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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

Eddie Murphy returns to ‘Saturday Night Live’ for 1st time in 35 years

Eddie Murphy returns to ‘Saturday Night Live’ for 1st time in 35 years

Eddie Murphy made his name as a cast member on “Saturday Night Live.” On the last episode of the decade, he finally returned after 35 years.

The comedian was on 65 episodes of the show from 1980 to 1984. He also hosted the show in late 1984, but despite dozens of blockbuster films in the interim, he’d never been back.

“It’s great to be back here finally hosting ‘Saturday Night Live,'” Murphy said during his monologue. “But if you’re black this is the first episode since I left here back in 1984.”

It was almost 35 years to the day since he was last on the show: when he hosted on Dec. 15, 1984 alongside musical guest Robert Plant. Doug Flutie, who retired from football 13 years ago, also made a cameo on the episode after winning the Heisman Trophy.

The actor was joined on stage during his monologue by some of the biggest black comedians of the past three decades, including Tracy Morgan, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock and longtime current cast member Kenan Thompson.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world — my kids love Lizzo,” Chris Rock cracked, referring to the musical guest.

He brought back “Mister Robinson’s Neighborhood,” a play on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” one of his famous sketches from his time on the

“Can you say gentrification?” he said. “White people pay a lot of money and then, ‘poof,’ all of the black people are gone!”

He met his new neighbors, who “paid $1.2 million for an apartment where my neighbor used to cook crack.”

And of course he returned as Buckwheat, now as a surprise contestant on “The Masked Singer.” He proceeded to reel off a number of hit songs with incorrect lyrics.

After the judges said they’d missed him the past 30 years, Buckwheat responded, “Just remember wherever I am, I’m doing ‘otay.'”

He also brought back Gumby (dammit!) for “Weekend Update,” but bemoaned being left for so late in the show.

“I saved this damn show from the gutter,” he shouted. “Shame on you, Lorne Michaels!”

You can read the rest of Mark Osborne’s article at ABCnews.com

Actor Kevin Costner returns to Iowa to support Buttigieg

Actor Kevin Costner returns to Iowa to support Buttigieg

“Field of Dreams” actor Kevin Costner returned to Iowa on Sunday to go to bat for Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg, pitching the small-town mayor as someone worth listening to in the crowded lineup of White House hopefuls.

“Whether your road leads you to Pete, like mine has, that’s for you to judge,” Costner, a self-described independent, told more than 1,000 people in the high school gymnasium of Indianola, a town of about 16,000 people located south of Des Moines. “When Pete speaks of unity, it’s the kind of unity I’ve been waiting and hoping to hear about.”

Costner, whose 1989 film offered a mixture of baseball and fantasy amid Iowa cornfields, also noted the status of the state’s caucuses as the first voting in the selection of a Democratic nominee.

“That power, that awesome responsibility, originates here on the ground in Iowa,” said Costner, speaking in a low voice from a lectern and looking casual in jeans and a wind-breaker. “What you do with your vote is put those first seeds in the ground and see what grows next year.”

It was Buttigieg, not Costner, who brought up “Field of Dreams.” In a nod to his audience, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, didn’t quote the movie’s most famous line — “Ïf you build it, he will come”— but a more crowd-pleasing bit of dialogue: “Is this heaven? No, it’s Iowa.” The candidate thanked the star for making “Iowa as heavenly as it can be on a December day.”

Among those turning out to see the director and star of the films “Dances with Wolves” and “Open Range” and the lead in the current Paramount channel series “Yellowstone” was 76-year-old retiree Martha Cunningham. “I’d have come to see Pete. But seeing Kevin Costner, that’s extra!” she said.

You can read the rest of Thomas Beaumont’s article at ABCnews.com

In major milestone, SpaceX test fires Crew Dragon abort engines

In major milestone, SpaceX test fires Crew Dragon abort engines

In a major milestone, SpaceX engineers fired the powerful abort engines in the company’s Crew Dragon astronaut ferry ship Wednesday, carrying out an apparently successful ground test showing the problem that triggered a catastrophic explosion last April has been resolved.

This time around, the capsule’s eight Super Draco engines ignited and fired as planned, generating a combined 120,000 pounds of thrust just as they would during flight if sensors detected an impending booster malfunction. The engines shut down as planned about 5 seconds after ignition.

Witnessed from nearby Port Canaveral, a large cloud of dirty white smoke could be seen billowing up into an overcast sky at 3:08 p.m. EST. The unpiloted capsule remained firmly attached to a test stand at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station throughout the test.

Assuming no issues come up after a detailed data review, SpaceX will begin work to ready the same capsule for an in-flight abort test atop a Falcon 9 rocket as early as next month. The plan is to deliberately trigger the abort system again — this time during the period of maximum aerodynamic stress as the booster climbs through the thick lower atmosphere.

The goal is to certify the system’s ability to propel a crew to safety at any point from the launch pad to orbit and to operate as designed during worst-case scenarios.

SpaceX completed an unpiloted Crew Dragon flight to the space station earlier this year. If the upcoming in-flight abort test goes well, the California-based rocket builder will work toward a piloted test flight early next year when NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley plan to visit the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing also is building an astronaut ferry ship for NASA, known as Starliner. The company completed a pad abort test earlier this month and plans to launch an unpiloted test flight to ISS around December 17. Like SpaceX, Boeing hopes to launch its first piloted test flight next year.

Which company’s crew will get off the ground first is not yet known. But once the piloted test flights are complete, NASA hopes to begin operational ISS crew rotation missions before the end of 2020, ending the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

Wednesday’s test was a welcome step forward, coming more than six months after a crew Dragon was destroyed April 20 during a planned test of the SuperDraco abort system.

Using the same capsule that visited the station in the unpiloted test flight in March, engineers successfully tested the capsule’s 12 smaller Draco maneuvering thrusters. Computers were an instant away from firing the Super Dracos when the craft suddenly exploded.

Read the rest of William Harwood’s article at CBSnews.com

Judge blocks Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes

Judge blocks Michigan’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes

A Michigan judge temporarily blocked the state’s weeks-old ban on flavored e-cigarettes Tuesday, saying it may force adults to return to smoking more harmful tobacco products and has irreparably hurt vaping businesses.

Court of Claims Judge Cynthia Stephens put the prohibition on hold until “further order of this court.” The preliminary injunction will be appealed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, who ordered the creation of the emergency rules in a bid to combat the epidemic of teen vaping.

The judge said two businesses that sued showed a likelihood of prevailing on the merits of their contention that the rules are procedurally invalid, because state officials did not justify short-cutting the normal rule-making process.

“Thus, and at this stage of the litigation, defendants have undercut their own assertions of an emergency by the fact that they demurred on taking action for nearly a year, and in the case of some information even longer than that, after they were in possession of the information cited in support of the emergency declaration,” Stephens wrote.

She also said improved health outcomes for adults who switch to vaping products from combustible tobacco “could, and likely would, be lost under the emergency rules.”

Several states have banned the sale of flavored vaping products amid a rising number of vaping-related lung illnesses and an epidemic of teen e-cigarette use. As of last week, vaping-related illnesses in the U.S. had reached about 1,300 cases in 49 states and one U.S. territory, including at least 26 deaths.

Most who got sick said they vaped products containing THC, the marijuana ingredient that causes a high, but some said they vaped only nicotine.

In New York, a state appeals court this month preliminarily blocked the state from enforcing a prohibition on flavored e-cigarette sales.

The Michigan lawsuits, which were consolidated, were filed by Houghton-based 906 Vapor and A Clean Cigarette, which has 15 locations across the state.

“We are pleased today that the court saw the ban of flavored vaping products for what it truly is: an overreach of government into the lives of adults,” said Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for the Defend MI Rights Coalition, a vaping industry group. “We are ready to work through the normal legislative process to arrive at a balanced solution that protects the rights of adults to use vaping products as an alternative to combustible cigarettes and at the same time get these products out of the children’s hands.”

Read the rest of the David Eggert’s 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.


Roger Stone sentenced to 3 years, 4 months in prison for lying to Congress

Roger Stone sentenced to 3 years, 4 months in prison for lying to Congress

Roger Stone, the longtime GOP operative and Trump confidant, has been sentenced to 40 months behind bars for lying to Congress about his efforts to collaborate with WikiLeaks during the 2016 campaign and threatening a witness to cover up his actions.

U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson handed down the sentence at a hearing in federal court in Washington on Thursday. Her decision comes amid intense controversy over Attorney General William Barr’s highly unusual public intervention in the case over the government’s recommended sentence, as well as President Trump’s repeated public criticism of the case.

“This is not ‘Roger just being Roger.’ He lied to Congress. He lied to our elected representatives,” Jackson said in her closing remarks. “The sentence is not just about punishing him, but also about deterring others and upholding the law.”

While Mr. Trump has hinted at a possible pardon for Stone, he said Thursday afternoon that he wants “to let the process play out.”

“I’m following this very closely and I want to see it play out to its fullest,” the president said at an event in Las Vegas. “Roger has a very good chance of exoneration, in my opinion.”

Stone won’t go to prison immediately. His lawyers have requested a new trial based on allegations of political bias, and Jackson said earlier this week that Stone’s sentence would be deferred until she rules on that request. He has been on supervised release and under a gag order over the course of the case.

Stone declined to speak at the hearing and did not address a swarm of media outside the courthouse. In addition to the prison sentence, Jackson said Stone must perform 250 hours of community service and pay $20,700 in fines and fees. He will also be subject to two more years of supervised release once he leaves prison.

A federal jury convicted Stone, 67, on seven charges of obstruction, making false statements and witness tampering in November 2019 in a case stemming from former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The 40-month sentence is shorter than the seven to nine years prosecutors in the case originally recommended in a memorandum last week. Barr deemed that recommendation too harsh and overruled the prosecutors, prompting all four to withdraw from the case, with one resigning from the Justice Department outright. A new team of prosecutors filed a revised memo seeking an unspecified amount of prison time.

Surprisingly, the new prosecutors largely hewed to the original recommendation at Wednesday’s hearing, arguing in favor of sentence enhancements that were included in the initial filing.

Jackson called the original memorandum “well-researched” and “in accordance with the law,” but said she thought a sentence of seven to nine years would be “greater than necessary.” She strenuously rejected claims that Stone’s prosecution was motivated by politics, as Mr. Trump and other allies have argued, and said she was imposing the sentence strictly based on the facts in the case.

“It is for good reason the criminal justice system gives the responsibility for sentencing to to someone who is actually aware of what the charges are, and for good reason that responsibility goes to someone neutral,” Jackson said. “I am not here to judge Roger Stone the person. That’s for a higher authority.”

You can read the rest of Clare Hymes, Stefan Becket, and Amber Ali’s article at CBSnews.com

Here are the 5 takeaways from the fiery Las Vegas debate

Here are the 5 takeaways from the fiery Las Vegas debate

There have been contentious arguments, strong policy disagreements and tense exchanges on the eight debate stages thus far in the primary cycle, and then there was Wednesday night’s brawl in Las Vegas.

From its onset, the debate shedded any semblance of civility and exposed the strengths and weakness of the six Democratic contenders that stood on the stage at a critical time for their campaigns, just days before Nevadans hold their caucuses and weeks before the Super Tuesday contests award the largest swath of delegates yet.

He may not have appeared on a single ballot, or won a single delegate, but former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the newcomer on the stage, was the lightning rod at the center of near-constant attacks, turning in an uneven performance as the field grapples with his rise in the polls.

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren turned in a fiesty performance, going after Bloomberg, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who in turn had testy moments between each other. Former Vice President Joe Biden also mixed it up with Bloomberg as he tries to revive his faltering campaign. Meanwhile Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who has taken a sizable lead in recent national polls, fended off attacks on policy and his personal health.

Here are five takeaways from a Democratic debate full of fireworks on the Las Vegas Strip.

Everybody versus Bloomberg

With perhaps the entire field recognizing the urgency of Wednesday’s debate, it took less than 10 minutes for the most divisive debate of the cycle to emerge.

The gloves came off, early and often, for the Democratic contenders eager to poke holes in Bloomberg’s record and argument for why he’s the best candidate to beat Donald Trump in November.

“I’d like to talk about who we’re running against. A billionaire who calls women fat broads and horse-faced lesbians, and no I’m not talking about Donald Trump, I’m talking about Mayor Bloomberg,” Warren said to audible gasps in the debate hall, alluding to the slew of recent stories on the mistreatment of women in the workplace at Bloomberg’s companies.

“Let’s put forward someone who’s actually a Democrat…We shouldn’t have to choose between one candidate who wants to burn this party down and another candidate who wants to buy this party out,” Buttigieg said slamming both Bloomberg and Sanders.

“The mayor says that he has a great record, that he’s done these wonderful things. Well, the fact — the fact of the matter is, he has not managed his city very, very well when he was there. He didn’t get a whole lot done,” said Biden, who went after Bloomberg’s past criticism of the landmark Affordable Care Act and his criminal justice record.

For his part, Bloomberg largely tried to stay above the fray, defending the astronomical amount of money he’s poured into his campaign, more than $400 million to this point.

“I’m spending that money to get rid of Donald Trump, the worst president we’ve ever had and If I can get that done, it will be a great contribution to America and to my kids,” Bloomberg said.

A feisty Warren comes out swinging and doesn’t stop

Warren is in a fight for her political life, and Wednesday night made it clear she’s willing to fight harder than ever before to get back to the top of the pack.

In what marks a complete shift from her debate strategy to this point, Warren consistently and aggressively attacked her rivals on topic after topic.

Her immediate jab at Bloomberg set the tone for the entire debate, and coming off disappointing finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire it was crystal clear that Warren viewed Wednesday’s debate as a make or break moment for her campaign.

You can read the rest of John Verhovek and Kendall Karson’s article at ABCnews.com

6 candidates to face off in Las Vegas debate, including Bloomberg for the 1st time: DNC

6 candidates to face off in Las Vegas debate, including Bloomberg for the 1st time: DNC

Six candidates have qualified for Wednesday’s Democratic primary debate in Las Vegas, including, for the first time, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the Democratic National Committee announced Wednesday.

The ninth debate of the cycle, set to kick off at 9 p.m. ET at the Paris Theater, will feature the following candidates, in alphabetical order:

Former Vice President Joe Biden
Former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg
Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders
Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren

NBC and MSNBC are hosting the debate in partnership with The Nevada Independent. The moderators are “NBC Nightly News” and “Dateline NBC” anchor Lester Holt, “Meet the Press” moderator and NBC News political director Chuck Todd, NBC News Chief White House Correspondent and host of “MSNBC Live” Hallie Jackson, Noticias Telemundo senior correspondent Vanessa Hauc and The Nevada Independent’s Jon Ralston.

After scrapping the individual donor threshold, candidates had two ways to qualify for this debate, either by doing well enough in the Iowa caucuses or New Hampshire primary to win at least one pledged delegate, or by meeting a polling threshold determined by the DNC.

Excluding Bloomberg, ABC News estimated that every qualifying candidate would be awarded delegates to the Democratic National Convention this summer. While there was no official ballot in Iowa, Bloomberg didn’t file to be on the New Hampshire Democratic primary ballot. The debate is just days ahead of the Nevada caucuses — and Bloomberg, who’s been running an unconventional campaign where he’s essentially skipped out on campaigning in the first four early voting states, also won’t be on the ballot in Nevada Saturday or in South Carolina on Feb. 29.

Candidates had two ways to meet the polling threshold: Get at least 10% support in four national polls and/or polls conducted in Nevada or South Carolina — referred to as the four-poll threshold — or get at least 12% support in two polls conducted in Nevada and/or South Carolina, referred to as the early state polling threshold.

According to ABC News’ analysis, Bloomberg met the four-poll threshold, and all of his qualifying polls were national polls. In order to count as qualifying polls, the polls had to be sponsored by different organizations, or if sponsored by the same organization, be covering different geographical areas.

All qualifying polls had to be publicly released between Jan. 15 and 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, and sponsored by an organization or pair of organizations from a list determined by the DNC.

The former mayor’s last qualifying poll came when he got 19% support nationally among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents in a NPR/PBS Newshour/Marist poll released early Tuesday.

“Our campaign is seeing a groundswell of support across the country, and qualifying for the Feb. 19 debate is the latest sign that Mike’s plan and ability to defeat Donald Trump is resonating with more and more Americans,” Bloomberg’s campaign manager Kevin Sheekey said in a statement.

Skeekey continued: “Mike is looking forward to joining the other Democratic candidates on stage and making the case for why he’s the best candidate to defeat Donald Trump and unite the country. The opportunity to discuss his workable and achievable plans for the challenges facing this country is an important part of the campaign process.”

You can read the rest of Quinn Scanlan’s article at ABCnews.com

Trump announces pardons for several high-profile individuals

Trump announces pardons for several high-profile individuals

President Donald Trump announced pardons for several high-profile individuals in addition to commuting the sentence of former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

The White House announced that he had signed an executive order pardoning former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartolo Jr. and later Tuesday, Trump said he would pardon New York police commissioner Bernie Kerik.

During comments to reporters at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday afternoon, Trump acknowledged that he relies on recommendations from those around him in deciding how to apply his pardon power.

Speaking of Kerik, who is a good friend of Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, the president said that Kerik “had many good recommendations from a lot of good people.”

Kerik, a former New York police commissioner, was sentenced to 48 months in prison in 2010 after pleading guilty on multiple charges of tax fraud and lying to officials.

He served as Giuliani’s body guard during Giuliani’s 1993 mayoral campaign and was later appointed to serve as the New York City police commissioner in 2000. He was nominated by President George W. Bush in December 2004 to be the secretary of Homeland Security but withdrew his nomination due to potential tax violations.

Kerik was released from prison in 2013 after serving three years for good behavior. In recent years he’s been a frequent defender of Trump’s on Fox News. Kerik did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Deputy Press Secretary Hogan Gidley — flanked by football legends Jim Brown and Jerry Rice — announced to reporters earlier Tuesday that the president had signed an executive order pardoning DeBartolo.

Debartolo pleaded guilty in 1998 to concealing an alleged extortion plot by former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, involving the licensing of a casino.

“I take my hat off to Donald Trump for what he did,” Rice told reporters outside of the White House.

In total, Trump granted seven pardons and four commutations on Tuesday.

Michael Milken, the former investment banker who became known for his involvement in an insider trading scandal, was among those who received a pardon.

He pleaded guilty to securities fraud in 1990 and was sentenced to 10 years in prison, of which he ultimately served two.

You can read the rest of Aaron Katersky and Allison Pecorin’s article at ABCnews.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

Despite Barr’s warning, Trump insists he has a right to intervene in criminal cases

Despite Barr’s warning, Trump insists he has a right to intervene in criminal cases

President Donald Trump on Friday morning broke almost 17 hours of silence following ABC News’ exclusive interview with Attorney General Bill Barr, pushing back on Barr’s warning not to interfere in criminal cases, insisting he has the “legal right” to do so.

Trump repeated what he’s said previously — including just this past Tuesday — that he has the “absolute” right to comment on how the Justice Department is handling criminal cases, including those involving his friends and associates.

“’The President has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case,’” Trump tweeted, quoting Barr. “This doesn’t mean that I do not have, as President, the legal right to do so, I do, but I have so far chosen not to!”

As questions loomed about whether Trump’s complaints about the seven-to-nine years sentence career prosecutors recommended for longtime friend and former campaign adviser Roger Stone caused Barr to intervene and push for a more lenient prison term, the attorney general told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas on Thursday that the president “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case.”

“To have public statements and tweets made about the department, about our people in the department, our men and women here, about cases pending in the department, and about judges before whom we have cases, make it impossible for me to do my job,” Barr said.

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to an ABC News request for comment.

Hillary Clinton, President Trump’s former 2016 opponent, reacted to the president’s claim of authority of DOJ investigations with a tweet saying “Our democracy is in crisis.”

Barr’s interview comments were a rare break with a president who the attorney general has aligned himself with and fiercely defended. But it also puts Barr in line with many of Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill who say they support the president but wish he’d cut back on his tweets.

You can read the rest of Elizabeth Thomas’ article at ABCnews.com

Barr blasts Trump’s tweets on Stone case: ‘Impossible for me to do my job’

Barr blasts Trump’s tweets on Stone case: ‘Impossible for me to do my job’

In an exclusive interview, Attorney General Bill Barr told ABC News on Thursday that President Donald Trump “has never asked me to do anything in a criminal case” but should stop tweeting about the Justice Department because his tweets “make it impossible for me to do my job.”

Barr’s comments are a rare break with a president who the attorney general has aligned himself with and fiercely defended. But it also puts Barr in line with many of Trump’s supporters on Capitol Hill who say they support the president but wish he’d cut back on his tweets.

“I think it’s time to stop the tweeting about Department of Justice criminal cases,” Barr told ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas.

When asked if he was prepared for the consequences of criticizing the president – his boss – Barr said “of course” because his job is to run the Justice Department and make decisions on “what I think is the right thing to do.”

“I’m not going to be bullied or influenced by anybody … whether it’s Congress, a newspaper editorial board, or the president,” Barr said. “I’m gonna do what I think is right. And you know … I cannot do my job here at the department with a constant background commentary that undercuts me.”

Barr ignited a firestorm this week after top Justice Department officials intervened in the sentencing of Roger Stone, a longtime friend and former campaign adviser to the president who was convicted of lying to Congress, witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

In a stunning reversal, the Justice Department overruled a recommendation by its own prosecution team that Stone spend seven to nine years in jail and told a judge that such a punishment – which was in line with sentencing guidelines – “would not be appropriate.”

The about-face raised serious questions about whether Barr had intervened on behalf of the president’s friend. It also raised questions about whether Trump personally pressured the Justice Department, either directly or indirectly.

In the interview with ABC News, Barr fiercely defended his actions and said it had nothing to do with the president. He said he was supportive of Stone’s convictions but thought the sentencing recommendation of seven to nine years was excessive. When news outlets reported the seven to nine year sentencing recommendation last Monday, Barr said he thought it was spin.

You can read the rest of Ann Flaherty’s article at ABCnews.com

Tulsi Gabbard slams DNC kowtow to Bloomberg as ‘wrong,’ calls for a ‘straightforward’ process

Tulsi Gabbard slams DNC kowtow to Bloomberg as ‘wrong,’ calls for a ‘straightforward’ process

The Democratic National Committee’s (DNC’s) and “corporate media partners'” game of favorites with fellow Democratic candidates like billionaire Michael Bloomberg is “wrong,” 2020 presidential candidate Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, said Saturday.

Appearing on “Cavuto Live” with host Neil Cavuto, Gabbard said the fact that a billionaire like Bloomberg could enter the race with the influence to change DNC rules to “coincidentally” benefit his candidacy does a disservice to the American electorate.

The DNC recently decided to eliminate its controversial fundraising requirement for candidates to qualify for the debate stage.

“The fact that a billionaire can come in and have that kind of influence to change rules of the DNC — all of a sudden, not coincidentally, to be able to benefit Michael Bloomberg — while voters here in New Hampshire and across the country are saying, ‘Hey, we want to be able to make the best-informed decision possible before we go in and cast our vote’ understanding the seriousness of this election, but they are not able to do so, so long as both the DNC and some of the corporate media partners are enacting these rules where they are playing favorites… They are picking winners and losers before voters have the opportunity to do so,” the 38-year-old combat veteran said.

Gabbard’s team has announced that it is protesting CNN after the network snubbed the candidate from a Democratic town hall just days before the New Hampshire primary on Tuesday.

“This attempt to silence Tulsi is bigger than one person — it’s our right as voters to hear from ALL the candidates, and to have our voices represented. No institution should be allowed to get away with censoring democracy: That’s why we’re standing up to CNN on Wednesday, February 5th, demanding that our voices be heard,” her campaign said.

In addition, Gabbard told Cavuto that she definitely has an uphill battle ahead of her, what he termed the “odd woman out” going “against the tide” and fighting the Washington, D.C., elite.

Most notably, Gabbard is suing former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for defamation in a $50 million lawsuit. Gabbard’s lawyer told Fox News on Thursday that one of Clinton’s lawyers has finally accepted legal documents in connection with the suit.

You can read the rest of Julia Musto’s article at FoxNews.com

Senate approves war powers resolution requiring congressional approval for engaging in hostilities in Iran

Senate approves war powers resolution requiring congressional approval for engaging in hostilities in Iran

The Senate approved a war powers resolution blocking President Trump from engaging in hostilities with Iran without congressional approval, a measure which has bipartisan support but not enough to overturn an all but certain veto from the White House.

The vote passed 55 to 45, with eight Republicans joining all Democrats to vote in favor of the resolution.

The resolution introduced by Democratic Senator Tim Kaine directs the removal of U.S. Armed Forces from hostilities against Iran within 30 days unless their engagement has been approved by Congress. It is expected to be approved by the House, which passed a similar resolution last month, but will likely be vetoed by the president.

Eight Republicans joined Democrats in approving a procedural vote to bring the resolution to a full vote on the Senate floor: Lamar Alexander, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Mike Lee, Jerry Moran, Lisa Murkowski, Rand Paul, and Todd Young. These Republicans also supported final passage of the resolution on Thursday.

Mr. Trump expressed his disapproval of the measure in a tweet on Wednesday.

“It is very important for our Country’s SECURITY that the United States Senate not vote for the Iran War Powers Resolution. We are doing very well with Iran and this is not the time to show weakness. Americans overwhelmingly support our attack on terrorist Soleimani,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the recent strike which killed Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani. “If my hands were tied, Iran would have a field day. Sends a very bad signal. The Democrats are only doing this as an attempt to embarrass the Republican Party. Don’t let it happen!”

Democrats and Republicans expressed concerns after Mr. Trump ordered the strike on Soleimani without congressional approval, leading Iran to retaliate by targeting American bases in Iraq, where dozens of American soldiers were injured. Iran also mistakenly hit a Ukrainian passenger plane, leading to the deaths of nearly 200 people.

In January, the House approved a measure, relating to the War Powers Resolution of 1983, to restrict his authority to strike Iran without congressional approval. The resolution passed by a vote of 224 to 194 and now goes to the Senate. Eight Democrats joined Republicans in opposing the resolution, while three Republicans voted in favor.

You can read the rest of Grace Segers’ article at CBSnews.com