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In today's news: Economists are looking up, gas prices are still going up, the nation's credit ratings might go down, the FBI shuts down poker websites, and robots brave Japan's nuclear stations.

ECONOMY: Poll: U.S. economy improving despite global events

Despite wars and natural disasters overseas and a lingering recession here at home, “Economists say the U.S. economy is gaining strength,” Yahoo News reports. “The outlook for employment rose slightly, reaching a 12-year high. Sales increased for the third consecutive quarter, and profit margins continued to improve.”

OIL: Gas spike tab hits $100 billion

With gas prices nearing an average of $4 a gallon, economists are warning that this one development could grind the economic recovery to a halt. “Gas-price increases have practically wiped out Americans’ winnings from last year’s tax holiday,” CNN reports. “That means Americans who thought they would pocket $110 billion this year in aggregate thanks to the payroll tax holiday are now down to $10 billion. It is not easy to feed a consumer spending rebound on that sort of budget.”

CREDIT: U.S. credit rating outlook lowered by S&P

You think you got credit problems? “Standard & Poor’s lowered its outlook for the nation’s long-term debt,” CNN reports. The reason is simple: “Political grousing over the deficit could put more pressure on the still-shaky economic recovery.”

CREDIT: FBI shuts down Internet poker sites

Playing online poker through websites based outside the United States is going to get tougher. While these sites have always skirted the law, the FBI is now cracking down. “The FBI had shut down two of the sites, Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars, by Friday evening and were working to do the same with the third, Absolute Poker,” the Los Angeles Times reports. “An estimated 8 million to 10 million Americans play poker online for money.”

TECH: Robots find high radiation as Tepco lays out plan to end crisis

Will robots take over the cleanup of Japan’s still-crippled nuclear reactors? At least for now, they’re diagnosing the problems. “Robots sent into two buildings at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear station detected radiation still too toxic for humans as the plant operator set out a plan to end the crisis in six to nine months,” Bloomberg reports.

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