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Election Anxiety, Violent Squatters: Your Saturday US Briefing

(Bloomberg) -- Hello from Washington, where the weather—spring-like after a blast of snow—is less predictable than the 2024 presidential race has been so far.

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After Republican front-runner Donald Trump’s easy wins in Iowa and New Hampshire, the focus shifts on Saturday to South Carolina, where President Joe Biden needs the kind of Democratic support that revived his White House bid four years ago. Florida, an increasingly important hub for deep-pocketed political donors, is another winter destination. Though both men are well-known to voters, early signs show Wall Street is more anxious about the election than at this time in 2020 and 2016. And how excited are Americans? Television viewer stats tell the story.

Biden’s decision to pause approval of new licenses for US exports of liquefied natural gas shows he’s determined to make fighting climate change a part of his re-election bid. But it creates new vulnerability for US allies, notably European countries that shifted to LNG from the US and other producers after Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Closer to home, California’s policies to phase out fossil fuels risk squeezing consumers by pushing up gasoline prices that are already among the US’s highest. That’s according to Chevron executive Andy Walz, who questions whether the company can keep investing in its California refineries amid the green push by politicians in the state, which remains the second-largest consumer of gasoline in the US.

Squatting may conjure up hipsters taking over funky old industrial buildings. In Atlanta, it’s taking a rougher turn as a real-estate boom, soaring housing costs, post-pandemic homelessness and the interests of Wall Street landlords collide. It’s gotten to the point that owners offer intruders money to leave illegally occupied rental homes. Many property managers won’t check on suspect houses alone because squatters might get violent. “They got to live in a home for seven months, wreck it and leave,” says one rental home co-owner.

Fake, sexually explicit images of Taylor Swift generated by artificial intelligence are prompting calls for stronger safeguards by social-media companies, such as Elon Musk’s X, against so-called deepfakes that are proliferating online. The White House urged the companies to act and said Congress should consider legislation. We reported on this obstacle last fall: there’s no US federal law against the creation of deepfake porn. X has said it is removing the images and taking action against the accounts involved in spreading them.

While Trump hasn’t secured the Republican presidential nomination, his shadow has been looming over Congress, where pressure by the former president is making House Republicans resist a deal for tying together Ukraine aid and an immigration crackdown. A $78 billion package of tax measures, including breaks for business and an expanded child tax credit, also isn’t ready yet. Both might come to a head next week.

Finally, AI also is on the minds of the spy world, which is nervously trying to harness the technology. But whose side is it on?

Enjoy your Saturday and come back tomorrow for a look at next week’s key events.

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