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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The cost to fill up the tank is getting a bit more expensive for U.S. drivers.

As oil prices have increased in recent weeks, it’s been expected that at some point gas prices would inch up as well — and now they are. The average price of regular unleaded gas has moved up 4 cents in the past week to $2.19 a gallon, according to new numbers out from the U.S. Energy Department.

Drivers in Minnesota and Massachusetts have seen the most significant increases. The price nationwide, though, is still 44 cents below the price a year ago at this time.

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Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. sent about 100 troops to shore up defenses in a southern Afghan city in the midst of a major Taliban summer offensive that has pushed the country’s security forces to the brink.

Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed the deployment of U.S. forces at a press briefing on Monday.

“They’ve gone down there to assist the police zone headquarters and their leadership team with a focused train, advise and assist mission,” Cook told reporters, adding “This will not be a permanent presence.”

The troops will attempt to help the Afghans hold on to the city of Lashkar Gah, the southern capital of Helmand province.

Helmand province is the epicenter of Afghanistan’s illegal but lucrative opium industry, which is estimated to generate $3 billion each year in one of the poorest and most corrupt countries in the world.

In an effort to cut off the illicit revenues, which help fund the Taliban insurgency, the U.S. made Helmand a focus of its troop buildup that that saw the number of U.S. forces in the country quadrupled from under 25,000 in 2008 to a peak of nearly 100,000 in 2011.

Troop levels have been steadily reduced since then. As of March 2016, there were approximately 8,730 U.S. troops in Afghanistan, according to the Congressional Research Service, in addition to 28,600 Department of Defense contractors.

In 2009, approximately 20,000 U.S. Marines were based in Helmand, alongside 10,000 British troops as they tried to eliminate the insurgency, paying a heavy price. In 2010, 25 Marines were lost in one seven-month period as they took the fight to the Taliban.

Earlier this summer, the president announced we was changing his plans to draw down troops there in the face of the worsening situation, leaving more than 8,000 troops in Afghanistan beyond his time in the White House.

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ABC News(TRAVERSE CITY, Mich.) — Along the shores of Lake Michigan in Traverse City the tart cherry is king. The area produces more tart cherries than anywhere in America, with 32,000 acres planted across the state.

The tart cherries love Lake Michigan, which acts like a blanket for the cherry blossoms. In spring, the sensitive fruit is extremely susceptible to frost and the lake adds cloud cover to insulate the bud from breaking too early.

“We’re pretty far north, that’s the thing, When you look at it, we’re at the 45th parallel,” says Nikki Rothwell, coordinator of the Northwest Michigan Research Center, which studies tart cherries.

“People ask, ‘How do you grow things like wine grapes or cherries?’ It’s because we have Lake Michigan that moderates our climate.”

But growing cherries in Michigan is a year-round job that comes with great risk. A farmer can have perfect weather all season and then a 15-minute hail storm in spring can destroy much of their crop.

“It’s just one of those things that’s part of farming and agriculture and people have accepted the risk over time,” says Jeff Andresen, a climatologist at Michigan State University.

The sensitivity to the weather has driven some farmers, including Brian Tennis, away from cherries and over to hops, the plant used to make beer.

“We started with organic sweet cherries and that was just a mess,” says Tennis, “You could do everything right with sweet cherries or cherries in general, and something would happen right before harvest.”

He adds: “Hops are, I mean, these guys are rock stars. It could snow tomorrow and they’d be fine.”

Once a major of producer of hops in the 19th century, Michigan is back on the hops map.

“There’s over 1,000 acres in the state,” says Tennis. “That now puts us top four in the nation and top 10 in the world in growing hops. That’s just within a decade.”

With 32,000 acres, the tart cherry isn’t about to be dethroned, but the hop is back in Michigan.

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Mario Tama/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — A new deal for Pfizer Inc. is set to boost its oncology treatments.

The pharmaceutical giant announced Monday it would acquire cancer drug-maker Medivation Inc. for about $14 billion, or $81.50 per share in cash.

Medivation is known for its prostate cancer treatment, which has been used to treat 64,000 men in the U.S., generating $2.2 billion in worldwide net sales over the past four quarters.

Pfizer CEO Ian Read said in a statement the merger would “immediately accelerate revenue growth and drive overall earnings growth potential for Pfizer.”

“The addition of Medivation will strengthen Pfizer’s Innovative Health business and accelerate its pathway to a leadership position in oncology, one of our key focus areas, which we believe will drive greater growth and scale of that business over the long-term,” he said.

Medivation’s shares soared 20 percent after news of the deal.

Last year, Pfizer announced it was joining forces with Allergan PLC in a $150 billion takeover deal, but backed out in April after new U.S. Treasury rules were issued under the Obama administration. The merger with Medivation will be Pfizer’s largest deal since Allergan.

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Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The White House is backtracking remarks by a senior administration official last week who characterized a $400 million payment to Iran as “leverage” in the release of several American prisoners.

The majority of Monday’s 78-minute White House press briefing explored the semantics around the State Department’s use of the word “leverage” when describing the prisoner exchange and a $400 million payment to Iran.

“Because we had concerns that Iran may renege on the prisoner release … we of course naturally … sought to retain maximum leverage until after the Americans were released,” State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters Aug. 18. “It would have been foolish, imprudent and irresponsible for us not to try to maintain maximum leverage. So if you’re asking me ‘Was there a connection in that regard in the endgame?’ I’m not going to deny that.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest aimed to draw a distinction between the delivery of the payment and the exchange, insisting that U.S. officials engaged with Iran on three separate agreements: First, the nuclear deal; second, the “mutual” prisoner exchange of four Americans for seven Iranians; and third, a $1.7 billion payment to Iran for an Iranian deposit for U.S. weapons plus interest since 1979.

Earlier this year, when the White House announced that Americans had been freed from Iran, it also said that a separate, decades-old financial dispute over the sale of U.S. weapons to Iran had been settled, resulting in the $1.7 billion payment. The first installment of that payment came in a $400 million cash delivery made up of euros and Swiss francs. That initial payment was withheld until Jan. 17, a day after the American prisoners were released.

Earnest repeatedly stressed the benefits achieved through the nuclear deal, primarily that Iran no longer has the means to pursue or obtain a nuclear weapon.

“All of this was accomplished without a single shot being fired,” Earnest said. “All of this was accomplished without U.S. troops deployed, and it’s an indication of how effective the president’s tough diplomatic strategy has proved to be.”

Earnest also confirmed that the $1.3 billion interest payment was also made through a transaction involving unspecified central banks, but not U.S. central banks. He did not say whether the payment was a cash payment like the $400 million paid to Iran earlier this year.

“The approach to this, again as we described this in January, has been, that there was an opportunity for the United States to make progress on a variety of issues that had been a longstanding source of concern between the United States and Iran. And because of our success in completing those — that three different sets of negotiations, the American people benefited and our interests were advanced,” he said. “What we sought to do is to try to reach these agreements, to get them done, to move it across the finish line. And clearly, Iran was in the business of signing off on agreements. So we were going to go and get as much as we could out of the deal.”

Asked to describe the difference between “leverage” and “ransom,” Earnest repeatedly said “leverage” is “not a word I used,” distancing himself from the characterization made by his colleague at the State Department.

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iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — United States officials said Monday they are “deeply concerned” over the recent government crackdown on illegal drugs in the Philippines that has led to an alarming number of extrajudicial killings. Law enforcement officials in the Philippines put the estimate at nearly 1,800 suspects.

“The United States believes in the rule of law, due process, and respect for universal human rights, and that these principles promote long-term security,” U.S. Department of State Deputy Spokesperson Mark Toner said.

“We strongly urge the Philippines to ensure its law enforcement efforts comply with its human rights obligations,” Toner added.

The State Department’s remarks come after the Philippines president bashed the United Nations and the U.S. in a late-night news conference over the weekend, and shortly after the U.S. ally’s national police chief disclosed on Monday the number of deaths related to the crackdown on drug suspects was 1,779.

Agnes Callamard, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on summary executions, issued a statement last week strongly condemning the extrajudicial deaths in the government drug crackdown.

“Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the Government from its international legal obligations and do not shield State actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” Callamard said in a statement. “The State has a legally binding obligation to ensure the right to life and security of every person in the country, whether suspected of criminal offences or not.”

Dainius Puras, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the right to health, added that “however necessary, responses to the illicit drug trade must be carried out in full compliance with national and international obligations and should respect the human rights of each person.”

Puras also added that drug dependency should be treated as a public health issue.

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Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — Four sponsors said Monday that they are ending or not renewing their relationships with embattled U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte, after he admitted to “over-exaggerating” a story about being held up at gunpoint in the Rio de Janeiro.

Speedo USA, Ralph Lauren, Gentle Hair Removal, and mattress maker Airweave have all said that they will not be working with the swimmer going forward.

“Speedo USA today announces the decision to end its sponsorship of Ryan Lochte,” the company said in a statement Monday. “As part of this decision, Speedo USA will donate a $50,000 portion of Lochte’s fee to Save the Children, a global charity partner of Speedo USA’s parent company, for children in Brazil.”

“While we have enjoyed a winning relationship with Ryan for over a decade and he has been an important member of the Speedo team, we cannot condone behavior that is counter to the values this brand has long stood for. We appreciate his many achievements and hope he moves forward and learns from this experience,” the company added.

Meanwhile, Ralph Lauren, which also sponsored the disgraced swimmer during this year’s Olympics, told ABC News that it would not be renewing his contract.

The company noted in its statement that it “continues to proudly sponsor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic team and the values that its athletes embody.”

“Ralph Lauren’s endorsement agreement with Ryan Lochte was specifically in support of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, and the company will not be renewing his contract,” Ryan J. Lally, the vice president of global corporate communications for the company, said in a statement.

Similarly, Airweave, a mattress company, said it had “made the decision to end our partnership with Ryan Lochte,” but would continue to support Team USA in the upcoming Paralympic Games.

Syneron-Candela, the parent of Gentle Hair Removal, also reportedly issued a statement ending their sponsorship of Lochte.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the swimmer had responded to the companies’ announcements.

The 12-time Olympic medalist and reality TV star recently admitted that he “over-exaggerated” when he claimed that he and three other U.S. swimmers were held up at gunpoint after leaving a party early in the morning while the games were on-going. Among his claims, he said that a gun was cocked and pointed at his forehead.

“That’s why I’m taking full responsibility for it,” he told NBC News in a clip posted online. “I over-exaggerated that story.”

“That didn’t happen,” he said in the interview.

Instead, Brazilian police officials allege, the swimmers vandalized a bathroom at a gas station and were confronted by armed security guards.

U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Scott Blackmun announced in Rio on Sunday that further action would be coming in the case. At a daily media briefing, he did not specify what disciplinary action would be taken, but he was clearly displeased with Lochte and the other three swimmers.

“They let down the other athletes, they let down Americans, and they let down our hosts in Rio,” Blackmun said. “We are going to have further action on this when we get back to the United States.”

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Benjamin Burgess for Street Sense(NEW YORK) — Apps like Airbnb and Uber have revolutionized the way many of us find travel lodging and get around town, connecting us to others who are willing to rent a room or a ride at cut rates.

Now, a Washington, D.C., resident is hoping to bring some of society’s most vulnerable people into the sharing economy by creating a website to connect refugees and victims of domestic violence with people willing to offer a safe place to stay until they can get on their feet.

Kuwait-born Amr Arafa told ABC News that the idea came to him when he began seeing news reports last year about refugees fleeing violence in the Middle East.

“Clicking and sharing to spread the word is a bare minimum, donating money is a step up,” he told ABC News. “But dedicating your core competency, whatever it is, towards a cause really does make a difference.”

So, late last year, he began coding the site he now calls EmergencyBnB.

The site is still very much in its infancy, he said, and he is in the midst of redesigning it to make it more user-friendly.

The service connects users directly, so he said he has no way of monitoring how many connections have been made through the service. However, he said that he has personally hosted a handful of people in recent months that found him through the site.

Among them was a Syrian couple who stayed at his apartment for two weeks while he was travelling, he said. The couple, who were living in Texas, needed a place to stay while a court in the Washington-area determined their asylum status, Arafa said.

Arafa also said an eastern European woman and her child had stayed with him after fleeing what they claimed was violence at home.

“I started with refugees and domestic violence victims due to the exigent nature of their need,” he said. “I plan to expand to other vulnerable categories as the website scales.”

In the future, Arafa said he hopes that the service will be able to work with the government and nonprofit sector to help find placements for refugees when they first enter the U.S.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Stocks closed mostly lower Monday as investors await a speech from Janet Yellen this week and after positive comments on the economy from the Fed vice chair Sunday.

The Dow slid 23.15 (-0.12 percent) to finish at 18,529.42.

The Nasdaq gained 6.22 (+0.12 percent) to close at 5,244.60, while the S&P 500 finished at 2,182.64, down 1.23 (-0.06 percent) from its open.

Crude oil sunk about 4 percent with prices hitting under $47 a barrel.

Federal Reserve: Fed Vice Chairman Stanley Fischer hinted at a nearing rate hike in a speech Sunday after saying the U.S. economy was nearing the U.S. central bank’s goals for unemployment and inflation. Investors are laying low as they await a speech later this week from Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen on the economy and monetary policy at the Economic Policy Symposium.

Ryan Lochte: Multiple sponsors have dropped U.S. swimmer and gold medalist Ryan Lochte after he apparently lied about being held at gun-point in Rio de Janeiro. Speedo USA said Monday it would donate $50,000 of the swimmer’s fee to the charity Save the Children. Ralph Lauren also said they would not be renewing his contract and stated that it “continues to proudly sponsor the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Team and the values that its athletes embody.” Gentle Hair Removal was the third of four sponsors to drop Lochte. Airweave later ended their partnership with the swimmer Monday.

Pfizer: Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Inc. announced Monday it would acquire cancer drug-maker Medivation for about $14 billion, or $81.50 a share in cash. Medivation’s shares soared 20 percent after the news.

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