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Storm Breaches California River's Levee, Thousands Forced to Evacuate
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A Northern California agricultural community famous for its strawberry crop was forced to evacuate early Saturday after the Pajaro River’s levee was breached by flooding from a new atmospheric river that pummeled the state.

Across the Central Coast’s Monterey County, more than 8,500 people were under evacuation orders and warnings Saturday, including roughly 1,700 residents — many of them Latino farmworkers — from the unincorporated community of Pajaro.

Officials said the Pajaro River’s levee breach is about 100 feet (30.48 meters) wide. Crews had gone door to door Friday afternoon to urge residents to leave before the rains came but some stayed and had to be pulled from floodwaters early Saturday.

First responders and the California National Guard rescued more than 50 people overnight. One video showed a member of the Guard helping a driver out of a car trapped by water up to their waists.

“We were hoping to avoid and prevent this situation, but the worst case scenario has arrived with the Pajaro River overtopping and levee breaching at about midnight,” wrote Luis Alejo, chair of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, on Twitter.

Alejo called the flooding “massive,” saying the damage will take months to repair.

The Pajaro River separates the counties of Santa Cruz and Monterey in the area that flooded Saturday. Floodwaters that got into the region’s wells might be contaminated with chemicals, officials said, and residents were told not to drink or cook with tap water for fear of illness.

Officials had been working along the levee in the hopes of shoring it up when it was breached around midnight Friday into Saturday. Crews began working to fix the levee around daybreak Saturday as residents slept in evacuation centers.

Oliver Gonzalez, 12, told The Associated Press that he, his mother and his aunt were rescued around 5 a.m. Saturday in Parajo. He grabbed his laptop, cellphone and some important documents but so much was left behind in their rush to leave.

“I’m kinda scared,” he said several hours later from an evacuation center in nearby Watsonville. “My mom’s car was left in the water.”

Anais Rodriguez, 37, said first responders knocked on her home’s door shortly after midnight. Her family packed about four days’ worth of clothing and drove out to safety. She and her two children, her husband and her parents — along with their dog, Mila — arrived at the shelter about an hour later with few answers about what this would mean for their community going forward.

Weather-related power outages affected more than 17,000 customers in Monterey County late Saturday, according to the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office on Saturday said it was monitoring the situation in Pajaro.

“Our thoughts are with everyone impacted and the state has mobilized to support the community,” the governor’s office wrote on Twitter.

The Pajaro Valley is a coastal agricultural area known for growing strawberries, apples, cauliflower, broccoli and artichokes. National brands like Driscoll’s Strawberries and Martinelli’s are headquartered in the region.

In 1995, the Pajaro River’s levees broke, submerging 2,500 acres (1,011 hectares) of farmland and the community of Pajaro. Two peopled died and the flooding caused nearly $100 million in damage. A state law, passed last year, advanced state funds for a levee project. It was scheduled to start construction in 2024.

State Sen. John Laird, who spearheaded the law and represents the area, said the project is fully funded now but it just came down to bad timing with this year’s rains.

“It’s tragic, we were so close to getting this done before any storms,” he said.

This week’s storm marked the state’s 10th atmospheric river of the winter, storms that have brought enormous amounts of rain and snow to the state and helped lessen the drought conditions that had dragged on for three years. State reservoirs that had dipped to strikingly low levels are now well above the average for this time of year, prompting state officials to release water from dams to assist with flood control and make room for even more rain.

Across the state on Saturday, Californians contended with drenching rains and rising water levels in the atmospheric river’s aftermath. In Tulare County, the sheriff ordered residents who live near the Tule River to evacuate, while people near the Poso Creek in Kern County were under an evacuation warning. The National Weather Service’s meteorologists issued flood warnings and advisories, begging motorists to stay off deluged roadways.

In San Francisco, an 85-foot (25.91 meter) eucalyptus tree fell onto the Trocadero Clubhouse early Saturday morning. The 1892 clubhouse, a San Francisco historical landmark, was left severely damaged, with part of the roof crushed and the inside flooded.

Funnel clouds were spotted in the Jamestown area — the heart of California’s Gold Rush — on Saturday afternoon and the weather service issued a tornado warning — later canceled — for the Sierra Nevada foothills as severe thunderstorms, hail and high winds blanketed the region. Another set of tornado warnings were briefly issued in Fresno Count y, nearly 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) south of Gold Country. Flash flooding warnings were in effect late Saturday in Tuolumne County, with roads submerged around Sonora and neighboring communities.

There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

READ MORE: 2 Dead, Nearly 10,000 Under Evacuation Orders as California Floods Intensify

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Read 38 Comments
  • Susan says:

    I believe that HAARP is manufacturing weather in order to:
    *Land grab
    *Displace people bc the deep state is evil, they do not want anyone to own anything=New World Order
    *To “prove” the climate hoax is real

    Newsom is completely in on the destruction of CA and its people! Gavin is pure evil, he does not possess a soul, much like Biden/Obama/Hillary/and his aunt Pelosi. These people are cancer, and they must be removed asap and charged with crimes committed against our country and against humanity.

  • Bruce William says:

    Like I’ve always said, “CALIFORNIA IS A NICE PLACER TO BE FROM”

  • Tnflyboy says:

    Californication is already hell. It didn’t just break out.

  • Angie says:

    If they were monitoring it shouldn’t the people have already been evacuated?

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    The Pentagon said two of the wounded service members were treated on-site, while three others and the injured contractor were transported to medical facilities in Iraq.

    Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Syria’s Deir el-Zour, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields. Iran-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.

    Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes, nor did their officials at the United Nations in New York respond to requests for comment from The Associated Press.

    The activist group Deir Ezzor 24 put the death toll from the American strikes at four people. Deir Ezzor 24, which covers news in Deir el-Zour province, said the strikes hit the city of Deir el-Zour as well as militiamen posts near Mayadeen and Boukamal. It said the strikes also wounded people, including Iraqis.

    The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, reported that the American strikes killed six Iranian-backed fighters at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour. The Observatory, which relies on a network of local contacts in Syria, said U.S. bombing at a post near the town of Mayadeen killed two fighters.

    A separate American strike hit a military post near the town of Boukamal along the border with Iraq, killing another three fighters, the Observatory said.

    The AP could not immediately independently confirm the activist reports.

    Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East.

    In recent months, Russia has begun using Iranian drones in its attacks on sites across Ukraine as part of its war on Kyiv. Iran has issued a series of conflicting denials about its drones being used in the war, though Western nations and experts have tied components in the drones back to Tehran.

    The exchange of strikes came as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopen a Saudi embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war.

    U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of the American military’s Central Command, warned that American forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said in a statement.

    Addressing the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kurilla warned lawmakers that the “Iran of today is exponentially more militarily capable than it was even five years ago.” He pointed to Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and bomb-carrying drones.

    Kurilla also claimed that Iran had launched some 78 attacks on U.S. positions in Syria since January 2021.

    “What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla said.

    Diplomacy to deescalate the crisis appeared to begin immediately around the strikes. Qatar’s state-run news agency reported a call between its foreign minister and Jake Sullivan, the U.S. national security adviser. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

    Qatar’s foreign minister also spoke around the same time with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian.

    Austin said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Joe Biden.

    “As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”

    The U.S. under Biden has struck Syria previously over tensions with Iran. In February and June of 2021, as well as August 2022, Biden launched attacks there.

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    5th Circuit Rules Biden Vaccine Mandate Unconstitutional

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    President Joe Biden’s order that federal employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 was blocked Thursday by a federal appeals court.

    The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans rejected arguments that Biden, as the nation’s chief executive, has the same authority as the CEO of a private corporation to require that employees be vaccinated.

    The ruling from the full appeals court, 16 full-time judges at the time the case was argued, reversed an earlier ruling by a three-judge 5th Circuit panel that had upheld the vaccination requirement. Judge Andrew Oldham, nominated to the court by then-President Donald Trump, wrote the opinion for a 10-member majority.

    The ruling maintains the status quo for federal employee vaccines. It upholds a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate issued by a federal judge in January 2022. At that point, the administration said nearly 98% of covered employees had been vaccinated.

    And, Oldham noted, with the preliminary injunction arguments done, the case will return to that court for further arguments, when “both sides will have to grapple with the White House’s announcement that the COVID emergency will finally end on May 11, 2023.”

    Opponents of the policy said it was an encroachment on federal workers’ lives that neither the Constitution nor federal statutes authorize.

    Biden issued an executive order in September 2021 requiring vaccinations for all executive branch agency employees, with exceptions for medical and religious reasons. The requirement kicked in the following November. U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by Trump, issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement the following January.

    The case then went to the 5th Circuit.

    One panel of three 5th Circuit judges refused to immediately block the law.

    But a different panel, after hearing arguments, upheld Biden’s position. Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, both nominated to the court by President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, nominated by President George H.W. Bush, dissented, saying the relief the challengers sought does not fall under the Civil Service Reform Act cited by the administration.

    The broader court majority agreed, saying federal law does not preclude court jurisdiction over cases involving “private, irreversible medical decisions made in consultation with private medical professionals outside the federal workplace.”

    A majority of the full court voted to vacate that ruling and reconsider the case. The 16 active judges heard the case on Sept. 13, joined by Barksdale, who is now a senior judge with lighter duties than the full-time members of the court.

    Judge Stephen Higginson, a nominee of former President Barack Obama, wrote the main dissenting opinion. “For the wrong reasons, our court correctly concludes that we do have jurisdiction,” Higginson wrote. “But contrary to a dozen federal courts — and having left a government motion to stay the district court’s injunction pending for more than a year — our court still refuses to say why the President does not have the power to regulate workplace safety for his employees.”

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    Walmart Announces They’re Closing Dozens of Stores Across These 9 States

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    Walmart announced they’re shuttering 12 stores across nine states and Washington DC this year due to failing profits – on the same day they announced hundreds of layoffs at fulfilment centers.

    The big box chain has been closing a handful of stores annually in recent years, always citing the location ‘underperforming.’

    The retail behemoth is also closing two stores in Illinois and Arkansas that were ‘pick-up only.’

    The main locations ending their run are in Washington DC, Florida, Illinois, Hawaii, Indiana, Minnesota, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington State and Wisconsin.

    It comes the same day the company announced hundreds of workers at five facilities that fulfill e-commerce orders are being asked to find jobs within 90 days at other company locations.

    About 200 workers at Pedricktown, New Jersey, and hundreds of others at Fort Worth, Texas; Chino, California; Davenport, Florida; and Bethlehem, Pennsylvania were let go due to a reduction or elimination in evening and weekend shifts, the spokesperson said.

    The layoffs at Walmart, a retail bellwether because of its size, could be a harbinger of further turmoil in the U.S. economy, which many economists predict could enter recession this year.

    ‘We recently adjusted staffing levels to better prepare for the future needs of customers,’ Walmart said in a statement, adding that it would work closely with affected associates to find jobs at other locations.

    The spokesperson said impacted workers would be paid for 90 days to find jobs at other facilities, including those in Joliet, Illinois, and Lancaster, Texas, where the company has opened up new high-tech e-commerce distribution centers.

    Walmart has been investing heavily in automation over the past few years, partnering with automation companies such as Knapp to help it cut down the number of steps it takes employees to process e-commerce orders to five from 12, which has been implemented at its Pedricktown, New Jersey location, for instance.

    On a post-earnings call in February, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said he was ‘most excited about the automation opportunity we have’ with plans to increase investments in automation technology as part of its more than $15-billion capital expenditure budget this year.

    Workers being laid off at the five fulfillment centers will be eligible for roles at Walmart’s 5,000 U.S. stores, which the company has increasingly been using as a platform to ship orders to customers’ doorsteps, the spokesperson said.

    Walmart is the largest private employer in the United States with about 1.7 million U.S. workers.

    Apart from Pedricktown, New Jersey, Walmart did not post a Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification (WARN) notice for the layoffs, according to a Reuters review of labor government data.

    A WARN notice is mandated by U.S. labor law and requires companies with 100 or more employees to provide 60 days’ advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs.

    The spokesperson declined to call them mass layoffs and said that the warehouses continued to operate normally.

    The company did not issue a WARN notification for the other locations as it is unsure about the total number of employees that will be eventually laid off and re-hired, the spokesperson added.

    The news comes months after the company let go off nearly 1,500 workers at an Atlanta, Georgia, online order fulfillment center, as part of a modernization plan to build warehouses with a more high-tech spin.

    The spokesperson said the new round of layoffs was unrelated to its modernization plans. In January, the company bumped up the minimum wage by $2 to $14 per hour.

    This, however, still lagged Target and Amazon, which pay workers a starting wage of at least $15 per hour.

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    California Senate Approves Newsom’s Anti-Price Gouging Bill Targeting Oil Refiners

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    The California Senate passed a bill equipping state authorities to investigate and penalize oil refiners for high gas prices, advancing the anti-price gouging legislative push Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) initiated in response to the spike in fuel prices last summer.

    Newsom has accused refiners operating in the state, including Chevron and Phillips66, of gouging drivers and sought for months to advance legislation that would penalize them after retail fuel prices reached a record high last summer.

    The bill passed Thursday, which must pass the Democratic-led state Assembly before heading to Newsom’s desk, would establish a new watchdog agency within the California Energy Commission designed to keep an eye on oil and fuel markets. It also enables the commission to impose civil penalties on refiners charging above a “maximum allowable margin” for the price of gasoline, although they would have to be implemented via public rulemaking.

    The bill also includes new reporting requirements for refiners and gives the watchdog subpoena power over data and records, and it enables the agency to refer violations of law to the attorney general.

    “For decades, oil companies have gotten away with ripping off California families while making record profits and hiding their books from public view,” Newsom said in a statement Thursday. “With this proposal, California leaders are ending the era of oil’s outsized influence and holding them accountable.”

    The bill is a dialed-back version of what Newsom originally sought to implement.

    An initial proposal he promoted with Democratic state Sen. Nancy Skinner, which they announced in December in conjunction with the start of the special legislative session Newsom ordered to deal with refiners’ large windfall profits, would have effectively made it illegal for petroleum refiners to earn above a “maximum gross gasoline refining margin” calculated on a per-gallon basis.

    Some lawmakers, including some Democrats, opposed that version and said they worried the legislation could make gasoline more scarce if refiners exit the state or sell gasoline elsewhere rather than operate under the new limits.

    Refiners have blamed Newsom, state environmental regulations, and taxes as responsible for driving up the cost of fuel.

    President Joe Biden also criticized oil companies and refiners last year for high earnings and called on Congress to pass a windfall profits tax.

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    Deutsche Bank Shares Slump in Latest Sign of Bank Worries

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    Deutsche Bank shares fell by more than 13% on Friday morning following a spike in credit default swaps on Thursday night, as concerns about the stability of European banks persisted.

    The German lender’s shares retreated for a third consecutive day and have now lost more than a fifth of their value so far this month. Credit default swaps — a form of insurance for a company’s bondholders against its default — leapt to 173 basis points on Thursday night from 142 basis points the previous day.

    The emergency rescue of Credit Suisse by UBS, in the wake of the collapse of U.S.-based Silicon Valley Bank, has triggered contagion concern among investors, which was deepened by further monetary policy tightening from the U.S. Federal Reserve on Wednesday.

    Swiss and global regulators and central banks had hoped that the brokering of Credit Suisse’s sale to its domestic rival would help calm the markets, but investors clearly remain unconvinced that the deal will be enough to contain the stress in the banking sector.

    Deutsche Bank’s additional tier one (AT1) bonds — an asset class that hit the headlines this week after the controversial writedown of Credit Suisse’s AT1s as part of its rescue deal — also sold off sharply.

    Deutsche led broad declines for major European banking stocks on Friday, with German rival Commerzbank shedding 9%, while Credit Suisse, Societe Generale and UBS each fell by more than 7%. Barclays and BNP Paribas both dropped by more than 6%.

    Deutsche Bank has reported 10 straight quarters of profit, after completing a multibillion euro restructure that began in 2019, with the aim of reducing costs and improving profitability. The lender recorded an annual net income of 5 billion euros ($5.4 billion) in 2022, up 159% from the previous year.

    Its CET1 ratio — a measure of bank solvency — came in at 13.4% at the end of 2022, while its liquidity coverage ratio was 142% and its net stable funding ratio stood at 119%.

    Spillover risk

    Financial regulators and governments have taken action in recent weeks to contain the risk of contagion from the problems exposed at individual lenders, and Moody’s said in a note Wednesday that they should “broadly succeed” in doing so.

    “However, in an uncertain economic environment and with investor confidence remaining fragile, there is a risk that policymakers will be unable to curtail the current turmoil without longer-lasting and potentially severe repercussions within and beyond the banking sector,” the ratings agency’s credit strategy team said.

    “Even before bank stress became evident, we had expected global credit conditions to continue to weaken in 2023 as a result of significantly higher interest rates and lower growth, including recessions in some countries.”

    Moody’s suggested that, as central banks continue their efforts to reel in inflation, the longer that financial conditions remain tight, the greater the risk that “stresses spread beyond the banking sector, unleashing greater financial and economic damage.”

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    Utah Becomes First State to Restrict Youth Access to Social Media Platforms

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    Utah Gov. Spencer Cox signed two pieces of sweeping social media regulation into law Thursday that require social media companies to get parental consent for minors using their services, making Utah the first state to impose such measures in the U.S.

    Versions of the regulations are being considered in four other states and in several federal proposals in Congress.

    The new Utah laws — H.B. 311 and S.B. 152 — require that social media companies verify the age of any Utah resident who makes a social media profile and get parental consent for any minor who wishes to make a profile. They also force social media companies to allow parents to access posts and messages from their child’s account.

    The laws also prohibit social media companies from displaying ads to minors, showing minor accounts in search results, collecting information about minors, targeting or suggesting content to minors, or knowingly integrating addictive technologies into social media apps used by minors. They also impose a curfew on the use of social media for minors, locking them out of their social media accounts between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. based on the location of a user’s device, unless adjusted with the consent of a parent.

    Utah’s laws come amid ongoing debates about the impact of social media on young people’s mental health, a link that is widely theorized but remains the subject of academic study. Mental health issues among young people have been labeled a crisis, with particular concerns about the mental health of young women.

    Social media companies have until March 1, 2024, to comply with the laws, at which point they become punishable with potential civil and criminal penalties.

    In interviews with NBC News, sponsors of the legislation said that they were motivated by mental health concerns posed by social media use among young people, and that they hope Utah’s new laws serve as inspiration for other states or for Congress.

    “I don’t think we’ve ever seen a time in American history where mental health has been so problematic,” said Utah state Sen. Michael McKell. “I hope we see action across the nation.”

    McKell said the Utah bills were home-brewed legislation developed in a working group over the last year.

    State Rep. Jordan Teuscher, who co-sponsored one of the Utah bills, said the group heard from representatives and lobbyists from major social media companies like Google and TikTok.

    “As you can imagine, the social media companies hired almost all of the major lobbyists in Utah to try to affect the bill,” he said. “They were not very successful in deterring us from our objectives.”

    In a statement, a Meta spokesperson said: “​​We want teens to be safe online. We’ve developed more than 30 tools to support teens and families, including tools that let parents and teens work together to limit the amount of time teens spend on Instagram, and age verification technology that helps teens have age-appropriate experiences. We automatically set teens’ accounts to private when they join Instagram, and we send notifications encouraging them to take regular breaks.” The spokesperson added, “We’ll continue to work closely with experts, policymakers and parents on these important issues.”

    Critics of the laws say that they are a form of government overreach that will have effects outside the borders of the state.

    “There’s no way for a platform to know who is or isn’t a full-time Utah resident,” said Ari Cohn, free speech counsel for the tech policy think tank TechFreedom. Cohn said it’s unfeasible to think that social media companies could parse out Utah residents from visitors to the state, or nearby users connecting to the internet via cellphone data networks.

    “The only way the platforms can ensure full compliance will be by actually age verifying everyone,” he said. “And that’s the problem with the state-level bills like this, is that they basically regulate the internet for everyone.”

    Cohn added that age verification poses a major risk for security and speech online.

    “Age verifying everyone means you no longer have an ability to be anonymous online on social media,” he said. “Think about all the ways that social media is used to criticize powerful people, elected officials, tyrannical governments, or what have you, without fear of retribution.”

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    Off-Duty Pilot Takes Over Plane After Captain Suffers Medical Emergency

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    Southwest Airlines officials confirmed Wednesday that an off-duty pilot flying as a passenger on a flight out of Las Vegas helped take control of the aircraft shortly after takeoff when the plane’s captain suffered a medical emergency.

    Southwest Flight 6013 departed Las Vegas, Nevada, around 6:30 a.m., heading to Columbus, Ohio, when the captain fainted from stomach pain, according to ABC. Air traffic control audio obtained by CNN recorded a flight crew member notifying officials that “the captain became incapacitated while en route.”

    Chris Perry, a spokesperson for the airline, told The New York Post a credentialed pilot from another airline flying with Southwest entered the cockpit and “assisted with radio communication while our Southwest Pilot flew the aircraft.”

    According to air traffic audio reported by ABC, the unidentified off-duty pilot notified control tower operators that flight attendants were with the Southwest pilot in the back of the aircraft.

    “But we need to get him on an ambulance immediately,” the pilot told air traffic controllers, according to air traffic audio.

    Airline officials said the pilot re-routed the aircraft to Las Vegas, where emergency health crews stood by to attend to the captain’s medical needs. Southwest arranged an alternate flight crew to transport the passengers to their destination.

    “We commend the crew for their professionalism and appreciate our customers’ patience and understanding regarding the situation,” Southwest said in a statement.

    Southwest officials did not immediately disclose the pilot’s condition.

    Southwest told The Post it was “standard procedure” to “request assistance from traveling medical personnel during in-flight medical events.”

    “This situation just so happened to involve one of our Employees,” the airline said

    The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has begun investigating the incident, reminding flight personnel of the “need for continued vigilance and attention to mitigation of safety risks.”

    FAA authorities issued a safety alert amid six runway incidents since January, including “a near miss at JFK Airport in January, and a Southwest jet that recently came within 200 feet of slamming into an ambulance crossing the runway at Baltimore’s airport,” The Post reported.

    “While the overall numbers do not reflect an increase in incidents and occurrences, the potential severity of these events is concerning,” the FAA said.

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    SEE IT: Dr. Fauci AI Arrest Photos Go Viral on Twitter

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    Images of longtime public health official Anthony Fauci being arrested, apparently generated by artificial intelligence, have appeared on Twitter days after similar images circulated featuring former President Donald Trump.

    The four pictures, posted by conservative commentator Jack Posobiec, show Fauci being wrangled by law enforcement officers and posing for a mugshot. Posobiec did not say where the pictures came from, but they are arranged in a grid and feature imperfections similar to AI-generated images.

    Fauci was the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for nearly 40 years and a public face of the U.S. government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

    He has faced calls for his arrest and prosecution over allegations that he oversaw research funding for a Chinese virology lab that the pandemic may have emerged from. Whether the virus leaked from a lab remains unclear, and Fauci has denied funding so-called “gain-of-function” research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

    Twitter CEO Elon Musk stoked that fire in December by tweeting: “My pronouns are Prosecute/Fauci,” alleging that Fauci “killed millions of people.”

    Fauci retired as NIAID director, as well as President Joe Biden’s chief medical advisor, at the end of 2022.

    The apparently AI-generated images of his arrest come after a series of similar images of Trump circulated on Twitter this week. Trump had been expected to be criminally charged, and possibly arrested, this week over a hush money investigation, but the grand jury considering his indictment has not yet voted on it.

    The images – generated by Eliot Higgins, founder of the investigative journalism group Bellingcat – depict the former president resisting arrest, being lodged in jail, tried in court and acclimating to prison life.

    Higgins said that the platform he used to generate the images, Midjourney, banned him from using it after they went viral.

    The word “arrested” is currently prohibited from being used in text prompts that inspire Midjourney images. If the word is used, Midjourney returns this message: “The word arrested is banned. Circumventing this filter to violate our rules may result in your access being revoked.”

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    AZ Supreme Court Revives Kari Lake Claim on Signature Verification

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    The Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear most of Republican Kari Lake’s appeal over the gubernatorial race from November’s midterms. However, the state’s highest court did revive a claim that was dismissed by a trial court regarding the signature verification process in Maricopa County.

    “In an order Wednesday, the state’s highest court said a lower court erroneously dismissed Lake’s claim challenging the application of signature verification procedures on early ballots in Maricopa County. The court sent the claim back to a trial court to consider,” the Associated Press reported.

    “In her challenge, the former TV anchor focused on problems with ballot printers at some polling places in Maricopa County, home to more than 60% of the state’s voters. The defective printers produced ballots that were too light to be read by the on-site tabulators at polling places. Lines backed up in some areas amid the confusion. Lake alleged ballot printer problems were the result of intentional misconduct,” the outlet added.

    The AP continued: “In mid-February, the Arizona Court of Appeals rejected Lake’s assertions, concluding she presented no evidence that voters whose ballots were unreadable by tabulators at polling places were not able to vote. The appeals court noted that even a witness called to testify on Lake’s behalf confirmed ballots that couldn’t initially be read at polling places may ultimately have been counted. And while a pollster testified that the polling place problems disenfranchised enough voters to change the election’s outcome, the appeals court said his conclusion was baseless.”

    Lake issued a short statement on the ruling, saying she was “thrilled.”

    “The signature verification process in Maricopa County is a house of cards,” Lake said in a statement. “Thanks to this ruling my team will get the chance to topple it.”

    Last month, Lake announced on Twitter that her election lawsuit was headed to the Arizona Supreme Court after the appeals court ruled against her. In their ruling, the court stated that voters were able to cast their ballots and votes were counted properly in Arizona during November’s midterm elections.

    “Lake argues that the superior court erred by dismissing her claims asserting equal protection and due process violations. Her arguments fail, however, because these claims were expressly premised on an allegation of official misconduct in the form of interference with on-site tabulators — the same alleged misconduct as in Lake’s printer/tabulator claim,” the ruling stated.

    It continues: “Because these claims were duplicative of a claim that Lake unsuccessfully pursued at trial, the superior court did not err by dismissing them. For the foregoing reasons, we affirm the superior court’s ruling confirming Hobbs’s election as governor. We deny Hobbs’s request for an award of attorney’s fees on appeal because she offered no substantive basis for the award.”

    “Evidence ultimately supports the conclusion that voters were able to cast their ballots, that votes were counted correctly, and that no other basis justifies the election results,” it said.

    But Lake’s not backing down and has been very active in political circles.

    She’s been attending events, speaking with voters in several states, attended Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate a few times in recent months, and has even dropped a few hints about her political future if her election lawsuit in Arizona does not pan out.

    She’s also been asked about reports that former President Donald Trump could be “seriously” considering her to be his 2024 running mate.

    And now an early poll exploring the 2024 U.S. Senate election in Arizona found that Lake could win the race.

    A recent survey by Blueprint Polling found that Lake is leading by 4 points over Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego and by 22 points over incumbent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, who switched her party registration from Democrat to Independent.

    “An early 2023 survey of likely general election voters illustrates that Senator Kyrsten Sinema’s path to reelection is both complicated and unprecedented. Sinema runs a distant third in a hypothetical three-way race in the general that also includes 2022 GOP gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake and Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego,” the survey found.

    “Kari Lake polls at 36% in a three-way Senate race with Gallego and Sinema. The congressman follows closely at 32% while the incumbent polls less than 14%. One in six voters are undecided. Sinema draws support from both Republicans and Democrats—she gets the vote of 15% of Biden 2020 voters and 11% of Trump 2020 voters,” the group found.

    Earlier this month, Lake shot down a report that Trump is “seriously” considering her to be his 2024 running mate.

    “I am 100% dedicated to serving as Arizona Governor. I will also work to make sure President Trump gets back in the White House ASAP. Anything outside of those two goals is nothing but a distraction,” Lake told the Daily Mail.

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    Appeals Court Rules Trump Lawyer Must Testify To Federal Grand Jury

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    A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that an attorney for former President Donald Trump must testify and turn over records on Trump in the federal criminal investigation into the former president’s handling of U.S. government records after he left office.

    Prosecutors allegedly showed in court last week that they had “sufficient” evidence that Trump “intentionally concealed” the existence of classified material at his Mar-a-Lago home from his own legal team, according to a U.S. federal judge who was overseeing the case up until late last week.

    ABC News reported that sources described the contents of a sealed filing last week from U.S. Judge Beryl Howell, who on Friday stepped down as the D.C. district court’s chief judge.

    Howell wrote that special counsel Jack Smith’s office had made a “prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations,” and that Trump’s lawyers could now be forced to testify because the evidence revokes attorney-client privileges due to the “crime-fraud exception.” Under this exception, prosecutors seek records between a client and their attorney based upon evidence that legal advice that was given was used in furtherance of an illegal or fraudulent activity.

    The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals stayed Howell’s order temporarily on Tuesday night and ordered a rapid series of filings that needed to be filed from Trump’s lawyers.

    Former federal prosecutor and independent counsel Scott Fredericksen told CBS News, “If this results in Trump’s attorney going in to testify, I think that means we are very closing to a charging decision.”

    Howell ordered in her sealed filing that Trump attorney Evan Corcoran needs to comply with a grand jury subpoena to testify and that he must turn over numerous records related to what she described as an alleged “criminal scheme.”

    Howell said that while prosecutors showed enough evidence to revoke Corcoran’s attorney-client privilege, they would still need to present evidence that meets a higher standard to charge and get a conviction against the former president.

    “Shame on Fake News ABC for broadcasting ILLEGALLY LEAKED false allegations from a Never Trump, now former chief judge, against the Trump legal team,” a Trump spokesperson said to ABC News. “The real story here, that Fake News ABC SHOULD be reporting on, is that prosecutors only attack lawyers when they have no case whatsoever.”

    The report said that the criminal investigation into Trump’s handling of classified material is focused on determining whether Trump’s lawyers falsely certified that all classified material had been returned to the U.S. government in response to a grand jury subpoena, and determining if Trump sought to conceal those materials.

    Federal authorities recovered classified material during a search of the property in June 2022 and Trump’s legal team signed a written statement at that time certifying that all classified material had been removed from the property. Two months later, the FBI raided Mar-a-Lago and found additional materials marked as classified.

    Former Trump White House lawyer Eric Herschmann reportedly warned Trump in late 2021 that he could face serious legal repercussions if he did not return the U.S. government records that he took with him after he left office.

    Before Trump’s term ended, Patrick Philbin, deputy counsel to the president, was named Trump’s representative to handle matters with the National Archives along with White House counsel Pat Cipollone.

    Once the National Archives realized that some of Trump’s White House records were missing, they reportedly contacted Philbin for help getting them back, according to The New York Times. Philbin reportedly tried to help the National Archives retrieve the material, but he was allegedly blocked by Trump.

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    ‘Game-Changer’ Costello Testimony May Have Sunk Manhattan DA’s Case Against Trump, Dershowitz Says

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    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s possible criminal case against former President Donald Trump may have derailed this week, according to Harvard Law professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz.

    On Monday, former federal prosecutor Robert Costello testified in front of a Manhattan grand jury over matters related to a $130,000 hush money payment to a porn star in 2016. Costello told the jury that former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, expected to be Bragg’s main witness in any case against Trump, “couldn’t tell the truth if you put a gun to his head.”

    Dershowitz appeared on Fox News on Tuesday night and told host Sean Hannity that “Bob Costello has changed this case dramatically.”

    “I think that Bragg now only has two possible results from that. Number one, he can say, ‘alright, I’m going to try to make the case without Cohen.’ He cannot use Cohen as a witness anymore. That would be unethical because of the testimony that Costello gave,” Dershowitz said. “Or he could say, ‘look, I have to drop the case.’ He may not be able to make it without Cohen. But if he can’t make it without Cohen, he can’t make it, because no ethical prosecutor is allowed to put on as a witness somebody who has told the lies and has contradicted himself so much.”

    Bragg is investigating Trump over an alleged hush money payment the former president made to the porn star known as Stormy Daniels in 2016. The payment was made through Cohen, a longtime fixer for Trump, to allegedly keep Daniels from spreading claims that she had sex with Trump in July 2006 after his wife, Melania, had just given birth to their son. The former president allegedly reimbursed Cohen for the payment in 2017.

    Cohen was later investigated by federal agents over the hush money payments. He went to Costello for legal counsel and advice, and the two men spent hours meeting and talking over the phone. In August 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to eight charges involving tax evasion, fraud, and campaign finance violations related to the payment to Daniels and another payment made to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who also alleged an inappropriate relationship with Trump.

    Cohen has said he made the payments at Trump’s direction. Trump has denied that claim and the allegations of the two women who accused him of infidelity.

    Costello told the grand jury on Monday that Cohen had said that the hush money payments were his idea, not Trump’s. Costello also lambasted prosecutors for “cherry-picking” evidence to show the grand jury that gave a false view of what actually happened. “They seemed clearly one-sided and not after the truth,” Costello told The New York Times afterward.

    While it’s unclear what actual charges Bragg may pursue, the legal pathway toward getting to an indictment is complicated, according to POLITICO. Bragg’s case likely involves testing a novel legal theory that New York law classifies falsifying business records as a felony if the records were falsified to cover up a federal crime, which in this case would be a campaign finance crime similar to what Cohen pleaded guilty to.

    Dershowitz says that Costello’s testimony has, at the very least, slowed Bragg’s movement toward any potential indictment, if not halted it altogether.

    “I think that Bob Costello — it’s a game changer. I think maybe that’s a reason for the delay here. I think ethical experts are now telling Bragg, ‘wait a minute, you cannot use Cohen,’” said Dershowitz. “But if you can’t make it without Cohen, you cannot bring this charge.”

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    Congress Grills TikTok CEO on China Ties and Show Him Videos of Threats to Shoot Lawmakers in Fiery Hearing

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    TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew got a verbal smackdown from the House Energy and Commerce Committee panel as both Republicans and Democrats grilled him over data security and harmful content on Thursday.

    From the start of the high-profile hearing, tensions ran high as Chew tried to offer his assurances that the hugely popular video-sharing app prioritizes user safety and should not be banned.

    Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Republican, fired the opening salvo: ‘Mr. Chew, you are here because the American people need the truth about the threat TikTok poses to our national and personal security. TikTok has repeatedly chosen a path for more control, more surveillance and more manipulation.’

    Chew retorted: ‘Let me state this unequivocally: ByteDance is not an agent of China or any other country,’

    TikTok has been trying to distance itself from its Chinese origins, but that narrative was rendered disingenuous after the Wall Street Journal reported that China would oppose any U.S. attempts to force ByteDance to sell the app just before the hearing.

    ‘Your platform should be banned,’ Rodgers went on. ‘I expect today you’ll say anything to avoid this outcome, but you are 100 percent responsible for anything TikTok does.’

    ‘The facts show that ByteDance is beholden to the CCP,’ Rodgers said.

    In a rare bipartisan show, Democrats, including ranking member Rep. Frank Pallone, D-N.J., pressed Chew on the social media platform’s content moderation practices, how the company plans to secure American data from Beijing and spying on journalists.

    Pallone, however, seemed less inclined to throw out the Chinese video-sharing app entirely. He said TikTok ‘threatens privacy and security … in its current form.’

    Some committee members argued that TikTok is not doing enough content moderation.

    Rep. Diana DeGette, D-Colo., decried that users weren’t getting access to information on how to self-administer abortions and are seeing Covid-19 ‘misinformation’ on hydroxychloroquine.

    Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., played a compilation of TikToks that displayed pro-suicide content. ‘Your technology is literally leading to death,’ he said.

    Dean and Michelle Naska, whose son Chase allegedly committed suicide after receiving unsolicited suicidal videos in TikTok, were in the room. Dean broke down into tears as clips encouraging suicide were blasted onto the screen at the hearing.

    In dramatic testimony, Rep. Kat Cammack, R-Fla., pulled up a TikTok of someone unloading a gun and threatening the Energy and Commerce hearing. The video had been on the platform for 41 days, but was removed after Cammack played it at the hearing.

    ‘You expect us to believe that you are capable of maintaining the data security, privacy and security of 150 million Americans where you can’t even protect the people in this room,’ Cammack said to Chew

    At one point, Chew was asked whether parent company ByteDance has spied on Americans at the behest of the CCP.

    ‘I don’t think ‘spying’ is the right way to describe it,’ Chew responded.

    ‘Welcome to the most bipartisan committee in Congress,’ Rep. Buddy Carter, R-Ga., said. He asked Chew whether TikTok’s equivalent in China hosts ‘deadly challenge’ videos aimed at children like the U.S. version.

    Chew said he did not know. ‘You heard the chair lady [about lying being a crime],’ Carter said.

    TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew spent a grueling 4.5 hours of questioning from a congressional committee that largely came in with a preconceived notion that the app spews propaganda and poses a risk to national security.

    At one point, Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C. asked the CEO how much he gets paid. ‘I prefer to keep my compensation private,’ he said.

    Rodgers pressed Chew over reports TikTok removes content at the request of the CCP.

    ‘Have any moderation tools been used to remove content on TikTok associated with the Uyghur genocide?’ she asked.

    ‘We do not remove that kind of content. TikTok is a place of freedom of expression,’ Chew said.

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