How Disney Dodged DeSantis and Kept Control of Its Florida Land
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Walt Disney Co. has gained an upper hand over Florida Governor Ron DeSantis in the ongoing dispute over control of the land near Orlando where Walt Disney World Resort is located.

In February, Disney secured approvals for the next 30 years on zoning, infrastructure, and air-rights that the company might need for expansion. Recently, a new board created by DeSantis criticized these approvals, claiming they circumvented their authority.

The board members have hired outside attorneys to review the development plan and explore ways to nullify it, while Disney believes the project was in compliance with state law.

WSJ reported:

Walt Disney Co. for now has outmaneuvered Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in the battle for control over the more than 24,000-acre parcel of land near Orlando where Walt Disney World Resort is located.

In February, Disney went before a local board and secured approvals for the next 30 years on zoning, infrastructure and air-rights that the company might need if it chooses to expand Disney World, giving the company an advantage that has become clearer in recent days.

This week, those approvals were criticized by members of a new board that was created by the Republican governor to strip Disney of governing control over the land’s special tax district, known as Reedy Creek. Mr. DeSantis, who has been clashing with Disney for more than a year, appointed the new board after the February meeting.

The new board members for the Reedy Creek special tax district said Disney’s moves circumvented their authority, leaving it unable to do much beyond maintaining roads and basic infrastructure. Board members said the district has hired outside attorneys to review the development plan and explore ways to nullify it.

A spokeswoman for Mr. DeSantis said in a statement, “An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.” She added that the new board had “retained multiple financial and legal firms to conduct audits and investigate Disney’s past behavior.”

Mr. DeSantis addressed the Disney situation Thursday during a book-tour stop in Smyrna, Ga. “There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control,” he said. “But rest assured—you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.”

The state attorney general’s office on Thursday sent a public records request to the Reedy Creek district for documents discussing agreements and covenants that were approved or considered at the February meeting.

Disney thinks the land-development project approved at the public meeting was in compliance with state law, according to people familiar with the company’s thinking. The substance of the meeting—including a description of the plan that was voted on—was advertised twice in print articles published in the Orlando Sentinel newspaper in January, as required by law.

Juan-Carlos Planas, a former Republican legislator in Florida who has taught law school courses about Reedy Creek’s legal structure, said it would likely be very difficult for the district to do anything about the plan.

The board can’t nullify it without breaching the district’s contract with Disney, which would likely prompt a legal challenge, and can’t sue to block the agreement because the only party with standing to do so is likely the residents of the district, which include only Disney employees, he said.

“Disney didn’t do anything secret. They publicized it, they advertised it,” Mr. Planas said. “If you’re in Tallahassee, and you’re replacing the board, how do you not know what that board is doing in their public meeting? This was negligence on the part of the governor’s office and Republican legislators.”

Members of the new board have expressed outrage, alleging that Disney sneaked through the changes at the 11th hour. Board member Ron Peri said Wednesday, “This essentially makes Disney the government” of the district.

Bridget Ziegler, another board member and co-founder of the conservative group Moms for Liberty, tweeted that “if unlawful actions were taken, this development agreement will be nullified.”

Read 21 Comments
  • Denise J Garnello says:

    Check the Reps Bank Accounts !!!

  • rick1011 says:

    Here’s a novel idea! Don’t spend a nickle there! Close every road in & out of the place! Surely, the state can do that! Then, watch the left-wing snivelers raise hell! hahahaha

  • Matt says:

    ”Disney went before a local board and secured approvals for the next 30 years on zoning”

    Yeah, with a fuck ton of cash no doubt!?!

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    4th Republican Debate Highlights: GOP Rivals Clash on Stage



    The smallest field yet of GOP candidates faced off Wednesday in the fourth Republican presidential debate of 2023 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, with the first salvos of the night aimed at former Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley, while former President Donald Trump, who leads the field by a wide margin in the polls, held a closed campaign fundraiser in Florida.

    NewsNation hosted the fourth debate with three moderators: NewsNation’s Elizabeth Vargas, former Fox News host Megyn Kelly and the Washington Free Beacon’s Eliana Johnson.

    Four candidates appeared on stage:

    • Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
    • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis
    • Former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley
    • Businessman Vivek Ramaswamy

    The first three debates have not done much to change the dynamics of the race among Republican primary voters. The latest CBS News poll, from early November, showed Trump winning 61% of likely GOP primary voters nationwide, more than all the other candidates combined. DeSantis polled at 18%, Haley at 9%, Ramaswamy at 5%, Sen. Tim Scott at 4% and Christie at 2%.

    Here are the highlights from the debate below.

    DeSantis and Ramaswamy team up to attack Haley: “I love all the attention, fellas”

    DeSantis and Ramaswamy were quick to take shots at Haley, who is rising in the polls as the race for second place heats up.

    “She caves anytime the Left comes after her, anytime the media comes after her,” DeSantis said.

    Ramaswamy later joined in, questioning Haley’s wealth since she left government service.

    “Nikki, you were bankrupt when you left the U.N. After you left the U.N., you became a military contractor,” he said, referring to Haley’s stint on the board of Boeing, “whose back you scratched for a very long time and then get foreign multinational speeches like Hillary Clinton is, and now you’re a multimillionaire. That math does not add up. It adds up to the fact that you are corrupt.”

    Ramaswamy also criticized wealthy donors to Haley’s campaign, saying they’re funding “left-wing causes.”

    “In terms of these donors that are supporting me, they’re just jealous,” Haley responded. “They wish that they were supporting them.”

    DeSantis said, “Nikki will cave to those big donors when it counts.”

    The pair also went after Haley for proposing that all social media users should be verified by their names online.

    “I love all the attention, fellas,” Haley said. “Thank you for that.”

    Christie hammers Ramaswamy in defense of Haley: “The most obnoxious blowhard in America”

    Christie offered a forceful defense of Haley against Ramaswamy’s insults of her intelligence.

    After Ramaswamy claimed that Haley could not name three provinces in eastern Ukraine where she would send U.S. troops, Christie accused the entrepreneur of habitually backing away from comments he makes on the campaign trail when he’s confronted by political opponents about his positions.

    “This is the fourth debate that you would’ve been voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America, so shut the hell up,” Christie told Ramaswamy.

    The former New Jersey governor accused Ramaswamy of insulting Haley’s intelligence, rather than her policy positions — claiming, for example, that she can’t identify regions in Ukraine or find Israel on a map.

    “If you want to disagree on issues, that’s fine, and Nikki and I disagree on some issues,” Christie said. “I’ve known her for 12 years, which is longer than he’s even started to vote in the Republican primary, and while we disagree about some issues and disagree about who should be president of the United States, what we don’t disagree on is this is a smart, accomplished woman and you should stop insulting her.”

    Christie went on to criticize Ramaswamy’s lack of experience and claimed that while he was serving as the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey, Ramaswamy was “learning about the provinces in Ukraine sitting with his smarta** mouth at Harvard.”

    “All he knows how to do is insult good people who have committed their lives to public service and not say anything that moves the ball down the field for the United States,” Christie said.

    Divisions emerge among Republican candidates on parental rights

    A question about parental rights and gender-affirming care for young people showed a split between Christie and DeSantis over an issue that has gained traction with Republican voters.

    Christie said he favors limited involvement from the government and believes parents should be empowered to make decisions about their children.

    “I trust parents,” he said.

    The former New Jersey governor, who opposes state restrictions on gender-affirming care for transgender youth, asserted it’s parents who should be making the decisions about this for their children. He made the point that he and his wife care more for their four children than a government official in a dysfunctional Congress.

    “You look at these jokers in Congress — it takes them three weeks to pick a speaker, and up until two days ago, they couldn’t promote somebody in the military in the United States Senate who earned their new rank. And we’re going to put my children’s health and my decisions in their hands for them to make those decisions? For Joe Biden to make those decisions?” Christie said.

    He warned parents that if they cede those rights on gender-affirming care for their children to states, it would just be the beginning.

    “You start to turn over just a little bit of this authority, the authority they’re going to take from you next, you’re not going to like,” Christie said.

    But DeSantis defended restrictions on gender-affirming treatment for minors he signed into law as governor of Florida and warned surgical procedures are “mutilating minors.”

    “We cannot allow this to happen in this country,” he said.

    Ramaswamy, meanwhile, suggested the federal government should take action on the issue of gender-affirming surgery.

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    Senate Republicans Block Funding Bill for Ukraine and Israel, Call for More Border Resources



    Senate Republicans blocked a funding bill Wednesday for Ukraine and Israel, calling for President Joe Biden and his administration to crack down on the border crisis, as illegal immigrants are crossing at historic numbers.

    The vote was 51-49.

    Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders ended up voting with all Republicans against the bill. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer then changed his vote to “no” for procedural reasons, in order for the bill to be brought to the Senate floor for a vote again.

    Earlier Wednesday, Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst sent a letter to the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Samantha Power, calling for answers over where U.S. taxpayer dollars are going in Ukraine after not receiving answers.

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    6 Nevada Republicans, Including GOP Chairman, Indicted in “Alternate Elector” Case



    Six Nevada Republicans were indicted by a grand jury in the state on Wednesday for their alleged roles in an “alternate elector” scheme that declared that former President Donald Trump won the state in 2020.

    The grand jury in the Eighth Judicial District Court in Clark County indicted:

    Nevada Republican Party Chairman Michael McDonald, national committeeman Jim DeGraffenreid, Clark County Republican Party chair Jesse Law, state party vice chair Jim Hindle III, Shawn Meehan and Eileen Rice.

    Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford, a Democrat, said that all six individuals were indicted on two felony counts of offering a false instrument for filing and uttering a forged instrument by submitting fraudulent documents to state and federal officials.

    The Nevada Independent reported that the two felony charges were category C and D felonies, respectively, and carried a maximum of four years and five years in prison.

    “When the efforts to undermine faith in our democracy began after the 2020 election, I made it clear that I would do everything in my power to defend the institutions of our nation and our state,” Ford said in a statement.

    “We cannot allow attacks on democracy to go unchallenged. Today’s indictments are the product of a long and thorough investigation, and as we pursue this prosecution, I am confident that our judicial system will see justice done.”

    Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes is currently investigating similar efforts in her state following the 2020 presidential election.

    Individuals accused of participating in alternate elector schemes that declared that Trump won in 2020 have also been charged in Georgia and Michigan.

    Ten Republicans in Wisconsin who posed as electors in 2020 settled a civil lawsuit on Wednesday and admitted that President Joe Biden won the election and agreed to not serve as electors in 2024 or in any election if Trump is on the ballot.

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    4 Dead, Including Suspect, After Gunman Opens Fire at University of Nevada Las Vegas



    Police shot and killed a suspected shooter after they opened fire on the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Wednesday, killing three and wounding another, police said.

    University police responded to reports of shots fired around 11:45 a.m. local time on the fourth floor of Beam Hall near the student union building, with campus alerting students to “RUN-HIDE-FIGHT.”

    “This is not a test,” the emergency alert read.

    UNLV police and LVMPD officers responded to the scene, officials said. Two campus detectives “immediately engaged the suspect in a shootout” outside of the building, UNLV Police Chief Adam Garcia told reporters at a press conference Wednesday night.

    “The suspect was struck and is deceased at this time,” Garcia said.

    LVMPD Sheriff Kevin McMahill said that police have confirmed the identity of the suspect, but are not releasing their name at this time.

    He also declined to reveal the suspect’s affiliation with the university.

    Three victims were found dead and a fourth was taken to an area hospital with gunshot wounds where they are recovering in stable condition, McMahill said.

    Four others were hospitalized after suffering panic attacks and two officers were treated for minor injuries suffered while clearing buildings, he said.

    The shooter’s motive remains under investigation.

    The UNLV campus is about two miles from the Las Vegas Strip and across from Harry Reid International Airport.

    Roughly 30,000 students attend the school.

    The campus was placed on lockdown almost immediately after the shooting was reported. Police evacuated students and staff on campus “floor by floor, room by room, building by building,” McMahill said.

    UNLV officials asked students to remain sheltered in place as the buildings were evacuated one at a time.

    One University of Nevada student told local outlet KVUU she hunkered down in the campus’ student union building after she learned about the active shooter alert.

    “We found out cops were on site and we just sheltered in place until we were evacuated. And it took us about 30 minutes to get us evacuated,” the student, Jessica, said.

    Another student described how about 200 students huddled together in the building as they heard gunshots ring out.

    “A lot of people were panicking,” the student, who did not wish to be named, told the outlet.

    She said armed officers evacuated them out of the building with their hands up. As they were escorted out of the student union, she said they “walked past one of the windows, the window was shot out, glass everywhere.”

    A reunification center for those who had family members on campus has been established at the Las Vegas Convention Center, according to Clark County officials.

    Officials said that in addition to UNLV, all other Nevada System of Higher Education institutions in the southern part of the state were shut down for the remainder of the day.

    UNLV Police Chief Garcia said that the school’s campus would remain closed through Friday. The school could still be closed next week, when students are scheduled to take final exams, he said.

    UNLV’s scheduled men’s basketball game against the University of Dayton has been canceled, the Ohio college’s basketball program announced on social media.

    Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman offered her “condolences on behalf of the entire city and the community,” at Wednesday night’s press conference.

    “What a tragic time for us but it’s time to be positive and do something,” she added.

    Nevada Gov. Joe Lombardo, the former Clark’s County Sheriff, praised law enforcement for their quick response.

    The UNLV shooting and Tuesday’s two deadly shootings in Texas prompted President Biden to call on congressional Republicans to ban assault weapons.

    “Jill and I join citizens across our nation in praying for the families of our fallen, and for those who were injured during these latest acts of senseless violence,” the president said.

    “For all the action we have taken since I’ve been president, the epidemic of gun violence we face demands that we do even more. But we cannot do more without Congress,” Biden said.

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    Hunter Biden Got Staggering $4.9M from “Sugar Brother” Kevin Morris: IRS Whistleblower



    Hunter Biden received a whopping $4.9 million from Hollywood lawyer Kevin Morris in a three-year period, according to an IRS agent who investigated the president’s son for alleged tax evasion.

    The revelation signifies a substantial increase in the known amount that Hunter, 53, got from his so-called “sugar brother” after the men reportedly met for the first time at a December 2019 campaign fundraiser.

    IRS agent Joseph Ziegler shared the jaw-dropping figure and additional documentation Tuesday with the House Ways and Means Committee in a follow-up appearance as House Republicans near an expected vote to authorize an impeachment inquiry into President Biden for his alleged role in his family’s foreign dealings.

    Prior reporting indicated Morris paid about $2 million in tax debts for Hunter and purchased some of his novice artworks.

    Morris’ motives for helping the first son financially and the authenticity of their friendship have been debated by Republicans.

    As part of his Tuesday testimony, Ziegler provided legislators an email showing that as early as Feb. 7, 2020 — two months after they met — Morris was contacting accountants on Hunter’s behalf and warning them to work quickly to avoid “considerable risk personally and politically.”

    Ziegler, who investigated Hunter’s taxes for five years before he was removed from the case this year, said the first son’s income from Morris — at least some of it deemed loans — resembled Hunter’s practice of trying to avoid paying taxes on other income by describing it as loans.

    “Hunter appeared to follow a pattern of attempting to avoid paying taxes on relevant income. This first started with Hunter not reporting the [Ukrainian gas company] Burisma income in 2014 and allegedly falsely claiming that it was a loan to him,” Ziegler said in his opening statement.

    “He, again, tried to claim the millions in [Chinese] income earned from Hudson West III was a loan to him, which was refuted by the evidence and was not allowed by his tax accountants.

    “This continued into 2020, 2021 and 2022, in which Hunter received approximately $4.9 million in payments for personal expenses, again in the form of a loan and gift from Democratic donor Kevin Patrick Morris.”

    Ziegler and the rest of his investigative unit were removed from the tax fraud case targeting Hunter, allegedly on Justice Department orders, in May after Ziegler joined his supervisor Gary Shapley in publicly alleging a cover-up involving preferential treatment for the first family.

    One month later, the US Attorney’s Office in Delaware announced a probation-only plea deal for Hunter, which ultimately fell apart at a July court hearing when his lawyers pressed for assurances that he had broad immunity for other possible crimes committed in the past.

    The full transcript of Ziegler and Shapley’s latest testimony to the tax-focused Ways and Means Committee was not immediately available.

    But a source familiar with the behind-closed-doors exchanges told The Post that Ziegler was asked to confirm the $4.9 million figure for Morris’ contributions and did so.

    It’s possible that Morris gave even more in 2023 that’s not included in the total.

    A Los Angeles grand jury reportedly is considering tax charges against Hunter in a case that could include related counts, such as for allegedly violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act by introducing associates to his vice president father and other US officials.

    Republicans in recent weeks have also focused on purported loans involving first brother James Biden.

    The House Oversight Committee’s GOP leaders allege that James “laundered” $40,000 in Chinese government-linked funds to pay Joe Biden in September 2017, and that he paid his brother $200,000 in 2018 after getting an identical amount the same day by promising to help a US hospital chain find a Middle Eastern investor using his political connections.

    The White House said those two transfers were genuine loan repayments and that President Biden did nothing wrong, but Republicans say the funds that James claimed to be repaying were transferred to him from a law firm rather than Joe Biden’s personal account, clouding the picture.

    Ziegler, a registered Democrat, and Shapley, a registered Republican who says he voted for Democrats in the past including Bill Clinton, publicly objected to the handling of Hunter’s tax fraud investigation as Delaware US Attorney David Weiss reportedly was considering allowing Hunter to avoid any charges, after Biden-appointed US attorneys in Los Angeles and Washington declined to partner on a prosecution in their districts, where the tax crimes would be brought because of residence issues.

    Ziegler on Tuesday scolded Democratic legislators for their handling of the case.

    “I can tell you that as a fellow Democrat, who has previously voted for your Democratic colleagues,
    I am extremely disappointed and hurt by some of your comments and actions,” he said.

    “Those comments you have lodged have impacted me and my family. My husband’s business has been attacked, and I have been personally attacked by the Biden family attorneys and members of the media.”

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    Outrage as Jeweller Who Shot Dead Armed Crooks Is Jailed for 17 Years



    A jeweller in Italy has been sentenced to 17 years in prison for shooting dead two crooks who robbed his store and tied up his daughter, prompting a fierce debate on the limits of self-defence.

    Mario Roggero shot at three thieves in Grinzane Cavour on April 28, 2021 after they entered his store, bound his daughter’s hands behind her back, threatened to kill his wife and helped themselves to expensive jewellery and watches.

    Fearing for his life, Roggero was seen on CCTV chasing them out of the shop and shooting at least five times.

    Andrea Spinelli and Giuseppe Mazzarino died a few yards from the shop entrance, one in the street and the other on the corner with a side street. A third robber was injured and later arrested.

    Roggero’s sentencing has sparked outrage in Italy as politicians weigh in and say the jeweller was only defending himself and his family.

    ‘He worked hard all his life, and he was just trying to defend his family and his business,’ Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini said, expressing his ‘full solidarity’.

    But prosecutors have argued in court that following the crooks outside before shooting them as they got into a car is tantamount to an ‘execution’.

    Roggero was at work when the trio of thieves entered his store and starting looting his wares.

    CCTV shows the moment the robbers enter and tie up his daughter before rifling through various cabinets and filling up their pockets.

    A man, who appears to be Roggero, is held at gunpoint as he is moved through the store and into a back room.

    ‘They were counting: five, four, three… I thought I was going to die,’ Roggero later told the Italian press.

    He points and gestures to other parts of the shop, interacting with one of the crooks for some time before being bandied out.

    The men filled sacks with goods before making their escape outside.

    Footage from the car park then shows Roggero pulling a gun on the thieves and shooting at them as they run.

    One was later found dead in the middle of the street, another on a nearby corner.

    Alessandro Modica, 35, was injured and taken to hospital after fleeing the scene, whereafter he was arrested.

    Immediately after the events, Roggero was accused of culpable excess of self-defense.

    According to the public prosecutor’s office, Roggero would have shot the men as they fled ‘with the intention of causing their death, thereby voluntarily exceeding the limits of legitimate patrimonial defence’.

    During the trial, Roggero said he chased the men because he feared they had kidnapped his wife.

    He added that he had been robbed and beaten in 2015 and suffered trauma from the experience that affected his judgement in 2021.

    ‘In his mind, there was a reactivation of what had happened six years before,’ a psychiatrist told the trial.

    Ultimately, the court gave Roggero 17 years in jail, three more than the term requested by prosecutors.

    Roggero said the verdict was a ‘victory for crime’, De Telegraaf reports.

    Some Italian politicians have expressed their support for the jeweller following the decision.

    Deputy PM Matteo Salvini said: ‘After a life of hard work and sacrifices, he was just defending his life and his business.

    ‘The real criminals are the ones who deserve prison, not people like Mario.’

    Lucio Malan, a member of the Fratelli d’Italia, said: ‘If you carried out a survey, 95 per cent of people would be against this sentence.’

    Roggero is expected to appeal the conviction, The Telegraph reports.

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    Time’s Person of the Year 2023: Taylor Swift



    Taylor Swift is ending her year with another accolade: The pop superstar was named Time magazine’s 2023 “Person of the Year,” beating out Barbie and King Charles III.

    “While her popularity has grown across the decades, this is the year that Swift, 33, achieved a kind of nuclear fusion: shooting art and commerce together to release an energy of historic force,” the magazine said.

    Time said Swift was selected because she found a way to give people around the world hope in some seriously dark times.

    “No one else on the planet today can move so many people so well,” Time said in its profile. “Achieving this feat is something we often chalk up to the alignments of planets and fates, but giving too much credit to the stars ignores her skill and her power.”

    The magazine also interviewed Swift, with the artist revealing that “this is the proudest and happiest I’ve ever felt, and the most creatively fulfilled and free I’ve ever been.”

    And yes, she even talked about her relationship with Kansas City Chiefs star Travis Kelce for the first time publicly. The pair started hanging out after Kelce wore a friendship bracelet on his podcast, which Swift said was “metal as hell” and started to hang out after.

    “I’m just there to support Travis,” she said about her appearances at NFL games that have given some of them a ratings boost. “I have no awareness of if I’m being shown too much and pissing off a few dads, Brads, and Chads.”

    Part of Swift’s stunning year was her “Eras Tour,” which grossed about $2.2 billion in North American ticket sales alone, according to research firm QuestionPro. Also on Wednesday, StubHub released its 2023 “Year in Live Experiences” report revealing that the “Eras Tour” was StubHub’s biggest tour in the website’s history.

    Swift has dominated not only Super Bowl-sized arenas, but local movie theaters as well.

    In its opening weekend, the pop singer’s concert film, “Taylor Swift: The Eras Tour,” raked in about $96 million in the box office in the United States and Canada, making it the highest-grossing concert film domestically for an opening weekend, according to AMC.

    Among all of that, Swift broke her own Spotify record by becoming the most-streamed artist in a single day in the streamer’s history, while “1989 (Taylor’s Version)” became Spotify’s most-streamed album in a single day this year.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Google Just Launched Gemini, Its Long-Awaited Answer to ChatGPT



    Google on Wednesday debuted its new Gemini generative AI model. The platform serves as Google’s answer to Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s GPT-4, and according to DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, it’s the company’s “most capable and general model” yet.

    Gemini is what is referred to as a natively multimodal model, meaning it can analyze text, audio, video, images, and code. While other multimodal offerings exist, Google says Gemini stands apart because the model was designed to take all of those mediums into account from the beginning.

    Other platforms, the company said, train separate models to tackle things like text, video, and photos and then string them together into a single model.

    This difference, according to Hassabis, means that Gemini can better understand multimodal data and produce better results for everything from handwritten content to images and videos.

    As part of the announcement, Google released a series of videos demonstrating Gemini’s capabilities.

    In one video, a presenter showed a program running Gemini with a drawing of a blue duck as well as a rubber blue duck, both of which the AI was able to identify.

    In another demonstration, the presenter showed the AI a hand-drawn picture of a roller coaster without a loop and another one with a loop. When the presenter asked which one is likely more fun, the AI said the one with the loop, which is the right answer unless you hate going around loops or on roller coasters in general.

    Another example showed how parents can use Gemini to help their children with their homework. Not only is the AI able to read a student’s written answers to math questions, but it is also able to tell if they are correct or not and explain where the student went wrong and why.

    On the coding front, Google said Gemini is one of the leading models for coding around, claiming that the AI can understand programming languages such as Python, Java, C++, and Go.

    Google is rolling out three different versions of Gemini: Gemini Ultra, Gemini Pro, and Gemini Nano. Gemini Ultra is the top-of-the-line data center version of the AI model meant for what Google says are highly complex tasks. Gemini Pro is the mid-range version of the model, while Nano is the version designed to run on devices such as Google’s Pixel 8 Pro.

    The company says the smartphone will use Gemini Nano to power Summarize in its Recorder app, which will allow it to understand content in a recording and provide a bulleted summary. The model will also power Smart Reply in Gboard starting with WhatsApp and eventually come to other apps later next year.

    Gemini Pro, meanwhile, is available as part of the English language version of Google’s Bard chatbot beginning today. The feature, Google says, will make Bard better at “understanding, summarizing, reasoning, coding, and planning.”

    Next year, the company said it will roll out a version of Bard powered by Gemini Ultra called Bard Advanced.

    Importantly, Google said it’s already experimenting with Gemini in Search via its Search Generative Experience, a version of Google Search that adds generative AI capabilities. According to the company, Gemini has reduced latency in the English language version of the app in the US by 40%.

    Gemini will also be coming to Search, Chrome, Ads, and Duet AI in the months ahead.

    Gemini is a massive undertaking for Google, serving as the company’s biggest shot at both OpenAI and its backer Microsoft.

    Ever since OpenAI debuted ChatGPT in November 2022, Google has been playing catch-up to its rivals. Microsoft has already added its GPT-powered Copilots to a number of its services, giving it an early lead in the new AI wars. But with Gemini, Google could have what it takes to make and even exceed OpenAI and Microsoft.

    But what truly matters is how well the AI model integrates into Google’s products and whether that will help drive consumers to continue to take advantage of platforms like Google Search, Google Workspaces, YouTube, and other products.

    And while you might not notice the changes at first, Gemini is meant as a means of securing Google’s dominance into the future. And there’s little chance OpenAI and Microsoft aren’t already preparing their own responses to Gemini.

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    Former Speaker McCarthy Resigning from Congress



    Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the first Speaker in history to be ousted from the role, will depart the House at the end of the year.

    McCarthy wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that he was leaving “to serve America in new ways. I know my work is only getting started.”

    “I will continue to recruit our country’s best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders.”

    The announcement comes roughly two months after McCarthy, 58, was removed from the Speakership in a stunning — and historic — fashion, ending his less-than-a-year run with the gavel. Eight Republicans joined with Democrats to depose him.

    Following the vote, speculation swirled about whether McCarthy — who rose through the ranks of GOP leadership since coming to Congress in 2007 — would run for re-election, or even finish out his current term.

    McCarthy announced his planned departure from the House just days before California’s deadline to file for reelection.

    Last week, during an interview at The New York Times DealBook summit, McCarthy said the decision of whether to run for the House again was a “gut call” and he was “really taking this time now” to think matters through.

    His departure combined with last week’s expulsion of former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.) will further squeeze the already razor-thin House GOP majority, which will be able to afford just three GOP defections to pass any party-line legislation.

    Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio) also plans to resign from the House in the first quarter of next year to take a job as president of Youngstown State University, and a special election to replace Santos is scheduled for Feb. 13. Rep. Brian Higgins (D-N.Y.) is also set to resign in February.

    Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) highlighted the slim GOP majority in a post on X: “Hopefully no one dies.”

    Despite McCarthy’s retirement, his district is likely to remain in Republican hands: California’s 20th Congressional District broke for former President Trump by roughly 24 percentage points in 2020.

    According to state law, California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has to call for a special election within 14 days of when McCarthy officially departs his seat. The election would then take place between 126 and 140 days after.

    McCarthy struck an optimistic note in his op-ed announcement his departure despite enduring months of chaos leading the House GOP before his ouster.

    “The most reliable solution to what ails America is before our eyes: everyday men and women who are raising families, showing up for work, volunteering, and pursuing the American Dream with passion and purpose. I agree with President Reagan’s observation that ‘all great change in America starts at the dinner table,’” McCarthy wrote. “Despite the best attempts by special interest groups and the news media to divide us, I have seen the goodness of the American people. They are what will ultimately uphold the enduring values of our great nation. We all have a role to play in that effort.”

    “I never could have imagined the journey when I first threw my hat into the ring. I go knowing I left it all on the field—as always, with a smile on my face. And looking back, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.”

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    Georgia Prosecutors Put Pence on Witness List in Election Case Against Trump



    Prosecutors in the Georgia election case against former President Donald Trump have officially listed former Vice President Mike Pence as one of the witnesses who could be called to testify at trial, CNN reported.

    Pence, who has appeared before a federal grand jury as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s probe into Trump, has not been considered a major part of criminal proceedings in Georgia.

    Witness lists submitted by Fulton County prosecutors have not been made public and remain tightly held. Sources told CNN that the most recent version of the witness list, which was produced by prosecutors just days ago, included upward of 150 names. Among them is Pence.

    “Despite what the former president and his allies have said for now more than two and a half years and continue to insist … the Georgia election was not stolen, and I had no right to overturn the election on January 6,” Pence said at the National Conference of State Legislatures after Trump was indicted in August.

    Unlike in the federal probe, Pence has not testified under oath as part of the Georgia case – including before the special purpose grand jury that interviewed 75 witnesses in its investigation.

    Pence’s name appearing on the witness list in Georgia, which has not been previously reported, is the first concrete sign that the Fulton County district attorney’s office is preparing to put him on the stand. Pence has already signaled a willingness to testify as a witness in any federal trial.

    In an interview with CNN this summer, Pence said he would comply with the law if he were compelled to testify in the federal case. “I have no plans to testify, but, look, we’ll always comply with the law,” he said, noting there are “profound” First Amendment issues that will be litigated in that case.

    Fifteen defendants remain in the racketeering case. So far, four of Trump’s co-defendants – including three of his former attorneys – have already cut deals with prosecutors to plead guilty and testify in the case.

    On Friday, Trump’s lead counsel in the Georgia case, Steve Sadow, indicated he believes the DA’s office may attempt to call Pence as a witness. He made the revelation as he pushed for access to documents and materials in the hands of special counsel Jack Smith, which may be relevant to the separate state case in Georgia.

    Sadow argued that Trump’s federal case in Washington, DC, is largely “a mirror image” to his case in Fulton County and therefore he needs a list of evidence from that case.

    “This is a problem,” Sadow argued.

    “There is no doubt that the special counsel’s office … has relevant and material information that deals with the allegations in this case,” Sadow said in court.

    Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee agreed there was a “great deal” of overlap in the two cases and said Georgia prosecutors should consider reaching out to special counsel Smith to coordinate on discovery issues.

    Sadow wrote in a previous court filing that he reached out to Trump’s lawyers in the federal case, but they told him that there’s a court order prohibiting them from sharing materials with people who aren’t directly involved in that case. So, Sadow proposed that Fulton County prosecutors reach out to Smith’s team and the federal judge in DC “to determine if suitable arrangements can be made” to hand over the materials.

    Fulton County prosecutor Nathan Wade suggested at Friday’s hearing that Sadow subpoena the Justice Department for the federal discovery, and Sadow said he would “prepare” a subpoena that he’ll send to Smith’s team.

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    Speaker Johnson Says He’s Blurring Jan. 6 Footage



    House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said his staff is working to blur the faces of participants of the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, delaying his plan to release the security footage.

    “We have to blur some of the faces of persons who participated in the events of that day because we don’t want them to be retaliated against and be charged by the DOJ,” Johnson told reporters Tuesday, adding that he still wants to release the tapes “as quickly as we can.”

    Johnson announced on Nov. 17 that he plans to make all tapes available to the public starting immediately, and 90 of the total 44,000 hours were released that day on the website.

    Additional videos from the House Administration Committee are set to be released over the next several months.

    Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) said the tapes must be released in waves due to “sensitive data” that need to be dealt with before their release. The Georgia Republican lambasted “insurrection hunters” who are “looking to go after” anyone who was at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

    Johnson said the rollout will be a “slow process” to keep participants out of the line of fire from the Justice Department, as not blurring participants’ faces could cause them “other concerns and problems.”

    The speaker said additional staff have been hired to complete the alterations and ultimately release the 44,000 hours of footage.

    Several Republicans were vocal about releasing all of the footage before backtracking over concerns of “sedition hunters” using facial recognition software to identify and possibly dox those who were at the Capitol that day.

    “We want the American people to draw their own conclusions,” Johnson said.

    “I don’t think partisan elected officials in Washington should present a narrative and expect that it should be seen as the ultimate truth.”

    This article was updated.

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    RFK Jr. Admits Flying Twice on Epstein Jet



    Presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr. admitted Tuesday he flew on late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein’s private jet twice, not just once as he previously claimed — and that his then-wife had a “relationship” with madam Ghislaine Maxwell.

    The independent candidate opened up about his ties to the notorious perv after being asked by Fox News’ Jesse Watters during a discussion of his ethics.

    “I was on Jeffrey Epstein’s jet two times,” Kennedy said of the plane widely dubbed the “Lolita Express” due to its use for taking girls to the disgraced moneyman’s private island.

    “I was on it in 1993 and I was on it in — and I went to Florida with my wife and two children to visit my mom over Easter,” the 69-year-old added, referring to his late ex-wife, Mary Richardson Kennedy, who died by suicide in 2012.

    “My wife had some kind of relationship with Ghislaine Maxwell, and they offered us a ride to Palm Beach,” he said.

    “I went then, and on another occasion I flew again with my family with, I think, four of my children and Mary, my wife, to Rapid City, South Dakota, to go fossil hunting for a weekend.

    “Otherwise, I was never on his jet alone,” he insisted.

    “This was in ’93, so it was 30 years ago — before anybody knew about Jeffrey Epstein’s nefarious issues.”

    Kennedy went on to claim that he has been “very open” about his relationship with Epstein from the beginning of his campaign.

    However, the insurgent candidate’s spokesman told Newsweek last month that Kennedy had “flown one time on Jeffrey Epstein’s private plane,” detailing the Easter trip to see his mom.

    “Mary, Kennedy’s wife, and two of their kids were on the flight,” the spokesperson said.

    “Mary knew Epstein’s girlfriend Ghislaine Maxwell, who learned that they were going to Palm Beach for Easter and offered [the] family a ride.”

    There have been connections between Maxwell and the Kennedy family going back decades.

    The UK-born socialite was even a guest at the high-profile wedding of future New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Kerry Kennedy — RFK Jr.’s sister — in 1990.

    Maxwell allegedly boasted at the nuptials about how she slept with John F. Kennedy Jr., whom she considered her “chief conquest,” Christina Oxenberg claims in her new book “Trash: Encounters with Ghislaine Maxwell.”

    On Tuesday night, Kennedy told Watters that the public should have a complete accounting of Epstein’s social and political connections, as outlined in his “little black book” of names and phone numbers of the rich, famous and powerful.

    “I agree with you that all of this information should be released, and we should get real answers on what happened to Jeffrey Epstein and any of the high-level political people that he was involved with, all of that should be open to the public,” he said.

    “It should absolutely be transparent, and I don’t see why any of those records would have any redactions in them,” he said.

    “Why would we be hiding that from the American public?”

    Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) called on the Senate Judiciary Committee last month to issue a subpoena against Epstein’s estate, with the goal of obtaining a list of passengers who traveled aboard the convicted sex offender’s infamous plane.

    “Given the numerous allegations of human trafficking and abuse surrounding Mr. Epstein, we’ve got to identify everyone who could have participated in his horrific conduct,” she claimed.

    But she claimed last week that Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) had blocked her request.

    “What are the Democrats trying to hide?” she asked on X.

    Blackburn went on to call Durbin’s actions a “sad day in the history of the prestigious Judiciary Committee.”

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    Norman Lear, TV Legend, Dies at 101



    Television-producing titan Norman Lear — whose trend-setting 1970s comedies “All in the Family,” “Maude” and “The Jeffersons” transformed the sitcom landscape — has died. He was 101.

    His death was confirmed by Lara Bergthold, a spokeswoman for the family, on Wednesday, per the New York Times.

    The boundary-pushing TV legend — born July 27, 1922, in New Haven, Connecticut — also revolutionized the family dynamic in the 1970s with shows including “Good Times,” “Sanford and Son,” “One Day at a Time” and “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman.”

    Throughout his decades-long career, he received many recognitions for his producing prowess and command of comedy.

    Nominated for 17 Emmy Awards, Lear won six — including four for the Carroll O’Connor- and Jean Stapleton-starring “All in the Family,” which aired from 1971 to 1979.

    His catalog of sitcoms may have tickled audiences’ funnybones, but they also probed serious topics — including abortion, sexuality, alcoholism, drugs and mental health — which was especially notable during the more conservative 1970s, when the so-called 8 p.m. “family hour” aimed to tone down the airwaves.

    “He’s 100 years old and still working hard — that says a lot about his drive and passion,” said Sony Pictures Entertainment Chairman Tony Vinciquerra in an interview with Variety shortly before Lear’s 100th birthday in 2022. “If you look at his body of work, some of his shows were controversial when they aired, but he pushed people to think differently about issues like race and bigotry when it was most needed. His vision and his ideas are always spot on.”

    In a nod to his numerous shows’ landmark status, Lear — who was inducted into the Emmy Awards Hall of Fame in 1984 — also took home Emmys for Outstanding Variety Special (Live) in 2020 and 2019 for his “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” primetime events, which re-created episodes of “All in the Family,” “Good Times” and “The Jeffersons,” as well as “The Facts of Life” and “Diff’rent Strokes,” the latter two airing in 2021.

    He also garnered two Peabodys — in 2016 and 1977, the latter for the groundbreaking “All in the Family” — as well as a National Medal of Arts in 1999 from President Bill Clinton, who noted at the time: “Norman Lear has held up a mirror to American society and changed the way we look at it.”

    In 2021, he was given the Carol Burnett Award for achievement in television at that year’s Golden Globes ceremony. The Kennedy Center honored him in 2017 alongside stars Carmen de Lavallade, Lionel Richie, LL Cool J and Gloria Estefan.

    While Lear’s career mostly focused on television work, he did contribute to the big screen, too. He was a writer on the screenplay for the 1968 William Friedkin movie “The Night They Raided Minsky’s,” which starred Jason Robards and Britt Ekland, and produced other films including 1973’s “The Thief Who Came to Dinner” (with Ryan O’Neal, Jacqueline Bisset and Jill Clayburgh) plus 1991’s “Fried Green Tomatoes” (with Jessica Tandy, Kathy Bates and Mary-Louise Parker) and 1987’s “The Princess Bride” (which starred Cary Elwes, Robin Wright and Mandy Patinkin).

    In addition, Lear was nominated for an Academy Award for writing the 1967 film “Divorce American Style.”

    In July 2021, on Lear’s 99th birthday, it was announced that a remake of the cult hit “Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman” — which starred Louise Lasser — was in the works for TBS, with “Schitt’s Creek” alum Emily Hampshire taking the lead role.

    Lear brought back his iconic sitcoms — specifically “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” — in 2019 for the first “Live in Front of a Studio Audience” special, featuring Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei as the iconic “Family” characters Archie and Edith Bunker (originally played by O’Connor and Stapleton) while Jamie Foxx and Wanda Sykes filled the “Jeffersons” roles of George and Louise Jefferson, who were portrayed by Sherman Hemsley and Isabel Sanford in the original show.

    Lear’s reasoning for choosing those shows over his many other works was simple.

    “ ‘All in the Family’ is where it all started, and ‘The Jeffersons’ is the longest-running of those shows,” he told The Post at the time.

    His 1975 series “One Day at a Time” received the reboot treatment in 2017 when it aired on Netflix. The show, executive-produced by Lear, ended its run in 2020 and featured a mostly Latino cast, including multihyphenate Rita Moreno.

    And while he was far into his career, he was still thrilled to reimagine the hit sitcom.

    “I think it’s the golden age, which starts with being alive,” he told The Post in 2019 just before the reboot’s third season kicked off. “It’s because of the hundreds or thousands of shows available on the tens of thousands of networks and streaming shows.

    “There’s a show at hand every time you turn around,” he added. “America has a knack for producing excess. That may be our greatest product.”

    Just before his 100th birthday in 2022, Lear reflected on his 60-plus-year career, saying he still wasn’t about to slow down.

    “I think the big secret is never forgetting to wake up in the morning. It starts with getting out of bed,” Lear told Variety in the 2022 interview. “But there isn’t a day when there aren’t stories to tell — exciting, relevant and of-the-moment stories.”

    Lear — an Army Air Forces veteran of World War II who reportedly flew 52 missions — was married three times and is survived by his third wife, Lyn Davis, whom he married in 1987. He was the father of six children: Ellen, Kate, Maggie, Benjamin and twins Madelaine Rose and Brianna Elizabeth.

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    Daily Wire and The Federalist Sue Biden State Department Over Censorship Effort



    The Daily Wire, The Federalist, and the state of Texas joined on Tuesday in a lawsuit against the U.S. State Department, alleging that the government agency funded censorship technology designed to bankrupt domestic media outlets with disfavored political opinions.

    The State Department is tasked with foreign relations and has no authority over domestic affairs, yet it took a government office designed for countering foreign terrorist propaganda, the Global Engagement Center (GEC), and unleashed it against Americans engaged in what it claimed was “disinformation,” according to the lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas on Tuesday night by the New Civil Liberties Alliance.

    It was “one of the most audacious, manipulative, secretive, and gravest abuses of power and infringements of First Amendment rights by the federal government in American history,” said the suit, which also names Secretary of State Antony Blinken and five other officials as defendants.

    The lawsuit asks a judge to declare the State Department’s attempt to interfere with domestic speech illegal and to permanently bar it from developing, promoting, or encouraging others to use technology to de-amplify, shadow ban, or restrict “the lawful speech of the American press and Americans.”

    GEC was founded in 2011 as the Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications and tasked with countering the propaganda of foreign terrorists like Al Qaeda. In 2016, it was renamed, but kept the same counterterrorism mission. Congress has made clear that “none of the funds authorized” for the entity “shall be used for purposes other than countering foreign propaganda.”

    Nonetheless, GEC turned its focus on Americans, the complaint alleges, using taxpayer funds to finance the development and promotion of censorship organizations such as NewsGuard and the Global Disinformation Index (GDI), which regularly target conservative media outlets such as The Daily Wire and The Federalist with the stated goal of limiting ad revenue.

    The New Civil Liberties Alliance’s Mark Chenoweth, who is representing the outlets, said “the federal government cannot do indirectly what the First Amendment forbids it from doing directly.”

    GDI’s main product is a “Dynamic Exclusion List” of media outlets that it says present a “high risk for disinformation.” It licenses the list to advertisers, who adopt it as a convenient way to avoid boycotts from the Left. That playbook was deployed last month against Elon Musk, when blue-chip advertisers were persuaded to stop advertising on the platform because the Left-wing Media Matters group claimed that big companies’ ads occasionally appeared near objectionable content.

    GDI says it aims to destroy “the incentive to create [disinformation] for the purpose of garnering advertising revenues.”

    GDI keeps its main blacklist secret, but publicly published its top 10 “riskiest” outlets, which was essentially a list of America’s most prominent and mainstream conservative media publications, including both The Daily Wire and The Federalist, as well as the New York Post, and Reason Magazine.

    GDI “was funded and promoted by State Department Defendants,” the lawsuit states. “State Department Defendants’ active intervention in the news media market to make disfavored media unprofitable thus had devastating consequences to Media Plaintiffs.”

    Also funded by the State Department is for-profit company called NewsGuard, which said it aimed to “cut off revenues to fake news sites” by coming up with a whitelist that purported to name every legitimate news site. NewsGuard ranks The Federalist as “unreliable” and The Daily Wire as “credible with significant exceptions.”

    GEC funded GDI in 2021 through its U.S.-Paris Tech Challenge, in which GDI was awarded $100,000. The Washington Examiner reported that the State Department-funded National Endowment for Democracy apparently funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars more to GDI. The National Endowment for Democracy later acknowledged its “mandate is to work around the world and not in the United States,” and thus would no longer fund GDI.

    The State Department also co-sponsored a “COVID-19 misinformation and disinformation” tech challenge that gave a prize to NewsGuard. NewsGuard said in a press release that it planned to “help” the State Department by flagging COVID “hoaxes.”

    One of the “hoaxes” flagged by NewsGuard was that COVID might have come from a Chinese lab, a scenario now viewed by U.S. agencies to be likely. NewsGuard gave its secret data to scientists from Los Alamos, the lab that created the atomic bomb, who used it to target skeptics of then-conventional COVID wisdom.

    The lawsuit says that the government used tools developed to be used against foreign nations against political opponents at home.

    “State Department disinformation tools were developed… as tools of warfare… in the context of national security” and “foreign relations,” then “misdirected to be used at home against domestic political opponents,” it said.

    Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton says he is “proud to lead the fight to save Americans’ precious constitutional rights from Joe Biden’s tyrannical federal government.”

    “The State Department’s mission to obliterate the First Amendment is completely un-American,” Paxton said. “This agency will not get away with their illegal campaign to silence citizens and publications they disagree with.”

    The lawsuit argues that Paxton’s ability to enforce Texas’ anti-censorship laws were infringed by the State Department’s funding of censorship tools.

    “The Biden administration is illegally funding organizations with the stated goal of financially crippling media outlets whose coverage does not walk in lockstep with the government’s ideological agenda,” The Daily Wire said in a statement on the lawsuit. “We sued the Biden administration before over its unconstitutional vaccine mandate, and we won. This time, we’re suing for our rights, all news organizations’ rights, and the constitutional guarantee of a free press that all Americans deserve.”

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    Six Dead in Texas Shooting Spree Over 8 Hours; Suspect Charged with Capital Murder



    Six people are dead after a series of shootings, lasting through the day and evening Tuesday in Austin and San Antonio. Police believe the killings are related.

    The shootings started in the morning in Austin and extended into the evening.

    The first victim was a school resource officer, shot just before 10:45 a.m. Tuesday.

    A man and woman were found fatally shot in an Austin home a few hours later.

    Then a bicyclist reported being shot just before 5 p.m. in South Austin. That person was expected to survive, police said.

    Then, around 6 p.m., Austin police responded to a burglary call at another home. A man at the scene opened fire on police.

    One of the officers was hit multiple times, sustaining non-life-threatening injuries, but the suspect sped away, interim Chief of Police Robin Henderson said at a news conference.

    Police chased the suspect, which ended in a crash, and the armed suspect was arrested.

    Austin officials didn’t name the suspect but Shane James, 34, was booked into jail on four counts of capital murder just after 2:30 a.m. Travis County Jail records showed.

    While the pursuit was underway, other officers went into the home where the burglary call came from. They found two dead inside.

    Austin police contacted Bexar County officials and alerted them about the shootings and said the suspect had a connection to a home in their area.

    Sheriff’s deputies went to a San Antonio home and saw a liquid leaking out of the residence. When they forced their way in, they found two dead people, believed to be a man and a woman in their 50s.

    Bexar County Sheriff Javier Salazar described it as a “pretty grisly crime scene” at a news conference.

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    Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs Accused of Gang-Raping 17-Year-Old Schoolgirl in Fourth Sex Assault Claim



    Sean “Diddy” Combs has been accused of gang-raping and sex-trafficking a 17-year-old schoolgirl when she was in the 11th grade, according to a new court filing seen by Page Six.

    It’s the fourth allegation of sexual assault made against the billionaire music mogul in three weeks — and comes after he settled the first suit, with his ex, singer Cassie, for an undisclosed sum after she accused him of years of rape and abuse.

    Minutes after it was filed, Combs issued a furious denial.

    In a statement to Page Six, which he then posted on Instagram, Combs wrote: “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.

    “For the last couple of weeks, I have sat silently and watched people try to assassinate my character, destroy my reputation and my legacy.

    “Sickening allegations have been made against me by individuals looking for a quick payday.

    “Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged. I will fight for my name, my family and for the truth.”

    The latest accuser alleges that she was 17 when she was drugged and raped by Combs, his longtime lieutenant Harve Pierre and another, as yet unnamed, man back in 2003.

    The filing includes a photo of the accuser, referred to as “Ms. Doe,” sitting on the lap of Combs, then 34, and alleges the assault left her suffering “significant emotional distress and feels of shame that have plagued her life and personal relationships for 20 years.”

    Doe claims in the lawsuit that she was in high school and out with friends at a club in Detroit, Michigan, in 2003 when she first met Pierre, the former president of Combs’ Bad Boy Entertainment, who told her she was “hot” — and insisted that his “best friend” and “brother” Combs would love to meet her.

    He then called Combs, she claimed, and put her on the phone with the star, who told her she should fly to NYC with Pierre.

    She agreed to this, but alleges she was forced to give Pierre — who had been smoking crack cocaine — oral sex before they boarded a flight to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey.

    Upon landing, she says, she was taken to Daddy’s House Recording Studio, owned by Combs and Bad Boy, where she was plied with drugs and alcohol by Combs, Pierre and a third assailant, who had flown with her and Pierre.

    The filing reads: “As the night wore on, the 17-year-old Ms. Doe became more and more inebriated, eventually to the point that she could not possibly have consented to having sex with anyone, much less someone twice her age.”

    It claims that she was raped first in a bathroom at the studios by Combs, who removed her underwear and forced himself on her as she “hung over” a sink.

    “While at the studio, Ms. Doe was gang raped by Mr. Combs, the Third Assailant and Mr. Pierre, in that order,” the filing alleges.

    “While Mr. Combs was raping Ms. Doe, he complained that he could not ‘get off’ unless she pinched his nipples as hard as she could.”

    The filing alleges: “Mr. Combs then watched on as Third Assailant, who Ms. Doe had not even realized had begun to have sex with her, raped Ms. Doe as she told him to stop.

    “After Third Assailant was finished, Mr. Pierre took his turn at raping Ms. Doe and then violently forced her to give him oral sex, during which Ms. Doe was choking and struggling to breathe.”

    “When Mr. Pierre finished, he left Ms. Doe in the bathroom alone. Ms. Doe fell into the fetal position and lay on the floor. Her vagina was in pain.”

    The accuser says she could “barely stand up” following the alleged gang rape and was helped into a car, which took her back to the airport. She says she has “limited” recollection of getting back to Michigan.

    The filing includes four photos and adds: “While the evening became a blur, Ms. Doe does recall Mr. Combs, Mr. Pierre and the Third Assailant hitting on her incessantly, stroking her body, asking to see her ‘ass’ and telling her how ‘hot’ and ‘sexy’ she was.”

    “Various other pictures were taken in the studio that night, leaving no doubt that Ms. Doe was in Mr. Combs’ New York City studio, with Mr. Combs, on the night she was raped.”

    The accuser is seeking monetary relief for the alleged assault in the New York courts.

    The accuser’s attorney Douglas H. Wigdor told Page Six: “As alleged in the complaint, Defendants preyed on a vulnerable high school teenager as part of a sex trafficking scheme that involved plying her with alcohol and transporting her by private jet to New York City where she was gang raped by the three individual defendants at Mr. Combs’ studio.

    “The depravity of these abhorrent acts has, not surprisingly, scarred Doe for life.”

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    Venezuela Is Preparing to Invade Oil-Rich Neighbor Guyana



    Venezuela’s president on Tuesday published a new map of the region showing two thirds of neighboring Guyana ‘reclaimed’ by Caracas and ordered the state-owned energy companies to ‘immediately’ begin exploration in the area, as fears rose that Nicolas Maduro could start a war.

    Venezuela has claimed Guyana’s Esequiba region for over 100 years – ever since the border of the present-day country was drawn up, in 1899. But on Sunday, with his own popularity falling in the face of a newly-unified opposition, Maduro organized a ‘referendum’ on whether to pursue Venezuela’s claim to the territory.

    Voters were asked if they agreed with creating a Venezuelan state in the Esequiba region, providing its population with Venezuelan citizenship, and ‘incorporating that state into the map of Venezuelan territory.’

    The Maduro-controlled Venezuelan National Electoral Council said voters chose ‘yes’ more than 95 percent of the time on each of five questions on the ballot, and on Tuesday Maduro published his new map.

    He has appointed a general, Alexis Rodríguez Cabello, as head of the region and on Tuesday dispatched him to the town of Tumeremo, a remote mining town in the jungle, 120 miles from the border.

    Esequiba, about the size of Florida, is rich in minerals and accounts for two thirds of the territory of Guyana – an English speaking nation, which gained its independence from Britain in 1966. Guyana is the only English-speaking country in South America.

    Venezuela protested an oil tender announced by Guyana in September, arguing that the offshore areas are subject to dispute and the companies awarded the fields will not have the rights to explore them.

    Guyana has denounced Sunday’s referendum as pretext to annex the land: in the days running up to it, the Venezuelan defense minister Vladimir Padrino Lopez, known for his ties to his counterparts in Russia and Iran, posted a video of Venezuela troops on parade, waving flags saying ‘Guyana Esequiba’, colored in the Venezuelan flag.

    President Irfaan Ali called the move by Maduro ‘reckless’ and said his country plans to alert both regional and world leaders of Maduro’s attempt to disrupt the peace in the hemisphere.

    ‘It is unfortunate that President Maduro would choose the road of defying an international court order. This speaks volumes about the way in which President Maduro prefers to operate and also points to the fact that he’s unconcerned about the peace and security of this region,’ he told The Miami Herald.

    ‘The order of the [U.N. court] made it very clear that Venezuela cannot act or take any action that would disrupt the status quo and the status quo is that Guyana exercises governance and control of Essequibo,’ he said.

    He added that he is seeking the support of the United Nations Security Council, the United States, the Caribbean Community, the Organization of American States and other countries to ensure Guyana’s territory is ‘not violated.’

    ‘We once again call on Venezuela to retract from this reckless, adventurous move and to allow international law and the ruling of the [U.N. court] to guide our action,’ Ali added.

    Guyana has appealed to the International Court of Justice, the United Nations’ top court, which on Friday ordered Venezuela not to take any action to change the status quo until the panel can rule on the two countries’ competing claims. Any decision could take years.

    Meanwhile, Guyana is nervously eyeing its giant neighbor to the north.

    Venezuela’s military, backed by Russia, Iran and Cuba, massively outnumbers tiny Guyana’s: the Venezuelan military counts 123,000 active personnel versus only 3,400 for Guyana, according to an analysis in Brazil’s Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

    Guyana is also dwarfed by Venezuela in weaponry, with Venezuela having 514 armored vehicles compared to only six owned by Guyana.

    Such an attack would draw a strong international response, with the lead likely played by Brazil, which borders both Venezuela and Guyana and whose military is significantly larger and more professional than either country’s.

    At the end of November, Brazil’s defense ministry said it ‘has intensified defensive actions’ along its northern border.

    ‘The Ministry of Defense has been monitoring the situation. Defensive actions have been intensified in the northern border region of the country, promoting a greater military presence,’ it said in a statement.

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    Republicans Storm Out of Briefing as Congress Battles Over Israel and Ukraine Aid Package



    A classified briefing on the national security supplemental package went south on Tuesday due to a fight over the border, prompting GOP lawmakers to storm out of the meeting on Ukraine and Israel early.

    The Tuesday briefing, which featured Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, was meant to focus on Democrats’ pitch for $111 billion in aid to Ukraine, Israel, Taiwan and the southern border. But it hit a snag before it even got started when Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was supposed to appear via teleconference, pulled out.

    About 40 minutes into the briefing, several Republicans left the classified session fuming. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) — a defense hawk and Ukraine aid supporter — complained to reporters that the administration was offering bland, repetitious answers on Ukraine and not answering Republican questions about the U.S.-Mexico border.

    “Many of us just walked out, we’ve had it, we’ve had it,” Fischer, a senior Senate Armed Services Committee member, told reporters. “When you have Deb Fischer walking out, you have a problem.”

    Senate Intelligence Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) conceded: “Feelings were running high.”

    Majority Leader Chuck Schumer argued that Minority Leader Mitch McConnell “hijacked” the meeting by calling on Sen. James Lankford (Okla.), the lead GOP negotiator on border talks, to discuss the border.

    “I understand our Republican colleagues are under tremendous pressure with the vote we’re going to have,” Schumer told reporters.

    Schumer plans to hold an initial vote Wednesday on the supplemental, which Republicans are widely expected to block.

    “They’re in a box. They don’t know what to do,” Schumer said. “Hopefully they’ll come to a conclusion that the best thing to do is for them to offer an amendment and try to get 11 Democratic votes, get 60.”

    “We’ll see how it works out,” said Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), who chairs the Appropriations panel on defense. “I mean, hopefully, everybody will come together because the aid, particularly for Ukraine, is very, very time-sensitive. And if we screw up on this, there’ll be people’s lives at stake in Europe, I think, within a year or so.”

    Fischer made clear Republicans would be galvanized around their border demands no matter what arguments the administration presented on Ukraine and Israel.

    “When the border was brought up … there was spirited discussion, and I don’t think Democrats realized there will be no movement on a supplemental unless we have policy changes on the border, our own border,” Fischer said.

    “We don’t know who’s coming into this country, and we’re supposed to tell Americans that the United States can’t balance being a leader in the world … and yet we’re not able to protect our own country at the southern border?” she said. “That is baloney.”

    Added Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.), the second-highest Republican in the chamber: “They didn’t have answers to some of the questions our members had, specifically about the broad national security crisis we face including at the border. They didn’t want to respond to that.”

    Even some of the most ardent GOP backers of additional aid to Ukraine left the briefing upset.

    “Their clear lack of preparedness to discuss and clear apprehension to utter a word as it pertains to border security policy was not just an oversight,” said Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), a defense hawk. “It was intentional.”

    Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) called the briefing “ridiculous,” “unserious” and offering no new information to senators.

    “Chuck Schumer is doing everything he can to flush this whole thing down the drain,” he said. “Keeping the southern border wide open is so important to him he’s willing to kill the supplemental to do it. And that’s exactly what he’s gonna do.”

    McConnell didn’t respond to reporters’ questions following the briefing. It came mere hours after Schumer made his offer of a border security amendment to the supplemental package during a weekly press availability — albeit to a cool immediate reaction from Republicans.

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    Key Takeaways from Trump’s Town Hall with Sean Hannity



    Former President Trump participated in a town hall hosted by Fox News’ Sean Hannity on Tuesday, a night before the fourth Republican primary debate that the GOP frontrunner is once again skipping.

    The former president was asked questions by only Hannity of a variety of topics, from reports that cast his second term as a dictatorship, President Biden’s age and health and Trump’s stances on foreign policy and energy issues before a friendly crowd that largely cheered Trump on when he took the stage.

    The event comes just weeks ahead of the Iowa caucus on Jan. 15, 2024, the first in the nation caucuses in the primary calendar and in a state Trump is leading his main GOP rivals by double-digits, according to recent surveys.

    Here are five takeaways from Trump’s town hall with Hannity.

    Trump answers ‘dictator’ question

    In one of Hannity’s early questions of Trump, he asked the former president about media reports from over the weekend that cast a potential second-term as a dictatorship, something Trump’s allies later fired back on.

    “They want to call you a dictator,” Hannity said referring to the media reports. “To be clear, do you in any way have any plans whatsoever, if reelected president, to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?”

    “You mean like they’re using right now,” Trump initially responded, before pivoting to speaking about the criminal indictments he faces.

    Hannity again revisited the question just before a commercial break, asking: “[U]nder no circumstances. You are promising America tonight. You would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?”

    “Except for day one,” Trump responded.

    “Except, what? Hannity asked, before Trump said “He’s going crazy. Except for day one.”

    “Meaning?” Hannity asked.

    “I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill,” Trump responded.

    “That’s not retribution,” Hannity said.

    “I love this guy, he says, ‘you’re not going to be a dictator are you?’ I said no, no, no, other than day one. We’re closing the border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I’m not a dictator,” Trump said to the Fox News host.

    The Democratic National Committee (DNC) and President Biden’s reelection campaign quickly seized on the comments, with the campaign sharing a video of the remarks and the DNC sharing the video with the caption “And there you have it.” The Biden campaign also blasted out an email to its supports right after the town hall wrapped with the subject line: “Donald Trump: Day One Dictator.”

    Trump swipes at Biden’s ‘cognitive state’

    Trump bashed Biden after being asked about the current president’s “cognitive state” amid concerns about the president’s age and health as he runs for reelection for another four years.

    Trump initially responded that it’s “not for me to say,” but went on to suggest that Biden “doesn’t know he’s alive” and contended he doesn’t think the president can “physically” make it through another term.

    “Nuclear weapons are the biggest problem we have. And we have a man that can’t put two sentences together. We have a man that doesn’t know he’s alive. And he’s backed up by the media,” the former president added.

    At 81, Biden is the oldest sitting president in the country’s history, and would be 86 at the end of a second term — which has prompted concerns about his health and whether he’s too old for reelection.

    Hannity noted Biden criticism from some Democrats — including from former President Obama’s senior adviser David Axelrod, who recently suggested Biden drop out of the 2024 race — and asked Trump whether he thinks the incumbent will be the Democrats’ nominee in 2024.

    “I personally don’t think he makes it. I haven’t said that, I’ve been saving it for this big town hall,” Trump said, adding that he thinks Biden is in “bad shape physically” and joking that if he blew on Biden, the president would fall over.

    “I personally don’t think he makes it physically,” Trump said. “Mentally, I would say he’s equally as bad and maybe worse.”

    Trump slams indictments

    The former president likened himself to infamous gangster Al Capone in talking about the slew of criminal indictments he faces both on the federal and state levels involving the potential mishandling of classified documents and election interference.

    “I’ve often said, Al Capone, he was one of the greatest of all time, if you like criminals. He was a mob boss, the likes of which — Scarface, they call him. And he got indicted once. I got indicted four times,” Trump said to laughter from the crowd. “I wonder what my father and mother would say looking down.”

    Trump has previously said he’s been indicted more than Capone, including in a speech last month in Iowa. The former president has criminal indictments in four separate cases, making him the first former or current president to ever be indicted for an alleged crime.

    He has pleaded not guilty to all 91 charges he faces. His legal troubles have so far only widened his massive lead in the Republican primary ahead of his opponents.

    The indictments involve the potential mishandling of classified documents, some of which were taken as part of an FBI search of his Florida estate in Mar-a-Lago, his efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia, a federal case over his efforts to overturn the 2020 election and the Jan. 6 riots at the U.S. Capitol, and falsifying business records in a hush money case in New York.

    Energy, foreign policy at forefront

    Energy and foreign policy were at the forefront as Trump talked about his priorities and actions he’d take during a second term in the Oval Office.

    Responding to Hannity’s questions about whether he’d act as a “dictator” or “abuse power as retribution” during another presidential term, Trump said he’d do so only on day one — to close the border and to drill for oil.

    “We will close the border. Day one: the border gets closed. Day one and a half: we drill,” Trump said. “And probably on day two we will get rid of this ridiculous electric car mandate.”

    On energy, he also claimed that U.S. climate envoy John Kerry is laughed at by people “all over the world” as he pushes to get rid of coal plants.

    Kerry said this week that “there shouldn’t be any more coal power plants permitted anywhere in the world,” sounding alarms about the connections between the climate crisis and health problems.

    “Our country can be rich again. John Kerry has to be stopped. He is destroying our country, this guy,” Trump told Hannity. “He goes all over the world talking to these people about getting rid of coal plants. They all laugh at him.”

    And on foreign policy, Trump stressed concerns about the southern border and touted the travel ban that went into effect during his administration, targeting several Muslim-majority countries.

    “Remember, I had the travel ban. I said ‘I don’t want people coming from countries that want to blow us up.’ And we put a travel ban and some people thought I was discriminating, but think about it. I went four years with no problem,” Trump said.

    “We didn’t have buildings being knocked down. We didn’t have World Trade Centers,” he added, in apparent reference to the 9/11 terror attacks in New York City.

    ‘Blitzing’ Iowa

    Trump expressed confidence going into the Iowa caucus next month, saying he had two big victories there the last two times he ran in 2016 and 2020 and expects to win by even more in 2024.

    He also said he plans to spend the weeks leading up to the caucus “blitzing” Iowa.

    “I love you very much. You’ve been so incredible to me. I’m gonna be around for the next, you know, five weeks now. And we’ll be coming here a little bit and then the last couple of weeks we’ll be blitzing because we don’t want to take—we’re up I guess by like 30 or 40 points, but we’re not taking any chances. We don’t want to take any chances,” Trump said.

    Polls have consistently shown Trump leading his rivals by more than 20 percentage points in Iowa and his lead in national polls is even greater.

    The former president also touted that he fought to keep Iowa caucuses first in the nation after the Democrats opted to put South Carolina first in 2024, in a move pushed by Biden.

    “Iowa represents this country more than any place and it also represents tradition. When you think of Iowa you think of farms and politics. And we’re going to keep it that way, okay?” Trump said as part of his final remarks.

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    Biden Says He Might Not Be Running if Trump Weren’t in Race



    President Biden said Tuesday that he might have retired after a single term of office if former President Donald Trump wasn’t running in next year’s election.

    “If Trump wasn’t running, I’m not sure I’d be running,” the 81-year-old president told a group of Democratic donors in Boston. “But we cannot let him win.”

    The remark at a fundraiser was a stunning self-assessment of the implications of Biden’s age.

    Biden already is the oldest-ever president and would be 86 if he completes a full second term in January 2029.

    Critics routinely highlight instances in which Biden appears confused or shares false memories — and several polls this year found that about two-thirds of voters are concerned about Biden’s mental acuity.

    Trump, 77, is the heavy favorite for the Republican nomination and polls show him beating Biden due in large part to economic pessimism linked to high inflation and interest rates.

    The RealClearPolitics average of recent national polls shows Trump with 46.7% support and Biden at 44.7%.

    Swing-state polling released last month by the New York Times found Trump also is ahead in battlegrounds including Arizona, Georgia and Pennsylvania.

    Although Trump has an edge, he’s due to stand trial in four criminal cases during the coming months, which is expected to impact the campaign.

    Trump’s first trial is scheduled to begin in March in Washington on federal charges of trying to reverse his 2020 election results. Later that month, he’s due in Manhattan for trial on falsifying business records charges related to hush money payments during the 2016 campaign.

    Trump’s federal trial for allegedly mishandling national security documents is schedule to begin in May in Miami and his trial on state charges linked to challenging Georgia’s election results is tentatively set for August.

    Biden also faces variables — such as the possibility that the House of Representatives will impeach him for alleged corruption linked to his son Hunter Biden and brother James Biden’s dealings in countries such as China and Ukraine.

    A successful impeachment vote would put a rare blemish on Biden’s record and make him the fourth president in US history to get the admonishment, joining Trump, Bill Clinton and Andrew Johnson.

    Biden almost certainly would be acquitted by the Democrat-held Senate, but his trial in the upper chamber would feature a public airing of evidence that could harm his standing.

    A poll released in October by The Associated Press found that a resounding 68% of the public already believes that Biden acted illegally or unethically with regard to his son’s businesses, including 40% of Democrats.

    Hunter Biden, 53, also faces a trial on federal gun charges in Delaware and a Los Angeles grand jury is considering possible federal tax charges that could implicate his father, especially if the first son is indicted for alleged violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act as a result of introducing colleagues to his dad and other Obama-Biden administration figures.

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