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The 'Stranger Things' Connection To Netflix's Success

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 01:32

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In Netflix's battle to keep subscribers, "Stranger Things" is a fortress.

The fourth season finale of the hit retro sci-fi thriller debuted last week, and it quickly became the platform's most popular English-language original series ever — garnering more than one billion hours of views in less than a month.  

Created by brothers Matt and Ross Duffer, "Stranger Things" is about a group of friends in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana fighting mysterious monsters in "the upside down."

The show captures the vibes of every classic horror, sci-fi and coming of age adventure flick from the '80s. The series is so influential that featured songs from the decade, like Kate Bush's "Running Up That Hill," skyrocketed back to the top of the Billboard charts almost four decades after they were originally released.

Bush made more than $2 million in royalties after the new season came out, and that's just a fraction of the show's value. 

In 2017, Ted Sarandos, Netflix's chief content officer and co-CEO, said, "shows like 'Stranger Things' — when it becomes a big cultural phenomenon — we'd like to be able to control those brands as we continue to invest in them."

The streaming platform has always seen "Stranger Things" as a major investment, and as the company reported its first subscriber loss in over a decade earlier this year, the success of the series could very well determine the success of the company itself.

A recent survey from analysts at Cowen & Co. found more than half of the respondents with existing Netflix subscriptions planned to watch the show, and 13% of former subscribers planned to re-subscribe just to watch the new episodes.

As "Stranger Things" wrapped up its record-breaking fourth season this month, Netflix and the Duffer brothers are already setting the stage for its series finale.

It may be a goodbye to the kids of Hawkins, but it'll likely also be the beginning of the larger universe, with plans for future spinoffs already in development.

Ukrainian Grain Is Being Stolen By Russia, Amid The War

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 01:05

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If you look carefully, you can see the Russian missile there on the right, moments before it blows up a Ukranian grain silo far from the frontlines. 

Satellite images from June in the Ukranian port of Mykolaiv show the before and after of Russian shelling of a grain storage terminal. 

Even NASA satellites are documenting the Russian assault on Ukrainian agriculture, in this case capturing vegetable oil containers ablaze after a Russian airstrike. 

As Russia sabotages Ukraine's ability to export its agricultural abundance, new details are emerging of how Moscow is simultaneously profiting from its takeover of some of the world's most productive farmland. 

New NASA satellite images show that Russia has seized and occupied nearly a quarter of all of Ukraine's farmland. 

From these areas, Russia is transporting the harvest to a port in Crimea.

New satellite images show it being loaded from silos to ships; they then ferry it across the black sea through the Bosphorus Strait in Turkey, and then on to countries willing to accept the stolen grain. 

Also, with its control of Mariupol, Russia is able to export stolen grain through the sea of Azov, which connects to the Black Sea. 

Ukrainian ships, however, could not leave due to a Russian naval blockade, and sea mines laid by Russia, according to U.S. Intelligence. 

Since the start of the invasion, Ukraine has been unable to export 20 million tons of grain, much of it now rotting as Russia quietly finds customers. 

Reuters reported on July 1 that Ukraine requested Turkey detain a Russian-flagged cargo ship carrying grain from a port near Mariupol.  

But, on Thursday, Ukraine's foreign affairs ministry said Turkey allowed the ship to continue on its way.  

Geopolitics is having a cascading effect on global hunger. 

David Beasley is the Executive Director of the World Food Program.

"Global price spikes in food, fuel and fertilizers that we're seeing as a result of the crisis in Ukraine threaten to push countries around the world into famine. The result will be global destabilization, starvation and mass migration on an unprecedented scale. We have to act and we have to act today to avert this looming catastrophe," Beasley said. 

A major UN report released this week finds that, if this situation remains unchanged, 13 million more people will be undernourished this year, as a direct result of the war. 

Chase Sova is the Senior Director of Public Policy at World Food Program.

SOVA: Because of the compounding effects of conflict, climate change and COVID, all of this was really happening prior to the to the crisis in Ukraine and is causing us to have this year of catastrophic hunger. 

NEWSY'S JASON BELLINI: What should we be looking for in the coming months?  

SOVA: I don't think that we are going to see a quick resolution of conflict in Ukraine, which is the easiest way to sort of have this global food crisis level off.  

That impact is already visible on the ground in countries like Somalia, which were already on the brink of famine. UNICEF is sounding the alarm.  

"In the 15 countries most affected by the crisis UNICEF estimates that 8 million children under the age of five are suffering from severe wasting."

How Do You Sue The FBI?

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 01:00

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Two recent high-profile cases are testing the limits of accountability for law enforcement by going after the FBI for missing a crime they could have stopped.  

This happened most recently with survivors of Larry Nassar's abuse, as they prepare to file a lawsuit against the FBI. They're doing this through the Federal Tort Claims Act, which was enacted back in 1964. It says that people who are injured or damaged by negligence of any federal employee can file a claim against them for reimbursement of that injury.

Every year, thousands of current and former federal employees are named in these types of claims. Once they’re filed, the government has six months to respond. When that happens, the government can settle, or the claimant can file a lawsuit in federal court.

Attorneys say going up against the government in court for this sort of thing can be tricky and that plaintiffs don’t always see success, but let’s unpack the circumstances of one case against the FBI that did.

In 2020, a judge ruled the families of Parkland victims who filed Federal Tort Claims against the FBI could take their case to federal court, and in March of this year, the DOJ reported they awarded nearly $130 million to those families.

Robert Stein was an attorney on the case, and he told us more about how that settlement was reached.

"Where we had some success in our case is when you can argue that there was written or unwritten guidance, protocols, procedures, etc.," Stein said. "Where there are protocols and procedures and they deviate from them, that is an area where you don't, you're not in discretion anymore, right, because the rule was passed. The rule is there. The rule says you must."

Let’s walk through it: In September 2017, the FBI received a tip that the shooter posted “I’m going to become a professional school shooter” on YouTube. An FBI agent investigated the tip and didn’t pursue it any further after October. In January 2018, they received another tip that the shooter purchased several weapons and could possibly shoot up a school. No action was taken, and on February 14, 2018, the shooter killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

“The FBI could have and should have done more to investigate the information it was provided prior to the shooting," said David Bowdich, former deputy director of the FBI. "While we will never know if any such investigative activity would have prevented this tragedy, we clearly should have done more.”

Both tips in this case came through the FBI Public Access Line, or PAL. The call center is responsible for all calls and electronic tips. In 2017, the year they first received a tip about the Parkland shooter, the call center received about 1.5 million calls and emails.

Newsy reached out to the FBI with some questions about how they conduct investigations, and they said they didn’t have a comment.

The other high-profile case where the Federal Torts Act has come up was in early June.

Victims of former Team USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar filed tort claims against the FBI claiming the agency allowed him to continue sexually abusing them after gymnastics officials reported him to the agency in 2015.

Attorney Jane Reilley represents some of the Nassar survivors. She explains why it’s difficult to go up against a government agency, specifically the FBI. 

"Whether it's FBI or local police department, there's this concept of qualified immunity, which essentially you can't just show that someone in the government made a negligent decision or made a decision that you wouldn't necessarily have made if you were in their shoes," Reilley said. "It's a higher standard than that, and so you have to you have to establish wrongful conduct at a higher level than you would if you weren't suing a government entity."

Here’s how the case unfolded: USA Gymnastics officials met with Indianapolis FBI agents to report the abuse in July 2015. After several months of no progress on the case, USA Gymnastics met again with FBI agents in Los Angeles in May 2016. Nassar wasn’t arrested until November of that year after Michigan State University Police opened an investigation into his misconduct. Nassar still worked at the school at the time of his arrest. He’s currently serving a sentence that’s equivalent to life in prison.

FBI Director Christopher Wray acknowledged the agency’s mistakes in a Senate hearing last year.  

“I am sorry that so many people let you down over and over again, and I am especially sorry that there were people at the FBI who had their own chance to stop this monster back in 2015 and failed, and that is inexcusable," Wray said.

Both the Parkland and USA Gymnastics cases brought about changes in the way the FBI responds to claims — some of which are already being implemented.

They include better documentation for sexual abuse allegations, mandating a 30-day recurrent review process for these claims and making sure information is properly transferred between field offices.

The FBI has also made improvements at the call center where tips can come in — from hiring more call-takers and supervisors, to stepping up training for staff and creating a management team to review calls about terrorism and threats to kill people.

Reilley is hoping the tort claims filed in her case have the potential to make a difference.  

"I think if, you know, we can send a really strong message with this case that you can't just let this languish on your desk," Reilley said. "You can't avoid it and then one day throw up your hands and say, 'Oh, there's no way we could have known. There's nothing else we could have done.' I think that that could create a culture where women, children, anyone who's a victim of abuse feels more comfortable coming forward, knowing that that type of behavior isn't going to be acceptable any longer."

Massive Hit In Public Approval For The Supreme Court

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 00:41

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Public approval of the Supreme Court is now at an all-time low. 

"We're supposed to be a free country and we're supposed to be prioritizing people and life supposedly and this is not that," said Sydney Reddish, an abortion rights protester.  

According to a June Gallup poll, only 25% of Americans have confidence in the high court. That’s a dive of more than 10% compared to the same time last year. 

That poll was taken in anticipation of Roe v. Wade being overturned. It’s an opinion most Americans do not support.  

A Pew Research poll found that 57% of Americans disapprove of the Supreme Court’s decision. More than 60% say abortion should be legal in all or in most cases. 

Kendra Brooks is a Philadelphia councilwoman.

“I think that if our government wants to regulate something, let’s regulate guns. And not our bodies,” Brooks said. 

Analysts say the court has undeniably become more idealogical and political.  

Earlier this year, the scientific journal PNAS found that since 2020, the Supreme Court had become “much more conservative than the public and is now more similar to republicans in its ideological position on key issues.” 

Allegations of impropriety deepened this week as Rolling Stone reported a religious leader with the anti-abortion group Liberty Counsel was recorded claiming she prays with Supreme Court justices.  She did not name specific justices.   

In its majority opinion to overturn Roe and Casey, justices cited that group's statements, "the Liberty Counsel brief argues abortion has ties to race-based eugenics." 

"If it's something they believe in, if it's something they believe in their religion that they don't want to do then they shouldn't do it. That doesn't mean that we should have our rights taken away from us as well," said Sydney Manese, an abortion rights protester.  

The allegations of a conflict of interest extend to the justices political leanings. 


New Uvalde Report Revealed Lives Could've Been Saved

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 00:21

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Arnie Reyes, a Uvalde teacher, was the sole survivor in room 111. 

"If they would've gone in before, some of them probably would have made it," he said. 

Arnie Reyes could hear the help he so desperately needed right outside his classroom as he lay in a puddle of his own blood, surrounded by his dead and dying students. 

Police officers in the hallways of Robb Elementary were moving around, but not moving in to confront the gunman right next to him holed up inside room 111. 

"You always think, you know, something bad happening that the cops get there so fast, they rush in and they help you, you know? And I was just waiting for that. I was waiting for anybody, anybody to come save us," Reyes said.  

Reyes waited well over an hour, 74 agonizing minutes before law enforcement finally entered his classroom and took down the shooter. 

A new report reveals there were at least 11 police officers in the hallway with shields and rifles within three minutes of the gunman entering the classroom.  They waited even as they heard sporadic gunfire inside the rooms. 

The review found if police had acted sooner, some of the lives lost would likely have been saved.  

More critical failures were laid out in that report from Texas State University's Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center. 

But notably, in the entire 26-page report, there is only a single mention of the Texas Department of Public Safety.  

It's notable, because that agency commissioned the report, even providing access to the evidence.  

The sparse mention of DPS officers is fueling speculation the agency is trying to get a pass for its own inaction. 

"But right now, the people who are doing this so-called investigation, are the ones who are doing this cover-up. And that's the Department of Public Safety. And that's this district attorney's office," said Roland Gutierrez, a State Senator for Texas.    Gutierrez tells Newsy the agency and its director, Colonel Steven McCraw, are withholding information. 

"All of the inconsistencies and all of the finger pointing and all of the walking back leads to only one thing. And I don't know why, or who they're protecting," Gutierrez said.   

The last time McCraw spoke publicly about the probe was over two weeks ago when he testified in front of the Texas State Senate. 

"Our shooter is dead, our shooter is dead, let's be really clear. What are we investigating? The parents of these children, the parents of the injured children, are expecting answers. And they want answers now," Gutierrez said.

WNBA Star Brittney Griner Pleads Guilty On Russian Drug Charges

Fri, 07/08/2022 - 00:14

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Jailed American basketball star Brittney Griner on Thursday pleaded guilty to drug possession and smuggling during her trial in Moscow but said she had no intention of committing a crime, Russian news agencies reported.

The reports quoted Griner as saying through an interpreter at the court hearing that she had acted unintentionally because she was packing in haste.

Griner was detained in February at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport after vape canisters with cannabis oil allegedly were found in her luggage. She faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted of large-scale transportation of drugs.

The trial of the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist began last week amid a growing chorus of calls for Washington to do more to secure her freedom nearly five months after her arrest.

Before Thursday's hearing, Russian police escorted Griner, handcuffed and clad in a bright red T-shirt and athletic pants, into the courtroom past a crowd of journalists.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov warned Thursday that "attempts by the American side to make noise in public ... don't help the practical settlement of issues."

The White House said President Joe Biden called Griner's wife on Wednesday to assure her that he's doing all he can to obtain the athlete's release, as soon as possible. They spoke after President Biden read a letter from Griner in which she said she feared she'd never return home.

Washington hasn't made public its strategy in the case and the United States may have little leverage with Moscow because of strong animosity due to Russia's military actions in Ukraine. The State Department has designated Griner as wrongfully detained, moving her case under the supervision of its special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, effectively the government's chief hostage negotiator.

Asked about the possibility of Griner being swapped for a Russian jailed in the U.S., Ryabkov, the senior Russian diplomat, noted that until her trial is over "there are no formal or procedural reasons to talk about any further steps."

He warned that U.S. criticism, including a description of Griner as wrongfully detained and dismissive comments about the Russian judicial system, "makes it difficult to engage in detailed discussion of any possible exchanges."

"The persistence with which the U.S. administration ... describes those who were handed prison sentences for serious criminal articles and those who are awaiting the end of investigation and court verdicts as 'wrongfully detained' reflects Washington's refusal to have a sober view of the outside world," Ryabkov snapped.

The trial of the Phoenix Mercury star and two-time Olympic gold medalist was adjourned after its start last week because two scheduled witnesses did not appear. Such delays are routine in Russian courts and her detention has been authorized through Dec. 20, suggesting the proceedings could last months.

Although Griner's supporters initially kept a low profile, calls for the United States to take action spiked after the trial's first day.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, one of America's most prominent Black activists, this week called for President Biden to arrange a prayer meeting with Griner, saying, "Four months is too long for this to have gone on, and I hope the President acts on her pleas to come home."

An organization called Win With Black Women sent President Biden a letter saying Secretary of State Antony Blinken "has called Cherelle Griner, Brittney's wife, assuring her and stating publicly that Brittney's safe return was a matter of personal priority; however, we are concerned that the rhetoric does not appear to align with the actions taken to date. We urge you to make a deal to get Brittney back home swiftly."

Russian news media have repeatedly speculated that Griner could be swapped for Russian arms trader Viktor Bout, nicknamed "the Merchant of Death," who is serving a 25-year sentence in the U.S. on conviction of conspiracy to kill U.S. citizens and providing aid to a terrorist organization.

Russia has agitated for Bout's release for years. But the wide discrepancy between Griner's alleged offense and Bout's global dealings in deadly weapons could make such a swap unpalatable to Washington.

Others have suggested that she could be traded along with Paul Whelan, a former Marine and security director serving a 16-year sentence in Russia on an espionage conviction that the U.S. has repeatedly described as a setup.

Russia has shown no signs of backing off.

"This is a serious offense, confirmed by indisputable evidence ... Attempts to present the case as if the American was detained illegally do not hold up," Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexei Zaitsev said Wednesday.

"The law has been violated, and arguments about the innocent nature of Griner's addiction, which, by the way, is punishable in some U.S. states, are inappropriate in this case," he said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Chauvin Gets 21 Years For Violating Floyd’s Civil Rights

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 23:59

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A federal judge on Thursday sentenced Derek Chauvin to 21 years in prison for violating George Floyd’s civil rights, telling the former Minneapolis police officer that what he did was “simply wrong” and “offensive.”

U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson sharply criticized Chauvin for his actions on May 25, 2020, when the white officer pinned Floyd to the pavement outside a Minneapolis corner store for more than 9 minutes as the Black man lay dying. Floyd’s killing sparked protests worldwide in a reckoning over police brutality and racism.

“I really don’t know why you did what you did,” Magnuson said. “To put your knee on a person’s neck until they expired is simply wrong. … Your conduct is wrong and it is offensive.”

Magnuson, who earlier this year presided over the federal trial and convictions of three other officers at the scene, blamed Chauvin alone for what happened. Chauvin was by far the senior officer present, and rebuffed questions from one of the others about whether Floyd should be turned on his side.

“You absolutely destroyed the lives of three young officers by taking command of the scene,” Magnuson said.

Even so, Magnuson’s sentence was at the low end of the 20 to 25 years called for in a plea agreement in which Chauvin will serve the federal sentence at the same time he serves his 22 1/2-year sentence on state charges of murder and manslaughter.

Because of differences in parole eligibility in the state and federal systems, it means that Chauvin will serve slightly more time behind bars than he would have on the state sentence alone. He will also do his time in the federal system, where he may be safer and may be held under fewer restrictions than in the state system.

Chauvin attorney Eric Nelson had asked for 20 years, arguing that Chauvin was remorseful and would make that clear to the court. But Chauvin, in brief remarks, made no direct apology or expression of remorse to Floyd’s family.

Instead, he told the family that he wishes Floyd’s children “all the best in their life” and that they have “excellent guidance in becoming good adults.”

In entering his federal plea last year, Chauvin for the first time admitted that he kept his knee on Floyd’s neck — even as the Black man pleaded, “I can’t breathe,” and then became unresponsive — killing Floyd. Chauvin admitted he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer.

Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for the three other officers who were on the scene — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — who were convicted in February of federal civil rights charges.

Lane is also due to be sentenced Sept. 21 after pleading guilty in state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao and Kueng turned down plea deals and are due to be tried in state court Oct. 24 on aiding and abetting charges.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Police: July 4 Mass Shooting Thwarted In Virginia's Capital

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 19:30

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Police in Richmond, Virginia, said Wednesday that they thwarted a planned July 4 mass shooting after receiving a tip that led to the arrest of two men and the seizure of multiple guns — an announcement that came just two days after a deadly mass shooting on the holiday in a Chicago suburb.

A "hero citizen" overheard a conversation indicating there was an attack being planned on an Independence Day celebration in the capital city and called police to report it, Police Chief Gerald Smith said at a news conference. The caller said the attack was planned for the Dogwood Dell Amphitheater, where an annual fireworks show is held, Smith said.

"One phone call saved numerous lives on the Fourth of July," Smith said.

Police initiated an investigation along with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, which led to the arrests of two men on charges of being non-U.S. citizens in possession of a firearm, Smith said. He said additional charges are possible.

Julio Alvarado-Dubon, 52, was arrested on July 1, the same day police received the tip, Smith said. He said police put a second suspect, Rolman Alberto Balacarcel, 38, under surveillance beginning that day, but did not initially have probable cause to arrest him. He was arrested Tuesday in Albemarle County, near Charlottesville, and was being held in a local jail.

Police spokesperson Tracy Walker said both men are from Guatemala. Initial documents filed in General District Court in Richmond say both Alvarado-Dubon and Balacarcel are not in the U.S. legally. The documents, which say Alvarado-Dubon has an expired visa, did not include any details about the alleged plot.

Court documents note bond was set at $15,000 for Alvarado-Dubon on Wednesday, but it was unclear if he had been released. The documents say he has lived in the Richmond area for three years and works full time in the construction industry. He has a preliminary hearing scheduled in Richmond on Aug. 2. Alvarado-Dubon's attorney, Jose Aponte, declined to comment Wednesday.

It wasn't immediately clear if Balacarcel had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Smith said the two men lived together at a Richmond house, where officers seized two assault rifles, a handgun and hundreds of rounds of ammunition that were in plain view. He said police have not determined a motive for the planned attack.

"l want to thank and applaud the hero in Virginia that stopped a potential massacre by alerting our brave Richmond Police Department Officers that work tirelessly every day to protect our communities," Gov. Glenn Youngkin said in a tweet. "It's a great reminder that if you see something, say something to your local PD."

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who joined the news conference along with members of the city council, decried what he called an epidemic of gun violence across the country.

"Whether you're at home in your cul-de-sac, or in your neighborhood, or in a park, or at a parade, out dining — you have to keep your head on a swivel," Stoney said. "And that's not the country that I know I desire to live in ... but those are the facts of the matter at this moment."

Smith said the apparent plot was unconnected to another shooting that wounded six people in Richmond in the early morning hours of July 4.

The same day, a gunman opened fire from a rooftop during a Fourth of July parade in the affluent Chicago suburb of Highland Park, killing seven people and injuring more than three dozen.

Robert E. Crimo III was charged with seven counts of murder Tuesday. The shooting sent hundreds of people fleeing in fear and set off an hourslong manhunt. Authorities have not yet identified a motive in that shooting.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

James Caan, Oscar Nominee For 'The Godfather,' Dies At 82

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 18:16

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James Caan, the curly-haired tough guy known to movie fans as the hotheaded Sonny Corleone of “The Godfather” and to television audiences as both the dying football player in the classic weeper “Brian’s Song” and the casino boss in “Las Vegas,” has died. He was 82.

His manager Matt DelPiano said he died on Wednesday. No cause was given.

“Jimmy was one of the greatest. Not only was he one of the best actors our business has ever seen, he was funny, loyal, caring and beloved,” DelPiano said. “Our relationship was always friendship before business. I will miss him dearly and am proud to have worked with him all these years."

Rob Reiner, who directed Caan in “Misery” tweeted, “I loved working with him. And the only Jew I knew who could calf rope with the best of them.”

A football player at Michigan State University and a practical joker on production sets, Caan was a grinning, handsome performer with an athlete’s swagger and muscular build. He managed a long career despite drug problems, outbursts of temper and minor brushes with the law.

Caan had been a favorite of Francis Ford Coppola since the 1960s, when Coppola cast him for the lead in “Rain People.” He was primed for a featured role in “The Godfather” as Sonny, the No. 1 enforcer and eldest son of Mafia boss Vito Corleone.

Sonny Corleone, a violent and reckless man who conducted many killings, met his own end in one of the most jarring movie scenes in history. On his way to another job, Corleone stops at a toll booth that he discovers is unnervingly empty of customers. Before he can escape he is cut down by a seemingly endless fusillade of machine-gun fire. For decades after, he once said, strangers would approach him on the street and jokingly warn him to stay clear of toll roads.

Caan bonded with Brando, Robert Duvall and other cast members and made it a point to get everyone laughing during an otherwise tense production, sometimes dropping his pants and “mooning” a fellow actor or crew member. Despite Coppola’s fears he had made a flop, the 1972 release was an enormous critical and commercial success and brought supporting actor Oscar nominations for Caan, Duvall and Al Pacino.

Caan was already a star on television, breaking through in the 1971 TV movie “Brian’s Song,” an emotional drama about Chicago Bears running back Brian Piccolo, who had died of cancer the year before at age 26. It was among the most popular and wrenching TV movies in history and Caan and co-star Billy Dee Williams, who played Piccolo’s teammate and best friend Gale Sayers, were nominated for best actor Emmys.

After “Brian’s Song” and “The Godfather,” he was one of Hollywood’s busiest actors, appearing in “Hide in Plain Sight” (which he also directed), “Funny Lady” (opposite Barbra Streisand), “The Killer Elite” and Neil Simon’s “Chapter Two,” among others. He also made a brief appearance in a flashback sequence in “The Godfather, Part II.”

But by the early 1980s he began to sour on films. He had begun to struggle with drug use and was devastated by the 1981 leukemia death of his sister, Barbara, who until then had been a guiding force in his career.

He returned to full-fledged stardom opposite Kathy Bates in “Misery” in 1990.

Once again in demand, Caan starred in “For the Boys” with Bette Midler in 1991 as part of a song-and-dance team entertaining U.S. soldiers during World War II and the Korean and Vietnam wars. The following year he played a tongue-in-cheek version of Sonny Corleone in the comedy “Honeymoon in Vegas."

Other later films included “Flesh and Bone,” “Bottle Rocket” and “Mickey Blue Eyes.” He introduced himself to a new generation playing Walter, the workaholic, stone-faced father of Buddy’s Will Ferrell in “Elf.”

Married and divorced four times, Caan had a daughter, Tara, and sons Scott, Alexander, James and Jacob.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Florida Man Sentenced In Death Threat To Minnesota Rep. Omar

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 17:57

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A federal judge sentenced a former Trump supporter to three years of probation and a $7,000 fine for sending an email threatening to kill Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and three other congresswomen.

David George Hannon, 67, also must undergo mental and substance abuse treatment and have no contact with Omar or Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times.

Hannon, who pleaded guilty in April to threatening a federal official, sent the email after the four Democratic lawmakers held a news conference in July 2019 in response to criticism from former President Donald Trump, who said they should "go back" to the "crime-infested places" from which they came.

"He was doing that because Trump told him to," his daughter, Elizabeth Hannon Dillon, told the judge during the hearing on Wednesday. "He was a Trump supporter and now he regrets it."

This threat was "heinous and inappropriate in every regard," U.S. District Judge Kathryn Kimball Mizelle said. "This sort of behavior has no place in our society."

Sentencing guidelines called for about 10 months in prison, but Mizelle noted that a probation officer recommended against prison time, along with Hannon's expressions of remorse, lack of prior trouble, his age and health problems.

"I'm very, very sorry and very remorseful about my behavior that night," Hannon said as he stood before the judge, stooped and trembling.

Hannon emailed Omar's campaign with a subject line that read: "Your Dead You Radical Muslim," writing that Omar should get more security or she and the other women would be "six feet under."

Omar's staff immediately notified federal agents, but the FBI didn't visit Hannon at his Sarasota home until 19 months had passed and Trump was out of office.

Hannon admitted that he disparaged Omar's Islamic faith, but the judge declined to apply a hate crime adjustment to Hannon's sentence, which could have increased the sentencing guidelines.

"I do have remorse that I did target Ms. Omar," Hannon said. "But I don't have any hatred toward anyone whether their race, creed, color or nationality. This is the United States of America and whatever people do and say, they have a right to do that. But I had no right to write that email."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Ex-Cop Chauvin To Get Federal Sentence For Floyd's Killing

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 17:41

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Derek Chauvin will learn his sentence Thursday for violating George Floyd's civil rights, with a deal in place that will extend the time the former Minneapolis police officer already is spending behind bars for killing Floyd while shifting him to possibly more favorable conditions in a federal prison.

Chauvin agreed to a sentence of 20 to 25 years in his December plea to a federal charge in Floyd's killing. U.S. District Judge Paul Magnuson will make the final decision, with prosecutors seeking the full 25 on the grounds that Chauvin's actions were cold-blooded and needless.

They also noted that Chauvin's plea included an admission that he violated the rights of a then-14-year-old Black boy whom he restrained in an unrelated case in 2017, and argued that he had a history of misusing restraints.

The defense has asked for 20 years, saying Chauvin accepts responsibility for what he did and has already been sentenced to 22 1/2 years in prison by a state court in Floyd's murder. Attorney Eric Nelson wrote that Chauvin's "remorse will be made apparent to this Court," suggesting Chauvin will likely speak at Thursday's hearing.

Former U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger said a judge could take such a statement into consideration during sentencing.

"This is his opportunity to say, 'I'm sorry, I didn't mean to, I didn't think, or whatever,'" Heffelfinger said. "In federal court it's very much to the inmate's advantage to be remorseful, and to demonstrate remorse, even more than at a state sentencing."

Chauvin briefly addressed Floyd's family at his state sentencing hearing in May 2021, offering condolences. Relatives of Floyd gave victim impact statements then, and have the right to do so Thursday. The family's attorneys did not respond to messages seeking comment on their plans.

In entering his federal plea, Chauvin for the first time admitted that he kept his knee on Floyd's neck — even as the Black man's pleaded, "I can't breathe," and then became unresponsive — resulting in Floyd's death. Chauvin, who is white, admitted he willfully deprived Floyd of his right to be free from unreasonable seizure, including unreasonable force by a police officer, during the May 2020 arrest.

Floyd's killing sparked protests in Minneapolis and around the world in a reckoning over police brutality and racism.

That was one of several cases mentioned in state court filings that prosecutors said showed Chauvin used neck or head and upper body restraints seven times dating back to 2014, including four times state prosecutors said they went beyond the point force was needed.

For his own protection, Chauvin has been held in isolation in a 10-by-10-foot room at the state's maximum security prison that he's allowed to leave for an average of one hour per day for exercise.

Defense attorney Eric Nelson said in a court filing last month that Chauvin might never be placed in a prison's general population because of the risks of him becoming a target.

Chauvin's plea deal calls for him to serve the federal sentence at the same time as the state one, and to serve it in federal prison. He's expected to serve more time behind bars than he would have faced on the state sentence alone.

However, experts say Chauvin might be safer, and live under fewer restrictions, in a federal prison. His security level and final destination will be up to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, which could send him anywhere in the country.

Chauvin would run the risk in the general population of a Minnesota state prison of encountering inmates he had arrested or investigated. While he can't totally escape his notoriety in a federal prison elsewhere, he's unlikely to encounter inmates with whom he has a direct connection. If the bureau decides he's safe enough in the general population, he would have more opportunities to move about the facility, to work and to participate in programming.

With credit for good time in the federal system, he could serve anywhere from 17 years to 21 1/4 years behind bars, assuming the judge sticks to the range in the plea agreement. In the state system alone, Chauvin could have become entitled to parole after about 15 years.

Three other former Minneapolis police officers — Tou Thao, J. Alexander Keung and Thomas Lane — were convicted in February of federal civil rights charges in Floyd's killing. Magnuson has not set sentencing dates for them.

Lane is also due to be sentenced Sept. 21 after pleading guilty in state court to aiding and abetting second-degree manslaughter. Thao and Kueng turned down plea deals and are due to be tried in state court Oct. 24 on aiding and abetting charges.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Australia Flood Threat Moves North As Sydney Area Emergency Eases

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 17:39

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Floodwaters were receding in Sydney and its surrounding area Thursday as heavy rain threatened to inundate towns north of Australia’s largest city.

Evacuation orders and official warnings to prepare to abandon homes were given to 60,000 people by Thursday, down from 85,000 on Wednesday, New South Wales state Premier Dominic Perrottet said.

But towns including Maitland and Singleton in the Hunter Valley, north of Sydney, were still threatened by inundation, Perrottet said.

SEE MORE: Sydney Floods Burden 50,000 People Around Australia's Largest City

Around 50 rescues were made in the past 24 hours, several of which involved people stranded in cars in floodwaters, he said.

Emergency Services Minister Steph Cooke said record-breaking rain that began around Sydney on Friday last week was easing.

“It is very pleasing to see that the weather situation is starting to ease after almost a week of relentless rain,” she said.

The weather system that had brought heavy rain to a vast swath of New South Wales was moving further from the coast out to sea north of Sydney, Bureau of Meteorology manager Diana Eadie said.

Bulga, a town about 110 miles north of Sydney by road, experienced its highest flood level since 1952, she said.

Taree, some 200 miles north of Sydney by road, was drenched by 12 inches of rain overnight — almost a third of the town’s annual rainfall average, Eadie said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

States Move To Protect Abortion From Prosecutions Elsewhere

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 17:36

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Democratic governors in states where abortion will remain legal are looking for ways to protect any patients who travel there for the procedure — along with the providers who help them — from being prosecuted by their home states.

The Democratic governors of Colorado and North Carolina on Wednesday issued executive orders to protect abortion providers and patients from extradition to states that have banned the practice.

Abortions are legal in North Carolina until fetal viability or in certain medical emergencies, making the state an outlier in the Southeast.

"This order will help protect North Carolina doctors and nurses and their patients from cruel right-wing criminal laws passed by other states," Gov. Roy Cooper said in announcing the order.

The governors of Rhode Island and Maine also signed executive orders late Tuesday, stating that they will not cooperate with other states' investigations into people who seek abortions or health care providers that perform them.

Rhode Island Democratic Gov. Dan McKee said women should be trusted with their own health care decisions, and Democratic Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos said Rhode Island must do all it can to protect access to reproductive health care as "other states attack the fundamental right to choose."

Maine Democratic Gov. Janet Mills said she will "stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine."

Their offices confirmed Wednesday that they are preemptive, protective moves, and that neither state has received a request to investigate, prosecute or extradite a provider or patient.

Their attempts to protect abortion rights come as tighter restrictions and bans are going into effect in conservative states after last month's Dobbs v. Jackson ruling in the U.S. Supreme Court, which overturned the nearly half-century-old holding from Roe v. Wade that found that the right to abortion was protected by the U.S. Constitution. The issue reverts to the states, many of which have taken steps to curtail or ban abortions.

Several states have put new restrictions already in place since the Supreme Court ruling and more are pressing to do so. In Louisiana on Wednesday, the state Supreme Court rejected the attorney general's request to allow immediate enforcement of laws against most abortions saying it was declining to get involved "at this preliminary stage." Enforcement was blocked by another court last week. Attorney General Jeff Landry tweeted that Wednesday's decision "is delaying the inevitable. Our Legislature fulfilled their constitutional duties, and now the Judiciary must. It is disappointing that time is not immediate."

The specific fears of Democratic officials are rooted in a Texas law adopted last year to ban abortions after fetal cardiac activity can be detected. The law lets any person other than a government official or employee sue anyone who performs an abortion or "knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets" obtaining one.

The person filing the claim would be entitled to $10,000 for every abortion the subject was involved with — plus legal costs.

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear challenges to the Texas law so far.

Bernadette Meyler, a professor at Stanford Law School, said it's not clear whether judgments against out-of-state abortion providers would hold up in courts, especially if they are not advertising their services in states with bans.

But she also said it's not clear that the liberal states are on firm legal ground to protect their residents from any out-of-state litigation.

"Probably, they assume that some of the laws that they're passing won't be upheld or may not be upheld, and they're trying to come up with as much as possible in order to resist the effects of the Dobbs decision," Meyler said.

The resistance to cooperating with abortion-related investigations could hold up, though, she said. Places that declared themselves "sanctuary cities" and refused to cooperate with federal immigration investigations during former President Donald Trump's presidency were able to carry out similar policies.

In Raleigh, North Carolina, Planned Parenthood President Alexis McGill Johnson said her group and other advocates for abortion access are pushing for the protections. "Everywhere we can push the imagination of what a free and equal world looks like," she said, "we are working with those governors."

Connecticut was the first state to pass a law to protect abortion providers, patients and others from legal action taken by other states. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont signed it in May, before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

"In accordance with Connecticut law, we will resist any attempt by another state to criminalize or intrude on a woman's private and lawful healthcare decisions," Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said in a statement last week.

The Democratic governors of Minnesota, New Mexico, Nevada, California and Washington and the moderate Republican governor in liberal Massachusetts all signed executive orders within days of the ruling to prohibit cooperation with other states that might interfere with abortion access.

"Residents seeking access will be protected, providers will be protected, and abortion is and will continue to be legal, safe and accessible, period," said New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, who has described the order as a preventative measure.

One of the largest abortion providers in Texas announced Wednesday that it's planning to move its operations to bordering New Mexico. Whole Woman's Health announced Wednesday that it is looking to establish a new clinic in a New Mexico city near the state line to provide first- and second-trimester abortions.

The Democratic-controlled Massachusetts House of Representatives approved a bill that aims to protect abortion providers and people seeking abortions from actions taken by other states. Delaware's Democratic governor signed legislation expanding abortion access, with various legal protections for abortion providers and patients, including out-of-state residents receiving abortions in Delaware.

New Jersey Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy signed two bills Friday that moved swiftly in the Democratic-led Legislature following the ruling. The new laws aim to protect the right of those from outside the state to get abortion services within its borders and bar extradition of people involved in reproductive health care services should they face charges in another state.

Murphy said he was "overwhelmingly angry" that he had to sign the bills, but equally as proud to do so.

"These laws will make New Jersey a beacon of freedom for every American woman," he said during a signing ceremony in Jersey City, not far from the Statue of Liberty.

In Washington state, the governor prohibited the state patrol from cooperating with out-of-state abortion investigations or prosecutions, but he noted that he didn't have jurisdiction over local law enforcement agencies. The executive in the county surrounding Seattle said Tuesday that its sheriff's office and other executive branch departments will not cooperate with out-of-state prosecutions of abortion providers or patients.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown's office has said the state will refuse non-fugitive extradition for criminal prosecutions around abortion, but said an executive order is not needed.

Some progressive prosecutors around the U.S. have already declared that they won't enforce some of the most restrictive, punitive anti-abortion laws. Police in Nashville on Wednesday released a statement saying they "are not abortion police" a day after the city council passed a resolution calling on the department to make abortion investigations a low priority.

City council members in two other liberal cities in conservative states — New Orleans and Austin, Texas — have made called for similar resolutions.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Netflix 'Cheer' Star Jerry Harris Sentenced To 12 Years For Sex Crimes

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 16:52

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A federal judge Wednesday sentenced Jerry Harris, a former star of the Netflix documentary series "Cheer," to 12 years in prison for coercing teenage boys to send him obscene photos and videos of themselves and soliciting sex from minors at cheerleading competitions.

U.S. District Judge Manish Shah also ordered that the sentence be followed by eight years of court-supervised release.

Shah told Harris to consider the sentence an "expression of the seriousness of your crimes, tempered with some hope that all is not lost for you or for your victims, and that in the future some healing can occur."

Harris, 22, of suburban Naperville, Illinois, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count each of receiving child pornography and traveling with the intention to engage in illegal sexual conduct.

A prosecutor had asked for a sentence of 15 years followed by 10 years of supervised release while attorneys for Harris sought a sentence of six years and eight years of supervised release.

Before learning his sentence, Harris apologized to his victims, saying, "I am deeply sorry for all the trauma my abuse has caused you. I pray deep down that your suffering comes to an end."

"I'm not an evil person," Harris said. "I'm still learning who I am and what my purpose is."

Harris has been in custody at a federal detention facility.

Sarah Klein, an attorney for two of the victims, issued a statement saying Harris' guilt was "firmly established."

"The sentence he received reflects the severity of his crimes and the lifetime of pain his victims will suffer," Klein said.

Harris was arrested in September 2020 on a charge of production of child pornography. Prosecutors alleged at the time that he solicited videos and images from two 14-year-old brothers.

According to a complaint, federal prosecutors said that Harris admitted to repeatedly asking a minor teen for pornographic videos and images between December 2018 and March 2020.

Then in December of that year, he was indicted on more charges alleging misconduct in Illinois, Florida and Texas. According to the indictment, Harris allegedly solicited sex from minors at cheerleading competitions and convinced teenage boys to send him obscene photographs and videos of themselves.

Harris admitted to FBI agents to asking a teenage boy to send him lewd photographs of himself, and to requesting child pornography on Snapchat from at least 10 to 15 others he knew to be minors, according to the indictment.

"Cheer" was a huge success when it was released in January 2020 and Harris became wildly popular for his upbeat attitude and his encouraging "mat talk." Harris even interviewed celebrities on the red carpet at the Academy Awards for "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

The docuseries follows the competitive cheerleading squad from Navarro College in Corsicana, Texas.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Politicians Quickly Turn Campaign Focus To Issue Of Abortion

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 16:35

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When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, it sent a jolt through political campaigns across the country.  

For politicians in the midst of their primary races, the opinion thrust the already-polarizing issue to the forefront of their campaigns. According to AdImpact, candidates spent $4 million on abortion-related ads in the week after the high court's decision. 

Lucas Kunce is running for the Democratic Senate nomination in Missouri.

"What we want to do is just highlight how unjust this is, who this hurts, what communities it hurts, and make sure that that pain is real, like really acknowledged, so that we can try to move forward," said Kunce. 

And Missouri Attorney General Eric Schimtt, who's running for the Republican Senate nomination, was the first to outlaw abortions after the Dobbs decision came down.  

"I am humbled to be a part of this, and the first attorney general in the country to effectively end abortion," Schmitt said. 

Kunce says he hears national Democrats talk about abortion bans as an election issue this fall. But he says this is something impacting voters right now.   

"Saying it's an election issue is crazy, like, first of all, that means people are going to have to win in November. And then, it means that we're going to have to wait for them to get sworn in. And then, they're going to have to actually pass something. That is a lot of damage. That's a lot of suffering in the next year, when the power is actually there to do it right now," Kunce continued.

In neighboring Kansas, the issue of abortion is literally on the ballot Aug. 2. Kansans will vote on whether to approve a new constitutional amendment to remove the state's guaranteed access to abortion. 

Kyle Kondik from the University of Virginia's Center for Politics says the hot-button issue could also be an important topic in swing states, especially ones where old trigger laws were put into effect after Roe v. Wade was overturned.  

"A couple states that come to mind are Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona that have old laws on the books. And those states all have competitive governor's races this year, Senate races in Wisconsin, Arizona, you know, so those are states that are politically competitive and it's going to be important," said Kondik.  

But he says it's too early to know how much of an impact abortion will have on Election Day. 

"Roe v. Wade is one of the biggest developments we've had in American politics in quite some time. But at the end of the day, we have these things happen, and then they don't necessarily change the overall political dynamic," Kondik continued. 

Abortion is the type of issue that often draws stark lines between Democratic and Republican politicians. But polling shows a majority of Americans are somewhere in the middle.  

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll found 61% of respondents said they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who supports laws that ban or severely restrict abortion. But in a ranking of the most important issues, abortion ranks far behind others, like jobs and the economy.  

Dr. Anthony Fauci On Variant-Specific COVID-19 Vaccines

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 16:14

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The World Health Organization says the number of weekly COVID-19 cases has gone up for the fourth week in a row. Between June 27 and July 3, there were more than 4.6 million new cases reported around the world. That's nearly a 30% increase, and that number doesn't include at-home tests.

The WHO says there was an increase in four out of the six regions it oversees. The American and African regions were the only regions to report a decrease.

In the U.S., the new Omicron subvariant BA.5 makes up the majority of new infections, and places like New York City and Los Angeles are seeing a slight rise in cases again.

While the number is still low compared to previous surges, the U.S. is now averaging around 100,000 new cases a day.

"We need to pay attention to [the variants] and not just blow them off," President Biden's Chief Medical Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci told Newsy. "We could have an uptick in cases as one variant replaces another … We will likely continue to see cases smolder and perhaps even increase."

Fauci said people who are getting infected with COVID are using at-home tests but not reporting the positive cases.

In the U.S., people of all ages are now eligible for the vaccine. But as of June, just under 30% of 5-to-11-year-olds were fully vaccinated.

Fauci says "there is good cross-protection against serious diseases with the vaccines" and encourages parents to get their children vaccinated.

"We had an initial push on vaccines from parents who were waiting anxiously to have available vaccine … but we've got to do better in the numbers because we still have a relatively small fraction of those children who are eligible and we need to get them vaccinated," he said.

Additionally, Fauci said "there will very likely be a bivalent vaccine," which he explained to be a booster containing the vaccine used for the original virus and a vaccine with an updated variant vaccine, which could be available "sometime in October, hopefully ready for what might be a fall surge in cases." 

U.S. Jobless Claims Rise To 235K, Most In Nearly 6 Months

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 15:49

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More Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, and while layoffs remain low, it was the fifth consecutive week that claims topped the 230,000 mark and the most in almost six months.

SEE MORE: U.S. Economy Shrank 1.6% To Start Year

Applications for jobless aid for the week ending July 2 rose to 235,000, up 4,000 from the previous week and the most since mid-January, the Labor Department reported Thursday. First-time applications generally track with the number of layoffs. Until early June, claims hadn't eclipsed 220,000 since January and have often been below 200,000 this year.

The four-week average for claims, which evens out some of the week-to-week volatility, inched up by 750 from the previous week, to 232,500.

The total number of Americans collecting jobless benefits for the week ending June 25 rose by 51,000 from the previous week, to 1,375,000. That figure has hovered near 50-year lows for months.

On Wednesday, the Labor Department reported that U.S. employers advertised fewer jobs in May amid signs that the economy is weakening, though the overall demand for workers remained strong.

Employers posted 11.3 million job openings at the end of May, down from nearly 11.7 million in April. Job openings reached 11.9 million in March, the highest level on records dating back more than 20 years. There are nearly two job openings for every unemployed person.

The figures reflect the unusual nature of the post-pandemic economy: Inflation is hammering household budgets, forcing consumers to pull back on spending, and growth is weakening, heightening fears the economy could fall into recession. Yet companies are still scrambling to add workers. Demand has been particularly strong in travel- and entertainment-related services.

The Labor Department releases its June jobs report on Friday and analysts expect that employers filled more than 276,000 jobs. Though not an unhealthy number, it would be the lowest monthly figure in more than a year.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Inflation Pushed 71 Million People Into Poverty Since Ukraine War

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 13:34

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A staggering 71 million more people around the world are experiencing poverty as a result of soaring food and energy prices that climbed in the weeks following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the United Nations Development Program said in a report Thursday.

The UNDP estimates that 51.6 million more people fell into poverty in the first three months after the war, living off $1.90 a day or less. This pushed the total number globally at this threshold to 9% of the world's population. An additional 20 million people slipped to the poverty line of $3.20 a day.

In low-income countries, families spend 42% of their household incomes on food but as Western nations moved to sanction Russia, the price of fuel and staple food items like wheat, sugar and cooking oil soared. Ukraine's blocked ports and its inability to export grains to low-income countries further drove up prices, pushing tens of millions quickly into poverty.

"The cost of living impact is almost without precedent in a generation ... and that is why it is so serious," UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said at the launch of the report.

The speed at which this many people experienced poverty outpaced the economic pain felt at the peak of the pandemic. The UNDP noted that 125 million additional people experienced poverty over about 18 months during the pandemic's lockdowns and closures, compared with more than 71 million who hit poverty in just three months after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in late February.

"The speed of this is very quick," said George Molina, UNDP chief economist and author of the report.

Among the 20 countries hit hardest by inflation are Haiti, Argentina, Egypt, Iraq, Turkey, the Philippines, Rwanda, Sudan, Ghana, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Uzbekistan. More people in these countries, some of which have been roiled by political turmoil like Sudan and Sri Lanka, are facing poverty, according to the UNDP. In countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria and Yemen, the effects of inflation are felt deeply by those already at the lowest poverty line.

The total number of people living in poverty, or are vulnerable to poverty, stands at over 5 billion, or just under 70% of the world's population.

In Ghana, where the daily minimum wage is just $1.80 a day, people are struggling under the weight of inflation. Albert Kowfie, a 27 year-old security guard in Accra, Ghana, said a loaf of bread costs the equivalent of over $2 and commuting to work costs another 20 cents.

"It means that by the end of the first week (of work), everything is gone," he said, expressing frustration at the government for not doing more to alleviate the burden. "I don't answer my mother's calls anymore because I know she needs help since she is not on any pension, but what can l do?"

Another U.N. report released Wednesday said world hunger rose last year with 2.3 billion people facing moderate or severe difficulty obtaining enough to eat — and that was before the war in Ukraine.

There is a need for the global economy to step up, Steiner said, adding that there is enough wealth in the world to manage the crisis, "but our ability to act in unison and rapidly is a constraint."

The UNDP recommends that rather than spending billions on blanket energy subsidies, governments instead target expenditure to reach the most impacted people through targeted cash transfers that can prevent a further 52.6 million people from falling into poverty at $5.50 a day.

For cash-strapped and debt-laden developing countries to achieve this, the UNDP called for an extension of debt payments that had been in place during the pandemic among the world's richest nations.

Steiner said doing so is not only an act of charity but is also "an act of rational self interest" to avoid other complex trends, such as economic collapse in countries and popular protests already taking place in communities across the world.

The war in Ukraine has roiled a region known as the world's bread basket. Before the war, Russia was the world's largest exporter of natural gas and the second biggest exporter of crude oil. Russia and Ukraine combined accounted for almost a quarter of global wheat exports and more than half of sunflower oil exports.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Police: Parade Shooting Suspect Contemplated 2nd Shooting

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 13:23

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The man charged with killing seven people at an Independence Day parade confessed to police that he unleashed a hail of bullets from a rooftop in suburban Chicago and then fled to the Madison, Wisconsin, area, where he contemplated shooting up an event there, authorities said Wednesday.

The suspect turned back to Illinois, where he was later arrested, after deciding he was not prepared to pull off another attack in Wisconsin, Lake County Major Crime Task Force spokesman Christopher Covelli said at a news conference following a hearing where the 21-year-old man was denied bond.

SEE MORE: Witness Shares Experience At Highland Park 4th Of July Parade Shooting

The parade shooting left another American community reeling — this time affluent Highland Park, home to about 30,000 people near the Lake Michigan shore. More than two dozen people were wounded, some critically, and hundreds of marchers, parents and children fled in a panic.

Covelli said it did not appear that the suspect had planned another attack in Wisconsin, but fled there, saw another Independence Day celebration and "seriously contemplated" firing on it. The assailant had ditched the semi-automatic rifle he used in Illinois, but he had another, similar rifle and about 60 more rounds with him, according to Covelli.

Police later found his phone in Middleton, Wisconsin, which is about 135 miles from Highland Park.

For hours before his arrest, police warned that the suspect was still at large and that he should be considered armed and dangerous. Several nearby cities canceled events including parades and fireworks. Most festivities in and around Wisconsin's capital city went ahead.

Madison Police Chief Shon Barnes told a news conference Wednesday that the FBI urged the department on Monday evening to prepare its SWAT team because investigators believed the suspect could be in the area. Barnes said he was not warned at the time that the shooter was considering carrying out further attacks.

Lake County Assistant State's Attorney Ben Dillon said in court that the suspect climbed up the fire escape of a building above the Highland Park parade, "looked down his sights, aimed" and fired at people across the street. He left the shells of 83 bullets and three ammunition magazines on the rooftop. He initially evaded capture by disguising himself as a woman and blending into the fleeing crowd, according to police.

Some of the wounded remained hospitalized in critical condition, Covelli said, and the death toll could still rise. Already, the deaths from the shooting have left a 2-year-old boy without parents, families mourning the loss of beloved grandparents and a synagogue grieving the death of a congregant who for decades had also worked on the staff.

Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said he planned to bring attempted murder and aggravated battery charges for each individual who was hurt.

"There will be many, many more charges coming," he said at a news conference, estimating that those charges would be announced later this month.

If convicted of the first-degree murder charges, the suspect would receive a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Lake County State Attorney Eric Rinehart On Highland Park Shooting

Thu, 07/07/2022 - 12:39

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In the aftermath of the mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, Americans across the country are calling for stricter gun legislation to be put into place and better ways to identify potential mass shooters.

However, municipalities and states across the nation — including Illinois — already have restrictive laws surrounding firearms on the books. On top of that, communities have already begun attempts at trying to solve some of the other underlying issues of gun violence and be more aware of suspicious behavior associated with mass shooters. 

Some of the stricter gun laws in the state include mandatory background checks on gun purchases, limited weapons access for domestic abusers, as well as red flag laws that allow people who pose a danger to themselves and others to be temporarily blocked from purchasing firearms or have their guns taken away. 

Lake County State Attorney Eric Rinehart spoke with Newsy for the latest on the investigation and how authorities are going through the suspect's social media accounts after he told police he was responsible for the shooting.

"There's a lot of physical evidence," Rinehart said. "The weapon was recovered on the scene. There's a surveillance video, which shows him in the area. There's surveillance video that shows him dropping the weapon. The forensic evidence regarding fingerprints and DNA is not back yet from the lab but we hope to have that soon," he said. "[The suspect's] statement is, obviously, very important in a prosecution but there's a lot of evidence even separate from that. His statement gives us some insight into how this terrible, terrible crime could be planned. It was premeditated, it was calculated, it was planned weeks in advance. As for motive, I can't talk too much about that, but more will be revealed as we continue to go through the digital and social media footprint."