Employers add a dismal 194,000 jobs in September, unemployment rate at 4.8%

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(WASHINGTON) — Hiring in the U.S. fell far below expectations last month, with employers adding just 194,000 jobs versus the expected 500,000, the Department of Labor said Friday.

The unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.8%, the DOL added, but the latest hiring data comes after dismal job growth seen in August as well. Some 366,000 jobs were added in August, according to revised data released on Friday, and over a million jobs were added in July.

The more-contagious delta variant’s impact on the recovery is likely reflected in the disappointing figures, as the labor market still finds itself at the mercy of the virus. The unemployment rate still remains elevated compared to the pre-pandemic 3.5% seen in February 2020.

Notable job gains last month occurred in the hard-hit leisure and hospitality industry, which added some 74,000 jobs. Employment in leisure and hospitality is still down by some 1.6 million jobs, or 9.4%, compared to data before the COVID-19 shock.

Job growth in September was also seen in professional and business services (where hiring rose by some 60,000), retail trade (which saw an increase of 56,000 jobs), and transportation and warehousing (which gained 47,000 jobs).

Some labor economists say that despite the disappointing top line numbers in the latest employment report, there is still reason to have optimism about the recovery going forward.

“Despite the weak growth in September, today’s report is a glimpse in the rearview mirror,” Daniel Zhao, a senior economist at hiring site Glassdoor, said in a commentary shared with ABC News on Friday. “With the Delta variant wave receding, the worst of the Delta wave may be behind us.”

Disparities in the pandemic’s impact is still reflected in the latest data. The unemployment rate for white workers was 4.2% last month compared to 7.9% for Black workers and 6.3% for Hispanic workers.

Zhao also noted that the latest report from the Labor Market is the first to reflect the expiration of federal enhanced unemployment benefits, yet the unemployment rate fell only slightly to 4.8%.

“The decelerating jobs growth in September is likely to disappoint employers and policymakers that hoped the expiration of enhanced UI benefits would push Americans back into the labor force,” he said. “Ultimately, the September report will not be the final word in the debate over the impact of UI benefits.”

“As we head into the fall, the resumption of school reopenings and expiration of UI benefits may push some workers back into the labor force, but red-hot labor demand is likely to keep labor shortages top of mind for employers,” Zhao added.

The demand for labor is reflected in part in the rise in wages seen in recent months. In September, hourly earnings for all employees rose by 19 cents to some $30.85, and average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 14 cents to $26.15.

Meanwhile, approximately 13.2% of workers teleworked last month due to the pandemic, the DOL said, reflecting a trend that economists predict is likely here to stay even when the virus threat recedes.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov win 2021 Nobel Peace Prize

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(OSLO, Norway) — Journalists Maria Ressa and Dmitry Muratov won the Nobel Peace Prize on Friday.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which is responsible for selecting the Nobel Peace Prize recipients each year, decided to award this year’s prize to both Ressa, of the Philippines, and Muratov, of Russia, “for their efforts to safeguard freedom of expression, which is a precondition for democracy and lasting peace.”

Along with the notoriety, they will receive gold medals and share a cash award of 10 million Swedish krona, or about $1.14 million.

The Norwegian Nobel Committee praised Ressa and Muratov for being “representatives of all journalists who stand up for this ideal in a world in which democracy and freedom of the press face increasingly adverse conditions.”

“Maria Ressa uses freedom of expression to expose abuse of power, use of violence and growing authoritarianism in her native country, the Philippines,” the committee said in a statement Friday. “Dmitry Muratov has for decades defended freedom of speech in Russia under increasingly challenging conditions.”

Ressa, 58, co-founded the Philippines-based online news site Rappler in 2012. As a journalist and Rappler’s CEO, she “has focused critical attention” on Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s controversial policies, including his “murderous anti-drug campaign,” according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“The number of deaths is so high that the campaign resembles a war waged against the country’s own population,” the committee said. “Ms. Ressa and Rappler have also documented how social media is being used to spread fake news, harass opponents and manipulate public discourse.”

Ressa has been the target of multiple arrests and an online hate campaign after publishing articles critical of the Duterte regime. She was named a 2018 Person of the Year by TIME magazine.

In a speech at the United Nations General Assembly in New York City in 2019, Lebanese-British human rights lawyer Amal Clooney described Ressa, her client, as “a Filipino journalist who stands at 5 foot 2 but stands taller than so many of us in her courage and personal sacrifice for the cause of telling the truth.”

Muratov, 59, co-founded the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta in 1993. He has been the paper’s editor-in-chief since 1995. Novaya Gazeta, with Muratov at its helm, “is the most independent newspaper in Russia today, with a fundamentally critical attitude towards power,” according to the Norwegian Nobel Committee.

“The newspaper’s fact-based journalism and professional integrity have made it an important source of information on censurable aspects of Russian society rarely mentioned by other media,” the committee said. “Since its start-up in 1993, Novaja Gazeta has published critical articles on subjects ranging from corruption, police violence, unlawful arrests, electoral fraud and ‘troll factories’ to the use of Russian military forces both within and outside Russia.”

For years, Novaya Gazeta has been one of the few national news publications in Russia to report critically on Russian President Vladimir Putin, conducting in-depth and dangerous investigations into the regime’s alleged human rights abuses and corruption. In 2007, Muratov won an International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists for his work as the “driving force” behind Novaya Gazeta.

Both Muratov and his Novaya Gazeta are seen as bastions of Russia’s besieged free press. Since the newspaper’s founding, six of its journalists have been killed, including investigative reporter Anna Politkovskaya, who was gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on Putin’s birthday in 2006. Novaya Gazeta’s journalists continue to receive threats for their coverage.

“Despite the killings and threats, editor-in-chief Muratov has refused to abandon the newspaper’s independent policy,” the Norwegian Nobel Committee said. “He has consistently defended the right of journalists to write anything they want about whatever they want, as long as they comply with the professional and ethical standards of journalism.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov congratulated Muratov on winning the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize.

“He has consistently worked in accordance with his ideals, he has adhered to his ideals, he is talented and brave,” Peskov told reporters in Moscow on Friday. “It’s a high appraisal and we congratulate him.”

The Norwegian Nobel Committee said freedom of expression and freedom of information are “crucial prerequisites for democracy and protect against war and conflict,” and that the award of the prestigious prize this year to Ressa and Muratov “is intended to underscore the importance of protecting and defending these fundamental rights.”

“Free, independent and fact-based journalism serves to protect against abuse of power, lies and war propaganda,” the committee added. “Without freedom of expression and freedom of the press, it will be difficult to successfully promote fraternity between nations, disarmament and a better world order to succeed in our time.”

Members of the press have been Nobel Peace Prize recipients since as early as 1907, when Italian journalist Ernesto Teodoro Moneta won “for his work in the press and in peace meetings, both public and private, for an understanding between France and Italy.” The prize that year was also given to French jurist Louis Renault “for his decisive influence upon the conduct and outcome of the Hague and Geneva Conferences.”

Last year’s Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the World Food Program, the food-assistance branch of the United Nations, “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”

Peace was the fifth and final prize category that Swedish inventor and scholar Alfred Nobel mentioned in his last will and testament. He left most of his fortune to be dedicated to the series of awards, the Nobel Prizes.

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded annually to “the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses,” as described in Nobel’s will.

All Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, except for the Nobel Peace Prize, which is presented in Oslo, Norway.

To date, the youngest Nobel Peace Prize laureate is Malala Yousafzai, who was 17 years old when awarded the 2014 Peace Prize. Of the 107 individuals awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, just 17 are women.

Only one person has declined the Nobel Peace Prize: Vietnamese politician Le Duc Tho, who was awarded the prize in 1973 with former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger for negotiating the Vietnam peace agreement.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

World Mental Health Day: If you’re feeling depressed or anxious, you’re not alone

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(NEW YORK) — Shayla, a 22-year-old from Georgia, has had days during the coronavirus pandemic when she said it has been a struggle to get out of bed.

The part-time college student said she was out of work for a time due to restaurants being closed during the lockdown, and in addition to the financial stress, struggled with not being able to see friends and socialize.

As a person with an underlying health issue, she said she also struggled with fears about getting COVID-19 since she is at risk for complications from the virus.

“It has been very hard on my mental health,” said Shayla, who asked that her last name not be used. “I had a lot of things to think about already and then COVID just added to it, so it was a lot of pressure.”

Shayla turned to therapy to cope, the first time in her life she has sought professional help for her mental health.

“It was like I was just in this box and I didn’t know how to get out of it,” she said. “Mentally and physically, I was just exhausting myself.”

Shayla is not alone in her mental health struggles during the pandemic, research shows.

In the United States, rates of anxiety and depression remain higher than they were pre-pandemic, according to data released this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Mental health experts have described the pandemic as a kind of “perfect storm” in negatively impacting mental health.

In addition to the fear, grief and anxiety around the virus itself, for many people the pandemic has brought on financial instability, job loss, isolation, additional caregiving responsibilities, uncertainty around school and work and related political disagreements.

Now as the global community marks World Mental Health Day on Oct. 10, the pandemic has continued far beyond what people initially thought possible, for nearly two years.

“I’ve heard the pandemic described as a disaster of uncertainty because it seems like the finish line keeps moving,” said Dr. Erica Martin Richards, chair and medical director of the department of psychiatry and behavioral health at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington, D.C. “And that makes it harder to come up with a plan [to cope].”

The pandemic has also proven to disproportionately impact women’s mental health.

One study, published by the Kaiser Family Foundation in April, found that 55% of women across all age groups said their mental health had declined during the pandemic, compared to 38% of men. Another, published last month in Lancet Regional Health-Americas, also found women were more likely than men to report higher psychological distress during the pandemic, especially anxiety.

Richards, also an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said women’s mental health has suffered disproportionately during the pandemic for a number of reasons.

First, even in non-pandemic times women are already two to three times more likely than men to experience a major depressive episode in their lifetime, according to Richards.

Then during the pandemic, women took on additional caregiving responsibilities and were hit disproportionately hard by job loss, data shows.

Women, and especially women of color, also faced more barriers to accessing support during the pandemic, according to Richards.

“The pandemic uncovered a lot of things that people are typically able to cope with because they’ve had years to develop those coping strategies,” she said. “When you don’t have that anymore, a lot of people felt more isolated and felt like there was a lack of overall support.”

For some women, their mental health struggles may have played out during the pandemic in an increasing dependence on alcohol, or increased control over their food, according to Dr. Jessi Gold, an assistant professor in the department of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine.

Data shows that incidences of eating disorders and alcohol-related liver disease rose during the pandemic, particularly among young women.

“Those are easy coping mechanisms that people know work,” said Gold. “There are ways that people can deal. And there’s a lot of people who function to a point, until they can’t.”

Both Gold and Richards said they have seen an increasing need for professional mental health as the pandemic has continued on, at some points with seemingly no end in sight.

“Anxiety was the thing that emerged first for a lot of people because anxiety does not like uncertainty and that’s what we’ve been dealing with during the pandemic,” said Gold. “And the longer the anxiety goes on, the more people start to feel on the depressive side of things.”

Warning signs that it is time to seek professional help for mental health include everything from depressive and hopeless thoughts to undesired weight loss or weight gain, suicidal thoughts, excessive feelings of worry, irritability and changes to sleep patterns. They key is to notice if any of those things begin to affect your ability to function in your daily life, according to Richards.

“When stress is becoming overwhelming, ask for help from a professional,” she said. “That professional can come in a number of ways — religious leaders or groups, OB-GYNs, primary care doctors. Those people should be able to, if not help, point you in the right direction.”

There are also ways people can protect and strengthen their mental health on their own, tools that become even more critically important as the pandemic continues, according to Gold.

“There will be things that will continue to be frustrating about this experience,” she said. “Things will be up and down and we have to have some acceptance about that. Just think, ‘I’m just trying to do the best I can,’ and that’s where you have to land.”

Here are five mental health-boosting tips from Gold and Richards:

1. Get plenty of sleep: “It’s easier said than done but it makes a big difference,” said Gold. “Sleep is all about routine, which is why as a kid it worked that your parents gave you a bath, put you in your pajamas and read books. It works the same as an adult, we just don’t take time to do things like that.”

2. Take time for yourself, especially when you think there’s no time: “When you spend the majority of your life focused on other people, try to factor in time for yourself in some capacity,” said Gold. “Ask yourself how you’re doing and name the feelings and validate them and let them be something that you take the time to stop and acknowledge instead of powering through.”

“Doing self-assessments like that can make you stop and say, ‘I’m here, too. What am I feeling?'” added Gold. “Ask yourself, ‘Have I been sleeping? Have I been eating? What have I enjoyed about the day? What’s been hard?’ and listen to your body in moments like that, too.”

3: Keep the positives of the pandemic: “I think we have to embrace some of the changes that have come out of the pandemic,” said Richards. “For some people, it was I can stay home, I can bake more, I can take a walk with my loved ones twice a week, I can go check on my neighbor.”

“A lot of people have really made commitments to those sorts of things, and it’s important to continue that, but it is also important to understand what our social needs are as a community as well, and the importance of getting together, safely,” she said. “Everyone has to find their own balance, not only with what keeps them safe, but what really they find helps with their mental health as well.”

4. Say no when you need to: “It is sometimes important to really just say no and set limits,” said Richards. “Even though that might seem difficult, you’re actually able to help people more down the road if you’re able to really take time for your own mental health first.”

5. Do self-care you enjoy, not what you think you should do: “Look at self-care or coping skills as hobbies and things that you actually enjoy,” said Gold. “So do you like meditating or are you doing that because someone told you that’s the way to feel better? Do you like exercise, or do you want to watch a TV show instead? Figuring out what you like and what makes you feel better is more important than doing things you’re told you’re supposed to do.”

If you are in crisis or know someone in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. You can reach Trans Lifeline at 877-565-8860 (U.S.) or 877-330-6366 (Canada) and The Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Dr. Jennifer Ashton opens up about what it’s like to live with anxiety

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(NEW YORK) — Dr. Jennifer Ashton’s anxiety attacks started to happen after she had a severe allergic reaction to a food.

“I had a couple of episodes where I thought mistakenly that I had eaten that same food that I was allergic to,” said Ashton, ABC News’ chief medical correspondent and a board-certified OBGYN. “And even though I was not having any true physical symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction, once my mind went there, it was almost like a marble rolling off the edge of a table.”

“I started to feel dizzy. I started to feel chest tightness. My heart was racing. I was short of breath, but objectively, I was not having an allergic reaction,” she said. “And even though I recognized that I was having an anxiety attack, I was unable to stop it.”

Ashton spoke out about her own experience with anxiety during Mental Health Awareness Month to put a spotlight on a condition that is common but not always easily understood.

Anxiety is the feeling evoked when someone experiences fear of something bad happening, and it can lead to avoidance, attacks, excessive worrying or other symptoms. Everyone has anxiety sometimes, but when anxiety becomes overwhelming to the point it consistently interferes with daily life, or in the case of Ashton, prompts anxiety attacks that interfere with daily life, it can be an anxiety disorder, according to the U.S. Office on Women’s Health (OWH).

Anxiety disorders are so common they affect about 40 million American adults every year, according to OWH.

And women are more than twice as likely as men to get an anxiety disorder in their lifetime, a discrepancy not yet completely understood from a medical perspective. Some experts say it may be due, in part, to women’s changing hormones and different responses to stress, and women may report symptoms of anxiety more frequently than men.

The prevalence of anxiety underscores that it is a serious mental health concern and not something to be dismissed by doctors or patients, according to Ashton.

“What I learned from my own experience with anxiety attacks is that I think a stigma occurs in a lot of society with people thinking that it’s not real, or it’s not serious or it’s insignificant because we all know that there’s no actual situation occurring,” she said. “But none of that matters. The physical manifestations, the symptoms that I felt when I experienced these anxiety attacks, were absolutely real.”

Ashton noted the coronavirus pandemic, an anxiety-inducing global event that has now lasted more than one year, should have highlighted for people the importance of taking anxiety seriously and treating it just as one would any other medical condition.

“There was not a week that went by that I didn’t hear from patients that they were experiencing anxiety,” she said. “I think what needs to happen is a very objective assessment, not only of ourselves as individuals, but collectively, and what’s going on in the world, so then you can say, ‘This is not surprising, really … it’s common. It’s understandable.'”

What to know about anxiety disorders

Like most mental health conditions, anxiety falls on a spectrum, with differing degrees of severity.

Generalized anxiety disorder is described as worrying, “excessively about ordinary, day-to-day issues, such as health, money, work, and family,” according to OWH. Women with GAD may be anxious about just getting through the day, may have difficulty doing everyday tasks and may have stress-related physical symptoms, like difficulty sleeping and stomachaches, according to OWH.

Panic disorder, also twice as common in women as in men, may see people having panic attacks, described by OWH as “sudden attacks of terror when there is no actual danger.” People having panic attacks may feel like they’re having a heart attack, dying, or losing their minds.

A third type of anxiety disorder, social anxiety disorder, is diagnosed when people “become very anxious and self-conscious in everyday social situations,” including embarrassing easily, according to OWH. People with social anxiety disorder can often have panic attack symptoms around social situations.

The fourth type of disorder, specific phobia, is an intense fear of something, like heights, water, animals or specific situations, that poses “little or no actual danger,” according to OWH.

In addition to fearful thoughts, all four types of disorders also have physical symptoms that can include shortness of breath, chest tightness, nausea, sweating, numbness around the mouth and hands and hyperventilation, according to Ashton.

“There’s a spectrum of severity, so it can be mild, it can be severe. It can be intermittent or it can be constant,” she said. “Most people will admit to having anxious thoughts or feeling anxious at some point during their lives; however, people who really suffer from a true anxiety disorder find that those thoughts feelings or symptoms are occurring more frequently with greater severity.”

Ashton also pointed out that the causes of anxiety can range from the known to unknown.

“Sometimes there is an actual trigger and a clear-cut, rational explanation for where it started. For example, in my case, I had an anaphylactic reaction and experiencing that medical emergency triggered anxiety attacks in similar situations or what I thought were similar situations,” she said. “But other times, people develop an anxiety disorder and they have no known actual trigger. That doesn’t make it any less real. That doesn’t make it any less severe.”

Even with the number of people affected by anxiety during the pandemic, and with celebrities like Camilla Cabello and Prince Harry recently speaking out about their experiences, the topic of anxiety, like most mental health disorders, is still a taboo topic.

“Having an anxiety disorder is still something that’s whispered about, still something that has a societal bias or stigma,” said Ashton. “In a lot of ways, any psychological, emotional or psychiatric disorder still tends to be looked at as a sign of weakness.”

“It is definitely past time that we change that,” she said. “As a medical doctor, I literally do not look at anything that occurs from the neck up as any different than something that occurs from the neck down, so anxiety should be looked at no differently than asthma. As such, it should be managed with a full arsenal of approaches meaning support groups, talk therapy, behavioral therapy, modifying one’s environment or behavior and, if necessary, prescription medication.”

When it comes to medication, a prescription medication to treat and prevent future episodes of anxiety on a long-term basis is different than a medication like Xanax or Valium that is intended for infrequent treatment of acute anxiety, noted Ashton.

“I see this all the time in women where they think, ‘Well, it’s happening more and more frequently, so I’ll just take the medication more and more frequently,'” she said. “[Drugs like Xanax and Valium] are not meant nor are they really safe for long-term, chronic use on a daily basis. That’s why you really should be managed by a psychiatrist by a credentialed mental health professional.”

Treatment for anxiety disorders often includes a combination of counseling and medication — and both together is often most effective. When it comes to counseling, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to help people change thinking patterns around their fears, according to OWH.

The differing degrees of anxiety may make it difficult for people to determine whether they should seek treatment, but what matters is how it is affecting a person individually, according to Ashton.

“There is a big difference between someone who has one anxiety attack or a panic attack per year and someone who has one per day,” she explained. “There’s a big difference between someone who can manage their anxiety and still function at home and in the workplace, and someone who has to leave meetings at work or who has to go home from celebrations or social gatherings. So whether or not you have anxiety that is interfering in your life is very subjective, but in general, it’s whether or not it’s interfering to a degree that is not acceptable to you.”

Other factors like physical activity, nutrition and mindfulness can also play a role in coping with anxiety, although less is known about the role they play in treating anxiety disorders, according to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, an entity of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Ashton said women can look to their gynecologist or family physician as their first point of contact in discussing the possible need for anxiety treatment.

“Bring this up with your gynecologist. He or she is very familiar with dealing with anxiety disorders in patients — we see it as women’s health experts on a daily basis,” she said. “This is something that you should bring up at your next well-woman checkup with your gynecologist, with your nurse practitioner, with your family practitioner, and talk about it just like you would talk about a change in your period or if you were having daily headaches.”

Speaking of what it should be like for a person to speak about their anxiety out loud, Ashton added, “We’re just admitting something as plainly as we’re saying it’s cloudy outside.”

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Senate votes to raise debt limit after 11 Republicans join Democrats to break filibuster

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(WASHINGTON) — After weeks of brinkmanship, the Senate voted Thursday night to raise the debt limit by $480 billion until Dec. 3.

The procedural move to break the GOP filibuster, which required 60 votes, was the first hurdle cleared, with a final count of 61-38. At least 10 Republicans needed to side with all Democrats to clear the hurdle to move forward to a final vote; 11 ultimately voted to advance the vote.

Democrats then raised the debt limit with a simple majority — 50-48. No Republican voted w/ Democrats to raise the debt ceiling.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced earlier in the day that Democrats and Republicans had reached an agreement to avert the U.S. defaulting on its debt for the first time.

“We have reached an agreement to extend the debt ceiling through early December, and it’s our hope that we can get this done as soon as today,” Schumer said Thursday morning, referring to a Senate vote.

McConnell followed Schumer and confirmed the deal was close to a vote — with the GOP leader claiming credit for saving the American people from default and the Democrats from themselves.

“The Senate is moving toward the plan I laid out last night to spare the American people a manufactured crisis,” he said.

Republican leaders initially struggled to find 10 GOP votes to break the filibuster following weeks of messaging to members that Democrats should go it alone.

But 11 Republicans ultimately voted to advance the debt ceiling vote. They were: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Alabama Sen. Richard Shelby, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Maine Sen. Susan Collins, Missouri Sen. Roy Blunt, Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, South Dakota Sen. Mike Rounds, Texas Sen. John Cornyn, West Virginia Sen. Shelly Moore Capito and Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso.

The agreement to raise the debt ceiling by $480 billion gives the Treasury Department the borrowing authority it says is needed to get the government through to Dec. 3.

The Senate deal comes a little more than a week before Oct. 18 — the date Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen pegged as when the U.S. will no longer be able to cover its debts. Dec. 3 is the expiration date of the stopgap government funding bill needed to keep the government running.

The deal also comes as Democrats are still working to pass President Joe Biden’s sweeping domestic policy agenda, paving the way for a busy two months.

Some Republicans have privately expressed frustration with McConnell, after following GOP messaging for weeks that Democrats would have to raise the debt ceiling on their own.

“In the end, we’ll be there,” Thune, the Republican Whip, said. “It’ll be a painful birthing process.”

Before the debt hike hits Biden’s desk, it also needs to pass the House.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hinted in a letter Thursday night that the House may have to return early from recess to vote on the debt ceiling legislation. The House was expected to return Oct. 19 — one day after Yellen warned lawmakers the U.S. would default — so it’s likely they will have to come back sometime next week.

Real-world consequences of the U.S. defaulting could include delays to Social Security payments and checks to service members, a suspension of veterans’ benefits and rising interest rates on credit cards, car loans and mortgages.

After White House press secretary Jen Psaki’s lukewarm reception to McConnell’s offers on Wednesday, the White House appeared more receptive on Thursday, now that Democrats on the Hill signaled their agreement.

“This is a positive step forward, the debt ceiling, short term deal that we’re seeing and it gives us some breathing room from the catastrophic default we were approaching because of Senator McConnell’s decision to play politics with our economy,” deputy press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Pressed on the change in tone, she said, “This is a temporary respite, but we’re not going to let up until Senator McConnell stops obstructing and allows us to put this behind us for good.”

Jean-Pierre wouldn’t say if the White House would sign on to Democrats beginning the budget reconciliation process for a longer-term debt ceiling fix, considering they’ll have more time now to navigate the complicated process, but it’s clear a longer-term solution will be needed.

“We’ll defer to them on the process,” she said of congressional Democrats, “But as the agreement shows there’s no, there’s nothing stopping Congress from addressing the debt limit, through regular order, which is what we have been asking for.”

Mariam Khan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2021, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Travel expected to surge in December, United Airlines says

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(WASHINGTON) — United Airlines expects travel to surge in December as more people look to get away for the holidays.

“We’re seeing a lot of pent-up demand in our data and are offering a December schedule that centers on the two things people want most for the holidays: warm sunshine and fresh snow,” Ankit Gupta, vice president of network planning and scheduling at United, said in a press release.

To meet the demand, United plans to fly 3,500 daily domestic flights in the last month of the year — making it the airline’s largest schedule since the start of the pandemic. In comparison, United flew just 649 flights in a single day in April 2020.

“We know families and friends are eager to reunite this holiday season, which is why we’re thrilled to add new flights that will help them connect and celebrate together,” Gupta said.

In December, United will begin offering new direct flights to Las Vegas and Phoenix from Cleveland, and to Orlando from Indianapolis. United will offer up to 195 daily flights to 12 destinations in Florida this winter, the most flights to the state in company history. The carrier will also have 66 daily flights to over a dozen ski destinations across the U.S. in its schedule.

The airline expects the busiest travel days for the Thanksgiving holiday to be Wednesday, Nov. 24 and Sunday, Nov. 28. United said popular days for winter holiday travel are expected to be Thursday, Dec. 23 and Sunday, Jan. 2.

If you’re looking to travel over the holidays and have not booked yet, experts say now is the time.

“We expect that prices will remain relatively low until about Halloween, so that’s kind of the day where if you know you get to Halloween, that’s when you should definitely book if you haven’t booked yet,” Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper, said in an interview with ABC News. “Because after Halloween, we’re expecting prices for Thanksgiving to start rising about 40% for domestic and international flights for Christmas.”

After Halloween, Hopper said travelers should expect domestic fares to spike 40% leading up to Thanksgiving week, and an additional 25% for any last-minute flights.

ABC News’ Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

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Despite some GOP lawmakers’ false claims, officials from Arizona’s so-called ‘audit’ acknowledge Biden’s win

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(MARICOPA COUNTY, Ariz.) — There was no significant 2020 election fraud in Arizona’s Maricopa County, partisan election reviewers again acknowledged in testimony before Congress on Thursday.

The state Senate-ordered review of the county’s presidential election published its findings in September, nearly 11 months after the election, and came to the same conclusion Maricopa County did: President Joe Biden won the county.

“The most significant findings of the audit is that the hand count of the physical ballots very closely matches the county’s official results in the presidential and U.S. Senate races,” former Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who served as the Senate’s liaison with auditors, said in his testimony.

The House Oversight and Reform Committee had invited Doug Logan, the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, the cyber security group that conducted the review but had never managed an election audit before it was hired in Maricopa County. Logan himself had disputed the results of the election after it was certified by election officials and Congress in January, although he has since deleted the Twitter account where he posted them. He declined to appear in front of the committee to testify.

“I invited the CEO of Cyber Ninjas, Doug Logan, to testify to give him the opportunity to defend his company’s actions to Congress and the American people. Unfortunately, less than 36 hours before the hearing, Mr. Logan informed the Committee that he is refusing to appear,” committee Chair Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., said in a statement. “Clearly, Mr. Logan doesn’t want to answer tough questions under oath about the highly questionable, partisan audit that his company led.”

The review, which took over five months, was paid for largely through private fundraising groups that raked in upwards of $6 million in donations. One of the groups was run by Patrick Byrne, the former CEO of Overstock.com, who promoted baseless conspiracies about the election.

While the report concluded there was no significant difference between the vote totals from Maricopa County showing Biden had won and the results from the review, some Republicans in Arizona, including House Freedom Caucus member Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., still pushed back on the results.

Biggs continued to falsely insist during Thursday’s hearing that “we don’t know” if Biden won the 2020 election.

Former President Donald Trump has continued to say that the election was corrupt, despite the auditor’s findings. At a rally in Georgia late last month after the release of the audit report, he still insisted that Biden lost in Arizona.

“Headlines claiming that Biden won are fake news and a very big lie,” adding that the so-called forensic audit showed that Trump had won. “They had headlines that Biden wins in Arizona when they know it’s not true. He didn’t win in Arizona. He lost in Arizona.”

Vote totals were certified across the country by bipartisan officials, and the more than 60 lawsuits brought by Trump and his allies to dispute the results of the election failed in the courtrooms, even those with Trump-appointed judges.

Two officials from Maricopa County’s Board of Supervisors, both Republicans, also testified Thursday. Bill Gates and Jack Sellers both spoke out against the partisan review and did not entertain the notion that the election was stolen.

Maloney played a voice message left by former President Donald Trump’s close ally Rudy Giuliani, who spent months pursuing conspiracy theories related to election fraud in some of the nation’s battleground states.

Giuliani asked if there was a “way to resolve this so it comes out well for everyone. We are all Republicans, I think we all have the same goal.”

“Let’s see if we can get this done outside of the courts, gosh,” he said.

Gates said he believed that was an attempt to interfere with election results.

“That voicemail was left at a time we were in litigation with the state Senate overturning over the ballots and the election machines. I think he was trying to get us to settle that lawsuit, so that they could very quickly get the ballots in advance of the January 6 certification of the electoral college,” Gates said.

Neither Gates nor Sellers responded to pressures from Giuliani and other Trump allies, like one from Arizona GOP Chairwoman Kelli Ward to “stop the counting.”

The so-called audit has cost taxpayers at least $450,000, according to the Arizona Republic’s review of the process’ records. Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs initially said that the county would need to create a new contract for its voting machines, since they were likely compromised. That was rescinded as a part of a deal the county struck with the state Senate in late September.

Audit officials and Republicans, including Trump, have alleged a number of violations were discovered in the partisan review. The county has debunked all of their claims and created a website to address the allegations made by the Cyber Ninjas.

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Biden touts vaccine mandates for large businesses: ‘These requirements work’

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(ELK GROVE VILLAGE, Ill.) — President Joe Biden renewed his call for private employers to require their workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying “we are going to beat this pandemic” if more Americans get their shots.

“Without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy and anxiety in our schools and empty restaurants and much less commerce,” Biden said during a speech in Elk Grove Village, Illinois, where he toured a construction site overseen by Clayco, which is one of the Midwest’s largest construction companies and announced new vaccination requirements for its employees Thursday.

“I know these decisions aren’t easy, but you’re setting an example and a powerful example,” he said of Clayco’s new requirement.

Biden said that the U.S. is in a position to “leap forward” economically and that businesses “have more power than ever before to change the arc of this pandemic.”

“I know that vaccination requirements are tough medicine, unpopular to some, politics for others, but they’re life-saving, they’re game-changing for our country,” he said.

Biden’s remarks came just hours after the White House released a new report outlining the importance of requirements in driving up vaccination rates and helping Americans return to work.

The 26-page report says more than 185 million Americans are now fully vaccinated and that “the unprecedented pace of the president’s vaccination campaign saved over 100,000 lives and prevented 450,000 hospitalizations.”

“These requirements work,” Biden said. “More people are getting vaccinated. More lives are being saved.”

According to the White House, more than 3,500 organizations have already instituted some form of vaccine requirement, including 25% of businesses, 40% of hospitals, and colleges and universities serving 37% of all graduate and undergraduate students. They said thousands more businesses will institute requirements over the weeks ahead as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule for businesses with more than 100 workers is still being finalized.

White House COVID-19 Data Director Cyrus Shahpar also announced on Thursday that 78% of adults in the U.S. have now received at least one vaccine dose.

Biden’s visit, which was rescheduled from last week so the president could focus on infrastructure negotiations in Washington, D.C., comes nearly a month after he laid out a six-point plan to combat the pandemic, which included a vaccination requirement for federal government employees, health care workers and all businesses with more than 100 employees, which he said “wasn’t my first instinct.”

“Vaccination requirements work,” Biden said. “And there’s nothing new about them. They’ve been around for decades. We’ve been living with these requirements throughout our lives.”

The president also met with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, who implemented a requirement for employees to be vaccinated in August and now boasts a 99% vaccination rate.

Biden’s visit also comes as the president’s overall approval rating is declining, including his handling of COVID-19. In a Quinnipiac poll among U.S. adults released Wednesday, fewer than four in 10 Americans now say they approve of Biden’s overall job performance, four points lower than Quinnipiac reported in a poll three weeks ago. Meanwhile, 50% disapprove and 48% approve of his COVID-19 response.

ABC’s Sarah Kolinovsky contributed to this report

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Texas clinics resume abortion services after 6-week ban paused

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(AUSTIN, Texas) — Hours after a federal judge temporarily blocked enforcement of the most restrictive abortion law in the country, some Texas clinics have resumed providing abortions after a so-called fetal heartbeat is detected.

Under SB8, physicians are banned from providing abortions once they detect electrical activity within the cells in an embryo. That can be seen on an ultrasound as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — before many women even know they’re pregnant. Since the law went into effect on Sept. 1, clinics in the state have largely stopped providing abortions past that point, under the threat of potentially costly civil litigation.

After U.S. District Court Judge Robert Pitman granted the Biden administration’s emergency injunction to halt SB8 Wednesday night, Whole Woman’s Health, which operates four clinics throughout the state, said it resumed providing the abortions Thursday for an unspecified number of patients.

There is a 24-hour waiting period for most patients before they can get an abortion in Texas. Since Sept. 1, the clinics have been continuing the required consent process in the event an injunction was later handed down, allowing them to offer the procedure so soon after the injunction, according to Whole Woman’s Health founder Amy Hagstrom Miller.

“Last night, we reached out to some of the patients that we had on a waiting list to come in to have abortions today, folks whose pregnancies did have cardiac activity earlier in September,” Hagstrom Miller said during a press briefing with the Center for Reproductive Rights Thursday. “And we were able to see a few people as early as, 8, 9 this morning, right away when we opened the clinic.”

“And we are consenting people for care beyond that six-week limit today and hope that we will be able to take care of those people tomorrow and beyond as long as this injunction stands,” she added.

Texas promptly took steps to appeal the injunction to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said late Wednesday. “The sanctity of human life is, and will always be, a top priority for me,” he said on Twitter.

Pending the outcome in that court, the case could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Legal experts and abortion rights advocates were unsure if physicians would feel comfortable providing abortions following the injunction, as there is the threat of being sued retroactively under the law, if it isn’t ultimately struck down.

The retroactive provision “remains a serious piece of concern for physicians and clinics” and makes for a “tenuous” situation in the state, Molly Duane, a senior staff attorney for the Center for Reproductive Rights, told reporters.

“But what we can say today is that there are independent providers across the state that are working to reopen full services and are doing so wary of the fact that the Fifth Circuit may take away this injunction at any moment,” she said.

Hagstrom Miller said there is “hope” but also “desperation” among patients at this time, as call volume has increased at the clinics. “Folks know that this opportunity could be short-lived,” she said.

In the wake of the injunction, Planned Parenthood’s Texas affiliates are “assessing what’s possible during this period of uncertainty,” their leaders said in a statement, while recommending that patients seeking an abortion call their local health center to discuss their options.

“This legal victory is an important first step toward restoring abortion access in Texas, but the fight is not over,” Planned Parenthood South Texas’ Jeffrey Hons, Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast’s Melaney Linton and Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas’ Ken Lambrecht said in a joint statement. “The state has already appealed this ruling and we don’t know if or when this injunction could be lifted, and the law could be back in effect.”

ABC News’ Nicholas Kerr contributed to this report.

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US Navy submarine USS Connecticut involved in underwater collision

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(WASHINGTON) — A U.S. Navy nuclear-powered attack submarine collided with an unknown submerged object this weekend while traveling through international waters in the Pacific Ocean, according to the Navy.

The Navy describes the submarine as being in “safe and stable” condition and said it is making its way to port for a damage assessment that could help determine what it struck.

“The Seawolf-class fast-attack submarine USS Connecticut (SSN 22) struck an object while submerged on the afternoon of Oct. 2, while operating in international waters in the Indo-Pacific region,” said a statement from the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. “The safety of the crew remains the Navy’s top priority. There are no life threatening injuries.”

USNI News was first to report the incident involving the USS Connecticut.

Two sailors aboard the submarine were treated for what a Navy official described as “moderate injuries” and additional sailors received bumps, bruises and lacerations.

“The submarine remains in a safe and stable condition,” said the statement. “USS Connecticut’s nuclear propulsion plant and spaces were not affected and remain fully operational. The extent of damage to the remainder of the submarine is being assessed. The U.S. Navy has not requested assistance. The incident will be investigated.”

Officials said it remained unclear what the submarine struck while underwater. They said it could include stationary objects like a sea mount, an underwater sea mountain, or an object being towed by a surface vessel.

Two U.S .officials said the submarine is headed to the U.S. Naval Base Guam where a damage assessment of the submarine’s hull could help determine what the vessel struck underwater.

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