who were present for this event, it’s especially hard knowing what this small baby endured in the last 24 hours.”

Crowley is from Portland, Oregon, and was previously arrested in June in Missoula on a fugitive warrant from Oregon, the Missoulian reported. Crowley was released when Oregon officials decided not to extradite him, Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks said.

The nature of Crowley’s relationship to the baby was not immediately clear. There was no information on whether Crowley had an attorney.

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