US to release 50 million barrels of oil to ease energy costs

President Joe Biden on Tuesday ordered 50 million barrels of oil released from America's strategic reserve to help bring down energy costs, in coordination with other major energy consuming nations, including China, India and the United Kingdom. The move is aimed at global energy markets, but also at U.S. voters who are coping with higher inflation and rising prices ahead of Thanksgiving and winter holiday travel. Gasoline prices are at about $3.40 a gallon, more than 50% higher than a year ago, according to the American Automobile Association. Administration officials said that reports of a possible release and consultations with other countries ahead of the announcement had caused oil prices to drop nearly 10% in anticipation of the news. The government will begin to move barrels into the market in mid to late December.

The Santa experience this year is a mix of laps, distancing

Santa is back this year, but he pleads caution as he continues to tiptoe through the pandemic. “Be smart. Be caring. If you have the tiniest tickle in your throat, the tiniest feeling, worry about yourself and worry about everybody else, and know Santa will always be there next year," said 57-year-old Kevin Chesney, who's been donning the big red suit since he was a kid. Amid a downturn in Jolly Old Elves — about 15 percent fewer in one large database — Chesney is busier than ever from his North Pole in Moorestown, New Jersey. The photo studio where he works quickly sold out its 4,500 appointments to sit with him and the seven other Santas in the studio's stable. They're among the brave in Santa's ranks with full-contact visits, lap sitting included, though Chesney wears a mask until just before the photos are taken.

Language barrier: Immigrant parents tell tales of exclusion

Philadelphia parents who don't speak English say they've long been excluded from parts of their children's education because of language barriers, an issue that's only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the return to in-person learning. Parents told The Associated Press stories of students being used as translators despite federal prohibitions, incorrect telephone translations or poor communication when their children were being bullied. Experts said Philadelphia is not alone, noting that many school districts have lagged in creating systems that treat non-English speakers equally rather than responding to complaints. Philadelphia school district officials said the district has made a lot of progress in recent years, including sending communication in parents' languages and hiring dozens of additional in-school interpreters called bilingual cultural assistants, or BCAs. They said the district has policies against using children as translators and robust guidance on how to request language help. Still, problems persist.

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