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Hurricane Roslyn Makes Landfall In Mexico, Avoids Resorts

Sun, 10/23/2022 - 17:44

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Hurricane Roslyn slammed into a sparsely populated stretch of Mexico’s Pacific coast between the resorts of Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan Sunday morning and quickly moved inland.

By Sunday morning, Roslyn had winds of 90 mph, down from its peak of 130 mph. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Roslyn was about 95 miles east-southeast of the resort of Mazatlan.

The hurricane was moving north-northeast at 20 miles per hour and was expected to lose force as it moves further inland.

While it missed a direct hit, Roslyn brought heavy rain and high waves to Puerto Vallarta, where ocean surges lashed the beachside promenade.

Roslyn came ashore in Nayarit state, in roughly the same area where Hurricane Orlene made landfall Oct. 3.

SEE MORE: Major Hurricane Roslyn Heads For Hit On Mexico's Coast

The hurricane made landfall around the village of Santa Cruz, near the fishing village of San Blas, about 90 miles north of Puerto Vallarta.

In Tepic, the Nayarit state capital, Roslyn blew down trees and flooded some streets; authorities asked residents to avoid going out Sunday, as crews worked to clear a landslide that had blocked a local highway.

Meanwhile, beachside eateries in Puerto Vallarta where tourists had lunched unconcerned Saturday were abandoned Sunday, and at some the waves had carried away railings and small thatched structures that normally keep the sun off diners.

SEE MORE: Researchers Predict Busy 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The head of the state civil defense office for the Puerto Vallarta area, Adrián Bobadilla, said authorities were patrolling the area, but had not yet seen any major damage.“The biggest effect was from the waves, on some of the beachside infrastructure,” said Bobadilla. “We did not have any significant damage.”

The state civil defense office posted video of officers escorting a large sea turtle back to the water, after it had been thrown up on the beach by the large waves.

The National Water Commission said rains from Roslyn could cause mudslides and flooding and the U.S. hurricane center warned that heavy rains could cause flash flooding and landslides over the rugged terrain inland.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Alex Jones Seeks New Trial After $1B Sandy Hook Verdict

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 19:05

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Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has asked a Connecticut judge to throw out a nearly $1 billion verdict against him and order a new trial in a lawsuit by Sandy Hook families, who say they were subjected to harassment and threats from Jones' lies about the 2012 Newtown school shooting.

Jones filed the requests Friday, saying Judge Barbara Bellis' pretrial rulings resulted in an unfair trial and "a substantial miscarriage of justice."

"Additionally, the amount of the compensatory damages award exceeds any rational relationship to the evidence offered at trial," Jones' lawyers, Norm Pattis and Kevin Smith, wrote in the motion.

Christopher Mattei, a lawyer for the 15 plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Jones, declined to comment on the filing Saturday, but said he and other attorneys for the Sandy Hook families will be filing a brief opposing Jones' request.

Twenty first graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School died in the attack on Dec. 14, 2012.

SEE MORE: Alex Jones Ordered To Pay $965 Million For Sandy Hook Lies

An FBI agent who responded to the shooting and relatives of eight children and adults killed in the massacre sued Jones for defamation and infliction of emotional distress over his pushing the bogus narrative that the shooting was a hoax staged by "crisis actors" to impose more gun control.

Six jurors in Waterbury, Connecticut, ordered Jones and his company, Free Speech Systems, on Oct. 12 to pay $965 million in compensatory damages to the plaintiffs and said punitive damages also should be awarded. Bellis has scheduled hearings for early next month to determine the amount of the punitive damages.

During the trial, victims' relatives said in often-emotional testimony that they were threatened and harassed for years by people who believed the lies told on Jones' show. Strangers showed up at the families' homes to record them and confronted them in public. People hurled abusive comments on social media. Relatives said they received death and rape threats.

The verdicts came after another jury in Texas in August ordered Jones and his company to pay nearly $50 million in damages to the parents of another slain Sandy Hook child. A third trial over the hoax claims, involving two more Sandy Hook parents, is expected to be held near the end of the year in Texas.

Jones, who has acknowledged in recent years that the shooting did occur, has blasted the lawsuits and trials on his Austin, Texas-based Infowars show, calling them unfair and a violation of his free speech rights.

SEE MORE: Sandy Hook Parents: Alex Jones Claims Created 'Living Hell'

But he lost his right to present those defenses when the judges in Connecticut and Texas found him liable for damages by default without trials, for what they called Jones' repeated failures to turn over some evidence including financial documents and website analytics to the Sandy Hook lawyers.

With liability already established, the trials in both states focused only on how much Jones should pay in damages.

Pattis, Jones' lawyer, wrote in the motions filed Friday that there was a lack of evidence directly connecting Jones with the people who harassed and threatened the Sandy Hook families. Pattis said the trial resembled a "memorial service, not a trial."

"Yes, the families in this case suffered horribly as a result of the murder of their children," Pattis wrote, adding that Jones did not send people to harass and threaten the families.

"There was no competent evidence offered at this trial that he ever did," he wrote. "Instead, there was a shocking abuse of a disciplinary default and its transformation into a series of half-truths that misled a jury and resulted in substantial injustice."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Border Crossings To U.S. From Mexico Hit Annual High

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 18:34

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A surge in migration from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua in September brought the number of illegal crossings to the highest level ever recorded in a fiscal year, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The year-end numbers reflect deteriorating economic and political conditions in some countries, the relative strength of the U.S. economy and uneven enforcement of Trump-era asylum restrictions.

Migrants were stopped 227,547 times in September at the U.S. border with Mexico, the third-highest month of Joe Biden's presidency. It was up 11.5% from 204,087 times in August and 18.5% from 192,001 times in September 2021.

In the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, migrants were stopped 2.38 million times, up 37% from 1.73 million times the year before, according to figures released late Friday night. The annual total surpassed 2 million for the first time in August and is more than twice the highest level during Donald Trump's presidency in 2019.

Nearly 78,000 migrants from Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua were stopped in September, compared to about 58,000 from Mexico and three countries of northern Central America that have historically accounted for most of the flow.

SEE MORE: Undocumented Immigration Isn't Just A Red State Problem

The remarkable geographic shift is at least partly a result of Title 42, a public health rule that suspends rights to see asylum under U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19.

Due to strained diplomatic relations, the U.S. cannot expel migrants to Venezuela, Cuba or Nicaragua. As a result, they are largely released in the United States to pursue their immigration cases.

Title 42 authority has been applied 2.4 million times since it began in March 2020 but has fallen disproportionately on migrants from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.

U.S. and Mexican officials said Friday that Venezuelan migration to the United States plunged 80% since Oct. 12, when the U.S. began expelling Venezuelans to Mexico under Title 42. At the same time, the Biden administration pledged to admit up to 24,000 Venezuelans to the United States on humanitarian parole if they apply online with a financial sponsor and enter through an airport, similar to how tens of thousands of Ukrainians have come since Russia invaded their country.

"While this early data is not reflected in the (September) report, it confirms what we've said all along: When there is a lawful and orderly way to enter the country, individuals will be less likely to put their lives in the hands of smugglers and try to cross the border unlawfully," said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus.

The expansion of Title 42 for Venezuelans to be expelled to Mexico came despite the administration's attempt to end the public health authority in May, which was blocked by a federal judge.

Venezuelans represented the second-largest nationality at the border after Mexicans for the second straight month, being stopped 33,804 times in September, up 33% from 25,361 times in August.

Cubans, who are participating in the largest exodus from the Caribbean island to the United States since 1980, were stopped 26,178 times at the border in September, up 37% from 19,060 in August.

Nicaraguans were stopped 18,199 times in September, up 55% from 7,298 times in August.

The report is the last monthly reading of migration flows before U.S. midterm elections, an issue that many Republicans have emphasized in campaigns to capture control of the House and Senate. Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee released a one-sentence statement Saturday in response to the numbers: "You've got to be kidding."

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Russian-Installed Authorities Order Evacuation Of Kherson

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 15:58

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Russian-installed authorities ordered all residents of the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson to leave "immediately" Saturday ahead of an expected advance by Ukrainian troops waging a counteroffensive to recapture one of the first urban areas Russia took after invading the country.

In a post on the Telegram messaging service, the regional pro-Kremlin administration called on civilians to use boat crossings over a major river to move deeper into Russian-held territory, citing a tense situation on the front and the threat of shelling and alleged "terror attacks" by Kyiv.

Kherson has been in Russian hands since the early days of the invasion in February. The city is the capital of a region of the same name, one of four that Russian President Vladimir Putin illegally annexed last month and then put under Russian martial law.

On Friday, Ukrainian forces bombarded Russian positions across the province, inching closer to a full assault on its capital as they targeted pro-Kremlin forces' resupply routes across the Dnieper River.

Russian-installed officials were reported desperately trying to turn the city of Kherson — a prime objective for both sides because of its key industries and major river and sea port — into a fortress while attempting to relocate tens of thousands of residents.

SEE MORE: U.S.: Iranian Troops In Crimea Backing Russian Drone Strikes

The Kremlin poured as many as 2,000 draftees into the surrounding region to replenish losses and strengthen front-line units, according to the Ukrainian army's general staff.

The Dnieper River figures prominently in the regional battle because it serves critical functions — crossings for supplies, troops and civilians; drinking water for southern Ukraine and the annexed Crimean Peninsula; and power generation from a hydroelectric station. Much of the area, including the power station and a canal feeding water to Crimea, is under Russian control.

Kherson's Kremlin-backed authorities previously announced plans to evacuate all Russian-appointed officials and as many as 60,000 civilians across the river, in what local leader Volodymyr Saldo said would be an "organized, gradual displacement."

Another Russian-installed official on Saturday estimated that around 25,000 people from across the region had made their way over the Dnieper. In a Telegram post, Kirill Stremousov claimed that civilians were relocating willingly.

"People are actively moving because, today, the priority is life. We do not drag anyone anywhere," he said, in an apparent response to Ukrainian and Western concerns about potential forced transfers by Moscow.

Ukrainian officials have urged local residents to resist attempts to relocate them, with one local official alleging that Moscow wanted to take civilians hostage and use them as human shields.

Elsewhere, hundreds of thousands of people in central and western Ukraine woke up on Saturday to power outages and periodic bursts of gunfire, as Ukrainian air defense tried to shoot down drones and incoming missiles.

SEE MORE: Russia May Use These Iranian Missiles To Turn Out Lights In Ukraine

Russia has intensified its strikes on power stations, water supply systems and other key infrastructure across the country, the latest phase of the war as it nears the eight-month mark.

Ukraine's air force said in a statement Saturday that Russia had launched "a massive missile attack" targeting "critical infrastructure," adding that it had shot down 18 out of 33 cruise missiles launched from the air and sea.

Air raid sirens blared across Ukraine twice by early afternoon, sending residents scurrying into shelters.

"Several rockets" targeting the capital were shot down on Saturday morning, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said on the Telegram messaging service.

Similar reports were made by the governors of six western and central provinces, as well as the southern Odesa region on the Black Sea.

The presidential office said in its morning statement that five explosive-laden drones were downed in the central Cherkasy region southeast of Kyiv.

Ukraine's top diplomat said on Saturday that the day's attacks were proof that Ukraine needed new Western-reinforced air defense systems "without a minute of delay."

"Air defense saves lives," Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter.

Kyrylo Tymoshenko, the deputy head of Ukraine's presidential office, said on Telegram on Saturday that almost 1.4 million households lost power as a result of the strikes. He said some 672,000 homes in the western Khmelnytskyi region were affected, while a further 242,000 suffered outages in the central Cherkasy province.

Most of the western city of Khmelnytskyi, which straddles the Bug river and was home to some 275,000 people before the war, was left with no electricity, shortly after local media reported several loud explosions.

The city council urged local residents to store water, "in case it's also gone within an hour," in a social media post on Saturday.

The mayor of Lutsk, a city of 215,000 in Ukraine's far west, made a similar appeal on Telegram on Saturday. Power in Lutsk had been partially knocked out after Russian missiles slammed into local energy facilities, Ihor Polishchuk said. He later added that a civilian had suffered burns as a shockwave from the strike hit his house, and that one power station had been damaged beyond repair.

The central city of Uman, a key pilgrimage center for Hasidic Jews which counted some 100,000 residents before the war, was also plunged into darkness after a rocket hit a nearby power station, regional authorities said on Telegram.

Ukraine's state energy company responded to the strikes by announcing that rolling blackouts would be imposed in Kyiv and 10 Ukrainian regions in order to stabilize the situation.

In a Facebook post on Saturday, Ukrenergo accused Russia of attacking "energy facilities within the principal networks of the western regions of Ukraine." It claimed that the scale of destruction has been comparable to the fallout from Moscow's first coordinated attack on the Ukrainian energy grid, Oct. 10-12.

Both Ukrenergo and officials in Kyiv have been urging Ukrainians to conserve energy. Earlier this week, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called on consumers to curb their power use between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m. daily, and avoid using energy-guzzling appliances such as electric heaters.

Over the past two weeks, Moscow has increased its attacks on key civilian infrastructure across Ukraine. About 40% of the country's electric power system has been severely damaged, officials said. Zelenskyy said earlier in the week that 30% of Ukraine's power stations have been destroyed since Russia launched the first wave of targeted strikes on Oct. 10.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Major Hurricane Roslyn Heads For Hit On Mexico's Coast

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 13:15

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Hurricane Roslyn grew to Category 3 force on Saturday as it headed for a collision with Mexico’s Pacific coast, likely north of the resort of Puerto Vallarta.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Roslyn’s maximum sustained winds had increased to 120 mph early Saturday, and it was expected to grow still further.

The storm was centered about 200 miles south-southwest of Cabo Corrientes — the point of land jutting into the Pacific south of Puerto Vallarta — and moving northwest at 7 mph.

The forecast called for Roslyn to begin shifting to a northward movement and then northeast, putting it on path that could take it close to Cabo Corrientes and the Puerto Vallarta region on Saturday night or early Sunday before making landfall in Nayarit state on Sunday morning.

SEE MORE: Researchers Predict Busy 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Hurricane Orlene made landfall Oct. 3 a little farther north in roughly the same region, about 45 miles southeast of the resort of Mazatlan.

Hurricane-force winds extended out 25 miles from Roslyn’s core, while tropical storm-force winds extended out to 80 miles, the U.S. hurricane center said.

Mexico issued a hurricane warning covering a stretch of coast from Playa Perula south of Cabo Corrientes north to El Roblito and for the Islas Marias.

The National Water Commission said rains from Roslyn could cause mudslides and flooding. and the U.S. hurricane center warned of dangerous storm surge along the coast, as well as 4 to 6 inches of rain..

Jalisco state Gov. Enrique Alfaro said on Twitter that any school activities in the region would be cancelled Saturday and he urged people to avoid touristic activities at beaches and in mountainous areas over the weekend.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Boris Johnson Returns To U.K. Amidst Rumors He Will Run For PM

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 11:06

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Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson landed back in Britain on Saturday morning, ahead of a possible tilt at reclaiming his former job.

Johnson was ousted by a series of ethics scandals just three months ago, but boarded a flight back to London from his vacation in the Dominican Republic, days after the dramatic resignation of his successor, Liz Truss.

Johnson has not officially said he is running but some allies in the parliamentary party have been loudly calling for his return. Tory lawmakers wishing to enter the race must secure the backing of 100 of their colleagues by 2 p.m. on Monday. 

SEE MORE: Sunak, Mordaunt, Johnson? Contenders Who Could Replace Liz Truss

A return by Johnson would be an astonishing recovery for a polarizing figure forced out by a welter of ethics scandals.

Opponents say giving him another chance would only lead to more controversy and disappointment.

The leadership uncertainty comes at a time of weak economic growth and as millions struggle with higher borrowing costs and rising prices for groceries, fuel and other basics. A growing wave of strikes by train and postal workers, lawyers and others has revealed mounting discontent as a recession looms.

Truss quit Thursday after a turbulent 45 days, conceding that she could not deliver on her tax-cutting economic package, which she was forced to abandon after it caused turmoil in financial markets.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Court Temporarily Blocks Pres. Biden's Student Loan Forgiveness

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 01:12

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A federal appeals court late Friday issued an administrative stay temporarily blocking President Joe Biden's plan to cancel billions of dollars in federal student loans.

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay while it considers a motion from six Republican-led states to block the loan cancellation program. The stay ordered the Biden administration not to act on the program while it considers the appeal.

The order came just days after people began applying for loan forgiveness.

It's unclear what the decision means for the 22 million borrowers who already applied for the relief. The Biden administration had promised not to clear any debt before Oct. 23 as it battled the legal challenges, but the soonest it was expected to begin erasing debt was mid-November.

The crucial question now is whether the issue will be resolved before Jan. 1, when payments on federal student loans are expected to restart after being paused during the pandemic. Millions of Americans were expected to get their debt canceled entirely under President Biden's plan, but they now face uncertainty about whether they will need to start making payments in January.

President Biden has said his previous extension of the payment pause would be the final one, but economists worry that many Americans may not have regained financial footing after the upheaval of the pandemic. If borrowers who were expecting debt cancellation are asked to make payments in January, there's fear that many could fall behind on the bills and default on their loans.

A notice of appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed late Thursday, hours after U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis ruled that since the states of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina failed to establish standing, "the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case."

Separately, the six states also asked the district court for an injunction prohibiting the administration from implementing the debt cancellation plan until the appeals process plays out.

Speaking at Delaware State University, a historically Black university where the majority of students receive federal Pell Grants, President Biden on Friday said nearly 22 million people have applied for the loan relief in the week since his administration made its online application available.

The plan, announced in August, would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, will get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven.

The Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades.

SEE MORE: Application Site Opens For Biden's Student Debt Cancellation

James Campbell, an attorney for the Nebraska attorney general's office, told Autrey at an Oct. 12 hearing that the administration is acting outside its authorities in a way that will cost states millions of dollars. 

The cancellation applies to federal student loans used to attend undergraduate and graduate school, along with Parent Plus loans. Current college students qualify if their loans were disbursed before July 1. 

The plan makes 43 million borrowers eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could get their debt erased entirely, according to the administration.

The announcement immediately became a major political issue ahead of the November midterm elections.

Conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups have asserted that President Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. They called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people at the expense of taxpayers who didn't pursue higher education.

Many Democratic lawmakers facing tough re-election contests have distanced themselves from the plan.

SEE MORE: Judge Dismisses Effort To Halt Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

President Biden on Friday blasted Republicans who have criticized his relief program, saying "their outrage is wrong and it's hypocritical." He noted that some Republican officials had debt and pandemic relief loans forgiven. 

The six states sued in September. 

Lawyers for the administration countered that the Department of Education has "broad authority to manage the federal student financial aid programs." 

A court filing stated that the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or HEROES Act, allows the secretary of education to waive or modify terms of federal student loans in times of war or national emergency."COVID-19 is such an emergency," the filing stated. 

The HEROES Act was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help members of the military. 

The Justice Department says the law allows President Biden to reduce or erase student loan debt during a national emergency. Republicans argue the administration is misinterpreting the law, in part because the pandemic no longer qualifies as a national emergency. 

Justice Department attorney Brian Netter told Autrey at the Oct. 12 hearing that fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is still rippling. He said student loan defaults have skyrocketed over the past 2 1/2 years. 

Other lawsuits also have sought to stop the program. Earlier Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected an appeal from a Wisconsin taxpayers group seeking to stop the debt cancellation program.

Barrett, who oversees emergency appeals from Wisconsin and neighboring states, did not comment in turning away the appeal from the Brown County Taxpayers Association. The group wrote in its Supreme Court filing that it needed an emergency order because the administration could begin canceling outstanding student debt as soon as Sunday.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

Election '22: What Matters: Election Integrity On The Ballot

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 01:00

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This week, Election ’22: What Matters examines the state of our democracy ahead of the first national election since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

In Arizona, Republican leaders and candidates have perpetuated claims of fraud and cast doubt on election results. In recent days, gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake did not pledge to accept the results of the election if she lost.

SEE MORE: Election Security Changes Since 2020

Election 22: What Matters airs at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on Newsy, and replays at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays on Newsy. Each week dives into one of the issues that will decide the midterm elections.

Election '22: What Matters: Interviewing Georgia's Brad Raffensperger

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 01:00

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This week, Election ’22: What Matters examines the state of our democracy ahead of the first national election since the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

We hear directly from Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger about how a new voting law in his state is impacting high-profile races for governor and Senate. We ask if changes in his role overseeing elections will make it harder to stand up to candidates who falsely claim election fraud.

SEE MORE: Georgia Secretary Of State Addresses Concerns Over Election Policies

Election 22: What Matters airs at 8:30 p.m. Fridays on Newsy, and replays at 7 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays on Newsy. Each week dives into one of the issues that will decide the midterm elections.

Sen. Graham Asks Supreme Court To Intervene In Georgia Testimony

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 00:14

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham on Friday asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene after a lower court ordered him to testify before a special grand jury in Georgia investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in the state.

In a filing with the court, attorneys for Graham, a top ally of Trump's, sought to halt his possible testimony while he continues to appeal the order to appear before the Fulton County special grand jury.

Graham's office described the South Carolina Republican's filing as an attempt "to defend the Constitution and the institutional interest of the Senate." The lower court's ruling, Graham's office said, "would significantly impact the ability of senators to gather information in connection with doing their job."

The legal move is the latest in Graham's ongoing fight to prevent his testimony in a case that has ensnared allies and associates of the former president. Some have already made their appearances before the special grand jury, including former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani — who's been told he could face criminal charges in the probe — attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro, and former White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

Paperwork has been filed seeking testimony from others, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, former national security adviser Michael Flynn and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Graham, a four-term senator who last won reelection in 2020, was first subpoenaed in July by Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who opened her investigation shortly after a recording of a January 2021 phone call between Trump and Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was made public. In that call, Trump suggested Raffensperger could "find" the votes needed to overturn his narrow loss to Democrat Joe Biden.

Willis wants to question Graham about two phone calls he made to Raffensperger and his staff in the weeks after the election.

During those calls, Graham asked about "reexamining certain absentee ballots cast in Georgia in order to explore the possibility of a more favorable outcome for former President Donald Trump," Willis wrote in a petition seeking to compel his testimony.

SEE MORE: Appeals Court: Lindsey Graham Must Testify In Georgia Election Probe

Graham also "made reference to allegations of widespread voter fraud in the November 2020 election in Georgia, consistent with public statements made by known affiliates of the Trump Campaign," she wrote. She said in a hearing last month that Graham may be able to provide insight into the extent of any coordinated efforts to influence the results.

Raffensperger said he took Graham's question about absentee ballots as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. Graham has dismissed that interpretation as "ridiculous." Graham has also argued that the call was protected because he was asking questions to inform his decisions on voting to certify the 2020 election and future legislation.

Graham challenged his subpoena in federal court, but a judge refused to toss it out. Graham then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, and a three-judge panel ruled Thursday in favor of Willis. Graham can appeal to the full court.

Graham's lawyers argued that the Constitution's speech or debate clause, which protects members of Congress from having to answer questions about legislative activity, shields him from having to testify.

Graham is represented by former White House counsel Don McGahn, who was involved in a lengthy court fight over a congressional subpoena for his own testimony related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. After years of back-and-forth, the two sides reached an agreement and McGahn answered investigators' questions in a private session.

Graham's filing Friday was directed to Justice Clarence Thomas, who handles emergency appeals from Georgia and several other Southern states. Thomas can act on his own or refer the matter to the full court.

Trump's lawyers recently submitted a Supreme Court application to Thomas asking the Supreme Court to step into a legal fight over the classified documents seized during an FBI search of Trump's Florida estate.

Thomas has previously come under scrutiny for his vote in a different Trump documents case, in which he was the only member of the court to vote against allowing the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot to obtain Trump records held by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Thomas' wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, is a conservative activist and staunch Trump supporter who attended the Jan. 6 "Stop the Steal" rally on the Ellipse and wrote to Meadows in the weeks following the election encouraging him to work to overturn Biden's victory and keep Trump in office.

She also contacted lawmakers in Arizona and Wisconsin in the weeks after the election, though no evidence has emerged that she contacted Georgia officials. Thomas was recently interviewed by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, and she stood by the false claim that the 2020 election was fraudulent, despite the fact that numerous federal and local officials, a long list of courts, top former campaign staffers and even Trump's own attorney general have all said there is no evidence of mass fraud.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Steve Bannon Sentenced To 4 Months For Contempt Of Congress Charges

Sat, 10/22/2022 - 00:09

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A judge sent Steve Bannon home Friday despite sentencing him to four months in prison for his contempt of Congress charges.

District Judge Carl Nichols sentenced the former adviser to President Donald Trump and added a $6,500 fine Friday morning. Nichols said the law was clear that contempt of Congress is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one month behind bars. Bannon was allowed to leave the courthouse after his sentencing pending a "timely" appeal.

The sentence was well below the six months and $200,000 fine requested by the prosecution for "his sustained bad faith." Bannon's lawyers asked for probation, once again staking their case on executive privilege.

Bannon was convicted in July of two counts of contempt of Congress for not cooperating with the House's select committee investigating the attacks on Jan. 6.

SEE MORE: Steve Bannon Charged With Money Laundering In Border Wall Scheme

The panel wanted to speak with him about the events leading up to that day.

"All hell is going to break loose tomorrow," Bannon said. "We're on the point of attack tomorrow. I'll tell you this, it's not going to happen how you think it's going to happen, and all I can say is strap in."

The longtime Trump ally criticized the Justice Department and looked ahead to midterms as he left the courthouse. 

"On Nov. 8, there's going to have judgment on the illegitimate Biden regime and quite frankly, on Nancy Pelosi and the entire committee," Bannon said.

Bannon still has not provided any information to the committee.

"Steve Bannon is one of a handful people who just blew us off, and he's been convicted for contempt of Congress," Jamie Raskin said. 

The clock is ticking for the Jan. 6 committee, as Republicans are expected to take over the House and shutdown the committee in January.

Adult Happy Meal Toys Selling For Thousands

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 23:29

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McDonald's was all about nostalgia when it announced the limited-edition Adult Happy Meal. But as they have sold like hotcakes, what some customers are doing might make the big purple guy actually grimace.

Each meal includes one of four uniquely-designed figures. Three are well-known mascots of the Golden Arches — Birdie, Grimace and Hamburglar — and the fourth is Cactus Plant Flea Market's Cactus Buddy. They all have the four-eyed smiley faces, of which fans of the streetwear brand are familiar.

Ngl I'm absolutely loving these Cactus Plant Flea Market adult happy meal toys @McDonalds

— GHOSTSHRIMP.nft (@realghostshrimp) October 13, 2022

However, people looking to profit have bought up dozens of the adult Happy Meals in their Cactus Plant Flea Market-designed boxes and are selling the included toys at exorbitant prices. Apparently the sentimentality of the items is worth it to some, because several have sold for far more than the cost of a Big Mac or Chicken McNuggets.

For instance, the seller of an eBay listing for "McDonald's Adult Happy Meal Toys Vintage Rare Cactus Plant Flea Market. In original box and toy is unopened" is asking for $20,000. Another, offering "All 4 characters and mint box as well free shipping," is listed for $25,000, and a third wants $300,000.95 for what appears to be three unopened toys.

Of course, you can try to sell pretty much anything on eBay, Facebook Marketplace, Mercari or other online platforms, and ask for as much as you want, but that doesn't mean anyone will actually buy it. However, some of these items have sold at high prices.

One eBay listing for 150 sealed toys sold on Oct. 6 for $2,400 (that's $16 per toy), and a listing that ended yesterday shows that a Cactus Buddy toy sold for $10,000, although the details of the listing are no longer visible.

Several other listings that sold on eBay seem a bit more questionable. Multiple sealed, 150-count cases of the toys sold for $2,000 to $3,000 apiece, although it is unclear how the sellers obtained these unopened boxes.

It certainly appears that there is a significant demand for these items, but there's no word yet whether McDonald's will bring back adult Happy Meals.

RSV Surge Puts Pressure On Children’s Hospitals

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 23:10

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Doctors around the country are sounding the alarm. The fall cold and flu season came early, and it's hitting children hard. 

The main concern is over RSV, a respiratory virus that can cause kids to cough uncontrollably. 

"We're seeing that our children's hospitals or our pediatric emergency departments are very busy with really high volumes. Most children do not get very sick when they get viruses. But there are some get very sick and need really extensive care including being on a ventilator," said Dr. Hilary Fairbrother, an emergency physician in Houston, Texas. 

Kids around the country are showing up at emergency rooms with frightening symptoms, struggling to breathe in some cases so short on oxygen their skin turns blue. 

"I'm just grateful because we got to keep her and a lot of innocent — a lot of parents this happens to and a lot of family members this happens to — they don't get to bring their babies home," said Sarah Schmidt, the grandmother of an RSV patient.  

Doctors think pandemic lockdowns could be to blame. Children who have been isolated for so long in their homes and behind masks haven't been as exposed to RSV and a range of other viruses. 

SEE MORE: RSV Summer Surge Is A Medical Mystery

"I suspect it has to do with the pandemic and it has to do with masking and extra precautions that we took over the course of that pandemic," said Dr. Kevin Dahlman, the medical director at Aurora Children's Health. 

The CDC calls the spike in RSV cases "unprecedented" and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says over 70% of pediatric beds are full. 

"We had to go on diversion for a couple of days where basically we were full and we couldn't take emergency admissions from the outside," said Dr. Amy Edwards. a doctor at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital in Ohio. 

"Diversion" means kids have to be sent to other hospitals, sometimes far from home and sometimes even out of state. 

So what can you do to keep your kids out of the hospital? The advice from doctors is familiar — wash your hands often, mask up when sick and try to limit your exposure. And if your child does get sick, watch for warning signs: blue skin and fast breathing. 

"When you see a child that looks like they are really having trouble breathing to the point where they can't drink from their bottle very well because they have to stop to breathe. That's time to go," said Fairbrother.

'The Banshees of Inisherin' Review: Colin Farrell Just Wants A Friend

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 22:43

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"The Banshees of Inisherin" is a movie about how far a person will go to make a friend regret ghosting him.

Okay, it's about so much more, but if you wanted to watch Academy Award-winner Martin McDonagh's allegorical film simply as a goofy romp, you'd probably enjoy yourself all the same.

Set against a backdrop of the Irish Civil War in the early 20th century, Colin Farrell plays Pádraic, a well-meaning and rather simple-minded guy who lives with his sister Siobhán (Kerry Condon from "Better Call Saul") in a remote town just off the mainland. His best friend is Colm (Brendan Gleeson), except whoops, not anymore. 

Colm suddenly, without any real explanation, wants nothing to do with Pádraic. Has he done something wrong? Apparently not, but Colm wants the two to go their separate ways. 

Imagine your longtime best friend in a place where the only social activity is drinking at the local pub, and avoiding one another is nearly impossible, telling you to get lost forever. Sad. I know I'd want some closure. Pádraic does too, and he goes to hilariously awkward, painstaking lengths to get it from Colm as Siobhán pleads with her brother to leave well enough alone. 

The main selling point of "Banshees" is Farrell and Gleeson's reunion with writer-director McDonagh after their beloved 2008 collaboration "In Bruges."

SEE MORE: 'Black Adam' Review: The Rock Has Godlike Powers... Good Enough

It may actually exceed expectations: I was all in on the early hype after screening "Banshees" at The Toronto International Film Festival in September, and I only feel more admiration for the movie now as it gets a limited theatrical release this weekend.

This is Farrell's career-best performance and likely time for him to receive his first Oscar nomination. Farrell has displayed impressive range throughout his career — particularly over the last decade or so — but his balance here between lovable, empty-headed doofus and righteously vengeful frenemy is perfectly played. Likewise, despite breaking our dear Pádraic's heart, Gleeson as Colm manages to never feel like an adversary. The more we sit with these two men, the more we come to understand and appreciate where they're both coming from, not just Pádraic.

I really want to shout out Condon, who is also deserving of awards recognition for stealing every scene she's in, for creating a fully formed character separate from her brother despite the brief time we spend with her perspective. Siobhán brings a lighthearted, sweet emotional depth to a bizarre rivalry involving her brother and his once-friend who leans on her to get Pádraic out of his hair. Barry Keoghan as Dominic, something of the town idiot, provides additional comic relief to what's already a wildly oddball comedy.

McDonagh, coming off his celebrated yet divisive "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri," gets the absolute most out of his talented cast. His screenplay is consistently hilarious and clever, while keeping much heavier ideas about human nature just below the surface for us to mull over as much or little as we want. It's subtle yet ever-present, like the gunfire Pádraic and Colm hear just across the water as they argue over nothing.

U.S.: Iranian Troops In Crimea Backing Russian Drone Strikes

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 22:30

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The White House said Thursday that Iranian troops are "directly engaged on the ground" in Crimea supporting Russian drone attacks on Ukraine's power stations and other key infrastructure, claiming it has troubling evidence of Tehran's deepening role assisting Russia as it exacts suffering on Ukrainian civilians just as the cold weather sets in.

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters that Iran has sent a "relatively small number" of personnel to Crimea, a part of Ukraine unilaterally annexed by Russia in contravention of international law in 2014, to assist Russian troops in launching Iranian-made drones against Ukraine. Members of a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were dispatched to assist Russian forces in using the drones, according to the British government.

The revelation of the U.S. intelligence finding comes as the Biden administration seeks to mount international pressure on Tehran to pull back from helping Russia as it bombards soft Ukrainian civilian targets with the help of Iranian-made drones.

The Russians in recent days have increasingly turned to the Iranian-supplied drones, as well as Kalibr and Iskander cruise missiles, to carry out a barrage of attacks against Ukrainian infrastructure and non-military targets. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said this week that Russian forces have destroyed 30% of Ukraine's power stations since Oct. 10.

"The information we have is that the Iranians have put trainers and tech support in Crimea, but it's the Russians who are doing the piloting," Kirby said.

He added that the Biden administration was looking at imposing new sanctions on Tehran and would look for ways to make it harder for Iran to sell such weapons to Russia.

The U.S. first revealed this summer that Russia was purchasing Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles to launch against Ukraine. Iran has denied selling its munitions to Russia.

White House officials say that international sanctions, including export controls, have left the Russians in a bind as they try to restock ammunition and precision-guided munition stocks that have been depleted during the nearly eight-month-old war. As a result, Russia has been forced to turn to Iran as well as North Korea for weaponry.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, told reporters that military officials "wouldn't be surprised" if the Russians sought more drones from Iran "given their situation."

Zelenskyy said last week that Russia had ordered 2,400 from Iran.

U.S. officials believe that Iran may have deployed military personnel to assist the Russians in part because of the Russians' lack of familiarity with the Iranian-made drones. Declassified U.S. intelligence findings showed that Russians faced technical problems with the drones soon after taking delivery of them in August.

"The systems themselves were suffering failures and not performing to the standards that apparently the customers expected," Kirby said. "So the Iranians decided to move in some trainers and some technical support to help the Russians use them with better lethality."

SEE MORE: Russia May Use These Iranian Missiles To Turn Out Lights In Ukraine

The Biden administration released further details about Iran's involvement in assisting Russia's war at a sensitive moment. The administration has levied new sanctions against Iran over the brutal crackdown on anti-government protests spurred by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in Iranian security custody.

Morality police had detained Amini last month for not properly covering her hair with the Islamic headscarf, known as the hijab, which is mandatory for Iranian women. Amini collapsed at a police station and died three days later.

Her death and the subsequent unrest have come as the administration tries to bring Iran back into compliance with the nuclear deal that was brokered by the Obama administration and scrapped by the Trump administration.

At the United Nations this week, Ukraine accused Iran of violating a Security Council ban on the transfer of drones capable of flying 180 miles. Britain, France and the U.S. strongly back Ukraine's contention that the drones were transferred to Russia and violate a 2015 U.N. Security Council resolution that endorsed the nuclear deal between Iran and six nations — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany — aimed at curbing Tehran's nuclear activities and preventing the country from developing a nuclear weapon.

Kirby said the administration has little hope for reviving the Iran nuclear deal soon.

"We're not focused on the on the diplomacy at this point," Kirby said. "What we are focused on is making sure that we're holding the regime accountable for the way they're treating peaceful protesters in their country and supporting those protesters."

The White House spoke out about Iranian assistance to Russia as Britain on Thursday announced new sanctions on Iranian officials and businesses accused of supplying the drones.

"These cowardly drone strikes are an act of desperation," British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said in a statement. "By enabling these strikes, these individuals and a manufacturer have caused the people of Ukraine untold suffering. We will ensure that they are held to account for their actions."

Among the individuals hit with asset freezes and travel bans by the British were Maj. Gen. Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, chairman of the armed forces general staff overseeing the army branches supplying Russia with drones; Brig. Gen. Seyed Hojjatollah Qureishi, a key Iranian negotiator in the deal; and Brig. Gen. Saeed Aghajani, the head the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Aerospace Force UAV Command.

Shahed Aviation Industries, the Iranian manufacturer of the drones being used by Russia, was also hit by an asset freeze.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

EPA Civil Rights Case Targets Mississippi Over Jackson Water

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 20:28

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The federal government is investigating whether Mississippi state agencies discriminated against the state's majority-Black capital city by refusing to fund improvements for its failing water system, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.

The announcement came days after leaders of two congressional committees said they were starting a joint investigation into a crisis that left most homes and businesses in Jackson without running water for several days in late August and early September.

The EPA gave The Associated Press the first confirmation that it is conducting a civil, not criminal, investigation of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi State Department of Health. The federal agency could withhold money from the state if it finds wrongdoing — potentially millions of dollars. If the state agencies don't cooperate with the investigation, the EPA could refer the case to the Department of Justice.

Heavy rainfall in late August exacerbated problems at Jackson's main water treatment facility. Republican Gov. Tate Reeves declared an emergency Aug. 29, and the state health department and the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency have been overseeing operations and repairs at the facility since then.

About 80% of Jackson's 150,000 residents are Black, and about a quarter of the population lives in poverty. By the time Reeves issued the emergency order, Jackson residents had already been told for a month to boil their water to kill possible contaminants. Volunteers and the National Guard had distributed millions of bottles of drinking water. Although the boil-water notice was lifted in mid-September, many residents remain skeptical about water safety.

SEE MORE: The EPA Is Investigating The Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis

NAACP President Derrick Johnson, who lives in Jackson with his family, called the EPA investigation a step in the right direction after years of the state withholding federal funds needed to improve the city's water system.

"We believe we gave compelling evidence that the state of Mississippi intentionally starved the city of Jackson of the resources to maintain its water infrastructure," Johnson told The AP on Thursday. "We want the EPA and this administration to put forth a course of action to prevent the state of Mississippi from ever doing this again."

Johnson was named among several residents in the NAACP's civil rights complaint against Mississippi. He said the state's inaction and record of divestment in Jackson amounts to "systemic neglect."

"We believe that all citizens of this country should be entitled to clean, fresh drinking water," Johnson said. "Unfortunately, we live in a state that is still dealing in racial politics. And as a result of that, you have state leaders who seek to penalize African American residents of the city of Jackson in a very discriminatory way."

The AP reported in September that years before Reeves became governor, he touted his own track record of fiscal conservatism by citing his opposition to spending state money for Jackson's crumbling water and sewer infrastructure. The EPA is not investigating Reeves.

Reeves said Thursday that the state took control of Jackson's water system because of "absolute and total incompetence" of the city's Democratic mayor and administration. The governor's latest remarks are an escalation of a dispute between him and Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba over whether the state or the city will decide on a private firm to operate Jackson's water system.

"They have proven that they have no ability to manage the water system," Reeves told reporters during an event at the Governor's Mansion, according to a video of the event by WLBT-TV.

Melissa Payne, a city spokesperson, said Lumumba would not respond to the governor's statements.

SEE MORE: Congress Probes Jackson Water Crisis As City And State Spar

In a federal complaint Sept. 27, the "all but assured" a drinking water calamity by depriving Jackson of badly needed funds to upgrade its infrastructure. The organization asked the EPA to investigate the state's alleged pattern of steering money to majority-white communities with less need.

The group said the state's refusal to fund improvements in Jackson culminated in the near-total collapse of the water system in late August. Over 25 years, Jackson received funds from an important federal program only three times, the NAACP said. When Jackson tried to fund improvements itself, those efforts were repeatedly blocked by state political leaders, according to the complaint.

The NAACP wants the EPA to make sure that from now on, federal funds are distributed equitably.

Reeves said Thursday that the state has bought chemicals and hired workers for the water plant since he declared the emergency, after the city failed to do both of those things.

The NAACP filed its complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which forbids recipients of federal funds from discriminating based on race or national origin. While previously the law was rarely used to pursue environmental matters, the Biden administration has increased its enforcement efforts in communities overburdened by pollution.

Recently, the EPA said it had preliminary evidence that Louisiana officials allowed air pollution to remain high and downplayed the threat to Black residents who live in the industrial section of the state commonly referred to as cancer alley. The agency has also opened up an investigation into Colorado's air permitting program and into state and local officials in Alabama over chronic wastewater problems in majority-Black Lowndes County.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Federal Trade Commission Warns Of Student Loan Relief Scams

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 20:16

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The federal student debt relief application just launched, and scammers are already preparing to use it to get a hold of money and personal information, according to the Federal Trade Commission. 

"The scammers, they have the internet, too, right? They watch the news," TrustedSec Director of Advisory Solutions Alex Hamerstone said. "They'll use that story as a way to get you to click on things. You're much more likely to click on something that's current and relevant than you are something more random."

Cybersecurity experts told Newsy the relief program is particularly lucrative to scammers because it offers a huge target for information and money. The White House said it expects the program to "benefit as many as 40 million Americans.”   

There isn't a paper application for the program, so correspondence between relief seekers and the government will happen online. This gives fraudsters the opportunity to do things like phish people with fake email addresses that may look like official government accounts. 

SEE MORE: Student Debt Relief Website Launches, But Borrowers Are Skeptical

"They created this program where it's first come, first serve. So there's an urgency. You get money—significant money, right? Up to $10,000. And it has to be done within a certain time period," Secure Anchor Security Consulting CEO Eric Cole said. "So all those factors are the exact recipe that scammers look for in targeting individuals … 'Click here and we'll help you get first online.' 'Click here and we'll make sure you're set up for the student loan.'"

The FTC is warning consumers of red flags to watch out for, including solicitations that say you have to pay to apply, and anyone asking for your FSA ID, bank account or credit card information. The agency also stressed that there is only one website where individuals can apply, and that no documents need to be uploaded or attached during the process. 

Cole added that those not seeking loan forgiveness should be aware that their data might be implicated in one of these scams, as well. 

The thing people don't realize is, the database with student loans has a lot of people that don't qualify for this program. So you might have a student loan, but you're making too much money. But if they open up that database so the people that do qualify could be checked or invalidated, your data is put at risk.  

Your Halloween Candy Will Cost More This Year Thanks To Inflation

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 19:12

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The scariest part of Halloween this year might be the cost of participating. Candy prices are soaring. In fact, candy costs have experienced their highest jump on record this year, leaving many of us saying "boo" in a less-than-festive manner.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics' recent Consumer Price Index reports that the cost of candy has escalated by 13.1% since last year, which is the biggest-ever year-to-year increase. NPR reported that this percentage hike took approximately nine years to accomplish previously, when candy prices increased 13% from 1997 to 2006.

The markup is being caused by the increasing cost of sugar, flour and cocoa — critical candy ingredients currently affected by a mixed bag of supply chain issues, extreme weather and disruption from the war in Ukraine. Sugar and sugar substitutes are up 17%, while flour prices have risen more than 24%. Dairy shortages have also hindered production.

In July, Hershey's CEO Michele Buck announced the company would not be able to fully meet consumer demand for Halloween candy. 

SEE MORE: U.S. Producer Inflation Rose To 8.5% In September

The company saw a double-digit sales increase for its most recent quarter compared to the previous year. Demand for consuming more chocolate and candies is on the rise, and who can blame people for reaching for sweets after a seemingly never-ending pandemic?

Brach's Candy Corn at Walmart is priced 4.7% higher than last year, according to Klover, a consumer data financial platform. Walmart is also selling a 160-piece "fun-sized" variety pack of M&M's, Starburst, Skittles, Snickers and Twix for $16.98, which is $2.24 more than what it sold for a year ago.

The rate of price increases has been steadily climbing, nearly doubling since June. Last month alone, prices increased by 2%, according to the Consumer Price Index.

Shrinkflation is also hitting the Halloween candy market. Package sizes are shrinking, along with the candy bars inside of them. Forbes reports that the serving size of a Snickers Mini bar is approximately half the size of the size listed for the product on the official M&M Mars website. Companies are looking to provide less product at the same price point so they won't lose money — and hoping less savvy shoppers won't notice the change.

One way to help offset the cost is to consider purchasing a product with more than 200 pieces per bag. As a general rule, these larger bags are often cheaper on a per-piece basis when compared to smaller smaller-count bags.

While those "good" trick-or-treating houses that hand out full-sized candy bars just got even rarer, the majority of Americans (69%, Statista says) still plan to celebrate Halloween in some way, and that includes buying candy.

A survey from the National Retail Federation, an industry trade group, reports that the average household plans to spend nearly $30 on Halloween candy. However,  because of rising prices, the total might come closer to $35 per household in 2022. Collectively, Americans are anticipated to spend $3.1 billion on candy this season.

SEE MORE: Why Is Pumpkin Spice Season So Popular?

To add to this year's frightening aspects, pumpkin prices and costume costs have also jumped. Still, although this year's festivities might make more of a dent in our wallets, it likely won't be enough to make us sit it out.

The upside to it all: We can still celebrate. Thankfully, there's still the good old standby inexpensive costume — like sheet ghosts — that can help balance out the budget.

And with costs getting higher, it's possible that candy might taste just a bit sweeter this year.

10 Money-Saving Tips For A Warmer House Without Turning Up The Heat

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 19:12

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Winter lurks around the corner, and that can mean higher energy bills dropped into your mailbox each month. No one wants to watch their money fly out the window just because they want to stay warm.

If you've been struggling to resist cranking up the thermostat during the nippy days of early autumn, then we have some good news. We've found 10 ways to help you keep your home warmer this winter without having to turn up the heat. And, no, we're not talking about wearing a hat and mittens inside the house. These are easy, practical solutions to keep you more comfortable all season long.

SEE MORE: Drought, Fire Risk To Remain High During 3rd La Niña Winter

1. Use a Humidifier

Dry air and the cold go together like peanut butter and jelly. When we run the heat, it dries the air out, which then makes it harder for the air temperature to maintain its warmth. By adding a humidifier to a few rooms in your home, the water vapor it produces will allow the room to stay warmer with less power from the furnace.

2. Reverse Your Ceiling Fans

You may think your ceiling fan only helps keep your home comfortably cool in the warmer months. However, one simple trick transforms it into a secret weapon in the winter. Energy Star recommends flipping the switch on your ceiling fan, so it will run in a clockwise direction when it's cold, and keeping it on low.

Running it clockwise creates a gentle updraft that sends warm air trapped at the ceiling downward, warming the air in the spaces we occupy in our homes, according to Energy Star's website. Just don't forget to flip the switch again when spring rolls around!

3. Open Those Curtains

Let Mother Nature help you heat your home the old-fashioned way. By opening the curtains during daylight hours, your uncovered windows allow the sun's heat to naturally bring up the temperature of the room, even if only slightly.

But at night, shut the curtains again because they can act as an insulation barrier to prevent warm air from escaping out of your windows. You can even pick up some thermal curtains that act as an environmental barrier in all seasons.

SEE MORE: Report: Americans To Pay More To Heat Their Homes This Winter

4. Seal Your Windows

Before you put up those thermal curtains, you should make sure your windows are airtight before winter creeps up. Sealing your windows prevents cold drafts from coming into the house and precious heat from escaping to the outside.

There are a couple of ways you can insulate your windows. Real Homes suggests a few common options to keep the heat inside: window film, bubble wrap, caulk or adhesive weatherstripping. Each of these solutions is inexpensive and doesn't require a lot of expertise to install. Visit your local hardware or home improvement store to get what you need.

5. Use Heating Pads and Heated Blankets

Few things are better in the cold months than wrapping yourself in a warm blanket. Instead of turning up the thermostat, leave it a little lower and use an electric blanket or add a heating pad to wherever you sit or sleep. This step can also help avoid fights between people who like to sleep in wildly different temperatures!

6. Unroll Some Rugs

Many people love the convenience of keeping hardwood or tile floors clean. However, in the winter, those floors get pretty chilly. Give your floors a warm upgrade by adding some area rugs, even if you plan to just roll them back up when spring comes.

The National Energy Foundation found about 10% of a home's heat loss comes from the floors. So, adding a rug can add a layer of insulation to keep some of that precious warmth in your home where it belongs.

SEE MORE: Newsy's Latest Weather News

7. Use Draft Stoppers

Draft stoppers are such a simple invention, but so effective in keeping out those chilly breezes in the winter. Also known as door snakes, these nifty tools simply sit at the base of your doors and windows and block the chilly air from slipping inside. Sometimes the most basic things are the most effective, right?

Feeling crafty? If you are interested in making your own draft stopper, you can check out this step-by-step tutorial to help you easily design and stitch one up, if you're handy like that.

8. Use Your Oven Often

The cold temperatures might have you craving some amazing comfort food. What better way to warm up your house than to get cooking in the kitchen? Using the stovetop or baking in the oven gives off enough residual heat to make a little difference in the kitchen and the rooms right around it. So, pull out your favorite cookbooks and get busy making something warm for your tummy, as well as your home!

9. Rearrange the Furniture

Moving around your furniture for the winter months has both aesthetic and practical benefits. By taking the time to shift a few pieces of furniture around, you not only get a new look to your living space for nothing but also a couple of bonuses.

Making sure your furniture is clear and away from vents ensures the warm air coming from your heater can flow freely and effectively. This might surprise you, but large furniture can absorb the hot air from vents. You want your furnace to keep you warm, not just your furniture.

In addition, relocating furniture, such as your bed, away from the windows and the outside walls will keep you away from the coldest parts of the room. Consider moving that furniture more toward the center of the room if you can.

10. Get Your Furnace Ducts in Shape

For the days when you absolutely must use your furnace, you'll want to be sure it's running at peak efficiency to avoid wasting energy. An HVAC professional can do a quick check of your heating ducts to make sure they are in good shape, which may cost anywhere from $100-$300. A licensed inspection can also prevent potential dangers like carbon monoxide poisoning, so it's worth doing yearly.

Even a few of these tips can help you avoid turning up the thermostat as often this winter, hopefully without sacrificing your comfort. The time and small financial investment now could save you big dollars over the course of what feels like the longest season.

Musk Reportedly Plans To Cut 75% Of Twitter Staff Upon Acquisition

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 19:04

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Elon Musk plans to lay off most of Twitter’s workforce if and when he becomes owner of the social media company, according to a report by The Washington Post.

Musk has told prospective investors in his Twitter purchase that he plans to cut nearly 75% of Twitter’s employee base of 7,500 workers, according to Thursday's report.

If confirmed, the cuts would leave the company with a skeleton crew, according to the Post.

The newspaper cited documents and unnamed sources familiar with the deliberations.

San Francisco-based Twitter and a representative for Musk attorney Alex Spiro did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

SEE MORE: What Happens If Elon Musk Buys Twitter?

While job cuts have been expected regardless of the sale, the magnitude of Musk's planned cuts are far more extreme than anything Twitter had planned.

Musk himself has alluded to the need to cull some of the company's staff in the past, but he hadn't given a specific number - at least not publicly.

Already, experts, nonprofits and even Twitter's own staff have warned that pulling back investments on content moderation and data security could hurt Twitter and its users.

With as drastic a reduction as Musk may be planning, the platform could quickly become overrun with harmful content and spam.

After his initial $44 billion bid in April to buy Twitter, Musk backed out of the deal, contending Twitter misrepresented the number of fake “spam bot” accounts on its platform.

Twitter sued, and a Delaware judge has given both sides until 28 October to work out details.

Otherwise, there will be a trial in November.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.