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Updated: 3 days 3 hours ago

Why Is Medicare So Complicated?

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 18:50

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By the government's last count in 2021, 64 million adults were enrolled in Medicare. But that doesn't mean it's simple to navigate. The Medicare maze is growing more entangled over the years, as Congress adds new benefits, exceptions, and penalties.  

Let's break it down:

Once you turn 65, you are eligible to enroll in Medicare. There are four different parts.

Part A: Covers hospital stays. 

Part B: Covers medical insurance, like doctor appointments and outpatient care.

Part C: Also known as Medicare Advantage, covers the same benefits as A and B – but is offered by private insurers.

Part D: Covers prescription drugs. 

Medicare Adviser Nate Rubenstein said, the first thing you need to know is whether you even need Medicare at all. 

"The most common confusion is when people are going to continue to work past their 65 birthday. If they have what's called Creditable Coverage, they do not need to do anything with Medicare. They can delay their Medicare enrollment until they ultimately decide to retire," said Rubenstein. 

Creditable Coverage is something like employer health insurance, and must be at least as good as what Medicare provides. 

But if you aren't covered when you turn 65, you'll have to decide whether to enroll in original Medicare or Medicare Advantage. 

Sung said both programs will cover the same services, but there are key differences.  Original Medicare is made up of parts A and B, and the federal government is negotiating prices on your behalf. 

"Medicare works directly with health care providers. So, you receive a Medicare card when you enroll, and you can see any doctor or health care provider across the country who accepts Medicare," said Sung.

Under original Medicare, 80% of your approved medical costs are covered. Most prescription drugs are not covered, unless they're administered by a professional, like chemotherapy.  And there are multiple deductibles a year — around $1,500, but only if you don't have supplemental coverage. 

Here's the good news: Most Americans won't have to pay a monthly premium for Part A because they've paid into Medicare taxes for at least 10 years. But, if you haven't, premiums will cost you anywhere from $274 to $499 a month, depending on your income. And if you don't qualify for a free Part A and don't sign up when you are first eligible, those premiums may go up 10%.

Once you've got that squared away, it's time to think about Part B.   

"Part B is the part of Medicare that pays for things like doctor's visits and outpatient services and most of your kind of routine medical care," said Sung. 

SEE MORE: Social Security Admin. Announces Benefits Will Jump By 8.7% Next Year

Part B pays up to 80% of your medical costs. And there is no limit on out-of-pocket costs under original Medicare, you can either cover the remainder yourself or by supplemental coverage called Medigap to help lower the costs. 

"Medigap, are these private plans that kind of wrap around the Medicare program and the secondary coverage to help you pay for those and shares of your costs, like those co-payments and deductibles and things like that," said Sung. 

There are also annual deductibles and monthly premiums, which will cost at least $165 a month next year, depending on your income. Part B isn't required, but experts highly recommend buying it. In most cases, if you don't sign up for Part B when you're first eligible, there's a 10% penalty increase for every full year you could've had Part B, but didn't. 

"The idea behind the penalty is that Medicare is encouraging people to sign up early so that the coverage is there when you need it and not to wait until you have a problem before seeking out how to pay for that problem," said Sung. 

If you don't want Part B because you are still on employer or a spouse's insurance, most people can apply to delay enrollment and avoid a penalty. You'll also need to sign up for Part D if you want prescription drug coverage. You don't need Part D, but there are penalties if you don't sign up when you're first eligible, unless you have certain exceptions. 

"If you have other comparable prescription drug coverage, some people have this through an employer or through a union," said Sung. "Another exception is, is if you have a low income and you qualify for what's called extra help or a low income subsidy."

Something to note: the Biden administration recently signed the Inflation Reduction Act aimed at helping Medicare users lower their drug costs. The law caps "out-of-pocket" spending at $2,000 for prescriptions and $35 for insulin. And starting in 2026 Medicare will have the power to negotiate prices for certain drugs, which doctors say has big benefits for patients.  

"The less Medicare has to pay for the medication that means there's more money that they can maybe distribute to the patients in the form of maybe lower deductible, lower co-pays," said Dr. Hashim Zaibak, CEO of Hayat Pharmacy.  

SEE MORE: Biden Pushing Lower Prescription Drug Costs In Midterm Press

If you want an "all-in-one" plan that bundles A, B and D Medicare Advantage, also known as Part C, might be the right choice for you. Private insurers like AETNA or Blue Cross Blue Shield are running your plans, instead of the government and this affects which doctors you can see.  

"So instead of just going to any provider across the country, you'd want to make sure that you check to see if your doctors or your health care providers are in the plans network," said Sung. 

Most Medicare Advantage plans cover prescription drugs, or you can choose a plan without drug coverage for a lower monthly premium. It might also offer extra benefits like: vision, hearing and dental.  

Here's the catch, because Medicare Advantage works like private health insurance, your doctor options are narrower because they must be within your plan's network. And you can't buy supplemental coverage like Medigap. But there is a limit on what you pay out-of-pocket each year. So once you hit that number, Medicare covers 100% of your services until the next enrollment period. So, how do you know which plan is right for you? Sung said don't base it all on your monthly premiums, focus on your health care needs instead. 

"You want to also think, well, what am I, health care needs? Do I see the doctor every month? And is that going to require a co-payment or a co-insurance? Every time I visit the doctor, that really elevates the actual price of your coverage at the end of the year," said Sung.  

As for Rubenstein, he advised at the very least, reviewing your prescription drug plans during the open enrollment period this year. 

"These plans change a little bit every year. The premiums of these plans change, the co-pays for medications change a little bit. This is where I see the biggest opportunity to save money," said Rubenstein. 

In the end, the Kaiser Family Foundation said the differences between plans are slim.  

After a review of over 60 studies on both Medicare plans. Kaiser found patients reported the same satisfaction with affordability, utilization and quality. But, Sung acknowledged signing up for Medicare isn't an easy task. 

"At the end of the day, when you look at the the gantlet of choices and decisions and complex understanding that we're asking people to make it in it, it is very difficult," said Sung. 

If you struggle to afford Medicare costs, there are state savings programs that can help lower prices. But it depends on your monthly income and financial assets. Again, don't feel like you have to sign up for Medicare alone. The advice of a licensed processional could make all the difference. 

Former Ambassador To The U.S. On Israel's Role In Ukraine

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 18:32

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As Ukraine continues to receive support from western allies, the war-torn country is now looking further south for additional assistance. Earlier this week, the Ukrainian government formally asked Israel for air defense systems.

However, Israeli officials say while they're willing to provide Ukraine with humanitarian aid, they don't plan to supply any defense equipment.

Statesman, historian, soldier and author Michael Oren has had a long and distinguished career, including serving as the Israeli Ambassador to the United States. He says one of the fears among Israeli leaders is that the Russian army — which is stationed in Syria — will prevent the Israeli military from interfering.

SEE MORE: In Mideast, Biden Cites 'Bone Deep' Bond Between U.S. And Israel

"The other great fear is for Jews in Russia," he said. "There are between 400,000 and 600,000 Jews in Russia and nobody knows what Putin could do to them or what kind of vengeance he could exact against them if Israel provides military aid."

Beside the war in Ukraine, Oren also brought up the dramatic rise in anti-semitic hate crimes. A report by the Anti-Defamation League found that anti-semitic incidents totaled 2,717 last year — which is the highest figure recorded since the organization began tracking in 1979.

"Anti-semitism throughout history has always been a byproduct of political extremism," he said.

The three-time New York Times bestseller will be at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta Book Festival on October 26th to host a book signing and interactive discussion about his most recent novel "Swan's War," which was hailed by Kirkus Review as "intriguing, wonderfully delineated, and tension-filled."

Jan. 6 Panel Issues Subpoena To Trump, Demanding He Testify

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 18:32

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The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol issued a subpoena Friday to Donald Trump, exercising its subpoena power against the former president who lawmakers say is the "central cause" of a coordinated, multi-part effort to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

The nine-member panel issued a letter to Trump's lawyers, demanding his testimony under oath by Nov. 14 and outlining a request for a series of corresponding documents, including personal communications between the former president and members of Congress as well as extremist groups.

"We recognize that a subpoena to a former President is a significant and historic action," Chairman Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney wrote in the letter to Trump. "We do not take this action lightly."

It is unclear how Trump and his legal team will respond to the subpoena.

SEE MORE: Jan. 6 Panel To Hear Of Trump's Pressure On Justice Department

He could comply or negotiate with the committee, announce he will defy the subpoena or ignore it altogether. He could also go to court and try to stop it.

The subpoena is the latest and most striking escalation in the House committee's 15-month investigation of the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 insurrection, bringing members of the panel into direct conflict with the man they have investigated from afar through the testimony of aides, allies and associates.

The committee writes in its letter that it has assembled "overwhelming evidence" that Trump "personally orchestrated" an effort to overturn his own defeat in the 2020 election, including by spreading false allegations of widespread voter fraud, "attempting to corrupt" the Justice Department and by pressuring state officials, members of Congress and his own vice president to try to change the results.

But lawmakers say key details about what Trump was doing and saying during the siege remain unknown. According to the committee, the only person who can fill the gaps is Trump himself.

The panel — comprised of seven Democrats and two Republicans — approved the subpoena for Trump in a surprise vote last week. Every member voted in support.

The day after, Trump posted a lengthy memo on Truth Social, his social media website, repeating his false claims of widespread election fraud and expressing his "anger, disappointment and complaint" that the committee wasn't investigating his claims. He made no mention of the subpoena.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press. 

How Steve Bannon Helped Shape Conservative Politics In America

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 16:48

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He's been called the most dangerous political operative in the U.S., the MAGA mastermind, the manipulator-in-chief. Although Steve Bannon has never held an elected office, his influence on modern conservatism has been seismic.  

"I think that he has introduced a methodological recklessness to the American right in particular, and perhaps the global right in general," author Benjamin R. Teitelbaum said. 

But his path to alt-right stardom wasn't a straight line.  

Bannon grew up in a Democrat, working-class home in Virginia. He served in the Navy for seven years and has said his time in the military is what made him a "Reaganite."

He later became an investment banker for Goldman Sachs and financed and produced several films.  

In 2004, while working on a documentary about Ronald Reagan, Bannon met Andrew Breitbart, who had published a book about the former president. The two went on to found the far-right media company Breitbart News.  

Bannon described Breitbart as anti-establishment and anti-permanent political class. That translated to his strategy as chief executive officer of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign.  

Bannon followed Trump to the White House, serving as his top political adviser. He pushed controversial policies like the ban on travel from seven Muslim-majority countries and leaving the Paris Climate Agreement.  

But his relationship with Trump wasn't a match made in heaven.

SEE MORE: Steve Bannon Gets 4 Months Behind Bars For Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena

"Their personalities did not, in fact, mesh very well. They were two loud, egotistical, suck up all the air in the room types of people," Teitelbaum said. "Bannon thought he was the brains and Trump was the tool, right? He was the mind and Trump was the muscle."

Bannon's time in the White House was short-lived, lasting less than a year. But his political influence endured and by the end of Trump's presidency, Bannon found himself back in Trump's inner circle and wound up at the center of the Jan. 6 investigation.  

"Here's what Bannon said on Jan. 5: 'All hell is going to break loose tomorrow,'" Rep. Zoe Lofgren said during a Jan. 6 hearing last week.

Bannon refused to testify before the Jan. 6 Committee, landing him a federal conviction for contempt of Congress.  

And Bannon is also facing charges for money laundering and conspiracy, which could lead to a separate prison stint, potentially cutting him off from his media base.  

"At a certain point, if he were to be completely silenced, if there was a complete blackout from Bannon — communications and messaging — his followers will eventually forget about him. Six months, I don't think would do it. Six years, three years, two years, I don't know," Teitelbaum said.

Taylor Swift's 'Midnight' Is Here After Millions Enjoyed TikTok Teases

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 16:08

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From Tumblr to Twitter to TikTok, Taylor Swift has been teasing her latest album "Midnights" to millions of her young fans.  

On TikTok specifically, the singer-songwriter's album teases are short and casual, but each have garnered upwards of 10 million views from both the general public and the "SwiftTok" fanbase. 

But Swift's videos live alongside hundreds of other musicians on the platform — each one vying for the next viral hit.  

"Social media is changing from a social-focused platform to a micro-entertainment platform like TikTok, which is fantastic for comedians or specifically, small musicians looking to get a name for themselves," Maryville University Communications Professor Dustin York said. 

A survey from TikTok last year found that 75% of users said they discovered new artists through the short-form video platform.  

And since the app launched in 2016, TikTok has elevated the careers of artists like Lil Nas X and Olivia Rodrigo. And more recently, artists like Carly Rae Jepsen and Sam Smith have been using the platform to tease their newest releases.  

Smith teased just 21 seconds of his newest single "Unholy" this summer, and after it went viral on TikTok, the song reached 10 million Spotify streams in the first 24 hours of its release, and it's held onto the No. 1 spot of the Billboard Global 200 for the past three weeks.  

SEE MORE: Taylor Swift Wins Top Prize, Announces New Album At MTV VMAs

"A lot of times, that's not 100% organic and it might surprise people. It's called 'seeding,' where a musician will say, 'Okay, this is 15 seconds. I think a good dance will come out of it, a skit will come out of it. I will actually pay an influencer to create a piece of content that looks natural.' Just them dancing or a skit that they start in hopes that their followers will see that skit and do their own skit," York continued.

What's profitable for musicians is also profitable for TikTok, so the company builds partnerships with artists, labels and music rights holders to help some songs go viral.  

Before the release of her 2020 single "Midnight Sky," pop star Miley Cyrus organized a private listening party with well-known TikTok Influencers to help the song reach their audiences. 

Some artists like Halsey have criticized the way labels are focusing on social media to release new music, though some experts say it's just a new form of music promotion — similar to the way music videos on MTV promoted artists in the eighties and nineties. 

"Gen X, for example, they leaned into stylized commercials on ABC and ESPN, etc., while millennials and Gen Z really lean into authenticity ... Not in this stylized studio with perfect lighting all the time. No, like, let me see behind the scenes. What are your thoughts? What are your vulnerabilities behind this song? Those are the things that really connect especially millennials and Gen Z nowadays," York said. 

Marketing experts have described Taylor Swift's social media strategy as "fan first" and intimate, letting her listeners feel like they're directly interacting with her. The hashtag #SwiftTok has 10.7 Billion views on TikTok.  

As NBA Season Kicks Off, Players Renew Call For Griner's Release

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 15:56

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Basketball is back, and as NBA season openers kicked off this week, veteran players seized the spotlight to highlight Phoenix Mercury star Brittney Griner.

"The big picture that is going on in the world is: Free our sister Brittney Griner, please. Please. POTUS, do your job. Everybody do your job. Please bring our sister home," Brooklyn Nets player Kyrie Irving said. 

His message comes as tens of thousands of fans flocked to arenas across the nation and many more tuned in to to catch the first games of the season. 

"I want her to know from my Miami Heat family and the NBA family, that we are still thinking about you and everything that you're going through. You are in our hearts and in our minds," Heat player Udonis Haslem said.

During the Golden State Warriors' championship ring ceremony Tuesday, 2022 MVP Steph Curry led the calls for her release: 

"We want to continue to let her name be known and we pray that ... It's been 243 days since she's been wrongfully incarcerated in Russia. We hope that she comes home soon and everybody's doing their part to get her home," Curry said.

The men's basketball season started the same week as Griner's 32nd birthday. Phoenix Suns head coach Monty Williams wished Griner a happy birthday.

"I just hope that our fans, Mercury fans and our community keep praying for her," Williams said.

In custody in Russia for the last eight months, Griner is serving a nine-year sentence for drug possession and smuggling. She is reportedly in a penal colony outside Moscow, where she is allowed outside for only an hour a day. 

The Biden administration offered to trade convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout in exchange for Griner and security executive Paul Whelan, but negotiations seem to have stalled. 

"The U.S. government continues to urge Russia to release wrongfully detained U.S. citizens Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan," State Department Principal Deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said. "As the secretary has said, there was a substantial proposal on the table earlier this summer to facilitate their release. Our governments have communicated repeatedly and directly on that proposal and the Russians should take that deal."

SEE MORE: U.S. Negotiations With Russia On Prisoner Swap For Griner

The Phoenix Mercury shared a message from Griner on Twitter reading: "Thank you everyone for fighting so hard to get me home. All the support and love are definitely helping me. - BG" 

The calls to action propelled Griner back into a spotlight that some fans felt was fading.

"I hear about it less and less. You know, I think the only reason that came out recently is because her birthday passed," Phoenix resident Dominic Mertz said.

In Phoenix, fans expressed concerns over Griner's treatment and health behind bars. 

Griner will be back in Russian court Tuesday to appeal her sentence.

"She's been gone for eight months — a very, very long time. I don't think that the U.S. is doing enough to bring her back," Phoenix resident Javier Millan said. 

"We all want to see her back. She brings out the fans. She is Phoenix. She's our Devin Booker," Phoenix resident Cedric Warren said.

"We love you Brittney and we want you to come home," Phoenix resident Natalie Parker said. 

Griner's friends and family are launching a messaging campaign to keep her plight in the spotlight. 

Bill Richardson, a former governor of New Mexico, visited Russia.  

In a recent interview with CNN, Richardson said he's working with both families and the White House to coordinate the release of Griner and Whelan, adding that they could be released by the end of the year.  

Steve Bannon Gets 4 Months Behind Bars For Defying Jan. 6 Subpoena

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 15:11

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Steve Bannon, a longtime ally of former President Donald Trump, was sentenced Friday to serve four months behind bars after defying a subpoena from the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.

The judge allowed Bannon to stay free pending appeal and also imposed a fine of $6,500 as part of the sentence. Bannon was convicted in July of two counts of contempt of Congress: one for refusing to sit for a deposition and the other for refusing to provide documents.

SEE MORE: How Steve Bannon Helped Shape Conservative Politics In America

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols handed down the sentence after saying the law was clear that contempt of Congress is subject to a mandatory minimum sentence of at least one month behind bars. Bannon's lawyers had argued the judge could've sentenced him to probation instead. Prosecutors had asked for Bannon to be sent to jail for six months.

The House panel had sought Bannon's testimony over his involvement in Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Bannon has yet to testify or provide any documents to the committee, prosecutors wrote.

Prosecutors argued Bannon, 68, deserved the longer sentence because he had pursued a "bad faith strategy" and his public statements disparaging the committee itself made it clear he wanted to undermine their effort to get to the bottom of the violent attack and keep anything like it from happening again.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 14:49

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Drought and wildfire risks will remain elevated in Western states while warmer-than-average temperatures will greet the Southwest, Gulf Coast and East Coast this winter, federal weather officials said Thursday.

La Niña, a weather pattern characterized by cold ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, is returning for a rare third winter, officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. That means December, January and February are likely to bring drier-than-average conditions across the Southern states and wetter-than-average weather for areas including the Great Lakes region and Pacific Northwest.

The forecast means droughts that have punished the Great Plains and Western states are likely to continue, the agency said. Wildfires will remain a risk, and some parts of the country will likely be in greater danger than before, said Brad Pugh, the operational drought lead with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

SEE MORE: Climate Change Emerges As Key Issue For Some Voters Ahead Of Midterms

“One of the areas, over the next couple months, that is likely to have enhanced wildfire danger will be the south-central U.S. — Arkansas, Oklahoma, Texas,” Pugh said. “Very dry conditions there. With that dryness, that will be an area for high wildfire danger in the coming three months.”

Drought conditions are going on across about 59% of the country, NOAA officials said, and they have persisted in the Western states since late 2020. The continued La Niña climate pattern means that is likely to expand to the Gulf Coast as well, NOAA said.

The Gulf Coast is also one of the parts of the country likely to experience higher-than-average temperatures, NOAA said. The higher temperatures are also likely to climb up the East Coast all the way to the New England states, the agency said.

Some parts of the Northern U.S., including the Pacific Northwest and portions of the Great Lakes states, could see colder temperatures than usual, NOAA said.

Judah Cohen, director of seasonal forecasting for AER, a Massachusetts-based atmospheric research firm, said NOAA's predictions dovetail with his expectations for the coming winter.

“I would definitely lean on a milder winter, especially east of the Rockies,” Cohen said. “Wetter to the north, drier to the south.”

SEE MORE: 2021 Ranks As Earth's 6th Hottest Year On Record

The southern Rockies, southern plains and most of the southeastern states are also looking at drier-than-average conditions, NOAA officials said. The winter weather is also expected to bring drought to the middle and lower Mississippi Valley, they said.

Drought has had major consequences in states like California in recent years, including hurting agriculture operations, spurring water use cutbacks and elevating the risk of wildfires. NOAA's prediction does call for improved conditions in some drought areas, including parts of Montana and Idaho, but predictions call for a deepening drought in many others.

NOAA's forecast is similar to projections from computer-based models, said Ryan Maue, a private meteorologist based in Atlanta. Many parts of the country that could use a wet or snowy year are unlikely to get one, he said.

“I think the bottom line is we're on a continuation of what we've been seeing over the last year, including last winter, and there's not expected to be improvement in the drought situation across California and the center of the United States,” Maue said.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Sunak, Mordaunt, Johnson? Contenders Who Could Replace Liz Truss

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 12:59

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Liz Truss' resignation as British prime minister on Thursday triggered another leadership race — the second in just four months — for the U.K.'s fractured and demoralized Conservative Party.

Truss, who quit after just 45 days in office, said her successor will be chosen in a leadership contest to be completed by the end of next week. Graham Brady, a senior Conservative lawmaker who oversees the party's leadership challenges, said each candidate must secure 100 nominations from legislators to run and that the race will conclude by next Friday.

Former Treasury chief Rishi Sunak, ex-Cabinet minister Penny Mordaunt and Defense Secretary Ben Wallace are among those considered credible contenders for the top job. Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson may also return. Jeremy Hunt, who has been brought in as new Treasury chief to steer the economy, has ruled out running.

Whoever wins will become the fifth British prime minister in six years.

Here's a look at the potential runners and riders:

SEE MORE: U.K.'s Liz Truss Quits After Turmoil Obliterated Her Authority

RISHI SUNAK, FORMER TREASURY CHIEF

Sunak, 42, came second to Truss in the last Conservative leadership race, gathering 60,399 votes compared to her 81,326.

He quit as Treasury chief in July, in protest against then-Prime Minister Boris Johnson's leadership. In the contest to replace Johnson, Sunak positioned himself as the candidate who tells hard truths about Britain's public finances. He argued that climbing inflation must be controlled first, and called promises by Truss and other rivals to immediately slash taxes reckless "fairy tales."

Sunak was proved right when Truss' unfunded tax-cutting economic stimulus package tanked the British pound and triggered chaos in the markets in September.

Sunak became Treasury chief in 2020 and steered Britain's slumping economy through the coronavirus pandemic. He oversaw billions of pounds in government handouts to help businesses and workers hard hit by COVID-19.

Sunak was regarded by many as the Conservatives' brightest rising star. Born to Indian parents who moved to Britain from East Africa, Sunak attended the exclusive Winchester College private school and studied at Oxford. Some see his elite education and work for the investment bank Goldman Sachs and a hedge fund as a liability because it makes him seem out of touch with ordinary voters.

In the past year he faced heavy criticism for being slow to respond to Britain's cost-of-living crisis. His reputation also took a hit after he was fined by police for attending a lockdown-flouting birthday party at Downing Street in June 2020.

Some also criticized him following revelations that his wife, Akshata Murthy, avoided paying taxes on her overseas income.

SEE MORE: New U.K. Treasury Chief: Mistakes Were Made, Tax Rises Coming

PENNY MORDAUNT, HOUSE OF COMMONS LEADER

Mordaunt, 49, came third after Sunak and Truss in the last Tory leadership race, when she ran with a campaign named "PM 4 PM." Mordaunt did not hold a senior post in Johnson's Cabinet, and she positioned herself as offering a clean break from his scandal-tainted government.

A former international trade minister, Mordaunt is popular among Conservative lawmakers. Some believe she could be the right candidate to help heal the party's divisions. But she is largely an unknown figure to most Britons, and outside Conservative circles she remains best known for appearing on the 2014 reality TV show "Splash!"

Mordaunt played a prominent role in the pro-Brexit campaign. She was the first woman to become British defense secretary in 2019 — though she was removed by Johnson after just three months in the post because she had backed another candidate for party leader, Jeremy Hunt.

SUELLA BRAVERMAN, EX-HOME SECRETARY

Braverman, 42, resigned as Home Secretary late Wednesday, with a scathing letter criticizing Truss' "tumultuous" premiership. Her move kicked off a chaotic night in British politics that ended in Truss' resignation hours later.

A former barrister who became England's attorney general in 2020, Braverman was the first to put her hat in the ring during this summer's leadership race to replace Johnson.

During her short tenure as Home Secretary, a top government post overseeing immigration and counterterrorism, Braverman vowed to crack down hard on asylum seekers, saying it was her "dream" to see a flight deporting those seeking refuge in Britain to Rwanda. She also wanted to pull the U.K. out of the European Convention on Human rights.

She made headlines — and was mocked by opponents — when she complained recently in Parliament that travel disruptions caused by trade union strikes were to be blamed on left-wing, "tofu-eating wokerati."

SEE MORE: British Pound Plunges To Record Low As Tax Cuts Spark Concern

BEN WALLACE, DEFENSE SECRETARY

Wallace, a 52-year-old army veteran, is popular within the Conservative Party. He has won admirers for his straight talk, particularly among Conservative lawmakers who pressed for the U.K. to increase its defense spending.

Wallace has raised his profile as a key government voice in Britain's response to Russia's war in Ukraine. But he recently said he wanted to remain in his current job. Earlier this week, he reportedly said "I want to be the Secretary of State for Defense until I finish" when asked if he wanted the top job.

BORIS JOHNSON, FORMER PRIME MINISTER

There was intense speculation Thursday that Johnson, 58, may return and put himself forward as prime minister again — just weeks after he was forced out of office by a series of ethics scandals.

Within hours of Truss' resignation, several Conservative allies of Johnson's voiced their support for him to return.

"The only person who has a mandate from the general public is Boris Johnson," said one lawmaker, Marco Longhi. "He is the only person who can discharge the mandate from the people."

Johnson led the Conservatives to their biggest win in decades in the 2019 general election, largely on the back of his promise to "get Brexit done."

But his time in office was overshadowed by scandals over alcohol-fueled parties held at his official residence while national COVID-19 restrictions were in place. He still faces an ongoing investigation by Parliament's privileges committee into whether he lied to lawmakers about COVID-rule breaking at Downing Street.

He was forced to announce his resignation on July 7 after former allies in his Cabinet joined a mass exodus of government officials protesting his leadership.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Appeals Court: Lindsey Graham Must Testify In Georgia Election Probe

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 12:06

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U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham must testify before a special grand jury investigating whether then-President Donald Trump and others illegally tried to influence the 2020 election in Georgia, a federal appeals court said Thursday.

The ruling by a three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals paves the way for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to bring Graham in for questioning. She wants to ask the South Carolina Republican about phone calls he made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the weeks after the election.

Raffensperger said Graham asked whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots, something Raffensperger took as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. Graham has dismissed that interpretation as "ridiculous."

SEE MORE: Flynn, Gingrich Testimony Sought In Georgia Election Probe

Graham could appeal the ruling to the full appellate court. An attorney for Graham deferred comment Thursday to a spokesperson for the senator's office, which did not immediately comment on the ruling.

Graham had challenged his subpoena, saying his position as a U.S. senator protected him from having to testify in the state investigation. He has also denied wrongdoing. In a six-page order, the judges wrote that Graham "has failed to demonstrate that this approach will violate his rights under the Speech and Debate Clause."

Willis opened the investigation early last year, shortly after a recording of a January 2021 phone call between Trump and 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 requested a special grand jury, saying the panel's subpoena power would allow the questioning of people who otherwise wouldn't cooperate with the investigation. She has since filed several rounds of paperwork with the court seeking to compel the testimony of close Trump advisers and associates.

Some of those associates include former White House counsel Pat Cipollone, who has testified before the special grand jury, according to a person familiar with Cipollone's testimony who spoke to The Associated Press on Thursday on condition of anonymity to discuss a private appearance. Cipollone's appearance was first reported by CNN.

SEE MORE: Judge Delays Gov. Kemp's Testimony In Georgia Election Probe

Cipollone vigorously resisted efforts to undo the election and has said he did not believe there was sufficient fraud to have affected the outcome of the race won by President Biden.

Graham was in the first group of people close to Trump whose testimony Willis sought to compel in a batch of petitions filed with the court in early July. He challenged his subpoena in federal court, but U.S. District Judge Leigh Martin May refused to toss out his subpoena. Graham then appealed to the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Graham's lawyers argued that the U.S. 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. He contends that the call he made to Raffensperger fare was protected because he was asking questions to inform his decisions on voting to certify the 2020 election and future legislation.

Lawyers on Willis' team argued that comments Graham made in news interviews at the time, as well as statements by Raffensperger, show that the senator was motivated by politics rather than by legislative fact-finding.

They also argued that the scope of the special grand jury's investigation includes a variety of other topics that have nothing to do with the Raffensperger call. They also want to ask Graham about his briefings by the Trump campaign, including whether he was briefed on the Trump-Raffensperger call, and whether he communicated or coordinated with Trump and his campaign about efforts to overturn the election results in Georgia and elsewhere.

Graham's lawyers also argued that the principle of "sovereign immunity" protects a U.S. senator from being summoned by a state prosecutor.

Even if the speech or debate clause or sovereign immunity didn't apply, Graham's lawyers argued, his status as a "high-ranking official" protects him from having to testify. That's because Willis has failed to show that his testimony is essential and that the information he would provide cannot be obtained from someone else, they argued.

In their ruling Thursday, the appellate judges ruled that Willis "can ask about non-investigatory conduct that falls within the subpoena's scope" but "may not ask about any investigatory conduct," noting that Graham could note any issues over specific areas at the time of his questioning.

Others have already made their appearances before the special grand jury. Former New York mayor and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who's been told he could face criminal charges in the probe, testified in August. Attorneys John Eastman and Kenneth Chesebro have also appeared before the panel.

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.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Judge Dismisses Effort To Halt Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 11:23

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A federal judge on Thursday dismissed an effort by six Republican-led states to block the Biden administration's plan to forgive student loan debt for tens of millions of Americans.

U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis wrote that because the six states — Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina — failed to establish they had standing, "the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case."

Suzanne Gage, spokeswoman for Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, said the states will appeal. She said in a statement that the states "continue to believe that they do in fact have standing to raise their important legal challenges."

Democratic President Joe Biden announced in August that his administration would cancel up to $20,000 in education debt for huge numbers of borrowers. The announcement immediately became a major political issue ahead of the November midterm elections.

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

The states' lawsuit is among a few that have been filed. 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.

In the lawsuit brought by the states, lawyers for the administration said 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 Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades. 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.

SEE MORE: Why Is Student Loan Forgiveness Happening Now?

The plan 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.

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.

Chris Nuelle, spokesman for Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, said the plan "will unfairly burden working class families with even more economic woes."

Many Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection contests have distanced themselves from the plan.

The HEROES Act was enacted after 9/11 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 that fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is still rippling. He said student loan defaults have skyrocketed over the past 2 1/2 years.

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.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Giving Kids 'Mental Health Days' Could Help Their Emotional Wellbeing

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 01:30

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Everybody needs a little time away, including young people.

Mom of four Melissa Bradley says she started giving her kids a day off school — not a sick day, but a self-care day.

"If you're home for a mental health day, it's not just to be home playing on your phone or your computer," Bradley said. "It's to be home, to reset, to step back from everything and get yourself straight for the next day."

Bradley started the practice after noticing changes in her eldest son.

"He was about eight or nine and started showing signs of depression and anxiety," Bradley said. 

She's not alone in this practice.

According to a recent study from Very Well Mind, 88% of parents have either allowed for mental health days or would consider them. The study also shows 60% of parents say their kids' mental health has been at least somewhat impacted by the pandemic.

However, the growing mental health crisis didn't start there.  

"Bullying has always been an issue, but I think now in the age of social media and technology that we also need to be mindful about sort of bullying all technology," said Dr. Erlanger Turner, psychologist and founder of Therapy for Black Kids.

There's also academic pressures, and while kids may not explicitly articulate the need for a break, experts say there are signs.

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

"Parents can look out for things, like kids mentioning or talking about how drained they feel or that they're so exhausted," said Dr. Alnardo Martinez, mental health counselor for the Child Mind Institute.

Mental health days can be a response to certain behavior or planned in advance, maybe after a big project or finals.

While beneficial, experts say there are a few best practices.

"It's not a day where they're in bed, scrolling on social media or sitting in front of the TV all day," Martinez said. "It should incorporate things that are actually beneficial for mental health."

That includes taking exercise, meditation, yoga, baking, art, listening to music and more.

For parents who can't take days off, experts encourage leaning into those same practices on weekends or off days.

They also say it's also important to recognize prolonged changes in behavior, eating or sleeping patterns and seek help.

Bradley says in their case, the mental health days are used along with mental health professionals.

"There's a lot these days that they can't handle behind the scenes," Bradley said. "When it gets to the point where he just completely shuts down and disconnects from reality, then I know that we need an intervention professionally."

Experts say a mental health day shouldn't be used to avoid things like tests or projects and that the key is to balance the line between just needing a day to recoup versus needing the help of mental health professionals.

Matchmaking Is Making A Resurgence In The Dating World

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 01:00

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The idea of matchmaking was the subject of shows like "The Millionaire Matchmaker," which ran for eight years starting back in 2008, and "Indian Matchmaking," which recently released its second season. Matchmaking has also made its way into movies, like in "Fiddler on the Roof" and "Mulan". 

However, matchmaking beyond the big screen is still a bit misunderstood. It has a long history in many cultures, and it's something that many people are turning to today.

According to IBIS World, the dating services industry has grown over the last decade: from a billion-dollar industry in 2012 to being worth over $4 billion in 2022. Matchmaking services will account for 21% of the revenue this year.

Dating coach Ali Jackson told Newsy some of the recent trends she's seen with people seeking out professionals to help them meet their match.  

"I've actually seen, I think, more so people from cultures where help wasn't typically ingrained into their culture seeking help at a higher rate, perhaps because they're exposed to things like 'Indian Matchmaking' or shows that they're seeing where they're realizing, 'Oh, that is something that people do,'" Jackson said.

Matchmaking goes all the way back to ancient Greece, where women matchmakers called Promnestrias did all of the negotiating between the bride and groom's families.

SEE MORE: Do Reality Shows Affect How Viewers See Real-Life Relationships?

Matchmaking has been a norm in India since the 4th century, and the tradition holds strong today. A 2018 survey found that 93% of married Indians had an arranged marriage, while just 3% said they had a "love marriage", which is when people choose their life partner.

By the 12th century, Jewish communities used a Shadchan who would look into the backgrounds and personalities of people to set them up. This is still prominent in some Orthodox Jewish communities today.

In Japan, matchmakers set up meetings with singles called Omiai, though these are less popular today. A survey from the National Institute of Population and Social Security Research found that in 1930, 69% of people in Japan were married through these meetings. By 2015, that number dropped to 5.2%.

In England, Queen Victoria was a matchmaker herself in the late 1800s. She set up arranged marriages for her children and grandchildren. Then, other people started taking part in the matchmaking process, making it not something just for royalty.

In the 1920s, there was an attempt to use science to match people. The Smithsonian published an article explaining a few different scientific tests that had been used to determine whether a married couple would work or not.

In the 1960s, people would pay a few dollars to answer a questionnaire that would be used to help find them a match.

SEE MORE: Dating Is Getting Tougher In The U.S.

If a person is looking to be professionally match made in the U.S. today, it can cost a pretty penny, regardless of that someone's background or traditions. 

There are a few things that factor into the overall price, like the type of matchmaker and the package. Some companies offer a guaranteed number of dates, and others charge for the length of time they are helping the client.

These services can range anywhere from $500 to $250,000 a year. Jackson says while these services are expensive, there are ways to make this kind of advice attainable for people who don't have a lot of extra cash.

Take Dating TikTok: It has over 600 million hashtag views. Though users may have to sort through many videos of personal dating horror stories, there are also real dating experts with advice on the app.

"I think that social media and TikTok has been so great because although you've got to be careful what you just see on TikTok and decide is fact, I think what's really cool is that you can engage with a lot of content that you're getting totally for free and then kind of ease into what you think might make sense for you within your budget," Jackson said.

Jackson also explains that dating doesn't come naturally to everyone. Part of working with a professional is more than just paying to be set up. They help clients understand what their needs are and how to communicate them.  

"We seek coaching and help in so many areas of our life, like our career, for example, or mental health, and dating just hasn't been something that I think has been seen as okay to seek help with," Jackson said. "That's starting to really change, and people are starting to see it as something that you can seek help with and that it's okay and it's not taboo. That tide has started to shift, which has been really cool."

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

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 00:41

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Iranian medium range and surface-to-surface missiles are relatively inexpensive and abundant. Russia now is reportedly prepared to buy them for its arsenal. 

The Fateh-110 and Zolfaghar missiles could join Iran’s kamikaze drones in accomplishing what appears to be Putin’s plan —destroying Ukraine’s energy grid and other vital infrastructure, just in time for winter. 

"It looks like what Russia is really doing is building up its capability to attack fixed targets. These could be energy facilities, key infrastructure and economic targets rather than to attack dispersed military forces," said Anthony Cordesman, the emeritus chair in strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.  

In other words, Iran’s missiles would not be an answer to the U.S. provided HIMARS system, which Ukraine is using to devastating effect against Russian military targets. Unlike Iran’s missiles, HIMARS rockets can be precisely targeted and guided, while in flight, to hit even moving targets.

SEE MORE: Ukraine's Capital Hit By Iranian-Made Kamikaze Drones

What Iran’s missiles do have going for them is their range. Russia’s Iskander system has a range of more than 300 miles. Iran’s Zolfaghar missiles exceeds that with a reach of more than 400 miles. Its Fateh-110 reaches nearly 200 miles. All of these far exceed the limits of the HIMARS system the U.S. is supplying to Ukraine, which is around 50 miles. HIMARS is capable of hitting targets three times that distance, which would allow Ukraine to reach targets within Russia, but the U.S. isn’t providing that capability to Ukraine out of fear of provoking Putin. Meanwhile Russia, from its own territory and from launchers at sea, has been able to hit targets in every part of Ukraine. 

"Russia has a limited supply of its more advanced, more accurate, longer-range ballistic missiles," said Cordesman. 

Experts say western sanctions are making it difficult for Russia to replenish its dwindling missile supplies, which constrains "their ability to strike the volume of targets they desire in the future." That’s why they’re turning to Iran’s offerings. 

"Iran has a large inventory of both systems, has supplied them in large numbers to other areas like the Houthi and to the Hezbollah in Lebanon. And probably is going to be selling them at a fraction of the cost in significant numbers to Russia that would cost Russia to replace its own more advanced systems," said Cordesman. 

Americans Are Using More Credit As Prices, Interest Rates Rise

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 00:10

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New figures show Americans are using more credit as prices and interest rates rise, making it more expensive to carry a balance.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York says Americans hold $887 billion in credit card debt — a level not seen in more than two decades. Plus, the average interest rate on a credit card in the U.S. is now north of 22%, according to LendingTree.

Getting out of that debt is certainly the hard part, as daily expenses keep coming and prices keep climbing with wages struggling to keep up. 

"I've seen people accumulate debt in a matter of a couple of months, and then it will take them years, sometimes even decades, to unravel that situation and get themselves out, just because of the power of that interest that they're paying," said Erin Akery, financial counselor at Nashville Financial Empowerment Center.

SEE MORE: The IRS Will Let You Keep More Of Your Paycheck In 2023

Financial experts say the solution is in the small things, like coffee at home instead of out and lessening streaming subscriptions.

"Look to find ways that you can actually save and apply more money towards that debt so eventually you'll get out of debt faster," said Roy Lederman, financial expert.

As many economists predict a recession in the next 12 months, it's crunch time to get financially fit, and the Biden administration is well aware of the crunch. It's trying to ease the strain ahead of the midterm elections.

"We're going to continue to stabilize markets and decrease the prices at a time when the actions of other countries have caused such volatility," President Joe Biden said.

Is COVID Why Some People Can't Smell Candles?

Fri, 10/21/2022 - 00:03

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It started late 2021 with some tongue-in-cheek Tweets about bad Amazon reviews for Yankee Candles. 

Could they be a canary in the coal mind for a COVID surge to come? 

Northeastern University Assistant Professor and Researcher Nick Beauchamp was curious.  

He'd been looking at social media impacting COVID-19 data. His next hypothesis included the COVID symptom of anosmia, aka loss of smell.  

"I downloaded a bunch of review data, counted up the references to no smell or no scent and sort of shared a plot of that curve, which indeed matches the COVID curve," Beauchamp said.   

He then looked beyond candles, adding perfume reviews to the data and eventually publishing his findings.

"I try, in the project, to sort of check to see whether it holds for perfume. Yeah, it does hold for perfume ... Does it hold for flu? No, it doesn't hold for flu. Does it work even when you control for the sort of seasonality of both COVID and candle purchases and complaints? Yes, it seems to survive that," Beauchamp continued. 

His 2021 results, COVID cases predicted negative reviews but negative reviews did not predict cases.

SEE MORE: COVID-19 Survivors Still Dealing With Lingering Symptoms

"It's possible, or plausible, that the rise in complaints was actually due to COVID, you know, with all the usual caveats, but that the reviews themselves were not super good at giving us a heads up on when cases were rising," Beauchamp said.

He ran the numbers again June 2022 and found bad reviews went out and then cases went up.  

Beauchamp has visited the numbers again this month. He says so far, in October, the bad reviews have been on the rise for the past two months, cases have stayed flat or declined over the same period.  

Important to note: Case tracking has been impacted by factors like at-home testing. The CDC has also moved from daily case and death counts to weekly ones. 

Health experts are predicting a modest fall and winter wave, going off current case increases in Europe.   

Meanwhile, Beauchamp says the candle data is just interesting and funny, nothing more. But the research has impacted how his family thinks about health.

"We haven't taken to sniffing candles to test ourselves, but, you know, we are fairly cautious—and I think, probably because I spend time working on this—more cautious than the average household," he said.

Undocumented Immigration Isn't Just A Red State Problem

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 23:29

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When Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis bused migrants from the southwest border in Texas to Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts, he claimed it was because unauthorized immigration impacts red states (Republican-leaning) more than blue states (Democratic-leaning). 

"Every community in America should be sharing in the burden" DeSantis said. "It shouldn't all fall on a handful of red states."

But there is evidence pointing to more unauthorized immigrants living in blue states.

While migrants cross into red border states like Texas, researchers have found they often don't stay there long, spreading to places that have jobs, family, and established immigrant communities. 

"There is that burden at the border, but generally migrants are being absorbed all across the country," said Julia Gelatt, senior policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C. "This really is a national concern."

A Newsy analysis found that of the estimated 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States, 57% were living in blue states, defined as places with Democratic governors, plus Washington, D.C. 

Fewer undocumented immigrants, 43%, were in red states with Republican governors. Even when accounting for population size, there are still higher per capita rates of undocumented immigrants in blue states, not red states. 

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Newsy's analysis used research from the Migration Policy Institute that models where unauthorized immigrants likely live. The estimates rely on government data, but those figures haven't been updated since 2019.

Newsy also examined recent requests for asylum filed in state immigration courts from numbers compiled by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University. It's one way to get a rough sense of where migrants seeking refugee status are going.

"They can ask for asylum as protection against removal, so the places where they're filing for asylum, that's where the migrants are living," Gelatt said. 

Of the 10 states with the most asylum filings, half are blue states, including California and New York, with more asylum filings than any other state. 

Unauthorized immigrants are traditionally concentrated in big cities that tend to be blue, with 6 in 10 living in just 20 metro areas, according to a 2019 report from Pew Research Center. A Newsy analysis found the majority of major cities in those metro areas have mayors who are Democrats. That includes New York, where Mayor Eric Adams recently declared an immigration emergency

"We are in a crisis situation," Adams said. 

Newsy has not received a response after asking Gov. DeSantis' office what he meant when he said the burden of unauthorized immigration falls on red states.

Data analysis by Amy Fan and Rosie Cima.

Jury: Kevin Spacey Didn't Molest Actor Anthony Rapp In 1986

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 22:40

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A jury sided with Kevin Spacey on Thursday in one of the lawsuits that derailed the film star's career, finding he did not sexually abuse Anthony Rapp, then 14, while both were relatively unknown actors in Broadway plays in 1980s.

The verdict in the civil trial came with lightning speed. Jurors at a federal court in New York deliberated for a little more than an hour before deciding that Rapp hadn't proven his allegations.

When the verdict was read, Spacey dropped his head, then hugged his lawyers. He didn't speak to reporters as he left the courthouse.

During the trial, Rapp testified that Spacey had invited him to his apartment for a party, then approached him in a bedroom after the other guests left. He said the actor, then 26, picked him up and briefly laid on top of him on a bed.

Rapp testified that he wriggled away and fled as an inebriated Spacey asked if he was sure he wanted to leave.

In his sometimes-tearful testimony, Spacey told the jury it never happened, and he would never have been attracted to someone who was 14.

The lawsuit sought $40 million in damages.

In his closing statements to the jury Thursday, Rapp's lawyer, Richard Steigman, accused Spacey of lying on the witness stand.

"He lacks credibility," Steigman said. "Sometimes the simple truth is the best. The simple truth is that this happened."

Spacey's lawyer, Jennifer Keller, said after the trial that the defense was "very grateful to the jury for seeing through these false allegations."

During closing arguments, she told jurors that Rapp made up the encounter and suggested reasons Rapp imagined the encounter with Spacey or made it up. It was possible, she said, that Rapp invented it based on his experience performing in "Precious Sons," a play in which actor Ed Harris picks up Rapp's character and lays on top of him, mistaking him briefly for his wife before discovering it is his son.

She also suggested that Rapp later became jealous that Spacey became a megastar while Rapp had "smaller roles in small shows" after his breakthrough performance in Broadway's "Rent."

SEE MORE: From Witness Stand, Kevin Spacey Denies Sex Abuse Claims

"So here we are today, and Mr. Rapp is getting more attention from this trial than he has in his entire acting life," Keller said.

Rapp, 50, and Spacey, 63, each testified over several days at the three-week trial.

Rapp's claims, and those of others, abruptly interrupted what had been a soaring career for the two-time Academy Award winning actor, who lost his job on the Netflix series "House of Cards" and saw other opportunities dry up. Rapp is a regular on TV's "Star Trek: Discovery" and was part of the original Broadway cast of "Rent."

Spacey faced charges in Massachusetts that he groped a man at a bar — allegations that were later dropped by prosecutors.

Three months ago, he pleaded not guilty in London to charges that he sexually assaulted three men between 2004 and 2015 when he was the artistic director at the Old Vic theater in London.

A judge in Los Angeles this summer approved an arbitrator's decision to order Spacey to pay $30.9 million to the makers of "House of Cards" for violating his contract by sexually harassing crew members.

At the trial, Spacey testified that he was sure the encounter with Rapp never happened, in part because he was living in a studio apartment rather than the one bedroom that Rapp cited, and he never had a gathering beyond a housewarming party.

"I knew I wouldn't have any sexual interest in Anthony Rapp or any child, that I knew," he told jurors.

During two days of testimony, Spacey also expressed regret for a statement he issued when Rapp first went public in which he said he didn't recall the encounter, but if it happened "I owe him the sincerest apology for what would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behavior."

Dabbed his eyes with a tissue, Spacey said he'd been pressured by publicists and lawyers into issuing an empathetic statement at a time when the #MeToo movement made everyone in the industry nervous.

"I've learned a lesson, which is never apologize for something you didn't do," he said.

He also cried as he said he regretted revealing publicly that he was gay the same day Rapp's accusations surfaced because some interpreted his announcement as an effort to change the subject or deflect from Rapp's revelations.

Spacey had testified that he spoke at the trial about deeply personal matters, telling the jury his father was a white supremacist and neo-Nazi who berated him as gay because he liked the theater.

Spacey also gave courtroom spectators a brief taste of his acting chops when he briefly imitated his Broadway costar at the time, Jack Lemon. He had testified earlier that his ability at impressions aided him in his acting career.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

Cardi B Battles With Lawyer In Racy Mixtape Artwork Case

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 19:50

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A heated exchange between rapper Cardi B and the lawyer for a man suing her for copyright infringement got so intense Wednesday that the judge briefly stopped the trial.

The Grammy winner delivered pointed answers to several questions by attorney A. Barry Cappello, who is representing a man who claims the rapper misused his likeness on the cover of a 2016 mixtape.

The testy back-and-forth between the Cappello and the star witness prompted U.S. District Judge Cormac Carney to send jurors out of the Santa Ana, California courtroom and tell both sides he was considering a mistrial. After a break, he called the arguing "unprofessional" and "not productive" but allowed questioning to resume – placing new restrictions for both sides.

Kevin Michael Brophy is seeking $5 million from Cardi B over the appearance of some of his distinctive back tattoos on the mixtape's artwork, which shows a tattooed man from behind with his head between the rapper's legs.

The rapper said she felt Brophy hadn't suffered any consequences as a result of the artwork, yet has harassed her legally for five years. At one point she said she missed a special moment with her youngest child, who recently turned 1-year-old.

"I have empathy for people," she said. "I care about people. I feel like I'm being taken advantage of. I missed my child's first step by being here."

Brophy told jurors Tuesday that he felt "humiliated" by the racy artwork.

At one point, Cardi B pointed out that the man's face cannot be seen in the artwork. Capello asked her to calm down, but she instead barked back at the lawyer's contention that she knew about photo-editing software used to put Brophy's tattoos – which have been featured in magazines – on another model's body.

"It's not your client's back," she said about the image, which features a Black model. Brophy is white. The rapper said she posted a photo of the "famous Canadian model" on her social media.

Cardi B, whose real name is Belcalis Almanzar, said an artist used only a "small portion" of the tattoos without her knowledge. She had previously said the cover art – created by Timm Gooden — was transformative fair use of Brophy's likeness.

SEE MORE: Cardi B Pleads Guilty, Resolving Case Over NYC Club Brawls

Cappello said Gooden was paid $50 to create a design but was then told to find another tattoo after he turned in an initial draft. He said Gooden googled "back tattoos" before he found an image and pasted it on the cover.

Cardi B's lawyer, Peter Anderson, said Brophy and the mixtape image are unrelated, noting the model did not have neck tattoos, which Brophy does.

"It's not him," the rapper said. "To me, it doesn't look like his back at all. The tattoo was modified, which is protected by the First Amendment."

She said the image hasn't hindered Brophy's employment with a popular surf and skate apparel brand or his ability to travel the world for opportunities.

"He hasn't gotten fired from his job," said Cardi B, who implied that the mixtape was not a lucrative one for her. "He hasn't gotten a divorce. How has he suffered? He's still in a surf shop at his job. Please tell me how he's suffered."

Brophy, a self-described family man, said he sent a cease-and-desist letter to Cardi B's representatives to remove the image, but he never received a response. The rapper said she hadn't seen the letter.

At one point, Cardi B said she doesn't check her mailbox because that's for "old people" – leading some in the courtroom to chuckle.

When Cardi B left the courthouse, she was swarmed by around 30 high schoolers who were attempting to take selfies with her. As the rapper walked toward her vehicle with security, she smiled and waved before telling them she would be more responsive after the trial.

Last month, Cardi B pleaded guilty to a criminal case stemming from a pair of brawls at New York City strip clubs that required her to perform 15 days of community service. Earlier this year, the rapper was awarded $1.25 million in a defamation lawsuit against a celebrity news blogger who posted videos falsely stating she used cocaine, had contracted herpes and engaged in prostitution.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.

North Carolina Early Voting Begins Thursday

Thu, 10/20/2022 - 19:00

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If early data is any indication, you can say Americans are ready to vote in the midterm elections.

In Ohio, where early voting began last week, voter turnout is up nearly 3% compared to the gubernatorial race in 2018.

Georgia is also seeing record numbers, already surpassing the 2018 midterm election and turnout ahead of the 2020 presidential election.

Now, all eyes point to North Carolina as early voting kicked off Thursday. 

Recent surveys indicate the economy and inflation are top of mind for North Carolina voters, and that's exactly what Newsy is hearing from people at the polls on this first day of early voting.

SEE MORE: Key Midterm Races To Watch For Congressional Control

The most closely watched race in the state is for North Carolina's open Senate seat.

Cheri Beasley is running on the Democrat ticket against Republican Representative Tedd Budd.

The two went head-to-head earlier this month on the debate stage.

Budd recently co-sponsored a bill to ban abortions after 15 weeks. But says he is for protecting the life of the pregnant person. 

While Beasley said she supports the framework of Roe v. Wade, she hopes abortion is an issue that gets Democrats to the polls.

And when it comes to the economy and inflation, Beasley said she thinks Congress can do more to help the American people.

While Budd took aim at Democrats, blaming them for pain at the pump and grocery stores, an issue rallying Republican voters like Mary Keener.

“The economy, honey. It’s pitiful. We’re old and retired, but what about these young people?” said Keener.

A poll of likely voters released this week from East Carolina University found Budd up 50% to 44%, with about 5% of voters still undecided.

North Carolina is a state that Republicans have won for 14 years and while the state's Senate race is close, most strategists predict it'll tip red this time around too.

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