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U.S. economy shrinks

Human Race: Inflation and declining exports drive first economic contraction since pandemic


A customer prepares to pump gasoline into his car at a Sam’s Club in Gulfport, Miss. Rogelio V. Solis/AP

U.S. economy shrinks
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Growing pains

A report released march 28 indicated the first U.S. economic contraction since the initial pandemic crash in 2020. Soaring imports and fewer exports drove the 1.4 percent decline in gross domestic product in the first quarter of 2022. Speaking at a Brookings Institution conference, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the economic turbulence did not come as a surprise. She said the pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exacerbated ongoing economic downturns and increased the likelihood of disruptions. But analysts say the drop in GDP does not signal a looming recession. Americans continue to spend at high rates, thanks in part to rising wages. The job market remains strong, with the unemployment rate near a 50-year low of 3.6 percent. Inflation remains a significant concern. Last month, prices jumped 8.5 percent from a year earlier, the fastest such rise in four decades.

Farewell to the elder

The world’s oldest person, Kane Tanaka, died April 19 in Japan at the age of 119. Tanaka was born on Jan. 2, 1903, according to a statement released by the country’s Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare. Tweeting about her death, Guinness World Records said: “She became the oldest living person in January 2019 at the age of 116 years and 28 days. She is also the second oldest person ever recorded, behind only Jeanne Calment who lived to the age of 122.” Born in 1903, Tanaka married a rice shop owner at the age of 19, and worked in the family store until she was 103. She twice survived cancer and lived through a multitude of historical events, surviving two world wars and the 1918 Spanish flu—as well as the COVID-19 pandemic.

Methodists split

The United Methodist Church, the second-largest denomination behind the Southern Baptist Convention, became a little smaller May 1 as the Global Methodist Church, a conservative offshoot, began accepting local congregations formerly part of the UMC. After decades of debate over the ordination and marriage of LGBTQ United Methodists, a special session of the United Methodist Church’s General Conference, and three postponements of a vote to formally split the denomination, the schism became reality. Still, the fight over church property may persist for several years, according to the Rev. Keith Boyette, chairman of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church.

Executions delayed

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee paused executions for a year starting May 2 after announcing the state failed to ensure lethal injection drugs were properly tested. Tennessee protocol requires that drugs must be tested for endotoxins, which could cause respiratory distress before death. Last month, Lee stopped Oscar Smith’s execution an hour before it was set to happen, and on Monday he said the drugs for Smith’s execution were not tested for endotoxins. Smith was sentenced to death for killing his wife and her two teenage sons in 1989.

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