Democrat AG Rebuffs NM Governor, Refuses to Defend Gun Carry Ban in Court
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New Mexico Attorney General Raul Torrez will not defend Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham’s controversial gun order, which is facing multiple lawsuits, in court.

Torrez told the governor in a letter Tuesday that he believed the emergency order, which temporarily bans people from carrying firearms in public spaces across Bernalillo County, violated the state and federal constitutions. Because of that, he said his office would not defend the governor against several legal challenges.

“I am writing to inform you that my office will not defend your administration in the above referenced cases challenging” Lujan Grisham’s order, Torrez wrote.

“Though I recognize my statutory obligation as New Mexico’s chief legal officer to defend state officials when they are sued in their official capacity, my duty to uphold and defend the constitutional rights of every citizen takes precedence,” his letter continued. “Simply put, I do not believe that the Emergency Order will have any meaningful impact on public safety but, more importantly, I do not believe it passes constitutional muster.”

Lujan Grisham signed an executive order on Friday that banned open and concealed carrying firearms in Albuquerque and the rest of the surrounding county. The governor enacted the order — to remain in place for 30 days — after a spate of shootings that killed several children.

“The tragic deaths of 5-year-old Galilea Samaniego in a recent drive-by shooting and 11-year-old Froylan Villegas in a road rage incident should serve as a wakeup call to everyone,” Torrez wrote. “I encourage you to engage in a more thoughtful and deliberative process with members of the New Mexico Legislature rather than taking unilateral action that infringes on the constitutional rights of law-abiding citizens while having little if any discernible impact on the underlying dynamics driving gun violence in our community.”

Torrez, a Democrat, joins a handful of other officials in refusing to enforce or defend the order. Albuquerque Mayor Tim Keller, also a Democrat, said in a statement to social media that the city’s police force would not be responsible for enforcing the governor’s order. Bernalillo County Sheriff John Allen announced on Monday that he would not enforce the order either, calling it unconstitutional.

Lujan Grisham responded to Allen in a statement to the NM Political Report, saying that her administration had “given you the tools, Sheriff Allen — now stop being squeamish about using them. I will not back down from doing what’s right and I will always put the safety of the people of New Mexico first.”

Lujan Grisham said in an interview on CNN: “It’s not for police to tell me what’s constitutional or not. They haven’t supported one, not one gun violence effort in the State of New Mexico including domestic violence protections, universal background checks.”

The New Mexico governor has also taken criticism from prominent national progressives over her gun order, such as California Rep. Ted Lieu and gun control activist David Hogg. Each said that the governor’s order violated the U.S. Constitution.

Read 16 Comments
  • CC45 says:


  • mari says:

    Thankfully the Sheriff said he will not enforce this anti Constitution ban. And as I predicted, there are multiple lawsuits in the works for this folly. A governor doesn’t have the right to violate people’s Constitutional rights.

  • Rick says:

    Eliminate cash bail and put people in jail…

  • Max says:

    You’re abusing power in an unprecedented way and nobody should support your!

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    El Paso, Texas at Breaking Point as Migrants Flood Border, Mayor Says



    The dramatic increase in illegal migrants crossing the U.S. border from Mexico has pushed the city of El Paso, Texas, to “a breaking point,” with more than 2,000 people per day seeking asylum, exceeding shelter capacity and straining resources, its mayor said on Saturday.

    “The city of El Paso only has so many resources and we have come to … a breaking point right now,” Mayor Oscar Leeser said at a news conference.

    The arrival of largely Venezuelan asylum seekers is part of a larger swell of immigrants who traveled dangerous routes on buses and cargo trains to Mexican border towns near San Diego, California, and the Texas cities of El Paso and Eagle Pass.

    Lesser said El Paso plans to open a new shelter, and on Saturday chartered five buses to take migrants to New York, Chicago and Denver.

    Republican governors in Texas and Florida have been criticized for sending migrants to cities perceived as liberal such as New York and Sacramento. But Leeser, a Democrat, said all of the migrants on the El Paso buses were going voluntarily to the cities of their choice.

    Many migrants from Venezuela, he said, lacked transportation to their desired destinations, while El Paso’s current shelter houses only 400 people, and must also be available to help the homeless.

    As recently as six weeks ago, about 350 to 400 people were crossing into El Paso per day, but the past few days have brought 2,000 or more.

    Over the past 10 days, the city has worked with the U.S. Border Patrol to provide shelter for 6,500 people, Leeser said.

    About two-thirds of those crossing into El Paso currently are single men, he said. About 32% are families and just 2% are unaccompanied children.

    “I think it’s really important to note that we have a broken immigration system,” he said. “It’s the same thing over and over again.”

    Reassigning agents

    Customs and Border Protection announced it was reassigning agents this week in El Paso and Eagle Pass to attend to the latest surge at the cost of shutting down commercial traffic lanes and slowing trade between both countries.

    El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego said he’s had several conversations in the past week with top officials of Homeland Security to prepare for the latest wave.

    “We expected this increase in the fall, so we’re not surprised,” Samaniego said. “As long as you don’t have immigration reform, we will see these spikes. We’re doing everything we can to meet the needs with a humanitarian approach, not as a crisis, but as a challenge that El Paso, our border community, is prepared to meet.”

    Samaniego said Congress has unwittingly outsourced a broken immigration system to organized crime, resulting in a boom industry for smugglers who are increasingly more involved in the lucrative movement of migrants headed for the U.S.

    In a statement, Landon Hutchens, a public affairs officer with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, said: “CBP is aware of reports that criminal organizations in the [El Paso and Juárez] areas are spreading falsehoods and putting migrants’ lives at risk for their own financial gain. These rumors are absolutely false and yet another dangerous example of bad actors sharing bad information. The border is not open to illegal migration.”

    One U.S. official based in Mexico estimated the human smuggling industry at “well over” $7.5 billion annually — so lucrative that the goal of criminal groups is to gain “total control” of the business. That is a dramatic increase from the $6.6 billion estimate from a 2008 study by the United Nations examining human smuggling from Latin America to the U.S.

    Oscar Hagelsieb, a former assistant special agent in charge of the U.S. Homeland Security Investigations unit in El Paso and most recently in Ciudad Juárez, explained: “You need some sort of collateral, because when that shipment of meth or fentanyl gets confiscated, it’s gone.

    “With humans,” he said, “you just try again, or you use them for other illicit purposes like extortions.” That approach includes kidnapping migrants and calling relatives either in Latin America or the U.S. and demanding ransom.

    New technology to detect fentanyl also plays a role in decisions by criminal groups, said Hagelsieb, president of Hagelsieb Strategic Investigations, a security consultant firm in El Paso.

    For instance, as of Sept. 1, vehicles now drive through a scanning machine known as a “low-energy portal,” which creates black-and-white resonance images. Inspectors once referred only a handful of vehicles for cargo screening — using powerful scanning equipment — to check for illegal drugs.

    “Any action on our side is met with a response” on the part of Mexican criminal organizations, said Hagelsieb.

    Shootouts in recent weeks

    One Chihuahua state official pointed to incidents over the summer involving the Hotel San Miguel, popular with migrants. Shootouts have been reported in recent weeks as rival cartel groups fight over migrants. In one incident, a criminal group had just brought some migrants to the hotel. Shortly afterward, a rival group showed up and took the migrants away, leading to gun fights across the city.

    “These are criminal groups who are fighting [over] the sale of illicit drugs and migrant routes,” said César Omar Muñoz Morales, Juárez’s police chief.

    The Juárez Cartel has long been the dominant criminal group in this border city, using the major corridor for smuggling of illicit drugs and now humans. Their enforcement unit, known as La Linea, has often forged alliances with local gangs like Barrio Azteca, Mexicles and Artists Assassins. Their key rival is the Sinaloa Cartel.

    In August, there were more than 110 homicides in Juárez, the kind of violence not seen since the late 2000s, when Juárez was dubbed one of the most dangerous cities in the world. In one day alone, Aug. 14, 15 people were killed. The day was dubbed “Black Monday.”

    “These numbers are high,” said Molly Molloy, a retired librarian and Latin American specialist at New Mexico State University who has tracked the homicide rate in Juárez for years. “They are not the highest ever seen in Juárez by a long shot, but any day with 15 homicides is a pretty bad day.”

    The city is poised to surpass 1,000 homicides this year, meaning the rate would be “about 72 murders per 100,000. That is higher” than most U.S. cities, she said, citing statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau and Uniform Crime Reports provided by the FBI.

    The Mexican National Guard said an estimated 3,000 troops have been deployed to this city.

    Nightly, hundreds of migrants arrive on top of trains in Juarez and communities like Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass. Recently, outside Gomez Palacio, Durango, a train packed with migrants was seen plowing toward Ciudad Juárez.

    This week, Mexican railroad train company Ferromex announced it was temporarily suspending 60 train routes headed for border states, citing the “rising risk” of injured migrants and deaths resulting from riding atop their trains and falling.

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    Jack Smith Hires War Crimes Prosecutor to Railroad Trump



    Special counsel Jack Smith has added a veteran war crimes prosecutor — who served as Smith’s deputy during his stint at the Hague — to his team as it prepares to put former President Donald Trump on trial in Washington and Florida.

    Alex Whiting worked alongside Smith for three years, helping prosecute crimes against humanity that occurred in Kosovo in the late 1990s. The Yale-educated attorney also worked as a prosecutor with the International Criminal Court from 2010 to 2013. He has taught law classes at Harvard since 2007 as well, hired as an assistant professor by then-Dean Elena Kagan — now a Supreme Court justice — and rising to a visiting professorship in 2013.

    Whiting’s precise role on Smith’s team is unclear. A spokesperson for Smith declined to comment, and Whiting did not immediately return requests for comment. The prosecutors’ office in the Hague and Harvard University also did not respond to requests for comment about Whiting’s current employment status.

    But a POLITICO reporter observed Whiting at the U.S. district courthouse in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday and Thursday, spending several hours monitoring the trial of a Jan. 6 defendant. The judge in the case is Tanya Chutkan, who is slated to preside over Trump’s trial in March on federal charges stemming from his efforts to subvert the 2020 election.

    During a break in the Jan. 6 trial this week, Whiting introduced himself to prosecutors as a new member of Smith’s team, saying he “just joined” the office.

    From 2018 to 2022, Smith served as chief prosecutor in the Kosovo Specialist Chamber in the Hague. Whiting temporarily took over that office last year after Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Smith as special counsel to lead the Trump investigations. Boston attorney Kim West was appointed to permanently succeed Smith in June but did not assume the role immediately.

    Whiting has been a frequent commentator on the previous special counsel to investigate Trump: Robert Mueller, who investigated the Trump-Russia hoax. Whiting wrote numerous articles and gave interviews assessing the strength of Mueller’s case against Trump, often siding with those who saw extreme legal peril for Trump over his efforts to curb the investigation. Though he was once active on Twitter, his account appears to have been deleted and a Wayback Machine search suggests it was dormant since mid-2022.

    The hire is also another example of Smith turning to allies he has worked closely with at different phases of his career. His top deputies, David Harbach and Raymond Hulser, worked closely with Smith during his Obama-era stint at the Justice Department, where Smith headed the Public Integrity Section.

    Harbach, too, was recently spotted observing a potential adversary in the Washington, D.C., federal courthouse. He attended portions of jury selection for former Trump adviser Peter Navarro, who is represented by attorney Stanley Woodward. Woodward also happens to represent Walt Nauta, Trump’s co-defendant in Smith’s other criminal case against the former president, related to his stash of highly sensitive national security documents at his Florida estate.

    It’s unclear whether Whiting’s attendance at Chutkan’s trial was on his own initiative or if he was observing on assignment from the special counsel’s office.

    In addition to his war crimes work — which also included a five-year stint as a trial lawyer for three war crimes prosecutions stemming from the war in Kosovo — he also spent seven years prosecuting organized crime in Boston for the Justice Department from 1995 to 2002.

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    Newsom Vetoes Transgender Child Custody Bill



    Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday vetoed a bill that would have asked judges presiding over custody battles to take into consideration a parent’s support for their child’s gender identity.

    Assembly Bill 957 would have adjusted California law to instruct judges to consider, among other factors, a parent’s affirmation of a child’s gender identity or expression when determining custody or visitation rights.

    In a message accompanying his veto, Newsom wrote that he appreciated the motivation behind the bill and shared “a deep commitment to advancing the rights of transgender Californians.”

    “That said, I urge caution when the executive and legislative branches of state government attempt to dictate — in prescriptive terms that single out one characteristic — legal standards for the judicial branch to apply,” he wrote. “Other-minded elected officials, in California and other states, could very well use this strategy to diminish the civil rights of vulnerable communities.”

    Courts, he added, are already required “to consider a child’s health, safety and welfare when determining the best interests of a child in these proceedings.”

    Assemblymember Lori D. Wilson (D-Suisun City), who introduced the bill, said in a statement that she was disappointed with Newsom’s decision to veto.

    “I’ve been disheartened over the last few years as I watched the rising hate and heard the vitriol towards the trans community,” Wilson said. “My intent with this bill was to give them a voice, particularly in the family court system where a non-affirming parent could have a detrimental impact on the mental health and well-being of a child.”

    State Sen. Scott Wiener, a principal co-author of the measure, called the veto a “tragedy” and said the decision stood in contrast to Newsom’s past advocacy for the LGBTQ+ community. He said the bill created a modest and commonsense guideline.

    “Our job as legislators is to set clear standards for judges to apply and that’s what we did here,” said Wiener (D-San Francisco).

    Some state lawmakers, however, applauded the veto.

    “This is fantastic news and the right call,” Assemblymember Bill Essayli (R-Corona) wrote on social media.

    The bill has drawn criticism and sparked controversy, including among conservatives who claimed it would force parents who do not support their child’s gender identity to give up custody rights.

    The bill now returns to the California Legislature. A two-thirds vote in both chambers would be necessary to override Newsom’s veto. The legislation initially passed the Assembly and Senate by margins exceeding that threshold.

    In the past, Newsom has supported transgender youth at the state level. Last year, he signed legislation that made California a “sanctuary” for out-of-state children wishing to receive gender-affirming surgery and hormone therapy without the knowledge or consent of their parents.

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    McCarthy Backtracks, Says He Will Keep Ukraine Aid in Pentagon Funding Bill



    Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Saturday said he will keep Ukraine aid in the Pentagon funding bill, a reversal from his announcement one day earlier that he would strip the money out due to opposition from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.).

    McCarthy told reporters in the Capitol that he decided to keep the $300 million of Ukraine aid in the bill after recognizing that another spending measure set to come up next week — one that funds the State Department and Foreign Operations — also includes money for Kyiv.

    The Speaker said stripping the Ukraine aid out of the State Department and Foreign Operations measure “becomes more difficult to do,” which led him to decide to keep the money for Kyiv in both measures.

    The House next week is set to take a single procedural vote to advance four appropriations bills, including ones that fund the Pentagon and the State Department and Foreign Operations.

    “That’s not solving it because one of the others has some Ukraine things,” McCarthy said of stripping the Ukraine aid out of the Pentagon appropriations bill. “So it became too difficult to do that so we’re leaving it in.”

    The House, however, will vote on amendments to strike the Ukraine aid from both the Pentagon and State Department and Foreign Operations spending bills, Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) said. But those votes may not take place if lawmakers block the measures from being debated.

    McCarthy’s decision to leave Ukraine aid in the pair of appropriations bills will likely spark opposition from Greene, who opposed a procedural vote to advance the Pentagon appropriations bill on Thursday because it included the funding for Kyiv. The congresswoman has come out against sending additional money to Ukraine.

    McCarthy told reporters that he expects Greene to oppose the procedural vote to advance the four spending bills because of the inclusion of Ukraine aid.

    “I think Marjorie still has a problem,” McCarthy told reporters.

    “I think she’ll vote no on the rule if it’s in there, that’s why I was trying to solve it where everybody could be there,” he later added. “But this one, it didn’t work out.”

    A coalition of House conservatives broke from convention and opposed the rule for the Pentagon appropriations bill twice this week, blocking the legislation from moving forward to debate and a vote on final passage. The failed votes dealt blows to McCarthy, who has sought to move spending bills ahead of a Sept. 30 government funding deadline.

    Votes on rules — which govern debate for legislation — are normally partisan and predictable matters, with the majority supporting voting “yes” and the minority party voting “no.” It is very rare for rules to fail on the floor.

    Greene supported the rule on Tuesday but voted against it on Thursday, citing the Ukraine aid.

    The Pentagon funding bill includes $300 million “to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal assistance; logistics support, supplies and services; salaries and stipends; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and to other forces or groups recognized by and under the authority of the Government of Ukraine, including governmental entities within Ukraine, engaged in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine, for replacement of any weapons or articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States.”

    In an effort to flip Greene’s vote, McCarthy announced on Friday that he would strip the Ukraine funding out of the spending bill and hold a separate vote on it.

    Greene, who has become a close McCarthy ally, told The Hill in a statement on Friday that she was “proud to have made it happen,” but added the removal of Ukraine funding from the legislation “should have happened weeks ago.”

    She noted, however, that the House was set to consider “another appropriations bill with tons of cash in it for Ukraine” next week, adding “so we’re likely going to do this all over again.”

    McCarthy spoke to that reality on Saturday.

    “Now when we put the SFOPS too there’s Ukraine money in that too and that becomes more difficult to do. I was trying to find a way to solve the problem, that if we were just voting on the DoD approps bill I think I could have solved that, this one makes it a little more difficult,” he told reporters.

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    New Jersey Rep. Andy Kim Launches Primary Challenge to Bob Menendez



    Embattled New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez, just one day after he was indicted by federal agents on bribery charges, has drawn a serious primary challenger.

    Rep. Andy Kim, who represents a district encompassing south and central New Jersey, announced that he will challenge Menendez in the Democratic primary. He is the first serious primary challenger to jump into the race to take on Menendez. He flipped a Republican-held district in 2018.

    “After calls to resign, Senator Menendez said ‘I am not going anywhere.’ As a result, I feel compelled to run against him,” Kim posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. “Not something I expected to do, but NJ deserves better. We cannot jeopardize the Senate or compromise our integrity.” He included a fundraising link to his nascent campaign.

    His barebones campaign website says: “I am stepping up to represent our state in the United States Senate. I believe more than ever that we need good, hardworking people focused on delivering tangible solutions, working where the rubber hits the road, and injecting some integrity and civility back into our politics.”

    Kim, 41, is a Rhodes Scholar and previously served in the State Department and as a national security adviser to former President Barack Obama.

    Since Menendez was indicted, a chorus of leading New Jersey Democrats, including Gov. Phil Murphy and six members of the state’s congressional delegation, have called on him to resign. Pennsylvania Sen. John Fetterman Saturday became the first member of the Senate to call Menendez to resign.

    A 39-page indictment was unsealed Friday revealed shocking details of alleged bribes, including “cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value,” in exchange for Menendez’s power and influence.

    While key New Jersey Democratic leaders call for him to step down, Menendez appears defiant.

    “Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty. I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades,” he said in a statement released Friday night. ‘This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along. It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”

    In 2018, a little-known challenger to Menendez who never filed a fundraising report with the FEC drew 37% support. That was after Menendez was indicted on corruption charges in 2015, but the jury deadlocked and the judge declared a mistrial.

    Kim is not the only Democrat likely to step up and challenge Menendez. Reps. Mikie Sherill and Josh Gottheimer have been floated as potential Senate candidates. Gottheimer has a $15 million war chest in his federal campaign account, and Sherrill is considered a rising star in Democratic politics.

    Democrats currently hold a 51-49 majority in the Senate and are defending three incumbents in red states—Montana, Ohio, and West Virginia. A complicated Senate race in New Jersey due to Menendez could complicate Democratic attempts to hold the Senate if Democrats had to spend money to defend their embattled incumbent.

    NRSC Communications Director Mike Berg response to Kim’s campaign: “Dems in disarray.”

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    First 9 Minutes of Trump’s Meet the Press Interview with Kristen Welker Were Edited Out



    The first 9 minutes and 44 seconds of Kristen Welker’s interview with ex-President Donald Trump were largely edited out of Meet the Press.

    Welker and NBC News spent several days last week promoting the interview by dropping preview clip after preview clip — including exchanges in which Trump said that he never even wanted to “think about” pardoning himself while president and that he will definitely testify under oath, and another in which Welker took a stab at confronting Trump over his age — as well as more anodyne clips like his musings about the attractiveness of the “concept” of picking a woman to be his running mate and the contents of the letter he left for President Joe Biden in the Oval Office.

    Then on Sunday, the interview aired on Welker’s first turn as permanent moderator of Meet the Press.

    But the footage aired during Meet the Press didn’t tell the whole story — not even close. The full interview ran 78 minutes, the first 9-10 minutes of which vividly showed the challenge Welker faced, as she spent most of that tine trying to get Trump to “move on” from election claims that she repeatedly told him had been debunked.

    Here’s just a taste of those 10 minutes:

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: The election was rigged. There’s no question about that. There’s so much proof on it. Even if you go to the more modern-day proof with the — they call it Twitter Files, FBI and Twitter, or you take a look at the Amazon stuff or the Google stuff, or you take a look at “2,000 Mules,” you take a look at all of the ballot stuffing that’s on tape, you take a look at the fact that the legislatures didn’t approve a lot of the things that were done in the elections, and they had to approve. And we could go on forever. We could go on forever. But, but no. I want somebody that’s going to be strong, respected, tough, and fair.

    KRISTEN WELKER: Just to go back to a couple of the points you said, the ballot stuffing. That’s something that’s been debunked.

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: It hasn’t been debunked. It’s on camera.

    KRISTEN WELKER: As you know, let’s — But I do want to keep moving forward.

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: Yeah, but, Kristen, it’s on camera. Hundreds — even thousands and thousands of people. You take a look. True the Vote. Take a look. It’s on camera. They have thousands of —

    KRISTEN WELKER: But Mr. President, you know Republican officials and top law enforcement officials, they have told you that that’s debunked.

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: I know, but, Kristen, you can’t say — They have thousands of pictures of people — I know you have to say that for your network, but you shouldn’t say it, because that’s the problem.

    KRISTEN WELKER: But, Mr. President–

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: The news has lost such power.

    KRISTEN WELKER: Let’s stay on track, though, Mr. President. Let’s stay on track with these questions —

    FMR. PRES. DONALD TRUMP: No, but you’re saying– It hasn’t. We have thousands of essentially motion pictures of people stuffing the ballot boxes. Tens of thousands.

    KRISTEN WELKER: But, Mr. President, they’re not stuffing the ballot boxes. And you’ve been told that by your top law enforcement officials. But let’s stay on track, because we have so much ground to cover. We have policy ground to cover, Mr. President.

    It went on for several more minutes like that, with Welker repeatedly trying to close the matter by declaring the claims “debunked” and Trump continuing to insist that the debunkings were, in fact, the lies. Viewers of the program only saw a fraction of these exchanges.

    The first 9 minutes and 44 seconds not edited:

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    Ukraine Targets a Key Crimean City a Day After Striking Russia’s Black Sea Fleet Headquarters



    Ukraine on Saturday morning launched another missile attack on Sevastopol on the occupied Crimean Peninsula, a Russian-installed official said, a day after an attack on the headquarters of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet that left a serviceman missing and the main building smoldering.

    Sevastopol was put under an air raid alert for about an hour after debris from intercepted missiles fell near a pier, Gov. Mikhail Razvozhayev wrote on the messaging app Telegram. He later added that another missile fragment fell in a park in northern Sevastopol, parts of which had to be cordoned off. Ferry traffic in the area was also halted and later resumed.

    Loud blasts were also heard near Vilne in northern Crimea, followed by rising clouds of smoke, according to a pro-Ukraine Telegram news channel that reports on developments on the peninsula. Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, has been a frequent target for Ukrainian forces since Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered a full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

    Ukraine’s intelligence chief, Kyrylo Budanov, told Voice of America on Saturday that at least nine people were killed and 16 others wounded as a result of Kyiv’s attack on the Black Sea Fleet on Friday. He claimed that Alexander Romanchuk, a Russian general commanding forces along the key southeastern front line, was “in a very serious condition” following the attack.

    Budanov’s claim couldn’t be independently verified, and he didn’t comment on whether Western-made missiles were used in Friday’s attack. The Russian Defense Ministry initially said that the strike killed one service member at the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, but later issued a statement that he was missing.

    Ukraine’s military also offered more details about Friday’s attack. It said the air force conducted 12 strikes on the Black Sea Fleet headquarters, targeting areas where personnel, military equipment and weapons were concentrated. It said that two anti-aircraft missile systems and four Russian artillery units were hit.

    Crimea has served as the key hub supporting Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Sevastopol, the main base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet since the 19th century, has had a particular importance for navy operations since the start of the war.

    Ukraine has increasingly targeted naval facilities in Crimea in recent weeks while the brunt of its summer counteroffensive makes slow gains in the east and south of Ukraine, the Institute for the Study of War said. Military experts say it is essential for Ukraine to keep up its attacks on targets in Crimea to degrade Russian morale and weaken its military.

    In other developments, President Joe Biden told his Ukrainian counterpart at their White House meeting Thursday that the U.S. would give Ukraine a version of the longer-range ATACMS ballistic missiles, without specifying how many or when they would be delivered, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to publicly discuss the matter before an official announcement.

    Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, and other Ukrainian leaders have long pushed the U.S. and other Western allies to provide longer-distance weapons that would enable Kyiv to ramp up its strikes behind Russian lines while themselves staying out of firing range.

    The U.S. has balked so far, worried that Kyiv could use the weapons to hit deep into Russian territory and escalate the conflict. The Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS, could give Ukraine the ability to strike Russian targets from as far away as about 180 miles, but the U.S. also has other variants of the missile that have a shorter range.

    Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military said Saturday that Russia launched 15 Iranian-made Shahed drones at the front-line Zaporizhzhia region in the southeast, as well as Dnipropetrovsk province farther north. It claimed to have destroyed 14 of the drones.

    Separately, Zaporizhzhia regional Gov. Yuri Malashko said that Russia over the previous day carried out 86 strikes on 27 settlements in the province, many of them lying only a few miles from the fighting. Malashko said that an 82-year-old civilian was killed by artillery fire.

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    Biden Has Gotten the Updated COVID Vaccine and the Annual Flu Shot



    President Joe Biden has gotten the updated COVID-19 vaccine and annual flu shot, the White House said Saturday.

    The White House physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, said in a memo that Biden received both shots on Friday. O’Connor said Biden, 80, also was vaccinated several weeks ago against the respiratory illness known as RSV.

    “As we enter the cold and flu season, the President encourages all Americans to follow his example and to check with their healthcare provider or pharmacist to assure that they are fully vaccinated,” O’Connor wrote.

    The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this month endorsed the new COVID-19 shot for everyone 6 months and older.

    The severity of the COVID-19 pandemic has faded, but there are still thousands of hospitalizations and hundreds of deaths in the United States each week.

    First lady Jill Biden tested positive for COVID-19 earlier this month but experienced only mild symptoms.

    The CDC recommends that people who have COVID-19 and are in isolation should wait to get vaccinated until there symptoms are gone and isolation guidelines have been met.

    Children and adults who have multisystem inflammatory syndrome should wait to get vaccinated until recovering from being sick and 90 days have passed since the diagnosis, according to the CDC.

    Biden tested positive for COVID-19 in July 2022 and a second time slightly more than three days after he was cleared to exit coronavirus isolation.

    The second incident was a rare case of “rebound” infection following treatment with an anti-viral drug.

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    Widow Forced to Live in a Camper After Handing Over $70,000 Life Savings to Romance Scammer



    A elderly widow has been forced to live in a camper in North Carolina after she lost her life savings to a romance scammer claiming to be a Red Cross doctor in Yemen.

    Jennifer Dennis, 76, met a man who said his name was ‘Caleb’ on Facebook and quickly began an online relationship with him. Her husband, Richard Dennis had died in 2020.

    He claimed to be a Red Cross doctor working in Yemen and claimed he would soon return to the US.

    After a few months went by, he proposed that the couple buy a house together in Cary, North Carolina so they could start their lives together in a new place.

    Caleb told Dennis that he’d put-up $600,000 himself – and asked Dennis to pay the rest. She transferred the money, and ‘Caleb’ vanished.

    Dennis told ABC6: ‘He was coming back to the states real soon and he was wanting to settle in a new area because he had lost his wife.’

    She didn’t think twice before agreeing since the pain of losing her husband has surrounded her for years.

    The pair decided that Caleb would pay $600,000 towards their new home and she would pay the remaining $70,000 that was due.

    Dennis thought it seemed like the perfect deal so she wired $70,000 and then an additional $8,700 for other expenses.

    After what she assumed was a done deal, Dennis and her son Raymond Shollenbarger packed all their stuff up in Georgia and made way to their new house in Cray.

    But when the mother and son reached the address, they realized that there were people already living in the house and they had been scammed.

    Dennis told the channel: ‘How he did it, I don’t know but it all looked legitimate.

    ‘I’m out all that money and I don’t think I’ll ever get it back and at 76, I don’t have a whole lot of future.

    ‘When I noticed that someone was still living in the house and knocked on the door, I automatically knew that it was a scam.

    ‘We didn’t have any place to go. We ended up sleeping in our car.

    ‘He sent me a picture of him – (he had) supposedly been beat up. That was the last time I heard from him.’

    Someone from their church eventually lend them their camper to live in while Dennis and her son figured out their situation.

    But she isn’t the only victim of a romance scam. A 69-year-old California woman thought she had met the man of her dreams and even planned to marry him until she discovered her husband-to-be was a 26-year-old scammer from Nigeria.

    Laura Francis told in February 2023 that a man by the name of David Hodge reached out to her on Facebook. The man told her he was a surgeon in the military on a secret mission for the Marines in North Korea helping soldiers who have been injured by explosives in the war.

    He had told her his ex-wife had cheated on him and after being in relationships with younger woman he was looking for someone more mature. Francis would spend the next few months getting to know this mystery man by text and on Google Hangouts.

    A few weeks into their love affair Hodge asked Francis for money. He told her he did not have access to his accounts but assured her once he was out of the service he would pay her back ‘every dime.’

    He instructed her to send the money through Bitcoin apps – Coin Base and Coin Could Bitcoin ATMs.

    The money she was sending was part of her daughter’s inheritance. When she expressed her doubts and began to question his intentions, he sent her a bank statement from a bank in Ohio showing he had a $3 million balance – that had a Chase Bank PO Box. He also showed her an employment agreement from the Marines, and his passport that she shared with

    When Hodge told her he was falling in love with her and wanted to marry, Francis was feeling the butterflies too.

    She would later learn the ugly truth that she was the victim of an online cryptocurrency scam by two different scammers losing a staggering $250,000.

    ‘It was all a lie,’ she said. ‘They were working together. They put the whole scam together from the beginning.’

    She added: ‘It’s really painful because I really cared for the guy. I was in love with David and I was devastated.’

    Romance scams typically occur when a criminal adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.

    In 2022, nearly 70,000 people reported being victims of a romance scam and reported losses were a shocking $1.3 billion.

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    Poland Issues Warning to Zelensky After UN Comments



    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been told that he must not insult Poland amid a growing spat between the countries.

    Since Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022, Poland has been one of Kyiv’s biggest backers, pledging around 4.27 billion euros (about $4.54 billion) in military, financial and humanitarian aid.

    But relations have soured in recent weeks after Warsaw said it would not suspend an EU ban on Ukrainian agricultural products that Brussels had imposed earlier this year, which aimed to protect European farmers.

    Ukraine filed a lawsuit against Poland, as well as Slovakia and Hungary, which also intend to continue with the ban. Then Zelensky told the United Nations’ General Assembly on September 19 how some of their friends in Europe are demonstrating political theatre, which played into Moscow’s hands.

    In response, Poland summoned the Ukrainian ambassador to Warsaw, and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said on social media that Warsaw would “no longer transfer weapons to Ukraine because we are now arming Poland.” Newsweek has contacted the Polish and Ukrainian foreign ministries by email for comment.

    Polish President Andrzej Duda walked back Morawiecki’s comments. He said that they referred to new weapons being purchased for the Polish army and that Warsaw would still transfer its older weapons not required for modernizing Poland’s armed forces.

    But Morawiecki took aim at Zelensky again on Friday, telling a rally in the city of Swidnik, Poland, that the Ukrainian leader must “never insult Poles again.”

    “The Polish people will never allow this to happen,” Morawiecki said, adding that “defending the good name of Poland” was both “my duty and honor.”

    Despite Morawiecki’s declaration, “Warsaw’s militarily support for Ukraine will not substantially change,” said Piotr Buras, head of the Warsaw office of the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

    Buras told Newsweek that ties between Kyiv and Warsaw have become “hostage to the Polish electoral campaign.” The ruling national-conservative Law and Justice Party (PiS) and the far right Konfederacja are vying for the nationalist and anti-Ukrainian vote in Poland.

    But Buras did not expect Poland’s growing assertiveness regarding Ukraine to end any time soon. Its parliamentary election on October 15 is likely to be followed by a lengthy period in which the government is formed, and a snap election in spring 2024 “cannot be ruled out.”

    Buras said that the European elections in 2024 and the presidential elections the following year “will also shape the political debate in which the crumbling consensus on the support for Ukraine will play an important role.”

    “The decrease in supplies is not due to a lack of political will, but to the depletion of Polish resources,” said Buras. He added that Morawiecki’s comments were “mainly aimed at a domestic audience that has become skeptical about Ukraine due to recent controversies over grain imports and historical issues. “

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    McCarthy Vows to Strip Ukraine Money from Pentagon Bill After Greene ‘No’ Vote



    Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced Friday that he will strip funding for Ukraine out of a Pentagon spending bill after Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) joined conservatives in blocking the legislation from advancing earlier this week.

    McCarthy said he would remove the $300 million for Ukraine currently in the Pentagon appropriations bill and hold a separate vote on the funding.

    “It would be out and voted on by itself,” McCarthy said when asked about the Ukraine aid in the Pentagon appropriations bill.

    The Speaker’s announcement comes one day after a band of five conservatives opposed a procedural vote for the Pentagon appropriations bill, sinking the effort and preventing the legislation from moving forward. It was the second time this week that hard-liners blocked the funding bill from advancing.

    Votes on rules — which govern debate for legislation — are normally partisan and predictable matters, with the majority supporting voting “yes” and the minority party voting “no.” It is very rare for rules to fail on the floor.

    Greene, who has emerged as a close ally of McCarthy, was one of the Republicans who voted against the rule Thursday “because it funds the war in Ukraine.” It was a shift from her vote Tuesday, when the congresswoman supported the procedural vote to advance the Defense measure.

    The rule failed for a second time on the same day that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with lawmakers in the Capitol.

    The Pentagon funding bill includes $300 million “to provide assistance, including training; equipment; lethal assistance; logistics support, supplies and services; salaries and stipends; sustainment; and intelligence support to the military and national security forces of Ukraine, and to other forces or groups recognized by and under the authority of the Government of Ukraine, including governmental entities within Ukraine, engaged in resisting Russian aggression against Ukraine, for replacement of any weapons or articles provided to the Government of Ukraine from the inventory of the United States.”

    Greene has come out against sending additional money to Ukraine. On Friday morning, she went live on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, and said she would support the measure if the Ukraine aid is taken out.

    Following McCarthy’s announcement Friday, Greene said it was “frustrating” that it took leadership so long to strip out the money.

    “This should have happened weeks ago,” Greene told The Hill in a statement. “I’ve made it loud and clear that I would not vote for a single penny of Ukraine funding. It’s frustrating to me things had to get to this level, that we had to waste an entire week when we could have been passing appropriations.

    “Our defense appropriations bill should never be going to fund a proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, so this is a victory for common sense,” she later added. “I’m proud to have made it happen.”

    The failed rule vote Thursday was a blow to McCarthy, who has sought to advance the appropriations process ahead of a Sept. 30 shutdown deadline — to no avail.

    In addition to the two failed rule votes for the Pentagon appropriations bill, leadership scrapped plans to vote on a partisan continuing resolution to keep the government funded past Sept. 30 on Tuesday after a number of conservatives said they were against the proposal.

    House GOP leadership sent members home Thursday night after no progress was made all week.

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    Reporter Tries Eating at NYC’s Finest Restaurants Dressed Like Fetterman — It Didn’t End Well



    Sen. John Fetterman may be allowed to dress like a slob in the halls of power — but it’s still a capital offense in New York City’s finest restaurants.

    Intrepid Post reporter Jon Levine learned that hard truth this week when he crisscrossed the Big Apple’s culinary landmarks wearing Fetterman’s trademark hoodie, gym shorts and sneakers and tried to gain entry — only to face scorn and mockery from maître d’s with more common sense than Congress.

    “He would not be permitted here,” sniffed a maître d at Daniel on the Upper East Side, where a seven-course tasting menu runs $275.

    She admitted she didn’t know who Fetterman was.

    “We have turned away guests for being improperly dressed regardless of their occupation,” she continued.

    At famed Le Bernardin, a suited maître d named Julien served up an amuse bouche of stink-eye when The Post arrived.

    “No athletic wear,” he said flatly, staring The Post down and denying even a nibble of chef Eric Ripert’s $480 dinner and wine pre-fixe menu.

    The three-Michelin-starred dining room is reservation only but walk-ins are normally afforded the more casual lounge — but not if you’re dressed like you just came from Pilates class.

    Le Bernardin’s wine director, Aldo Sohm, said jackets and pants were on loan to those with Fetterman’s fashion sense.

    At the double-Michelin star Jean-Georges near Columbus Circle, no less than four sentinels outside its dining room vetoed The Post’s entry, ending the dream of feasting on the famed $368, 10-course tasting menu that includes caviar salad, king crab and smoked squab.

    “Inside we don’t allow shorts,” said one, repeatedly insisting it would be “impossible” to get around the dress code, which also forbids jeans, sneakers and sweatshirts.

    “It doesn’t matter if it’s Lady Gaga,” chimed in another.

    A third was so stunned by the sartorial sacrilege, she couldn’t even finish her sentence.

    “I’ve never had anyone come in dressed like …”

    The Post was allowed to use the bathroom.

    Workers at The Grill — an ultra-lux chophouse occupying the legendary Four Seasons Restaurant space in midtown — wasted no time rejecting the faux Fetterman, holding the door tightly shut after they caught one glimpse.

    “If you went and got a pair of jeans it would work,” offered a doorman named Don who boasted, “We treat the billionaires just like millionaires.”

    It wasn’t all bad news for Fetterman.

    The Post strode into Nobu and Gramercy Tavern without so much as a peep.

    Masa, whose famed sushi bar omakase experience runs over $1,000 a person, was happy to receive us.

    The senator would “absolutely” be welcome at Eleven Madison Park in all his full slovenly glory, one masked employee said.

    The three-star Michelin eatery, whose fully vegetarian nine-course tasting menu runs a cool $365, said there was no expectation of evening attire.

    “You can wear whatever. You just have to wear clothes.”

    Fetterman’s unfortunate sartorial shenanigans have left his congressional colleagues tearing at the seams.

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) ripped the Senate for recently relaxing rules to allow Fetterman’s wardrobe, which he insists he needs for his mental health after his stroke, say Senate Democratic insiders.

    “The Senate no longer enforcing a dress code for senators to appease Fetterman is disgraceful,” Greene posted on X, formerly Twitter.

    “Dress code is one of society’s standards that set etiquette and respect for our institutions. Stop lowering the bar!”

    This brings us to the King Cole Bar at the swanky St. Regis Hotel — they rejected The Post too.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Tropical Storm Ophelia Made Landfall, Set to Impact Several States



    Tropical storm conditions are expected along the East Coast over the weekend as Tropical Storm Ophelia brings heavy rain, strong winds and coastal flooding to the Eastern Seaboard.

    Ophelia marks the 16th storm system tracked by the National Hurricane Center (NHC) this year. Previously dubbed “Potential Tropical Cyclone Sixteen,” forecasters predict that the storm could dump up to a month’s worth of rain on states in its path this weekend.

    The NHC said in an update Friday evening that Ophelia was expected to reach parts of southeastern North Carolina overnight into Saturday before heading up the Mid-Atlantic coast.

    A tropical storm warning has also been issued for parts of North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland, bringing wind gusts of up to 80 mph for portions of eastern North Carolina.

    According to The Weather Channel, Ophelia was about 100 miles south of the southern coast of North Carolina as of Friday evening and moving northwest at 10 to 15 mph.

    The NHC said that “life-threatening” storm surges could impact parts of coastal North Carolina and southeastern Virginia as the system moves north, and hurricane conditions are possible in portions of southern North Carolina in the chance that Ophelia momentarily swells to hurricane status.

    The Weather Channel reported, however, that the impact wouldn’t be much different between the tropical storm’s current strength and a “low-end Category 1 hurricane.” The system is also expected to quickly weaken once it makes landfall.

    Heavy rainfall is also expected as far north as New Jersey this weekend, with Ophelia predicted to reach portions of southern Pennsylvania early Monday morning, according to the NHC. Portions of North Carolina and Virginia could receive up to seven inches of rain as the storm passes through.

    Coastal flooding and life-threatening surf and rip currents are also possible throughout the East Coast, with water levels along portions of North Carolina potentially reaching up to four to six feet. Southeastern Virginia is expected to be hit with storm surges reaching two to four feet.

    Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on Friday, stating that Ophelia was forecast to reach “large population centers with many at-risk communities.”

    “We want to ensure that all communities, particularly those with the greatest anticipated impact, have the resources they need to respond and recover from the effects of this storm,” Youngkin said in a press release published Friday.

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    Major Companies Pull Ads from Rumble Over Russell Brand Videos



    A number of large companies have pulled their advertisements from the video platform Rumble, where Russell Brand broadcasts his weekly show, in the week since allegations of rape and sexual assault against the comedian came to light.

    The News Movement reported on Friday that Burger King, Asos, the Barbican and HelloFresh, the recipe box delivery service, had removed their ads. Brand has 1.4m followers on the platform. YouTube suspended Brand’s ability to earn money on its platform on Tuesday but Rumble has rejected calls to do the same. On Friday, Brand said the moves to block him from receiving advertising revenue for his videos on social media platforms have occurred “in the context of the online safety bill”.

    On Thursday, Rumble accused a parliamentary committee of “deeply inappropriate” behaviour after Caroline Dinenage, the Conservative chair of the culture, media and sport committee, wrote a letter to the company’s chief executive, Chris Pavlovski, to express concern that Brand “may be able to profit from his content on the platform”.

    In a public statement posted on X, Rumble called the letter “disturbing” and said parliament’s demands were “deeply inappropriate and dangerous”. The platform added that it was devoted to an internet “where no one arbitrarily dictates which ideas can or cannot be heard, or which citizens may or may not be entitled to a platform”.

    Rumble added: “Singling out an individual and demanding his ban is even more disturbing given the absence of any connection between the allegations and his content on Rumble.”

    Last weekend, Brand was accused of rape, sexual assault and emotional abuse between 2006 and 2013 after a joint investigation by the Sunday Times, the Times and Channel 4 Dispatches. He denies the allegations.

    On Friday, Brand made his first public comments since the allegations were made public in a new video he posted online. In the three-minute video posted on YouTube, Rumble and X, he described them as “extraordinary and distressing” and accused the government of seeking to censor him.

    Burger King told the News Movement it had paused all advertising while investigations into the allegations were ongoing. Asos said it had manually removed its ads from Rumble. Barbican said it had asked its media agency to exclude the site from where its ads appear.

    The Times estimates that Brand earns $33,000 a month from his Rumble channel and over $1m a year from YouTube before ads were suspended. His literary agent, tour promoter and book publisher have also dropped him.

    According to Rumble’s website, it is “immune to cancel culture” and aims to “restore the internet to its roots by making it free and open once again”. Pavlovksi has described it as “neutral”.

    Rumble was founded in 2013. Its popularity soared after the 2020 presidential election, with its monthly users growing from 2 million to more than 20 million at the end of that year, according to Forbes. As of 2022, Rumble has a reported 78 million active users globally.

    According to Pew Research, three-quarters of those who regularly get news from Rumble identify as Republicans or lean towards the Republican party. In contrast, 22% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic.

    Rumble is backed by the billionaire and prominent conservative venture capitalist Peter Thiel, who invested in 2021, and the conservative former Fox News presenter Dan Bongino, who has 2.9 million subscribers himself. The platform is valued at more than $2bn.

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    ABC Reporter Attacked by Group of Teens Who Tried to Steal His Bike in California



    A San Francisco news reporter claimed he was attacked by teenagers, who tried to steal his bicycle last weekend but escaped the robbery when he told them they were going to be on the news.

    Dan Noyes, an award-winning investigative reporter for ABC7 Bay Area, was riding his bicycle in the Presidio National Park site, near the Golden Gate Bridge, when he encountered the massive group.

    “I’m coming home and I see a group of probably 15 young teens, young teens probably couldn’t drive yet, a lot on bicycles,” Noyes said in a video posted to his social media accounts on Wednesday.

    “And one of the kids all of a sudden just rushes over and body blocks me off my bike. I came crashing to the ground, my left elbow is pretty darn sore, hope it’s not a hairline fracture or something, but I nailed hard onto the ground,”

    Noyes quickly got up as the kid grabbed the bike and began to run away but the reporter stopped the potential thief with the threat of public humiliation.

    “I jumped up and went after him and said ‘You’re about to be on Channel 7,’ the kids at that just scattered,” Noyes said.

    The shaken-up reporter said he was hospitalized and shared a photo of his left elbow, sporting a rather large bruise alongside a diagram of a radial head fracture, an injury he suffered and confirmed to SFist.

    Noyes captured video of the teens fleeing in different directions, with one group heading south towards the Presidio Tunnel Tops while the other group fled to the iconic bridge.

    He believed the culprit was a teen who escaped the area on foot while the rest of the group rode away.

    Following the attack, Noyes said he spoke with several witnesses who stopped and checked on him.

    “I’m sorry to see our city like this,” he told a tourist from Germany.

    “Man I’ve been a victim of crime before but this was one of the more personal and shocking ones.”

    Noyes said the US Park Police responded to the scene as he was concerned about other people being targeted.

    The California city has become riddled with crime and drugs over the past few months, as daylight robberies and open drug use have plagued the Golden City.

    Last week, tourists turned into victims as their belongings were stolen out of their vehicles by a group of thieves in the Marina District, a high-end neighborhood located on the San Francisco Bay, just east of where Noyes was attacked.

    “We saw them taking bags from our vans and started putting it into the black SUV,” one tourist told the Post about the Sept. 13 robbery. “That’s when my friends started running and other people there were honking their horns. I heard someone yell, ‘Don’t run to them! They might have a gun!’

    Thefts aren’t the only problem the city is facing as drug overdose deaths hit a record high last month with 84 reported fatalities, 66 of them involving fentanyl.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Vermont Town Closes Road in Bid to Stop Influx of Annoying Influencers Taking Selfies



    Fed-up residents of a gorgeous Vermont town have closed a road to visitors for fall to try and curb an influx of annoying influencers who’ve caused havoc.

    Pomfret has long been a popular destination for autumn foliage fans – but irritated locals say influencers who’ve arrived to get perfect autumn images for social media are an altogether different breed of tourist.

    Those Instagrammers and TikTokers have been accused of flying drones, blocking roads and emergency vehicles from getting through, while often getting their cars stuck on uneven ground.

    They’ve also been seen setting up portable changing rooms, to make it look as if they’ve made multiple visits to the spot and drag out the fall-related content on their social media feeds.

    The slew of irritating incidents has prompted residents close Cloudland Road between September 23 to October 15, when autumn colors begin to emerge.

    Also closed-off is Sleepy Hollow Farm, whose sweeping vista is one of the most popular beauty shots for influencers.

    It presents a gentle hill showing classic New England buildings and a riot of fall colors.

    ‘It was too much. Something had to be done,’ said Mike Doten, whose family has lived in the area and owned the farm since the late 1700s, according to the Boston Globe.

    @sightseeingsenorita Instagram vs. Reality‼️ #instavsreality #instagramvsreality #bts #behindthescenes #vermont #vermonttiktok #sleepyhollowfarm #traveltiktok ♬ original sound – Sightseeing Señorita

    Cloudland Road and Doten’s farm had long been a favorite among those looking to quietly take in the changing season colors and view the rolling hills until the social media sensation took hold over the past five years.

    Influencers parked haphazardly on the narrow, unpaved road and walked brazenly onto private properties appearing to ignore no trespassing signs conspicuously placed to ward off nuisance posers.

    Residents of Vermont have been used to an influx of tourists, especially photographers, who are known to be ‘quiet’ and ‘not bother anyone,’ Doten said.

    The inn-stayers are also bearable Doten’s wife Amy Robb said. ‘Both from a numbers perspective, and how they behave.’

    ‘The TikTokers started flocking here and they kept growing, year after year,’ Doten added to the outlet.

    Those drawn by social media visited the area under the impression that it’s a public park, residents said.

    A few years ago, Doten and his wife were astonished when they watched a woman set up a portable changing booth and frequently emerge in an assortment of outfits to take selfies.

    But the drama didn’t stop there with residents revealing that pesky tourists have now been flying drones a few feet over a resident’s head, stealing tomatoes from vines, and using a private garden house as a toilet.

    ‘There is no way a fire truck or an ambulance can get up this road in the middle of foliage season,’ Doten said. ‘It’s just too crowded.’

    Pomfret residents successfully convinced the town to close Cloudland Road for three weeks.

    They’ve also reached out to social media influencers and local inns to stop them promoting the area and directing tourists to other spots in Vermont instead.

    Kiel James Patrick, a clothing designer with 132,000 Instagram followers, is one of those influencers contacted.

    ‘Upon being informed of the situation by the residents of Pomfret, I recognized the importance of respecting the wishes of the local community,’ he said.

    ‘In response, I’ve removed posts featuring Sleepy Hollow Farm from my platforms and communicated with friends and fellow influencers about the farm’s private nature and the need for privacy and respect,’ he added.

    During the three week road closure, Windsor County Deputy Sheriffs will staff checkpoints at the bottom and top of Cloudland Road.

    Residents said they don’t think the road closure will hurt the state’s tourism industry.

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    VIDEO: 14-Foot Alligator Caught Carrying Lifeless Human Body Down a Canal



    A massive alligator was caught Friday carrying the lifeless body of a Floridian down a canal.

    A witness first spotted the 14-foot reptile with its victim clenched between its jaws on a residential street in Largo, a small community just four miles south of Clearwater.

    “I could tell there was a body in his mouth, so I started recording,” witness JaMarcus Bullard told Spectrum Bay News 9.

    Bullard, who was on his way to a job interview, alerted the Largo Fire Department, which was stationed just steps away from the gory scene.

    Emergency personnel quickly pulled the gator from the water and shot it “a few times,” Bullard said.

    “A lot of my neighbors were out here and they’re the ones that told me about the gator,” area resident Jennifer Dean told the outlet.

    “While we were standing here we heard a shot, I assume they killed the gator.”

    The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed that both the victim and the gator were yanked from the canal, but refused to say whether they were the ones who pulled the trigger.

    At the scene, investigators were standing next to the bloodied gator, which appeared to be at least 10 feet in length.

    The area is near the popular Ridgecrest Park, which includes a 5-acre lake known to house alligators.

    The gators routinely wander the neighborhood, according to Dean, but the one killed Friday was one of the biggest she ever encountered.

    Investigators are still trying to determine the Floridian’s cause of death.

    Go deeper ( < 1 min. read ) ➝


    Menendez Addresses Growing Calls to Resign After Corruption Charges



    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) was defiant amid growing calls for him to resign on Friday after he was indicted on multiple federal corruption charges.

    “Those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty,” said Menendez. “I intend to continue to fight for the people of New Jersey with the same success I’ve had for the past five decades.”

    “This is the same record of success these very same leaders have lauded all along,” he continued. “It is not lost on me how quickly some are rushing to judge a Latino and push him out of his seat. I am not going anywhere.”

    Shortly after the charges were announced earlier in the day, Menendez suggested that he was the victim of a vast conspiracy.

    “For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” said the 69-year-old senator. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”

    “The excesses of these prosecutors is apparent. They have misrepresented the normal work of a Congressional office,” he claimed. “Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a U.S. Senator and serve with honor and distinction. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle in the way of their broader political goals.”

    Menendez faces charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.

    The indictment says that Menendez and his wife had a corrupt relationship with New Jersey businessmen Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes, who allegedly gave the senator bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. According to the DOJ, the bribes were intended to protect the businessmen and to benefit Egypt.

    “Those bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a low-or-no-show job, a luxury vehicle, and other things of value,” the indictment said. Federal authorities reportedly found gold bars and cash stuffed throughout the senator’s home that they traced back to the businessmen Menendez allegedly worked with.

    “Over $480,000 in cash — much of it stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe — was discovered in the home,” the indictment said. Photos included in the indictment included pictures of gold bars and hundred dollars bills that had been stuffed in clothing.

    Several leading New Jersey Democrats, including nearly half the Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation, have called for his resignation.

    • New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, State Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin and State Democratic Party Chair LeRoy Jones all called for Menendez to resign.
    • Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), the top Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said in a statement that Menendez “should resign in the best interest of our state.”
    • Rep. Andy Kim (D-N.J.) said in a statement to Axios – first reported by the New Jersey Globe – that Menendez can’t focus on his state “while addressing such a significant legal matter,” adding: “He should step down.”
    • Rep. Mikie Sherrill (D-N.J.) posted to the social media site X that “it’s in the best interest of our state that Senator Menendez resign.”
    • Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) said in a statement: “I do not believe that Senator Menendez can continue to carry out the important duties of his office for our state.”

    It’s not just New Jersey politicians saying it’s time for Menendez to go.

    Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.), a member of House Democratic leadership, said in a CNN appearance that “based on what I’ve seen, I’m disappointed and, yes, I think he should resign,” adding that Senate leadership should “absolutely” push him out.

    Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said in a statement that Menendez “rightly decided to step down temporarily” from his chairmanship of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee “until the matter has been resolved.”

    Under Senate Democratic Caucus rules, committee chairs under indictment must relinquish their roles.

    Schumer did not go as far as to call for Menendez to resign from the Senate, however, calling him a “dedicated public servant” who “has a right to due process and a fair trial.”

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    Visas for Lovers, Private Jets, Villas and a Nude Brazilian: Inside the Bribery Case Sen. Bob Menendez Beat



    Sen. Robert Menendez is no stranger to corruption investigations and indictments — and to eye-popping revelations about his private life.

    The New Jersey Democrat is facing charges of taking gold bars and bribes and stashing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash around his house in return for using his “power and influence” — including his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — to benefit the Egyptian government and two local businessmen.

    He has denied the charges and called them a conspiracy by over-reaching prosecutors — a tactic which worked for him the last time he was charged with a lurid corruption scheme involving a bizarre cast of characters.

    Menendez’s previous case saw him accused of taking lavish hospitality from a Medicare fraudster doctor who asked the senator to help get visas for his bevy of young mistresses; to intervene in an audit which would have stopped him ripping off taxpayers; and to stop Customs and Border Patrol disrupting his side-hustle screening cargo at the Dominican Republic’s ports.

    So far, the new case against Menendez does not feature foreign villas, a Brazilian reality star who posed for “Sexy” magazine or a rock-star style “rider” for the politician, that he had to have Evian water when flying on the doctor’s private jets.

    Menendez was charged in 2015 alongside Salomon Melgen, a married Palm Beach eye doctor who had allegedly given the senator access to a lavish lifestyle in return for doing favors.

    They first met in 2006, when Menendez entered the senate, and Melgen became a mega-donor, putting $751,000 into his 2012 re-election campaign alone.

    But, said prosecutors, Melgen got Menendez to use the power of his office on his behalf — particularly to get visas for six foreign girlfriends Melgen wanted to bring to the US.

    The senator was accused of deploying his staff to secure a visa for Juliana Lopes Leite, a Brazilian actress who posed nude on the cover of “Sexy” magazine, telling an aide to email a senior State Department official to give her application “special consideration.”

    He was also accused of stepping in to help Ukrainian student Svitlana Buchyk who wanted a plastic-surgery consultation. And, the feds alleged, he directed a staff member to “call Ambassador asap” to reverse a visa denial to a 22-year-old Dominican model.

    “Menendez used his Senate staff to accommodate Melgen’s requests for official action, including collecting information from Melgen and his agents about Melgen’s needs and interests, arranging for Melgen to meet with a United States Senator and advocating on Melgen’s behalf to Executive Branch officials,” reads the 2015 indictment against Menendez.

    In exchange, prosecutors said, the senator was rewarded with flights on both of Melgen’s private jets — the pilot said he always had to have Evian on board — and vacations at the doctor’s villa in the Caso de Campo resort in La Romana, Dominican Republic.

    The sprawling resort on the country’s Caribbean coast features three golf courses, three polo fields, a 245-acre shooting range as well as a spa and private beach, according to the 2015 indictment, which noted that Menendez “often brought a guest.”

    When he stood trial, Menendez produced a photograph showing his then lover Gwendolyn Beck dining with him, Melgen and Melgen’s wife — at the same time, prosecutors alleged, as the senator was telling his staff to help Melgen fly in mistresses younger than his own daughter.

    And in 2010 when Menendez wanted to plan a romantic three-day getaway with one of his own, unnamed, paramours, Melgen used more than 600,000 of his American Express points to book a presidential suite for the senator at the Park Hyatt Paris-Vendome, a luxury five-star hotel in central Paris, the indictment said.

    “Melgen offered and gave, and Menendez solicited and accepted things of value, including domestic and international flights, first class domestic airfare, use of a Caribbean villa, access to an exclusive Dominican resort, a stay at a luxury hotel in Paris, expensive meals, golf outings and tens of thousand of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund,” the 2015 indictment reads.

    The quid pro quo, prosecutors said, did not stop at helping girlfriends.

    Menendez allegedly tried to stop US Customs and Border Protection from donating shipping container surveillance equipment to the Dominican Republic, which would have threatened Melgen’s “multi-million dollar foreign contract to provide exclusive cargo screening services in Dominican ports,” the indictment said.

    Melgen also sought the senator’s help to keep his Medicare fraud running. When Melgen learned that an audit of his Medicare billing was likely to result in a multi-billion dollar overpayment finding, Menendez allegedly emailed an aide with the subject line was “Dr. Melgen.”

    In the email, Menendez instructed the aide to “please call him asap at [redacted] re a Medicare problem we need to help him with,” it was alleged.

    Melgen was eventually convicted in 2017 of defrauding Medicare of more than $73 million by giving elderly patients treatments that they didn’t actually need. He was sentenced to 17 years in prison, but was pardoned by President Trump after Menendez urged him to grant clemency to his old friend.

    But Menendez was luckier: a federal jury in New Jersey deadlocked in 2017 on charges he took bribes. The senator was often accompanied to court by his daughter Alicia Menendez, who is now an MSNBC anchor.

    And then, when the Supreme Court narrowed the grounds on which prosecutors could bring corruption charges against elected officials, the Justice Department abandoned plans for a retrial, letting Menendez walk free.

    One major contrast between the new charges and the last ones are the use of his staff. In 2015 Menendez was accused of mobilizing six members of his Senate staff to secure Melgen’s lovers’ visas.

    This time he was accused of cutting them out entirely as he allegedly ghost-wrote a letter on behalf of the Egyptian government to secure $300 million in aid, and tried to push to install Philip R. Sellinger as U.S. attorney for New Jersey because Menendez believed he could influence Sellinger.

    This time around the embattled New Jersey Democrat kept his own senate staff in the dark when he was allegedly ghostwriting a letter for the Egyptian government to secure $300 million in aid from fellow senators and hosting meetings for a foreign intelligence agent in his Senate office, according to a federal indictment charging the senator and his wife with bribery and extortion Friday.

    The Cuban-American senator denied the allegations Friday, blaming the prosecution on a political campaign that “simply cannot accept that a first-generation Latino American from humble beginnings could rise to be a US Senator.”

    Even before he was a senator, Menendez was long tainted by graft claims.

    During his first run for the Senate in 2006, then New Jersey Attorney General Chris Christie subpoenaed records related to a non-profit that had paid Menendez more than $300,000 to “rent” space in a house he owned in Union City in exchange, allegedly, for help to get millions in federal grants.

    Menendez denied the allegations and questioned the timing of the subpoenas, calling it a political smear campaign orchestrated by his enemies. He won his election handily.

    The probe ended five years later without charges. Shortly after, the new probe into his Melgen ties began.

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    Dallas Mayor Switches to GOP, Making City Largest Led by a Republican



    Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson announced Friday that he is switching parties and will serve as a Republican-affiliated mayor of the blue-leaning city.

    While the Dallas mayoral office is nonpartisan, Johnson previously served as a Democrat in the Texas legislature. He slammed his former party in an op-ed for Wall Street Journal published Friday, blaming Democratic policies for “exacerbated crime and homelessness.”

    “The future of America’s great urban centers depends on the willingness of the nation’s mayors to champion law and order and practice fiscal conservatism,” Johnson wrote. “Our cities desperately need the genuine commitment to these principles (as opposed to the inconsistent, poll-driven commitment of many Democrats) that has long been a defining characteristic of the GOP.”

    He added: “In other words, American cities need Republicans—and Republicans need American cities.”

    Johnson’s announcement makes him the only Republican among the mayors of the 10 most populous cities in the US.

    Johnson was reelected for a four-year term in May with 93% of the vote after being first elected in 2019. President Joe Biden won Dallas County by more than 30 points in the 2020 election.

    The Texas Democratic Party issued a scathing statement Friday, accusing Johnson of being dishonest with Dallas voters.

    “[T]he voters of Dallas deserved to know where he stood before he ran for reelection as Mayor,” the chair and vice-chair of the party said. “He wasn’t honest with his constituents, and knew he would lose to a Democrat if he flipped before the election.”

    “This feeble excuse for democratic representation will fit right in with Republicans — and we are grateful that he can no longer tarnish the brand and values of the Texas Democratic Party,” they added.

    On the other hand, Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott welcomed Johnson’s new party affiliation.

    “Texas is getting more Red every day,” Abbott said in a post on X, the platform previously known as Twitter. “He’s pro law enforcement & won’t tolerate leftist agendas.”

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝

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