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In our news wrap Thursday, Major League Baseball players voted to end a lockout that threatened the 2022 season, inflation at the consumer level has hits a 40-year high, the Senate pressed to finish a bill funding the government through the rest of the federal fiscal year, and the Biden administration extended a COVID mask mandate for travelers on planes, trains and other public transportation.
In the day's other news: Inflation at the consumer level has hit a new 40-year high. the U.S. Labor Department reports that retail prices jumped 7.9 percent over the 12 months ending in February.
Surging energy, food and housing costs were the biggest contributors, pushed by consumer spending and supply shortages. The numbers do not include a new surge in gas prices triggered by Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
But Republicans and the White House sparred today over who's more to blame, President Biden or Russia's Vladimir Putin.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY):
Gas at over $4 a gallon. And what does Joe Biden say? He said, it's all blamed on Russia. Energy prices have been going up dramatically from the day he took office.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary:
There's also no question that, when a foreign dictator invades a foreign country, and when that foreign dictator is the head of a country that is the third largest supplier of oil in the world, that that is going to have an impact.
Many economists are now saying that inflation will peak later than first expected and higher than expected.
U.S. officials now say that North Korea tested a powerful new long-range missile in two recent launches. The Pentagon warned that the missile may well be capable of reaching the United States. It alerted American forces in the Pacific to expect a possible full-range test. South Korea said that the North may try to disguise the weapon as a space vehicle.
Major League Baseball and the players union reached a tentative labor deal today. It ends a 99-day lockout, and preserves a full regular season. It also expands the playoffs to 12 teams, raises the so-called luxury tax, and boosts pay for younger players. Opening Day will have to be pushed back a week to April 7.
In Chicago, the actor Jussie Smollett faced sentencing this evening for falsely reporting a hate crime. He had been convicted of lying to police about being the victim of a racist homophobic attack. In court today, prosecutors read a letter from the city's police superintendent that said Smollett did real damage.
SAMUEL MENDENHALL, Special Prosecution Team:
The overwhelming stress and fatigue that was put on the Chicago officers who were involved in the case was immense. The city is a victim of Mr. Smollett's crime, because of his false report caused CPD to expand scarce resources that could have been devoted to solving actual crime, increasing public safety.
Smollett could get up to three years in prison.
The Biden administration has extended a COVID mask mandate for planes, trains, and other public transportation through April 18. It had been set to expire March 18. The extra month gives the CDC time to formulate new guidance regarding masking and travel.
Also today, the U.S. Justice Department named a chief prosecutor to go after pandemic relief fraud. Attorney General Merrick Garland said that investigators have already turned up $8 billion in suspected fraud. That is out of about $5 trillion that Congress approved.
Victims of opioid abuse confronted the owners of Purdue Pharma today in federal bankruptcy court. Members of the Sackler family listened to more than two dozen virtual testimonies that their company poisoned lives with the painkiller OxyContin. One recovering addict said — quote — "I hope you hear our names in your dreams."
The Sacklers have denied responsibility, but they have agreed to a $6 billion settlement.
And on Wall Street, oil prices fell again to $106 a barrel. But, this time, it wasn't enough to take the pressure off stocks. The Dow Jones industrial average lost 112 points to close at 33174. The Nasdaq fell 125 points. That's 1 percent. The S&P 500 slipped 18.
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