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News that Elon Musk has agreed after all to proceed with his $44 billion deal to buy Twitter may have felt like a stunning surprise from the brash billionaire who loves to shock. It sent shares of the social media platform soaring and stoked alarm among some media watchdogs and civil rights groups. But it wasn’t surprising to expert observers of the monthslong rollercoaster of the Twitter vs. Musk legal battle, as Twitter tried to compel the world’s richest man to consummate the buyout. A combination of gambles or missteps by Musk and potential advantages that didn’t pan out made his hand appear weak in the looming trial.

The number of available jobs in the U.S. plummeted in August compared with July, a sign that businesses may pull back further on hiring and potentially cool chronically high inflation. There were 10.1 million advertised jobs on the last day of August, down a huge 10% from 11.2 million openings in July. In March, job openings had hit a record of nearly 11.9 million. The sharp drop in job openings will be welcomed by the Federal Reserve. Fed officials have cited the high level of openings as a sign of strong labor demand that has compelled employers to steadily raise pay to attract and keep workers.

Devastated by Russia’s invasion eight months ago, the Ukrainian economy will plunge 35% this year. That's according to a World Bank forecast Tuesday. The war has destroyed factories and farmland and displaced millions of Ukrainians. The 189-country anti-poverty agency estimates that rebuilding Ukraine will cost at least $349 billion, 1.5 times the size of the country's prewar economy. Still, the bank’s assessment marks an upgrade from the 45.1% freefall it forecast in June. And it expects that the Ukrainian economy will return to growth in 2023, expanding 3.3% — though the outlook is highly uncertain and will depend on the course of the war.

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President Joe Biden, a self-described “car guy,″ often promises to lead by example on climate change by moving swiftly to convert the sprawling U.S. government fleet to zero-emission electric vehicles. But efforts to eliminate gas-powered vehicles from the fleet have lagged. Biden last year directed the government to purchase only American-made zero-emission passenger cars by 2027. But the General Services Administration, which buys two-thirds of the federal fleet, says there are no guarantees. It cites big upfront costs and specialized agency needs, such as off-road vehicles for national parks that have limited EV options. About 13% of new light-duty vehicles purchased across the government this year — meaning about 3,550 — were zero emissions.

The U.S. government will soon spend $25 million to help patients access experimental drugs for the incurable illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The new strategy blurs the line between research and treatment. And it breaks decades of precedent in which responsibility for funding so-called compassionate use fell to drugmakers. But after years of being rebuffed by drugmakers, ALS patients lobbied Congress to help fund access to not-yet-approved drugs. While it offers a critical new treatment option for ALS patients, it also raises the possibility that federal dollars could be tapped for unproven treatments of other diseases in the future.

U.S. regulators have revealed their plan to allow foreign baby formula manufactures to stay on the market long term. The Friday announcement from the Food and Drug Administration aims to diversify the nation’s highly concentrated formula industry and prevent future shortages. The U.S. has been forced to turn to foreign suppliers to boost formula supplies after FDA inspectors temporarily shuttered the nation’s largest domestic manufacturing plant in February. Since then the U.S. has imported the equivalent of 300 million bottles of formula. Under the new plan, foreign manufacturers will have until 2025 to comply with U.S. standards for formula nutrition, labeling and manufacturing.

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Consumers spent a bit more in August than the previous month, a sign the economy is holding up even as inflation lifts prices for food, rent, and other essentials. Americans boosted their spending at stores and for services such as haircuts by 0.4% in August, after it fell 0.2% in July, the Commerce Department said Friday. The government’s report also showed that an inflation gauge closely monitored by the Federal Reserve rose 0.3% last month, faster than July.

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U.S. health officials have approved a much-debated drug to treat the deadly illness known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The approval Thursday follows an intense lobbying campaign by patients and advocates, though it's also likely to raise questions about the standards used to review experimental medicines. The Food and Drug Administration approved the medication from Amylyx Pharmaceuticals based on results from one small, mid-stage study. The agency's internal scientists repeatedly said the company's results were not convincing. But thousands of patients have urged the FDA to be flexible and grant patients' access. Lou Gehrig’s disease has no cure and most patients die within five years of initial symptoms.

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As new estimates come in it becomes increasingly likely that the damaged Nord Stream pipelines in the Baltic Sea will spew more climate-changing methane into the atmosphere than any previous known single event. The leaks, which are being called an act of sabotage, highlight the problem of large methane escapes elsewhere around the globe. Levels of the gas are rising in the atmosphere, warming the Earth to higher temperatures.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will nearly double — to almost $1 billion — the money available for states to acquire electric school buses. It's responding to a flood of requests for money for cleaner models of the familiar yellow buses that about 25 million children ride each school day. The EPA made $500 million available for clean school buses in May, but said Thursday that “overwhelming demand from school districts across the country, including in low-income communities,″ caused it to increase the amount to $965 million. The money is from the agency’s Clean School Bus Program, which includes $5 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law. School districts from all 50 states have applied under the program.

The economy shrank in the first half of this year, underscoring fears of a broad-based slowdown that could lead to a recession. At the same time, the number of people seeking unemployment benefits fell to a five-month low. Inflation, meantime, remains near its highest level in four decades, though gas costs and other prices have eased in recent weeks. Six months of economic contraction is a long-held informal definition of a recession. Yet nothing is simple in a post-pandemic economy in which growth is negative but the job market strong. The wide range of data is key in helping define when a recession hits.

Average long-term U.S. mortgage rates rose this week for the sixth straight week, marking new highs not seen in 15 years. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac reports that the average on the key 30-year rate climbed to 6.70% from 6.29% last week. The average rate on 15-year, fixed-rate mortgages, popular among those looking to refinance their homes, jumped to 5.96% from 5.44% last week.  Rapidly rising mortgage rates threaten to sideline even more homebuyers after more than doubling in 2022. Last year, prospective homebuyers were looking at rates well below 3%.

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Battered by surging consumer prices and rising interest rates, the U.S. economy shrank at a 0.6% annual rate from April through June, the government announced Thursday, unchanged from its previous second-quarter estimate. It marked the second consecutive quarter of economic contraction, one informal rule of thumb for a recession. Most economists, citing a strong and resilient American job market, believe the world’s biggest economy is not yet in a downturn. Consumer spending grew at a 2% annual rate, but that gain was offset by a drop in business inventories and housing investment.

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The number of Americans filing for jobless benefits dropped last week, a sign that few companies are cutting jobs despite high inflation and a weak economy. Applications for unemployment benefits for the week ending Sept. 24 fell by 16,000 to 193,000, the Labor Department reported Thursday. Last week’s number was revised down by 4,000 to 209,000. First-time applications generally reflect layoffs. The current figures are very low historically and suggest Americans are benefiting from an unusually high level of job security.

U.S. public health officials say at-risk people who have received just one dose of the monkeypox vaccine have appeared to be significantly less likely to get sick from the virus. Still, on Wednesday they urged a second dose for full protection. It's the first look public health officials have offered into how the Jynneos vaccine is working against the monkeypox outbreak. The virus is primarily spread among men who have sex with infected men.

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President Joe Biden says his administration's goal of ending hunger in the U.S. by the end of the decade is ambitious but doable, if only the nation would work together. It was the president at his most optimistic, sketching out a future where no child in the U.S. would go hungry, and diet-related diseases would diminish because of better, healthier food alternatives and access to vast outdoor spaces. Biden says, “Everyone, everyone has an important role to play.” According to federal officials, some 10% of U.S. households in 2021 suffered food insecurity, meaning they were uncertain they could get enough food to feed themselves or their families.

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President Joe Biden is warning the oil and gas companies against increasing prices for consumers as Hurricane Ian makes landfall in Florida. Biden's message to the industry is: “Do not, let me repeat, do not use this as an excuse to raise gasoline prices or gouge the American people." Biden says the hurricane “provides no excuse for price increases at the pump” and if it happens, he'll ask federal officials to determine ”whether price gauging is going on.” The president is putting companies on notice: “America is watching. The industry should do the right thing,."

Federal officials say an increasing number of fake prescription pills containing potentially deadly fentanyl are helping drive overdose death rates to record levels in the U.S. And officials warn that some of the pills are being manufactured in rainbow colors designed to look like candy. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Tuesday that Drug Enforcement Administration agents are working to crack down on violent drug cartels in Mexico believed to be trafficking the drugs into the U.S. He said that between May and September, the DEA and local police around the country seized more than 10 million fentanyl pills and hundreds of pounds of powder.