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[l] at 2/4/23 10:02pm
MAYFIELD — Doug Irby, owner of a mold removal and home foundation repair company, sees daily reminders that Kentuckians still need help to recover from the tornadoes of December 2021. Yet most of the donations that Kentucky has set aside to help victims pay for unmet needs remain untapped, leaving survivors wondering if that help will ever come. Driving in Mayfield, the Graves County seat and one of the hardest hit communities, Irby points to the blue tarps of damaged roofs dotting residential streets. “You can ride around and say, ‘Hey, they need a roof. Why don’t they have the money?’” Irby said. “We’re going past year one, going into year two — and these people are living in these (damaged) homes with their families. And it makes me so mad.” Donors from around the country sent $52 million to help tornado victims After the tornado outbreak, more than $52 million in donations poured into the Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund from all over the country. The money has been disbursed in several ways, including paying for funeral expenses, new housing and $1,000 checks to survivors. Last July, pressed by frustrated local recovery leaders, the state provided $12 million from the fund for addressing survivors’ unmet needs, from replacing ruined appliances to replacing damaged roofs. Long-term recovery groups run by volunteers in impacted communities were to handle the applications for aid, which would require final approval by the state Public Protection Cabinet. As of mid-January, only 10% of the money had reached survivors, while $10.8 million of the $12 million remained unspent. How has so much generosity still not reached its intended recipients? Leaders of long-term recovery groups in Western Kentucky say unreasonable and inflexible rules from the state led to money held in Frankfort not reaching survivors.Of particular concern is a $3,500 state-imposed cap on payments to applicants, which the local groups say is too low to meet most needs, such as replacing a vehicle.In some counties, a lack of caseworkers to process applications for funding further strained efforts to use the millions of dollars of donations. Ryan Drane, the executive director of the Mayfield-Graves County Long-Term Recovery Group, says he does not fault state officials who had to create a system for providing practical, individualized aid after a massive disaster. “But when it comes to disaster recovery, you can’t manage it like you do state funding for it to be effective and efficient and equitable to all survivors,” Drane said. “There certainly should have been more input and direction from those who were here, boots on the ground working with the recovery every day to make determinations as to how and what the money should be spent on.” Struggling to put money into survivors’ hands Emails and other documents received through open records requests, along with interviews with leaders of long-term recovery groups and Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet (PPC) officials overseeing the donation fund, convey the struggle and frustrations surrounding the delays in putting money into survivors’ hands. The Graves County group had spent less than 1% of its more than $5.6 million from the tornado recovery fund by mid-January. Others are in a similar situation, though not all. Caldwell County has spent about 97% of its $525,000 in funding for unmet needs. The Hopkins County group had spent 46% or $304,000 of its allocation by mid-January. Irby is one of hundreds in Graves County who has applied for funding and is still waiting. In the meantime, he tries to make a difference by helping dozens of tornado survivors. He’s offered his mold treatment and foundation repair services for free or at a steep discount. Mold treatment is among the eligible uses for the unspent relief funds, but, says Irby, it should not be delayed. “You start getting the mold issues and stuff in homes and where homes are unrepairable,” Irby said. “We need faster response times on everything.” Irby says treatment for mold caused by leaks from tornado damage should not be delayed. Mold cleanup is one of the uses for donations set aside for survivors’ unmet needs. (Photo for Kentucky Lantern by Julia Rendleman) State makes some concessions The state recently extended the states of emergency for some counties beyond Jan. 14, when they were set to expire, which gave the groups more time to get the money into survivors’ hands. And, in November, in a concession to recovery groups, the state loosened a rule that local leaders had insisted was an obstacle to approving aid. The state had required “good faith efforts” to first use other funding sources before tapping the tornado relief fund. The state’s motive was to protect survivors from running afoul of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. A state official told the Lantern that in previous disasters FEMA demanded refunds from disaster survivors when a duplication of benefits is discovered. “We like to make darn sure that we’re not putting anybody at risk of losing the FEMA money,” Jacob Walbourn, general counsel of the state Public Protection Cabinet, told the Lantern in December. But the local groups were afraid of running afoul of the state, leading to months of delays in getting funds out the door. The Graves County group had forwarded no applications for approval before the rule change, but is now processing hundreds to send to the PPC. “I don’t think that the individuals and corporations who donated to this fund would have cared if their funds were the last in, or the first in,” Drane said. He said private funders sat on money waiting for the state-held donations to be used. Churches asked why they should spend thousands of their members’ dollars when millions of donated dollars held by the state should be available. In Warren County, rather than try to “prove, really an unknown” — that no other funds were available to help an applicant — the recovery group opted not to use any of its $466,000 and rely on other philanthropic resources instead. “It was hard for us to say that this is the ‘last resort’ when we have our donation dollars that have flowed in that we can use,” said Brent Childers, chair of the Bowling Green-Warren County Disaster Recovery. Nearly four months after recovery groups sought a change in the guideline, the PPC agreed, changing what had been a requirement to avoid duplicating aid to an encouragement to do so. “(I)t is our intent that funding from the tornado relief fund can be combined with other funding to provide for the unmet needs in each county,” DJ Wasson, the state Public Protection Cabinet’s chief of staff, notified them in a November email. From Drane’s perspective, the change lifted the burden of exhausting all other means before touching the donation fund and allowed Drane’s recovery group to move forward. Is $3,500 enough for anything? But the state has not budged on the $3,500 payment cap per application, despite requests from recovery groups to raise it to $10,000. Walbourn, the PPC’s general counsel, said the cabinet included recovery groups in the decision to set the $3,500 cap, a limit that he said “made a lot of sense” given the rising costs of unmet needs. “I understand the PPC’s approach,” said Drane, the higher the limit, the fewer “people you can assist.” But $3,500 falls short of need in many cases, like purchasing a reliable vehicle for a survivor. Only partially assisting someone who has suffered losses delays their recovery, he said. “We’re having to ask that survivors hold the money until we can find other sources of funding that right now aren’t available.” Drane said the groups have provided data from past natural disasters to support raising the limit. “I like the long-term recovery groups. We want to work with them. We want to work through it all. But I certainly think that if you look at a couple of counties, they've shown that you can get these dollars out the door.” – Gov. Andy Beshear Mark Dowdy, chair of the Fulton County Long-Term Recovery Group and senior pastor of Cayce Baptist Church, agreed that the $3,500 cap was too low. Fulton County had asked for $240,000 total from the tornado relief fund, reporting that eight families needed help. Based on the eight households, the state’s formula qualified Fulton County for $14,000, which Dowdy called “really a slap in the face.” The tornadoes killed one person in Fulton County and destroyed more than 60 structures. “The state, their intentions may have been good, but they were not a help to us at all.” Dowdy said. Fulton County has received other help from the state donation fund, though: Habitat for Humanity has helped rebuild a few homes in Cayce with funding provided from the tornado relief fund. Dowdy said while that support for housing was appreciated, the lack of support for his community’s unmet needs was disappointing. He said the county has instead tried to help survivors through other private and grassroots efforts. ‘Some groups were less responsive’ A PPC spokesperson in a statement said there were “necessary restrictions” on the use of unmet needs funds to make sure they reached as many people as possible. “As counties were spending money, according to the guidelines of the program, we worked with them to get their money spent. Some groups were less responsive,” said Kristin Voskuhl, the PPC spokesperson. The state formula took the number of estimated people with unmet needs — submitted by each county in May — and multiplied that by $1,750. Christian County’s recovery group still has 95% of its $733,250, said the group’s chair Wynn Radford, because it discovered too late that the money could not go to survivors of a Jan. 1, 2022 tornado along with those in the Dec. 2021 outbreak. The group had based its request on need created by both tornadoes but could distribute money only to survivors of the first. Radford said it left their group with a lot more money than they can use. “Here’s the question: the unused money. Where does it go?” Radford said. Voskuhl, the PPC spokesperson, said plans for reallocating unspent funds have not been finalized. All of the $52 million from donations has been committed for various purposes, although more than $24 million of the committed amount remains unspent. Voskuhl said the recovery groups are now addressing longer-term needs and the PPC did send out more than $9.6 million in short-term relief checks to survivors in February 2022. The PPC came under fire this week by Republican lawmakers and state Treasurer Allison Ball after the Lexington Herald-Leader reported that an additional round of relief checks sent to survivors in December, totaling more than $10 million, went to people in error. Beshear defends rules, points to counties that have used most of their funding At a Thursday news conference, Gov. Andy Beshear defended the rules put in place by the PCC, saying that the unmet needs funding was “promised to go directly to tornado survivors and not to any overhead.” Beshear pointed to counties that have used most of their funding as proof that the rules work. “It’s $52 million of aid, even if it takes a little longer through one part. That’s really helping people,” Beshear said. “I like the long-term recovery groups. We want to work with them. We want to work through it all. But I certainly think that if you look at a couple of counties, they’ve shown that you can get these dollars out the door.” Beshear said the regulations were in part to satisfy concerns raised by Ball, the Republican state treasurer, about delegating responsibilities to the new nonprofit recovery groups, rather than the funding coming directly from the state to survivors. As of Jan. 12, only four of the 11 county recovery groups had spent more than 10% of their funding allocation: Caldwell, Hopkins, Muhlenberg and Taylor counties. Case worker challenges Last October, recognizing the need for more case workers to help verify the information on applications, the Community Foundation of Western Kentucky, a nonprofit based in Paducah, created a new organization to hasten the process. “There was a lack of case managers, and there was a lack of an organized way to track information,” said Chris Dockins, the foundation’s chief operating officer. The new organization, the West Kentucky Disaster Recovery and Resiliency Center, has 12 application navigators aiding long-term recovery groups. But still not every applicant has a case worker or navigator, said Drane. “We’re trying to develop efficiencies as we go along in the process, to get these things going as quickly as possible and get checks out to the survivors who desperately need it.” The Graves County recovery group received about 430 applications in December. Four navigators have been hired to go through applications. “What we’re trying to do is verify what needs to be verified . . . that we’re completing the application in the way that the state would like to see it completed.” Meanwhile, the state asked judge-executives in counties that want more time to distribute funds to request an extension of their states of emergency. Caldwell, Christian, Graves, Hickman, Hopkins and Marshall counties received extensions until July 2023. Warren, Fulton, Muhlenberg, Ohio and Taylor counties did not request extensions. Waiting for help Gregg Knight was a case worker in Graves County until leaving the job last year and still gets calls for guidance from former clients who need help with needs the tornado created, whether directly or indirectly. They have few alternatives, she said, other than moving away from their community or trying to pay for what they need, even if it’s a financial burden. “There are people I know that are just flat out paying it out of pocket.” Knight has worked with Irby, the tornado survivor who’s helped other survivors through his small business, to connect Irby with survivors who still need help. For now, Irby waits to hear back about his application. He said he gets a generic email every week or so that reminds him he hasn’t been forgotten. He has something other survivors are still seeking: a permanent roof over his head at his rental home near Wingo, a few miles south of Mayfield. He had moved himself and his kids to the rental home four months ago from a trailer. They had moved into the trailer because their previous home in Mayfield was unsafe after the tornado. That trailer became unbearable to live in, too, electricity problems making the place feel like “an ice cube.” He bought new appliances and started rebuilding his life with some of his children at their modest home, the memories and trauma of the December 2021 night still fresh in his mind. “Soldiers go to war and get PTSD from violent actions that happen,” Irby said. “Every time there’s a tornado or a tornado warning or a siren, it’s going to trigger people. It triggers me.” He still wakes up with his heart pounding some nights, remembering being in his truck with his kids racing to get to shelter. He remembers the blackness of the twister covering the sky, only illuminated briefly by flashes of lightning. He remembers the farmhouse doors being blown open and the worries that his kids could be sucked outside by the winds. Ultimately, it’s his kids he thinks about when he helps other survivors in the region, conscious efforts informed by his faith. “I’m following the path I believe that I’m being led on and by helping people, maybe they can help somebody,” he said. “My kids are watching me.” Kentucky Lantern is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kentucky Lantern maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jamie Lucke for questions: info@kentuckylantern.com. Follow Kentucky Lantern on Facebook and Twitter.
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[l] at 2/4/23 9:48pm
Warning: This article contains spoilers. From the widely panned Super Mario Bros. movie (1993) to Netflix’s Resident Evil (2022) releasing to decidedly mixed reviews, game adaptations have historically been cursed on both big and small screens.HBO’s series based on the hugely successful PlayStation game The Last of Us, is the latest entry into this genre. Early indications from critics and viewers suggest it has broken the dreaded video game curse.The series occupies a unique position. In 2013, when the game was released, post-apocalypses were incredibly popular science fiction worlds. In 2023, such pandemics, as we’ve discovered, hue closer to science fact.The scene in which protagonists Joel and Ellie encounter a mass grave has a distinctly different impact when humanity has so recently had to grapple with such tragedies in the real world. Trailer for HBO’s The Last of Us.In the series, a child’s blanket links this scene to a flashback of mass evacuation in the wake of the Cordyceps (the fungus that evolves to infect humans) outbreak foreshadowing the series’ continuing exploration of the values of family, connection and community.Love in the time of CordycepsThe Last of Us game released in 2013 among what critics have called the “dadification” of games – a period in which many releases focused on paternal protagonists.This “dadification” was driven partly by maturing technology that allowed more complex stories to be told. Also, developers who had grown up playing games were maturing and starting families, including The Last of Us creative director Neil Druckmann. The kinds of stories they wanted to tell matured too, resulting in games addressing parent-child relationships, including The Walking Dead (2012) and God of War (2018).The theme of parenthood is prevalent in The Last of Us too. While Joel and Ellie’s relationship makes this clear, this theme extends to other characters including Joel’s brother Tommy, an expectant father. HBO’s adaptation takes this a step further by also briefly exploring Ellie’s connection to her mother. Creators of HBO The Last of Us explain the role of fatherhood in the show.The value of parenthood in the game unfurls into the show’s focus on family. Dialogue throughout the series reflects its importance: Joel reminding Tommy of their familial bond, a scientist who just wants to be with their family, the dying teenage bandit pleading to be returned to his mother.The value of family extends to supporting characters who are exclusive to, or expanded upon in, the series. Brothers Henry and Sam share a bond in the series compared with the game’s portrayal of a surrogate parent-child relationship that complements Joel and Ellie’s.The series further extends the game’s exploration of family by having Henry and Sam’s story intersect with new character Kathleen. The leader of the Kansas Quarantine Zone resistance movement, Kathleen has her own motivations surrounding her brother.A gamechanging adaptationWhile family is a core concern of the show, the theme of connection is also explored. This can be seen in its many “found” families. Joel and smuggling partner Tess’ relationship gets more screen time than in the game, as does the short-lived Joel-Tess-and-Ellie family dynamic. Sarah and Joel, played by Nico Parker and Pedro Pascal. Shane Harvey / HBOThis extends to the series’ other couplings, from episode-length explorations of Joel’s friends and existing game characters Bill and Frank, to Ellie’s relationship with school friend Riley, to Firefly leader Marlene’s connection to Anna – a best friend with a pivotal story role.Even the Cordyceps is not immune to the rhetoric of connection. The spores by which the fungus spreads in the game have been changed to fungal tendrils in the show. These tendrils connect all the Infected – the series’ version of zombies.Step on a tendril in one place and you’ll wake a dozen Infected in another. The fungal spores in the game are an impersonal, environmental hazard. The series’ tendrils instead actively seek out new victims and in one unsettling scene, defile a fundamental act of human connection and love to achieve this.What it means to be human in a world ravaged by a pandemic is also explored. The politics of peaceful communities is examined, from the militaristic Quarantine Zone where Joel first meets Ellie, to Tommy’s settlement – jokingly but truthfully derided as “communism” by Joel.More important, perhaps, is the exploration of hostile communities that game players would typically shoot their way through. Kathleen’s control of the Kansas resistance group is given a two-episode arc that ends with Joel and Ellie burying Henry and Sam – a humanising end to their story the game did not afford. The motto of the resistance group, the Fireflies. Liane Hentscher / HBOThe notion of burial as a human ritual is unearthed again a few episodes later when a girl asks in-game antagonist David, the leader of a group at Silver Lakes Resort, if her father can be buried – a request he denies. The episode explores David and his group, humanising them more than in the game. This further humanisation then stands in stark contrast to a reveal that poses the ultimate question of where the tipping point is between human and monster. These values are framed in relation to the show’s ultimate theme: love. Joel loved Sarah. Bill loved Frank. Kathleen loved her brother. David’s community loved him. This love, derived from the personal relationships found and strengthened amid chaos, breeds hope not only for the world portrayed in the show but also for our own.A repeated motif in the series is the motto of the resistance group, the Fireflies: “When you’re lost in the darkness, look for the light.” In a world all too familiar with pandemics in 2023, this masterful adaptation of The Last of Us is something bright indeed.Adam Jerrett, Lecturer, Faculty of Creative & Cultural Industries, University of Portsmouth and Peter Howell, Senior Lecturer in Game Design, University of PortsmouthThis article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.
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[l] at 2/4/23 9:18pm
Four days after an ice storm left hundreds of thousands of Texans without power, Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for seven counties impacted by the severe weather.Subfreezing temperatures combined with rain to produce a nasty storm that coated much of the Texas Hill Country in ice, toppling tree limbs and downing electric lines. As of Saturday evening, more than 60,000 households were still without power."The State of Texas has provided all assistance requested throughout the severe weather this week, and we continue to ensure that communities across our state have the resources and support they need to recover from the winter weather event," Abbott said in a statement.Abbott issued the declaration for Denton, Hays, Henderson, Milam, Smith, Travis and Williamson counties, all of which experienced significant damage over the last week. Abbott said more counties may be added based on damage assessments still in progress. Abbott said the declaration would enable the state to provide assistance to people and communities with property damage. He encouraged residents to report damage, with details and photos if possible, through the Individual State of Texas Assessment Tool survey. The declaration came after Austin officials faced criticism for fumbling communication about the storm and falling short on early promises of a quick resolution to the outages. Austin Mayor Kirk Watson and Austin Energy officials waited more than 24 hours after people began losing power to hold the first press conference. And hours after they spoke Thursday, the electricity provider walked back its estimate that power would be restored by the end of the third day of outages, extending the sense of uncertainty. Eventually, the city-owned utility said it could no longer promise when electricity would be fully restored.Despite frustration about the initial slow pace, progress has been made. Between Thursday and Saturday, almost 100,000 Austin customers had their power restored. This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2023/02/04/texas-ice-storm-disaster-austin-power-outage/.The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.
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[l] at 2/4/23 8:53pm
The man accused of the brutal murders of four University of Idaho students last November has apparently been receiving passionate love letters from a Kentucky single mom, multiple outlets are reporting.Murder suspect Bryan Kohberger is described as “my divine masculine (sic)” and “my perfect man,” according to Fox News and the New York Daily News, among others. Kohberger also received photos from the woman, “who goes by Brittney J. Hislope on Facebook and claims to have a 16-year-old son.” Fox News reported that she “has written about her feelings for Kohberger nearly every day, sometimes multiple times a day since early January.” And it quoted this:“’I know that the last I had heard weeks ago is that Bryan is being kept isolated from other inmates, and so I know that we do both likely sleep alone as I mentioned in a past post,’ Hislope wrote in her most recent post, which was dated shortly after midnight Friday.”READ: 'Stuff of nightmares': Bicyclist killed after driver runs into him and stabs him to death The Daily News also reported on the posts.“In a series of love letters posted to social media, a woman named Brittney Hislope gushes over Kohberger, declaring him her “love interest” and a “perfect man,” it reported. ‘I don’t know if Bryan is or was single when he supposedly committed the murders, but I wonder if he and I ever would’ve met if he would’ve like me and if we could’ve connected well,’” Hislope wrote in one lengthy note.”The Daily News reported that the woman “acknowledged some of her commenters, who compared her romantic feelings to women who swooned over Ted Bundy, the notorious 1970s serial killer who confessed to 30 murders.”As Raw Story reported, University of Idaho students Kaylee Goncalves, 21, Madison Mogen, 21, Xana Kernodle, 20, and Kernodle’s boyfriend Ethan Chapin, 20, were found stabbed to death in their beds on November 13 at their off-campus dormitory. Kohberger is being held without bail in a jail in Latah County, Idaho. He has been charged with four counts of felony murder along with one count of felony burglary in connection with their killings.ALSO IN THE NEWS: Durham's dud is worse than it looks — and now Trump suddenly doesn't want to talk witch hunts
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[l] at 2/4/23 8:36pm
The White House on Saturday condemned a newly introduced Republican bill that would repeal the Inflation Reduction Act, a law that includes a number of changes aimed at lowering costs for Medicare recipients.Unveiled Thursday by freshman Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), the bill has 20 original co-sponsors and is endorsed by several right-wing groups, including the Koch-funded organization Americans for Prosperity.The Biden White House argued that rolling back the Inflation Reduction Act, which also contains major climate investments, would represent "one of the biggest Medicare benefit cuts in American history" as well as a "handout to Big Pharma." According to Politico, which first reported the White House's response to the GOP bill, the administration is planning to release "state-by-state data indicating how this would affect constituents in different areas.""House Republicans are trying to slash lifelines for middle-class families on behalf of rich special interests," White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said in a statement. "Who on earth thinks that welfare for Big Pharma is worth selling out over a million seniors in their home state?” The Inflation Reduction Act authorized a $35-per-month cap on insulin copayments for Medicare recipients, as well as an annual $2,000 total limit on out-of-pocket drug costs.The bill will also, among other long-overdue changes, allow Medicare to begin negotiating the prices of a subset of the most expensive prescription drugs directly with pharmaceutical companies, which fiercely opposed the law and are working with Republicans to sabotage it. The newly negotiated prices are set to take effect in 2026.Ogles, whose two-page bill would eliminate the above reforms, repeatedly attacked Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal programs and protections during his 2022 campaign for the U.S. House.The White House's critique of Ogles' bill comes as Biden is facing pressure from advocates and physicians to cancel a Medicare privatization scheme that his administration inherited from its right-wing predecessor and rebranded.It also comes as the White House is locked in a standoff with House Republicans over the debt ceiling. Republican lawmakers have pushed for deeply unpopular cuts to Medicare, Social Security, and other critical federal programs as a necessary condition for any deal to raise the country's borrowing limit and avert a catastrophic default."In less than a month, MAGA extremists have threatened to drive the economy into a recession by defaulting on our debt, promised to bring up a bill to impose a 30% national sales tax, and now have introduced legislation to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act," Patrick Gaspard, president and CEO of the Democratic Party-aligned Center for American Progress said in a statement. "This will cut taxes for corporations who earn billions in profit while empowering Big Pharma and Big Oil to continue ripping off the American people.""It is vital that all Americans understand what is at risk if MAGA extremists succeed in passing their latest dangerous idea: millions of lost jobs, millions more without health insurance, and higher costs for lifesaving insulin, utilities, and more," Gaspard added.
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[l] at 2/4/23 8:32pm
Nevada Democratic Party Chair Judith Whitmer said Friday that progressives won't stop working to stem the flow of untraceable cash into national primary contests after the DNC Resolutions Committee blocked a vote on her proposed dark money ban for the second time. Whitmer, a DNC member, told Common Dreams that "time and time again, we've watched 'dark money' used to silence the voices our party most needs to hear." "Our party and our country need strong Democratic candidates willing to speak truth to power, but when their messages can be drowned out in a flood of untraceable expenditures, many candidates are questioning why they should even run," Whitmer said. "Restoring faith in our democracy has never been more urgent, and that all-important work should start in our own primary elections." Whitmer sponsored the proposed dark money ban alongside fellow DNC member James Zogby, who previously served as chair of the resolutions panel. If approved, the resolution would have prohibited dark money donations in Democratic primary contests and established guidelines for investigating any violations of the ban. On Thursday, members of the DNC Resolutions Committee—who likely faced pressure from DNC leadership—stayed quiet when the proposed ban was put up for consideration, so the measure did not receive a vote. Had the committee approved the proposal, which was backed by dozens of DNC members, it would have gone to the full DNC for a vote this weekend. (The DNC doesn't publicize membership lists for its standing committees.) "Although we were disappointed that the Resolutions Committee once again chose not to move our resolution forward, we will keep fighting to make our primaries a fair and level playing field for all candidates," Whitmer told Common Dreams. Democratic leaders, including President Joe Biden, have repeatedly railed against the scourge of dark money, decried its corrupting influence, and pledged to rein it in—only to balk at pressure for substantive action. The party's platform, adopted in 2020, states that "we will bring an end to 'dark money' by requiring full disclosure of contributors to any group that advocates for or against candidates." Yet as the DNC leadership, headed by Chair Jaime Harrison, refuses to act on its rhetoric—and as congressional Republicans block broader legislative efforts to curtail dark money—Democratic incumbents continue to benefit from untraceable donations, which are frequently used to undercut progressive challengers. Last year, the newly formed dark money group Opportunity for All Action Fund spent around $600,000 to bolster Reps. Donald Payne Jr. (D-N.J.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Danny Davis (D–Ill.). All three went on to defeat their progressive primary opponents and win reelection. That pattern played out across the country, though some candidates—including Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.), who was aggressively targeted by AIPAC's super PAC—were able to overcome torrents of opposition spending and prevail in November. "In races around the nation, we've seen these underhanded tactics used to silence debate on critical issues, with competing views buried under an avalanche of dark money-funded messaging." According to an August 2022 study by the Wesleyan Media Project, nearly 70% of pro-Democratic Senate ads up to that point in last year's election cycle were funded by groups that don't disclose any of their donors. "Letting our primaries devolve into auctions, rather than elections, has done more than simply create an unequal and unfair playing field," Whitmer said during the DNC Resolutions Committee's last gathering in September. "In races around the nation, we've seen these underhanded tactics used to silence debate on critical issues, with competing views buried under an avalanche of dark money-funded messaging." At this weekend's DNC meeting in Philadelphia, members approved a presidential primary calendar that would bump South Carolina up to the first-in-the-nation primary slot for 2024—a plan that has drawn criticism from some progressives. But the issue of dark money was brushed aside once again. "It was deeply upsetting that the Democratic Party refused to even vote on our resolution to ban 'dark money' from primaries," Zogby tweeted Saturday. "Using millions of 'dark money' from questionable billionaire sources to target and smear progressives is damaging to democracy and party unity." While Democrats in Congress continue to push legislation to curb dark money across the board in federal elections, progress will be virtually impossible with a closely divided Senate and a Republican-controlled House, leaving internal party rule changes one of the only viable paths toward genuine campaign finance reform in the near future. Larry Cohen, a DNC member and the board chair of Our Revolution, wrote in an email Friday that the DNC and state-level Democratic parties "have extensive rules relating to the nominating process, which provide many opportunities to block dark and dirty money." "What happens inside the Democratic Party and inside party caucuses of elected Democrats is frequently ignored by progressives, who are generally more comfortable protesting and working solely outside the party. Of course, protest is essential, and new party-building is fine," Cohen wrote. "But for those of us who believe we must fight in every possible way to advance progressive issues and win real power, we ignore party reform at our peril, even as we demand broader electoral reforms, such as fusion and ranked-choice voting, proportional representation, and more."
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[l] at 2/4/23 7:40pm
An Orange County doctor out for a bike ride along the beach was murdered by a man who stabbed him repeatedly after running into his bike with a car, the Los Angeles Times reported.Dr. Michael John Mammone, 58, of Orange County, died at a local hospital where he worked as an emergency physician, the report said. Mammone was riding his bike at about 3 p.m. Wednesday when the driver of a white Lexus struck it from behind and proceeded to stab him several times, sheriff’s officials said.The driver was identified as Vanroy Evan Smith, 39, of Long Beach, the report said. Smith was charged Friday with one count of murder and personal use of a deadly weapon, which could enhance his sentencing, according to Orange County Superior Court records. He pleaded not guilty and is being held on $1-million bail. The fatal attack occurring around 3:00 p.m. in a beach town setting “stunned the community and left many unanswered questions,” the Times reported. And it added this:“An innocent man is dead because he took a bike ride to enjoy a beautiful California day along the beach and he was hit with a car and stabbed to death by someone he apparently never met,” Orange County Dist. Atty. Todd Spitzer said in a news release. “The murder of a complete stranger in broad daylight for what appears to be absolutely no reason is the stuff of nightmares.”Smith was pinned to the ground by bystanders who had rushed to help Mammone. The doctor was taken to Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo. He had worked as an emergency physician for the hospital -- mostly at another location of the hospital – but sometimes at the facility where he died.
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[l] at 2/4/23 4:48pm
Fox News panelists on Friday's edition of The Five suggested that workers who call in sick are "lazy" and then trivialized medical leave as generally unnecessary. American workers have access to fewer paid sick days than their counterparts compared to other industrialized countries. "A total of more than 30 days of vacation time allotted to workers in France, Germany, Spain, and the United Kingdom stands in stark contrast to the 10 public holidays in the U.S., which are not guaranteed to come with pay," CNBC noted in 2018. And while many employees admit to "faking" illnesses, research shows that upper management does so much more often. READ MORE: 'Worst game of chicken ever': Fox News host blames Kevin McCarthy's failed speakership bid on the media Fox's hosts, however, implied that the concept is deeply flawed. "If you're feeling sick, don't do this. Two-in-five employees will sniffle and cough around the office just to prove to their coworkers that they're actually under the weather instead of just taking a sick day. Judge, have you done that recently?" Harold Ford Jr. asked Jeanine Pirro. "No but I'll tell you why they do it. Does that mean I did it? They do it to prove to people they really are sick. You don't want people to think you're just lazy and want to stay home. And eat candy. Dark chocolate," Pirro replied. "You've been hacking up a lung this entire show," joked Jesse Watters. READ MORE: Fox News host suggests Xbox's 'woke' power-saver mode is meant to brainwash kids about climate change "Very specific," Martha McCallum chimed in. "You didn't have to come in today. We could have had [Jessica] Tarlov or Geraldo [Rivera]. We get it," Watters added. "I dunno, ya know, I'm not big on sick days. I don't think that you necessarily should have like, the six sick days every year. Then people say, 'Oh, I'm taking a sick day tomorrow!' which I think is really bogus," MacCallum continued. "I don't know. So we just come in and cough all over each other and push through. I mean, that's the way we work." READ MORE: 'Come on, man!' Fox News host whines GOP has 'to be fair' — says Pence 'could’ve just destroyed' documents
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[l] at 2/4/23 4:45pm
The Democratic National Committee approved a presidential primary calendar Saturday that placed South Carolina as the first nominating state in 2024, pushing back New Hampshire and Iowa from their traditional spots in a party-wide push to diversify the early calendar. In a voice vote at the DNC’s winter meeting in Philadelphia, party members voted to place South Carolina first, on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024, followed three days later by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 6, and a week after that by Georgia and Michigan on Feb. 13. Democratic National Committee chair Jamie Harrison speaks before introducing U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris at the Democratic National Committee winter meeting on Feb. 3, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images) “Folks, the Democratic Party looks like America, and so does this proposal,” said DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison. The vote gave formal approval to a proposal first put forward by the Rules and Bylaws Committee in early December, which came after a year of presentations from state candidates. It also fulfilled a desire by President Joe Biden to emphasize South Carolina and Nevada over New Hampshire and Iowa, whose populations are majority white. “We can’t go back in time to fix the mistakes of our past, but by golly, this will help allow us to put our hands on that arc of history and bend it towards justice,” said Pete Lee, the vice chairman of the Democratic Party of Oregon, during a debate ahead of the vote. But the DNC vote clashes with the Republican National Committee’s vote in April 2022 to keep the traditional nominating order for its primaries: Iowa, followed by New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Nevada. It also set into motion what is likely to be a bitter conflict in New Hampshire and Iowa over their positions on the calendar. Iowa Democrats react In a statement after the DNC vote, Iowa Democratic Party Chair Rita Hart said Iowa Democrats will follow state law in making their 2024 delegate selection plan. State law requires Iowa’s parties hold their caucuses before any other presidential nominating contest in the country. While Iowa will move ahead with planning an unsanctioned contest, Hart kept the door open for further discussions with national Democrats. Neither New Hampshire nor Georgia have moved their primary dates to comply with the DNC requirements. “As it stands today, of the five states which were granted waivers, one state appears unwilling, and one state appears unable, to meet the conditions on which they were predicated,” Hart said. “This uncertainty means that the matter is far from settled, and Iowa Democrats will continue to be part of the ongoing conversations about the calendar.” But Dave Nagle, a former Iowa Democratic congressman from Waterloo, said he doubts the DNC will let Iowa back into the early state lineup, even if New Hampshire and Georgia are unable to meet the new waiver deadline. The DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee approved sanctions on states holding contests outside of the DNC’s approved calendar, cutting half of the state’s delegates to the 2024 Democratic National Convention. Nagle said he does not believe this punishment will deter Iowa from going first. “The right to maintain an open process and give everybody a fair shot who wants to run for president is more important than 50 people getting on a plane and flying to a national convention in July,” he said. Scott Brennan, a Rules and Bylaws Committee member and former Iowa Democratic Party chair, said Democrats are leaving Saturday’s meeting with “absolutely nothing settled.” He pointed to the 2008 presidential nominating cycle, when Florida and Michigan moved their primary dates earlier. That kicked off a scramble that lasted until October 2007, less than three months before the 2008 Iowa caucus. At the 2008 convention, the DNC refused to seat half of the delegations from both states for moving their primaries without authorization. “If past is prologue, some states proposed here will spend the coming year maneuvering for their preferred position and we have created an opportunity for other states to take a run at encroaching the pre-window,” Brennan said. For its part, New Hampshire has a state law that requires both Republican and Democratic presidential primaries to be held together before any other state’s, and its secretary of state, Dave Scanlan, has vowed to hold it first no matter what. On Saturday, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu reiterated that vow. “Joe Biden and the power brokers at the DNC in Washington think New Hampshire’s time is up, but it’s not in our DNA to take orders from Washington,” Sununu wrote on Twitter. “New Hampshire will be going first in 2024.” ‘Done waiting’ Saturday’s vote came after nearly an hour of spirited debate between representatives of Iowa and New Hampshire – who urged the party to reconsider the vote – and committee members from other states, who argued the change was necessary and overdue. Harrison, of South Carolina, said the calendar “reflects our values and will strengthen our party.” He argued each state in the new calendar brings out the party’s strengths – from Black Americans in South Carolina to Latino voters in Nevada to union workers in Michigan and Nevada. “Folks, think about this: Forty percent of enslaved people came to this country, and they came through the Port of Charleston,” Harrison said. “… We know how important the Latino voice has been in terms of building this country. It is elevated by pushing Nevada (up).” Artie Blanco of Nevada agreed. Democrats in her state had long argued that a newly diverse primary was “in the long-term best interest of this Democratic Party,” she said. And the new position would be a meaningful boost for Latino voters, she said. “Fellow Democrats, you can’t say you’re elevating this coalition’s voice but still ask us to wait our turn,” she said. “I’m done waiting.” Other state representatives said the calendar provided a new roadmap for Democrats to build support in areas of the country once thought unwinnable. Alan Clendenin, a Florida Democrat, praised the new calendar for bringing a new focus to Southern states and forcing the party to take it seriously. “The road to victory is going to go through the South,” he said. “We are rising, and between South Carolina and putting Georgia on the map, we will achieve victory in 2024 and beyond.” South Carolina Democratic Party Chairman Trav Robertson argued his state’s new position would reward the presidential candidates who can compete in diverse environments, not just the ones who have raised the most money. “The reality is this: 60 to 65 percent of traditional Democratic voters in the state of South Carolina don’t live in one county,” he said. “You have to come into our state and work in urban settings, in rural settings in order to put together an organization to win.” In a fiery speech of her own, U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell of Michigan pushed back at arguments from Iowa and New Hampshire that they should keep their positions, countering that Michigan had been a better recent predictor of future presidents. “Here’s the reality,” she said. “No one state should have a lock on going first.” Last minute pleas from New Hampshire, Iowa Representatives of New Hampshire, meanwhile, argued that the DNC’s move would have political consequences. The DNC proposal approved Saturday granted each state its new slot provided it met a series of conditions. In New Hampshire, those conditions include the repeal of a 1975 law requiring its primary to be the first, as well as the passage of legislation to expand the number of people who can vote by absentee ballot. Both of those requests have been rejected by top Republicans in the state, who control the Legislature and governor’s office. Michigan, Nevada, and South Carolina had met their conditions in time for the Philadelphia meeting, a DNC official said, but New Hampshire and Georgia have not. On Saturday, the DNC approved an extension to June 3 for those two states. But Joanne Dowdell, New Hampshire’s DNC representative on the Rules and Bylaws Committee, argued that whatever the deadline, the demands on the state are impossible to meet. If the demands are not met, the new DNC rules dictate that New Hampshire’s presidential primary be pushed back to March, well after the early window. “It is frustrating because the DNC is set to punish us despite the fact we don’t have the ability to unilaterally change state law,” she said. “And we are frustrated because as many times as we say it, no one seems to listen when we say that this will only hurt President Biden in our purple battleground state.” Dowdell said that because New Hampshire will likely hold its primary first regardless, any punishments levied against the state would affect support for Biden’s re-election. “If President Biden doesn’t file for the New Hampshire primary, it could provide an opening for an insurgent candidate to rise in the state and potentially win the first presidential primary of 2024, something that no one in this room wants to see,” Dowdell said. New Hampshire Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley warned that if Granite State voters soured on Democrats, the repercussions could affect the balance of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, both of which are near-evenly divided. “Try to get to 51 in the U.S. Senate without Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan,” said Buckley, referring to New Hampshire’s two Democratic senators. Iowa Democrats – who are eliminated from the early nominating window entirely under the new calendar – also aired frustrations. Jan Bauer, an Iowa DNC member, said the Rules and Bylaws Committee had ignored the state’s efforts to revamp its caucus system and effectively reshape it to act more like a primary. Those pledged changes came after a series of glitches caused days-long delays in delivering the results of the Iowa Democratic Caucuses in 2020. Hart, elected last week as Iowa Democratic Party chair, said Iowa had been put in an “impossible” position of choosing between the DNC rules and its state laws. She also said the changes “feed the narrative that Democrats have turned their backs on Iowa and on rural America.” “Iowans value common sense, and it just doesn’t make sense to entirely remove representation from rural Midwestern states in the pre-window,” Hart said. But James Roosevelt, a Massachusetts committee member and co-chairman of the Rules and Bylaws Committee, praised the effort the committee had made to arrive at its decision. “This has been a long process, but an open and a fair one,” said Roosevelt, who added that it had resulted from “extensive meetings, discussions, and research.” “The new window shows that we are a party that adapts and grows,” he said. This story was originally published by the New Hampshire Bulletin, which is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. New Hampshire Bulletin maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Dana Wormald for questions: info@newhampshirebulletin.com. Follow New Hampshire Bulletin on Facebook and Twitter. Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: info@iowacapitaldispatch.com. Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.
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[l] at 2/4/23 4:11pm
Prominent conservatives are having a field day on social media over Rep. Marjorie Taylor, R-GA, having urged her followers to undertake the physically impossible task of shooting down a spy balloon. Greene tweeted Friday, "Literally every regular person I know is talking about how to shoot down the Chinese Spy Balloon. It would be great if an average Joe shot it down because China Joe won’t. Regular Americans can do everything better than the government and actually care about our country." Greene wasn’t the only Republican serving up the bizarre idea, as Raw Story reported. But she was the only person with a Jewish space-laser theory on her resume, and some conservatives weren’t about to let her forget it. “The responses generally highlighted the near-impossibility of actually hitting the balloon, given its altitude, and mockingly brought up her past comments about outlandish conspiracies,” the Charlotte Observer noted. One tweet of note was addressed to Greene from George a co-founder of The Lincoln Project: “Sorry, but I don’t think they’re going to lend you the laser.”RELATED: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon' MSNBC contributor Charlie Sykes stuck with that theme as well: “Where are the Jewish space lasers when you need them?” On a more down-to-earth note, the Observer said this, prior to the ballon being shot down over the Atlantic on Saturday:“The surveillance balloon is estimated to be floating upwards of 60,000 feet in altitude, which is a little over 11 miles. The furthest successful shot ever recorded by a military sniper was roughly 2.14 miles, accomplished in 2017 by a Canadian soldier serving in Iraq. The record for farthest shot ever made with a rifle was set in last September by a team of long-range shooting experts in Wyoming, successfully hitting a target 4.4 miles away.” Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele concurred. "At 60,000 feet," Steele tweeted. "Where to even begin with you, Marge..."
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[l] at 2/4/23 3:13pm
The Chinese spy balloon shot down today by the U.S. military had “generated deep concern” in Congress because of a classified report on aerial surveillance that was sent to it last month by intelligence agencies, the New York Times reported today.“The (report) discussed at least two incidents of a rival power conducting aerial surveillance with what appeared to be unknown cutting-edge technology, according to U.S. officials,” the Times reported. “While the report did not attribute the incidents to any country, two American officials familiar with the research said the surveillance probably was conducted by China.”The balloon was shot down by the U.S. military off the Carolina coast Saturday afternoon, as reported by Raw Story. The Biden Administration had decided to leave it in flight until it was over water to minimize the risk of debris plummeting to the ground.The New York Times account provided new context about what had preceded the arrival of the spy balloon.RELATED: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon' “The report on what the intelligence agencies call unidentified aerial phenomena focused on several incidents believed to be surveillance,” the Times noted. “Some of those incidents have involved balloons, while others have involved quadcopter drones.“The Chinese government said on Friday the Chinese balloon discovered over the United States was mainly for weather research. However, American officials said they have assessed it to be a collection device, though not one that could gather the kind of sensitive information that advanced Chinese reconnaissance satellites already collect.”It was not surprising that the Chinese spy balloon set off an especially strong reaction in Congress, according to the Times report.“The surveillance balloon stirred outrage on Capitol Hill. Some officials said the information about adversarial spying contained in the classified report on unidentified aerial phenomena had already driven up concern earlier. Both Republicans and Democrats hawkish on China called the surveillance balloon a violation of American sovereignty that highlighted the threat from Beijing.”ALSO IN THE NEWS: Durham's dud is worse than it looks — and now Trump suddenly doesn't want to talk witch hunts
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[l] at 2/4/23 2:20pm
The derailing of a cargo train near East Palestine, Ohio caused a massive fire on February 4, 2023EAST PALESTINE, Ohio (AFP) - A cargo train derailed in the midwestern United States, sparking a massive fire and evacuation orders, officials and reports said Saturday. No injuries or fatalities were reported after the 50-car train came off the tracks late Friday near the Ohio-Pennsylvania state border. The train was shipping cargo from Madison, Illinois, to Conway, Pennsylvania, when it derailed in East Palestine, Ohio. Several explosions were heard as the cars continued to burn into Saturday, according to local media. Low temperatures hampered the effort, as fire trucks pumping water froze up. Officials said the train was carrying the chemical vinyl chloride, NBC's local affiliate WFMJ-TV reported. Firefighters wore hazmat suits as they tackled the blaze. Roughly 2,000 residents -- about half of the town's population -- were asked by authorities to evacuate their homes. Officials asked anyone living within a one-mile (1.6-kilometer) radius of the scene to leave. They also enforced a shelter-in-place order for the entire town. "We cannot stress enough that we need everyone to stay away from the scene," East Palestine's town manager wrote in a letter posted on Facebook.

[Category: Us, Transport, Accident, Fire, En]

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[l] at 2/4/23 1:40pm
NEW YORK (AFP) - An Arctic blast that brought "frostquakes" to parts of the United States saw the country record its lowest ever wind-chill temperature, meteorologists said Saturday. Atop Mount Washington in the northeastern state of New Hampshire, the wind-chill factor reached minus 78 degrees Celsius (minus 108 degrees Fahrenheit) overnight, the National Weather Service (NWS) said. The service's office in the town of Gray, Maine, said in a tweet that it set a new US record for the lowest wind-chill temperature in the United States. CNN reported that it broke the previous record of minus 76 C set in Alaska. The previous low at Mount Washington was minus 74 C, recorded there in 2004, the Weather Channel said. At almost 6,300 feet (1,920 meters), Mount Washington is the highest peak in the northeastern US and is known for having some of the world's worst weather. Temperatures of minus 43 C and wind gusts of over 110 miles per hour (177 kmh) combined for the historic low. The NWS office in Caribou, Maine, said a wind chill of minus 51 C was recorded in the small town of Frenchville, just south of the border with Canada. The office said they had received reports of "frostquakes," also called "cryoseisms," in the region. "Just like earthquakes, (they) generate tremors, thundering sensations. These are caused by sudden cracks in frozen soil or underground water when it's very cold," the NWS office wrote on Twitter. Ahead of the blast, it had warned of an "epic, generational Arctic outbreak." The NWS said the chills would be "something northern and eastern Maine has not seen since similar outbreaks in 1982 and 1988." "Most stations are forecast to see their lowest wind chills in decades or, in some cases, the lowest ever recorded," the service added. It warned that frostbite to exposed skin can occur within five minutes in such conditions. "The dangers of being caught unprepared without shelter from the elements and without proper winter survival gear cannot be stressed enough," the service wrote. The NWS said the blast brought temperatures 10 to 30 degrees Fahrenheit below average over parts of the US Northeast and the coastal Mid-Atlantic. Extreme weather warnings covering several million people were in effect across much of New England, Quebec and eastern Canada. A wind chill factor of minus 41 C was measured at Montreal International Airport. The Hydro Quebec energy company said the polar blast had sparked record high electricity consumption late Friday and urged customers to turn down their heating by a degree or two. In New York City, a "code blue" regulation was in effect, meaning no homeless shelter could turn anyone anyway. In New York's Central Park, the mercury dipped to minus 16 C, the NWS said. Wind-chill temperatures fell below minus 34 C in Boston, where public schools were closed Friday as a precautionary measure. Warmer air is due to move into the region late on Sunday.

[Category: Us, Canada, Weather, En]

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[l] at 2/4/23 1:16pm
A Chinese spy balloon that's been drifting through U.S. airspace for days was shot down off the Carolina coast Saturday afternoon, President Joe Biden said. The balloon had spent five days floating from Idaho to the Carolinas, sparking a diplomatic incident between the U.S. and China and a huge political debate in which many Republicans criticized Biden for not downing it quickly — with some encouraging civilians to shoot it down themselves. Biden's administration decided to leave it in flight until it was over water to minimize risk of debris plummeting to the ground. The balloon was downed by the U.S. military shortly after the Federal Aviation Administration announced it had "paused departures from and arrivals to" airports in the area "to support the Department of Defense in a national security effort." The FAA had issued flight alerts, known as "notice to air missions" or NOTAMs, warning aviators of flight restrictions around Myrtle Beach, S.C.The Associated Press reported an operation was underway to recover the debris from the ocean. Some on social media posted videos apparently showing the craft falling from the sky. The Chinese government had claimed that the balloon was used for weather research and had drifted off course into U.S. airspace, but the Pentagon said it was a surveillance device. Biden had said earlier Saturday that "we're going to take of it." And when asked at by reporters during a stop in Syracuse, N.Y., whether the balloon would be shot down, "Biden smiled and gave a thumbs up," according to a White House press pool report.
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[l] at 2/4/23 1:13pm
CONQUEIROS, Portugal (Reuters) - When his dog was born three decades ago in a tiny village in central Portugal, Leonel Costa was only eight years old. Little did he know that his beloved Bobi would one day be recorded as the world's oldest dog. When Bobi, a purebred Rafeiro do Alentejo, celebrated its 30th birthday last year, Costa knew he had broken an almost century-old record held by an Australian cattle-dog that died at 29 years and five months in 1939. Costa got in touch with the Guinness World of Records, submitted all the paperwork and a year later Bobi was officially named the oldest dog on record. Bobi was 30 years and 269 days old as of Feb. 4. "It's a feeling of pride we can't explain," Costa, 38, told Reuters as he petted Bobi near a church in the village of Conqueiros in central Portugal. "Some people told us we wouldn't make it... but we knew Bobi's age and were sure the exams would only prove what we already knew." The Guinness World of Records, which made the announcement on Thursday, described Bobi's story as "miraculous". At the time Bobi was born, Costa's family had many animals and little money so his father, a hunter, generally buried newborn puppies rather than keep them. But Bobi hid among a pile of firewood. Costa and his siblings found it a few days later and kept it a secret until the puppy opened its eyes. "We knew that when he opened his eyes, my parents wouldn't be able to bury him, " he said. Bobi's breed usually has a life expectancy of 12 to 14 years and Costa attributed its longevity to a number of factors, including living in calm countryside, never having been chained or kept on a leash and always eating "human food". "Of course our love and affection throughout his life has also helped," he said, giggling. Although Bobi still loves walks, age is taking its toll: the dog is less adventurous, its fur is thinning, its eyesight has worsened and it needs to rest more than it used to. Costa hopes Bobi has many more years of life and is thankful the dog has put the remote village of Conqueiros on the map. "There were other animals here who lived long lives but Bobi surpassed everything." (Reporting by Catarina Demony and Miguel Pereira in Conqueiros; Editing by Frances Kerry)
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[l] at 2/4/23 12:52pm
Police arrested a man late Friday for firing off blank rounds from a handgun earlier this week at a San Francisco synagogue.The man, whose name has not been released, was arrested after police developed probable case to obtain a search warrant at the man's home, where investigators said they found evidence from that incident and another one that happened nearly an hour later, reported KGO-TV. Video shows the man entering Schneerson Jewish Center on Wednesday evening and firing gunshots, which turned out to be blank rounds, and then flee the synagogue."Terrorism doesn't have to have killings," said Rabbi Alon Chanukov, the vice president of the synagogue. "In my mind, what he did was he came and he did a terrorist attack. He came to terrorize people."Police said he took part in another unspecified incident nearly an hour later.No injuries were reported in the synagogue shooting, but the congregation took additional security measures ahead of this weekend's services.
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[l] at 2/4/23 12:23pm
The political future of longtime Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) has reached a new stage of distress for Democrats as the 89-year-old, five-term U.S. senator remains non-committal about whether she’ll retire in 2024, Politico reports.Under the headline, “Dianne Feinstein’s extremely awkward, very uncomfortable exit from the political stage,” Politico pointed to a growing list of House Democrats who are already running for a Senate seat she has not said she will vacate when her term is up in 2024. Writer David Siders put it like this:“An extreme awkwardness has fallen over California political circles, where virtually everyone is acting as if Feinstein is done, but without her explicitly saying so. It’s the electoral equivalent of clearing the dessert from the dinner table as one guest sits there, nibbling at the main course chicken dish that had been served hours prior.”In an exclusive interview with Raw Story at the U.S. Capitol last week, Feinstein “announced she’s not not running. In fact, she has no plans to decide — let alone announce — her 2024 intentions until next year. "I need a little bit of time, so it's not this year," she told Raw Story.A couple days later, she backtracked, and said she'd announce her intentions this spring.That uncertainty about Feinstein’s future is not setting well with many California Democrats, many of whom have believe “her brand of centrism fell out of step with her party’s progressive base,” Politico noted. It cited the refusal of the California Democratic Party to endorse her 2018 primary candidacy for re-election, which she won easily.Siders also wrote this:“More problematic for Feinstein has been the persistent questions about her health. Even Democrats sympathetic to the senator have been reading headlines about her cognitive fitness to serve. The stories about it pop up with such regularity now that they no longer elicit the shock value of the early versions, when publication of such matters seemed to be violating some unwritten code of D.C. conduct.”The Politico report cited numerous observers with a common theme: Feinstein has overstayed her welcome.“God bless her,” Garry South, a Democratic strategist who has worked on major statewide campaigns in California, told Politico. “But the most pathetic part of politics is when somebody doesn’t know when it’s time to leave.”And there was this from an unnamed Democratic strategist:“What’s sad about this is that she’s always been somebody you didn’t dare mess around with,” the strategist said. “And it looks like that’s just gone.”
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[l] at 2/4/23 12:14pm
Christian and Jewish clergy are protesting anti-LGBTQ legislation and an abortion ban in Missouri on the basis of religious freedom.More than a dozen clergy represented by Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Women's Law Center are challenging the state's ban on abortion, and some of those same religious leaders are preparing to fight legislative attacks on LGBTQ rights, reported Religion News Service.“Basically, Missouri is leading the nation, it seems right now, in anti-LGBTQ legislation,” said Maharat Rori Picker Neiss, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of St. Louis. Missouri lawmakers have introduced 27 bills targeting LGBTQ rights, the most in the nation, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, and clergy members showed up to a recent marathon hearing to express their opposition to the proposed legislation.“I think one of the most distinct parts about the resistance to these bigoted and bullying bills in Missouri is the way that the faith community has shown up to stand up for these kids,” said Rabbi Daniel Bogard of the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis.The Rev. Mike Angell, rector of the Episcopal Church of the Holy Communion in University City, said many faith communities welcome LGBTQ worshipers, and he said it was important to show them support.READ: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon' “A number of us have trans youth in our congregations, some of whom are here to testify and to witness," Angell said. "So, for a lot of us, there’s a piece of this that is accompaniment of the trans youth, who would be directly affected, and the parents of trans youth, who would be directly affected."
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[l] at 2/4/23 11:10am
The Biden administration may shoot down a Chinese balloon suspected of spying on the U.S. military once it reaches the Atlantic Ocean.Administration officials told the Associated Press that it's not clear whether President Joe Biden had made a final decision, but he had discussed whether to bring down the suspected spy craft over the ocean where the remnants might be recovered and it posed less risk than over the ground.The president considered bringing it down over land when first briefed on Tuesday, but Pentagon officials warned its potential to harm people on the ground outweighed the danger it posed from an intelligence standpoint.The ballon was spotted over North Carolina on Saturday as it moved closer to the Atlantic coast.Earlier today, police in North Carolina asked locals not to take "pot shots" at the balloon. Gastonia police posted a notice on Facebook urging the public not to fire their guns into the air in hopes of bringing down the balloon, which was expected to pass over North Carolina on Saturday, and they also asked residents not to report sightings to them, reported Newsweek.READ: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon' "If the now infamous Chinese 'weather balloon' makes its way over Gastonia, please don't call the police to report it," police said in the post. "We don't have the capability to respond to an altitude of 60k feet to check it out. We are pretty sure the Feds would want us to stay out of it.""And finally, please don't take pot shots at it with your handguns in an attempt to bring it down on your own," the post added.Even if a shooter managed to hit the balloon with a gunshot from more than 60,000 feet away, experts say it's unlikely to be brought down by gunfire.
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[l] at 2/4/23 10:58am
Merrick Garland should have indicted Donald Trump as soon as he had the chance, according to one legal expert.The attorney general could have charged the former president for hoarding classified documents at Mar-a-Lago and refusing to hand them over to the National Archives immediately after the ultra-conservative Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals on Dec. 1 unanimously affirmed the Justice Department search warrant, and Washington Monthly columnist James D. Zirin argued that recent events only make that failure look worse."Garland also knew what we didn’t: A few weeks earlier, Joe Biden’s lawyers had uncovered a file of government documents, some of them classified, at the Washington office Biden had used for his work with the Penn Biden Center, the think tank he founded after he served as vice president," Zirin wrote. "Even if the attorney general had allowed for the possibility that Biden might have more government documents elsewhere, Garland could easily have distinguished the two cases and moved forward with a Trump prosecution."Zirin, a former federal prosecutor, points out that Biden cooperated with investigators from the start while Trump stalled and obstructed until FBI agents executed the search warrant, and he argued that Garland knows, and has always known, more about the inner workings of both cases than has been publicly revealed."However the facts fall, Garland may have dug a hole for himself, courted further delay, and dealt a lethal blow to the ideal of principled non-partisan justice," Zirin wrote.ALSO IN THE NEWS: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon'
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[l] at 2/4/23 10:38am
Police in North Carolina are asking locals not to take "pot shots" at a Chinese spy balloon floating tens of thousands of feet above.Gastonia police posted a notice on Facebook urging the public not to fire their guns into the air in hopes of bringing down the balloon, which was expected to pass over North Carolina on Saturday, and they also asked residents not to report sightings to them, reported Newsweek."If the now infamous Chinese 'weather balloon' makes its way over Gastonia, please don't call the police to report it," police said in the post. "We don't have the capability to respond to an altitude of 60k feet to check it out. We are pretty sure the Feds would want us to stay out of it.""And finally, please don't take pot shots at it with your handguns in an attempt to bring it down on your own," the post added.Even if a shooter managed to hit the balloon with a gunshot from more than 60,000 feet away, experts say it's unlikely to be brought down by gunfire.READ: 'Sorry, this is not a Chinese balloon' A 2009 research paper by U.S. Air Force Major Kevin Massie found such objects don't immediately descend when hit by bullets, citing a 100-meter weather balloon that remained aloft fro six days in 1998 after being shot by 1,000 rounds from Canadian F-18 fighter jets.Gunshots fired into the air pose a risk to other people on the ground once the bullets eventually come down.Donald Trump Jr. and multiple Republican elected officials posted photos of themselves on social media pointing their guns into the air as if to shoot down the balloon."If Joe Biden and his administration are too weak to do the obvious and shoot down an enemy surveillance balloon perhaps we just let the good people of Montana do their thing," Trump Jr. tweeted. "I imagine they have the capability and the resolve to do it all themselves."ALSO IN THE NEWS: Durham's dud is worse than it looks — and now Trump suddenly doesn't want to talk witch hunts

As of 2/5/23 5:57am. Last new 2/4/23 10:02pm.

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