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Prosecutors say a Mississippi man has pleaded guilty to a federal wire fraud charge for misusing more than $6 million in business loans through a pandemic relief program. Rather than use the money for his businesses, Christopher Paul Lick of Starkville admitted using it for personal investments and buying a home worth more than $1 million. Court records show he filed fraudulent loan applications to banks that were providing loans as part of the Paycheck Protection Program. U.S. Attorney Clay Joyner says Lick admitted overstating the number of employees and payroll expenses to receive money. 

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McDonald’s says it's started the process of selling its Russian business, which includes 850 restaurants that employ 62,000 people. The fast food giant pointed to the humanitarian crisis caused by the war, saying holding on to its business in Russia “is no longer tenable, nor is it consistent with McDonald’s values.” The Chicago-based company had temporarily closed its stores in Russia but was still paying employees. On Monday, it said it would seek to have a Russian buyer hire its employees and pay them until the sale closes. It didn't identify a prospective buyer. McDonald’s said it plans to start removing golden arches and other symbols and signs with its name. 

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Sri Lanka’s new prime minister wants to privatize the country’s loss-making national airline as part of reforms aimed at solving the country worst economic crisis in decades. Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe says he plans to propose a special relief budget that will take the place of the development-oriented budget earlier approved for this year. It would channel all funds allocated for infrastructure development to public welfare. He says the country’s financial health is so poor that the government has been forced to print money to pay the salaries of government workers and buy other goods and services. The president appointed Wickremesinghe prime minister last Thursday in a bid to quell the island nation’s political and economic crisis.

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An ex-convict from California has pleaded guilty to fraud schemes totaling more than $25 million. Forty-five-year-old Quin Ngoc Rudin of Chino, California, pleaded guilty Friday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to wire fraud. He admitted filing bogus returns for nine professional athletes that resulted in millions of dollars in unjustified tax returns. Several athletes had connections to northern Virginia. And he filed more than $100 million in fraudulent loan applications under the government's Paycheck Protection Program during the coronavirus pandemic. 

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Many of South Sudan’s civil servants have not been paid for months as the government has run out of funds, because the income from oil exports is allocated to servicing loans until 2027. Finance Minister Agak Achuil that government employees demanding salary arrears include members of the security forces, doctors and nurses. He said the reason why the government is not paying the arrears is that the oil money is paying off loans and paying for other priorities. He said the government will allocate oil sales for 2028 and beyond in order to pay salaries for this year. The finance ministry recently paid the November and December salaries. 

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Republican Lt. Gov. Janice McGeachin, who is running for governor, has a $2,000 budget deficit in her office that will have to come out of next year’s appropriation. Documents obtained by The Associated Press show the state controller planning to withhold McGeachin’s salary this fiscal year that ends June 30 and then make up that pay next year. The lieutenant governor’s salary is set by law, limiting state officials' ability to cut her pay. McGeachin hired a private attorney in a losing effort to avoid releasing public records and was ordered to pay $29,000 in legal fees. McGeachin's office didn't immediately respond to a message from The Associated Press.

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For the first time, the U.S. came close to providing health care for all for the first time during the coronavirus pandemic. But it was for just one condition — COVID-19. Now, things are reverting to the way they were as federal money for the uninsured dries up. Lack of an insurance card could become a barrier to timely care for COVID. A $20 billion government program that paid the pandemic bills of uninsured people has been shut down. Special Medicaid COVID coverage likely faces its last months. But the virus is not contained. And safety-net hospitals and clinics are seeing sharply higher operating costs. They fear they won’t be prepared if there’s another surge.

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Graduate degrees, once touted as the new bachelor’s degrees, are becoming less crucial to get jobs. Today, more college graduates than ever hold advanced degrees, and graduate programs are the only area of higher education that saw enrollment increases during the worst of the pandemic. And yet employers aren’t requiring graduate degrees as often to gain entry into fields. In a tight labor market, do students still need to consider a graduate degree to compete for jobs? Labor economists and human resource experts say it depends. Prospective students should consider the cost and potential earning advantages of specific graduate programs before applying. But it can be difficult to compare programs.

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Connecticut's General Assembly has voted to give lawmakers and constitutional officers their first pay raise in more than 20 years. The bill included an amendment that would raise pay from a base of $28,000 a year to over $44,000 for Connecticut lawmakers beginning in January 2023. The bill was approved Tuesday on a vote of 95-53 in the House and 23-13 in the Senate. The constitutional officers salaries will be linked to those of judges. Supporters say the low pay for what is supposed to be a part-time job has made it difficult to find people willing to run for office.

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President Joe Biden wants Congress to provide $33 billion to bolster Ukraine’s fight against Russia. The request came Thursday and signals a long-haul American commitment as Moscow’s invasion and the international tensions it has inflamed show no signs of receding. The measure is more than double the size of the $13.6 billion Ukraine aid package Congress enacted last month. The new request includes $20 billion in defense spending for Ukraine and regional U.S. allies. There's $8.5 billion to keep Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s government providing services and paying salaries. And $3 billion in global food and humanitarian programs. 

A federal judge has dismissed a class action lawsuit that was filed by opponents of a mandatory payroll premium to fund Washington state’s recently delayed long-term care program. The ruling, filed Monday by a judge for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, says the court did not have jurisdiction and that any legal challenge must be filed in state court. The first in-the-nation program that created a defined benefit to help offset the costs of long-term care was delayed by 18 months following legislative action in January.  Lawyers for the opponents say that any pursuit of litigation through the state courts is likely to be delayed until closer to the new July 2023 implementation date.

The Connecticut Senate has given final legislative approval to a multiyear labor agreement that includes pay raises and bonuses for tens of thousands of state employees. The bill passed the Democratic controlled Senate on Friday by a vote of 22-13, despite concerns raised by some Republicans that taxpayers can’t afford it. The four-year deal was reached by Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s administration and recently ratified by 43,000 unionized workers, It passed in the Democratic controlled House of Representatives on Thursday.

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Democratic Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont’s gross adjusted income for three of his four years in office totaled nearly $26 million. That's according to tax records released Thursday in a gubernatorial rematch with another wealthy candidate, Republican Bob Stefanowski, who says he's planning to release his returns. Lamont’s earnings came mostly from interest and dividend income. The former cable television entrepreneur does not take the annual $150,000 salary for the job of governor. The governor, who files his taxes separately from his wife Annie, a successful venture capital consultant, did not release his 2021 returns because he requested a filing extension from the IRS.  

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President Joe Biden has pledged $1.3 billion more for new weapons and economic assistance to help Ukraine in its strong but increasingly difficult battle against the Russian invasion. And he is vowing to seek much more from Congress to keep the guns, ammunition and cash flowing. The new package, announced Thursday, has $800 million in military aid including much-needed heavy artillery, 144,000 rounds of ammunition and drones for the escalating battle in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. It builds on roughly $2.6 billion in military assistance that Biden had previously approved. There’s also a fresh $500 million in direct economic assistance to Ukraine for government salaries, pensions and programs. 

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The mounting economic damage to Ukraine from Russia’s ongoing bombardment has the U.S. and its allies speeding billions in aid to the beleaguered country — and looking for other sources of cash, including Russia itself. After the U.S. announced $1.3 billion in new economic assistance and military aid to Ukraine on Thursday, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen acknowledged “this is only the beginning of what Ukraine will need to rebuild.” The question of who will pay to restore Ukraine from the war has increasingly turned to the Russian state. Yellen says looking to Russia itself for funds to rebuild Ukraine “is something we ought to be pursuing.”

A Chinese man has been sentenced to more than four years in prison after he admitted he fraudulently tried to get $20 million in federal coronavirus-relief funds that were supposed to aid distressed businesses. U.S. District Judge Richard M. Berman announced the four year, four month prison term for Muge Ma at a sentencing hearing Thursday in Manhattan. The judge said the prison term was necessary because of the seriousness of the crimes and the need for others to be warned against abusing programs meant to help people in a national emergency. Ma, jailed since his May 2020 arrest, repeatedly said he was sorry.

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