July 25, 2017

The Federal Reserve listed potential workers failing drug tests as a problem for the U.S. economy in its April, May, and July Beige Book economic surveys, and Federal Reserve chairwoman Janet Yellen told Congress this month that opioid abuse is one of the factors hampering labor participation for prime-age workers. But the abuse of prescription opioids and growing use of marijuana is being felt especially in the manufacturing sector, where up to half of applicants for good-paying factory jobs in the upper-Midwest rust belt fail their drug tests, The New York Times reports. Untold others don't apply because they know they will fail.

"We are talking to employers every day, and they tell us they are having more and more trouble finding people who can pass a drug test," says Edmond C. O'Neal at Northeast Indiana Works, an education and skills-training nonprofit. "I've heard kids say pot isn't a drug. It may not be, but pot will prevent you from getting a job." This isn't because of moral strictures among manufacturers or legal niceties, he adds. "Relaxing drug policies isn't an option for manufacturers in terms of insurance and liability."

As Michael J. Sherwin, CEO of the 123-year-old Ohio metal fabricator Columbiana Boiler in Youngstown explains, "The lightest product we make is 1,500 pounds, and they go up to 250,000 pounds," so "if something goes wrong, it won't hurt our workers. It'll kill them — and that's why we can't take any risks with drugs." That's a problem for his company, which is losing business to overseas rivals because of labor shortages, he adds. "We are always looking for people and have standard ads at all times, but at least 25 percent fail the drug tests." You can read more about the knotty problem of drugs and jobs, and the special concerns about shifting marijuana laws, at The New York Times. Peter Weber

5:29 p.m.

Republican congressmembers have seemingly fallen right into Russia's trap.

As impeachment hearings continued throughout the week, Republicans tried to defend President Trump by incorrectly claiming Ukraine was just as involved in hacking efforts into the 2016 U.S. election as Russia. Impeachment witness Fiona Hill even called them out for this "fictional narrative," and as The New York Times reports, it's a false storyline Russia has been trying to cook up for years.

In recent weeks, U.S. intelligence leaders met with senators and their aides for "a briefing that closely aligned with Dr. Hill's testimony," informing the legislators "Russia had engaged in a yearslong campaign to essentially frame Ukraine as responsible for Moscow's own hacking of the 2016 election," the Times reports via three American officials. It's true that Ukrainians did engage in some forms of election meddling in 2016, but "they were scattershot efforts" in comparison to Moscow's, the Times continues.

The briefing was held as Republicans formulated their strategy for defending Trump after he was revealed to have asked Ukraine for political favors. And yet it seems its lessons didn't make their way to Republicans in the House, who, during the past two weeks of impeachment hearings, doubled down on unproven claims that Ukraine had a physical server containing the hacked emails of the Democratic National Committee. And as Russian President Vladimir Putin literally said on Wednesday, he couldn't be happier that U.S. leaders are looking in the wrong direction. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:54 p.m.

Oscar winner Olivia Colman is still in the middle of her reign as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix's The Crown — a role Colman herself inherited from Claire Foy, who starred as Elizabeth in the first two seasons.

But like a game of musical thrones, the series has already set its sights on a new queen: Harry Potter alum Imelda Staunton, who Deadline reports is in early talks to star as Elizabeth in the fifth and sixth seasons of The Crown.

Netflix responded to the rumors by sniffing that Staunton's casting was "pure speculation" until it formally orders two more seasons of The Crown, because yeah, they must hate getting a new shelf full of Emmys every year. Read more at Deadline. Scott Meslow

4:53 p.m.

In Hollywood's reboot-happy climate, one classic sitcom has somehow been overlooked: I Dream of Jeannie, which ran for five seasons on NBC back in the 1960s.

But for the record, Barbara Eden — who played Jeannie in the original series — thinks a reboot is long overdue. "It's a good idea. They should do it," said Eden. And at the risk of stating the obvious: If Eden really wants to see a reboot, can't she just cross her arms and blink? Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:51 p.m.

It's probably safe to assume most kids would be delighted to get a personal serenade of "Let It Go" from Frozen's Elsa herself. But even with the Frozen sequel on the horizon, one boy has routinely rejected the opportunity: Idina Menzel's 10-year-old son, who has initiated a ban on all singing in his presence.

"Honestly he does not care about Frozen," Menzel, who is set to reprise her role as Elsa in the sequel, told People. "He tells me to shut up in the car." Ice cold, kid. Read more at People. Scott Meslow

4:09 p.m.

Michael Bloomberg is presumably running for president.

The billionaire and former New York City mayor announced earlier this year that he wasn't running for president, and he hasn't said anything to indicate he's changed his mind. And yet his filing with the Federal Election Commission as a 2020 candidate and, now, a $19 million ad buy across the U.S., suggests a reversal is imminent.

Bloomberg has been scooping TV ads across the U.S., spending at least $19 million in more than 25 markets as of Friday afternoon, CNBC reports. They include massive buys in California, Massachusetts, Colorado, and other states that come after the first four contests on the 2020 primary schedule. The biggest hits come in Los Angeles and Chicago, where he's spent more than $700,000, and there's also a large buy in the Florida market that includes President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort.

Bloomberg missed the deadline to file for the New Hampshire primary, and these ad purchases seem to solidify that he's going to skip the early primary and caucus states altogether. The ads will run from Nov. 25–Dec. 3, and are just a fraction of the $100 million digital campaign Bloomberg is said to embark on in his middleground run for president. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:06 p.m.

About 80 percent of adolescents around the globe are getting less than the recommended 60 minutes of exercise, according to the World Health Organization's first-ever global study of physical activity among kids ages 11 to 17.

The study found that girls were less active than boys worldwide, with the biggest gender gaps in the United States and Ireland. It also mentioned that many sports in the United States seem designed to attract boys more than girls. In a press release on Friday, author Dr. Regina Guthold of WHO, pushed for "urgent policy action" to particularly "promote and retain girls' participation in physical activity."

Leisure activities today tend to be "more sedentary and screen-based rather than being outdoor exercise, sport or play," Dr. Juana Willumsen, a WHO expert on physical activity, told CNBC.

But the WHO's study asserts that there is no compromise when it comes to health. "Four in every five adolescents do not experience the enjoyment and social, physical, and mental health benefits of regular physical activity," Fiona Bull, co-author of the study told Reuters, and urged policymakers worldwide to "act now for the health of this and future young generations." Ramisa Rob

3:05 p.m.

You know the drill!

It's Friday, which means Jane Fonda is protesting climate change in Washington, D.C. This week's "Fire Drill Friday" features appearances by actresses Diane Lane and Piper Perabo, as well as The Good Place actor Manny Jacinto and model Amber Valletta, per The Hollywood Reporter. Lane, Perabo, and Valletta were arrested after they reportedly blocked traffic in front of the Supreme Court, but Fonda avoided being detained this week.

The woman who started it all has been playing it cool in recent weeks, as another jail stay could be lengthy due to Fonda's first four arrests. Organizers fear she could face up to 90 days if she's arrested again, Deadline reports, which would render her unable to participate in the scene-stealing protests. Fonda previously spent one night in jail, which she said involved some one-on-one time with cockroaches.

The protests have drawn numerous A-listers thus far, and Fonda has teased that there are more big names to come. But any Hollywood stars looking to grab a slice of the climate change spotlight should book their flights to D.C. soon — Fonda has to be back in Los Angeles come January to film Grace and Frankie. Marianne Dodson

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