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U.S. Economy Returned To Growth Last Quarter, Expanding 2.6%

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 13:40

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The U.S. economy grew at a better-than-expected 2.6% annual rate from July through September, snapping two straight quarters of economic contraction and overcoming punishingly high inflation and interest rates.

Thursday's estimate from the Commerce Department showed that the nation's gross domestic product — the broadest gauge of economic output — grew in the third quarter after having shrunk in the first half of 2022. Stronger exports and steady consumer spending, backed by a healthy job market, helped restore growth to the world's biggest economy.

Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70% of U.S. economic activity, expanded at a 1.4% annual pace, down from a 2% rate from April through June. Last quarter's growth also got a boost from exports, which shot up at an annual pace of 14.4%.

Housing investment, though, plunged at a 26% annual pace, hammered by surging mortgage rates as the Federal Reserve raises borrowing costs to combat chronic inflation.

SEE MORE: Biden Zeroes In On Economic Message As Campaign Winds Down

The outlook for the overall economy has darkened. The Fed has raised interest rates five times this year and is set to do so again next week and in December. Chair Jerome Powell has warned that the Fed's hikes will bring "pain" in the form of higher unemployment and possibly a recession.

The government's latest GDP report comes as Americans, worried about inflation and the risk of recession, have begun to vote in midterm elections that will determine whether President Joe Biden's Democratic Party retains control of Congress. Inflation has become a signature issue for Republican attacks on the Democrats' stewardship of the economy.

With inflation still near a 40-year high, steady price spikes have been pressuring households across the country. At the same time, rising interest rates have derailed the housing market and are likely to inflict broader damage over time. The outlook for the world economy, too, grows bleaker the longer that Russia's war against Ukraine drags on.

Last quarter's U.S. economic growth reversed annual declines of 1.6% from January through March and 0.6% from April through June. Consecutive quarters of declining economic output are one informal definition of a recession. But most economists have said they believe the economy skirted a recession, noting the still-resilient job market and steady spending by consumers. Most of them have expressed concern, though, that a recession is likely next year as the Fed steadily tightens credit.

SEE MORE: Though Recession Fears Are Increasing, Evidence Is Still Lacking

Preston Caldwell, head of U.S. economics for the financial services firm Morningstar, noted that the economy's contraction in the first half of the year was caused largely by factors that don't reflect its underlying health and so "very likely did not constitute a genuine economic slowdown." He pointed, for example, to a drop in business inventories, a cyclical event that tends to reverse itself over time.

Higher borrowing costs have weakened the home market, in particular. The average rate on a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, just 3.09% a year ago, is approaching 7%. Sales of existing homes have fallen for eight straight months. Construction of new homes is down nearly 8% from a year ago.

Still, the economy retains pockets of strength. One is the vitally important job market. Employers have added an average of 420,000 jobs a month this year, putting 2022 on track to be the second-best year for job creation (behind 2021) in Labor Department records going back to 1940. The unemployment rate was 3.5% last month, matching a half-century low.

Hiring has been decelerating, though. In September, the economy added 263,000 jobs — solid but the lowest total since April 2021.

International events are causing further concerns. Russia's invasion of Ukraine has disrupted trade and raised prices of energy and food, creating a crisis for poor countries. The International Monetary Fund, citing the war, this month downgraded its outlook for the world economy in 2023.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Musk Lugs Sink Into Twitter HQ As $44B Deal Deadline Looms

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 13:10

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Elon Musk, the billionaire poised to acquire Twitter later this week, strolled into the company’s headquarters Wednesday carrying a porcelain sink and tweeting “Entering Twitter HQ - let that sink in!”

Entering Twitter HQ – let that sink in!

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 26, 2022

Musk’s $44 billion deal to take Twitter private faces a Friday deadline, although the video he posted offered no evidence that the acquisition is complete. Twitter and Musk representatives had no comment on that question, although Twitter did confirm that Musk's video tweet was real. Musk also changed his Twitter profile to refer to himself as “Chief Twit” and his location to Twitter's San Francisco headquarters.

The splashy video — a vintage Musk production — also pulled the spotlight back to the world's richest man and his on-again, off-again pursuit of the social platform.

The Friday deadline to consummate the deal was ordered by the Delaware Chancery Court in early October. It is the latest step in an epic battle during which Musk signed a deal to acquire Twitter, then tried to back out of it, leading Twitter to sue the Tesla CEO to force him to conclude the deal. If the two sides don't meet the Friday deadline, the next step could be a November trial.

Musk had been expected to visit Twitter this week and is expected to return again Friday if the deal is finalized, according to an internal memo cited in a report by Bloomberg News.

His apparent enthusiasm about visiting Twitter headquarters stood in sharp contrast to one of his earlier suggestions that the building should be turned into a “homeless shelter” because, he said, so few employees actually worked there.

The Washington Post reported last week that Musk told prospective investors that he plans to cut three quarters of Twitter’s 7,500 workers when he becomes owner of the company. The newspaper cited documents and unnamed sources familiar with the deliberation. Several hours after posting his sink video, Musk tweeted that he was meeting “a lot of cool people at Twitter today!” He gave no details.

One of Musk’s biggest obstacles to closing the deal was keeping in place the financing pledged roughly six months ago.

SEE MORE: What Happens If Elon Musk Buys Twitter?

A group of banks, including Morgan Stanley and Bank of America, signed on earlier this year to loan $12.5 billion of the money Musk needed to buy Twitter and take it private. Solid contracts with Musk bound the banks to the financing, although changes in the economy and debt markets since April have likely made the terms less attractive. Musk even said his investment group would be buying Twitter for more than it’s worth.

Less clear is what's happening with the billions of dollars pledged to Musk by investors who would get ownership stakes in Twitter. Musk’s original slate of equity partners included an array of partners ranging from the billionaire’s tech world friends with like-minded ideas about Twitter’s future, such as Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison, to funds controlled by Middle Eastern royalty.

The more equity investors kick in for the deal, the less Musk has to pay on his own. Most of his wealth is tied up in shares of Tesla, the electric car company that he runs. Since April, he has sold more than $15 billion worth of Tesla stock, presumably to pay his share. More sales could be coming.

Musk, 51, has shared few concrete details about his plans for the social media platform. While he’s touted free speech and derided spam bots since agreeing to buy the company in April, what he actually wants to do about either remains a mystery.

Technology analysts have speculated that Musk wants to use Twitter to help create an “everything app” similar to China’s WeChat service, which allows users to do video chats, message, stream video, scan bar codes and make payments.

Musk’s flirtation with buying Twitter appeared to begin in late March. That’s when Twitter said he contacted members of its board — including co-founder Jack Dorsey — and told them he was buying up shares and was interested in either joining the board, taking Twitter private or starting a competitor.

Then, on April 4, he revealed in a regulatory filing that he had become the company’s largest shareholder after acquiring a 9% stake worth about $3 billion.

At first, Twitter offered Musk a seat on its board. But six days later, CEO Parag Agrawal tweeted that Musk would not be joining the board after all. His bid to buy the company quickly followed.

Inside Twitter, Musk’s offer was met with confusion and falling morale, especially after Musk publicly criticized one of Twitter’s top lawyers involved in content-moderation decisions.

In July, Musk abruptly reversed course, announcing that he was abandoning his bid to buy Twitter. His stated reason: Twitter hadn’t been straightforward about its problem with fake accounts he dubbed “spam bots.” Twitter sued, and two weeks before a 5-day trial was scheduled to begin, Musk changed his mind again, saying that he wanted to complete the deal after all.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Herschel Walker Faces Abortion Allegation From 2nd Accuser

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 13:05

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A woman came forward Wednesday to accuse Herschel Walker, the anti-abortion Republican running for U.S. Senate in Georgia, of encouraging and paying for her 1993 abortion — an accusation that came just weeks after a former girlfriend said he did the same for her in 2009.

Walker dismissed the newest allegation as "foolishness" and "a lie," similar to his vehement denials earlier this month of the abortion alleged to have happened 13 years ago.

"I'm done with all this foolishness. This is all a lie, and I will not entertain any of it. I also did not kill JFK," Walker said in a statement later Wednesday.

The second accuser, identified only as "Jane Doe," spoke to reporters via an audio Zoom call arranged by her lawyer, Gloria Allred. The woman alleged that Walker, a former college and professional football star making his first bid for public office, pressured her into an abortion and paid for one after she became pregnant during their six-year relationship while he was married to his first wife.

"The reason I am here today is because he has publicly taken the position that he is 'about life' and against abortion under any circumstances when, in fact, he pressured me to have an abortion and personally ensured that it occurred by driving me to the clinic and paying for it," the woman said. She said she was not revealing her identity because she fears "reprisals against myself, my family and my livelihood."

"I do not believe that Herschel is morally fit to be a U.S. senator and that is the reason why I am speaking up and providing proof," she said.

SEE MORE: Herschel Walker Denies Report That He Paid For Girlfriend's Abortion

She said partisan allegiances were not a factor in her decision to come forward. She called herself a registered independent and said she voted twice for Donald Trump, the former Republican president who has endorsed Walker.

The second round of abortion allegations against Walker returned the issue to the forefront of the campaign in the final two weeks before the Nov. 8 elections. Walker is competing against Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock in a tight race that could help determine party control of the Senate.

Walker, campaigning Wednesday in north Georgia, seemed to blame Democrats for the latest accusation, much as he did the first, saying in a written statement that they "will say and do anything to hang on to power."

"Well, I'm Herschel Walker, and they picked the wrong Georgian to mess with," Walker wrote.

Allred, speaking to reporters in her Los Angeles office, detailed, among other items, cards that she said Walker gave her client and a hotel receipt from Minnesota. Allred played audio of what she described as a telephone message that Walker allegedly left her client in 1992 after he had arrived in Europe as part of the U.S. Olympic bobsled team.

Walker dodged a question on Fox News on Wednesday night about whether he knew who the second accuser was, repeating that it was a lie and saying that his campaign had "moved on."

When The Daily Beast broke the story this month of the first abortion allegation, Walker insisted he had no idea who could make such a claim, but that was undermined by a follow-up report in which the woman identified herself as the mother of one of his children. The child was born two years after the 2009 abortion.

Her evidence included a $575 receipt for an abortion, along with a get-well card signed by Walker and a personal check for $700 from the multimillionaire celebrity athlete. The check is dated five days after her abortion receipt.

On Wednesday, Jane Doe said Walker gave her cash to have an abortion after she told him she was pregnant. She alleged that she first went to a clinic alone but was unable to go through with an abortion. She said Walker was “upset” when she told him and he insisted they return the following day. She said he drove her to the clinic that day, waited in the car while the procedure occurred and then took her to fill prescriptions.

SEE MORE: Herschel Walker Denies Previous Support For National Abortion Ban

Allred declined to discuss the cost or any records of the alleged abortion, "at least at this time."

Walker's responses to The Daily Beast's stories evolved from absolute denials to suggesting the signature on a get-well card wasn't his to suggesting he did send the woman money but that he didn't know it was to cover an abortion.

Doe said she heard Walker's denial that he ever signed anything with a lone initial "H," as the get-well card was signed. She said she knew that wasn't true because he had signed cards to her that way.

The first woman has not been identified publicly, asking that her name not be used out of concern for her privacy. She said she is a registered Democrat who is speaking out because of what she called Walker's hypocrisy over abortion rights.

She has spoken to multiple media outlets, revealing herself to be the same woman who filed a paternity suit for child support in New York family court. She has also alleged that Walker encouraged her to end their second pregnancy, though she refused, and that Walker has seen their son only a handful of times.

Walker's campaign has since shared with NBC News texts between his current wife and the woman acknowledging his relationship to the child.

Walker promised to sue The Daily Beast after its initial story on the abortion claim was published Oct. 3. As of Wednesday afternoon, Walker had not confirmed that he has taken any legal action against the outlet.

The reporting has put Walker on the defensive both about his claims of being a family man and his previous support for a national abortion ban, without any exceptions. That's a notable position because the Supreme Court in June ended a constitutional right to an abortion and Congress has been discussing federal legislation to set a national regulation.

During the primary campaign, Walker was consistent about his absolute opposition to abortion. He repeated that approach after winning the nomination but has since shied away from it, trying to turn the issue back on Warnock by suggesting the Democrat supports no limits on abortion access.

In their lone debate, Walker denied his previous position and said he has settled on backing Georgia's new state law that bans abortion at six weeks of pregnancy — before many women know they're pregnant. That law includes exceptions for pregnancies involving rape, incest or threats to a woman's life or health.

Walker has been dogged throughout his campaign with intense scrutiny of his past.

He's been accused of repeatedly threatening his ex-wife's life, exaggerating claims of financial and business success, suggesting he's been a sworn law enforcement officer and overstating his role in a for-profit program that is alleged to have preyed upon veterans and service members while defrauding the government.

After a story by The Daily Beast in June, Walker acknowledged the existence of three children he had not previously talked about publicly, including the son of the woman who first accused Walker of urging her to have abortions.

More than 1.1 million Georgia voters have cast ballots so far ahead of Election Day, either by mail or through advance in-person voting that began Oct. 17 and continues through Nov. 4. That is about 50% higher than at this point in 2018, the last midterm election.

With a Libertarian nominee also on the ballot, it remains possible that neither Warnock nor Walker attracts the required majority to win outright. In that case, the two would meet in a Dec. 6 runoff.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Los Angeles Council Censures Members Amid Racism Scandal

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 12:32

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The Los Angeles City Council formally rebuked two members and its former president Wednesday for their involvement in a racism scandal that has led to days of protests, police and state investigations and shaken public faith in City Hall.

The 12-0 vote to censure former council President Nury Martinez and Councilmen Gil Cedillo and Kevin de León represented the strongest step the council can take to publicly reprimand them for their participation in a secretly recorded 2021 meeting laced with crude, bigoted comments, in which the Latino Democrats schemed to protect their political clout in the redrawing of council districts at the expense of Blacks and renters.

The council cannot expel members — it can only suspend a member when criminal charges are pending. While a censure is largely symbolic, it adds new weight to the pressure coming from across the political spectrum for Cedillo and de León to resign.

Councilman Paul Koretz said he remained in shock from listening to the offensive remarks that he said had severely damaged trust in government. Like it or not, he lamented that the recording reflected on the entire council.

"It's going to take us years to rebuild this trust," Koretz said before the vote.

Councilman Curren Price called the censure a "crucial step in a long road to healing" and the harshest measure the council could take, lacking the ability to expel members.

SEE MORE: LA City Council Faces Uncertainty Amid Furor Over Racist Remarks

Martinez resigned shortly after the release of the tape earlier this month, along with a powerful labor leader, Ron Herrera, who also attended the meeting.

However, Cedillo and de León have resisted widespread calls to step down, including from President Joe Biden, and have become political pariahs among their colleagues.

Anyone involved in the meeting "does not belong in elected office," Koretz said.

Earlier, the council meeting was called into recess to allow police to clear chanting protesters. A small but noisy group crowded into the main aisle of an otherwise mostly empty chamber, banged water bottles on a lectern, whooped and shouted in what appeared to be an effort to shut down the meeting. They unrolled a large sign calling the council "illegitimate."

"Justice now!" they bellowed. "Shut down!"

That led to a standoff in which about 20 protesters continued shouting as police officers watched over the group. Eventually, the room was cleared.

Council President Paul Krekorian warned the protesters they would not deter the council's business. "We will continue to do the work of the people of Los Angeles," he said.

It's not known who made the tape, or why. It was released on the website Reddit just weeks before the November midterm elections.

In the course of the hourlong meeting, they also made offensive remarks about immigrants from the Mexican state of Oaxaca, Jews, Armenians and other groups.

Two investigations are underway stemming from the release of the tape.

SEE MORE: L.A. Police Investigating If Racist Recording Was Taped Illegally

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating whether the recording was made illegally — under California law, all parties must consent to the recording of a private conversation or phone call.

Separately, the state is investigating how the council districts were drawn and whether the process was rigged. Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, has said his investigation could lead to civil liability or criminal charges, depending on what is found.

Bonta said Wednesday that his office notified the city of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor, where the meeting took place, to preserve evidence, a routine step in an investigation.

Bonta would not speculate whether the union building was broadly wiretapped, or if the recording was an isolated event made by a single individual. He said he would largely defer to the police to investigate whether the recording was illegal.

The council appears headed into a long period of turmoil.

Cedillo and de León have not attended recent meetings.

Cedillo, whose term ends in December, has been out of public view. De León has two years left in his term and has appeared in a string of media interviews apologizing and saying he wants to continue his work on the council.

In an interview Tuesday with talk-show host Tavis Smiley on KBLA radio, de León reiterated that he was not resigning. "I'm not the person the folks have been painting me to be," said de León, who previously has apologized.

Krekorian, the president, and other council members have said Cedillo and de León must resign.

"There is no realistic possibility that you can effectively continue to serve," Krekorian recently told de León in a letter. "Every day you remain interferes with the council's ability to function, delays the city's healing process, hurts your constituents and reduces your chance of redeeming yourself."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Biden Zeroes In On Economic Message As Campaign Winds Down

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 12:14

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President Joe Biden is zeroing in on a largely economic-focused message amid raging inflation and recession risks as he takes his closing argument for the November midterm elections to a hotly contested congressional battleground on Thursday and tries to reassure restive voters around the country.

President Biden's travels to Syracuse, New York, on Thursday and to Philadelphia on Friday are part of a strategic two-step crafted for a persistently unpopular president: Promote his administration's accomplishments at official White House events while saving the overt campaigning for states where his political power can directly bolster Democratic candidates.

The White House of late has paid outsize attention to Pennsylvania, where Democrats are aggressively contesting a Republican-held Senate seat to help offset potential losses in other marquee Senate races.

Publicly, the White House and senior Democratic leaders express optimism that they'll defy traditional midterm headwinds and retain control of Congress. But in private, there is angst that the House will be lost to Republicans and that control of the Senate is a coin flip.

It's a position that Democrats point out is far more favorable than earlier in the election cycle — particularly before the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade ended constitutional protections for abortion and upended the political landscape — yet many in the party are nonetheless bracing for the loss of at least one chamber.

SEE MORE: Why Does The President's Party Typically Lose Midterms?

"I will say, as the president has said, that we are quite confident that we'll continue to have a Democratic House and a Democratic Senate as we move forward," Jen O'Malley Dillon, a White House deputy chief of staff, told MSNBC on Tuesday night.

President Biden has had a steady uptick in travel in recent weeks, although he has avoided states such as Nevada and Arizona in which Democratic candidates prefer not to be tagged with the national party brand. He has appeared with a smattering of vulnerable House Democrats at official White House events in California and New York and raised campaign cash for candidates in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Oregon, as well as millions of dollars for the Democratic National Committee at fundraisers in Washington and elsewhere. He held a trio of virtual fundraisers Wednesday night for congressional candidates in Iowa, Nevada and Pennsylvania.

A reception scheduled for Friday in Philadelphia with the state Democratic Party, which Vice President Kamala Harris will also attend, will mark President Biden's 15th visit to Pennsylvania during his presidency. Plans for a joint appearance in the state with former President Barack Obama are in the works for next week.

Also next week, President Biden is scheduled to headline a political rally Tuesday in Florida. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist has been publicly encouraging the president to campaign with him in a state that has increasingly trended toward Republicans in recent election cycles.

In Syracuse on Thursday afternoon, President Biden will showcase a significant investment by the U.S.-based company Micron, one of the largest microchip manufacturers in the world. The company has credited a new law boosting domestic production of semiconductors for its new, so-called megafab in the area that will create 50,000 new jobs, which will pay an average of $100,000 a year.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, privately encouraged the White House to deploy President Biden to Syracuse for a Micron-specific event, according to a person familiar with the conversations. Democrats believe that will help voters to draw a direct connection to the party's achievements and job growth. The person insisted on anonymity to detail private conversations.

SEE MORE: Though Recession Fears Are Increasing, Evidence Is Still Lacking

White House officials said President Biden would use the Micron event to hammer home a closing message aimed at framing the contrast between the two parties' economic agendas — an argument that the president began sketching out at a Democratic National Committee event earlier this week.

"Everybody wants to make it a referendum, but it's a choice between two vastly different visions for America," President Biden said of the midterms. "Democrats are building a better America for everyone with an economy that grows from the bottom up and the middle out, where everyone does well. Republicans are doubling down on their mega MAGA trickle-down economics that benefits the very wealthy."

He continued: "It failed their country before and will fail it again if they win."

In recent weeks, President Biden has used the presidential bully pulpit considerably to promote Democratic accomplishments, from boasting about his infrastructure law while standing next to a rebuilt bridge in Pittsburgh to reassuring seniors in Portland, Oregon, that they will soon see the costs of prescription drugs capped.

Still, there's some concern among Democrats that voters are not connecting economic growth in their communities often enough to what a Democratic-controlled government has completed during the first two years of President Biden's presidency.

"I think we have to be far more aggressive," said Rep. Ro Khanna. "We're actually bringing jobs back, but we're not going out enough and acknowledging people's anger and fear and say, 'Here's what we're doing.'"

The Syracuse area is home to a House race for a seat being vacated by moderate Republican Rep. John Katko, a critical pickup opportunity for Democrats in a district that President Biden won by more than 7 percentage points in 2020. President Biden's visit could also give a boost to New York Gov. Kathy Hochul, whose reelection contest against Republican Lee Zeldin has tightened in recent weeks. Schumer, Hochul, Katko and Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand will all be at the event, according to a White House official.

Cabinet officials are fanning out nationwide to promote the administration's economic message. For instance, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will travel to Cleveland on Thursday to talk about President Biden's manufacturing agenda with Sen. Sherrod Brown. The retirement of his Republican colleague, Sen. Rob Portman, has led to another critical Senate race, this one between Republican J.D. Vance and Democrat Tim Ryan.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Cranberries Are Ready For Harvest In The Cheesehead State

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 01:22

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Wisconsin is running red, and it's not because of its fall leaves or its college teams.

It's cranberry season, and farmers across the state are working to harvest the berry from their flooded marshes.

For almost 120 years, Nodji Van Wychen and her family have been running Wetherby's Cranberry Company in Warrens, Wisconsin.

"The marsh was started in 1903," Van Wychen said. "We first started packing fresh fruit in 1905, so I am third generation on the marsh. My grandfather was the one who actually designed, created and built the entire marsh at that particular time. When he retired in 1957, it was only 20 acres compared to the 200 acres of planted vines that we have now."

It's a crop with deep family ties — with four children, 10 grandchildren and one great granddaughter — and even deeper roots in the state.

"[It's] the No. 1 fruit crop in the state of Wisconsin, and we have been the No. 1 crop for 28 consecutive years," Van Wychen said. "We produce actually 68% of the nation's crop in Wisconsin with only 250 growers, so I think we do a pretty awesome job."

The Cheesehead State is well ahead of states like Massachusetts and New Jersey that tend to be more famous for the fruit. According to the U.S. Cranberry Marketing Committee, U.S. growers are estimated to produce more than 8.3 million barrels in 2022.

SEE MORE: Why Is Pumpkin Spice Season So Popular?

"We measure our yield in barrels, which is the old standard weight, and 100 pounds equals a barrel," Van Wychen said. "Wisconsin alone is estimated to produce 5.2 million barrels of cranberries this year, which will be expected to be a good crop."

That's a relief after what happened in 2021. 

"Last year due to inclement weather during the blossom time, the state was down 30% on their cranberry crop, so we're really pleased this year to be back up where we should be servicing all the public with our special fruit," Van Wychen said.

Planted as vine cuttings from previous harvests in beds of peat and sand, cranberry vines take four to five years to mature. Once ready to harvest, the beds are flooded with water so that machines can easily knock the berries off the vines.

After being collected from the water, the cranberries are sorted, with some bound for the market, just as they are. However, the majority are turned into other products, like juice, relish and even wine.

"There's not a lot of cranberries growing all over the nation," Van Wychen said. "Therefore, you get to this cranberry region, and people just really like the cranberry wine because it's so unique and different."

Regardless of how one chooses to enjoy them, Van Wychen says she hopes people at least give them a try.

"We are very fortunate that cranberries are very healthy to the consumer, and consumers are being very health conscious nowadays," Van Wychen said. "If you aren't using them year-round, at least have cranberries on your Thanksgiving table."

What Does Hollywood Have To Fear With Deepfakes?

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 01:10

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There's a Russian cell phone commercial that seems to star Bruce Willis, but the retired actor's team says he never sold the rights to appear in the ad. Videos like that — showing doctored, digital twins of celebrities — have reopened conversations in Hollywood about the legal implications of deepfake technology.

"Right now, we are more than ever before being confronted with the reality of having to think about what protections need to be created, either through legislation or by court made law, to allow people to feel safe in putting their image out there on these platforms," attorney Allen Secretov said.

As the technology behind deepfakes continues to advance, it may effectively allow actors to be in multiple places at once. Their digital twin could do reshoots or appear in promotions. For studios, deepfakes present an opportunity to immortalize their popular characters as played by well-known actors.

The issue at hand is making sure performers aren't losing out to their digital twins.

The Screen Actors Guild, or SAG, has been actively cautious about deepfakes and face-swapping technology since 2013 — in response to athletes being digitally recreated in video games. This summer, SAG's national executive director warned the technology could "pose potential threats to performers' livelihoods."

"This is why SAG is so involved in this because they can foresee a future where some of their members are at a loss or have not been able to commercially monetize their image and likeness because they gave that away earlier on in their career, and nobody wants that to happen," Secretov said.

SEE MORE: Fact-Checking Social Media In An Era Of Manipulated Photos, Videos

Though it varies by state, one of the protections that exists today is the right to publicity, which can protect the names, likenesses and identities of anybody from being used without their consent.

"If you have this ability to make money off yourself, then you should own that ability," attorney Heather Antoine said. "That's just considered an intellectual property right, so it's freely transferable, it's freely licensable."

The right to publicity has protected celebrities like Michael Jordan and Katherine Heigl, whose images were used without their consent in advertisements. But given the growing advancements in deepfakes, legal experts say people — particularly less-experienced actors and young athletes — should keep a careful eye on their contracts.

"If an actor is signing on to be involved in a project, they need to — now more than ever before — look at the language of the contract and be clear about what permissions they're giving," Secretov said.

"The lawyer's job to say, 'Hey, this is a potential issue that could affect you for not only the next 10 years, but maybe the next 50 years,'" Antoine said. "Let's say you become the next Michael Jordan, then what?"

It's a race against technology, as legal experts say there's more discussion to be had about the legal implications of deepfakes. But caution today can help protect a performer's identity in the future.

Why Deepfake Pornography Is So Hard To Stop

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 01:00

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There have been concerns recently about how deepfakes can be used to spread political misinformation, but that's not the most common use for the technology: It's overwhelmingly being used to create nonconsensual porn.

In 2019, one cybersecurity firm tracked deepfakes shared online over the course of one year and found over 90% of them were used for this purpose.

In the years since this alarm was first raised, the legal fight against deepfake revenge porn and nonconsensual porn has been an uphill battle.

The idea of having a "right to privacy" dates back to the early 1890s. Authors of a landmark paper for the Harvard Law Review warned that "photographs and newspaper enterprise" had invaded private life, and many "mechanical devices" could make "what is whispered in the closet... proclaimed from the house-tops."

Even though the paper goes on to suggest the law should step in to stop spreading of personal pictures against someone's will, not much has legally changed since then. At the federal level, there is still no ban on creating deepfakes of someone without their consent.

There have been scattered cases relating to using someone's identity to mislead people, but these are usually focused on individual cases and people with public personas.

In the 80s, Bette Midler sued Ford and an ad agency for hiring one of her back-up singers to imitate her voice in a commercial. The agency got permission to use the song, but Midler herself refused to do the ad. The focus of the suit was just over imitating her voice and whether exploiting her likeness is protected by free speech. It wasn't; Midler won her suit against the ad agency.

SEE MORE: Fact-Checking Social Media In An Era Of Manipulated Photos, Videos

That begs the question: How is exploiting someone's likeness for a commercial punishable, but exploiting someone's likeness for porn still isn't? A big reason is just the difference in mediums and how they're regulated.

On the internet, websites and platforms are generally not legally responsible for the content they host; the creator or uploader is. But they can be very hard to track down. That legal protection is thanks to the pivotal Communications Decency Act and its infamous Section 230

Section 230 has come up from politicians on both sides of the aisle who want to reform big tech, and for the first time, there may be some momentum to revisit the statute. The Supreme Court just announced in early October that it would be hearing its first ever case regarding Section 230.

Holding platforms accountable for hosting deepfake porn wouldn't be a silver bullet solution, but it could be a game-changer in cracking down on the videos. Some experts argue that pushing for federal criminalization would be a vast improvement from the scattered state laws currently in place.

Currently, 48 states and D.C. have banned nonconsensual distributing for porn. However, many of those laws don't apply to deepfake porn because there's still a legal gray area: It combines the images of multiple people — like a head of someone on the body of another— so there's some legal ambiguity about identity and personal harm.

It's clear the law has some catching up to do when it comes to deepfake porn, but meanwhile, each year there are tens of thousands of victims who can't afford to wait for lawmakers to navigate these legal gray areas.

Former Chicago Labor Leader Receives 19 Months In Prison For Extortion

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 00:44

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In Chicago PD, the popular cop drama, police have been busting the bad guys for years. It turns out there was crime going on right under their noses, in the Chicago studio where it and other shows like Chicago Fire and Chicago Med, are filmed.  

On Wednesday, ex-Teamster boss John Coli Sr. was sentenced to 19 months in prison for squeezing the studio owner in a very traditional Chicago way — 'pay up or we'll shut you down.' 

"According to the allegations, he was collecting, I think, like $25,000 cash in envelopes at a popular Greek restaurant in Chicago," said Jon Seidel, a federal courts reporter for the Chicago Sun-Times. 

In 2019, Coli pleaded guilty to taking $325,000 in illegal cash payments from the Cinespace Chicago film studio between 2014 and 2017.

"He threatened to shut down everything because a lot of his members worked at this studio," said Dan Mihalopoulos, an investigative reporter at WBEZ Chicago. 

According to the plea agreement, when Cinespace president Alex Pissios started pushing back on the payments, Coli told him "I will f---ing have a picket line up here, and everything will stop." 

We know this word for word because Pissios was wearing a wire and cooperating with the feds, to get out of his own legal troubles related to taxes. 

SEE MORE: Pop Quiz: Why Can't 'Swear Words' Be Said On TV?

Reporters covering the case said Coli's brazen language and corruption schemes are all too typical in the city's halls of power. 

"We do continue to see some, bad, B-list movie quotes in these corruption cases in Chicago," said Seidel.  

"Nothing shocks the federal prosecutors or the media or the public in Illinois any more," said Mihalopoulos.  

Coli had connections to all the biggest Chicago and Illinois politicians, Republicans and Democrats.  

"Being in charge of the Teamsters means you're in charge of a pretty big army of people around town," said Seidel. 

As part of his plea deal, he agreed to fully cooperate with the feds to catch a bigger fish. As a result, a state senator who was on the Teamsters' payroll for a ghost job was sentenced to one year in prison earlier this year. 

"There are costs for the public. These are not victimless crimes," said Mihalopoulos. 

And who knows where this story ends.  

"These cases keep coming, the prosecutors keep bringing them. And we still see those in power continue to get caught doing this. Again, not all, but but far too many," said Seidel. 

Antisemitic Reports Still Rising In Los Angeles After Ye's Comments

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 00:39

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Reports of antisemitic fliers in mailboxes and on windshields are rising across Los Angeles — a startling display of the rise in antisemitism across the city and country after Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, spewed hate-filled speeches online and in interviews. 

At a forum with Los Angeles' mayoral candidates Wednesday evening, the disturbing trend was front and center.

In a string of tweets, the city's Holocaust museum said it's been the target of online attacks since the rapper rejected an invitation for a private tour — an attempt to use education to mend hate.

The Anti-Defamation League tracked a record number of antisemitic incidents in the U.S. in 2021 with more than 2,700. The group has also logged skyrocketing antisemitic incidents and circulation of White supremacist propaganda since 2016.

The fresh incidents are getting the attention of big businesses, many of which quickly cut ties with rapper Ye, and of world leaders.

Israel's president visited the White House Wednesday and told reporters he talked with President Joe Biden about the rise in anti-Jewish hate.

SEE MORE: Adidas Ends Partnership With Ye Over Antisemitic Remarks

"It's a major issue which we see as a main challenge in various frontiers all over the world," Israeli President Isaac Herzog said.

German athletic apparel giant Adidas finally ended its partnership with Ye Tuesday. The Anti-Defamation League told Newsy it was "a very positive outcome and illustrates that antisemitism is unacceptable and creates consequences." However, the company is still getting criticism for its painfully slow response to the rapper's antisemitism, taking some three weeks to decide to end its billion-dollar partnership with Ye.

Drew Kerr, a communications expert, says Adidas landed on the wrong side of a tug-of-war between standing up for what's right and protecting its financial interest.

"Three weeks is an eternity when it comes to a crisis," Kerr said.

Now the brand is facing the wrath of buyers, burning their shoes to send a message.

"It's not just consumers; it's the people who work within Adidas who we're going to have to deal with," Kerr said. "This is really all about standing up against hate speech."

Getting Less Than Five Hours Of Sleep Raises Risk Of Chronic Diseases

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 00:37

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Science has shown is it harder to sleep as we age. And a new study says getting enough sleep is even more important. 

Lucas Stine just turned 47.

"As I age, my sleep has really been difficult to deal with because I sleep a lot less and I wake up more," said Stine. 

Lucas is one of many. Five hours or less of sleep could put you at risk for chronic illness and that risk goes up as you age. 

A recent UK study looked at 8,000 50-year old civil servants with no chronic disease, and then followed up with them at their doctors' appointments over the next 25 years. The findings: 50 year olds who slept five hours or less a night had a 30% higher risk of developing multiple chronic diseases over time than those who slept at least seven hours a night. It rose to a 32% greater risk at age 60, and a 40% greater risk at age 70. The chronic illnesses mentioned specifically were diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, heart failure, COPD, chronic kidney disease, liver disease, depression, dementia, mental disorders, Parkinson's and arthritis. 

Dr. James Rowley is president elect for the American Academy Of Sleep Medicine

"If you're somebody who just feels you got to go and you're only going to get five or six hours of sleep, you are definitely putting yourself at risk. More risk of developing a some type of medical disorder as you age compared to someone who's getting seven to eight hours of sleep," said Rowley.  

Rowley practices pulmonary critical care and sleep medicine at the Detroit Medical Center. He said as we age, our sleep efficiency and sleeping less for the time we are in bed, worsens too. 

"It does go down a bit between that 30 and 60 range to an extent, but really above 61 is that when it really decreases," said Rowley. 

SEE MORE: Americans Have A Concerning Amount Of Stress, Report Finds

NEWSY'S LINDSEY THEIS: How many hours of sleep do you get a night now, Lucas?  

LUCAS STINE: Um, consecutively, I'd say no more than about four hours of sleep. 

Newsy caught up with sleep researcher Christopher Depner. We first met him in 2019 in Boulder, Colorado where he showed me how sleep studies worked. He'd discovered catching up on sleep did not help metabolic health.  

"There's a couple of studies in progress in like 50 to 70 year old people where they're trying to increase their sleep duration and seeing if that does improve their risk profiles," said Depner. "Although people sort of reported feeling better after the weekends — their alertness was better and they felt more sort of recovered from that sleep loss — their actual metabolic health markers were not improved."

But metabolic health is a pretty narrowly defined measure of overall health and Depner still believes more sleep is better. 

He added that for those looking to improve their sleep, a sleeping pill is not as good as it may seem.  

"Some people say it's kind of like knock you out so they might make you be unconscious and feel like you're sleeping, but your brain activity is actually a little bit different than natural sleep. And so it's really questionable how effective those are, especially if you're thinking about using those to improve sleep for other health outcomes like cardiovascular disease," said Depner. 

He said melatonin can be helpful on a very short-term basis for adjusting to a new time zone. But the best thing anyone can do for better sleep, he said, is to stay on a regular schedule, sleep in a dark, cool place and dim their lights to match when the sun is up or down. One quick way to do that?  

"We took people camping and they had only exposure to sunlight while we were camping or a campfire that was that. So there were no electronic devices, so no artificial light at all. And we were out in the Rocky Mountains in the middle of nowhere. So there was no light pollution or anything like that. And so what we did see is that even just a weekend of camping can adjust your circadian clock by several hours," said Depner.  

Florida Seniors' Retirement Plans Were Destroyed With Hurricane Ian

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 00:31

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A mobile home village that once attracted an aging generation seeking a slice of paradise is now a reminder of the lives Hurricane Ian upended.

A month since the hurricane landed, a pungent smell still lingers in the air.

"They're not even telling us when garbage can come pick up anything," Christine Yurgelaitis said. "Things are starting to really smell."

Belongings that once filled homes with warm memories are now garbage, with high piles lining street after street.

David Yurgelaitis and his wife Christine never thought they'd find themselves back at square one at their age.

The Michigan couple dedicated seven years and tens of thousands of dollars to renovate their Fort Myers mobile home.

"It was completely finished, and it was it was perfect," David Yurgelaitis said.

Their new life was on track before it was wrecked by the powerful category four hurricane, with the damage drawing out their future plans.

SEE MORE: Volunteers From Across The U.S. Help Floridians Recover After Ian

"This has been devastating to the retirement plans," David Yurgelaitis said. "In fact, I think those are out the window."

Bloomberg reports that people over 65 make up about a third of the population of the hardest-hit counties along the Gulf Coast. 

The Yurgelaitis' neighbor Eva Mascoli says her insurance company tells her it's not responsible for the damage to her trailer.

"I'm living off of social security and a small, small pension," Mascoli said.

She and the Yurgelaitis worry painful price increases will slow down their plans to rebuild.

"It's going to take a lot more time in work to buy to fix because the prices of things have doubled," Christine Yurgelaitis said.

But, they're leaning on each other and their other neighbors to bring their dream back to life, working through patience and long days to recreate their slice of paradise after the storm.

"It says 'Welcome to our Beach House,' and that's what it was, it will be again," Christine Yurgelaitis said.

New Netflix Guillermo Del Toro Horror Show, Just In Time For Halloween

Thu, 10/27/2022 - 00:22

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Halloween is less than a week away and that means now is the perfect time to binge-watch some scary movies and shows!

If you've already watched all the classics and your favorites, don't despair. Netflix is launching a brand new eight-episode horror anthology miniseries that is perfect for this time of year, Plus, you can start and finish it all before Halloween (or have a very scary Halloween night).

"Cabinet of Curiosities" is a four-day streaming event that features two episodes being released each day from Oct. 25-28. Filmmaker Guillermo del Toro acts as a guide, presenting each episode, which are all self-contained and unconnected. Del Toro is also executive producer, co-showrunner and writer for two of the episodes.

"With Cabinet of Curiosities, [the executive producers] and I — along with our curated team of writers and directors of each story — set out to showcase the realities existing outside of our normal world: whether they come from outer space, the underground, behind the closed door, or simply in our minds," del Toro told Netflix in a press release. "Each of the episodes has a whole world. They present you with different delights; some are savory, some are sweet. You get a surprise from each of the bites."

SEE MORE: Vet-Recommended Tips For A Safe Halloween With Pets

Amirpour ("A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night") and Catherine Hardwicke ("Twilight") are among the behind-the-scenes luminaries. Several stories are based on short pieces by H.P. Lovecraft and Michael Shea.

You'll also see familiar faces in front of the camera, including Rupert Grint of "Harry Potter," Crispin Glover of "Back to the Future," Peter Weller of "Robocop," Tim Blake Nelson of "Watchmen," Nia Vardalos of "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" and Andrew Lincoln of "The Walking Dead."

The series is rated TV-MA, so you'll want to watch it after the kids have gone to bed. You can watch all eight episodes by Friday, Oct. 28.

If you don't have Netflix or pay for other streaming services, you can watch horror shows and movies for free on a variety of apps.

Just some of the choices you'll find now through Halloween include “Evil Dead” and the entire “The Addams Family” series on Pluto TV, 1974's “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” on Freevee and the original "It" miniseries from 1990 on TubiTV.

Will you be watching some scary programming this Halloween?

Public Officials Are Bracing For A Serious Flu Season

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 23:56

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After a break from the flu season during the COVID-19 pandemic, health officials say it’s back with a vengeance. 

"Public health officials are bracing for what could be a very serious flu season," said Kevin Hall, the spokesperson for the Lexington-Fayette Department of Health.

Health officials across the country said it’s all hands on deck as they work to address rising cases of influenza, while juggling soaring cases of the respiratory virus RSV among children and new cases of COVID-19. 

"They left daycare today for RSV and the flu going around so I had to leave work early to walk to go pick them up," Theresa Henning, a mother.  

Parents are having to pick their children up from daycare and school, as school districts report outbreaks of illnesses with flu-like symptoms and families are feeling a strain at home. 

"It gets difficult since I'm the one doing it by myself, so I get no sick days. But I do everything I can to make sure my kids are taken care of when they're sick. They have Tylenol, ibuprofen, cough syrup," said Henning. 

Some school districts in Alabama, Virginia and North Carolina have begun switching to remote learning and canceling after school activities in an effort to sanitize classrooms and contain the spread. 

SEE MORE: RSV Cases Are Rising Along With Expected Flu, COVID Surge

The CDC said so far states like Texas, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee and New York are being hit the hardest with flu cases. Meanwhile, the Walgreens flu index is now reporting that as of October 15 "overall flu activity is more than 10 times higher nationwide compared to the 2021-2022 flu season." 

Doctors are now doubling down on their efforts to convince people to get the flu shot. 

"The fact that flu hasn't been here for a couple of years really has changed the, sort of the population immunity to flu. You know, not only that overall we just haven't been exposed to as much so the population immunity has dropped, but we've got kids who are now. I don't know, two years older getting their first exposure to flu than typical," said Dr. Richard Webby, a doctor at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital.

The CDC recommends that everyone six months or older get a flu shot by the end of this month — especially if you want to lower the risk of being hit with multiple illnesses. 

"It’s possible to have flu and RSV at the same time, and you know of course, having both at the same time would really make a more complicated situation. So, it is beneficial to get the flu shot for the season," said Webby. 

L.A. Police Investigating If Racist Recording Was Taped Illegally

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 22:02

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Los Angeles detectives are investigating whether a recording last year that captured city councilmembers' racist remarks was made illegally, the police chief said Tuesday.

The recording's disclosure earlier this month unleashed a growing scandal in the nation's second-largest city just weeks before Election Day. The councilmembers' bigoted discussion — laden with crude insults — laid bare the unequal representation and divided political power along racial lines in Los Angeles.

The council president, Nury Martinez, resigned in disgrace, while two other councilmembers have resisted widespread calls — from the White House down — for their ousters.

The uproar began with the release nearly two weeks ago of a previously unknown recording of a 2021 private meeting involving Martinez and Councilmen Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo, as well as powerful labor leader Ron Hererra, head of the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor.

"The department has initiated a criminal investigation into an allegation of eavesdropping," Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said Tuesday during a media availability in response to a question from The Associated Press.

The group, all Latino Democrats, was captured on the recording scheming to protect their political clout in the redrawing of council districts during an hourlong, closed-door meeting that was laced with bigoted comments. They used racist language to mock colleagues — as well as one councilman's young Black son — while they planned to protect Latino political strength in council districts.

It's not known who made the tape, or why.

Under California law, all parties must consent to the recording of a private conversation or phone call. Otherwise, the person who made the recording could face criminal and civil penalties. The state's wiretapping statutes are among the strongest in the nation and allow the "injured party" — the person being recorded without their permission — to sue.

Martinez, de León, Cedillo and Herrera approached the Los Angeles Police Department on Friday — more than two weeks after the recording, which had been posted on Reddit, was first reported by the Los Angeles Times — and asked for the agency to open an investigation, Moore said.

"This (request) was done by the principals — this wasn't done through some intermediary or otherwise," he added.

SEE MORE: LA City Council Faces Uncertainty Amid Furor Over Racist Remarks

Detectives have since interviewed the group about why they believe the recording was made "unlawfully and surreptitiously," the chief said.

But Pete Brown, a spokesperson for de León, said Tuesday night that the councilman had not been involved in the report to police and had not been interviewed by detectives.

"Councilmember de León did not make a request for an investigation," Brown told AP hours after Moore said that all four had been involved.

Martinez's spokesperson during her time in office did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Tuesday, nor did a spokesperson for Cedillo or the county labor federation.

The labor federation previously called the leak of the recording illegal and unsuccessfully attempted to halt the LA Times' publication of the discussion's details.

No suspects have been identified, Moore said.

"We'll also look, as far as possible, to understand how such a recording was made and identify, if possible, the person or persons responsible," he said.

Detectives will consult with the city attorney — whose office handles misdemeanors — and county prosecutors for felony charges if needed, the chief said.

Other questions remain about what the investigation could entail and whether other recordings were made at the labor federation's headquarters.

The state is separately investigating how the council districts were drawn and whether the process was rigged. Attorney General Rob Bonta, a Democrat, has said his investigation could lead to civil liability or criminal charges, depending on what is found.

The fallout has left City Hall in turmoil and President Joe Biden has called on de León and Cedillo to step down. Noisy protesters at City Council meetings have provided a steady backdrop of chants and shouting as they try to increase pressure on the duo to resign.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Why Are Cancer Rates Rising For Those Under 50?

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 21:24

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At 41 years old Barney Morris was thriving.  

"I was a federal agent at the time, moving up the ladder rapidly. I was a major in the U.S. Air Force," he said. 

But that all came to a crashing halt at his annual check-up when his doctor gave him the shocking news — he had prostate cancer.  

"I thought I was in perfect health. I had absolutely no symptoms," said Morris.  

A recent study in the journal Nature found prostate cancer is among 14 different cancers rising among adults under 50 at an alarming rate. Breast, colorectal, endometrial and esophageal, head and neck, pancreatic, liver, stomach, thyroid and multiple myeloma cancers significantly increased between 2000 and 2012. Researchers say all of these cancers have specific risk factors in common like diet, lifestyle, weight, environmental exposures and our gut microbiome. 

Dr. Shad Marvasti believes conventional medicine doesn't focus on these risks enough when it comes to treating disease. 

"We do medication, surgery, nutrition is kind of an afterthought but there's a great need for it because medication alone isn't going to solve our problems," said Mavasti. 

The study's authors point out that more cancer diagnoses may be linked to earlier and more effective detection. But U.S. cancer screenings plunged during the pandemic. The government estimates 9.4 million screenings that normally would've happened in 2020 — never did.  

SEE MORE: Study: Cancer-Causing Gas Leaking From California Stoves, Pipes

Dr. David Lindner is a pulmonary and critical care medicine doctor at NCH Healthcare System.  

"So instead of us diagnosing stage one and two, where surgical cure and other options of therapy are available, we've unfortunately seen an upswing in stage three and four cancers," said Lindner.  

Researchers also noted a connection to the "birth cohort" effect. That means each generation has a higher risk of developing cancer because of the risk factors they were exposed to when they were younger. For example: people born in 1960 have a higher cancer risk than those born in 1950. While researchers didn't pin down specific factors driving the birth cohort effect, they do have some theories — starting with what we put in our bodies. 

"Researchers have shown in the United States and around the world, the leading number one risk factor for premature disease, illness and preventable death is diet," said Mavasti. 

Last year, NYU researchers found nearly 60% of the average American diet is made up of processed foods. Two large studies this year found men were 29% more likely to develop colorectal cancer if they ate ultra-processed foods, like frozen meals, cold cuts and sodas. 

"These processed foods have been linked to the diseases of our time: diabetes, heart disease, obesity, cancer, even weakening of our immune system," said Mavasti. 

The cancer study noted that since the 1950s the amount of processed foods Americans eat has drastically risen. Scientists believe those foods are affecting the microbes in our gut microbiome, which help with digestion and immunity. A study in the journal Frontiers showed our gut is vital in predicting how our bodies respond to cancer therapies, disease progression and ultimately whether we live or die. 

Registered dietician Betsy Opyt said healthy food is key to a healthy gut and a healthy life. 

"We can think of our gut as our first line of defense. Thats what's helping us build our immune system, assimilate vitamins and minerals in our body," said Opyt. 

SEE MORE: Why Is There Concern About Common Food Additives?

The cancer study found alcohol contributed to rising rates as well, and pointed to growing alcohol use among teenagers since the 1990s, and excessive drinking among adults over the past few decades.  

Professor Davd Jurnegon, who studies the influence of alcohol advertising and marketing, said many people don't realize the government lists alcohol as a carcinogen. 

"Furthermore, if alcohol is — if your body processes alcohol, right, it turns into acetaldehyde, which is also a carcinogen," said Jurnegon. 

Lack of sleep might also increase your cancer risk. The cancer study said children are sleeping far less today than they were two decades ago. Researchers also noted irregular sleep could lead to metabolic issues like obesity or type II diabetes, which are other risk factors. 

Registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator Audrey McKernan said sleep and stress management are vital to sticking to a healthy lifestyle. 

"Because usually when people have poor sleep patterns or they're highly stressed they're making poor choices and it makes them difficult to stay on the plan long term," said McKernan. 

If all of this seems overwhelming, health experts say there are a lot of things you can do to decrease your cancer risk. Depending on your age, yearly screenings may not be necessary, but are always a good idea if you're experiencing any abnormal symptoms. As for prevention: Dr. Shawn Dason with the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center said your best defense may be a healthy lifestyle. 

"If you really don't smoke, keep your weight kind of in moderation, keep your diet pretty balanced and see your health care provider regularly, get all of your preventative health care checks — I think that, as far as medical science and medical knowledge knows today, those are the best things that you can do to take care of your health," said Dason. 

Most doctors don't recommend getting regularly screened for cancer until your fifties. But for Morris, catching cancer early saved his life.  

"Would you rather deal with a few seconds of discomfort? Or would you rather die?" said Morris.  

Not only did Barney beat his cancer — he beat it twice. 

And doctors stress: it's never too late to live your best, healthiest life.  

3 Men Convicted Of Supporting Plot To Kidnap Michigan Governor

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 20:56

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Three men accused of supporting terrorism in the plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor were convicted of all charges Wednesday in a trial that focused on paramilitary drills and fierce contempt for government ahead of the 2020 election.

Joe Morrison, his father-in-law Pete Musico, and Paul Bellar were found guilty of supplying “material support” for a terrorist act as members of a group known as the Wolverine Watchmen.

They held gun training in rural Jackson County with a leader of the kidnapping scheme, Adam Fox, who was disgusted with Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and other officials and said he wanted to snatch her.

The trial in state court was an offshoot of the main case in federal court, which produced mixed results: conspiracy convictions for Fox and three others but also two acquittals.

SEE MORE: 2020: Feds Say Men in Mich. Gov. Kidnap Scheme Had Backup Plans

Jurors in Jackson, Michigan, read and heard violent, anti-government screeds as well as support for the “boogaloo,” a civil war that might be triggered by a shocking abduction. Prosecutors said COVID-19 restrictions ordered by Whitmer turned out to be fruit to recruit more people to the Watchmen.

“The facts drip out slowly,” state Assistant Attorney General Bill Rollstin told the jury, “and you begin to see — wow — there were things that happened that people knew about. ... When you see how close Adam Fox got to the governor, you can see how a very bad event was thwarted.”

Morrison, 28, Musico, 44, and Bellar, 24, were also convicted of a gun crime and membership in a gang. Prosecutors said the Wolverine Watchmen was a criminal enterprise.

Morrison, who recently tested positive for COVID-19, and Musico were emotional as they watched the verdicts by video away from the courtroom. Judge Thomas Wilson ordered all three to jail while they await sentencing on Dec. 15.

The verdicts “are further proof that violence and threats have no place in our politics," said Whitmer, who has not participated as a trial witness or spectator in the state or federal cases. “Those who seek to sow discord by pursuing violent plots will be held accountable under the law.”

Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat in a tight race for reelection, hailed the outcome and praised law enforcement. After hearing nine days of testimony, the jury deliberated Tuesday afternoon and for less than two hours Wednesday.

“Jackson County is not known to have, I guess I would say, liberal juries. They tend to be a conservative bunch," Nessel said. “But I think what they saw here was that this is not a political matter. ... These are individuals that didn't align themselves with any party at all. In fact, they were just anti-government all together."

SEE MORE: Is Biden's Strategy For Preventing Domestic Terrorism Working?

Defense attorneys argued that Morrison, Musico and Bellar had broken ties with Fox by late summer 2020 when the Whitmer plot came into focus. Unlike Fox and others, they didn’t travel to northern Michigan to scout the governor’s vacation home or participate in a key weekend training session inside a makeshift “shoot house” in Luther, Michigan.

“In this country you are allowed to talk the talk, but you only get convicted if you walk the walk,” Musico’s attorney, Kareem Johnson, said in his closing remarks.

Defense lawyers couldn’t argue entrapment. But they attacked the tactics of Dan Chappel, an Army veteran and undercover informant. He took instructions from FBI agents, secretly recorded conversations and produced a deep cache of messages exchanged with the men.

Whitmer, who is seeking reelection on Nov. 8, was never physically harmed. Undercover agents and informants were inside Fox’s group for months. The scheme was broken up with 14 arrests in October 2020.

Fox and Barry Croft Jr. were convicted of a kidnapping conspiracy in federal court in August. Daniel Harris and Brandon Caserta were acquitted last spring. Ty Garbin and Kaleb Franks pleaded guilty.

Five of the 14 men are facing charges in state court in Antrim County, the site of Whitmer's second home. A judge there still must determine whether there is sufficient evidence to send them to trial.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Crime, Trump Center Stage At Sole New York Gubernatorial Debate

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 17:59

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Sparring over crime, abortion and the deadly U.S. Capitol insurrection took center stage Tuesday as New York Gov. Kathy Hochul faced her Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin in the campaign's only televised gubernatorial debate.

SEE MORE: Election '22: What Matters: The Fight Over Legal Abortion

Hochul blasted Zeldin’s past support for abortion restrictions and for former President Donald Trump, while Zeldin vowed to repeal liberal criminal justice reforms and criticized Hochul's push to send millions to abortion providers to expand access for a predicted surge in out-of-state patients.

Hochul labeled Zeldin an “election denier” and “climate change denier” as she tried to link him to Trump, who enjoyed little support in New York.

“In Lee Zeldin’s world, you overthrow the results of elections you don’t agree with,” Hochul said.

Zeldin voted against certifying the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

Trump’s false claims of 2020 presidential election fraud fueled anger among supporters who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, seeking to violently block Democrat Joe Biden’s victory.

When asked by moderator Susan Arbetter, host of the Spectrum News state politics show “Capital Tonight,” if he would vote against certifying the results again, Zeldin didn't directly say yes or no.

He instead said he wanted to focus on the future, and fight to institute voter ID laws to protect election integrity.

Hochul also asked Zeldin: “Is Donald Trump a great president? Yes or no?”

Zeldin praised Trump's record on policies from Israel to the U.S.-border policy to pandemic containment.

And when asked if he would accept the results of the election if he lost, Zeldin said: “Well, first off, losing is not an option. Secondly, playing along with your hypothetical question, of course.”

The debate was co-moderated by Spectrum News NY1 political anchor Errol Louis.

SEE MORE: Key Midterm Races To Watch For Congressional Control

Hochul, the state's former lieutenant governor who took office after her predecessor, Andrew Cuomo, resigned to avoid a likely impeachment, has enjoyed a strong lead over Zeldin in much of the polling this year.

But Zeldin remains a contender, enjoying support in wide swaths of upstate New York. Some recent polling suggests the gap between the candidates could be narrowing.

The Long Island Republican has spent much of the year railing against a streak of shootings and other violent crimes, including a series of unprovoked attacks on New York City subways. Two teenagers were also injured in a drive-by shooting outside his home earlier this month.

Zeldin on Tuesday charged Hochul with failing to take seriously the concerns of New Yorkers about crimes on subways and hate crimes against Jewish and Asian-American communities.

He also argued that liberal opposition to natural gas extraction and new pipelines in New York is hurting the state's economy.

“You’re poorer and less safe because of Kathy Hochul and extreme policies,” Zeldin said, adding: “You deserve better."

New York was among the first states to scale back the use of cash bail for criminal defendants starting in 2020.

Both before and after the reforms, only a small fraction of the people released while awaiting trial — less than 1% — were re-arrested for violent felonies.

Hochul has noted that other cities and states without similar cash bail laws have seen spikes of crime since 2020.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

U.N. Weather Agency: Greenhouse Gases Reach New Record

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 17:27

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The three main greenhouse gases hit record high levels in the atmosphere last year, the U.N. weather agency said Wednesday, calling it an "ominous" sign as war in Ukraine, rising costs of food and fuel, and other worries have elbowed in on longtime concerns about global warming in recent months.

"More bad news for the planet," the World Meteorological Organization said in a statement along with its latest annual Greenhouse Gas Bulletin. It's one of several reports released in recent days looking at several aspects of humanity's struggle with climate change in the run up to the U.N.'s latest climate conference, in Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt.

Of the three main types of heat-trapping greenhouse gases — carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide — the biggest jump from 2020 to 2021 was in methane, whose concentrations in the air came in with the biggest year-on-year increase since regular measurements began four decades ago, WMO said.

"The continuing rise in concentrations of the main heat-trapping gases, including the record acceleration in methane levels, shows that we are heading in the wrong direction," said WMO Secretary-General Petteri Taalas.

Methane is more potent at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, but doesn't stay in the atmosphere nearly as long as carbon dioxide and there's 200 times more carbon dioxide in the air than methane. Over a 20-year time-period, a molecule of methane traps about 81 times the heat as a molecule of carbon dioxide but over a century it goes down to trapping 28 times more heat per molecule than carbon dioxide, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Since pre-industrial times, which WMO sets at around the year 1750, CO2 concentrations in the air have increased by nearly 50% to 415.7 parts per million, with the U.S., China and Europe responsible for the bulk of emissions. Methane is up 162% to 1,908 parts per billion, and nitrous oxide — whose human-made sources are things like biomass burning, industrial processes and fertilizer use — is up about one-quarter to 334.5 parts per million.

Earlier on Wednesday the U.N's climate office said current pledges to cut greenhouse gas emissions put the planet on course to blow past the limit for global warming countries agreed to in the 2015 Paris climate accord.

It said its latest estimate based on 193 national emissions targets would see temperatures rise to 4.5 Fahrenheit above pre-industrial averages by the end of the century, a full degree higher than the ambitious goal set in the Paris pact to limit warming by 2.7 F.

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"We are still nowhere near the scale and pace of emission reductions required to put us on track toward a 1.5 degrees Celsius world," the head of the U.N. climate office, Simon Stiell, said in a statement. "To keep this goal alive, national governments need to strengthen their climate action plans now and implement them in the next eight years."

The report found that emissions will also increase by 10.6% by 2030 from 2010 levels, a slight decrease from the 13.7% estimates last year.

A report published Wednesday by Climate Action Tracker who track nations' pledges to reduce warming found that of 40 indicators for reducing emissions — like weaning off coal, ramping up electric vehicles or reducing deforestation — the world wasn't on track for any of them to match the levels of emissions reductions scientists say are needed to limit warming to 2.7 F. Over half of the indicators showed the world is "well off track" to cutting emissions but added that promising progress has been made.

Climatologists and environmental advocates have been raising their voices for years about the impact of climate change, by pointing to vast changes in the weather in recent decades like forest fires in China and western United States, drought in the horn of Africa and unprecedented flooding in Pakistan – to name only a few.

CO2 remains the single most important greenhouse gas generated by human activity — mainly from burning of fossil fuels and cement production — amounting to about two-thirds of the warming effect on the climate, known as radiative forcing. Over the last decade, carbon dioxide has been responsible for about four-fifths of that warming effect.

Methane accounts for about more than one-sixth of the warming effect, said WMO. Three-fifths of methane reaches the atmosphere through the burps and farts of livestock, rice farming, use of fossil fuels, biomass burning and landfills; the rest comes from natural sources like wetlands and termites.

SEE MORE: Scientists Say New Climate Law Is Likely To Reduce Warming

Rob Jackson, who heads the Global Carbon Project, suggested that the spikes in methane over the last two years were "mysterious" — either blips related to the coronavirus pandemic, which temporary dented emissions, or a sign of "a dangerous acceleration in methane emissions from wetlands and other systems we've been worrying about for decades."

"Concentrations of methane and nitrous oxide are not just rising, they're rising faster than ever. While not losing our focus on carbon dioxide, we need to pay more attention to the 'other' greenhouse gases," he added. "Fortunately, methane is beginning to get the attention it deserves" through initiatives like the Global Methane Pledge, a capping effort supported by the U.S. and European Union, among others.

Nitrous oxide remains "mostly ignored," he added.

Taalas, who has been repeating warnings about global warming for years, says the focus should remain on CO2.

"As the top and most urgent priority, we have to slash carbon dioxide emissions which are the main driver of climate change and associated extreme weather, and which will affect climate for thousands of years through polar ice loss, ocean warming and sea level rise," he said.

NASA announced that an instrument on the International Space Station designed to look at mineral dust turned out to be a useful tool to find "super emitters" of methane from orbit. NASA shared three images showing plumes several miles long that are spewing methane.

A group of a dozen leaks from pipeline and other gas infrastructure in Turkmenistan is leaking 55 tons of methane per hour, about the same as the infamous 2015 Aliso Canyon leak, drilling in New Mexico that's spewing 18 tons per hour and a landfill in Iran that's emitting 8 tons per hour.

"We're looking in places where no one is planning to look for methane," said NASA instrument scientist Robert Green. "If it's there we'll see it."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Man Convicted Of Killing 6 With SUV In 2021 Wisconsin Christmas Parade

Wed, 10/26/2022 - 17:25

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A Wisconsin man was convicted Wednesday of killing six people when he drove his SUV through a Christmas parade last year, ending a trial in which he defended himself erratically and sometimes confrontationally.

The jury found Darrell Brooks guilty of six counts of first-degree intentional homicide. He faces a mandatory life sentence on each count.

The jury got the case Tuesday and deliberated for a total of 3 hours and 15 minutes into Wednesday morning before announcing they had reached a verdict.

Brooks drove his Ford Escape into the Christmas parade in Waukesha in suburban Milwaukee on Nov. 21 moments after fleeing a domestic disturbance with his ex-girlfriend, prosecutors said.

Six people were killed, including 8-year-old Jackson Sparks, who was marching in the parade with his baseball team, and three members of the Dancing Grannies, a group of grandmothers that dances in parades. Dozens of other people were hurt, some severely.

Brooks pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease this year but withdrew the plea before his trial began with no explanation. Days before the trial started, he dismissed his public defenders, electing to represent himself.

District Attorney Susan Opper called to the stand police officers and paradegoers who testified they saw Brooks behind the wheel of the SUV.

SEE MORE: 5 Dead, Dozens Injured After Car Plows Through Holiday Parade

Brooks struggled to mount a defense, launching into meandering cross-examinations, refusing to recognize his own name or the court's jurisdiction over him and muttering under his breath that the trial wasn't fair.

He got into such intense arguments with Judge Jennifer Dorow that several times during the lead-up to jury selection she moved him into another courtroom where he could watch the proceedings via video and she could mute his microphone when he became disruptive.

Opper told jurors during her closing arguments Tuesday that Brooks' refusal to stop once he entered the parade route shows he intended kill people.

Dorow allowed Brooks back into the main courtroom to deliver his closing to jurors face to face. In a rambling, repetitive speech, he tried to raise doubts about whether the SUV's throttle malfunctioned and whether the driver simply panicked. He lamented how he hasn't been able to see his children since he was arrested and insisted he's not a murderer.

Opper countered during her rebuttal that a Wisconsin State Patrol vehicle inspector testified earlier that the SUV was in good working order. She warned jurors that Brooks was just trying to play on their sympathy.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.