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Carlee Russell Fired from Spa Job, Co-Workers 'Pissed' About Fake Kidnapping Story
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Carlee Russell has officially disappeared — from the payroll of her Alabama job.

The owner of the Woodhouse spa in Birmingham told The Post that she’s been canned, and that her steaming co-workers are “pissed” about their former colleague’s increasingly suspect kidnapping account.

Owner Stuart Rome said his staffers were stunned after hearing of Russell’s purported disappearance and did everything in their power to help bring her home.

“It was really devastating for them thinking a co-worker was abducted,” he said. “The following day, Saturday, it was the busiest day of the week, and they had to plug along and work and in the off times pass out flyers and other things.”

But since Russell abruptly resurfaced police have revealed she had searched for bus ticket prices and movies about kidnapping on the day she disappeared, drawing mounting skepticism over her account.

Her co-workers’ concern also started to turn to anger.

“As the information came out that there were some questionable things, we’ve been a little pissed off, mainly because so many people took so much time out to search,” Rome said.

In addition, the spa has been getting slammed with nasty social media messages and damaging one-star reviews because of its affiliation with Russell.

“Basically, we’ve spent the last day battling to get things deleted,” he said. “Comments. I’ve had to shut down my comment section on Instagram and Facebook page which hurts us because we do a lot of marketing there. We’re just trying to keep the doors open.”

Russell, 25, called 911 at 9:34 p.m. July 13 and told a dispatcher that she had spotted a child wearing a T-shirt and diaper walking barefoot along busy a Hoover, Alabama highway.

Russell pledged to stay at the scene until police arrived but then vanished for two days before returning home and claiming that she had been kidnapped and held captive.

Police found her red Mercedes-Benz, cellphone, and wig at the scene of her supposed disappearance but found no traces of Russell or a missing tot.

Her mother, Talitha Russell, told NBC’s “Today” show Tuesday that her brave daughter had “fought for her life” to escape her captivity – but Police Chief Nick Derzis said his investigators have been “unable to verify most of Carlee’s initial statement.”

She claimed she was abducted by a man who forced her into a car and then an 18-wheeler truck while she was blindfolded. Russell said she then held at a home where a female captor gave her cheese crackers, according to Dervis.

Russell told detectives she eventually managed to escape and run through woods back to her neighborhood.

Before she vanished, Russell searched for information about Amber Alerts, the Liam Neeson movie “Taken” and bus tickets to Nashville leaving the day she disappeared, officials said.

She also fired off a series of unusual tweets before dialing 911.

“Yeah I want a family now,” she posted about 15 minutes before contacting police.

A few minutes earlier, she wrote: “Today was a GREAT day God be looking out I’m telling you!!” and “someone to tell you ‘I love you’ and don’t got a reason.”

Her former employer fumed that if her story is confirmed as a hoax, locals won’t be as quick to unite the next time a similar scenario emerges.

“I think it erodes faith for the next time, it erodes faith when people see somebody who’s been abducted and they’ve been put through this,” he said. “They’re just not going to respond like they did, which is the worst part.”

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Read 12 Comments
  • Memphismom says:

    A self-centered POS who needed attention.

  • L'Angelo Mysterioso says:

    Justice is served! This dumbass deserves everything she gets, but I hope the spa stays open! And flourishes!

  • Suhk Muhdeek says:

    She should be arrested and charged for perpetrating a hoax. She a female version of Jussie Smollet. Maybe some time in prison will change her over inflated sense of self-importance.

  • cj says:

    She is a poster child now of all that is fking wrong with this generation . She is of many standing for sick and black not all but a lot and white are included but she is supposed to be in good with her kind not drag them down even more . Sick people need to be off the streets .

  • Robert says:

    Yeah, well I guess she ultimately got that attention she so badly wanted.

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    Minnesota School Bans Cell Phones — And Students Are Happy

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    A Minnesota middle school banned student cellphones a year ago, and the difference it made was “night and day,” according to school officials.

    “I believe (the ban) is game-changing and will have lasting impacts on our students for years to come,” Maple Grove Middle School Principal Patrick Smith told WCCO.

    “There was no cross-the-table conversations, there was no interaction in the hallways,” he said. “And let’s be real, with these devices, our students – especially our teenagers – there’s a lot of drama that comes from social media, and a lot of conflict that comes from it.”

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    “We have a culture and climate concern. We see issues that kids are getting on their phones through interactions of bullying, of setting up fights, just the gambit of a lot of the negative things kids are going back and forth on social media,” Smith said on the Chad Hartman Show, adding that the distraction from learning was also a major concern.

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    “Nobody has ever pushed back,” he said. “I mean, in my experience, not one parent or community member has come in and said this is bogus, you shouldn’t be doing this, our kids should be able to have their phone. It’s been very, very much supported by our community and our parents and our staff.”

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    While it remains to be seen how the change has impacted academics overall, feedback from parents who spoke with WCCO suggest it’s making a difference.

    “I do notice that he is thriving and really focused and doing really well,” parent Kim Gillen said. “Participates in class discussions. I get feedback from the teachers on that.”

    The positive results at Maple Grove has bolstered Republican state Rep. Kristin Robbins’ efforts to bring the change to more schools in Minnesota.

    “This is an area where we can really make progress,” she told WCCO. “The research shows if the phone is nearby, it’s a mental distraction because they’re wondering, ‘what’s happening with my phone? How can I sneak it? Should I go to the bathroom and check my phone?’”

    A recent study from Common Sense Media examining smartphone data of 200 students found 97% of 11- to 17-year-olds use their phones during the school day, with the amount of in-school screen time ranging from less than a minute to 6.5 hours, with a median time of 43 minutes.

    The study found students picked up their phones a media of 51 times per day, though pickup amounts ranged from two to 498 times per day, K-12 Dive reports.

    Data from the National Center for Education Statistics shows 91% of schools banned nonacademic use of phones during the 2009-10 school year, a figure that declined to 66% by 2015-16, before rebounding to 77% in 2019-20, according to the news site.

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    3 Killed, 6 Injured in Terror Shooting in Jerusalem

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    Three people were killed and six were wounded, two of them seriously, in a terror shooting attack at the entrance to Jerusalem on Thursday morning, police and medics said.

    According to police, at around 7:40 a.m. two Palestinian gunmen got out of a vehicle on Weizman Street at the main entrance to the capital and opened fire at people at a bus stop.

    Police said two off-duty soldiers and an armed civilian in the area returned fire, killing the two terrorists.

    The attackers were named as brothers Murad Namr, 38, and Ibrahim Namr, 30, from East Jerusalem.

    According to the Shin Bet security agency, the pair were Hamas members and previously jailed for terror activity.

    Murad was jailed between 2010 and 2020 for planning terror attacks under directions of terror elements in the Gaza Strip and Ibrahim was jailed in 2014 for undisclosed terror activity, the agency said.

    Footage showed that the terrorists were armed with an M-16 assault rifle and a handgun. A police search of the vehicle found large amounts of ammunition.

    Police said officers were searching the area to rule out any additional attackers.

    The Magen David Adom ambulance service said its medics declared the death of a 24-year-old woman at the scene, and was taking eight others to hospitals in Jerusalem.

    An elderly man and a woman, who were critically wounded, were later declared dead at a hospital in Jerusalem.

    None of the fatalities were immediately publicly named.

    Another two victims were listed in serious condition, three in moderate condition, and one in good condition, according to MDA.

    The bus stop was the scene of a deadly bomb attack almost exactly a year ago.

    Thursday’s attack came as a ceasefire between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the Gaza Strip was holding for the sixth day.

    Tensions in Israel and the West Bank have been high since October 7, when some 3,000 terrorists burst through the border into Israel in a Hamas-led attack, killing at least 1,200 people, most of them civilians, and seizing some 240 hostages.

    Israel responded with an aerial campaign and subsequent ground operation with the goal of destroying Hamas and ending its 16-year rule over Gaza, and securing the release of the hostages.

    The IDF has continued to operate throughout the West Bank and police have been on high alert in Israel, in light of concerns about a possible escalation of violence following the release of Palestinian security prisoners in the exchange for abducted Israeli hostages.

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    Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger Dies at 100

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    Henry Kissinger, the German-born American diplomat, academic and presidential adviser who served as Secretary of State for two presidents and left his stamp on U.S. foreign policy for decades died Wednesday at the age of 100.

    A statement released by Kissinger Associates said Kissinger died Wednesday at his home in Connecticut.

    Kissinger was both revered and controversial, praised by supporters as a brilliant strategist and condemned by critics as a master manipulator.

    He pioneered the policy of détente with the Soviet Union, began a rapprochement with China and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1973 for negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

    Some of his policies remain controversial, and journalist Seymour Hersh claimed in 2002, “The dark side of Henry Kissinger is very, very dark.”

    Even his appearance seemed at odds with his social life. Portly, bespectacled and heavily accented, Kissinger was far from the idea of a Hollywood Adonis. Yet at various points before his second marriage, according to his biographer, Walter Isaacson, Kissinger dated actresses Jill St. John, Shirley MacLaine, Marlo Thomas, Candice Bergen and Liv Ullman.

    “Power,” he once famously said, “is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

    He was also a man used to perennially being in charge.

    “There cannot be a crisis next week,” he was quoted as saying in The New York Times in 1969. “My schedule is already full.”

    He maintained his global influence well after leaving public life, evidenced most recently by his meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing in July. The Chinese leader greeted the former American diplomat who had celebrated his 100th birthday less than two months prior with deep respect.

    “The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger,” Xi said at the time.

    Kissinger played a leading role in the normalization of diplomatic ties between the U.S. and China under presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford.

    By 1980, he told Time magazine, “The longer I am out of office, the more infallible I appear to myself.”

    Kissinger is survived by his wife, Nancy, whom he married in 1974, and two children, David and Elizabeth, from his first marriage.

    He was born Heinz Alfred Kissinger in Fürth, Bavaria, Germany, May 27, 1923, and, even as a child, was known for his intellect.

    “Henry Kissinger grew up with that do mix of ego and insecurity that comes from being the smartest kid in the class,” Isaacson wrote.

    “From really knowing that you’re more awesomely intelligent than anybody else but also being the guy who’d gotten beaten up because he was Jewish.”

    Kissinger, his younger brother, Walter, and his parents fled the Nazis and arrived in New York in 1938 by way of London when Henry was 15.

    After attending the City College of New York, he served in the U.S. military, becoming a U.S. citizen, then enrolling at Harvard, where he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees and a Ph.D.

    Kissinger then joined the Harvard faculty, where he became an expert in the field of international relations and an adviser to government agencies under presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson.

    In 1969, he was appointed national security adviser to Nixon.

    As head of the National Security Council, Kissinger wielded unusual power for the office and had a significant hand in devising and executing U.S. foreign policy, largely circumventing then-Secretary of State William P. Rogers.

    A staunch proponent of Realpolitik, Kissinger pushed for Nixon to employ a pragmatic strategy toward engagement with the Soviet Union and China.

    More controversial, though, was his involvement in the Vietnam conflict, including the bombing of Cambodia and Laos.

    In 1973, Kissinger began secret talks with North and South Vietnam, negotiating the Paris Peace Accords to end direct U.S. military involvement in Vietnam and an end to the war.

    Although the cease-fire was not lasting, Kissinger was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize that year, jointly with his North Vietnamese counterpart Le Duc Tho. Kissinger said he accepted the prize “with humility,” though the Vietnamese revolutionary declined to accept since the agreement failed to yield a lasting peace.

    In his book, “The Trial of Henry Kissinger,” late author Christopher Hitchens also charged Kissinger supported the September 1973 coup to oust Chilean Marxist President Salvador Allende, paving the way for the totalitarian regime of General Augusto Pinochet.

    On Sept. 22, 1973, Nixon appointed Kissinger secretary of state, a role he maintained under Ford after Nixon resigned in 1974 in the aftermath of the Watergate scandal.

    When Ford failed to win re-election in 1976, Kissinger left politics to return to academia at Georgetown University’s Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank.

    He also founded his international consulting firm, Kissinger Associates, and served as a director on a number of boards for corporations and nonprofit organizations.

    Kissinger also wrote several books on public policy and three memoirs.

    In one, 1982’s “Years of Upheaval,” he described what he presumably considered his own role.

    “Statesman create; ordinary leaders consume,” he said. “The ordinary leader is satisfied with ameliorating the environment, not transforming it; a statesman must be a visionary and an educator.”

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    McCarthy Eyes Exit: Lawmakers Expect Him to Bolt by Christmas

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    Multiple GOP lawmakers expect former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to step down from his seat before the end of the year, Axios reported.

    The potential exit of McCarthy — who privately told donors he is looking to “get the hell out,” according to a source familiar with the conversation — could leave the House GOP with an even narrower majority.

    “I have another week or so to decide because if I decide to run again, I have to know in my heart I’m giving 110%,” McCarthy said at The New York Times DealBook Summit on Wednesday, referring to California’s Dec. 8 filing deadline.

    “I have to know that I want to do that. I also have to know if I’m going to walk away, that I’m going to be fine with walking away. And so I’m really taking this time now,” he said.

    Speculation over McCarthy’s potential departure escalated ahead of the Thanksgiving recess, with multiple GOP sources noting he posted a photo on Instagram in which his district office appeared to be in the process of being packed.

    Multiple Republicans raised concerns that California’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom could hold McCarthy’s seat open if he decides to resign in the new year.

    The GOP’s razor-thin majority is already on the verge of being diminished further by the potential expulsion of Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) in a vote expected on Friday.

    GOP lawmakers have noted the awkward nature of shifting from leading the conference to being a rank-and-file member. Tensions between McCarthy and his critics have continued to flare up since his historic ouster.

    The former speaker refers to those who voted to strip him from his gavel as the “crazy eight.” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-Tenn.) recently accused McCarthy of elbowing him in a narrow hallway of the Capitol, which McCarthy has denied.

    Some rank-and-file members voiced frustrations with McCarthy attempting to “kneecap” multiple candidates that aimed to succeed him as speaker, arguing that the efforts minimized much of the sympathy he gained after the initial ouster.

    “The image in the rearview mirror is getting smaller by the day,” one lawmaker said of McCarthy’s influence over the conference. “I don’t think he’s having a good time being a regular Joe.”

    McCarthy allies have praised his tenure — applauding his fundraising prowess and leadership skills — but told Axios they wouldn’t blame him for leaving given the circumstances. And his critics remain vocal about their grievances, with some accusing him of being “bitter” and “petty” in his remarks about those who worked to remove him.

    “I can’t really imagine that Kevin really wants to stick around. I’ll support him with whatever he wants to do,” one lawmaker told Axios, adding that he “decentralized power” and “did a lot of really good things he doesn’t get nearly enough credit for.”

    “I mean, why the hell would he stay?” said another House lawmaker.

    “I suspect the former speaker will return to spend more time with the people he’s always represented — on Wall Street and K Street. I don’t imagine he’ll be walking the streets of Bakersfield,” Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) told Axios.

    “Damn shame,” one McCarthy critic quipped, predicting that the former speaker will likely use millions in PAC funds to meddle in the races of the House Republicans who voted to oust him.

    McCarthy’s seat is a Republican stronghold, but his potential exit could prove to be an issue for GOP leadership until a special election is held.

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    MTG Reintroduces Articles of Impeachment Against Mayorkas

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    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) reintroduced a privileged motion to impeach Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, forcing leadership to bring the motion up for a vote sometime before the end of this week.

    The effort comes just weeks after the House voted to table a similar motion to impeach the Biden administration official, which accused Mayorkas of failing to maintain “operational control” of United States borders which has led to an influx of illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the southern border. That motion was shot down after eight Republicans joined all Democrats in opposing the measure, instead referring the matter to the Homeland Security Committee.

    “The eight Republicans that voted with the Democrats to protect Mayorkas’s job and send the articles of impeachment back to committee, they found out from their districts that they made the wrong move,” Greene said. “The eight Republicans that voted with the Democrats claimed that they wanted it to follow proper House procedure and go through the committee. But my articles of impeachment had been sitting in committee for over six months, and they’ve been basically sitting there collecting dust not being picked up.”

    Greene said she hasn’t spoken to the eight who voted against her initial resolution but said she believes, based on phone calls her office received, that the lawmakers heard from constituents while they were home from Thanksgiving expressing frustration at their opposition. The Georgia Republican also expressed frustration toward House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), noting the two have not discussed her efforts to impeach Mayorkas since he assumed the top leadership position last month.

    Greene again filed the motion as a privileged resolution, forcing GOP leadership to bring it up for a vote within two legislative days. It’s unclear when House leaders will call for a vote, but rules dictate it must come to the floor before lawmakers adjourn for the weekend on Friday.

    The impeachment resolution introduces one charge that alleges Mayorkas violated his constitutional duties since taking office in February 2021.

    Greene cites a number of federal statutes in the resolution, such as the Secure Fence Act of 2006, which requires Mayorkas to maintain operational control of the border, and the Guarantee Clause, which requires him to “protect each of the States from invasion.” The Georgia Republican cited reports that show more than 10 million illegal immigrants have come into the country during his tenure, including the admittance of “terrorists, human traffickers, drugs, and other contraband.”

    The 10 million number referenced in the resolution combines 8 million encounters at the southern border with another 1.8 million “gotaways,” or immigrants who managed to evade U.S. border officials and remain in the country to this day. The remaining number of immigrants includes individuals from Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey, and other countries.

    The resolution also accuses Mayorkas of failing to stop the flow of fentanyl across the southern border, citing reports that Customs and Border Protection seized approximately 11,200 pounds of fentanyl during fiscal 2021 and another 14,700 pounds the following year.

    The Department of Homeland Security has repeatedly pushed back against the resolution, arguing policy differences are not grounds for impeachment. A spokesperson for the department told the Washington Examiner earlier this month the U.S. immigration system has been broken for decades, arguing only Congress can pass legislation to fix it.

    “Instead of continuing their reckless impeachment charades and attacks on law enforcement, Congress should work with us to keep our country safe, build on the progress DHS is making, and deliver desperately needed reforms for our broken immigration system that only legislation can fix,” the spokesperson said.

    The latest effort comes amid a monthslong push by Greene to remove the top border official from his post over accusations Mayorkas has violated his constitutional duty to protect the U.S. borders, which has led to an influx of illegal immigration and the flow of fentanyl across the southern border.

    The Georgia Republican filed articles of impeachment against the homeland security official earlier this year, but that legislation failed to garner much momentum in the lower chamber, prompting Greene to file the latest two articles as privileged.

    However, Greene said on Wednesday she would continue introducing the resolution and forcing votes on his impeachment as many times as it takes.

    “I’ll keep reintroducing it because he should be impeached,” she said.

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    After 50 Years, US Returns to Moon on January 25

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    The lander, named Peregrine, will have no one on board. It was developed by American company Astrobotic, whose CEO John Thornton said it will carry NASA instruments to study the lunar environment in anticipation of NASA’s Artemis manned missions.

    Several years ago, NASA opted to commission US companies to send scientific experiments and technologies to the Moon — a program called CLPS.

    These fixed-price contracts should make it possible to develop a lunar economy, and provide transport services at a lower cost.

    “One of the big challenges of what we’re attempting here is attempting a launch and landing on the surface Moon for a fraction of what it would otherwise cost,” said Thornton Wednesday at a press briefing at his company’s base in in Pittsburgh.

    “Only about half of the missions that have gone to the surface of the Moon have been successful,” he said.

    “So it’s certainly a daunting challenge. I’m going to be terrified and thrilled all at once at every stage of this.”

    Takeoff is scheduled for December 24 from Florida aboard the inaugural flight of the new rocket from the ULA industrial group, named Vulcan Centaur.

    The probe will then take “a few days” to reach lunar orbit, but will have to wait until January 25 before attempting landing, so that light conditions at the target location are right, Thornton said.

    The descent will be carried out autonomously, without human intervention, but will be monitored from the company’s control center.

    In the spring, the Japanese start-up ispace had already attempted to become the first private company to land on the Moon, but the mission ended in a crash. Israel also suffered a setback in 2019. Only four countries have successfully landed on the Moon: the United States, Russia, China and, most recently, India.

    In addition to Astrobotic, NASA has signed contracts with other companies, such as Firefly Aerospace, Draper and Intuitive Machines.

    The latter is due to take off aboard a SpaceX rocket in January.

    “NASA leadership is aware of the risks and has accepted that some of these missions might not succeed,” said Chris Culbert, the CLPS program manager.

    “But even if every landing isn’t successful, CLPS already had an impact on the commercial infrastructure needed to establish a lunar economy,” he said.

    With its Artemis program, NASA wants to establish a base on the surface of the Moon.

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    “Go F*** Yourself!”: Elon Musk Rips Advertisers Dropping from X Platform

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    Tech billionaire Elon Musk lashed out at companies that stopped advertising on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, in an interview Wednesday.

    Musk has been targeted by Media Matters, a left-wing activist organization that tries to pressure advertisers to stop partnering with right-wing and conservative companies.

    He was being interviewed by Andrew Ross Sorkin at the DealBook Summit in New York City when he made the comments.

    “Don’t advertise,” he said about the advertisers.

    “You don’t want them to advertise?” Sorkin asked quizzically.

    “No,” Musk responded.

    “What do you mean?” Sorkin asked.

    “If somebody’s gonna try to blackmail me with advertising, blackmail me with money? Go f*** yourself!” Musk said.

    Sorkin appeared to be stunned by the response, so Musk repeated it.

    “Go. F***. Yourself.” he added, emphasizing each word. “Is that clear? I hope it is.”

    He then appeared to imply that his followers would boycott the companies that tried to blackmail him.

    “The whole world will know that those advertisers killed company and we will document it in great detail,” Musk added.

    He also apologized for posting what some people called an anti-Semitic meme on X that he later deleted.

    “I’m sorry for that tweet or post,” he said. “I tried my best to clarify, six ways to Sunday, but you know at least I think over time it will be obvious that in fact, far from being anti-Semitic, I am in fact philosemitic.”

    He also called it “one of the most foolish if not the most foolish thing I’ve ever done on the platform.”

    Earlier in November, Musk followed through on a threat to file a lawsuit against Media Matters and accused them of manipulating data in order to make it appear that advertisements appeared next to white supremacist hashtags on the platform.

    Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, responded to the threat with a brief statement.

    “Far from the free speech advocate he claims to be, Musk is a bully who threatens meritless lawsuits in an attempt to silence reporting that he even confirmed is accurate,” said Carusone. “Musk admitted the ads at issue ran alongside the pro-Nazi content we identified. If he does sue us, we will win.”

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    Pope Punishes Conservative US Cardinal in Second Action Against American Dignitaries

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    Pope Francis has decided to punish one of his highest-ranking critics, Cardinal Raymond Burke, by revoking his right to a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary in the second such radical action against a conservative American prelate this month, according to two people briefed on the measures.

    Francis told a meeting of the heads of Vatican offices last week that he was moving against Burke because he was a source of “disunity” in the church, said one of the participants at the Nov. 20 meeting. The participant spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to reveal the contents of the encounter.

    Francis said he was removing Burke’s privileges of having a subsidized Vatican apartment and salary as a retired cardinal because he was using the privileges against the church, said another person who was subsequently briefed on the pope’s measures. That person also spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to reveal the details.

    Burke has not received any notification of measures being taken, his secretary said in a text message Tuesday to The Associated Press.

    Burke, a 75-year-old canon lawyer whom Francis had fired as the Vatican’s high court justice in 2014, has become one of the most outspoken critics of the pope, his outreach to LGBT Catholics.

    Twice, Burke has joined other conservative cardinals in issuing formal questions to the pontiff, known as “dubia,” asking him to clarify questions of doctrine that upset conservatives and traditionalists. In the first, they asked Francis to clarify his outreach to divorced and civilly remarried Catholics, and Francis never replied. In the second, they asked whether same-sex couples could receive church blessings — and received a conditional maybe in response.

    Then, on the eve of Francis’ big meeting of bishops last month, known as a synod, Burke presided over a counter-synod of sorts just steps away from St. Peter’s Square. There, Burke delivered a stinging rebuke of Francis’ vision of “synodality” as well as his overall reform project for the church.

    “It’s unfortunately very clear that the invocation of the Holy Spirit by some has the aim of bringing forward an agenda that is more political and human than ecclesial and divine,” Burke told the conference titled “The Synodal Babel.”

    Burke has always defended his actions as being of service to the church and the papacy, saying it was his obligation as a cardinal and bishop to uphold church teaching and correct errors.

    “The sheep depend on the courage of pastors who must protect them from the poison of confusion, error and division,” he told the Oct. 3 conference, prompting applause from the crowd.

    Burke, who spends much of his time in the U.S. at the Our Lady of Guadalupe shrine he founded in his native Wisconsin, is the second American prelate to face punishment in what appears to be a new phase of Francis’ pontificate. This reform-minded period seems to have accelerated with the arrival in September of Francis’ hand-picked new doctrine czar, Argentine Cardinal Victor Fernández.

    Earlier this month, Francis forcibly removed the bishop of Tyler, Texas, Joseph Strickland, another conservative who had also become one of Francis’ critics. Strickland was removed after a Vatican investigation into governance of his diocese.

    In a tweet Tuesday, Strickland expressed shock at reports that Francis had taken action taken against his fellow American, which was first reported by the conservative Italian newspaper La Nuova Bussola Quotidiana, the main sponsor of “The Synodal Babel” conference.

    “If this is accurate it is an atrocity that must be opposed. If it is false information it needs to be corrected immediately,” Strickland said.

    Asked Tuesday about word of Francis’ decision, Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni didn’t deny the reports but referred questions to Burke.

    “I don’t have anything particular to say about that,” Bruni told reporters.

    Pope Benedict XVI had made Burke a cardinal in 2010, after he appointed him prefect of the Apostolic Signatura, the Vatican’s high court. After Francis removed him from that position in 2014, he made Burke the cardinal patron of the Knights of Malta, a prestigious but limited role.

    But there too, Burke and Francis clashed over Burke’s involvement in a governance crisis at the chivalric order. Francis pushed him aside and named two subsequent envoys to essentially replace him.

    More recently, the two seemingly were at odds over COVID-19 vaccines. Francis had been a big proponent of the vaccines and had lashed out at vaccine skeptics, who included some conservative Catholics.

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    “Biden’s America”: Social Media Lights Up When National Christmas Tree Falls

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    The National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C., toppled over on Tuesday, prompting a blizzard of jokes and memes on social media at President Joe Biden‘s expense.

    A powerful gust of wind knocked down the tree placed in the Ellipse near the White House in the early afternoon, according to the National Park Service, but crews managed to pick it back up with a crane within a couple hours.

    “The National Park Service is currently evaluating the National Christmas Tree, which fell over on Nov. 28 during a strong wind gust this afternoon,” the agency said in a statement.

    “As the saying goes, ‘the show must go on,’ and the NPS and our event partners are looking at all possibilities to ensure a successful event this year.” NPS later said workers had replaced a “snapped” cable and declared the tree was standing upright as of 6 p.m. local time.

    Though the lighting ceremony is still expected to take place with Biden on Thursday, and other National Christmas Trees have fallen in the past, X users made the most of the temporary spectacle — with many decking the halls with Biden zingers.

    “National Christmas tree falls DOWN. Perfectly summing up Joe Biden’s presidency,” said the House Judiciary GOP.

    In another post, the account shared a GIF of Biden tripping while walking up the stairs to board Air Force One.

    “Guess it will have to use the short stairs up Air Force One,” quipped Newsmax host Jenn Pellegrino.

    “The wind just knocked over the National Christmas tree. Crazy stuff but it’s nice to see something falling at the White House besides Biden,” joked comedian and radio host Jimmy Failla.

    “If the administration was depicted by a Christmas Tree…. This pretty much sums up the entire Biden Presidency,” added Eric Trump, one of former President Donald Trump’s sons. Others remarked, “Biden’s America,” opined that the imagery was “fitting” for his administration, or made references to the “war on Christmas.”

    NPS spokeswoman Chelsea Sullivan told local news outlet WTOP that the tree, which is a 40-foot Norway spruce from Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia, is the first “cut tree” used as the National Christmas Tree in 50 years after one planted in 2021 got removed due to a fungal infection.

    Meanwhile, the Capitol Christmas Tree lighting ceremony took place on Capitol Hill on Tuesday evening with House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA). Winds did not knock down that tree, but some pro-Palestinian demonstrators tried to disrupt the event.

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    Baby Brothers and Mother Held Hostage Are Dead, Hamas Says

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    The redheaded baby brothers who were abducted from Israel on Oct. 7, becoming an international symbol of Hamas’ brutality over their nearly two months in captivity, are dead along with their mother, the Palestinian terror group said Wednesday.

    The Al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’ military arm, announced the deaths of three Israel hostages, including abducted brothers Ariel Bibas, 4, and Kfir Bibas, who was only 10 months old and had just learned to crawl when he was kidnapped.

    Hamas claims the young hostages, and their mother, Sherry Silverman Bibas, were killed in an Israel Defense Force bombing of the Gaza Strip.

    Shiri Bibas is seen in a short video clip as she was kidnapped with her two young children.X

    The IDF posted a response to the report on X, formerly Twitter, saying they are “examining the reliability of the information” before adding, “The responsibility for the safety of all the abductees and abductees in the Gaza Strip lies fully with the terrorist organization Hamas.”

    The Bibas family also issued a statement on the claims, which was shared on X.

    It reads: “Our family is updated on the latest statement from Hamas. We are waiting for military authorities to confirm or, hopefully, refute the news soon. We thank the Israeli people for the warm embrace but we ask to maintain our privacy in this very complex moment.”

    The brothers’ deaths were announced Wednesday via Telegram. Family members revealed earlier today they did not believe any of their family members were on the list of hostages set to be released Wednesday.

    Sherry Bibas was kidnapped along with her two sons from Kibbutz Nir Oz near the Gaza border on Oct. 7.

    Kfir was the youngest of about 30 children who were taken hostage.

    Shiri and her husband, Yaden Bibas, were in their home’s safe room when the Hamas attack began. Yaden is believed to still be in captivity.

    Hamas has lied or misled about the fate of hostages in the past. Captive Hanna Katzir, 76, who they’d said died in an Israeli air strike earlier this month, was among the hostages Hamas released on Saturday, alive and well.

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    US Military Osprey Aircraft Crashes Into Sea Near Japan

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    A crew member who was recovered from the ocean after a U.S. military Osprey aircraft carrying eight people crashed Wednesday off southern Japan has been pronounced dead, coast guard officials said.

    The cause of the crash and the status of the seven others on board were not immediately known, coast guard spokesperson Kazuo Ogawa said.

    The Osprey was carrying eight crew and is an Air Force aircraft, a U.S. official who was not authorized to speak to the media said on condition of anonymity. While the Marine Corps flies most of the Osprey aircraft that are based in Japan, the Air Force also has Ospreys deployed there.

    Earlier reports had said the aircraft was carrying six or eight people.

    The official could not provide further information pending notification of next of kin.

    The Osprey is a hybrid aircraft that takes off and lands like a helicopter, but during flight can rotate its propellers forward and cruise much faster like an airplane.

    Ospreys have had a number of accidents in the past, including in Japan, where they are deployed at both U.S. and Japanese military bases. In Okinawa, where about half of the 50,000 American troops in Japan are based, Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters Wednesday that he will ask the U.S. military to suspend all Osprey flights in Japan.

    Coast guard spokesperson Ogawa said it received an emergency call Wednesday afternoon from a fishing boat near the crash site off Yakushima, an island south of Kagoshima on the southern main island of Kyushu.

    Coast guard aircraft and patrol boats found one person identified only as a male who was later pronounced dead by a doctor at a nearby port, he said. They also found gray-colored debris believed to be from the aircraft and an empty inflatable life raft in an area about 1 kilometer (0.6 mile) off the eastern coast of Yakushima, Ogawa said.

    The coast guard said it planned to continue searching through the night.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said the Osprey disappeared from radar a few minutes before the coast guard received the emergency call. The aircraft requested an emergency landing at the Yakushima airport about five minutes before it was lost from radar, NHK public television and other media reported.

    NHK quoted a Yakushima resident as saying he saw the aircraft turned upside down, with fire coming from one of its engines, and then an explosion before it fell to the sea.

    Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said he planned to seek a further explanation from the U.S. military, but declined to say whether he would seek a temporary suspension of Osprey operations in Japan.

    Ogawa said the aircraft had departed from the U.S. Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Yamaguchi prefecture and crashed on its way to Kadena Air Base on Okinawa.

    Japanese Vice Defense Minister Hiroyuki Miyazawa said it had attempted an emergency sea landing and quoted the U.S. military as saying its pilot “did everything possible until the last minute.”

    U.S. and Japanese officials said the aircraft belonged to Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo. U.S. Air Force officials at Yokota said they were still confirming information and had no immediate comment.

    Yokota Air Base is home to U.S. Forces Japan and the Fifth Air Force. Six CV-22 Ospreys have been deployed at Yokota, including the one that crashed.

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    DeSantis vs. Newsom Debate: Battle Between Two Governors

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    Govs. Gavin Newsom (D-Calif.) and Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) will face off in a debate hosted by Fox News this week.

    Here is what to expect during what the network is calling “The Great Red vs. Blue State Debate” between the two governors:

    When is the debate?

    The event will be held at 9 p.m. EST Thursday live from Alpharetta, Ga., but will not feature an audience in attendance.

    How long will the debate last?

    Fox has said the debate will span 90 minutes and be hosted by prime-time pundit Sean Hannity, who hosts a weeknight show on the network in the 9 p.m. hour.

    Hannity will then provide live reaction with a panel of guests from 10:30-11 p.m., the network said, before its late night newscast, “Fox News at Night with Trace Gallagher” will follow in its regular time slot at 11 p.m.

    How can I watch or listen to the debate?

    The debate will air live on Fox News Channel and simulcast on Fox News Radio. The event will also be streamed on FoxNews.com, but a valid cable subscription will be required to access the feed.

    What will the topics of discussion be?

    Hannity will highlight a variety of issues in each state, “including the economy, the border, immigration, crime, and inflation,” the network said.

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    Biden Cancels Student Loans for 800,000 Borrowers

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    Joe Biden told 813,000 more Americans that he has wiped their student loan debt on Tuesday, meaning the president has forgiven a total of $127 billion for 3.5 million borrowers.

    The former students will soon receive an email from Biden notifying them that their debt has been forgiven – despite the fact that his plan to cancel $400 billion in debt was rejected by the Supreme Court in June.

    The email read: ‘Congratulations — your student loan has been forgiven because of actions my administration took to make sure you receive the relief you earned and deserve.’

    Biden’s headstrong push for the relief program coincides with the looming 2024 election and desire to get young voters on board.

    A White House spokesperson said Tuesday: ‘The president is committed to fighting for hardworking American families, making sure we get them a little more breathing room, and allowing them to support themselves and their families.’

    At the beginning of October, Biden canceled another $9 billion in student loan debt, giving relief to 125,000 borrowers.

    The move came as borrowers prepare for payments to restart after a three-year pause that began during the COVID-19 pandemic.

    ‘Americans who are saddled with unsustainable debt in exchange for a college degree has become the norm,’ Biden said in remarks at the White House.

    He argued canceling student loan debt is good for the economy as borrowers will spend their payment money on other items.

    ‘This kind of relief is life-changing for individuals and their families. But it’s good for our economy as a whole as well. By freeing millions of Americans from the crushing burden of student debt it means they can go and get their lives in order. They can think about buying a house. They can start a business. They can be starting a family. This matters. This matters to their daily lives,’ the president said.

    In total, 3.6 million borrowers will have had $127 billion in debt wiped out since Biden took office.

    ‘My administration will continue to use every tool at our disposal to help ease the burden of student debt so more Americans can be free to achieve their dreams. It’s good for our economy. It’s good for our country. And it’s going to change their lives,’ he said.

    Federal student loan payments resumed on October 1.

    In June, the Supreme Court canceled Biden’s student loan forgiveness program, which promised up to $20,000 in debt relief for low- and middle-income borrowers, the administration has continued to find other ways to provide debt relief.

    In the aftermath Biden said he would pursue new measures to provide student loan relief.

    He’s been relying on a patchwork of different programs to chip away at debt, such as public service loan forgiveness and the SAVE Plan, which lowers payments by tying them to borrowers’ income.

    Meanwhile earlier this month, the Biden administration got a big slap on the wrist by one of its own agencies for failing to put strong anti-fraud safeguards in its original plan to hand out $430 billion in student loan relief.

    In a blistering report, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) exposed shortcomings in Biden’s student loan forgiveness plan – which has since been squashed by the Supreme Court – saying it opened the door to fraud.

    ‘We found that Education quickly approved borrowers for debt relief without applying key practices to prevent fraud. For example, it didn’t verify certain borrowers’ self-reported income before approving them for relief.’

    In addition, it said that the department approved over 12 million borrower applicants ‘without evaluating the accuracy and outcomes of its application process.’

    And 2 million students were set to be automatically approved based on their self-reported income without the Education Department deploying ‘any tools to verify these borrowers’ incomes or ensure they were eligible for relief.’

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