National News, Thursday, April 25th – Biden Enters Presidential Race

In less than four years,  former Vice President Joe Biden will be 80 years old.  Yet, instead of enjoying his golden years, he announced today, that he is formally joining the crowded Democratic presidential contenders as the 20th candidate from their party.  

Biden made his announcement saying the “soul of this nation” at stake if President Donald Trump wins re-election.

In a video posted on Twitter , Biden focused on the 2017 deadly clash between white supremacists and counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Biden noted Trump’s comments that there were some “very fine people” on both sides of the violent encounter, which left one woman dead.

“We are in the battle for the soul of this nation,” Biden said. “If we give Donald Trump eight years in the White House, he will forever and fundamentally alter the character of this nation — who we are. And I cannot stand by and watch that happen.”

Biden becomes an instant front-runner alongside Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is leading many polls and has proved to be a successful fundraiser . Biden has legislative and international experience that is unmatched in the Democratic field of candidates, and he is among the best-known faces in U.S. politics.

Biden will have to prove to younger voters though, that he’s not out of step with his party. He’s yet to outline his positions on the issues defining the 2020 Democratic primary, most notably “Medicare for All,” the universal health care plan authored by Sanders that has been adopted by virtually the entire Democratic field.

Biden, a native of Scranton, Pennsylvania, is betting that his working class appeal and ties to Barack Obama’s presidency will help him win over such skeptics. Obama hasn’t explicitly endorsed Biden’s bid at all.

The latest on a chemical leak in a north suburban Chicago has fire crews engaging in deadly chemical smoke and authorities over Chicagoland’s Beach Park say 31 people have been taken to hospitals after anhydrous ammonia leaked from containers that a tractor was pulling in a Chicago suburb.

Lake County Sheriff’s spokesman Christopher Covelli said that the number of hospitalized includes three law enforcement officers who are in good condition. Covelli says several others are in serious but stable condition.

Authorities say the leak happened at about 4:30AM this morning, causing toxic plumes of the chemical to be released in the air about 40 miles north of downtown Chicago.  Authorities have asked any residents within a 1-mile radius of the leak to close their windows and remain indoors.

With new measles cases popping up throughout the country, public health officials are still sounding the alarm about the potential for rapid spread on college campuses. 

U.S. measles cases are at their highest level in 25 years. 

Reports of infected students at college campuses has many public health officials concerned. 

“There are so many people in small enclosed spaces, so if you have someone who is unvaccinated, there could be a domino effect,” said nutrition student Natalie Gonzalez in California.

Doctors say the virus can stay active in a room for up to two hours. 

“It doesn’t have to be on a surface that you touch, the virus could be up in the air for that long,” said Loma Linda Health Chief Medical Officer Dr. Adrian Cotton. 

Many people in their 20s in California are less likely to be vaccinated and more vulnerable because of what some call “the Wakefield effect.”   The now discredited Wakefield study, published in 1998, implied the vaccine was linked to autism. 

“There’s a group now that don’t have the vaccination rate that they did 15, 20 years ago,” Cotton said. 

If you were born before 1957 or you had a series of vaccines when you were a child, you don’t need a booster. But Cotton says it’s better to be safe than sorry. 

“You can either just get a vaccination, a booster vaccination, or they can get a blood test at their doctor’s office that tells them whether or not their immunity still exists,” Cotton said. 

The rise in cases has prompted U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar to issue a statement emphasizing the safety of the measles vaccine. Future doctors like Ringer encourage immunizations. 

“The vaccine might hurt at first for kids but it’s not something that shows any longterm issues or side effects,” he said.

The hammer is likely coming down a bit on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook who could expect to pay a fine of some $5 billion in a settlement with federal regulators over privacy issues.

Facebook has been in negotiations with the Federal Trade Commission following concerns that the company violated a 2011 consent decree. Back then, company leaders promised to give consumers “clear and prominent notice” when sharing their data with others and to get “express consent.”

But, experts say, Facebook broke its promise. Just one example: giving user data to Cambridge Analytica, the political consulting firm that did work for the 2016 Trump campaign.

Facebook estimates the fine will be in the $3 billion to $5 billion range and has set aside $3 billion for payment. “The matter remains unresolved, and there can be no assurance as to the timing or the terms of any final outcome,” the company’s statement says.

This would not be the largest fine issued by the FTC

Buy something on Amazon and want to send it back?  Kohl’s will take it off your hands for you.   The department store chain announced Wednesday that starting in July, it will accept Amazon returns at all of its 1,150 stores.

Kohl’s says it will accept “eligible Amazon items, without a box or label, and return them for customers for free.” The program will expand a pilot introduced at Kohl’s stores in the Los Angeles, Chicago and Milwaukee markets in 2017.

The move highlights a major headache of shopping online:  You often can’t try something before you buy it, and if the item doesn’t work out, it can be a hassle to return it.   The Kohl’s-Amazon partnership offers one solution, at least for people with a Kohl’s nearby.

And why might Kohl’s want to partner with its online competitor?  Foot traffic and new customers.  If Amazon shoppers go to Kohl’s to make a return, perhaps they’ll pick up a few items while they’re at it.

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