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Buttigieg campaign alleges ‘irregularities’ in Nevada results

Buttigieg campaign alleges ‘irregularities’ in Nevada results

Pete Buttigieg’s campaign has sent a letter to the Nevada state Democratic party alleging that there were “irregularities” in results from Saturday’s caucuses. While Sanders has won the caucus, the breakdown of how Nevada will allocate its 36 delegates has not yet been announced.

Buttigieg’s campaign asked in the letter for the state party to release raw early vote and in-person totals by precinct. The campaign also alleged that there were second alignment errors, and called on the party to explain anomalies in the data.

“Given how close the race is between second and third place, we ask that you take these steps before releasing any final data,” Buttigieg’s campaign wrote.

In response, the Nevada Democratic Party communications director Molly Forgey said the party had “laid out our early vote and Caucus Day processes step-by-step” and had let all the campaigns know.

“We are continuing to verify and to report results,” Forgey said. “We never indicated we would release a separate breakdown of early vote and in-person attendees by precinct and will not change our reporting process now. As laid out in our recount guidance, there is a formal method for requesting a challenge of results.”

Nevada’s caucus was just three weeks after Iowa, where there was chaos in reporting the results. Earlier this week, Buttigieg and Sanders both requested the state party conduct a recount of specific precinct caucuses, according to the Iowa Democratic Party. This came after Buttigieg and Sanders earlier this month asked the Iowa Democratic Party to conduct a recanvass of limited precincts. The recanvass resulted in no change in national delegates awarded to the two candidates, but did lead to a slight change in state delegate equivalents.

You can read the rest of Alex Tin, Nikole Killion, Caroline Linton, and Melissa Quinn’s article at CBSnews.com

Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy due to sex abuse lawsuits

Boy Scouts of America files for bankruptcy due to sex abuse lawsuits

The Boy Scouts of America, barraged by hundreds of sex-abuse lawsuits, filed for bankruptcy protection Tuesday in hopes of working out a potentially mammoth victim compensation plan that would enable the hallowed, 110-year-old organization to carry on.

The Chapter 11 filing in federal bankruptcy court in Wilmington, Delaware, sets in motion what could be one of the biggest, most complex bankruptcies ever seen. Scores of lawyers are seeking settlements on behalf of several thousand men who say they were molested by scoutmasters or other leaders decades ago but are only now eligible to sue because of recent changes in their states’ statute-of-limitations laws.

By going to bankruptcy court, the Scouts can put those lawsuits on hold for now. But they could ultimately be forced to sell off some of their vast property holdings, including campgrounds and hiking trails, to raise money for a compensation fund that could surpass $1 billion. BSA first explored bankruptcy in December 2018.

“Scouting programs will continue throughout this process and for many years to come,” said Evan Roberts, a spokesman for the Scouts. “Local councils are not filing for bankruptcy because they are legally separate and distinct organizations.”

The Boy Scouts are just the latest major American institution to face a heavy price over sexual abuse. Roman Catholic dioceses across the country and schools such as Penn State and Michigan State have paid out hundreds of millions of dollars in recent years.

The bankruptcy represents a painful turn for an organization that’s been a pillar of American civic life for generations and a training ground for future leaders. Achieving the rank of Eagle Scout has long been a proud accomplishment that politicians, business leaders, astronauts, and others put on their resumes and in their official biographies.

The Boy Scouts’ finances have been strained in recent years by declining membership and sex-abuse settlements.

The number of youths taking part in scouting has dropped below 2 million, down from more than 4 million in peak years of the 1970s. The organization has tried to counter the decline by admitting girls, but its membership rolls took a big hit January 1 when The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – for decades a major sponsor of Boy Scout units – cut ties and withdrew more than 400,000 scouts in favor of programs of its own.

The financial outlook got worse last year when New York, Arizona, New Jersey, and California passed laws making it easier for victims of long-ago abuse to file claims. Teams of lawyers across the U.S. have been signing up clients by the hundreds to sue the Boy Scouts.

Most of the newly surfacing cases date to the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s; the organization says there were only five known abuse victims in 2018. The Boy Scouts credit the change to an array of prevention policies adopted since the mid-1980s, including mandatory criminal background checks and abuse-prevention training for all staff and volunteers, and a rule that two or more adult leaders be present during all activities.

In many ways, the crisis parallels the one facing the Catholic Church in the U.S. Both institutions boast of major progress over recent decades in combating abuse. whether by priests or scout leaders, but both face many lawsuits alleging negligence and cover-ups, mostly decades ago.

Among the matters to be addressed in bankruptcy court: the fate of the Boy Scouts’ assets; the extent to which the organization’s insurance will help cover compensation; and whether assets of the Scouts’ more than 260 local councils will be added to the fund.

“There are a lot of very angry, resentful men out there who will not allow the Boy Scouts to get away without saying what all their assets are,” said lawyer Paul Mones, who represents numerous clients suing the BSA. “They want no stone unturned.”

It may prove difficult to determine how much is available to settle suits.

According to the Reuters news service, the national scouts organization said in its most recent annual report, from 2018, that it had $1.5 billion in assets. In addition, hundreds of local councils have their own assets and, said Reuters, “Victims may try to make those available for settling claims.”

The national organization and the local councils combined have almost $5 billion in assets, according to a Wall Street Journal report last month cited by Agence France Presse.

But AFP reports that the national organization estimates liabilities of up to $1 billion, according to court filings from Tuesday.

Amid the crush of lawsuits, the Scouts recently mortgaged the major properties owned by the national leadership, including the headquarters in Irving, Texas, and the 140,000-acre Philmont Ranch in New Mexico, to help secure a line of credit.

Founded in 1910, the Boy Scouts have kept confidential files since the 1920s listing staff and volunteers implicated in sexual abuse, for the avowed purpose of keeping predators away from youth. According to a court deposition, the files as of January listed 7,819 suspected abusers and 12,254 victims.

Until last spring, the organization had insisted it never knowingly allowed a predator to work with youths. But in May, The Associated Press reported that attorneys for abuse victims had identified multiple cases in which known predators were allowed to return to leadership posts. The next day, Boy Scouts chief executive Mike Surbaugh wrote to a congressional committee, acknowledging the group’s previous claim was untrue.

You can read the AP’s full article at CBSnews.com

Actor Jussie Smollett faces 6 new charges in Chicago

Actor Jussie Smollett faces 6 new charges in Chicago

Actor Jussie Smollett was indicted Tuesday for a second time on charges of lying to police about a racist and anti-gay attack he allegedly staged on himself in downtown Chicago, renewing a divisive criminal case that drew worldwide attention last year.

The indictment came from a special prosecutor who was appointed after Cook County prosecutors dropped the same charges last March.

The new charges were sure to reignite many of the tensions that surrounded Smollett a year ago. When his claims first emerged, he drew a groundswell of support from fans and celebrities and gave an emotional television interview about the attack.

The case came to reflect the polarized state of political discourse in America. Many Democrats initially called it a shocking instance of Trump-era racism and hate, while Republicans depicted it as yet another example of liberals rushing to judgment and disparaging the president’s supporters as bigots.

Special prosecutor Dan Webb said in a statement that Smollett faces six felony counts of disorderly conduct, charges that stem from four separate false reports that he gave to police in which he contended he was a victim of a hate crime “knowing that he was not the victim of a crime.”

The statement immediately raised questions about county prosecutors’ decision to drop the charges and made it clear that those prosecutors had not adequately explained to special prosecutors why they did so. But Webb stressed that he had reached no conclusions about whether anyone involved in the case had engaged in any wrongdoing.

Smollett, who is black and gay, was originally charged with disorderly conduct in February 2019 for allegedly staging the attack and lying about it to investigators. The allegations were dropped the following month with little explanation, angering police officials and then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

Tina Glandian, Smollett’s attorney, questioned Webb’s decision to file new charges.

The indictment “raises serious questions about the integrity of the investigation that led to the renewed charges” Glandian said, citing the use of the same detectives who were part of the original investigation into the attack to conduct the latest probe, despite Smollett’s pending civil claims against the city and police officers for malicious prosecution.

He is scheduled to appear in court for arraignment on Feb. 24.

Smollett told police he was walking home early on Jan. 29, 2019, when two masked men approached him, made racist and homophobic insults, beat him and looped a noose around his neck before fleeing. He said his assailants, at least one of whom he described as white, told him he was in “MAGA country” — a reference to President Donald Trump’s campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again.”

Several weeks later, authorities alleged that Smollett had paid two black friends $3,500 to help him stage the attack because he was unhappy with his salary as an actor on “Empire,” a Fox series about that follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the recording industry. Smollett was accused of using the scheme to drum up publicity for his career.

A judge in August appointed Webb, a former U.S. attorney, to look into why the original charges were dropped. Webb also was investigating whether phone calls that Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx had with a Smollett relative and a former aide of former first lady Michelle Obama unduly influenced the decision to drop charges. Foxx recused herself from the case but continued to weigh in.

At the time, Judge Michael Toomin, who assigned the case to Webb, raised the possibility that Smollett could be charged again. According to the judge and attorneys, double jeopardy does not apply because Smollett was never prosecuted.

In his news release, Webb said he concluded that prosecuting Smollett was “in the interest of justice” for a number of reasons, including the extensive details of Smollett’s false account as well as the resources that the police department threw at the investigation.

When the first indictment against Smollett was returned, Webb wrote, the state’s attorney’s office had concluded that the evidence in the case was “strong.” But the office failed to offer any new evidence to explain why authorities dropped the charges just a few weeks later, Webb said.

Further, Webb took issue with an assertion in a news release issued when the charges were dropped that Smollett had not received special treatment and that the case was resolved “under the same criteria that would be available for any defendant with similar circumstances.” Webb asked for but never received any examples of other such cases, he wrote.

The city has sued Smollett, seeking reimbursement of more than $130,000 for overtime paid to officers who were involved in investigating Smollett’s report. Smollett’s attorneys have said the city should not be allowed to recover costs from Smollett because it accepted $10,000 from the actor “as payment in full in connection with the dismissal of the charges against him.”

It was not immediately clear what sentence Smollett faces if convicted. When he was originally charged with disorderly conduct, it was reported that he could be placed on probation or sent to prison for one to three years per count.

You can read the rest of Don Babwin and Herb McCann’s article at ABCnews.com

NASA astronaut Christina Koch returns safely to Earth after 11 month journey

NASA astronaut Christina Koch returns safely to Earth after 11 month journey

NASA astronaut Christina Koch, who was part of the first-ever all-female spacewalk in October, has returned safely to Earth after spending nearly 11 months in orbit.

Koch returned with International Space Station Commander Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency and Russian cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov. Her stay on the ISS set a spaceflight record for a female astronaut.

The trio touched down southeast of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, at 3:12 p.m. local time (0912 GMT) in a Soyuz capsule.

Koch, 41, spent 328 days on the International Space Station, giving researchers the opportunity to observe the effects of long-duration spaceflight on a woman. The study will have long-lasting effects since NASA has made it clear that it intends to return to the Moon with its Artemis program, which includes a female astronaut landing on the lunar surface.

The astronaut, who grew up in Jacksonville, N.C., and now lives near the Gulf of Mexico in Galveston, Texas, with her husband, Bob, told The Associated Press last month that taking part in the first all-female spacewalk was the highlight of her mission.

Koch said that she and her fellow NASA astronaut Jessica Meir appreciated that the Oct. 18 spacewalk “could serve as an inspiration for future space explorers.” Meir became the 228th person in the world to conduct a spacewalk and the 15th woman.

NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk in the spring of 2019 but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go. The two women were supposed to install more new batteries in a spacewalk but had to venture out earlier than expected to deal with an equipment failure, replacing an old battery charger for one of the three new batteries that was installed by Koch and fellow NASA astronaut Andrew Morgan.

You can read the rest of Chris Ciaccia’s article at FoxNews.com

Trump administration raises legal age to buy tobacco in US to 21

Trump administration raises legal age to buy tobacco in US to 21

President Donald Trump gave his stamp of approval on Friday to raising the federal age requirement of who can legally purchase tobacco products to 21 when he signed spending bills approved by Congress this week.

This change means that in less than a year it will become illegal for anyone under 21 in the United States to purchase vape products and e-cigarettes, as well as more traditional tobacco products.

The new regulation comes amid nationwide concern about increasing nicotine use among young people and the possible health risks of electronic cigarette products.

With the president’s signature, the new age requirement will take effect in about nine months — the Food and Drug Administration has 180 days to update its regulations and they will go into effect 90 days after that.

Youth tobacco use became a point of discussion in Washington as the prevalence of e-cigarette use and vaping among teenagers seemed to skyrocket. Though the issue garnered more attention due to the hundreds of vaping-related illnesses across the country, raising the age to purchase tobacco won’t directly tackle that problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have traced the problems to illicit THC products adulterated with Vitamin E.

Tobacco use has long been a concern in the U.S. in both the health problems connected to combustible cigarettes and the addictive properties of nicotine, especially in young people. In 2018, 12.5% of middle school students reported they use a tobacco product, compared to 31% of high school students, a CDC survey found.

A CDC fact sheet also shows that more than 34 million adults in the U.S. — about 13.7% of the population — are cigarette smokers.

A bill to raise the legal age to buy tobacco — from 18 to 21 — was introduced earlier this year by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine and was combined with another bipartisan bill on the issue to become part of the spending package.

Along with updating rules about how to enforce the new tobacco age, FDA is starting to evaluate applications for e-cigarette products it says are on the market illegally to determine if the agency will allow them to be sold or place restrictions on where they can be sold and how they can be marketed.

You can read the rest of Stephanie Ebbs’ article at ABCnews.com

Even using a 4K HDR TV, set your Xbox One to output 8-bit color depth

Even using a 4K HDR TV, set your Xbox One to output 8-bit color depth

Achieving the optimal video output settings on the Xbox One has been a topic of debate for quite some time. Controversy has raged across various internet forums regarding which settings should be enabled to ensure the highest image quality. Thanks to the use of signal capturing devices, the debate has finally been settled.

The Xbox One console should be set to output at an 8-bit color depth. This probably seems counterintuitive to those with 4K HDR TVs, whose panels support a 10-bit or higher color depth. However, it has been demonstrated that the Xbox One will still automatically output all HDR content in 10-bit or 12-bit color depth, even when the console’s video output settings are set to 8-bit. The advantage of setting the Xbox One’s color depth to 8-bit is quite simple. The console renders all non-HDR (SDR) content in 8-bit, and setting your console to output in 10-bit or 12-bit will negatively affect the image quality of SDR content due to the introduction of inherently flawed video reprocessing.

HDMI 2.0 is only capable of transmitting data at 18Gbps. This constraint does not allow the Xbox One to output full 10-bit or 12-bit 4K 60hz video in YCC 4:4:4. As such, the console is only capable of outputting 10-bit and 12-bit 4K 60hz video in YCC 4:2:0 or 4:2:2. All SDR games will render on your Xbox One in 8-bit, a signal that can be transmitted in full to an HDMI 2.0 TV at 60hz in 4K. This is one of the reasons why setting the Xbox One’s color depth to 10-bit or 12-bit will cause SDR games to lose color accuracy, a result of forcing the video to output in YCC 4:2:0 or 4:2:2.

Another video output option you’ll want to enable while playing games in HDR on your Xbox One is “allow YCC 4:2:2.” This will force your Xbox One to output 10-bit and 12-bit HDR content at YCC 4:2:2 instead of 4:2:0. Disregard Microsoft’s suggestion that you should only enable this feature if your console is having problems. However, only enable this feature while you’re playing games in HDR.

Again, the “allow YCC 4:2:2” option should only be enabled while you’re specifically playing HDR video games. Do not leave the option enabled while watching any other HDR or SDR content. Do not leave this option enabled if you’re playing a video game in SDR.

Ultra HD Blu-rays are encoded in YCC 4:2:0, and it would be best to transmit them to your television in that format. But remember, even those only using their Xbox One to watch movies should still set their color depth to 8-bit, ensuring the best video quality possible for their collection of SDR DVDs and Blu-rays.

YCC 4:2:0 and 4:2:2 refer to chroma subsampling. Basically, all you need to know about chroma subsampling is that YCC 4:2:2 is superior to 4:2:0. While YCC 4:4:4 would be ideal, the signal cannot be transmitted via HDMI 2.0 due to the limitations of the technology. The Xbox One Console renders SDR games in 8-bit RGB, not YCC, and the RGB signal does not employ chroma subsampling. HDMI 2.0 is capable of transmitting the 8-bit RGB signal in 4k at 60hz, which is exactly why you should set your Xbox One to output in an 8-bit color depth. Setting your Xbox One’s color depth to 10-bit or 12-bit won’t render SDR games in a higher color depth, it will simply force the console to output at a higher color depth by introducing additional video processing that will negatively affect the image.

Realistically, most people would never notice the difference. Then again, if you’ve already purchased a 4K HDR television and an Xbox One, why not get the most out of them? It’s also worth noting that not all games look best with HDR enabled. Some games that “support” HDR do not actually render in HDR. Red Dead Redemption 2, for example, does not properly render in HDR.

While playing games like Red Dead Redemption 2, which do not accurately render in HDR, you will need to disable HDR support in the Xbox One’s settings. Even when playing games that allow the option of disabling HDR through the in-game settings, it’s probably best to disable it via the console to prevent any conflicts between the game and the system. It’s fairly common for games to improperly render in HDR, and it’s worth researching information about each of your games to ensure they will render correctly in HDR.

Let’s explore the concept of HDR a little further. The 10 in HDR10 refers to 10-bit color. While it is possible to render SDR content above an 8-bit color depth, the Xbox One does not. The Xbox One will only render above the 8-bit color depth when outputting in HDR10 or Dolby Vision. Dolby Vision outputs in a 12-bit color depth, although few 4K TVs support this feature. Remember, your Xbox One will still automatically output HDR content properly in HDR10 or Dolby Vision when those options are enabled, even though the console’s color depth is set to 8-bit.

The Xbox One X will support HDMI 2.1, and Belkin recently released an HDMI cable capable of transmitting at 48Gbps. Unfortunately, these new cables won’t allow HDMI 2.0 televisions to receive 60hz 4K 10-bit or 12-bit YCC 4:4:4 video signals, due to the limitations of HDMI 2.0 technology. New TVs featuring HDMI 2.1 are coming soon, but it’ll likely be at least a year before the Xbox One X receives an update allowing it to transmit 10-bit and 12-bit YCC 4:4:4 4K video at 60hz and above to these new devices. Although, the Belkin 48Gbps HDMI cords are allowing Apple TV users to transmit 4K 10-bit YCC 4:2:2 video at 60hz, as the Apple TV has a strange defect that renders 18Gbps HDMI cables insufficient at transmitting the high bandwidth signal.

The above video is one of the best on YouTube at explaining these concepts. While this article currently provides the best advice for achieving optimal video quality from your Xbox One, we will update this content to reflect any future changes to the console’s settings by Microsoft. If you have any questions or comments about the information presented here, be sure to let us know in the comment section below.

Throwback Thursday: Mortal Kombat released on gaming consoles 25 years ago

Throwback Thursday: Mortal Kombat released on gaming consoles 25 years ago

Mortal Kombat completely changed the gaming world when the arcade game was released in 1992. Mortal Kombat allowed players to challenge one another to a literal death match. The fighting game featured five buttons and an eight-way directional joystick. Two buttons controlled the players kicks, two controlled punches, and one allowed the player to block.

When a player won the fight against his opponent, the winner was allowed a short amount of time to perform a secret combination of buttons that would allow the victor to kill his dazed opponent. This finishing move was referred to in the game as a fatality. Each character had their own finishing moves, and the game even featured a stage fatality that allowed the winner to use the environment to kill his opponent. Needless to say, the game was quite controversial when it was released. It was also incredibly popular in the United States.

Thanks to the popularity of the arcade game, Mortal Kombat was quickly ported to home gaming consoles. The launch of Mortal Kombat on consoles was one of the largest and most highly publicized releases in gaming history. Referred to as Mortal Monday, Mortal Kombat hit store shelves for the Sega Gensisis, Super Nintendo, Game Gear, and Game Boy on September 13th, 1993. The game’s launch was preceded by a huge wave of advertising in the form of print ads and television commercials.

Although the game launched on four separate gaming consoles on the same day, there were enormous differences between the games. The Game Boy and Game Gear versions were significantly less technologically advanced than the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis versions. The Super Nintendo version came the closest to reproducing the visual and audio achievements of the arcade game, due to the console’s technological superiority compared to Sega’s Genesis. However, the Sega Genesis version remained much more faithful to the mood of its arcade predecessor. This was due to Sega’s inclusion of game’s more controversial elements.

Nintendo was not comfortable with releasing Mortal Kombat uncensored for their console. Nintendo chose to leave the blood out of the Super Nintendo version of Mortal Kombat. The blood was replaced with sweat. Fatalities were also altered for their version of the game.

Sega, on the other hand, decided to go with a different approach. The Sega Genesis version of the game allowed users to enter a code at the beginning of the game, similar to how players  performed fatalities, that unlocked the sight of blood and uncensored the fatalities. This more faithful adaption of the game on Sega’s console was much more well received than Nintendo’s. Mortal Kombat was the deciding factor for many gamers when choosing between purchasing a Genesis or SNES, and Sega likely benefited greatly from their decision.

Gamers may also remember another feature from Sega’s version of Mortal Kombat. The code to unlock blood in the Sega version of the game is “ABACABB.” Abacab is an album from the band Genesis, who shares a name with the Sega console. This Easter egg is one of many found throughout the game.

Mortal Kombat is known in the gaming community for its early adoption of the practice of hiding secret elements in the game. The arcade version allowed users to access a hidden fight against a secret character with its own secret stage. Future Mortal Kombat titles even adopted hidden Easter eggs based on rumors about previous games.

Mortal Kombat 10, the latest title in the series, was released in 2015. Warner Brothers purchased the Mortal Kombat franchise in 2009 when they acquired Midway Games. Ed Boon, co-creator of the original Mortal Kombat, is still currently serving as creative director for the Mortal Kombat games. Although there is no official word yet on Mortal Kombat 11, we look forward to brutally finishing off our opponents in the next Mortal Kombat game.

Companies making millions charging prisoners to email

Companies making millions charging prisoners to email

Wired recently reported on a system of prison profiteering that many people may not be aware of. Several companies are making healthy profits charging prisoners, and their acquaintances, to send emails. While the practice is legal, there are several ethical concerns surrounding it.

JPay, a leader in the industry, provides prisoner communication services to prisons in 20 different states. As some prisons have instituted a ban on greeting cards, JPay is commonly presented as an alternative to those wanting to communicate their well-wishes to friends or family in prison. JPay will charge the prisoner’s friends and family to send their electronic message. They may also charge the prisoner to read the message.

States like Michigan have instituted strict guidelines regarding mailed prisoner communication. These rules restrict the color of paper the letter may be written on, and even restrict the color of ink that can be used to write it. Due to concerns that a letter may go undelivered, many are turning to services like JPay.

Electronic communications aren’t the only services being offered for-profit in our prisons. Often times, these same companies will offer a variety of other options to prisoners. Securus, JPay’s parent company, provides the phone service for Louisiana’s prisons. In Michigan, they sell tablets to prisoners. According to Wired, about 2/3 of Michigan’s prisoners are currently enrolled in that program.

While some may be disgusted by the idea of profiting off prisoners, others defend the behavior of companies like JPay. They say these businesses are simply providing a service to those who want it. While these large companies are clearly benefiting, they argue that the prisoners also benefit from using their service.

What do you think? Let us know in the comment section below.

This article contains the personal opinions of the author. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Mess of Media. This disclaimer appears on all articles that feature the personal opinions of the author, as Mess of Media is an unbiased and nonpartisan source of information.


The Spaghetti Showdown: Ravioli Retriever vs Sicilian Shepherd

The Spaghetti Showdown: Ravioli Retriever vs Sicilian Shepherd

This is a main event you won’t want to miss. Two goliaths showdown in this clash of the ages. In one corner we have a Golden Retriever who is hungry for a challenge. In the other corner we have the battle hardened German Shepherd. While only one can win the spaghetti eating contest, both of these good boys won my heart.

Be sure to watch the second Spaghetti Showdown and the third Spaghetti Showdown in case you missed them!

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VA officials oppose Agent Orange claims

VA officials oppose Agent Orange claims

Veterans Affairs Officials are opposing the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act of 2017 Congressional bill. This legislative bill extends payouts to about 90,000 Vietnam Veterans who claim effects from Agent Orange during the Vietnam War, and is estimated to cost about one billion dollars.

The VA’s Undersecretary of Benefits, Paul Lawrence has stated, “The Science is not there, and what we do depends on the science.” VA officials also believe they cannot get proper “scientific” evidence on whether a veteran has cancer or an illness from being exposed to Agent Orange or simply from old age.

Rick Weidman, Executive Director at the Vietnam Veterans of America, responded stating, “These people were exposed. How much they were exposed doesn’t make a difference. And you can’t put that all together 40 years later.”

Agent Orange was a strong herbicide used by the United States military during the Vietnam War to eliminate the harsh terrain, making it easier to navigate the harsh environment. The United States dropped millions of gallons of the herbicide from 1961-1971. The VA’s own website details the deadly side effects of exposure to Agent Orange.

The Blue Water Bill has passed the House of Representatives and is awaiting a vote at the Senate. If you or someone you know would like to make a claim with the VA, you can contact them at 1-800-827-1000.


Trump signs $2T stimulus bill after House approves historic coronavirus response

Trump signs $2T stimulus bill after House approves historic coronavirus response

President Trump on Friday signed a more than $2 trillion legislative package to combat the coronavirus pandemic and send economic relief to workers and businesses squeezed by restrictions meant to stop the outbreak’s spread after the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved the legislation earlier in the day.

“I want to thank Democrats and Republicans for coming together and putting America first,” Trump said during an afternoon Oval Office signing ceremony.

Trump marveled at the magnitude of the aid package as he penned his name on the legislation: “I’ve never signed anything with a ‘T’ on it,” Trump quipped of the trillions of dollars of new spending.

The legislation, approved by voice vote despite 11th-hour drama arising from a GOP lawmaker’s objections, amounts to the costliest stimulus plan in U.S. history. It includes checks for most Americans, boosted unemployment aid, help for small business as well as a massive loan fund for corporations – at a time when unemployment is surging at a record pace, a consequence of businesses closing in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

“This bill is not only a rescue package, it is a commitment…that your government and the people whom you elected to serve will do everything we can to limit the harm and hardship you face, both now and in the foreseeable future,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said prior to the vote. “To the American public: If you do your part, I promise we will do ours.”

The approval, while widely anticipated, followed a stretch of uncertainty over whether one congressman — concerned about the stunning cost of the package — might be able to stall the vote.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., had furiously objected to a simple voice vote that would have required only a minimal number of lawmakers to travel. Massie, as part of his push, wanted to ensure there is a quorum, which would require half of the members to show up on Capitol Hill.

So as President Trump and others accused him of grandstanding, hundreds of lawmakers were summoned to Washington D.C. Thursday night and Friday morning from coronavirus-ravaged communities in New York, California and elsewhere. This, despite strict guidelines from the Capitol physician advising lawmakers not to congregate at the Capitol and to stay in their offices until needed to avoid the spread of the virus that has already infected several lawmakers.

“Massie has now become the most hated person on Capitol Hill,” said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who left his home at 4:30 a.m. to drive to the Capitol to ensure the measure got passed Friday.

While Massie was able to ensure many lawmakers showed up for the vote, he was not, in the end, able to force a roll-call.

You can read the rest of Maria Schultz and Chad Pergram’s article at FoxNews.com

U.K.’s Boris Johnson becomes first world leader to confirm coronavirus diagnosis

U.K.’s Boris Johnson becomes first world leader to confirm coronavirus diagnosis

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he has tested positive for the new coronavirus, becoming the first world leader to confirm a diagnosis.

“I’ve developed mild symptoms of the coronavirus. That’s to say, a temperature and a persistent cough. And on the advice of the chief medical officer, I’ve taken a test that has come out positive. So I am working from home, I’m self isolating, and that’s entirely the right thing to do,” he said in a video message posted to his official Twitter account.

Johnson said he was able to continue carrying out his duties despite his illness.

“Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fight back against coronavirus,” he said.

If he becomes too ill to work, however, it has been agreed that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will take over until he recovers.

Johnson thanked everyone in the U.K. working on the response to the epidemic, stressing the way to get through it was to follow government advice to stay at home.

“Thank you to everybody who’s doing what I’m doing, working from home to stop the spread of the virus from household to household. That’s the way we’re going to win. We’re going to beat it and we’re going to beat it together. Stay at home, protect the NHS, and save lives,” he said.

Britain’s prime minister has been delivering daily press conferences to the nation, which, until recently, saw him gathering with journalists and top medical and government officials. Over the past few days, the government has started hosting the press conferences remotely, with journalists asking questions via video link to officials at Downing Street, who have stood at a significant distance from one another.

Not long after Johnson confirmed his diagnosis, Britain’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock also posted a video to Twitter confirming his own positive test for COVID-19. Later on Friday, Britain’s chief medical officer, Chris Witty, said he was showing symptoms and would self-isolate for 7 days.

Johnson reportedly started exhibiting symptoms Thursday night, a day after he participated in a weekly question-and-answer session in Britain’s parliament. It was not immediately clear how many lawmakers and other government staff would go into to self-isolation following his and Hancock’s diagnoses.

Queen Elizabeth, who holds regular weekly meetings with every Prime Minister, did so with Johnson over the phone this past Wednesday, according to the Royal Family twitter account. Buckingham Palace said the last time the queen saw Johnson in person was on March 11, and that she remained in good health as of Friday. Her son Prince Charles, who is next in line for the British throne, tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this week.

You can read the rest of Haley Ott’s article at CBSnews.com

3.3 million seek US jobless aid, nearly 5 times earlier high

3.3 million seek US jobless aid, nearly 5 times earlier high

Nearly 3.3 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week — almost five times the previous record set in 1982 — amid a widespread economic shutdown caused by the coronavirus.

The surge in weekly applications was a stunning reflection of the damage the viral outbreak is inflicting on the economy. Filings for unemployment aid generally reflect the pace of layoffs.

Layoffs are sure to accelerate as the U.S. economy sinks into a recession. Revenue has collapsed at restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, gyms and airlines. Auto sales are plummeting, and car makers have closed factories. Most such employers face loan payments and other fixed costs, so they’re cutting jobs to save money.

As job losses mount, some economists say the nation’s unemployment rate could approach 13% by May. By comparison, the highest jobless rate during the Great Recession, which ended in 2009, was 10%.

“What seemed impossible just two weeks ago is now reality,” said Nancy Vanden Houten, an economist at Oxford Economics, a consulting firm. “The US economy will experience the largest economic contraction on record with the most severe surge in unemployment ever.”

The economic deterioration has been swift. As recently as February, the unemployment rate was at a 50-year low of 3.5%. And the economy was growing steadily if modestly. Yet by the April-June quarter of the year, some economists think the economy will shrink at its steepest annual pace ever — a contraction that could reach 30%.

In its report Thursday, the Labor Department said 3.283 million people applied for unemployment benefits last week, up from 282,000 during the previous week. Many people who have lost jobs in recent weeks, though, have been unable to file for unemployment aid because state websites and phone systems have been overwhelmed by a crush of applicants and have frozen up.

That logjam suggests that Thursday’s report actually understates the magnitude of job cuts last week. So does the fact that workers who are not on company payrolls — gig workers, free-lancers, the self-employed — aren’t currently eligible for unemployment benefits even though in many cases they’re no longer able to earn money.

Asked about the record-high applications for jobless aid, President Donald Trump said the figures were “fully expected.”

“It’s a lot of jobs, but I think we’ll come back very strong,” he said.

With layoffs surging, a significant expansion of unemployment benefits was included in an economic relief bill nearing final approval in Congress. One provision in the bill would provide an extra $600 a week on top of the unemployment aid that states provide. Another provision would supply 13 additional weeks of benefits beyond the six months of jobless aid that most states offer. The new legislation would also extend unemployment benefits, for the first time, to gig workers and others who are not on company payrolls.

Separate legislation passed last week provides up to $1 billion to states to enhance their ability to process claims. But that money will take time to be disbursed.

In the United States, the jump in applications for benefits is playing out in states across the country. In California, claims for unemployment benefits more than tripled last week to 187,000. In New York, they rose by a factor of five to 80,334. Nationwide, about 2.25% of the entire workforce applied for jobless aid last week. In Nevada, the figure was 6.8%, in Rhode Island 7.5%.

Gov. Gavin Newsom said 1 million claims for unemployment benefits had been filed in California since March 13. Many of those applications were likely filed this week, suggesting that next week’s report could show an even larger number of claims.

In Florida, Jessy Morancy of Hollywood was laid off last week from her job as a wheelchair attendant and customer service agent at Fort Lauderdale Airport. Morancy, 29, called the state unemployment office on Monday to try to file for unemployment benefits but encountered just a recorded message telling her to call back later.

She was also concerned that even a full unemployment benefit of $275 a week would be less than half of what she earned at her job and insufficient to provide for her children, ages 10 and 7.

You can read the rest of Christopher Rugaber’s article at ABCnews.com

DOOM Eternal enjoys best selling launch in franchise history

DOOM Eternal enjoys best selling launch in franchise history

According to the game’s publisher Bethesda, DOOM Eternal has become the best selling game in the franchise’s history. Not too shabby for a series that dates all the way back to 1993. Bethesda says the game’s launch has sold twice as many copies as the 2016 reboot.

Much like the 2016 reboot, DOOM Eternal stays true to the original series while crafting a truly enjoyable gameplay experience. We cannot recommend DOOM Eternal highly enough. The game is currently available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. A Nintendo Switch port is currently in development.

Sen. Rand Paul tests positive for virus, forcing quarantines

Sen. Rand Paul tests positive for virus, forcing quarantines

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, becoming the first case of COVID-19 in the Senate and raising fears about the further transmission of the virus among Republicans at the Capitol.

Paul, an eye surgeon, went into quarantine Sunday after learning his results. He said he has not had symptoms and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He said he was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.

His announcement led Utah’s two GOP senators — Mike Lee and Mitt Romney — to place themselves into quarantine, stepping away from negotiations as the Senate worked on a $1.4 trillion economic rescue package for the coronavirus crisis. At least five senators, including Paul, were in self-quarantine Sunday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said.

“The coronavirus has hit the Senate today,” said McConnell, R-Ky. “It’s not just back in our states but right here in the Senate.”

Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona elected in 2018, chastised Paul on Twitter, saying his decision to return to the Capitol after he was tested — but before he learned the results — was “absolutely irresponsible.”

Sinema said she has “never commented about a fellow Senator’s choices/actions. Never once.”

But she added: “This, America, is absolutely irresponsible. You cannot be near other people while waiting for coronavirus test results. It endangers others & likely increases the spread of the virus.”

Other senators, including Ted Cruz of Texas and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, had gone into self-quarantine while they awaited the results of a coronavirus test. Both were negative.

Responding to criticism on Twitter, Paul’s office said, “We want to be clear, Senator Paul left the Senate IMMEDIATELY upon learning of his diagnosis. He had zero contact with anyone & went into quarantine. Insinuations … that he went to the gym after learning of his results are just completely false & irresponsible!”

Paul’s office did not say when he was tested. Representatives of his office could not immediately be reached for comment.

President Donald Trump called Paul “a great friend” and said he’s “always there when we needed him.”

Paul’s diagnosis came after two House members, Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah, tested positive for the virus. Trump said the positive test results showed the virus was “hitting quite close to home. It’s a terrible thing that’s going on.”

Paul and other lawmakers “are going to be fine,” Trump said. ”I hope they’ll be fine.”

Paul, a deficit hawk, was among eight Senate Republicans who voted against a House-passed bill last week that provided more than $100 billion to boost testing for the coronavirus and guarantee paid sick leave for millions of workers. He also was the only Republican senator who opposed an earlier bill authorizing $8.3 billion for the initial response to the coronavirus.

The senator was on Capitol Hill this past week, including at a luncheon Friday among GOP senators. He spoke on the Senate floor on Wednesday afternoon, addressing the cornonavirus and a failed amendment he sponsored that would have paid for virus relief efforts by withdrawing U.S. forces from Afghanistan.

You can read the rest of Matthew Daly’s article at ABCnews.com

US, Trump says, not built to be ‘shut down’

US, Trump says, not built to be ‘shut down’

The novel coronavirus pandemic is spreading around the globe and in the United States, resulting in more than 41,700 cases domestically and more than 500 deaths.

The federal government has been rolling out its response to the virus, its efforts to stem the tide as well as to stimulate the economy, which has taken a severe hit.

President Donald Trump opened the daily White House Monday briefing expanding on reports that he was considering loosening coronavirus guidelines amid growing economic fallout.

“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down,” he said emphatically.

“We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We’re not going to let the cure be worse than the problem. At the end of the 15-day period, we’ll make a decision as to which way we want to go,” he said, referring to what he said was the coming “opening of our country.”

“This was a medical problem, we’re not going to let it turn it into a long-term financial problem,” Trump declared. “We’re just not going to let it happen.”

He didn’t offer an exact timeline but said it will be a “lot sooner than the three or four months that somebody was suggesting.”

You can read the rest of Libby Cathey’s article at ABCnews.com

DOOM Eternal is available now

DOOM Eternal is available now

The latest DOOM video game is available now for gamers on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The game is an absolute blast and we highly recommend it. Developers id Software did an amazing job of creating an incredibly entertaining game, while staying true to the original concept.

Here’s how publisher Bethesda described the game in their latest press release:

Humanity teeters on the brink of extinction as demons overrun the Earth. Only one hope remains for the survival of mankind against Hell’s onslaught…after all, the only thing they fear is YOU.

In DOOM Eternal, become the DOOM Slayer and save the world from the legions of Hell in an epic single-player campaign.

Take up your fearsome arsenal of upgradable weapons, devastating equipment, incredible abilities and pure brute force as you fight for humanity’s survival. Rip and tear across Earth, Hell and other dimensions fueled by id Software’s trademark high-speed, push-forward combat and an original head-banging metal score.

You are fully empowered to take what you need to overcome the demonic invasion. Masterfully utilize your combat resources to stay in the fight, then aggressively claim more when reserves run low.

Cut demons down with your Chainsaw to refill your ammunition. Set demons ablaze with the Slayer’s all-new Flame Belch and damage them to regain armor. And finally, execute enemies with a brutal Glory Kills to replenish your health. Remember that you are the Slayer and the demons have what you need to keep fighting. Go and get it.

The action continues beyond DOOM Eternal’s campaign. Hone your skills with multiple difficulty settings and Master Levels – remixes of campaign levels specially crafted to offer a fresh challenge to players at any difficulty.

The campaign also features ample collectibles that reward exploration, such as Slayer Gate keys unlocking special challenges to upgrade your gear. Become the ultimate demon slaying machine and save Earth – one dead demon at a time!

Slay online with friends in DOOM Eternal’s BATTLEMODE – an all-new 2v1 multiplayer experience developed entirely from the ground-up at id Software. Two players team up to form a deadly duo of demons as they face off against a solo player in the role of a fully loaded DOOM Slayer.

Stand out in the fray with a heaping amount of stylish cosmetics earned just through playing DOOM Eternal and live in-game Events. From new skins for your Slayer, demons, and weapons, to flashy player icons and nameplates, slay your way in both BATTLEMODE and the solo campaign!

DOOM Eternal arrives 03.20.2020 for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and Google Stadia. Enhance your slaying experience with the DOOM Eternal Deluxe Edition, which includes the full game plus the Demonic Slayer skin, Classic Weapon Sound Pack and the DOOM Eternal Year One Pass – adding more content set to release within the first year after launch.
Join the Slayers Club for free and unlock the Zombie Slayer skin. Members of the Club can also earn Points to unlock other special rewards, take part in special community challenges and join the worldwide community for one of gaming’s most passionate fanbases. Whether you tackle Hell itself in the single-player campaign or take on your buddies in BATTLEMODE, the Slayer’s time is now.

Vice President Mike Pence, wife test negative for coronavirus as worldwide cases cross 300,000

Vice President Mike Pence, wife test negative for coronavirus as worldwide cases cross 300,000

As the number of confirmed novel coronavirus cases increases, some states are acting quickly by ordering variations of stay-at-home orders for residents. Oregon issued such an order on Friday night, joining states that include California, Illinois and New York.

The respiratory virus, known officially as COVID-19, has reached every continent except Antarctica, and every state in America since emerging in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December.

Globally, there are at least 306,000 diagnosed cases and at least 13,301 coronavirus-related deaths, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. More than 92,000 people have recovered worldwide.

In the United States, over 26,000 diagnosed cases have been confirmed, and 340 people have died. So far, at least 176 have recovered.

You can read the rest of Ella Torres, William Mansell, and Samara Lynn’s article at ABCnews.com

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard ends presidential campaign

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard ends presidential campaign

Democratic presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has announced the end to her campaign following continued low placement in national polls, a weak finish during Super Tuesday and subsequent contests and failing to meet the thresholds to participate in the most recent series of Democratic National Committee sponsored debates.

In a letter to supporters, Gabbard cited that the outcome of those contests indicated that voters have chosen former Vice President Joe Biden for president.

“After Tuesday’s primary results, it is clear that Democratic Primary voters have chosen Vice President Joe Biden to be the person who will take on President Trump in the general election,” she wrote. “I know Vice President Biden and his wife and am grateful to have called his son Beau, who also served in the National Guard, a friend. Although I may not agree with the Vice President on every issue, I know that he has a good heart and is motivated by his love for our country and the American people. I’m confident that he will lead our country guided by the spirit of aloha — respect and compassion — and thus help heal the divisiveness that has been tearing our country apart.”

Her departure also comes amid a coronavirus pandemic that has roiled the 2020 elections.

“Our nation is facing an unprecedented global crisis that highlights the inextricable bonds of humanity, and how foreign policy and domestic policy are inseparable. We are all in this together and we must all rise to meet this moment — in service to our country and our fellow man,” she said. ”

The Hawaii congresswoman announced her bid in January 2019. By the time of her departure from the race, the once diverse field of candidates dwindled leaving Gabbard the last person of color, veteran and millennial seeking a bid for the White House.

Toward the end of her run, Gabbard struggled with polling and fell short of qualifying for the Democratic debates. After missing the September debate, her campaign shifted its focus from Iowa to New Hampshire. That move was a critical life line for the congresswoman allowing her the needed polls to qualify for the October debate, which would ultimately be her last.

Despite the change in strategy, the congresswoman would face an uphill battle ultimately netting only two delegates, making her the first woman of color to net a delegate to the DNC Convention since 1972. Despite the historic turn, Gabbard was far short of the 1,991 delegates needed to secure a nomination for the first Democratic convention ballot.

You can read the rest of Beatrice Peterson’s article at ABCnews.com