An update you need to know on the proposed spending package meant to avoid a government shutdown, and could Google search engines be a thing of the past? These stories and more highlight your midday rundown, aimed straight down the middle, for Thursday Dec. 22, 2022.
$1.7 trillion spending bill gets green light
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says the Senate has reached a deal on the $1.7 trillion dollar spending bill. It was originally held up when Republican Sen. Mike Lee proposed an amendment to extend restrictions on asylum seekers at the border, known as Title 42.
Democrats responded by putting forward a competing amendment to boost funding for border law enforcement agencies.
Other features of the bill include roughly $45 billion in wartime aid to Ukraine, as well as a TikTok ban on federal government devices.
Once the Senate gives the official go ahead, the bill still needs to pass through the House and President Biden.
Third quarter sees economic growth
Despite ongoing inflation and rising interest rates, revised Commerce Department numbers, out today, show the U.S. economy grew at a surprisingly strong 3.2% in the third quarter of 2022. Up from the initial estimate of 2.9%
Strong export and consumer spending numbers helped drive third-quarter growth. Despite growing recession fears, forecasters still expect positive numbers to come out of the fourth quarter.
Fentanyl now laced with animal tranquilizer
Drugs laced with an animal tranquilizer is the horrific new trend seen on U.S. streets. It’s called xylazine or “tranq.” It causes a very heavy sedation, and has been found in fentanyl and heroin, according to the FDA.
Here’s the sticking point, since xylazine is not an opioid, medicine given to counteract opioid overdoses isn’t working, which could lead to more deaths. Brown University research shows 40% of illicit drugs sampled in Rhode Island contain xylazine.
America’s bad mental health
Americans are more depressed than ever. According to a new Gallup poll, only 31% of American adults say their emotional wellbeing is “excellent.” That is the worst rating in more than two decades. Before the pandemic, the “excellent” rating was 45%.
Even more concerning is the percentage of people who consider their mental health to be bad. 17% are calling it “only fair” while 7% describe their mental health as “poor.” It doesn’t seem like a high number, but 7% is the highest Gallup has ever seen.
Young adults, women and those in lower income households rated the worst in the latest research.
Google search engine threatened
Google is helping shake things up in the tech world, but it could wind up shooting itself in the foot.
According to the New York Times, the search engine giant issued a “code red” over the latest chatbot tech taking the internet by storm, ChatGPT. That’s basically pulling the fire alarm at the company. The text-based A.I. tool can answer your questions in paragraphs, and Google is reportedly worried A.I. could eventually replace the search engine, which only produces links. Google’s search engine digital ad revenue is 80% of its business.
While ChatGPT answers are still riddled with errors, it’s the prospect of what could be that has Google feeling threatened. The company is also in the A.I. development business.
Japan embraces nuclear power
A little over a decade after one of the world’s worst nuclear disasters, it appears Japan is once again embracing nuclear power. The country adopted a plan today to extend the lifespan of its nuclear reactors, replacing the old ones and even building new ones.
The move comes in the face of global fuel shortages, rising fuel prices and increased pressure to reduce carbon emissions.
Back in 2011, a tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant. The anti-nuclear sentiment that spread from the disaster led to the Japanese government promising to phase out nuclear energy by 2030.
Now, the government says it is shooting for nuclear power to make up 20% to 22% of the country’s energy by that same point.