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In honor of Independence Day, is providing unlimited access to all of our content from June 28th-July 4th! Presented by Tami Timmerman-Lashley

Black culture, in all its glory, will be on display over the 4th of July holiday weekend in New Orleans as thousands converge for the in-person return of the Essence Festival of Culture. The multiday event begins with a Thursday performance by comedian Kevin Hart, followed by ticketed nightly concerts at the Superdome on Friday through Sunday. Festival first-timers, rapper Nicki Minaj and country singer Mickey Guyton, perform Friday. Saturday's headliner is Janet Jackson and New Edition closes the event on Sunday. Free experiences covering tech, health and wellness, beauty and fashion are being offered inside the city's convention center.

With abortion now or soon to be illegal in over a dozen states and severely restricted in many more, Big Tech companies that collect personal details of their users are facing new calls to limit that tracking and surveillance. One fear is that law enforcement or vigilantes could use data troves from Facebook, Google and other social platforms against people seeking ways to end unwanted pregnancies. History has repeatedly demonstrated that whenever people’s personal data is tracked and stored, there’s always a risk that it could be misused or abused.

When the leaders of Finland, Sweden and Turkey met with NATO’s chief this week, some remained pessimistic the meeting would lessen Turkey’s objections to the Nordic pair’s historic request to join NATO. The government in Ankara had indicated for weeks that it would veto the applications unless its demands were met. Nearly three hours into Tuesday’s talks, journalists were invited to witness the nations’ foreign ministers sign a joint memorandum. The 10-article document addresses Turkey’s main objections with a promise that Finland and Sweden won't support a Kurdish militia and the network of an exiled Turkish cleric. They also pledged to lift an arms embargo against Turkey and to address Ankara's extradition requests.

The new head of the government’s road safety agency will intensify efforts to understand the risks posed by automated vehicle technology so it can decide what regulations may be necessary to protect drivers, passengers and pedestrians. In an interview, Steven Cliff, who was confirmed last month as head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said the agency is assessing crash data recently reported by automakers and tech companies. Any new regulations NHTSA may impose would fill what critics say is an urgent need to address the growing use of driver assisted systems. The systems have been linked to crashes involving deaths and serious injuries, though they also have enormous potential to prevent crashes.

Former U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon has thrown his support behind Karrin Taylor Robson in the Republican race for Arizona governor. Salmon announced the endorsement on KTAR radio's Mike Broomhead show Wednesday, a day after he dropped his own bid for the governor's office. He said Robson is a better choice than TV news personality Kari Lake because she has the political and business experience to lead the state. Lake has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump and is widely seen as the race frontrunner. But Robson has been gaining ground as she wins backing from traditional Republicans and GOP groups. The winner of the Aug. 2 primary will face one of two Democrats seeking their party nod: Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and former Nogales Mayor Marco Lopez.

Voters in Colorado’s Republican primaries have decisively rejected right-wing candidates for U.S. Senate, governor and secretary of state as the party prepares to challenge Democrats’ stranglehold on the state’s top offices. Voters on Tuesday also selected their November nominees in the state’s eight congressional districts, with a new, northern Colorado swing district in play after the state gained a seat with redistricting. In a state that’s trended purple over the past decade, Colorado’s congressional delegation includes two Democratic senators, with three-term Sen. Michael Bennet seeking re-election this year. Democrats hold a 4-3 advantage among U.S. representatives. Also on the statewide ballot are uncontested primaries for attorney general and state treasurer.

California authorities say a Sierra Nevada wildfire has destroyed has four structures and is a threat to more than 500 homes and other buildings. Cal Fire says the Rices Fire has grown to 769 acres near the Yuba River in Nevada County and remains uncontained Wednesday. A half-dozen small communities are under evacuation orders. On the central coast, the 325-acre Camino Fire in San Luis Obispo County is 30% contained and no structures are threatened. Cal Fire says the fire was ignited by a vehicle’s catalytic converter.

A new poll shows an overwhelming and growing majority of Americans say the U.S. is heading in the wrong direction, including nearly 8 in 10 Democrats. The poll, by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, finds that deep pessimism about the economy continues to plague President Joe Biden. Eighty-five percent of U.S. adults polled say the country is on the wrong track. Seventy-nine percent describe the economy as poor. The findings suggest Biden faces fundamental challenges as he tries to motivate voters to cast ballots for Democrats in November’s midterm elections. The poll shows only 39% of Americans approve of Biden’s leadership overall, while 60% disapprove.

A Paris court has ruled against extraditing to Italy 10 former left-wing militants, including some former Red Brigades members, convicted of domestic terrorist crimes in the 1970s and 1980s. The Italian nationals had been living in freedom in France for decades after fleeing Italy before they could be imprisoned to serve their sentences. The crimes in connection with which they were convicted include the 1980 killing of a Carabinieri paramilitary general and the kidnapping of a judge in the same year. All 10 have spent the last 14 months under French judicial supervision as judges deliberated on Italy’s extradition request following the activists’ arrests and police questioning a year ago. The court didn't explain its reasoning Wednesday.

An initiative to increase the minimum hourly wage in Tukwila, Washington, by more than $3 has qualified for the November ballot. The Seattle Times reports the Raise the Wage Tukwila campaign has submitted enough signatures to qualify for a vote, according to a new tally posted by elections authorities. The initiative process will move to the Tukwila City Council, which can pass the initiative into law or send it to the ballot. Currently, Tukwila employers must adhere only to the state’s minimum wage of $14.49 an hour, whereas SeaTac and Seattle employers are covered by city laws. SeaTac’s minimum wage is $17.54 for hospitality and transportation workers; Seattle’s is $17.27 for most workers, with some exceptions. Each is adjusted annually for inflation.

The U.S. government this week is holding its first onshore oil and gas sales from public lands since President Joe Biden took office. The lease auctions start Wednesday and conclude Thursday. They come after a federal court blocked the administration’s attempt to suspend federal lease sales because of climate change worries. About 200 square miles of public lands are up for sale in nine western states. Most of the parcels are in Wyoming. A coalition of environmental groups says in a lawsuit that the sales are illegal because officials ignored climate change impacts from burning fossil fuels.

A bison gored a 34-year-old Colorado man in Yellowstone National Park this week. The man's arm was injured. Park officials say the man from Colorado Springs was walking with his family near Giant Geyser on Monday when a bull bison charged the group. A video of the encounter appeared to show the man behind the bison when it charged other members of his party. The man appeared to be trying to keep himself between the bison and his family when a child ran away and the bison pursued him. The man grabbed the child and was thrown by the bison. Park officials say the case is still being investigated.

People who work to protect rivers and waterways have begun using drones to catch polluters in places where wrongdoing is difficult to see or expensive to find. The images they capture have already been used as evidence to accuse companies of wrongdoing. Now as the Clean Water Act turns 50, a network of Waterkeepers is looking to expand the use of this new investigative tool and is holding trainings. Drones are still rare in environmental enforcement, but perhaps due to the compelling images they capture, some states and localities are putting limits on their use.


Two of Congress’ staunchest conservatives repelled more centrist challengers to lock up Republican nominations on Tuesday. That happened even as the party’s voters chose to turn out a six-term incumbent in Mississippi. Illinois Republican Rep. Mary Miller, who called the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “historic victory for white life” during a weekend rally with former President Donald Trump — her spokesperson said she misspoke — defeated fellow GOP incumbent Rodney Davis. Another Trump ally, Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert, one of Congress’ most polarizing members, easily beat back a challenge from a more mainstream Republican. Mississippi Republican Rep. Steven Palazzo, a six-term incumbent, lost to Sheriff Mike Ezell.

Federal prosecutors say a former U.S. Coast Guard employee has pleaded guilty in a test score-fixing scheme that happened over seven years at an exam center in Louisiana. U.S. Attorney Duane A. Evans said in a news release Tuesday that Eldridge Johnson entered the plea June 23 to one count each of bribery and conspiracy to defraud the United States. Evans' office says Johnson faces up to 15 years for the bribery charge, five years for the conspiracy charge and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is set for Sept. 29. Two others have pleaded guilty in the case and are scheduled for sentencing.

Cambodia’s foreign minister has begun his second visit to Myanmar as a special envoy of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to the country, which has been mired in violence and civil unrest since the military seized power last year. State-run television says Prak Sokhonn arrived in Yangon and was welcomed by officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. ASEAN has been seeking to implement a five-point consensus it reached on Myanmar last year calling for dialogue among all concerned parties, provision of humanitarian assistance, an immediate cessation of violence and a visit by a special envoy to meet all parties. Myanmar’s military-installed government initially agreed to the consensus but has since made little effort to implement it.

Russian forces are battling to surround the Ukrainian military’s last stronghold in a long-contested eastern province, as shock still reverberates from Monday's Russian airstrike on a shopping mall that killed at least 18 people. Moscow’s battle to wrest the entire Donbas region from Ukraine saw Russian forces pushing toward two Luhansk province villages south of the city of Lysychansk while Ukrainian troops fought to prevent their encirclement. Meanwhile, search teams and relatives raced Wednesday to find people missing in the wreckage of the Amstor shopping center in the city of Kremenchuk. Ukrainian authorities say 20 people remain missing. An official said the blast was so powerful that investigators have found only body parts of eight more victims.

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