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Student loan borrowers facing hardships could have debt forgiven

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 19:28


The Biden administration on Thursday unveiled its latest proposal outlining how it will determine who among millions of student borrowers will be eligible for debt relief.

Under the proposal, the secretary of Education could forgive the remainder of loans for certain borrowers experiencing life challenges that may prevent them from repaying their loans, or borrowers for whom "the costs of enforcing the full amount of the debt are not justified by the expected benefits of continued collection of the entire debt."

Potential hardships that may be considered include high-cost expenses like health care, taking care of a loved one or housing costs; other factors that may be considered include a borrower’s age, disability, age of the loan, and “the extent to which hardship is likely to persist.”

The Department of Education said it expects this proposal would bring debt relief to borrowers who have at least an 80% chance of defaulting on their loans within the next two years, though officials could not quantify how many people would be impacted or give an estimate on the expected amount of money that would be forgiven.

Thursday's announcement has not been finalized as the proposal still has to go through the rulemaking process. 

SEE MORE: Colleges not getting FAFSA data on time may cause financial aid delays

Thursday's announcement represents one of numerous attempts to ease student loan debt burdens on millions of borrowers. Last month, the White House said that student loan borrowers enrolled in the Saving on a Valuable Education (SAVE) Plan who have made payments for at least 10 years and originally took out up to $12,000 will be eligible for full debt forgiveness. Eligible borrowers will have their loans automatically forgiven. 

The White House had its first major efforts to forgive student loan debt for millions of borrowers rejected by the Supreme Court. The initial plan called for the automatic forgiveness of up to $20,000 in debt, depending on a borrower's income. 

"One way we can provide crucial breathing room to those borrowers is to identify hardships, including a borrower's total student loan balance, how much they have to pay compared to their income, and whether a borrower has student loan debt that interferes with paying for basic needs, like getting food on the table, and access to health care for their families," said Education Secretary Miguel Cardona. "This proposal would allow the Department of Education to provide automatic relief for borrowers who are likely to go into default in two years. Keep in mind, a big reason the president has been pushing for student debt relief is to address the over 1 million defaults we've seen annually."

While it's unknown exactly how many borrowers will be impacted by the White House's proposal, a senior White House official said it is aiming toward being "as expansive" as it can be within the confines of the law.

The potential rule could face potential legal challenges, just like previously overturned attempts at student debt forgiveness.

Reporting by Scripps News reporter Haley Bull was used in this report. 

Famed broadcaster Verne Lundquist to retire after calling 40th Masters

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 19:13


Legendary sports broadcaster Verne Lundquist has announced he will retire after calling his 40th Masters Tournament this April.

CBS announced Wednesday that Lundquist, 83, will make his final call with the network after an illustrious broadcast career spanning more than five decades. From Jack Nicklaus' "Yes sir!" birdie in the 1986 Masters, to Tiger Woods' climactic chip-in birdie in the final round of the same tournament in 2005, Lundquist has been on the mic for some of the most dramatic moments in golf and sports history. 

Yes Sir!

As Verne Lundquist gets set to call his 40th Masters on CBS in April, he has announced that it will be his final Masters for the Network.

— Golf on CBS ⛳ (@GolfonCBS) February 14, 2024

Born on July 17, 1940, in Duluth, Minnesota, Lundquist's iconic broadcast journey began more than half a century ago. After graduating from Texas Lutheran University in 1962, he got his first role as a sports anchor at WFAA in Fort Worth, Texas. From there, he went on to become the radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys before blossoming into a nationally-recognized talent with stints at ABC Sports, TNT, and CBS.

Lundquist has covered everything from the NFL, NBA, and Olympics, to even a game show called "Bowling for Dollars." However, many of Lundquist's most memorable calls have come from the Masters Tournament at Augusta National, where he took the mic for the first time in 1983.

SEE MORE: Tiger Woods gives first insight on 'realistic' return to PGA tour

One call in particular came in 2005 during the final round of the tournament, when golf legend Tiger Woods hit arguably one of the most memorable shots of his entire career. Woods found his ball buried in the rough off the green on hole No. 16. 

From where it was situated, some speculated it would be a success for Woods to simply get the ball anywhere close to the hole. But he hit a perfect shot.

"Oh my goodness," Lundquist said as the ball came slowly trickling down the slope of the green, stopping on the brim of the cup before the crowd's roar crescendoed and it finally dropped in.

"Oh wow!" Lundquist shouted into the mic before pausing to allow the cheers to tell the story."In your life, have you seen anything like that?"

It was one of several calls from Lindquist that have gone down in sports history, with his words and voice becoming just as legendary as the scenes he described. Now, Lundquist will have the chance to call Woods one last time in April, before marking the end to a remarkable broadcast career for CBS at Augusta National.

Montana military base lifts lockdown after 'active shooter alert'

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 19:05


Malmstrom Air Force Base entered a lockdown status Thursday morning in response to a possible "active shooter alert" on the base, but the lockdown was lifter shortly after.

"A suspicious person was reported on base as an active shooter. There were no confirmed shots fired and there are no casualties or injuries reported. There is no threat to the public at this time," the Malmstrom AFB Facebook page stated. 

Officials say that the investigation into the incident is still ongoing.

The air force base is located in Great Falls, Montana, and around 10:29 a.m. local time, all personnel on base were ordered to shelter in place.In addition to the base, nearby schools are under a "shelter in place" order.

At 11:57 a.m., the base issued the following statement:

"The threat was announced at 10:29 a.m. at building 219. Air Force and emergency personnel are securing the area. FPCON Delta has been implemented at approximately 10:36 a.m. due to the incident. Malmstrom officials are directing visitors and spectators to stay away from the building. Public cooperation will help protect against possible injuries and enable base agencies to more effectively deal with the situation."

As of 2022, nearly 3,300 troops and over 500 civilians work out of the base. Additionally, about 2,300 civilians live on the base, the Air Force said.

Apple Vision Pro's $3,500 price tag not worth it, reviewers say

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:42


Earlier this month, Apple released one of its most expensive new products to date in the Apple Vision Pro, which has a starting price of nearly $3,500. 

It was dubbed Apple's first spatial computer, allowing users to put on a headset to have an immersive experience. 

Despite the high price, many reviewers have said their experiences with Apple Vision Pro were unpleasant. So far, the devices have a 2.7 (out of 5) rating on Google. While many said the product has "cool" features, it simply was not worth the price tag. 

It is a view shared by tech reviewer Farzad Mesbahi, who complimented many of the product features, but said the product is too expensive. He said on X that he is returning his Apple Vision Pro. 

"Get the price down well under $3,000 any way you can. This thing becomes a hit once it's under $2,000," he wrote. 

It allows users to be immersed in video games, TV shows and movies. 

“The era of spatial computing has arrived,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “Apple Vision Pro is the most advanced consumer electronics device ever created. Its revolutionary and magical user interface will redefine how we connect, create, and explore.”

SEE MORE: Buttigieg warns against wearing Apple Vision Pro goggles while driving

While Mesbahi complimented the 3D content, he said it simply isn't comfortable to wear for long periods of time. 

"Even when you get the device to sit comfortably on your head and face, it's still something you have to wear on your head and face," he said. "For a technology/productivity device, this is a non-starter for me. The reason why cellphones, tablets, computers, etc. work is because they are easy to use for long periods of time. Regardless of how comfortable I get Vision Pro to be on my head, it's still a hurdle."

Russian efforts to create anti-satellite weapons are concerning US

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:24


The U.S. has gathered highly sensitive intelligence about Russian anti-satellite weapons that has been shared in recent weeks with the upper echelons of government, according to four people who have been briefed on the intelligence. The people, who were not authorized to comment publicly, said the capability was not yet operational.

The intelligence sparked an urgent but vague warning Wednesday from the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee, who urged the Biden administration to declassify information about what he called a serious national security threat.

Rep. Mike Turner gave no details about the nature of the threat, and the Biden administration also declined to address it. But several leading lawmakers, including House Speaker Mike Johnson, cautioned against being overly alarmed.

A congressional aide said he understood that the threat relates to a space-deployed Russian anti-satellite weapon. Such a weapon could pose a major danger to U.S. satellites that transmit billions of bytes of data each hour.

The aide, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the matter, said it was not yet clear if the Russian weapon has nuclear capability, but said that is the fear.

In Moscow, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov described the claims about a new Russian military capability as a ruse intended to make the U.S. Congress support aid for Ukraine.

“It’s obvious that Washington is trying to force Congress to vote on the aid bill by hook or by crook,” Peskov said in remarks carried by Russian news agencies. “Let’s see what ruse the White House will use.”

The threat Turner raised concerns about is not an active capability, according to U.S. officials familiar with the intelligence. One added that intelligence officials consider the threat to be significant, but it should not cause panic.

Turner issued a statement urging the administration to declassify the information so the U.S. and its allies can openly discuss how to respond.

He also sent an email to members of Congress saying his committee had “identified an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability” that should be known to all congressional policy makers. He encouraged them to come to a SCIF, a secure area, to review the intelligence.

Turner has been a voice for stronger U.S. national security, putting him at odds with some Republican colleagues who favor a more isolationist approach. He has called for the renewal of a key U.S. government surveillance tool while some fellow Republicans and liberal Democrats have raised privacy objections.

And he supports continuing U.S. military aid for Ukraine in its war against Russia at a time that the funding remains uncertain because of opposition in the Republican-led House.

Johnson said he was not at liberty to disclose the classified information. “But we just want to assure everyone steady hands are at the wheel. We’re working on it and there’s no need for alarm,” he told reporters at the Capitol.

SEE MORE: Kirby addresses concerns about Gaza, NATO and immigration

Democratic Rep. Jim Himes, the ranking member of the Intelligence Committee, said in a statement that the classified information is “significant” but “not a cause for panic.”

The Senate Intelligence Committee said it has been tracking the issue.

“We continue to take this matter seriously and are discussing an appropriate response with the administration,” Sen. Mark Warner, the Democratic committee chairman, and Sen. Marco Rubio, the Republican vice chairman, said in a statement. "In the meantime, we must be cautious about potentially disclosing sources and methods that may be key to preserving a range of options for U.S. action.”

The rapidly evolving threat in space was one of the primary reasons that the U.S. Space Force was established in 2019. A lot of that threat has to do with new capabilities that China and Russia have already developed that can interfere with critical satellite-based U.S. communications, such as GPS and the ability to quickly detect missile launches.

In recent years the U.S. has seen both China and Russia pursue new ways to jam satellites, intercept their feeds, blind them, shoot them down and even potentially grab them with a robotic arm to pull them out of their programmed orbits. One of the key missions of the Space Force is to train troops skilled in detecting and defending against those threats.

In its 2020 Defense Space Strategy, the Pentagon said China and Russia presented the greatest strategic threat in space due to their aggressive development of counterspace abilities, and their military doctrine calling for extending conflict to space.

The White House and lawmakers expressed frustration at how Turner raised his concerns. His announcement appeared to catch the Biden administration off-guard.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at the White House that he already had been due to brief Turner and other senior congressional leaders on Thursday. Sullivan did not disclose the topic or provide any other details related to Turner’s statement.

“I’m focused on going to see him, sit with him as well as the other House members of the Gang of Eight, tomorrow,” Sullivan said. “And I’m not in a position to say anything further from this podium at this time.”

He acknowledged it was not standard practice to offer such a briefing.

“I’ll just say that I personally reached out to the Gang of Eight. It is highly unusual, in fact, for the national security adviser to do that," Sullivan said. He said he had reached out earlier this week.

Johnson said he sent a letter last month to the White House requesting a meeting with the president to discuss “the serious national security issue that is classified.” He said Sullivan's meeting was in response to his request.

9 women to get to know this Black Girl Magic Day

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:14


It’s national Black Girl Magic Day, a day to celebrate Black women for their power, beauty, success and resilience. 

The day also raises awareness about the disparities faced by Black women, from health care to the workplace. 

The national holiday on Feb. 15 comes during Black History Month, which honors the triumphs and tribulations of Black people throughout U.S. history.

In honor of Black Girl Magic Day, here’s a look at some Black women making notable strides:

Susan Allen

Susan Allen co-founded feminine product company Here We Flo, birthed from two best friends having a chat in the bathroom while studying for their master’s degrees. 

Allen and her partner were on a mission to create natural, planet-safe products that empower women to feel confident in life’s messiest moments. Allen and her team of 14 women create products for bladder, menstrual and sexual wellness, and are challenging the shame around the topics of periods and sex. 

Their story is one of determination and resilience. 

“As two women of color (I'm Black Caribbean and my co-founder is Indian & Persian), we are often the only people in the room that look like us that are doing what we're doing and that has come with people doubting us and our vision,” Allen told Scripps News. “In addition to that is the fact that we've scaled a business through a pandemic, a supply chain crisis, a cost-of-living crisis and a recession and it's really forced us to become more resilient and confident in ourselves that we can persevere through anything.” 

Kerrie Carden

Kerrie Carden is the founder and CEO of finance company Equip Advisory. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Carden specializes in providing services to BIPOC, queer and trans professionals, while seeking out people and organizations that prioritize equity, social justice and ethical decision-making. 

Carden is a certified financial planner and works with people trying to make ends meet or with a significant amount of debt. She also provides career and business coaching.

“I was drawn to financial planning first by a personal desire to improve my own systems for my family but as I learned more, I saw the ways in which that information wasn’t as readily available in my communities. I was bothered that so much of the financial advice I could find available to consumers was shaming or focused on the desires of people who already have more than enough,” Carden told Scripps News. 

“As a queer Black woman, I wanted to provide constructive support to folks in my communities to help them build intergenerational wealth that can positively impact them and our society at large.” 

Ashley Williams

Ashley Williams is the first Caribbean American to be crowned Miss Virginia, and represented the state in last year’s Miss USA pageant. She graduated from Florida International University with a degree in psychology and was a Miami Dolphins Cheerleader from 2018 to 2021. 

"As a former NFL Cheerleader and a state title holder within the Miss Universe system, I am among a small group of Black women in these roles,” Williams told Scripps News. "I didn’t let the small number of representation in these organizations stop me from achieving greatness. I let it fuel me, to inspire others who look like me. Never be limited by other people’s imaginations."

Shafonne Myers

Shafonne Myers is the creator behind Pretty Pear Bride, which bills itself as "the world’s only magazine for plus size brides."

Myers’ work helps champion size inclusivity in the wedding industry, empowering women to feel body confident.

She is also the CEO of wedding media company and digital marketing agency Aisle Society, and owner of matching software Matchology.

“As a Black woman in the wedding industry, my identity fuels my mission to ensure diversity and inclusivity are celebrated on every aisle, including the aisle of being the CEO of a major wedding media company,” Myers told Scripps News.

“Everybody deserves to see someone who looks like them and I'm here to write those stories,” she said. 

Brandie Kekoa

Brandie Kekoa is an entrepreneur establishing herself as a “curly hair healer.” 

Through her holistic hair care products and services, she promotes self-love and confidence with her brand Be Kekoa. She’s developed a dedicated customer base, along with celebrity endorsements like that of actress Tamera Mowry.

“My mission from the beginning has been to bring out the confidence in my clients, to be bold, to embrace their natural curls and see the beauty that has always been within each of them. That is the meaning of Kekoa — bold and courageous,” Kekoa told Scripps News. 

Quoting actor Larenz Tate, she referenced the motto, “Never beg for a seat when you can build your own table.”  

Leanne Mair

Leanne Mair is the founder and CEO of Benefactum Group, a consulting firm specializing in racial and gender equity. She is also the author of "Closing the Gap: How to Include Black Women in any Gender Equity Strategy."

Mair’s motto is to “live authentically, live intentionally and live luxuriously,” whether at a conference, date night or girl’s night.

She has been recognized as a LinkedIn Top Voice for Gender Equity 2023 for her work in the corporate world.

“My mum is my biggest inspiration as she taught me two important things; one is that I can achieve anything and two, when something isn’t working for you, it’s not a failure if you change course. Taking both these allowed me to stop trying to prove myself especially as Black woman in the workplace and recognizing when the only outcome would be harm to myself and it also helped to motivate me to fulfill my dreams of being a CEO and an author. To be courageous even if I was still scared,” Mair told Scripps News. 

Angelique Smith

Angelique Smith, a Chicago entrepreneur, philanthropist, and founder of The Clean Junkie, is helping bring a Chicago team to the Women’s National Football Conference, a female professional tackle football league.

The addition of the Chicago team, hailed as the first professional sports team in the city majority-owned by a Black woman, expands the WNFC to 17 teams.

“The opportunity to bring a team to Chicago has always been my vision. After women's football in the city ended in 2017, I felt the absence of an empowering community of female athletes. As an athlete then, I intimately understood the value and importance of being part of a team, and I couldn't bear to let that spirit fade away,” Smith told Scripps news.

She also expressed how her community shaped her into the entrepreneur she is today.

“I was raised by a remarkable community of strong Black women, where I witnessed their unwavering work ethic, discipline, and entrepreneurial spirit from an early age. Their encouragement and exposure to these experiences have planted the seeds of my dreams and taught me to believe in the higher power and the power of aiming high,” she said. “This led me to many leadership positions and a desire to create opportunities for my community and my business, The Clean Junkie, a residential and commercial cleaning business was born.” 

Tanisha Mackin

Tanisha Mackin turned pain into power after experiencing the most traumatic event of her life, the loss of her husband one year after their marriage.

Mackin, a publisher and best-selling author, is also a travel influencer who emphasizes healing through travel. She uses her platform to share her travel journeys across the globe while teaching others to find their purpose against all odds.

"My focus shifted from grieving to fostering connection and resilience with my children through travel, which eventually blossomed into a shared passion and a thriving publishing and travel business,” Mackin told Scripps News.

Her essence of triumph in times of adversity has helped teach self-care and perseverance, particularly within the Black community. 

Gabrielle Gambrell

Gabrielle Gambrell is an award-winning consultant, speaker, professor and media expert. She currently works for brands across a number of industries, and has served media giants like Comcast, NBCUniversal, Paramount, CBS Corporation, Disney, ABC and Amazon.

Gambrell has been recognized for her work through a number of achievements, such as appearing on COLOR Magazine's 2023 40 Under 40 Powerlist, and the 2023 Advertising Week New York's Future is Female shortlist.

“Being a Black woman in technology, media, entertainment and sports is an honor and a privilege,” Gambrell told Scripps News. “All of these highly desired and sought after industries, like many others, still have a long way to go in terms of proper representation of the audiences that we serve. The Black community often over indexes and our support and engagement is truly second to none.”

She said her determination is fueled by those before her.

“I also am driven knowing how hard my ancestors worked for me to be here. As a proud fourth generation college graduate, I am committed to learning, and growing.” 

Police: Shooting at Chiefs Super Bowl rally started as a dispute

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 18:02


The shooting at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory rally was not a case of terrorism or homegrown violent extremism, authorities said Thursday. 

“This appeared to be a dispute between several people that ended in gunfire," said Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves. 

Three people were initially detained, but police said one person was released and two juveniles are still in custody.

"This is still under investigation," she added. "We do have 24 hours until we have to either file charges or release them."

The shooting left one person dead and more than 20 others injured, including children. 

Children’s Mercy received 12 patients from the rally on Wednesday. Nine of the children had been shot, officials said. All but three of the children have been released from the hospital. Officials believe they will recover. 

A spokesperson with University Health Truman told Scripps News Kansas City that two people, presumably adults, remained in critical condition. Another patient at Saint Luke's Hospital is reportedly in critical condition. 

Lisa Lopez-Galvan was identified as the woman who died. She was a DJ at a local radio station in Kansas City. 

SEE MORE: Woman killed in Chiefs parade shooting identified as Kansas City DJ

The shooting happened as the parade rally, which was reportedly attended by nearly 1 million people, was concluding. 

Video shared on social media showed at least one of the possible suspects being tackled by a group of people who kept the person on the ground until police arrived. 

Trey Filter said his wife Casey grabbed the suspect's gun as he helped restrain him.

"Once I picked it up I realized it was a real gun and so I just moved it," she said. "Honestly, it was just a reaction. I didn't feel like I needed to run away. I saw my husband subduing the guy and then my kids, I was worried about where my kids were. It was just a very chaotic moment."

SEE MORE: Couple recalls how they helped subdue armed suspect at Chiefs rally

Fani Willis fights push to remove her from Trump's Georgia case

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 17:00


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis took the stand Thursday to defend her actions amid questions about her personal relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade in the election subversion case in Georgia involving former President Donald Trump. 

A defense attorney representing one of the 19 defendants in the case alleges Willis financially benefited from Nathan Wade being appointed as special counsel.

After Wade testified for multiple hours — admitting to having had a romantic relationship with Willis and traveling with her on numerous occasions — Willis dramatically entered the Atlanta courtroom. 

As she sat down at the witness stand before taking an oath to be truthful, she asked for copies of multiple documents, apparently to use as a reference before testifying.

A brief recess followed so Willis could obtain those documents before returning to court soon after. Willis sat in the witness chair once again and took the oath, affirming her testimony would be the truth.

When asked how she knew to come to the courtroom, Willis responded by saying, "It only made sense to me that I would be your next witness. And I've been very anxious to have this conversation with you today. I ran to the courtroom."

Willis accused defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant of lying in court documents, emphatically saying that she never lived with Wade. 

"So let's be clear, because you've lied in this," Willis said as she slammed down a stack of court documents. 

Willis was repeatedly pressed on payments she made to Wade while they were allegedly dating. 

Giving very pointed answers, Willis attempted to clarify that the money she spent during her time with Wade, whether on vacations or dinners, came from her personal funds. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee estimated the hearing could last at least two days. 

SEE MORE: Prosecutor in Trump case admits to 'relationship' with Fani Willis

At the conclusion of the hearing, McAfee could rule on whether Willis should be disqualified from the case. If that happens, the case against Trump and his co-defendants would likely be delayed. Willis has previously said she wanted to bring the case to a jury before the 2024 presidential election. 

Attorneys at the hearing indicated to the judge that they would call at least 6 additional witnesses as the proceedings continue on. The case was adjourned until 9 a.m. on Friday. Scripps News reported that at least 9 people from Willis' office are expected to testify. 

Judge McAfee indicated he didn't plan to make a ruling by the end of the week. 

ICE contemplates releasing detained migrants amid budget shortfall

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 16:11


The White House and congressional Republicans remain at a crossroads over border policy as U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is considering new measures to account for a budget shortfall.

A draft plan proposes releasing immigrants and cutting detention capacity by about 16,000 beds to account for a $700 million budget shortfall, according to reporting from the Washington Post.

A source confirmed to Scripps News the accuracy of the Washington Post's report.

It follows a failed national security supplemental bill that tied aid for Ukraine, Israel and Indo-Pacific priorities to U.S. border funding and policy. While Republicans have sought more stringent border policy measures, lawmakers did not support the deal after months of negotiations between Republican and Democratic senators critical of the Biden administration’s approach.

The bill included more than $7 billion in funding for ICE.

A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said the rejection "will put at risk DHS’s current removal operations, put further strain on our already overtaxed workforce, and make it harder to catch fentanyl at ports of entry. Without adequate funding for [Customs and Border Protection], ICE, and [United States Citizenship and Immigration Services], the Department will have to reprogram or pull resources from other efforts.”

The draft policy originated within ICE, not the White House, according to an administration official.

As ICE confronts a budget challenge, it could put at risk modernizing ports of entry, additional border surveillance technology, the pace of removal operations, the capacity to adjudicate green card applications and the asylum backlog.

As the administration faces pressure for tougher immigration policies, the White House has sought to publicly apply pressure after the failed bill, accusing House Republicans of a confusing message.

SEE MORE: Kirby addresses concerns about Gaza, NATO and immigration

“I can't speak to these reports about what ICE is considering or not," said John Kirby, White House national security communications adviser. "I can tell you the president realizes that it's important that we that we improve our security at the border, that we get more Border Patrol agents down there, that we get more asylum officers down there, that we add technological capability to the border to help stem the flow of illegal immigration as well as fentanyl coming across that border."

Kirby noted the White House welcomed Senate negotiations, and still wants to see more resources and capabilities at the border.

“This is a moment of leadership and the speaker has got a choice to make. Does he want to be a leader here and answer the moment?” Kirby said.

But House Speaker Mike Johnson has not indicated a path forward, previously stating of a stripped down version of the supplemental without border policy: “It should have gone back to the drawing board to amend the current bill to include real border security provisions that would actually help end the ongoing catastrophe. Instead, the Senate’s foreign aid bill is silent on the most pressing issue facing our country.”

House Homeland Security Chairman Mark Green criticized ICE's draft proposal as “absurd,” accusing the administration of requesting cuts in fiscal year 2024 budgets.

The budget for ICE for fiscal year 2022 was $8.9 billion, and the 2023 budget was $9.1 billion. The administration requested $8.7 billion for 2024. That request was submitted to Congress in May 2023, but Congress has yet to pass a 2024 budget, instead using short-term stopgaps that kept agencies funded at their previous 2023 levels.

An administration official notes FY2024 is operating under the previous debt deal spending caps. The ICE proposal is governed by those limits. The supplemental funding request made up and adds to funding for the agency’s immediate needs, according to the official. 

In October, the administration sought an increase in funding with the national security supplemental bill that included more than $7 billion for ICE that would have included big increases to migrant detention space.

SEE MORE: Homeland Security recruiting border agents with $30,000 incentives

“On top of this, Secretary Mayorkas has consistently requested fewer ICE beds year after year, and then consistently failed to even fill the beds that Congress has given him. Right now, there are literally thousands of ICE beds unfilled because Secretary Mayorkas refuses to make use of them. Instead of treating enforcement as a hostage negotiation — ‘give us more money or else’ — Secretary Mayorkas should just do his job and follow the law,” Green alleged.

In response to Green, the Department of Homeland Security said in a statement, "If Congress once again refuses to provide the critical funding needed to support DHS’s vital missions, they would be harming DHS’s efforts to deliver tough and timely consequences to those who do not have a legal basis to remain in the country. 

"In recent years, DHS has had to reprogram funding from other critical national security priorities within the Department to ensure ICE and CBP can continue their operations. The fact that we are always considering options does not mean we will take action immediately, or at all. There are real limits to what we can do given current funding because Congress has failed to pass a budget or respond to the President’s two supplemental budget requests. "

The House voted Tuesday to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

“Instead of staging political stunts like this, Republicans with genuine concerns about the border should want Congress to deliver more border resources and stronger border security,” President Biden said in a statement.

The White House said President Biden spoke with Mayorkas on Wednesday.

These exercises may do a better job treating depression than medicine

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 15:19


An analysis published Wednesday in medical journal The BMJ indicates that several types of exercise were "superior" to antidepressants for treating depression. 

The study included 218 randomized controlled trials with 14,170 participants from multiple countries. 

According to study lead author Juan Ángel Bellón of the University of Malaga in Spain, walking or jogging, yoga, and strength training appeared to be more effective than other types of exercises. 

The study noted that increasing the intensity helped make exercising more effective at treating depression, but even low-intensity exercise had benefits. 

"Primary care clinicians can now recommend exercise, psychotherapy, or antidepressants as standalone alternatives for adults with mild or moderate depression," Bellón wrote. "The final choice depends on patient preference and other considerations, including any barriers to access. Clinicians and patients should also take into account the benefits of exercise in preventing or treating chronic conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, overweight and obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and cognitive impairment."

Bellón said that while exercise was more effective than antidepressants, the combination of medicine and exercise makes treatment even more effective.

The new research adds to previous research that indicates exercise might do a better job at treating depression than antidepressants. 

SEE MORE: Can you really boost your immune system? Here's what experts say

According to findings published in the Journal of Affective Disorders in 2023, running is just as effective as antidepressants. Professor Brenda Penninx presented her studies to the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology.

About 44% of people who participated in running activities showed improvement with depression and anxiety. 

Penninx said in a release that the antidepressants still work, but running and exercise could be a viable alternative.

"Both interventions helped with the depression to around the same extent," Penninx said. "Antidepressants generally had worse impact on body weight, heart rate variability, and blood pressure, whereas running therapy led to improved effect[s] on general fitness and heart rate, for instance. 

Bellón noted there might be obstacles impeding people from using exercise to treat depression. 

"Many people have no access to exercise facilities, or they live in neighborhoods where it is unsafe to walk or jog," he said. "Health services and local and national administrations should provide enough resources to make individualized and supervised exercise programs accessible to the entire population."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that just 24.2% of U.S. adults meet guidelines for both aerobic and muscle-strengthening activity.

The CDC advises adults to get at least 150 minutes of moderate, or 75 minutes of vigorous, physical activity a week in addition to two days of strength training.

Couple recalls how they helped subdue armed suspect at Chiefs rally

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 14:25


When gunshots rang out at the Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl victory rally Wednesday, many in attendance fled in panic. But some brave citizens were quick to put their lives at risk in order to prevent others from potentially being harmed.

Trey and Casey Filter told Scripps News they were among those on the scene who tackled and safely disarmed at least one suspect before police arrived. Trey recalls hearing someone shout "get him" and didn't hesitate to spring into action.

SEE MORE: 1 dead, 21 wounded in shooting at Chiefs victory rally

"We heard, you know, the gunshots. However, at that time we thought it was like somebody being a jokester with maybe some fireworks," he said. "In my brain, I wasn't thinking anyone there would have an automatic rifle." 

But that's exactly what Trey remembers seeing when he and others struggled to subdue the alleged suspect.

"There was talk of there being a gun and things kind of escalated from there," he added. "My wife, in fact, grabbed the gun that they were talking about, which ended up being an assault rifle."

Casey said she initially couldn't believe the gun was real because she'd never expected someone to bring a weapon to an event like this, where hundreds of thousands of people were gathered to celebrate.

"Once I picked it up I realized it was a real gun and so I just moved it," she said. "Honestly, it was just a reaction. I didn't feel like I needed to run away. I saw my husband subduing the guy and then my kids, I was worried about where my kids were. It was just a very chaotic moment."

SEE MORE: Woman killed in Chiefs parade shooting identified as Kansas City DJ

Paul Contreras was in town with his three daughters when he too intervened to disarm the alleged gunman. While he doesn't recall seeing the suspect fire the gun, Contreras said the decision to tackle him was just a reaction.

"I just heard somebody yelling to stop this guy, tackle him, and he was coming in the opposite direction," he said. "You don't think about it, it's just a reaction. He got close to me, I got the right angle on him, and I hit him from behind. And when I hit him from behind I either jarred the gun out of his hand or out of his sleeve, cause as I'm taking him down to the ground, I see the gun on the ground." 

Contreras said the struggle "seemed like a long time" but it probably only lasted 15 to 30 seconds before police arrived. 

The Kansas City Police Department responded to the shooting near Union Station around 2 p.m. local time. As the Chiefs players and personnel wrapped up their celebratory rally, attendees quickly dispersed, and then ambulances were seen rushing to the scene along with officers who had their guns drawn. 

Kansas City Police Chief Stacey Graves said three people were in custody but did not disclose their identities as the investigation is ongoing. 

One person was killed and more than 20 others, including children, were wounded in the shooting. Graves said during a press conference Thursday it appears to have been "a dispute between several people that ended in gunfire" and was not a targeted act of terrorism.

Additional reporting by Scripps News Kansas City.

Trump's NY hush money trial to begin March 25, judge decides

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 13:36


A New York court held a pretrial hearing on Thursday in former President Donald Trump's hush money case as he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records. 

Judge Juan Merchan quickly decided to start the trial March 25 as scheduled, denying a motion to dismiss the case. The hush money case will be the first of four potential criminal trials for Trump. Trump's lawyers have attempted to get the charges against the former president thrown out. 

Merchan previously told Trump to cancel other obligations he may have during the trial. 

Trump was in attendance at Thursday's hearing. 

Attorneys for Trump argued that the trial should be delayed now that he is a defendant in four separate cases. 

SEE MORE: Jack Smith wants Supreme Court to let Trump's election case proceed

The March 25 date will make the start of jury selection. For much of Thursday's hearing, the sides argued about questions that should be posed to the jury. Merchan said questions should be about whether someone can be fair and impartial, adding that if jurors are eliminated based on their political parties, then the two sides will run out of jurors to strike. 

The defense and prosecution debated whether jurors should be asked about which TV shows they watch, do they believe the 2020 election was rigged, and whether they donated to Trump's campaign. Merchan urged the two sides to come to an agreement on jury selection questions before next month's jury selection.

The start of the trial comes as some states hold primaries to decide who the Republican presidential nominee will be this year. Trump is considered the overwhelming favorite after easily winning the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. 

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has alleged that Trump falsified records in an effort to prevent damaging stories from emerging during the 2016 presidential campaign. Bragg says Trump falsified records to hide payments to attorney Michael Cohen for him to pay Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal and former doorman Dino Sajudin. 

Cohen has alleged the payments added up to be about $420,000.

Prosecutors say the Trump Organization paid Cohen in monthly installments and a year-end bonus check. 

The charges Trump faces in New York are considered a Class E felony, the lowest among felony counts in New York. The charges are arguably the least serious among the four criminal cases Trump faces. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin says he prefers Biden to Trump

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 13:17


President Vladimir Putin said Russia would prefer to see U.S. President Joe Biden win a second term, describing him as more experienced and predictable than Donald Trump — even though Moscow strongly disagrees with the current administration's policies.

Putin's comments during an interview with Russian state television Wednesday were his first about the upcoming U.S. presidential election, likely to pit Biden against Trump. They come at time of heightened tension between Russia and the West — and deep disagreements in the U.S. about how best to counter Russia and help Ukraine, which is fighting Moscow's forces.

“Biden, he’s more experienced, more predictable, he’s a politician of the old formation,” Putin said, when asked which candidate would be better for Russia. “But we will work with any U.S. leader whom the American people trust.”

SEE MORE: Putin urges US to push Ukraine talks, hints at swap of jailed reporter

The comments were rare praise for President Biden, a fierce critic of the Russian leader who has frequently lauded Trump. At a campaign rally Wednesday night, Trump appeared to embrace Putin's criticism, saying: “Putin is not a fan of mine.”

And Putin did refer to his disagreements with President Biden.

“I believe that the position of the current administration is badly flawed and wrong, and I have told President Biden about that,” he said.

Putin has claimed that he sent troops into Ukraine to protect Russian speakers there and to prevent a threat to Russia’s security posed by Ukraine’s bid to join the NATO alliance. Ukraine and its Western allies have denounced Moscow’s action as an unprovoked act of aggression. Several NATO countries, chief among them the U.S. under President Biden's leadership, have sent Kyiv weapons and other military aid to fend off Russia's attack.

Trump, meanwhile, recently called into question U.S. funding for Ukraine and said he once warned he would allow Russia to do whatever it wants to NATO member nations that are “delinquent” in investing in their own defense. Those comments sent shock waves through Europe, where some leaders are preparing for a time when the U.S. does not play the pivotal role in NATO that it does now.

Trump’s statement sharply contrasted with Biden’s pledge “to defend every inch of NATO territory.” President Biden accused Trump on Tuesday of having “bowed down to a Russian dictator.”

SEE MORE: Biden says opposing Ukraine funding is 'playing into Putin's hands'

In the interview, Putin described NATO as a “U.S. foreign policy tool,” adding that “if the U.S. thinks that it no longer needs this tool it’s up to it to decide.”

Asked about speculation on President Biden's health issues, Putin responded that “I'm not a doctor and I don't consider it proper to comment on that.” He added that President Biden seemed in fine shape when the two leaders met in Switzerland in June 2021.

Biden’s team has worked to alleviate Democratic concerns over alarms raised by a special counsel about Biden’s age and memory. They came in a report determining that Biden would not be charged with any criminal activity for possessing classified documents while a private citizen.

Asked about his impressions from his last week's interview with former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, Putin said he expected Carlson to be more aggressive. Putin used the interview to push his narrative on the fighting in Ukraine, urge Washington to recognize Moscow’s interests and press Kyiv to sit down for talks.

Carlson didn’t ask Putin about war crimes Russian troops have been accused of in Ukraine, or about his relentless crackdown on dissent.

“I expected him to be aggressive and ask the so-called tough questions, and I wasn't only ready for it but wanted it because it would have given me a chance to respond sharply,” Putin said.

Over 100 US airports will get upgrades thanks to government funding

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 13:05


The White House announced Thursday its latest round of funding for America's airports. In total, over 100 airports in 44 states are impacted.

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law from 2021 is providing the funding. The legislation specifically gives billions for airport upgrades each year.

"It includes a lot of front-of-house improvements, ones that you see and feel when you get ready to fly," Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said.

One of the biggest upgrade announcements on Thursday involves Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. A $36 million grant will help improve 30-year-old piping and update cooling towers to save water and improve air conditioning.

Salt Lake City is getting $20 million to add 16 new gates so that more flights can be added.

In Denver, $26 million will go to improve baggage handling to get your luggage perhaps a bit faster. In Colorado Springs, $6 million will help modernize the concourse, including bathrooms.

SEE MORE: Plane over upstate NY loses door mid-flight; search for door ongoing

Tulsa, Oklahoma, is getting over $12 million to upgrade the air traffic control tower.

In Baltimore, BWI is getting over $14 million to improve boarding bridges that have become too old.

In Norfolk, $6 million will help build a new inspection building to meet custom requirements.

Nashville is getting $5 million to widen lanes around the airport, improving traffic.

West Palm Beach is getting $7 million to help a concourse expansion project for 13 gates.

Scripps News asked Buttigieg how long it will take for some of these projects to be completed.

"The good news is these projects can often be done without a full environmental impact statement, which is the most lengthy form of permitting," Buttigieg said.

"We aren't just focused on making grand announcements but on guiding these projects to completion," he added.

Large airports aren't the only ones getting money.

For instance, northeast Ohio's largest airport, Cleveland Hopkins International, is getting $4.8 million to improve public transit to the airport. A smaller airport 35 minutes away, Lake County Executive Airport, is getting $2.6 million to replace a 37-year-old trailer with an actual terminal building.

Of course, the timing of when these airport upgrades will be complete at 114 different sites is very much up to each airport.

Some projects could be done by next year's spring break, while others could take years.

Greece passes historic same-sex civil marriage law

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 12:41


Greece on Thursday became the first Orthodox Christian country to legalize same-sex civil marriage, despite opposition from the influential, socially conservative Greek Church.

A cross-party majority of 176 lawmakers in the 300-seat parliament voted late Thursday in favor of the landmark bill drafted by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis' center-right government. Another 76 rejected the reform while two abstained from the vote and 46 were not present in the house.

Mitsotakis tweeted after the vote that Greece "is proud to become the 16th (European Union) country to legislate marriage equality."

"This is a milestone for human rights, reflecting today's Greece — a progressive, and democratic country, passionately committed to European values," he wrote.

Scores of supporters of the reform who had gathered outside parliament and were watching the debate on a screen cheered loudly and hugged as the vote result was announced.

"This took a long time to be adopted in our country … but at least it happened and that’s what is important," said a man who only gave his first name, Nikolas. "We are no longer invisible."

Earlier, people opposed to the bill had also protested nearby, holding prayer books and religious icons.

SEE MORE: HIV and AIDS affect Black communities at a greater rate

Opinion polls suggest that most Greeks support the reform by a narrow margin, and the issue has failed to trigger deep divisions in a country more worried about the high cost of living.

The bill was backed by four left-wing parties, including the main opposition Syriza.

"This law doesn't solve every problem, but it is a beginning," said Spiros Bibilas, a lawmaker from the small left-wing Passage to Freedom party, who is openly gay.

It was approved despite several majority and left-wing lawmakers abstaining or voting against the reform. Three small far-right parties and the Stalinist-rooted Communist Party rejected the draft law from the start of the two-day debate.

"People who have been invisible will finally be made visible around us. And with them, many children (will) finally find their rightful place," Mitsotakis told lawmakers ahead of the evening vote.

"Both parents of same-sex couples do not yet have the same legal opportunities to provide their children with what they need," he added. "To be able to pick them up from school, to be able to travel, to go to the doctor, or take them to the hospital ... that is what we are fixing."

The bill confers full parental rights on married same-sex partners with children. But it precludes gay couples from parenthood through surrogate mothers in Greece — an option currently available to women who can't have children for health reasons.

Many LGBTQ+ rights advocates have criticized that limitation, as well as the absence of any provision for transgender people.

Psychologist Nancy Papathanasiou, scientific co-director of Orlando LGBT+, which advocates for LGBTQI mental health, echoed that concern but said the new law confers a very important sense of equality.

"Discrimination is the most pervasive risk factor for mental health," she said. "So just knowing that there is less discrimination is protective and promotive for LGBTQI mental health."

Maria Syrengela, a lawmaker from the governing New Democracy, or ND, said the reform redresses a long-standing injustice for same-sex couples and their children.

"And let's reflect on what these people have been through, spending so many years in the shadows, entangled in bureaucratic procedures," she said.

Dissidents among the governing party included former Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, from ND's conservative wing.

"Same-sex marriage is not a human right … and it's not an international obligation for our country," he told parliament. "Children have a right to have parents from both sexes."

Polls show that while most Greeks agree to same-sex weddings they also reject extending parenthood through surrogacy to male couples. Same-sex civil partnerships have been allowed in Greece since 2015. But that only conferred legal guardianship to the biological parents of children in those relationships, leaving their partners in a bureaucratic limbo.

The main opposition to the new bill has come from the traditionalist Church of Greece — which also disapproves of heterosexual civil marriage.

Church officials have centered their criticism on the bill's implications for traditional family values, and argue that potential legal challenges could lead to a future extension of surrogacy rights to gay couples.

Church supporters and conservative organizations have staged small protests against the proposed law.

Far-right lawmaker Vassilis Stigas, head of the small Spartans party, described the legislation Thursday as "sick" and claimed that its adoption would "open the gates of Hell and perversion."

Politically, the same-sex marriage law is not expected to harm Mitsotakis' government, which won easy reelection last year after capturing much of the centrist vote.

A stronger challenge comes from ongoing protests by farmers angry at high production costs, and intense opposition from many students to the planned scrapping of a state monopoly on university education.

Nevertheless, parliament is expected to approve the university bill later this month, and opinion polls indicate that most Greeks support it.

Woman killed in Chiefs parade shooting identified as Kansas City DJ

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 12:25


A Kansas City DJ was identified as the woman killed in a shooting as the Chiefs Kingdom Champions Victory Parade was wrapping up Wednesday.

Radio station KKFI identified DJ Lisa Lopez-Galvan as the victim in a social media post. Twenty-two people were also wounded in the shooting.

Lopez-Galvan was a host of "Taste of Tejano," a radio show that airs on 90.1 FM in Kansas City.

"It is with sincere sadness and an extremely heavy and broken heart that we let our community know that KKFI DJ Lisa Lopez, host of Taste of Tejano, lost her life today in the shooting at the KC Chiefs' rally," the radio station said in a Facebook post. "Our hearts and prayers are with her family. We encourage anyone who feels they saw something to reach out to law enforcement at (816)-234-5111."

Her bio on the KKFI website said music was her life and a source of happiness.

SEE MORE: Kansas City Chiefs Super Bowl parade turns to chaos after shooting

"Anyone could 'get away' mentally while listening to their favorite genre; music can also be a form of therapy for some," her bio reads. "Having a wide range of music knowledge is great as well."

Lopez-Galvan was a private DJ for more than 15 years, according to her bio.

"This senseless act has taken a beautiful person from her family and this KC community," KKFI said in the Facebook post.

Police said that three people were in custody following Wednesday's shooting. Video shared on social media showed at least one of the possible suspects being tackled by a group of people who kept the person on the ground until police arrived. 

"It's going to take us a little bit to determine what led up to the shooting," KCPD Chief Stacey Graves said. "I have heard that fans got involved in the apprehension or pursuit of one of the suspects, but I cannot confirm that myself."

Graves later said police are looking into whether the person who was tackled in a video circulating on social media was one of the people taken into custody for questioning.

Police said shots were fired west of Union Station near the garage.

New task force will help protect classified records between presidents

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 03:54


President Biden is standing up a task force to address the handling of classified documents during Presidential transitions.

It follows the conclusion of a special counsel investigation into Biden’s handling of documents discovered at his residences, that found no charges were warranted.

The Presidential Record Transition Task Force will be tasked with looking at how to better safeguard classified documents during transitions, something the administration views as a “systemic” and “longstanding” issue, impacting both parties, and providing recommendation ahead of the next transition.

“President Biden takes classified information seriously – he returned the documents that were found, he fully cooperated with the investigation, and it concluded that there was no case. Now he is taking action to help strengthen future transitions to better prevent classified documents from being accidentally packed up and removed from the government, like we have seen with officials from every Administration for decades,” said White House Counsel’s Office spokesperson Ian Sams.

The task force will evaluate policies and identify best practices during transitions “to address the inadvertent removal of classified documents and to help prevent it from happening in the future, with the goal of ensuring that sensitive presidential records are preserved by NARA pursuant to the terms of the Presidential Records Act,” according to the White House. Specifically, Biden is directing it to study previous transitions, recommend training for staff, evaluate authorities, consult with experts and propose recommendations.

It will be led by Kate Kale, deputy administrator of the General Services Administration, and convene officials from the White House, GSA, NARA, National Security Council and Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to the administration.

SEE MORE: Biden's memory 'poor': Special counsel report raises age concerns

Biden said what he would have done differently is oversee the transfer of documents, noting it was staff responsibility.

“And my staff did not do it in the way that, for example, I didn’t know how half the boxes got in my garage until I found out staff gathered them up, put them together, and took them to the garage in my home," Biden said in remarks last week. "And all the stuff that was in my home was in filing cabinets that were either locked or able to be locked. It was in my house. And so, I wish I had paid more attention to how the documents were being moved and where. I thought they were being moved to the Archives. I thought all of it was being moved. That’s what I thought."

The administration views it as an issue faced by both parties going back decades.

Former Vice President Mike Pence faced an investigation over found classified documents, which was closed. Former President Donald Trump is facing federal prosecution over his handling of documents, accused of obstruction in returning them.

The special counsel report said it found evidence Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials” but ultimately declined prosecution, citing insufficient evidence.

President Biden maintained he did not share classified documents and slammed the scope of the special counsel’s report that questioned his recollection.

Barney shares first public message in 14 years. Here's what he said

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 03:07


An old, purple friend wanted to ensure you had a "great big hug and a kiss from me to you" this Valentine's Day.

Barney took to social media Wednesday to share his first "Stu-u-u-pendous!" message to the public since his show, PBS' "Barney and Friends" ended 14 years ago. However, this new message seemed a bit more directed at adults, rather than at the youngsters who would typically watch and listen to his words of wisdom.

"Hi friends; it's Barney. I haven't seen some of you in a long time, but I always make sure to check in on my friends," the purple-and-green dinosaur said in the video, posted to his Instagram and TikTok. "And it seems like maybe we could all use a little reminder right now, a reminder of the super-dee-duper ability we all have to love one another and how important it is to show love towards yourself, too."

"After a long day on the playground of life, I want you to know you are seen, you are special, you are loved," Barney continued. "Isn't it nice how some things are still true even when you're all grown up?"

And although it's been a while since we had heard from him, the tyrannosaurus rex seemed to hint while concluding the video that the break from the public eye won't happen again — at least, not in the near future — saying, "Well friends, it's been stupendous to see you all, and I have a feeling I'll be seeing you again soon."

The promising ending is likely a hint at either the animated Barney preschool series that is rumored to premiere sometime this year or the upcoming live-action feature film starring Daniel Kaluuya.

Both are part of a Barney franchise relaunch Mattel, which owns the IP, announced last February, when it also debuted the dinosaur's new CGI look. Mattel said the brand's revitalization would span TV, film, YouTube, music and consumer products for both kids and adult fans.

Barney's "Love Day" message also follows the lead of other children's TV characters speaking out to an older — and possibly their former — audience.

Most recently, Elmo took to X last month to ask a seemingly innocent question: "How is everybody doing?" And the internet's widespread response was frequently "VERY not good."

Adults across the platform seemed to use the opportunity to share their feelings of existential dread with the perpetual 3-year-old, from job woes and negative political outlooks to home problems and friendship downfalls.

The post even got the attention of President Joe Biden, who — like some other respondents — saw the consensus meant people could use more love and support.

SEE MORE: Elmo asks 'How is everybody doing?' and, well, the internet is not OK

In a follow-up post, the muppet said, "Elmo learned that it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you." And the official "Sesame Street" X account used the opportunity to share mental health resources.

On Barney's post, replies and comments leaned more toward emotional than depressed.

One person commented on his Instagram, "Barney, you were my best friend as a kid… this truly just made me cry. Thanks for everything." Another said, "You've been always here, just as close as our imagination!"

'Gabby's gone': Father describes 'frantic' Brian Laundrie phone call

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 02:51


Brian Laundrie's father detailed a chilling phone call with his son in late Aug. 2021 where he begged for help and was "frantic." Christopher Laundrie, Brian's father, made the statements while sitting for a deposition in a civil lawsuit brought by Gabby Petito's parents.

SEE MORE: LA Innocence Project is investigating Scott Peterson murder case

Brian is alleged to have murdered his fiancée, Gabby Petito, whose remains were found in Wyoming nearly one month after she disappeared. 

Brian took his own life before he could face charges in the case. The lawsuit — filed against Brian's parents, Christopher and Roberta Laundrie, as well as the attorney who represented both Brian and his parents, Steven Bertolino — accuses the three of attempting to cover up Gabby’s murder in the period after she disappeared and before her body was found.

The deposition of Christopher Laundrie, Brian's father, was filed this week in court after being taken in Oct. 2023. Christopher had difficulty offering specific timelines and dates during the deposition, even denying knowledge of his daughter's and grandchildren's last names. 

At one point, Patrick Reilly, the attorney representing the Petitos, asked Christopher, "Do you have an issue with your memory?" 

Christopher responded, "Apparently so, yeah, yeah."

Christopher described Brian as respectful and honest, saying, "He was ambitious. He was outgoing. He was — he was a great guy." Describing Gabby, Christopher said, "She was very nice. She walked in the door and we spoke, and fine impression." 

He said that he and Roberta loved her and welcomed her joining the family. He denied any knowledge of Brian having anger issues or problems with any previous girlfriends.

Brian and Gabby had gone on a road trip out West, and there had been an incident in Moab, Utah, where both had accused the other of domestic violence. Christopher denied any knowledge of the incident, which occurred on Aug. 12, 2021 — two weeks before the murder allegedly took place. 

After the incident, Brian returned home without Gabby.

A transcript of the exchange continued with Christopher saying, "I don’t know why he came alone. I thought he just wanted to come and see us and say hello."

The attorney said, "Did you ask him why Gabby didn't come home with him?"

Christopher said, "It sounded as if she wanted time to make her website, so that was the only reason, the only reason that he said. She couldn't do it while she was there. I don’t know."

Brian left again to meet up with Gabby and told his parents that the couple planned to go to Oregon and work at a pumpkin farm. 

Christopher recalled a phone call on Aug. 27 confirming their plans, but Gabby wasn't mentioned. In their lawsuit, the Petito family has alleged that Gabby's murder took place on Aug. 27.

That's when Christopher described things as "hitting the fan" and said he felt he should call Brian.

Christopher said, "I asked him, you know, how is he doing, and he — you know, he was not calm and he got very excited and told me things had — you know, 'Gabby's gone' and he got very frantic. Everything was frantic and quick. So, you know, Gabby’s gone."

An attorney responded, "Meaning what?"

Christopher said, "Well, I have no idea what he meant."

An attorney asked, "Well, what else did he say?"

Christopher responded, "well, it was quick. He said, you know — and he was very panicked and he said he didn't know what to do. He said, you know, 'Can you help me,' you know and he might need a lawyer, you know. And I would — I asked him why he wouldn't tell me. He was very frantic. Everything was frantic and I just started to not really comprehend, and then he said just, you know, 'Can you help me?' And I said, 'Okay. I'll help you.' And I calmed him down and I said — I don't know. It was — it was all mumbled and I still don't remember everything that happened, but you know, he said he needed help and to get an attorney. And I told him, 'Yeah, I'll help you. I'll call Steven Bertolino, and just stay put.' And then I asked him again, and he just said, 'Just help me.'"

Christopher said at no time did Brian say he killed Gabby, and denied believing that Gabby was dead after the conversation.

An attorney asked, "Well, your son's frantic, he wants you to call a lawyer, and 'Gabby's gone.' Did you believe at the time that he'd murdered her?"

"No," he said. 

"Did you believe that she was dead at that time?" an attorney asked.

"Not at all," was the reply. 

Then the attorney asked, "Where did you think — what did you think 'gone' meant?"

Christopher replied, "I didn't even know what to think at the moment, you know, at all, so that’s that."

The Laundrie family gave Steven Bertolino a check for $25,000 and gave him the information. Christopher said that Bertolino advised them to not talk to anyone, but admitted that it never occurred to him to call Gabby's parents when it became clear she had disappeared.  

"I didn't, no, because I had no reason to — at that moment to think anything was — was going on. Gabby took off and did things that I — you know, she — on her own free will, so I had no idea what — where she was," he said.

Brian returned home briefly on Sept. 1, but Christopher said that he never asked him what happened to Gabby. He said that at Bertolino's advice, he did not bring up the discussion. 

He described Brian as "confused" when he returned, but said the family did "normal things," which included camping and taking hikes.

The Petito family's lawsuit seeks more than $30,000 from the three and is scheduled to begin in May.

This story was originally written by Lauren Silver at Court TV

Climate change is starving polar bears, cameras strapped to them show

Thu, 02/15/2024 - 02:17


Thanks to climate change, polar bears are not getting enough to eat.

Scientists from Washington State University and the U.S. Geological Survey equipped 20 polar bears in northern Canada with cameras strapped to their necks. What they discovered was alarming.

Polar bears rely on sea ice to hunt mainly ringed and bearded seals. According to the study, footage from the cameras showed that climate warming is melting that sea ice, and polar bears are forced to move to land.

“Although polar bears on land exhibit remarkable behavioral plasticity, our findings reinforce the risk of starvation, particularly in subadults, with forecasted increases in the onshore period,” the study read. 

During ice-free periods, between late spring and early summer, polar bears used many strategies to save energy, the study says. These included going on land to rest (as there are is less ice to rest on), fasting, moving less, and sometimes eating berries, plants, bones, antlers and birds. However, this didn't help much: Researchers found that 19 out of 20 bears lost weight, about 0.4 to 1.7 kilograms per day.

Researchers explain that in western Hudson Bay, where the bears were studied, the ice-free season has grown by three weeks from 1979 to 2015. This caused polar bears to spend about 130 days on land each year. Scientists predict that in the future, there will be an additional five to ten days without sea ice per decade.