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Portland Declares State of Emergency Over Fentanyl Crisis 3 Years After Decriminalizing Drugs
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Oregon leaders have declared a 90-day state of emergency in Portland to battle the city’s debilitating fentanyl crisis three years after decriminalizing possession of all drugs.

Governor Tina Kotek, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and Multnomah County Chair Jessica Vega Pederson made the declaration and are directing their agencies to work with first responders in connecting people addicted to the synthetic opioid with resources including drug treatment programs and to crack down on drug sales.

Fentanyl addicts who interact with first responders in Portland’s downtown in the next 90 days will be triaged by this new command center. Staff can connect people with various resources from a bed in a drug treatment center to meeting with a behavioral health clinician to help with registering for food stamps.

‘Our country and our state have never seen a drug this deadly addictive, and all are grappling with how to respond,’ Kotek said.

The declaration is a recommendation from a governor-established task force that met for several months last year to determine ways to rejuvenate downtown Portland.

‘We cannot underestimate the tremendous value of bringing leaders from different disciplines in a room on a daily basis who all account for a different part of the solution,’ Wheeler said.

Mike Myers, the director of Portland’s Community Safety Division, will head the city’s command team. Nathan Reynolds, deputy policy chief at the state’s Office of Resilience and Emergency Management, will be the state’s incident commander.

The effort also extends the Portland Police Bureau’s partnership with Oregon State Police to jointly patrol downtown streets for fentanyl sales. It additionally kicks off information campaigns centered on drug use prevention and recovery programs across the region. The county will expand outreach and training on how to administer Narcan, an overdose-reversal drug.

The program doesn’t establish any goals to measure success. Kotek said the next 90 days will provide a road map for the next steps.

The synthetic opioid addiction and overdose crisis that has gripped the U.S. for over two decades has left governments at the federal, state and local levels scrambling for solutions.

Oregon became the first state in the country to decriminalize the possession of all drugs including heroin and cocaine in 2020.

But residents have since demanded for politicians to take action on the open-air drug markets that surfaced and fueled a homelessness crisis.

Opioid deaths in Oregon more than tripled from 280, before the de-criminalization of drugs was voted in, to 955 in 2022.

According to the Oregon Healthy Authority, there were 21 non-pharmaceutical fentanyl deaths in Multnomah County in 2019, before decriminalization was passed. The data has not been updated since.

Oregon lawmakers have introduced a new bill that would undo a key part of the state’s drug decriminalization law. Public opinion has soured on it as public drug use has become more visible because of growing homelessness.

Portland Democrats were slammed for enforcing strict regulations on where people can and cannot smoke.

Despite passing key ordinances within the past year to tackle drug use and homelessness , the city faces impediments as it deals with addiction and unsanctioned camps.

Portland City Council unanimously approved in September an ordinance prohibiting public drug use, yet implementation hinges on state legislators passing supporting measures.

In response to the ordinance, the Oregon Law Center filed a lawsuit, alleging the restrictions violate the state constitution and existing laws – resulting in a circuit court judge blocking the city from enforcing the rule.

Downtown Portland has experienced a mass exodus of big-name employers carried out by owners who have taken issue with the rising crime levels and homelessness.

According to the City of Portland, overall homelessness increased by 65 percent from 2015 to 2023, with 6,297 homeless people counted in the latest Point in Time Count.

In March, Walmart announced it was permanently closing all of its locations in Portland months after CEO Doug McMillon warned of a historic rise in theft at its stores.

Portland officials cut millions from its police budgets in June 2020 following the Black Lives Matter protests and the growing ‘defund the police’ movement.

But following a rise in crime, homelessness and drugs in the city, Portland officials reversed course and increased its $230million police budget by $5.2million a year later.

However, more than half of voters in Portland would still consider leaving the city if they could afford to, according to a poll commissioned by the Portland police union.

It found that almost two-thirds of people believe the city is ‘on the wrong track’ and 68 percent say it is ‘losing what made it special.’

While 74 percent are worried that either they or their family members will be victims of crime in the city, as 87 percent are dissatisfied with the state of public safety.

Roughly 70 percent said the city needs more police officers and nearly 80 percent said crime has increased in Portland.

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Read 19 Comments
  • Dawn Remington says:

    More, ignorant, paid off, stupid, brainwashed, Democrat nut jobs, ruining the once beautiful Portland city. Shame on anyone who voted for these clowns. What did they think would happen when they decriminalized drugs, “defunded the police,” & the rest of their idiotic policies? Yeah right, like a 90 day moratorium will do anything.

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    Illinois Judge Removes Trump from State Ballot

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    An Illinois judge announced late Wednesday that former President Donald Trump has been removed from the state’s 2024 Republican presidential primary ballot over his alleged role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

    Cook County Circuit Judge Tracie Porter barred Trump from the Illinois ballot one month after the anti-Trump challenge was dismissed by the Illinois State Board of Elections.

    According to court documents obtained by Fox News, Porter gave the order on Wednesday, urging the board to remove Trump or “cause any votes cast for him to be suppressed,” for violating section three of the 14th Amendment, or the “disqualification clause,” for engaging in insurrection.

    Porter’s ruling reverses last month’s decision by the Illinois Board of Elections to keep Trump’s name on the primary ballot after a group of Illinois voters accused the former president of engaging in insurrection.

    However, the order is put on hold until Friday, in case of an appeal from Trump’s attorneys to the Illinois Appellate Court, First District or the Illinois Supreme Court.

    A campaign spokesperson for Trump issued a statement to Reuters saying it “is an unconstitutional ruling that we will quickly appeal.”

    The U.S. Supreme Court is considering for the first time the meaning and reach of Section 3 of the Constitution’s 14th Amendment, which bars former officeholders who “engaged in insurrection” from holding public office again.

    The 14th Amendment, Section 3 of the Constitution states, “No person shall… hold any office… under the United States… who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States… to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof.”

    Trump has never been charged with inciting an insurrection.

    Nancy Pelosi took to X, formerly Twitter, to share her thoughts on the ruling.

    “The Supreme Court is placing itself on trial with its decision to hear the former president’s total immunity claim. It remains to be seen whether the justices will uphold the fundamental American value that no one is above the law – not even a former president,” Pelosi wrote.

    The court will make a decision no later than the end of June on whether Trump can be prosecuted for election interference, the Associated Press reports.

    Illinois is now the third state where Trump was booted from the ballot, after Colorado and Maine.

    But those decisions were paused pending the appeal of the Colorado case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

    The primary election is set for March 19th.

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    Fani Willis’ Lover’s Lawyer and Trump Co-Defendant Attorney’s Texts

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    Text messages between Nathan Wade’s divorce attorney, Terrence Bradley, and an attorney for a co-defendant of Donald Trump communicated frequently via text message, showing damning information about Wade’s affair with Fani Willis.

    Bradley, Wade’s former divorce attorney and law partner, took the stand Tuesday, where he was shown a series of text messages in which he spoke about the timeline of Willis and Wade’s relationship – one of the central issues of the trial.

    Michael Roman and other co-defendants in Trump’s case are seeking for District Attorney Fanni Willis, 53, to be disqualified over what they term was an ‘improper’ relationship.

    The full extent of the messages, which count in the hundreds, were revealed by The Megyn Kelly Show Wednesday.

    In them, Ashleigh Merchant – Roman’s lawyer – presses Bradley for information on the affair, even asking on September 18 if she can get an affidavit, to which Bradley says: ‘No… no one would freely burn that bridge.’

    She asked if Wade’s law partner, Christopher Campbell, would admit to the affair if asked under oath.

    ‘No,’ Bradley replies. ‘He knows but won’t admit it.’

    Another set of messages, sent January 5 – just before Merchant filed a motion requesting that the entire Fulton County DA’s Office, including Wade and Willis, be disqualified – said ‘I assume you knew about the trips’ to Bradley.

    The defense attorneys said that Willis benefitted financially by hiring Wade because he paid for trips that they took together with money he earned from the case.

    Willis and Wade both testified they split the cost of travel roughly equally.

    ‘Doesn’t surprise me… they took many trips to Florida. Texas. California,’ said Bradley, after Merchant clarified the trips happened as recently as last summer in ‘May or June.’

    Bradley added that they took a trip to California when Willis’ daughter flunked out of Florida A&M University and moved to the Golden State.

    ‘I can’t believe they were soooo carefree,’ said Merchant. ‘I am trying to anticipate her response when I blow this up.’

    ‘Dang. They had a full on relationship. Insane. Just insane,’ said a stunned Merchant.

    Bradley responds: ‘He went to help her move her.’

    ‘Why she would hire him is insane,’ Merchant adds. ‘Like just date don’t hire him.’

    Shortly after, Merchant asks Bradley if he believes they started dating before Willis hired Wade.

    ‘Absolutely. It started when she left the DA’s office and was judge in South Fulton,’ Bradley replied. ‘They met at the Municipal court CLE conference.’

    Merchant said: ‘That’s what I figured. When he was married.’

    Two hours later, Merchant texted another question to Bradley.

    ‘Is this accurate? Upon information and belief, Willis and Wade met while both were serving as Magistrate Judges and began a romantic relationship at that time.’

    Bradley simply wrote back: ‘Arrogance.’

    Bradley responded: ‘No Municipal court,’ for which Merchant thanked him, before he added that he might be one of the only people who knows, ‘not even’ Wade’s law partner Campbell.

    Merchant later promises that she will protect Bradley’s identity in the motion she’s about to file.

    Bradley, when asked by Merchant how they might respond, said Willis and Wade ‘will deny it’ and not attack Merchant.

    ‘I did hear that but didn’t include because I didn’t have any proof… I am shocked she paid him so much. How did they think they wouldn’t get caught!!!,’ exclaimed Merchant.

    Throughout the texts, as revealed by Kelly, Bradley is encouraging of Merchant, telling her she’s ‘the best lawyer I know.’

    He even gives her the lead that led to a former friend of Willis, Robin Yeartie, testifying publicly.

    ‘Do an open records request of all people hired when Fani took office and who was fired around June of 2022… if you get that I will be able to give you the name…. she hired a girlfriend. Like a bestie.’

    On Tuesday, Bradley tied himself in knots on the stand repeatedly telling the court he ‘could not recall’ when asked if Wade and Willis began their romantic connection before he was hired to prosecute the former president in Georgia.

    Wade’s former law partner employed the phrase upwards of 10 times while on the stand, including one instance when he told the court: ‘I cannot recall if I lied,’ when asked about former statements he made pertaining to Wade and Willis’ relationship.

    Bradley’s dramatic appearance followed equally dramatic revelations that Wade visited DA Fani Willis’ Georgia neighborhood at least 35 times and stayed overnight before she hired him on the Trump investigation team.

    Willis and Wade have stood by the story that they began their romantic relationship in 2022, after he he had been tapped for the team charged with looking into Trump’s bid to overturn the election in Georgia. But testimony throughout the hearing, as well as evidence presented in court have poked multiple holes in the claim.

    Michael Roman, a political strategist and former Trump campaign staffer, and several other co-defendants in Trump’s case are attempting to kick District Attorney Fanni Willis, 53, off the case, due to what they believe was an ‘improper’ relationship.

    They cite her alleged financial benefit from a ‘personal, romantic relationship’ with special prosecutor Wade, whom she hired – on the taxpayer’s dime – to work the case.

    Although Willis and Wade have acknowledged their relationship, they have argued repeatedly that it ‘does not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest’ and that the relationship ‘has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit to District Attorney Willis.’

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    Letitia James Sues World Largest Beef Producer for “Misleading Public” About Its Impact on Climate

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    New York Attorney General Letitia James is now seeking to punish the worlds largest producer of beef products.

    A far-left judge recently ordered Trump to pay a $355 million judgment (which has now swelled to $464 million with interest) and banned Trump from doing business in New York for 3 years after Letitia James sought to destroy the former president.

    James charged President Trump for taking out loans, paying them back with interest, and making money for himself and the banks. There were no victims in the case (except Trump) and the banks said they would gladly do business with billionaire Donald Trump again. A lawless judge in New York fined Trump the original $355 million for doing business in New York state.

    Now she’s waging a war on meatpacking giant JBS USA Foods Co.

    “The lawsuit filed in a New York state court in Manhattan seeks a $5,000 civil fine per violation of state business laws, and to recoup ill-gotten gains from false sustainability claims.” – Reuters reported.

    “I’m suing @JBSFoodsUSA, the world’s largest beef producer, for misleading the public about its environmental impact,” Letitia James said on X. “The beef industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change, and JBS has falsely advertised its commitment to sustainability and endangered our planet.”

    Letitia James absurdly claimed families are willing to pay more for food if their products are better for the environment.

    “Families [are] willing to spend more of their hard-earned money on products from brands that are better for the environment,” James said in a statement. “JBS USA’s greenwashing exploits the pocketbooks of everyday Americans and the promise of a healthy planet for future generations.”

    Reuters reported:

    JBS (JBSS3.SA), opens new tab, the world’s largest beef producer, was sued on Wednesday by New York state’s attorney general, which accused it of misleading the public about its impact on the environment in order to boost sales.

    Attorney General Letitia James said JBS USA Food Co, the Brazilian company’s American-based unit, has “no viable plan” to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, making its stated commitment to achieving that goal false and misleading.

    James said JBS has admitted its “Net Zero by 2040” commitment did not incorporate the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain, including from deforestation in the Amazon.

    She also said reaching the goal was “infeasible” given JBS’ plan to increase production and therefore its carbon footprint, on top of greenhouse gas emissions that had by 2021 exceeded those of the entire country of Ireland.

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    Supreme Court Will Decide If Trump Immune from Prosecution

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    The U.S. Supreme Court has granted former President Donald Trump’s request to decide if he is immune from prosecution on charges of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    The court will consider “Whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

    The Wednesday court order granting certiorari to Trump says oral arguments will begin the week of April 22. The order also instructs the appellate court to keep Special Counsel Jack Smith’s case against Trump paused until the Supreme Court reaches a decision on the immunity matter.

    That question has already delayed what was an expedited schedule for the prosecution. A federal grand jury in D.C. indicted Trump on four counts on August 1, 2023, and after legal back-and-forth between Smith and Trump’s legal team, the court set a March 4, 2024 trial date.

    Before today’s order by the court, District Judge Tanya Chutkan had delayed that trial date, as the case has been on hold since December. Today’s order makes clear that pre-trial work in that prosecution must remain on hold.

    Prominent attorney Jonathan Turley said after the announcement that the timeline “is a blow to Smith,” arguing that although the Court did not grant a stay, “It has constructively created such a stay by scheduling the argument. Keep in mind, even if Smith prevails, pre-trial work must wait for the return of the mandate.”

    “Even if the Court issues a decision before June in favor of the government, the trial court must hash out discovery and other motions,” he continued. “That would push the trial closer to the November election in tension with existing DOJ policies.”

    The precedent-setting decision by the lower court said that although a sitting president cannot be prosecuted, a former president has no immunity, even for actions taken while president. Trump had argued that having been impeached for his actions on January 6 and then acquitted by the U.S. Senate precludes him from prosecution on double jeopardy grounds.

    If the court rejects the position of Smith and the lower court, it might agree with Trump that his actions in the indictment fall within the “outer perimeter” of his official duties as president, rule that all the relevant facts alleged fall within that outer perimeter, and therefore he enjoys absolute immunity. That would doom Smith’s prosecution as well as several state-level prosecutions for election interference against Trump.

    As another option, the court could rule that presidential immunity exists in limited cases and adopt some test, whether the “outer perimeter” test or some other standard, then send the case back down with orders for the trial court to weigh each of Trump’s actions in the indictment. Then those determinations would again go up to the appeals court. The Supreme Court almost assuredly would review those decisions to determine if that test was carried out correctly, pushing the ultimate resolution of the case until after the November elections.

    The case is United States v. Trump, No. 23-939 in the Supreme Court of the United States.

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    Congress Strikes Deal to Avert Government Shutdown

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    Congressional leaders have struck a deal to avert a government shutdown this week, agreeing to punt a pair of funding deadlines later into March to buy more time for spending talks.

    Under the deal announced Wednesday, leaders have agreed to extend funding for six full bills covering the departments of Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Transportation and Housing and Urban Development through March 8.

    The deal would also extend funding for the remaining six annual funding bills, which cover the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, the Pentagon and other offices, through March 22.

    “We are in agreement that Congress must work in a bipartisan manner to fund our government,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) said in a joint statement on Wednesday, along with the heads of the appropriations committees in both chambers.

    “To give the House and Senate Appropriations Committee adequate time to execute on this deal in principle, including drafting, preparing report language, scoring and other technical matters, and to allow members 72 hours to review, a short-term continuing resolution to fund agencies through March 8 and the 22 will be necessary, and voted on by the House and Senate this week.”

    Leaders say negotiators have come to agreement on all six measures due March 8, but a senior appropriator signaled on Wednesday that there could still be some loose ends.

    Rep. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters on Wednesday that “there’s still one or two pieces” to iron out when asked about the first batch of bills. That includes unresolved items in areas like WIC and SNAP benefits, as well as guns.

    House Republicans expect to vote on stopgap bill on Thursday. DeLauro said she expects text for a package containing the first batch of six bills to come out this weekend.

    The new deal sets up a battle in the House, where Johnson faces a tough challenge in getting through another short-term stopgap measure, particularly as conservatives have pressed a for a full-year stopgap.

    “I don’t think it’s the right move but you know the Speaker’s got to make a decision that he thinks is best,” Rep. Byron Donalds (R-Fla.), a member of the House Freedom Caucus, said on Thursday.

    “I think, like most conservatives, I’m disappointed and I’m wondering when we’re gonna fix the border,” Rep. Andy Ogles (R-Tenn.), another member of the caucus, said.

    Experts have warned a full-year stopgap could trigger steep cuts to government funding, and members on both sides of the aisle have rejected the idea amid concerns over how it would impact defense and nondefense programs. But conservatives have continued to fight for the proposal in pursuit of lower overall funding levels and stronger border security.

    Under the current stopgap spending bill, funding for four of the 12 full-year spending bills is set to expire Friday, while funding for the remaining eight bills is up on March 8.

    The latest agreement comes as spending cardinals in both chambers have signaled more time may be needed to complete their funding work after weeks of tense bipartisan negotiations.

    “I think we possibly could have been ready for next week and gotten it done. But it takes a while to process bills in both houses right now,” Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who chairs the subcommittee that crafts funding for the Departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, told The Hill on Wednesday.

    Baldwin’s forthcoming bill is among the eight currently scheduled to lapse March 8. Often a battleground for fights over abortion-related policies, her bill is seen as one of the tougher measures to craft.

    “I think that that will give us enough time to conclude, but I think we’re at a point where most remaining issues have been resolved,” she said when asked about the prospect of a stopgap through March 22 earlier on Wednesday.

    Rep. Henry Cuellar (Texas), the top Democrat on the House subcommittee that oversees Homeland Security Department funding, also said Wednesday that he and other negotiators are still working on hashing out spending for various programs under the subpanel’s umbrella and “working on riders.”

    House Republicans pursued a laundry list of riders Democrats have decried as “poison pills” during spending talks, as the party seeks to secure conservative policy wins. However, Republican negotiators have acknowledged they won’t get everything they’ve asked for as both sides seek to put a bow on fiscal 2024 funding.

    “I understand that we’re not going to get all the riders, but I’m hoping that there are maybe a couple that we can get some wins out,” Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.), the spending cardinal for the subcommittee that crafts funding for the departments of Labor and Health and Human Services, said on Wednesday.

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    WATCH: James O’Keefe Talks to Judge Engoron in Gym

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    On Wednesday, James O’Keefe dropped the latest video in his “On the Inside” series. This time, the target was Arthur Engoron, the New York City judge who handed down the $354 million fine in Donald Trump’s civil fraud case brought forth by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

    The video included a clip from a source alleging that Engoron was “creeping” on girls every time he went to the Equinox gym in Great Neck, Long Island.

    When O’Keefe first entered the gym wearing his OMG t-shirt, he was immediately recognized by a fan who said, “I know why you’re here.”

    Before long, O’Keefe spotted Engoron and walked over to him.

    “Huge fan,” he told the judge, who didn’t recognize him. “Thank you for what you did … Man that must have felt good.”

    When asked about the criticism he’s faced, Engoron said, “I’m strong,” adding he’s received “lots of hate mail.”

    In the clip submitted by an anonymous source, Engoron can be seen talking to a woman who appears to be in her twenties. By the end of the clip, the woman looks “visibly annoyed” by the judge, putting her hand up and gesturing him “back off.”

    In an X Space hosted by O’Keefe, the source elaborated on Engoron’s behavior, revealing that the judge “makes it a point to go up to any young girl possible every single visit.”

    “At first they might smile and say hello,” the source said of the women, but “by the end of the conversation they always get creeped out … You always see the change in their face, you always see that they’re visibly upset.”

    The source noted that Engoron’s alleged behavior with the women had not increased following the verdict, however, he did notice that after ordering the former president to pay the massive fine he did puff out his chest more than before.

    O’Keefe asked other Equinox gym users to try and catch Engoron in the act.

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    Ilhan Omar’s Secret Trip to Cuba

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    Mystery surrounds a secret trip by Squad members Ilhan Omar and Pramila Japayal to Communist Cuba that coincided with a visit by Russia’s foreign minister Sergei Lavrov.

    The two leaders of the Democrats progressive caucus sparked fury when details of last week’s trip emerged with top Republicans accusing them of a Communist ‘pilgrimage.’

    The Congresswomen, who are longstanding critics of the US embargo on the Caribbean island, said they were there to ‘meet with people from across Cuban civil society.’

    But critics slammed their support for a country that ‘supports Iran, Russia and Communist China.’

    ‘It’s outrageous that Members of Congress would visit a country that jails, abuses, and murders their citizens,’ said Rep Nicole Malliotakis, R-NY, herself a daughter of Cuban immigrants.

    ‘Perhaps their time would be better spent listening to the Cubans crossing our southern border and risking their lives on makeshift rafts to find out why they’re fleeing Communism.’

    The pair led a delegation of about a dozen people including a staffer from the office of California Rep Barbara Lee’s office, the Miami Herald reported.

    There are strict restrictions on travel to the island which was placed back on the list of state sponsors of terror by President Trump in January 2021.

    But both lawmakers have been vociferous in calling for its removal from the list and an end to US sanctions on the island which Japayal claims have ‘devastated’ its economy.

    ‘Being on this list has made it nearly impossible for Cuba to do international business, driving an economic downturn that has led residents to flee the country,’ he wrote in January.

    ‘It’s time to re-engage with Cuba.’

    ‘Economic and sector sanctions are too often designed to inflict maximum pain on civilians, not empower them,’ Omar said in 2019.

    ‘We had a full embargo on Cuba for decades, with little effect on the Cuban government but much pain inflicted on ordinary Cubans.’

    As protests rocked Cuba in the summer of 2021, Omar and Japayal were among 40 Democrats who voted against a resolution calling for the immediate release of arbitrarily detained Cuban citizens.

    The Cuban government gave none of its usual publicity for visits by foreign lawmakers, and the US party slipped into the country unannounced when Congress was in recess.

    The precise dates of the trip have not been revealed but no tweets were sent from Omar’s personal X account between February 17 and 21.

    Lavrov, who was there on February 19, made no secret of his visit at the start of a South American tour, accusing the West of ‘blackmail, ultimatums, threats’ against both Russia and Cuba.

    ‘The realities of a multi-polar world are provoking an aggressive reaction from the United States and other countries of the world minority which by all means want to preserve their domination, hegemony and diktat,’ he added.

    Moscow and Havana have grown closer as Russia has reached out for allies in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, and in November 2022, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel traveled to Moscow to meet Vladimir Putin.

    Last year, Diaz-Canel assured Moscow of ‘Cuba’s unconditional support’ in its ‘clash with the West’.

    A 2022 State Department report found that Cuba remained a systematic abuser of human rights, carrying out arbitrary killings, torture and ‘degrading’ treatment of political prisoners.

    ‘Impunity for the perpetrators remained widespread, as was impunity for official corruption,’ it concluded.

    A spokeswoman for the 100-strong Congressional Progressive Caucus gave a brief explanation for the visit by its chair and deputy chair.

    ‘Representatives Jayapal and Omar traveled to Cuba last week, where they met with people from across Cuban civil society and government officials to discuss human rights and the US-Cuba bilateral relationship,’ she said.

    But Republican leaders were unimpressed.

    ‘No surprise that the Hamas Caucus made a pilgrimage to Cuba last week to get a refresher course on communism to bring back to DC,’ tweeted Florida Congressman Mike Waltz.

    ‘All members of the media should refer to the Progressive Caucus by their more accurate name – the Congressional Communist Sympathizing Caucus,’ Rep Malliotakis added.

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    Teacher Left with Horrific Injuries After Being Beaten by 6ft, 280lb Student in Classroom

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    A 74-year-old substitute teacher was brutally beaten by a six foot two student weighing 280 pounds in Indiana earlier this month.

    Rob Gooding was serving as a substitute at Perry Meridian High School in Indianapolis on February 1 when the student hit him with a laptop, beat him to the ground and punched him in the face.

    Paramedics swiftly arrived on scene to treat Gooding’s substantial facial injuries, and Gooding told a school resource officer who arrived with the emergency crews he wanted his attacker arrested and prosecuted.

    However, Gooding alleges, school officials refused to allow the arrest because they had been instructed by the district to do so.

    ‘I saw him come up, and he said, ‘I’ve had it,’ and he came down and I blocked the Chromebook. That’s where the hole was,’ Gooding told WISHTV, revealing the prominent injury on his forearm.

    ‘This man child was 6-feet-2, 280 pounds,’ he said.

    ‘He hovered over me and with his left hand, whammed me,’ Gooding added.

    The teacher said he immediately asked for the student to be arrested, but was told the arrest was prevented by the school district.

    ‘Then he said to me, “We have been instructed by the higher-ups, which is the district, not to handcuff, or arrest the kid,” and I said, “What?” and he said, “Yes, that came from the higher-ups,”‘ Gooding said.

    ‘Perry Police responded to the incident quickly,’ read a statement from the Perry Township School District.

    ‘A police report was forwarded to the Marion County Prosecutor’s Office. Prosecutors will then make a criminal charge decision.’

    Gooding says he still believes charges should be filed against the student.

    ‘He has to be accountable for his actions and that’s what I feel,’ he said.

    The case remains under investigation a spokesman for the Marion County Prosecutors Office said in a statement.

    It comes amidst a wave of violent attacks on teachers across the country.

    A ninth-grade student in Rockdale County, Georgia, has been charged with aggravated battery after attacking their high school teacher in January.

    English Language Arts teacher Tiwana Turner was attacked in her classroom at Heritage High School on 26 January.

    Turner was hospitalized following the incident, suffering knee injuries as well as a broken leg.

    She will reportedly require extensive rehabilitation before she can return to work.

    Verdaillia Turner, president of the Georgia Federation of Teachers, told Fox 5 Atlanta she was angered by the video and that incidents like that directly contribute to the nationwide teaching shortage.

    ‘Students are out of control […] there is no excuse for the violence […] there is no excuse for children who are coming into our school daily and wreaking havoc so other students cannot learn,’ she told the outlet.

    A survey of nearly 15,000 pre-k-12 teachers from 2020 to 2021 found that one-third of teachers reported that they had experienced at least one incident of verbal harassment or a threat of violence from students during the period.

    In 2020, 10 percent of teachers reported that students had threatened them with injury.

    Another six percent reported that a student had physically attacked them.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝

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    McConnell Will Step Down as Senate Republican Leader in November

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    Mitch McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history who maintained his power in the face of dramatic convulsions in the Republican Party for almost two decades, will step down from that position in November.

    McConnell, who turned 82 last week, was set to announce his decision Wednesday in the well of the Senate, a place where he looked in awe from its back benches in 1985 when he arrived and where he grew increasingly comfortable in the front row seat afforded the party leaders.

    “One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter,” he said in prepared remarks obtained by The Associated Press. “So I stand before you today … to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

    His decision punctuates a powerful ideological transition underway in the Republican Party, from Ronald Reagan’s brand of traditional conservatism and strong international alliances, to the fiery, often isolationist populism of former President Donald Trump.

    McConnell said he plans to serve out his Senate term, which ends in January 2027, “albeit from a different seat in the chamber.” Aides said McConnell’s announcement about the leadership post was unrelated to his health. The Kentucky senator had a concussion from a fall last year and two public episodes where his face briefly froze while he was speaking.

    “As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work,” McConnell said in his prepared remarks. “A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.”

    The senator had been under increasing pressure from the restive, and at times hostile wing of his party that has aligned firmly with Trump. The two have been estranged since December 2020, when McConnell refused to abide Trump’s lie that the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president was the product of fraud.

    But while McConnell’s critics within the GOP conference had grown louder, their numbers had not grown appreciably larger, a marker of McConnell’s strategic and tactical skill and his ability to understand the needs of his fellow Republican senators.

    McConnell gave no specific reason for the timing of his decision, which he has been contemplating for months, but he cited the recent death of his wife’s youngest sister as a moment that prompted introspection. “The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer,” McConnell said.

    But his remarks were also light at times as he talked about the arc of his Senate career.

    He noted that when he arrived in the Senate, “I was just happy if anybody remembered my name.” During his campaign in 1984, when Reagan was visiting Kentucky, the president called him “Mitch O’Donnell.”

    McConnell endorsed Reagan’s view of America’s role in the world and the senator has persisted in face of opposition, including from Trump, that Congress should include a foreign assistance package that includes $60 billion for Ukraine.

    “I am unconflicted about the good within our country and the irreplaceable role we play as the leader of the free world,” McConnell said.

    Against long odds he managed to secure 22 Republican votes for the package now being considered by the House.

    “Believe me, I know the politics within my party at this particular moment in time. I have many faults. Misunderstanding politics is not one of them,” McConnell said. “That said, I believe more strongly than ever that America’s global leadership is essential to preserving the shining city on a hill that Ronald Reagan discussed. For as long as I am drawing breath on this earth I will defend American exceptionalism.”

    Trump has pulled the party hard to the ideological right, questioning longtime military alliances such as NATO, international trade agreements and pushing for a severe crackdown on immigration, all the while clinging to the falsehood that the election was stolen from him in 2020.

    McConnell and Trump had worked together in Trump’s first term, remaking the Supreme Court and the federal judiciary in a far more conservative image, and on tax legislation. But there was also friction from the start, with Trump frequently sniping at the senator.

    Their relationship has essentially been over since Trump refused to accept the results of the Electoral College. But the rupture deepened dramatically after the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol. McConnell assigned blame and responsibility to Trump and said that he should be held to account through the criminal justice system for his actions.

    McConnell’s critics insist he could have done more, including voting to convict Trump during his second impeachment trial. McConnell did not, arguing that since Trump was no longer in office, he could not be subject to impeachment.

    Rather than fade from prominence after the Capitol riot, Trump continued to assert his control over the party, and finds himself on a clear glidepath to the Republican nomination. Other members of the Republican Senate leadership have endorsed Trump. McConnell has not, and that has drawn criticism from other Republican senators.

    McConnell’s path to power was hardly linear, but from the day he walked onto the Senate floor in 1985 and took his seat as the most junior Republican senator, he set his sights on being the party leader. What set him apart was that so many other Senate leaders wanted to run for president. McConnell wanted to run the Senate. He lost races for lower party positions before steadily ascending, and finally became party leader in 2006 and has won nine straight elections.

    He most recently beat back a challenge led by Sen. Rick Scott of Florida last November.

    McConnell built his power base by a combination of care and nurturing of his members, including understanding their political imperatives. After seeing the potential peril of a rising Tea Party, he also established a super political action committee, The Senate Leadership Fund, which has provided hundreds of millions of dollars in support of Republican candidates.

    Despite the concerns about his health, colleagues have said in recent months that they believe he has recovered. McConnell was not impaired cognitively, but did have some additional physical limitations.

    “I love the Senate,” he said in his prepared remarks. “It has been my life. There may be more distinguished members of this body throughout our history, but I doubt there are any with more admiration for it.”

    But, he added, “Father Time remains undefeated. I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership.”

    There would be a time to reminisce, he said, but not today.

    “I still have enough gas in the tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm which they have become accustomed.”

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    Panhandle Wildfire Grows Into 2nd-Largest in Texas History

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    Wildfires sweeping across the Texas Panhandle have prompted evacuations, power outages and temporarily shutdown a nuclear weapons facility.

    The Smokehouse Creek Fire has burned 500,000 acres since igniting on Monday, making it the second-largest wildfire on record in the Lone Star state, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

    The flames have spread at an average rate of 150 football field per minute, according to CNN Meteorologist Brandon Miller.

    Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties in response to the wildfires.

    ‘Texans are urged to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe,’ Abbott said.

    Over 5,400 people in Texas were without power Wednesday morning, according to PowerOutage.us.

    The Pantex plant, the country’s main facility that assembles and disassembles America’s nuclear arsenal, had evacuated most of its personnel on Tuesday night as the fires raged out of control near its facility.

    Early Wednesday, Pantex tweeted that the facility ‘is open for normal day shift operations’ and that all personnel were to report for duty according to their assigned schedule.

    ‘The Smokehouse Creek fire is being fueled by southwesterly winds to 60 mph and is rapidly spreading east-northeast towards the Texas town of Canadian,’ AccuWeather severe weather expert Guy Pearson said.

    Gusty winds, dry conditions and unseasonably warm temperatures have fed the blazes.

    The Grape Vine Creek Fire has reached 30,000 acres, the Reamer Fire has scorched 2,000 acres, Windy Deuce Fire has burned 40,000 acres and the Magenta fire has blazed through 2,000 acres, according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

    Evacuations were ordered in Skellytown, Wheeler, Allison and Briscoe, according to the National Weather Service in Amarillo.

    The Canadian Independent School District cancelled classes on Wednesday.

    ‘Homes have burned in almost every direction,’ Hemphill County Judge Lisa Johnson told local newspaper The Canadian Record.

    Randall County, Potter County and the City of Amarillo had declared a local state of disaster, according to the Amarillo Area Office of Emergency Management.

    The Hansford County Office of Emergency Management said on Facebook, ‘Structures and Houses lost in Hemphill County inside and outside of Canadian.’

    ‘Multiple areas in Fritch and surrounding areas evacuated and multiple houses lost to the fires.’

    The weather forecast provided some hope for firefighters, with cooler temperatures, less wind and possibly rain forecast on Thursday.

    AccuWeather meteorologist Dan DePodwin said: ‘Winds on Wednesday are expected to be 10-20 mph which is much calmer than Tuesday. This should aid in firefighting efforts.’

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    Lauren Boebert’s 18-Year-Old Son Arrested, Faces 22 Charges After String of Alleged Thefts

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    Rep. Lauren Boebert’s oldest son was arrested Tuesday and faces 22 criminal charges, including five felonies, following a string of alleged thefts in Colorado.

    Tyler Boebert, 18, was slapped with five felony charges, four for criminal possession of ID documents with multiple victims, and one conspiracy to commit charge, according to the Rifle Police Department.

    The teen also faces misdemeanor charges of four first-degree criminal trespassing of an automobile, with intent to commit a crime, four charges of identity theft, possession with intent to use, two charges for contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

    Tyler Boebert, who turns 19 in March, was also handed three petty offenses for theft less than $300.

    Boebert’s arrest is not the teen’s first brush with the police.

    In 2022, Boebert was given a “careless driving causing bodily injury” ticket when he flipped his father’s SUV into a Garfield County creek bed, injuring his 19-year-old friend, according to Westword.

    As part of a plea deal, Tyler Boebert was ordered to attend an “Alive at 25” driver awareness program.

    Prosecutors dropped the case to a “defective vehicle for headlights” ticket, but Boebert never made his April 2023 court appearance.

    A bench warrant was issued for the teen, who eventually called the court and requested for the hearing to be changed to a later date, where he would appear virtually, reportedly sending in the “Alive at 25” completion certificate, Westword later reported.

    In June, Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) confirmed she was a grandmother at 36 when Tyler and his girlfriend gave birth to their first son.

    Earlier this month, the Republican congresswoman was granted a restraining order against her ex-husband, Jayson Boebert, who had allegedly threatened to harm her and himself over a 14-month period.

    Jayson Boebert was released on bail from the Garfield County jail following his arrest on assault charges, one day after he claimed Lauren Boebert punched him in the face in a case of domestic violence.

    He “made multiple suicidal threats and threats to harm me over the past 14 months,” the lawmaker claimed in a Garfield County court filing on Feb. 2.

    Tyler’s three younger siblings were also included under the protection, but because he is an adult, he wasn’t included.

    In December, Boebert announced she would not seek re-election for her current seat, but instead run in Colorado’s 4th Congressional District.

    “I am going to do everything in my power to represent the 3rd District well for the remainder of this term as I work to earn the trust of grassroots conservative voters in the 4th District to represent them in 2025,” Boebert, 37, said in a Facebook post announcing her decision.

    Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.) announced last year he would not seek re-election in the district, setting up a crowded GOP primary on June 25.

    Boebert currently has a nearly $1.3 million war chest, according to federal campaign finance filings, and faces a field of four other Republican candidates, including former Colorado state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

    She finished fifth in a straw poll last month behind Sonnenberg, state representative Mike Lynch, Deborah Flora, and state representative Richard Holtorf, in that order.

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    Trump Plans to Post $100 Million Bond in NY Fraud Case

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    Donald Trump’s lawyers have said they will post a bond of $100million in the New York fraud case, prompting New York AG Letitia James to counter that he is trying to get away with paying just a quarter of a court judgement against him.

    Trump’s lawyers called the $464million fine ‘exorbitant and punitive’ and blamed new lending restrictions a judge imposed on him for making it impossible for him to raise the full amount.

    James’ office countered that Trump simply lacked the ‘liquid assets,’ after James has threatened to seize prized Trump real estate assets if necessary.

    Trump’s lawyers say in a new legal filing that Trump can’t secure the full amount, and blame New York Justice Arthur Engoron for a ruling after Trump’s fraud trial that bars the former president and his company. from appealing for bank financing for a period of three years.

    ‘The exorbitant and punitive amount of the Judgment coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond,’ defense lawyers wrote in a filing on Wednesday.

    James’ team fired back with their own filing. ‘There is no merit to defendants’ contention … that a full bond or deposit is unnecessary because they are willing to post a partial undertaking of less than a quarter of the judgement amount,’ prosecutors write. ‘Defendants all but concede … that Mr. Trump has insufficient liquid assets to satisfy the judgment; defendants would need to “raise the capital” to do so.’

    The former president’s attorneys have demanded a stay in the enforcement of the $355 million fine, plus interest, Justice Arthur Engoron handed down two weeks ago.

    The interest is rising by $111,984 per day, and now Trump’s legal team have revealed they will pay $100million to cover the bond.

    That brings the total amount to $454 million with penalties and interest.

    His latest legal move come as Judge Engoron received ‘suspicious white powder’ in and envelope sent to his New York Supreme Court office.

    Fire trucks and emergency responders swarmed the court as two members of staff were sent into isolation, but the judge was not exposed, Law360 reported.

    ‘Appellants nonetheless plan to secure and post a bond in the amount of $100 million.’

    The lawyers also argued it was ‘unnecessary’ to post a bond covering the full fine because of the Trump Organization’s independent monitor.

    They argued assets in the Trump Organization could be collected by New York Attorney General Letitia James if needed.

    ‘Those assets are not going anywhere, nor could they given the oversight of the Monitor and the practical realities of the existence of the very public Judgment,’ they added.

    James has already threatened to seize Trump’s buildings and has taunted him by positing the added interest on X every day.

    ‘If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets’, she told ABC News last week.

    Trump and his attorneys have repeatedly blasted Engoron’s fine, and Trump has called at the civil and criminal cases against him part of a ‘witch hunt.’

    Trump’s team asked the judge to stay enforcement pending his appeal, saying that if James were to confiscate real estate assets it would cause ‘irreparable harm’ to his firm.

    James in an interview mentioned Trump’s building at 40 Wall Street, which is among the jewels in his real estate empire.

    James’ office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    Trump stated in a deposition for the case that he had $400 million in cash, which would get him close to the total amount of the fines and penalties.

    His lawyer Alina Habba said in a media interview earlier this month that Trump would in fact post the full amount.

    ‘I can tell you what the rules are. Within 30 days, even if we choose to appeal this, we have to post the bond, which is the full amount and then some. We will be prepared to do that,’she told Fox News, although she also described posting bond as merely an ‘option.’

    In her own filing, James’ office ripped Trump’s contention that he couldn’t pay.

    While the AG ‘opposes an interim stay in full, it would be especially inappropriate for the Court to stay enforcement of the following forms of relief—and particularly to do so without the statutorily required full undertaking by defendants to secure satisfaction of the judgment’s entire monetary component following appeal,’ prosecutors wrote.

    The filing cited other judgements against Trump – a reference to the jury award in the $83 million E. Jean Carroll defamation case – and said the value of his real estate holdings could go down while Trump appeals the Engoron order.

    ‘Mr. Trump has other significant liabilities, including other outstanding money judgments against him… And the value of defendants’ real-estate holdings or other illiquid assets may substantially decrease during appeal, all while statutory postjudgment interest accrues.’

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    Lawsuit Accuses Andy Cohen of Coke Parties

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    Real Housewives kingpin Andy Cohen has faced a number of accusations and unsavory allegations of late, but a cocaine fueled favoritism and booze bullying lawsuit today from Leah McSweeney has truly raised his ire.

    Late tonight after word of the New York-filed action seeped out, a representative for Cohen told Deadline “the claims against Andy are completely false!”

    Never one to claim he is or ever was a saint, the often TMI Cohen also wasn’t particularly surprised by Tuesday’s filing by RH and Ultimate Girls Trip vet McSweeney against him, Bravo, NBCUniversal, production company Shed Media and various producers, I hear. After all, McSweeney had openly threatened last year to take the gang to court when she had her own employment discrimination action with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission tossed out.

    With that proviso and with the Bravoverse under such scrutiny right now from a range of lawsuits and lawyers, the defendants probably hoped McSweeney wouldn’t go all scorched Earth on them like she did.

    The former Real Housewives of New York City star really did shoot off a flamethrower in what she says was a distinct effort to stop her from exercising her right to remain sober.

    Decrying a “rotted workplace culture that uniquely depended on pressuring its employees to consume alcohol,” the suit goes on to claim that RH franchise EP Cohen “engages in cocaine use with Housewives and other Bravolebrities that he employs.” The filing also alleges that Cohen flatters the “Housewives with whom he uses cocaine with more favorable treatment and edits.”

    Making it very personal for McSweeney herself, the suit states “defendants with the knowledge that Ms. McSweeney struggled with alcohol use disorder, colluded with her colleagues to pressure Ms. McSweeney to drink, retaliated against her when she wanted to stay sober, and intentionally failed to provide reasonable accommodations that would aid her efforts to stay sober and able to perform.”

    The NY courts weren’t the only arena that McSweeney choose to plant her flag on Tuesday.

    “Your favorite Bravo shows are run by people who create a dangerous work environment, encourage substance abuse to artificially create drama and cynically prey on the vulnerabilities of their employees,” McSeeeney wrote on her Instagram page a few hours after the lawsuit was filed. “I may be a pariah to them after this, but I do hope my lawsuit helps reality TV to align with its true purpose: to authentically depict the complexities of life while offering genuine support to those who share their stories,” she adds – as you can see below.

     

    View this post on Instagram

     

    A post shared by Leah McSweeney (@leahmob)

    While unscripted shows have always attracted lawsuits like they attract narcissists, Bethenny Frankel’s self-described “reality reckoning” war last year against the “sordid and dark underbelly of NBC’s widely consumed reality TV universe” really lit the cannons to fire at will. Taking aim at the restrictive NDAs and manipulation and mind games allegedly taking place on unscripted shows, Frankel’s main lawyer Bryan Freedman has put Bravo and NBCU on legal notice.

    Even with NBCU promising stricter workplace conduct guidelines for its reality TV offerings, a slew of sexual assault and sexual harassment suits have followed in recent months. While NBCU isn’t the only media giant with such problems (just say the words Netflix and Love Is Blind around a courthouse or two, to see what I mean), they are often in the seedy spotlight.

    In the past three months alone, the legal action has gotten more down and dirty than ever. Last October, Marco Vega, the butler on the second season of Peacock‘s The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip, filed a lawsuit claiming he was sexually assaulted by cast members Brandi Glanville and Phaedra Parks. In December, RH alum Caroline Manzo claimed fellow Real Housewives star Glanville sexually assaulted her during the Morocco filming of Peacock‘s The Real Housewives Ultimate Girls Trip. Both Vega and Manzo’s suits had Bravo, Forest Productions, Warner Bros., NBCU, Shed Media and Peacock as defendants.

    Last week, Glanville’s lawyer Freedman and Mark Geragos put NBCU, WBD and Shed Media on the scolding seat with a letter alleging Andy Cohen sexually harassed their client.

    Citing the “abusive practices of the reality TV industry,” the lawyers said in a letter to the C-suites that an apparently drunken Cohen sent Glanville a video in 2022 where he told her that he, an openly gay man, wanted her to watch him have sex with “another Bravo star that night,” aka Kate Chastain. Termed as an “extraordinary abuse of power” by Glanville, the allegations soon saw Cohen taking to social media to say it was all a joke that Glanville was in on. On Twitter/X, Cohen acknowledged “it was totally inappropriate and I apologize.”

    That wasn’t enough for Glanville and her lawyers, who soon afterwards on February 23 asked Comcast CEO Brian Roberts to “do the right thing” and fire Cohen. Glanville herself says she still hasn’t received a personal sorry from Cohen.

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    Illegal Migrant Arrested for Rape of 14-Year-Old Girl, Stabbing Man During Knifepoint Robbery

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    An illegal immigrant from Honduras has been arrested in Louisiana for allegedly raping a 14-year-old girl and repeatedly stabbing another man during a robbery, with a local police chief blasting the obstacles law enforcement is faced with while trying to capture criminal illegal immigrants.

    Angel Matias Castellanos-Orellana, 19, had been on the loose for the rape of the girl earlier this month when he was arrested Sunday for robbing a man at knifepoint as he got out of his car in the 2600 block of Phoenix Street in Kenner, the Kenner Police Department said in a Facebook post.

    Castellanos-Orellana approached the man and demanded his property before the illegal migrant stabbed the victim multiple times in his face and his back, according to Fox 8. The victim was taken to a local hospital and is in stable condition.

    Castellanos-Orellana has been charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery, first-degree rape and aggravated assault for the two incidents. A federal ICE detainer was also issued for Castellanos-Orellan, police said.

    In the Facebook post, Kenner Police said that local law enforcement agencies are often hindered when trying to deal with illegal immigrants due to the lack of documented identifiers and noted that Castellanos-Orellana has used aliases in the past, including the name Elven Locket. They asked anyone with information on Castellanos-Orellana to contact them.

    Kenner Police Department Chief Keith Conley also railed against illegal migrants committing crimes in the area and said they pose challenges for law enforcement for many reasons.

    “Lack of access to data, false identification and language barriers put local law enforcement at a huge disadvantage,” Conley said.

    “We cannot verify if an illegal alien is giving correct information as it pertains to names and dates of birth. It is not only a drain on police manpower, but a financial drain on local law enforcement’s budgets and taxpayers’ money.”

    “In a 25-day period, this illegal alien caused terror in our community. We are glad he is off our streets, but will he be back? Will he have a new identity? What other crimes has he committed since he crossed our borders?”

    Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry passed on his well wishes to the victims and said Castellanos-Orellana should never have been in the state in the first place.

    “Sharon and I are praying for the victims and their families [who] were harmed by this undocumented criminal,” Landry wrote on X.

    “This man should never have been in Louisiana! We must close our borders and keep our communities safe!”

    The incident comes on the same week that an illegal Salvadoran immigrant was arrested in connection to the murder of a toddler in Langley Park, Maryland, earlier this month.

    Nearly 7.3 million migrants have illegally crossed the southwest border under President Biden’s watch, a number greater than the population of 36 individual states, a Fox News analysis found.

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    CBS News Boss Who Signed Off on Firing Catherine Herridge to Get Free Speech Award

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    The CBS News boss who signed off on the controversial ouster of Catherine Herridge — a respected Washington correspondent who has been embroiled in a high-profile First Amendment case — is nevertheless being honored with a free speech award next month.

    CBS News president Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews was selected by Radio Television Digital News Association to be among 13 honorees at the 33rd annual First Amendment Awards at The Watergate Hotel in Washington DC on March 9.

    The irony was not lost on CBS News insiders who cited the fact that the exec was played a role in pushing out Herridge — an award-winning investigative reporter who is under pressure from a US District Court judge for not revealing how she learned about a federal probe into a Chinese American scientist.

    Herridge may soon be held in contempt of court for not divulging her source for an investigative piece she penned in 2017 when she worked for Fox News and be ordered to personally pay fines that could total as much as $5,000 a day.

    “The RTDNA must be tone deaf to give Ingrid Ciprian-Matthews and CBS News an award for the First Amendment,” said a longtime journalist. “It tarnishes the whole meaning of the award.”

    The Post reached out to inquire whether the RTDNA Foundation was rethinking honoring Ciprian-Matthews.

    In its response, the foundation declined to comment specifically on the Herridge controversy.

    “The Foundation selected Ciprián-Matthews for her commitment to excellent and ethical journalism, especially at a time when the stakes are so high,” said president Dan Shelley. “Her leadership during some of the most challenging news stories in American history is a testament to the power of journalism.”

    Last week, CBS parent Paramount announced it will lay off around 800 people at the debt-saddled company, including roughly 20 from CBS News.

    A CBS source said the decision to oust Herridge was made by higher ups in the Washington D.C. bureau, where the reporter was based.

    Ciprian-Matthews and other company execs approved of the decision, the person said.

    “This restructuring does not in any way reflect on or diminish Ingrid’s well-deserved and outstanding journalistic record,” said a rep for CBS News, who called the news president “a highly regarded executive with decades of experience upholding the highest values of journalism.”

    “Ms. Herridge was one of more than 700 people impacted on Feb. 13 at Paramount and dozens more from other news organizations enduring mass layoffs in Washington in the last few months including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, Vice, Vox, the Messenger and more,” the rep continued.

    Nevertheless, critics ripped the network and Ciprian-Matthews for allowing Herridge to get swept up in the mass culling.

    “She was pursuing stories that were unwelcomed by the Biden White House and many Democratic powerhouses, including the Hur report on Joe Biden’s diminished mental capacity, the Biden corruption scandal and the Hunter Biden laptop,” Jonathan Turley, a legal scholar and a former CBS legal analyst, recently wrote in an opinion piece for The Hill.

    The revelation comes as the House Judiciary Committee has launched an investigation into Herridge’s termination, as well as the handling of her files after she was let go.

    CBS News retained Herridge’s personal files, which contained confidential information on her legal case, as well as stories she had worked on, among other things.

    Facing mounting pressure from the House Judiciary Committee and SAG-AFTRA, the union representing the journalist, CBS News returned the files on Monday.

    As previously reported by The Post, Herridge has run into “internal roadblocks” at the network as she covered the Hunter Biden laptop story.

    She also clashed with Ciprian-Matthews, a sharp-elbowed executive who was investigated in 2021 over favoritism and discriminatory hiring and management practices, as revealed by The Post in January.

    Indeed, sources speculated that Herridge’s firing could be retaliatory, as the correspondent sparked the 2021 investigation against Ciprian-Matthews.

    It began when correspondent Jeff Pegues allegedly went on a 20-minute rant, in which he dressed down a senior correspondent — whose identity was recently revealed as Herridge by Puck News.

    A source told The Post at the time, that Ciprian-Matthews, who was in the meeting, did not initially report the incident and attempted to “blame” Herridge for Pegues’ diatribe when it was finally brought to the attention of HR.

    The incident opened a Pandora’s Box, as allegations that Ciprian-Matthews had protected Pegues and other diverse correspondents — to the detriment of primarily white, female correspondents — flooded the desk of Jennifer Gordon, an executive vice president of employee relations at Paramount Global who conducted the investigation.

    The probe found that Pegues’ behavior was unprofessional, but months later, Ciprian-Matthews supported his promotion to Chief National Affairs and Justice Correspondent.

    Gordon, who sources claimed failed to interview key witnesses in her probe against Ciprian-Matthews, concluded merely that the exec was a “bad manager” with limited resources, a source close to the situation told The Post at the time.

    As first reported by The Post, Pegues was let go, along with Herridge, as part of a purge of 20 staffers at CBS News.

    The Post has learned that Gordon was also let go amid layoffs at parent Paramount Global, which slashed nearly 800 jobs.

    “Between Pegues, Herridge and Gordon,” the only one left standing who witnessed it is Ingrid,” a CBS insider said.

    A rep for Paramount Global said :”Per policy we don’t comment on personnel matters.”

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    Google “Working Around the Clock” to Fix “Unacceptable” Gemini AI, CEO Says

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    Google CEO Sundar Pichai addressed the company’s Gemini controversy Tuesday evening, calling the AI app’s problematic responses around race unacceptable and vowing to make structural changes to fix the problem.

    Google suspended its Gemini image creation tool last week after it generated embarrassing and offensive results, in some cases declining to depict white people, or inserting photos of women or people of color when prompted to create images of Vikings, Nazis, and the Pope.

    The controversy spiraled when Gemini was found to be creating questionable text responses, such as equating Elon Musk’s influence on society with Adolf Hitler’s.

    Those comments drew sharp criticisms, especially from conservatives, who accused Google of an anti-white bias.

    Most companies offering AI tools like Gemini create guardrails to mitigate abuses and to avoid bias, especially in light of other experiences. For instance, image generation tools from companies like OpenAI have been criticized when they created predominately images of white people in professional roles and depicting Black people in stereotypical roles.

    “I know that some of its responses have offended our users and shown bias – to be clear, that’s completely unacceptable and we got it wrong,” Pichai said.

    Pichai said the company has already made progress in fixing Gemini’s guardrails. “Our teams have been working around the clock to address these issues. We’re already seeing a substantial improvement on a wide range of prompts,” he said.

    Google confirmed the memo, and the full note from Pichai is below.

    “I want to address the recent issues with problematic text and image responses in the Gemini app (formerly Bard). I know that some of its responses have offended our users and shown bias – to be clear, that’s completely unacceptable and we got it wrong.”

    Our teams have been working around the clock to address these issues. We’re already seeing a substantial improvement on a wide range of prompts. No AI is perfect, especially at this emerging stage of the industry’s development, but we know the bar is high for us and we will keep at it for however long it takes. And we’ll review what happened and make sure we fix it at scale.

    Our mission to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful is sacrosanct. We’ve always sought to give users helpful, accurate, and unbiased information in our products. That’s why people trust them. This has to be our approach for all our products, including our emerging AI products.

    We’ll be driving a clear set of actions, including structural changes, updated product guidelines, improved launch processes, robust evals and red-teaming, and technical recommendations. We are looking across all of this and will make the necessary changes.

    Even as we learn from what went wrong here, we should also build on the product and technical announcements we’ve made in AI over the last several weeks. That includes some foundational advances in our underlying models e.g. our 1 million long-context window breakthrough and our open models, both of which have been well received.

    We know what it takes to create great products that are used and beloved by billions of people and businesses, and with our infrastructure and research expertise we have an incredible springboard for the AI wave. Let’s focus on what matters most: building helpful products that are deserving of our users’ trust.

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    Biden and Trump Win Michigan Primaries, Edging Closer to a Rematch

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    President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump won the Michigan primaries on Tuesday, further solidifying the all-but-certain rematch between the two men — yet early results from the state were highlighting some of their biggest political vulnerabilities ahead of the November general election.

    A vigorous “uncommitted” campaign organized by activists disillusioned with Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza was making headway. It had already far surpassed the 10,000-vote margin by which Trump won Michigan in 2016, a goal set by organizers of this year’s protest effort.

    As for Trump, he has now swept the first five states on the Republican primary calendar. But there were early signs that Trump was continuing to struggle with some influential voter blocs who have favored former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley in previous contests. Haley’s strongest performance Tuesday night came in areas with college towns like Ann Arbor, home to the University of Michigan, and suburbs around Detroit and Grand Rapids.

    For Biden, the notable percentage of “uncommitted” voters could signal weakness with parts of the Democratic base in a state he can hardly afford to lose in November. Trump, meanwhile, has underperformed with suburban voters and people with college degrees, and faces a faction within his own party that believes he broke the law in one or more of the criminal cases against him.

    Michigan has the largest concentration of Arab Americans in the nation. More than 310,000 residents are of Middle Eastern or North African ancestry. Nearly half of the Detroit suburb of Dearborn’s roughly 110,000 residents claim Arab ancestry.

    Both the White House and Biden campaign officials have made trips to Michigan in recent weeks to talk with community leaders about the Israel-Hamas war and how Biden has approached the conflict, but those leaders have been unpersuaded.

    A robust grassroots effort began just a few weeks ago to encourage voters to select “uncommitted” as a way to register objections to the death toll caused by Israel’s offensive. Nearly 30,000 people have died in Gaza, two-thirds of them women and children, according to Palestinian health officials.

    That push has been backed by officials such as Democratic Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman in Congress, and former Rep. Andy Levin.

    “Uncommitted” votes were hovering around the 15% mark needed to qualify for delegates statewide. It was too soon to say whether the campaign would collect delegates locally.

    In a statement, Biden did not directly acknowledge the “uncommitted” effort. Instead he touted the progress his administration has achieved for Michigan voters, while warning that Trump is “threatening to drag us even further into the past as he pursues revenge and retribution.”

    “This fight for our freedoms, for working families, and for Democracy is going to take all of us coming together,” Biden said. “I know that we will.”

    Trump won the state by just 11,000 votes in 2016 over Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, and then lost the state four years later by nearly 154,000 votes to Biden. Organizers of the “uncommitted” effort wanted to show that they have at least the number of votes that were Trump’s margin of victory in 2016, to demonstrate how influential the bloc can be.

    “It is not lost on me that this president has softened his language and begun to recognize Palestinian suffering. But what is not enough is lip service. What we need is a withdrawal of support” for Israel, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said as votes rolled in Tuesday night.

    “Tonight, we will watch the votes tally. But what’s most important is to understand that the White House is listening,” Hammoud said.

    Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Mich., a prominent Biden supporter in the state, said the president’s campaign was well aware of its challenges in Michigan ahead of Tuesday night. She stressed that outreach needed to continue to not just the Arab American and Muslim communities, but other coalitions that will be critical for Democrats in November.

    “We have to talk to young people,” Dingell said, pointing to Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor is located. “Women who turned out in record numbers last year, and get in the union halls.” Dingell also noted that Trump was underperforming among Republican primary voters, underscoring his general election weaknesses in the critical swing state.

    Trump’s victory in Michigan over Haley, his last major primary challenger, after the former president defeated her by 20 percentage points in her home state of South Carolina on Saturday. The Trump campaign is looking to lock up the 1,215 delegates needed to secure the Republican nomination sometime in mid-March.

    Trump’s dominance of the early states is unparalleled since 1976, when Iowa and New Hampshire began their tradition of holding the first nominating contests. He has won resounding support from most pockets of the Republican voting base, including evangelical voters, conservatives and those who live in rural areas. But Trump has struggled with college-educated voters, losing that bloc in South Carolina to Haley on Saturday night.

    Trump did not travel to the state Tuesday night. He instead called into a Michigan GOP election night watch party in Grand Rapids, where he stressed the importance of the state in the general election and said the results Tuesday evening were “far greater than anticipated.”

    “We have a very simple task: We have to win on Nov. 5 and we’re going to win big,” Trump said, according to a campaign transcript. “We win Michigan. we win the whole thing.”

    But Haley campaign spokeswoman Olivia Perez-Cubas said the Michigan results were a “flashing warning sign for Trump in November.”

    “Let this serve as another warning sign that what has happened in Michigan will continue to play out across the country. So long as Donald Trump is at the top of the ticket, Republicans will keep losing to the socialist left. Our children deserve better.”

    Still, even senior figures in the Republican Party who have been skeptical of Trump are increasingly falling in line. South Dakota Sen. John Thune, the No. 2 Senate Republican who has been critical of the party’s standard-bearer, endorsed Trump for president on Sunday.

    Shaher Abdulrab, 35, an engineer from Dearborn, said Tuesday morning that he voted for Trump. Abdulrab said he believes Arab Americans have a lot more in common with Republicans than Democrats.

    Abdulrab said he voted four years ago for Biden but believes Trump will win the general election in November partly because of the backing he would get from Arab Americans.

    “I’m not voting for Trump because I want Trump. I just don’t want Biden,” Abdulrab said. “He (Biden) didn’t call to stop the war in Gaza.”

    Haley has vowed to continue her campaign through at least Super Tuesday on March 5, pointing to a not-insignificant swath of Republican primary voters who have continued to support her despite Trump’s tightening grip on the GOP.

    She also outraised Trump’s primary campaign committee by almost $3 million in January. That indicates that some donors continue to look at Haley, despite her longshot prospects, as an alternative to Trump should his legal problems imperil his chances of becoming the nominee.

    Two of Trump’s political committees raised just $13.8 million in January, according to campaign finance reports released last week, while collectively spending more than they took in. Much of the money spent from Trump’s political committees is the millions of dollars in legal fees to cover his court cases.

    With nominal intraparty challengers, Biden has been able to focus on beefing up his cash reserves. The Biden campaign and the Democratic National Committee announced last week that it had raised $42 million in contributions during January from 422,000 donors.

    The president ended the month with $130 million in cash on hand, which campaign officials said is the highest total ever raised by any Democratic candidate at this point in the presidential cycle.

    The Republican Party is also aligning behind Trump as he continued to be besieged with legal problems that will pull him from the campaign trail as the November election nears. He is facing 91 criminal changes across four separate cases, ranging from his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, which he lost, to retaining classified documents after his presidency to allegedly arranging secret payoffs to an adult film actor.

    His first criminal trial, in the case involving hush money payments to porn actor Stormy Daniels, is scheduled to begin on March 25 in New York.

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    Fani Willis Accused of Having Tryst in Private Law Office with Former Lover Nathan Wade: Testimony

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    Fani Willis was accused of having a sexual tryst in her private law office with former lover Nathan Wade when she ran a private practice between 2018 and 2019.

    The juicy accusation was launched in a Georgia court on Tuesday when defense attorneys questioned Wade’s former law partner and divorce attorney, Terrence Bradley.

    Bradley was ordered Monday to testify about Willis and Wade, who stand accused of being in an intimate relationship before Willis tapped her lawyer and former mentor to become special prosecutor in former President Donald Trump’s Georgia election interference case in November 2021.

    “He told you they had sex at [her] office, correct?” Ashleigh Merchant — a lawyer for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman — asked Bradley of Wade’s comments.

    “I don’t recall him saying that, no,” he replied.

    Bradley didn’t recall many details about his knowledge — or lack thereof — about Wade and Willis’ relationship in a near incredulous display of forgetfulness as he was grilled by three lawyers for the defendants.

    Bradley had previously been billed as the star witness at the hearings. However, when pressed by Merchant about when he found out about Willis and Wade’s relationship, Bradley repeatedly said he could not remember the date.

    “I do not have knowledge of when it started,” Bradley said.

    He also claimed he only discussed the relationship once with Wade in their law office, but does not recall exactly when that happened.

    However, texts exchanged between Bradley and Merchant appear to show otherwise.

    “It started when she left the DA’s office and was a judge in South Fulton. They met at the municipal court CLE conference,” Bradley reportedly texted Merchant.

    He testified Tuesday that he “speculated on some things” in the text exchange and did not have direct knowledge of what actually went down.

    His response puzzled the defense lawyers.

    “Why in the heck would you ‘speculate’?” Donald Trump’s lawyer Steve Sadow shot back.

    “I have no answer for that,” Bradley testified.

    Willis and Wade have told the court their relationship first became romantic in 2022 and have stuck by that story through their testimony, but lawyers for Trump and Roman have insisted they can prove otherwise.

    Bradley had previously refused to testify in court, citing attorney-client privilege between him and Wade.

    Judge Scott McAfee ruled Monday Bradley and Wade were not covered under such a privilege after a private meeting with him, and recalled the attorney to the stand.

    Bradley has previously conceded he stepped down from the law firm where he worked together with Wade following sexual assault allegations from a staffer.

    Trump and his co-defendants are looking to disqualify Willis from the case and to have all charges, centered around the state’s expansive racketeering RICO law, dismissed.

    The defendants have argued Willis and Wade compromised the integrity of the case as the district attorney financially benefitted from Wade’s appointment.

    Merchant has pointed to records which show Wade spending money on luxury travel for himself and Willis, bought with money earned from Fulton County’s coffers.

    So far, the defense has also presented dozens of pings from Wade’s cellphone that place it at Willis’ rented condo in the early hours of the morning prior to 2022. A former friend of the district attorney, who owned the condo, has also testified she saw the two “hugging” and “kissing” in 2019.

    Fulton County DA Ana Cross, however, suggested the ex-pal, Robin Yeartie, may have had an ax to grind after she resigned from her position as Willis’ media rep in 2021, with Yeartie herself testifying that she would have been fired if she hadn’t stepped down.

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    Texas Nuclear Weapons Facility Pauses Operations as Wildfires Spread Through Rural Panhandle

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    A widening Texas wildfire doubled in size Tuesday and prompted evacuation orders in at least one small town as strong winds, dry grass and unseasonably warm highs fueled the blaze in the state’s rural Panhandle.

    Republican Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 60 counties as the largest fire burned more than 300 square miles (780 square kilometers), according to the Texas A&M Forest Service.

    That is more than twice its size since the the fire sparked Monday.

    “Texans are urged to limit activities that could create sparks and take precautions to keep their loved ones safe,” Abbott said.

    The largest blaze, known as the Smokehouse Creek Fire, closed highways and remained 0% contained as of Tuesday afternoon, according to the Forest Service.

    Multiple fires were reported across Hemphill and Hutchinson counties, near the Oklahoma border.

    Texas state Sen. Kevin Sparks said an evacuation order was issued for the town of Canadian, a town of about 2,000 about 100 miles (160 kilometers) northeast of Amarillo, and other areas.

    The National Weather Service has issued red flag warnings and fire danger alerts for several other states through the midsection of the country, as high winds of over 40 mph (64 kph) combined with warm temperatures, low humidity and dry winter vegetation to make conditions ripe for wildfires.

    In central Nebraska, a mower sparked a prairie fire that has burned a huge swath of grassland roughly the size of the state’s largest city of Omaha, state officials said Tuesday.

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    Eric Adams Calls for An End to Sanctuary Cities as NYC Struggles to Care for 200,000 Migrants

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    New York Mayor Eric Adams has called for a radical overhaul of its sanctuary city status in a spectacular u-turn as the city buckles under the weight of migrant arrivals.

    The Democrat leader has faced a furious backlash as schools, hotels and community centers have been turned over to the 180,000 migrants who he has warned will ‘destroy’ the city.

    He has been a staunch defender of its decades-old sanctuary status which forbids city officials from asking questions about a person’s immigration status, or revealing it to federal authorities.

    But he revealed his change of heart after furious residents grilled him about migrant crimes including January’s brutal Times Square attack on two cops that saw most of the suspects freed on bail within hours of their arrests.

    ‘We need to modify the sanctuary city law that if you commit a felony or violent act we should be able to turn you over to ICE and have you deported,’ he told a town hall meeting on Monday night.

    More than 560 cities, states and counties have declared themselves sanctuaries since the early 1980s and New York adopted the status under former Democrat Mayor Ed Koch.

    But sanctuary cities have been a favorite target of governors on the southern border who have bussed thousands of migrants north to them as the migration crisis has gathered steam.

    Police in the city are not allowed to arrest anyone because they are an illegal immigrant and the city will not co-operate with an investigation by immigration authorities unless ordered to by a court.

    Adams insisted ‘We should protect our immigrants. Period.’ when running for office in October 2021, adding: ‘New York City will remain a sanctuary city under an Adams administration.’

    As recently as last month he was defending the status after it was attacked by Nikki Haley for encouraging illegal migration during a Republican primary debate.

    ‘This has nothing to do with sanctuary cities, migrants and asylum seekers are paroled into the country, they’re here legally,’ he told Fox News.

    But the city expects to have spent $10.6 billion by the end of 2025 and announced a budget in December that would cut the number of NYPD officers by a fifth and the education cut by $1 billion hit over two years.

    ‘Let me tell you something, New Yorkers,’ Adams told a public meeting in September. ‘Never in my life have I had a problem that I did not see an ending to. I don’t see an ending to this.

    ‘This issue will destroy New York City. Destroy New York City.’

    He faced more pressure this week over his plans for a $53 million debit card scheme that could give a family of migrants with two children under the age of 17 up to $15,200-a-year.

    Sanctuary status has come under growing pressure in other cities dealing with the migrant influx, and Chicago’s Democrat leaders were slammed for blocking a vote on ditching its sanctuary city status in at the end of last year.

    Mayor Brandon Johnson ordered his lieutenants to quash a bid to put the controversial ‘Welcoming City Ordinance’ to a referendum on Chicago’s March primary ballot.

    Adams admitted earlier this month that he would use his executive authority to override some sanctuary provisions if he was allowed as he was challenged by Republican city councilors.

    And his u-turn was greeted as a ‘welcome change’ by City Councilman Joe Borelli.

    But the Legal Aid Society said reform would criminalize the innocent.

    ‘What Mayor Eric Adams seeks would result in local law enforcement being able to transfer New Yorkers merely suspected of a crime to ICE, upending local criminal court proceedings while perpetuating family separation and dividing communities,’ it said in a statement.

    Adams blamed Congress for his handling of the crisis on Monday night, insisting his hands were tied by Federal laws.

    ‘People tell me all the time, they see me on the street and they say, ‘Well Eric why don’t you stop the buses from coming in?’ It’s against the law, I can’t,’ he told the meeting.

    ‘Why don’t you allow those who want to work – allow them to work?’ It’s against the law – the federal law – I can’t.

    ‘Why do you say you have to house everyone that [comes] in?’ Because that’s the law.

    ‘Why don’t you deport those who commit crimes and harm people that are not doing the right thing?’ It’s against the law, I can’t.

    ‘So I am inheriting a national crisis that I have to resolve and we are resolving that crisis like no other city, folks.

    ‘Go Google other cities. You don’t see tent cities in New York. You don’t see children and families sleeping on the street in New York. This team here has managed the crisis each time they come.’

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