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Wikileaks founder Julian Assange loses bid to delay hearing

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange loses bid to delay hearing

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared in a U.K. court Monday to fight extradition to the United States on espionage charges, and he lost a bid to delay proceedings so that his legal team would have more time to prepare his case.

Assange defiantly raised a fist to supporters who jammed the public gallery in Westminster Magistrates Court for a rare view of their hero. He appears to have lost weight but looked healthy, although he spoke very softly and at times seemed despondent and confused.

Assange and his legal team failed to convince District Judge Vanessa Baraitser that a delay in the already slow-moving case was justified. The full extradition is still set for a five-day hearing in late February, with brief interim hearings in November and December.

Assange hadn’t been seen in public for several months and his supporters had raised concerns about his well-being. He wore a blue sweater and a blue sports suit for the hearing, and had his silvery-gray hair slicked back.

After the judge turned down his bid for a three-month delay, Assange said in halting tones he didn’t understand the events in court.

He said the case is not “equitable” because the U.S. government has “unlimited resources” while he doesn’t have easy access to his lawyers or to documents needed to prepare his battle against extradition while he is confined to Belmarsh Prison on the outskirts of London.

“They have all the advantages,” the 48-year-old Assange said.

U.S. authorities accuse Assange of scheming with former Army intelligence analyst Chelsea Manning to break a password for a classified government computer.

Lawyer Mark Summers, representing Assange, told the judge that more time was needed to prepare Assange’s defense because the case has many facets, including the very rare use of espionage charges against a journalist, and will require a “mammoth” amount of planning and preparation

“Our case will be that this is a political attempt to signal to journalists the consequences of publishing information. It is legally unprecedented,” he said.

He also accused the U.S. of illegally spying on Assange while he was inside the Ecuadorian Embassy seeking refuge and taking other illegal actions against the WikiLeaks founder.

“The American state has been actively engaged in intruding into privileged discussions between Mr. Assange and his lawyers in the embassy, also unlawful copying of their telephones and computers (and) hooded men breaking into offices,” he said.

He did not provide evidence of these charges, which likely would be part of Assange’s defense against extradition when the full hearing is held next year.

Summers said the initial case against Assange was prepared during the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2010 but wasn’t acted on until Donald Trump assumed the presidency. He said it represents the administration’s aggressive attitude toward whistleblowers.

Summers asked for a three-month delay to the full hear but was rebuffed after lawyer James Lewis, representing the U.S., said the U.S. opposed any delay to the proceeding.

The public gallery was jammed with Assange supporters, including former London Mayor Ken Livingstone, and outside the courthouse others carried placards calling for Assange to be released. There were chants demanding he be freed.

The judge said the full hearing will be heard at Belmarsh Court, which is adjacent to the prison where Assange is being held. She said this would be easier for Assange to attend and contains more room for the media.

Assange’s lawyers said the five days wouldn’t be enough for the entire case to be heard. They are expected to ask for more time at a later date.

Read the rest of Gregory Katz’s article at ABCnews.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

Goat breaks down door of family home, takes nap in bathroom

Goat breaks down door of family home, takes nap in bathroom

A goat who escaped from an Ohio farm ended up breaking into a family home and taking a nap in the bathroom.

The goat, named “Big Boy”, went missing from a local farm in Ohio before he ended up a few miles away inside the Keathley residence in Ashland County’s Sullivan Township.

Big Boy allegedly butted his head against a sliding glass door repeatedly before breaking the glass and entering the Keathley residence.

Jennifer Keathley said that her 18-year-old son, Logan, came home from school last Friday afternoon to discover their German Shepherd in the driveway, the broken glass on the back porch, and the house smelling terrible, according to the Associated Press.

“This is the most random story in the world,” Jennifer Keathley said earlier this week.

Home surveillance showed Logan’s hilarious reaction once he arrived home to find the goat taking a nap in the bathroom.

“Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope,” said Logan once he saw the goat in the bathroom and ran out of the house after he discovered Big Boy.

Two Ashland County Sheriff’s deputies arrived on scene not long after and attempted to lure the goat, albeit unsuccessfully, from the Keathley residence using carrots, a dog bone and grass, according to AP. When their attempts didn’t work, Big Boy was eventually grabbed by his horns and dragged outside where he was secured in a dog cage while he awaited his owner’s arrival.

Jennifer Keathley was able to locate the owners after she put a message out on a local community Facebook page. The apologetic owner came forth later that same evening to collect Big Boy and loaded him onto a livestock trailer to take him home.

After the break in the Keathley’s discovered that their home insurance policy covers damage from deer and bears – but not goats.

Read the rest of Jon Haworth’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.


Crypto markets are down, time to panic? Miners don’t think so.

Crypto markets are down, time to panic? Miners don’t think so.

While the price of Bitcoin may have decreased by around 75% in the last 8 months, the hash rate has increased by around 500%. The hash rate is the processing power contributed to the network. Right now the hash rate is sitting around 50,000,000 tera hashes. That’s the equivalent of 50 million computers each performing 1 trillion calculations per second.

Some would contribute the growth to the increased productivity of ASIC miners. While that is definitely a factor, these increases in hash rate can be found in cryptocurrencies that use GPU mining as well.

Others say the discrepancy between price and hash rate may simply be caused by a lack of understanding. Generally speaking, miners have a strong technical understanding of cryptocurrency. They understand its value and use it regularly. On the other hand, many investors have have absolutely no understanding of the technology at all. This may make them susceptible to emotional decision making, such as panic selling at a loss.

While Peter Schiff and many other prominent figures say this is the beginning of the end for Bitcoin, there are obviously many in the mining industry that disagree. Is Bitcoin a passing fad? Or are the critics simply misinformed? Only time will tell.

Mess of Media’s cryptocurrency reporting is for informational purposes only. Our reporting should not be considered financial advice. Participation in the crypto market is at your own risk.

NASA launches probe to touch the Sun

NASA launches probe to touch the Sun

NASA’s Parker Solar Probe is on its way to the most important form of energy on Earth, the Sun. The Parker Solar Probe is on a seven-year mission that will involve passing by the Sun a total of 24 times. The robotic spacecraft will probe the outer corona of the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe will reach within 3.85 million miles from the surface of the sun. The spacecraft is also expected to reach speeds up to 430,000 miles per hour. It’s also the first NASA spacecraft to be named after a living person, physicist and University of Chicago professor Eugene Parker. The NASA project is expected to cost 1.5 billion dollars.

NASA scientists hope to learn more about several unanswered questions of the universe. For example, what keeps the corona generating so much energy? Another popular topic of curiosity involves the constant stream of supersonic solar wind blowing throughout the galaxy. The space exploration community is eagerly awaiting the results obtained from the mission.

The Sun’s surface is about 2 million degrees Fahrenheit. Below the surface, temperatures reach a scorching 10 million degrees Fahrenheit. Why wont the Parker Solar Probe melt? According to NASA, in short, the heat is less dense. NASA contrasted the differences in heat density by comparing a person putting their hand in a hot oven versus putting their hand in pot of boiling water. Along with the atmosphere being less dense, NASA has equipped the Parker Solar Probe with a Thermal Protection System (TPS) that can withstand temperatures up to 3 thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

The NASA probe was launched into space August 12th, 2018. It is expected to return to Earth sometime in 2025. What mysteries of the universe will the spacecraft unlock once its mission is complete? Only time will tell.

Keep track of NASA’s Parker Solar Probe by following their official Twitter page!

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.


Elon Musk cleared of defamation in ‘pedo guy’ tweet trial

Elon Musk cleared of defamation in ‘pedo guy’ tweet trial

Elon Musk defeated defamation allegations Friday from a British cave explorer who claimed he was branded a pedophile when the Tesla CEO called him “pedo guy” in an angry tweet.

Vernon Unsworth, who participated in the rescue of 12 boys and their soccer coach trapped for weeks in a Thailand cave last year, had sought $190 million in damages for the shame and humiliation caused by the man his lawyer called a “billionaire bully.”

It took less than an hour for an eight-person jury in Los Angeles federal court to reject Unsworth’s claim after a four-day trial.

Musk said the verdict restored his faith in humanity as he quickly left the court with his security detail.

Musk — who deleted the tweet and later apologized for it — had asserted the expression was nothing more than a flippant insult that meant “creepy old man,” not pedophile.

Unsworth had provoked the attack by belittling Musk’s contribution to the rescue — a miniature sub his engineers built that was never used — as ineffective and nothing more than a “PR stunt.” He further earned the ire of the tech whiz by suggesting Musk stick the sub “where it hurts.”

On Friday, it was Unsworth who felt the pain.

“I accept the jury verdict, take it on the chin, and move on,” Unsworth said outside court.

Jury foreman Joshua Jones said the panel decided Unsworth’s lawyers failed to prove their case. He said they spent too much time trying to appeal to jurors’ emotions and not concentrating on the evidence.

“The failure probably happened because they didn’t focus on the tweets,” Jones said after the verdict was announced. “I think they tried to get our emotions involved in it.”

Attorney Lin Wood, in an impassioned and at times emotional closing argument, suggested the jury should award $190 million. Wood said $150 million of that figure should be a “hard slap on the wrist” to punish Musk for what he said was akin to dropping an atomic weapon on his client that would create problems for years like radioactive fallout.

He suggested the figure would be reasonable given that Musk testified his stock in Tesla and SpaceX is worth about $20 billion. But Musk’s lawyer, Alex Spiro, ridiculed the suggested verdict as “numbers being thrown out like ‘The Price is Right.’”

Wood said it was important to challenge Musk’s tweet in court even if they didn’t win. Unsworth had said the statement would appear true if he didn’t sue.

“Anybody that knows this man knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that Elon’s accusations were false,” Wood said outside court. “This was not the justice that he deserved under the evidence.”

While Musk was cleared of liability, the trial was just the latest incident where he’s faced legal problems because of troublesome tweets.

Musk and Tesla reached a $40 million settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission last year over allegations he misled investors with a tweet declaring he had secured financing to buy out the electric car maker. Earlier this year, the SEC sought to hold him in contempt of court for tweeting a misleading projection of how many cars Tesla would manufacture. That led to a new agreement imposing tight controls on Musk’s tweets about the company.

The day after Musk’s tweet about Unsworth, Tesla stock price fell 3% and shareholders and people within the company were urging him to apologize. Musk said he resisted at first because he didn’t want to look “foolish and craven” by doing so right after the stock dropped.

Musk’s lawyer told the jury the tweet did not rise to the level of defamation and cases over insults didn’t belong in federal courtrooms.

Spiro said Unsworth had tried to profit off his role in the cave rescue and basked in the many accolades he received.

Unsworth had been honored by the queen of England and the king of Thailand, had his photo taken next to British Prime Minister Theresa May and been asked to speak at schools and contribute to a children’s book, which showed that no one took Musk’s insult seriously.

“People accused of pedophilia don’t get celebrated by world leaders,” Spiro said. “Kings and queens and prime ministers don’t stand next to pedophiles.”

Unsworth hadn’t demonstrated actual damage to his reputation other than asserting over a couple minutes of emotional testimony delivered with his voice cracking that he felt isolated, ashamed and dirtied, Spiro said. There was no supporting testimony from his girlfriend or other friends who could discuss the impact they witnessed, no evidence he had lost business or relationships as a result of the tweet and he hadn’t sought psychological counseling or medication.

You can read the rest of Brian Melley’s article at ABCnews.com

Key takeaways on the House Judiciary Committee’s 1st hearing on Trump’s impeachment

Key takeaways on the House Judiciary Committee’s 1st hearing on Trump’s impeachment

The impeachment inquiry moved to the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday with a panel of constitutional scholars tackling the million dollar question in the debate: Do President Donald Trump’s actions warrant impeachment under the Constitution?

Three of the witnesses were lawyers handpicked by the Democratic majority: Pamela Khan, a professor at Stanford Law School; Michael Gerhardt a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Law; and Noah Feldman, a professor at Harvard Law School.

The lone Republican-picked witness was Jonathan Turley, a professor at the George Washington University Law School.

Here’s what you need to know about the hearing:

The Democratic-picked lawyers say Trump is what the framers had in mind with impeachment

Among the three Democratic-picked lawyers, there was no doubt: Trump, they testified, abused his power in office by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rival. And soliciting a foreign power for personal and political gain was exactly what the framers had in mind when they tucked impeachment powers into the Constitution, they said. If left unchecked, the president could continue to invite foreign powers to help his upcoming election, the lawyers argued.

“We three are unanimous,” Gehardt said, when they were asked if Trump’s actions amount to a “high crime and misdemeanor,” as identified in the Constitution.

“If Congress fails to impeach here, then the impeachment process has lost all meaning, and, along with that, our Constitution’s carefully crafted safeguards against the establishment of a king on American soil,” Gerhardt said in his opening statement. “No one, not even the president, is beyond the reach of our Constitution and our laws.”

The most colorful examples came from Karlan, who described being so riveted by witness testimony in the impeachment hearings that she opted for a mail-order turkey this Thanksgiving so that she could spend her time combing through the details. One “chilling line” by Ambassador Gordon Sondland’s testimony, she said, was that Trump didn’t need Ukraine to pursue a corruption case against Democrat Joe Biden, but rather just announce one.

“This was not about whether (former) Vice President Biden actually committed corruption or not. This was about injuring somebody who the president thinks of as a particularly hard opponent,” she said.

Karlan also compared Trump’s actions with Ukraine to a president withholding disaster aid for a state.

“Imagine living in a part of Louisiana or Texas that’s prone to devastating hurricanes and flooding,” Karlan told the panel.

“What would you think if you lived there and your governor asked for a meeting with the president to discuss getting disaster aid that Congress has provided for? What would you think if that president said, I would like you to do us a favor. I’ll meet with you, and I’ll send the disaster relief once you brand my opponent a criminal.”

The GOP-picked lawyer had a somewhat surprising argument against impeachment

Turley, who testified during President Bill Clinton’s impeachment inquiry 21 years earlier, gave an unusual argument on behalf of Republicans and against impeachment. He didn’t defend the president’s actions or Trump himself. Turley noted he doesn’t support Trump politically and even voted against him in the 2016 election. He did say he’s a longtime friend of Trump’s attorney general, William Barr.

But Turley also argued that Democrats were setting a dangerous precedent that could one day be used to smear one of their own.

“I get it. You’re mad,” he told the panel in his opening statement. “The president’s mad. My Republican friends are mad. My Democratic friends are mad. My wife is mad. My kids are mad. Even my dog seems mad.”

Impeachment though won’t lessen that anger, he warned. Turley said he didn’t think Trump’s actions were a “clear case of bribery” and that Democrats should wait for the courts to weigh in on their demands for more documents and witness testimony.

Democrats have said they can’t wait because Trump’s actions present a “crisis” that must be addressed.

“That’s why this is wrong,” Turley said of impeachment. “It’s not wrong because Trump is right. … It’s wrong because this is not how you impeach an American president.”

He urged Democrats to consider what they will do “when the wind blows again perhaps for a Democratic president.”

“Where will you stand then?” he asked.

A conservative congressman attacked the panel as elitists

In perhaps the most explosive exchange of the day, Florida Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz attacked the panelists summoned by Democrats as politically motivated elitists and noted their past contributions to progressive campaigns.

According to records by the Federal Election Commission, Karlan has donated money to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s current presidential campaign, and Gerhardt donated money to both of President Barack Obama’s election campaigns. Karlan also testified to having supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Gaetz, the conservative firebrand and provocateur who at one point crashed closed-door impeachment testimony, accused Karlan of living in “the ivory towers of your law school.” He also criticized Karlan for making a joke about the president’s teen son, Barron Trump.

Earlier in the hearing, Karlan was explaining that the Constitution was written in a way to make the U.S. president behave differently than a king, specifically excluding titles of nobility.

“While the president can name his son ‘Barron,’ he can’t make him a baron,” she said.

When it was Gaetz’s turn to question the witnesses, he jumped on the remark as an attack on a “minor child.”

“That does not lend credibility to your argument,” Gaetz said. “It makes you look mean. It makes you look like you are attacking someone’s family.”

Karlan said she did not have contempt for conservatives and added, “I have a constitutional right to give money to candidates.”

She later asked to apologize for alluding to Barron Trump.

“If I can say one thing, I want to apologize for what I said earlier about the president’s son. It was wrong of me to do that,” Karlan said. “I wish the president would apologize for the things he’s said wrong, but I do regret having said that.”

Republicans tried to throw sand in the gears early on

Republicans immediately tried to throw a wrench in the works with demands of procedural inquiries and roll call votes to force testimony from other witnesses.

The theatrics on Wednesday succeeded in slowing down the pace of the hearing and hammered away at a key GOP talking point: The impeachment process is unfair, the Republicans have said repeatedly.

Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the panel, opened the hearing by saying the Democratic quest for impeachment didn’t start with Russia or election meddling but rather when liberal voters refused to accept the 2016 election results.

“This is not an impeachment. This is simply a railroad job and today’s is a waste of time,” Collins said.

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

Trump calls Trudeau “two-faced,” cancels NATO press conference

Trump calls Trudeau “two-faced,” cancels NATO press conference

President Trump called Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau “two-faced” on Wednesday after Trudeau appeared to mock the president during a reception at Buckingham Palace.

The president also canceled a news conference that was scheduled to take place at the conclusion of the NATO summit.

“When today’s meetings are over, I will be heading back to Washington,” Mr. Trump tweeted. “We won’t be doing a press conference at the close of NATO because we did so many over the past two days.” He had previously signaled to reporters he might cancel the news conference, which was slated for 10:30 a.m. Wednesday.

Mr. Trump has engaged in some tense interactions with fellow world leaders, including Trudeau and French President Emmanuel Macron. During a reception at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday, Macron, Trudeau and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to joke about Mr. Trump.

“He was late because he takes a 40-minute press conference off the top,” Trudeau can be heard telling Macron and Johnson, adding, “You just watched his team’s jaws drop to the floor.”

When asked by reporters about Trudeau’s comments, Mr. Trump called the Canadian prime minister “two-faced” and suggested Trudeau “wasn’t happy” he was called out by the president for not meeting NATO’s 2% commitment.

“I’m representing the U.S. and he should be paying more than he’s paying, and he understands that,” Mr. Trump said on Trudeau. “So I can imagine he’s not that happy, but that’s the way it is.”

Earlier, the president criticized Macron for suggesting NATO is experiencing “brain death,” defending the institution he says he has made stronger.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, the House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold its first public impeachment hearing. Mr. Trump continued to blast House Democrats’ impeachment process while in London, even as he said he might like for some of his top aides to testify in any Senate proceedings.

During his trip, Mr. Trump also announced the U.S. will host the G-7 summit next year at Camp David, a place acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had previously derided as an undesirable location because no one liked it. Mulvaney announced in a memorable news conference earlier this fall that the G-7 would take place at Mr. Trump’s resort in Florida, before the White House reversed course under intense political pressure.

Kamala Harris ends her presidential bid

Kamala Harris ends her presidential bid

Kamala Harris is ending her presidential bid and suspending her campaign, she announced Tuesday. In a statement, the Democratic senator from California explained she did not have enough funding to continue her run for the White House. Calling it “one of the hardest decisions of my life,” and one she had made over the last few days, Harris said her campaign “simply doesn’t have the financial resources we need to continue.”

“I’m not a billionaire. I can’t fund my own campaign,” she said. “And as the campaign has gone on, it’s become harder and harder to raise the money we need to compete.”

She continued, “In good faith, I can’t tell you, my supporters and volunteers, that I have a path forward if I don’t believe I do. So, to you my supporters, it is with deep regret — but also with deep gratitude — that I am suspending my campaign today.”

In a sign of how challenging the lack of funding had become, aides said Tuesday that by the end of this week, former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg will have spent on advertising alone about twice what Harris had raised for her own bid since the beginning of the year.

And in recent days, long-simmering turmoil between her team of professional consultants, mostly from California, and a faction represented by Harris’ sister, Maya Harris, about how the campaign should proceed had boiled over into news reports. Maya Harris, a Democratic activist who also worked for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, has been at her sister’s side for the duration of the campaign, serving as a top adviser.

Harris had begun her campaign in a commanding position, with a crowd of about 20,000 showing up at her kickoff rally in Oakland in late January. Her campaign at its inception seemed to show the capacity for growth, and she was viewed as a top-tier candidate. When she confronted Joe Biden about his stance on federal busing in the first presidential debate, it boosted her candidacy. But within days, her own views on busing became somewhat muddled.

Later, she struggled to articulate where she stood on health care and how she would pay for an overhaul of the health care system.

Harris, the third candidate in 48 hours to announce the end of her campaign, informed her staff Tuesday of her decision to suspend her campaign. After her statement, Harris posted a video of her statement on Twitter.

Biden responded to the news of her departure from the race by calling her a “first-rate intellect,” a “first-rate candidate, and “a solid, solid person” who is “loaded with talent.”

Julián Castro commended Harris and attacked some of the news outlets that recently reported stories that were critical of her campaign, noting “articles out of Politico, the New York Times, the Washington Post, that has basically trashed her campaign and focused on one small part of it, and I think held her to a different standard, a double standard has been grossly unfair and unfortunate.”

Without Harris, Steve Bullock and Joe Sestak, the Democratic primary field now shrinks to 15 candidates.

You can read the rest of Ed O’Keefe, Tim Perry, and Caitlin Huey-Burns’ article at CBSnews.com

Trump rips French leader Emmanuel Macron for “nasty” remark as NATO summit starts

Trump rips French leader Emmanuel Macron for “nasty” remark as NATO summit starts

President Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to withdraw from NATO and once called it “obsolete,” surprised many by kicking off a two-day visit to London on Tuesday for the transatlantic alliance’s annual summit by defending it against criticism from France. After French President Emmanuel Macron’s suggested that NATO had suffered “brain death,” Mr. Trump called the remark “very insulting.”

Mr. Trump declared Macron’s comments to be a “very, very nasty statement, essentially to 28 countries,” adding, “nobody needs NATO more than France.” As he sat alongside Macron, however, Mr. Trump did not continue to criticize the French leader. Mr. Trump said he believes Macron wants the best for NATO, but also wants it to serve the most vital functions.

Asked if he better understands what Macron meant, Mr. Trump said, “Well we just began discussing NATO, and what I’m liking about NATO is that a lot of countries have stepped up I think really at my behest. And also yourself, you’re close to that level,” the U.S. president added, addressing his French counterpart.

The 70-year-old NATO alliance was founded to defend Europe from the Soviet Union. These days, it’s supposed to be a united effort to guarantee the freedom and safety of member countries, but there is plenty of infighting.

“We are making real progress, most importantly on the burden sharing,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said while meeting with Mr. Trump in London Tuesday morning. He added that the U.S. president’s “leadership on defense spending is having a real impact.”

Mr. Trump said he discussed with Stoltenberg “the flexibility so that we have not just with one area of the world … we have all areas of the world because NATO’s a lot different than it was.”

But NATO is also different than it was even three years ago, Mr. Trump emphasized, largely because of his push for other member nations to contribute more to their own defense.

“When I came in, I was angry at NATO, and now I’ve raised $130 billion,” Mr. Trump said, referring to the amount Stoltenberg says European members and Canada will have added to their collective defense budgets by 2020. “And yet you still have many delinquent — you know I call them delinquent when they’re not paid up in full.”

Of NATO’s 29 members, only nine spend at least two percent of their GDP on defense. The United States is reducing its contribution to NATO’s central budget, CBS News White House correspondent Paula Reid reports.

Seated alongside Macron, Mr. Trump also weighed in on the protests in Iran, claiming the U.S. doesn’t support the protesters even though his own secretary of state said otherwise a day earlier. Asked if the U.S. supports the protesters in Iran, Mr. Trump responded, “I don’t want to comment on that, but the answer is no. But I don’t want to comment on that.” On Monday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the U.S. is supporting the protesters in Iran who are revolting against the regime.

After those comments stirred concern, however, the president’s Twitter account clarified the matter.

“The United States of America supports the brave people of Iran who are protesting for their FREEDOM. We have under the Trump Administration, and always will!” Mr. Trump’s account said.

The president soon clarified that he thought the question was whether the U.S. supports the Iran protesters financially.

But even in London, Mr. Trump could not escape questions about the ongoing impeachment inquiry in Washington. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee is holding its first impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill, intended to weigh in on whether Mr. Trump’s actions regarding Ukraine constitute impeachable offenses.

“This is a witch hunt by the Democrats. It’s a continuation — it’s been going on for three years,” Mr. Trump said Tuesday. He added later that the “impeachment hoax” is “going nowhere.”

“The Republican party on this whole impeachment hoax has been like glue, because they know it’s a hoax.”

The president also ripped House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, calling him a “deranged human being.”

When the “shoe is on the other foot,” Mr. Trump said, and there’s a Democratic president one day, Democrats won’t want to have a precedent for Republicans to easily impeach a Democratic president.

Mr. Trump also announced that the next G7 summit will take place at Camp David next year, after the administration was forced to undo an announcement that it would be held at his Florida resort.

On Tuesday, the president also attended a fundraiser in London to benefit his presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC), raising $3 million, the RNC confirmed to CBS News.

In the evening, Mr. Trump and first lady Melania Trump attended a reception at Buckingham Palace hosted by Queen Elizabeth, and a reception at 10 Downing Street organized by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Harris’ aides believe Gabbard attacks accelerated 2020 woes: report

Harris’ aides believe Gabbard attacks accelerated 2020 woes: report

Advisers to Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., believe that her plunge in the polls over the summer was accelerated by a withering attack in a primary debate in July by Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, that left the then-front-runner reeling and donors “alarmed,” according to a new report about her struggling presidential bid.

In a lengthy deep-dive into the California senator’s struggles on the campaign trail, The New York Times on Friday reported that many Harris advisers point to a July debate moment between Gabbard and the senator as “accelerating” her decline in the polls.

In that debate in Detroit, Mich., Gabbard took aim at Harris’ record as a prosecutor, saying she was “deeply concerned” about it.

“There are too many examples to cite but she put over 1,500 people in jail for marijuana violations and then laughed about it when she was asked if she ever smoked marijuana,” Gabbard said.

She also blasted Harris for maintaining the cash bail system which, she argued, disproportionately hurt poor people. Gabbard accused Harris of keeping prisoners beyond their sentence in order to use them as “cheap labor” as well as blocking evidence that would have “freed an innocent man from death row.”

“The bottom line is, Senator Harris, when you were in a position to make a difference and impact in these people’s lives, you did not,” Gabbard responded.

It was the latest in a series of attacks from Gabbard — and Harris’ advisers were reportedly unimpressed, especially as she had been prepped on potential attacks on her record. Harris responded then claiming that she had consistently fought against the death penalty and reformed the criminal justice system.

According to the Times, several of Harris’ donors were “alarmed” and urged the campaign to fire back at Gabbard. Harris was also aware that her response was “insufficient,” a view “reinforced by her advisers” according to the Times.

Harris’ advisers were also frustrated at the senator’s alleged inability to “carry a message beyond the initial script.”

According to the RealClearPolitics average of polls for the nomination, Harris was in second place in early July, commanding an average of 15 percent of primary voters. But since then, she has declined quickly.

Now, RCP polls have her with an average of just under 4 percent — far behind candidates such as former Vice President Joe Biden (27 percent), Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. (18.3 percent), Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. (15.8 percent), and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg (11 percent).

You can read the rest of Adam Shaw’s article at FoxNews.com

ET, Elliott reunited in heartwarming Xfinity commercial

ET, Elliott reunited in heartwarming Xfinity commercial

It took 37 years and a lot of miles, but E.T., the lovable extraterrestrial creature that helped launch Steven Spielberg’s rise to stardom, finally reunited with Elliott — albeit in a heartwarming holiday commercial for telecom company Xfinity.

In the four-plus-minute ad, E.T. comes to visit a grown-up Elliott – played by original child actor Henry Thomas – to learn about snow and tablets.

By using a montage sequence, the alien is surprised by VR goggles and even goes sledding with Elliott’s children. The whole crew also recreates the scene from the movie where they fly past the moon on their bicycles.

Once again, using a bit of the original movie, when it comes time for E.T. to leave Earth, he recreates a moment from the original film with Elliott’s son.

Read the rest of Jack Durschlag’s article at FoxNews.com

Trump says peace talks with Taliban have resumed during surprise visit to Afghanistan

Trump says peace talks with Taliban have resumed during surprise visit to Afghanistan

On a surprise trip to Afghanistan on Thursday, President Trump said that the United States has reopened peace talks with the Taliban – just three months after the president scuttled negotiations between Washington and the Afghan insurgents following a terror attack that killed 11 people, including one U.S. soldier.

Trump, who made his first trip to Afghanistan under a veil of secrecy for security reasons, told troops gathered at the Air Force base for Thanksgiving dinner that the Taliban “wants to make a deal very badly.”

“We’re going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make to make a deal very badly,” Trump said. “The Taliban wants to make a deal — we’ll see if they make a deal. If they do, they do, and if they don’t they don’t. That’s fine.”

The president also reaffirmed his commitment to bring the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan down to about 8,600 – from about 12,000 to 13,000.

“We’re bringing down the number of troops substantially,” he said.

Earlier in the day, however, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley said no decisions had been made on troop reductions, but there were several options, including going down to 8,600,

White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham, acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien, White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere and Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wy., traveled with the president on a 13-hour overnight trip on Air Force One from Joint Base Andrews in Maryland to Afghanistan on Wednesday.

The president arrived in Afghanistan just in time to serve troops Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. Standing alongside Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, he dished out turkey to roughly two dozen troops at a dining facility decorated with red, orange and yellow Thanksgiving banners and tablecloths. Mulvaney, Barrasso, and O’Brien were also behind the counter.

“There’s nowhere I’d rather spend Thanksgiving than with the toughest, fiercest warriors,” Trump said. “I’m here to say Happy Thanksgiving and thank you very much. As president of the United States, I have no higher honor than serving as commander-in-chief.”

He added: “We will continue to work tirelessly for the day when all of you can go home to your families, and that day is coming very soon.”

The president was originally slated to spend Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla. Details of how he was able to sneak out of the resort property are still unclear. He did, though, fly out of an undisclosed airport on Wednesday evening.

Fox News has learned that security precautions for the trip were taken to the extreme, with the cellular devices, including those of senior White House officials on the flight, taken before boarding the plane.

The president greeted the crew and even stayed in the cockpit for takeoff.

You can read the rest of Brooke Singman, Andrew O’Reilly and Jenny Buchholz’s article at FoxNews.com

Giant black hole ‘should not even exist,’ stunned scientists say

Giant black hole ‘should not even exist,’ stunned scientists say

Stellar black holes are formed by the collapse of massive stars. The mass of an individual stellar black hole in our galaxy has long been estimated to be no more than 20 times that of the Sun, according to researchers.

Now, however, an international team of scientists led by Prof. Liu Jifeng of the National Astronomical Observatory of China of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (NAOC), has discovered a monster stellar black hole with a mass 70 times greater than the Sun.

“Black holes of such mass should not even exist in our Galaxy, according to most of the current models of stellar evolution,” said Prof. Liu, in a statement.

“We thought that very massive stars with the chemical composition typical of our Galaxy must shed most of their gas in powerful stellar winds, as they approach the end of their life,” Liu added. “Therefore, they should not leave behind such a massive remnant. LB-1 is twice as massive as what we thought possible. Now theorists will have to take up the challenge of explaining its formation.”

The black hole, named LB-1, is 15,000 light-years away. A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals 6 trillion miles.

A paper on the discovery has been published in the journal Nature.

Researchers made the discovery using China’s Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fiber Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST). The telescope looks for stars that orbit an invisible object, pulled by its gravity, according to the scientists. Previously, stellar black holes could only be discovered by identifying X-ray emissions created when they devoured gas from a companion star.

After the black hole was spotted using LAMOST, the Gran Telescopio Canarias in Spain and the Keck I telescope in the U.S. were used to establish its physical parameters.

In the statement, experts note that the discovery of LB-1” fits nicely” with another breakthrough in astrophysics – the detection of ripples in space-time caused by black hole collisions in distant galaxies. The ripples have been identified by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in the U.S. and the Virgo gravitational wave detector in Italy.

“This remarkable result along with the LIGO-Virgo detections of binary black hole collisions during the past four years really points towards a renaissance in our understanding of black hole astrophysics,” said LIGO Director Prof. David Reitze of the University of Florida, in the statement.

Earlier this year, in a separate project, scientists released the first-ever image of a black hole, revealing the distant object in stunning detail.

You can read the rest of James Rogers’ article at FoxNews.com