Super Mario Bros. Smashes Records with Massive Box Office Debut
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Citizen Frank



Chris Pratt had another box office success this weekend with the release of “The Super Mario Bros. Movie.”

Box office estimates released Sunday showed the Universal Pictures film grossed $146 million domestically across more than 4,300 theaters.

In addition, the movie adaptation of the popular Nintendo video game earned another $173 million internationally, marking a worldwide total of $377 million.

“Mario Bros.” massive success broke records for video game adaptations (passing “Warcraft’s” $210 million) and animated films (“Frozen 2’s” $358 million), making it the biggest opening of 2023 and the second-biggest three-day domestic animated opening (behind “Finding Dory”).

Pratt voices Mario, while Charlie Day plays his sidekick Luigi, Anya Taylor-Joy is Princess Peach and Jack Black is the character Bowser.

“This partnership between Nintendo and Illumination is just incredible and led to this extraordinary performance,” said Jim Orr, Universal’s president of domestic distribution.

“$377 million worldwide is just astounding and a testament to how important outside of the home activities are for families,” said Paul Dergarabedian, the senior media analyst for Comscore. “Kids and their parents collectively were able to go out, have an outside the home event for the whole family at a relatively bargain price compared to a trip or a sporting event.”

“Mario” currently has a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes, but audiences were more favorable and gave the flick an A CinemaScore.

Dergarabedian said the release date was “perfect” and gave audiences enough time to gear up for Pratt in “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3,” which opens on May 5.

Ben Affleck and Matt Damon’s “Air” came in fourth place with $14 million at the box office.

The story of shoe salesman Sonny Vaccaro and his rise through the ranks at Nike before signing Michael Jordan was released in 3,507 theaters.

The film, which marks Amazon Studios first global theatrical release, has grossed an estimated $20.2 million since opening Wednesday in North America.

“John Wick: Chapter 4” earned the second spot with another $14 million added to its tally, totaling $147 million since opening three weeks ago.

“Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves” which placed third with $14.5 million in its second weekend, while “Scream VI” rounded out the top 5 with $3.3 million.

Read 2 Comments
  • Avatar William da super spineless says:

    Now look at that! No fagtard or Marxist propaganda or its ideological “stain” are not in this movie AND it made money. This is because the majority of this country, unfortunately, are quiet and pretty much cote with their dollars; they are families with kids…. Not those Marxist C0CK holsters that swear they can get pregnant.

  • Avatar WEF says:

    The shit people spend money on astounds me.

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    Supreme Court Justice Alito Rejects Calls to Recuse from Trump, Jan. 6 Cases

    Citizen Frank



    Conservative Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Wednesday declined to step aside from two pending cases relating to former President Donald Trump and the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol following recent news reports about contentious flags flown at his private properties.

    In letters to members of Congress calling for his recusal, Alito said that the two incidents involving flags at his home in Virginia and a vacation property in New Jersey first reported by The New York Times “do not meet the conditions for recusal” set out in the Supreme Court’s newly adopted ethics code.

    Alito said that in both instances “a reasonable person who is not motivated by political or ideological considerations or a desire to affect the outcome of Supreme Court cases” would conclude that no recusal was required. One letter was sent to Democratic senators while the other was sent to Democrats in the House of Representatives.

    He added he had no involvement in the decision to fly either flag, saying they were raised by his wife, Martha-Ann Alito.

    In the first incident, neighbors said that an upside-down U.S. flag was flown in early 2021 just after Jan. 6 and the inauguration of President Joe Biden.

    In the other incident, a flag linked with conservative Christians bearing the motto “Appeal to Heaven” was flown at the vacation home the following year.

    The Supreme Court is currently weighing two cases that touch upon Jan 6: Trump’s presidential immunity claim in his election interference case, and an appeal brought by a man prosecuted for his role on the day itself. Rulings are due by the end of June.

    Under the Supreme Court’s ethics rules, individual justices have a final word on whether to step aside from cases.

    The ethics code was adopted last year after several allegations of ethics lapses, mostly against Alito and fellow conservative Justice Clarence Thomas.

    Alito cited the code in his letters, noting that a justice is presumed to be impartial and only needs to step aside if an “unbiased and reasonable person” aware of the facts would doubt that the justice could “fairly discharge his or her duties.”

    In explaining in more detail the flying of the upside-down flag, Alito said his wife was “greatly distressed” because of a “very nasty neighborhood dispute” that he was not involved with. The New York Times had new details on that dispute in a story published on Tuesday.

    “A house on the street displayed a sign attacking her personally and a man who was living at the house trailed her all the way down the street and berated her in my presence using foul language, including what I regard as the vilest epithet that can be addressed to a woman,” Alito wrote.

    He added that once he became aware of the flag, he asked his wife to take it down but “for several days, she refused.”

    The New York Times account differed somewhat, with a neighborhood couple saying they had called the police at one point because they felt that Martha-Ann Alito was harassing them. The Times also reported that the confrontation between the Alitos and the neighbors happened weeks after the upside-down flag was already taken down.

    As for the second flag, Alito said he could recall it being flown by his wife but was not aware of its meaning or any connection with the “stop the steal” effort to overturn the 2022 election results.

    In both cases, Alito stressed that his wife is a private citizen who has her own free speech rights.

    “My wife is fond of flying flags,” he added. “I am not.”

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    First Day of Deliberations Ends Without a Verdict

    Citizen Frank



    The judge overseeing the hush money case against Donald Trump dismissed the jury on Wednesday afternoon after no verdict was reached on Day One of deliberations in the first criminal trial of a former U.S. president.

    Deliberations started in the late morning after state Judge Juan Merchan delivered lengthy instructions to the 12-person jury. They deliberated for about 4 1/2 hours.

    Court will reconvene Thursday morning, when jurors will re-hear portions of testimony they requested to review as well as Merchan’s jury instructions, which took him about an hour to read to them Wednesday morning. It was not immediately clear if the instructions will be read again in their entirety. The request for testimony and instructions came by way of notes from the jury Wednesday afternoon.

    A verdict could come as soon as Thursday, though deliberations could easily extend into next week or beyond.

    It’s the suspenseful denouement to one of the highest-profile trials in recent memory, and one that could carry enormous stakes for this year’s presidential election.

    Attorneys on both sides delivered lengthy closing arguments Tuesday that stretched into the evening, when Prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told the panel: “You, the jury, have the ability to hold the defendant accountable.”

    Merchan instructed the jury to set aside their personal feelings when considering whether Trump is guilty, reminding them that, as with all criminal trials, it’s the prosecution’s duty to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    “The defendant is not required to prove that he is not guilty,” Merchan said.

    He also instructed the jurors not to draw any inferences either way from the fact that Trump did not testify, and he reminded the jury that a decision of guilt must be unanimous among all 12 members.

    Jury deliberations happen entirely behind closed doors, and the only hints of jurors’ thinking come from notes they submit to the judge.

    The jury on Wednesday submitted two such notes — announced by a loud buzzer in the courtroom, which can also signal that the jury has reached a verdict.

    One note asked that the jury instructions be read again, while the other requested specific portions of testimony delivered by former Trump attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen and former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker.

    Some legal analysts saw the requests as a good sign for the prosecution, since their case rests heavily on the testimony of Pecker and Cohen, but others cautioned against trying to infer anything from jury notes.

    Trump, wearing a navy suit and yellow tie, retained his now-familiar pose throughout most of the day, with his eyes closed and head tilted softly back, though he appeared to grow restless at times.

    Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has charged Trump with 34 counts of falsifying business records relating to a hush money payment Cohen made to adult film star Stormy Daniels in the closing days of the 2016 presidential campaign. Prosecutors allege Trump reimbursed Cohen through a series of payments that were falsely listed as legal expenditures.

    This article was updated.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Google’s Algorithm Exposed: 14,000 Search Ranking Features Leaked

    Citizen Frank



    Rand Fishkin along with Mike King may have published one of the biggest data leaks outside of the Department of Justice reveal around Google Search and its internal ranking features and signals. The document was from an anonymous source (no longer anonymous, see below) but verified by Rand Fishkin and contains a ton of details on how Google Search reportedly works.

    More importantly, it seems to contradict a number of the Google statements made over the past two decades from numerous Google Search employees, as I covered here over the past.

    I have not gone through it all yet but I felt it was important for you all to read this yourself, you can see the details at these headlines:

    Rand wrote, “Many of their claims directly contradict public statements made by Googlers over the years, in particular the company’s repeated denial that click-centric user signals are employed, denial that subdomains are considered separately in rankings, denials of a sandbox for newer websites, denials that a domain’s age is collected or considered, and more.”

    Mike King wrote, “I have reviewed the API reference docs and contextualized them with some other previous Google leaks and the DOJ antitrust testimony. I’m combining that with the extensive patent and whitepaper research done for my upcoming book, The Science of SEO. While there is no detail about Google’s scoring functions in the documentation I’ve reviewed, there is a wealth of information about data stored for content, links, and user interactions. There are also varying degrees of descriptions (ranging from disappointingly sparse to surprisingly revealing) of the features being manipulated and stored. You’d be tempted to broadly call these “ranking factors,” but that would be imprecise.”

    Aleyda Solis has a quick summary on X where she summed up part of the leak:

    • There are 14K ranking features and more in the docs
    • Google has a feature they compute called “siteAuthority”
    • Navboost has a specific module entirely focused on click signals representing users as voters and their clicks are stored as their votes
    • Google stores which result has the longest click during the session
    • Google has an attribute called hostAge that is used specifically “to sandbox fresh spam in serving time”
    • One of the modules related to page quality scores features a site-level measure of views from Chrome

    I have not had time to go through everything yet, I will do that over the next several days.

    I have also not seen any Googler publicly comment on this yet – I know it is new and I don’t know if we will see any Googler comment on this.

    This reminds me a bit like the Yandex search ranking leak.

    Here are some posts on social about this – again, this has only been out for a few hours and no one but Rand and Mike had any real time to process this in super detail.

    I am looking forward to really digging in on this.

    Update: I briefly went through those two stories and dug a bit into the actual API documentation and honestly, based on everything I’ve followed over the past 20+ years around Google Search – these really look legit. Some of the specifics in these docs I heard both on and off the record as real ranking features, some are no longer used from what I understand and some I do not know how they are used (i.e. directly for ranking or after the fact ranking validation). It is worth digging through these docs in detail, in my opinion.

    Update 2: The source of the leak has spoken out – Erfan Azimi emailed me this video:


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    Trump ‘Considering Role for Elon Musk in His Administration’

    Citizen Frank



    Former President Donald Trump is considering appointing Elon Musk to help advise him in the White House after the pair patched up their relationship in recent months.

    The 45th president has not ironed out the details and a position might not materialize, the Wall Street Journal reported — but the two have been in talks about how the tech mogul could give “formal input” on issues like the border, the economy and preventing voter fraud.

    Their initial icy relationship has been thawing recently, and Musk — the world’s third-richest man — is now in direct phone contact with Trump; the pair talk “several times a month,” according to the outlet.

    Musk, alongside billionaire investor Nelson Peltz, has also spoken to Trump about an effort Musk launched to convince business leaders not to support President Biden in November.

    “President Trump will be the only voice of what role an individual plays in his presidency,” senior Trump adviser Brian Hughes told The Post.

    “But it has been widely reported and is demonstrated in a number of ways, that many of the nation’s most important leaders in technology and innovation are concerned with the damage done to their industry by Biden’s failures to handle our economy and his moves to overburden innovators with government bureaucracy and unrelenting regulation.”

    Musk, the owner of the social media platform X and the founder of Tesla and Space X, has previously said he would not give money to either candidate and has been openly anti-Biden.

    But, the South African-born billionaire has painted himself as largely an independent.

    Musk became a US citizen in 2002.

    After Trump scored victories on Super Tuesday and became the presumptive Republican nominee, Musk had a meeting with the former president at Mar-a-Lago, the Wall Street Journal reported.

    Trump confirmed the meeting in March, telling CNBC that they did in fact meet, but not revealing what the conversation was about.

    “Look, I’ve been friendly with him over the years. I’ve helped him when I was president. I helped him. I’ve liked him,” Trump said.

    The conversations between Musk and Trump have included topics like immigration, tech and science like the US Space Force, according to the WSJ — topics that Musk has been vocal about on X.

    “America will fall if it tries to absorb the world. That is why I am banging the drum so much about this issue,” Musk said about immigration in March.

    Trump has courted wealthy donors to contribute to his campaign, and even if Musk — worth an estimated $202 billion — doesn’t contribute financially, his massive influence on social media — 185.1 million followers on X — could sway voters in Trump’s favor.

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    Federal Grand Jury to Hear from Diddy Accusers: Report

    Citizen Frank



    Federal investigators are preparing to bring accusers of music mogul Sean “Diddy” Combs before a federal grand jury, two sources familiar with the probe tell CNN — signaling the US Justice Department is moving toward potentially seeking an indictment of Combs.

    Possible witnesses have been notified by investigators that they could be brought in to testify in front of a federal grand jury in New York City, according to one source. Bringing individuals who have filed civil lawsuits against Combs before a grand jury would mark a significant escalation in the government’s ongoing investigation involving the producer and Bad Boy Records founder.

    Combs has been named in eight civil lawsuits since November – seven directly accusing him of sexual assault. One of the eight lawsuits, filed by former girlfriend Cassie Ventura, has been settled. Another lawsuit accused his son Christian Combs of sexual assault, and Sean Combs is accused of aiding and abetting.

    These potential witnesses have not yet been prepped for testimony, both sources told CNN, cautioning that HSI investigators are still in the process of gathering evidence and questioning potential sources of information in their federal probe into Combs.

    One source said investigators are being thorough and taking their time to ensure that an indictment, should there be one, is “bulletproof.”

    Grand juries comprised of ordinary citizens are critical tools used by prosecutors, providing both an investigative function in approving the subpoenaing of documents and witnesses, and a vote on whether to criminally charge suspects. The use of a grand jury signals a particular case has moved beyond the preliminary stage where investigators generally assess whether possible violations of the law are believed to have been committed.

    Feds have interviewed multiple Combs accusers

    Combs’ homes in Los Angeles and Miami were searched back in March. At that time, CNN reported that the rapper and entrepreneur was the target of a federal investigation carried out by a Department of Homeland Security team that handles human trafficking crimes, and the ongoing investigation included a focus on sex trafficking, according to law enforcement sources.

    Now, additional sources told CNN that the majority of the plaintiffs who have filed civil suits against Combs have been interviewed by federal investigators.

    Combs has vehemently denied claims from many of the civil suits but has not responded to all of the allegations. In December 2023, after four lawsuits had been filed against him, Combs posted a fierce denial on his social media, writing that “sickening allegations” had been made by accusers “looking for a quick payday.” “Let me be absolutely clear: I did not do any of the awful things being alleged.”

    CNN previously reported in March, per a law enforcement source, that the investigation stems from many of the sexual assault allegations put forth in several of the civil lawsuits against Combs. CNN has learned that the scope of the investigation is much larger, focusing on sex trafficking, money laundering and illegal drugs.

    In addition to human trafficking, HSI also investigates narcotics smuggling and other organized criminal activity.

    “It’s much bigger than just these lawsuits,” one of the sources familiar with the scope of the investigation said.

    Federal investigators are now “digging deeper,” and some of the accusers have been questioned numerous times, a source said. A second source corroborates this current state of the investigation.

    Accusers who have spoken to federal agents during the investigation have been actively cooperating with investigators, with some handing over evidence they believe may be helpful in the probe, one source said. Investigators are also bringing in new individuals for questioning, including corroborating witnesses of accusers.

    Evidence includes video from Combs’ residences

    Federal agents are in possession of video taken inside of Combs’ recently searched residences, a source said. It’s unclear whether the video was seized during the raids, or whether investigators obtained video from individuals they have been questioning.

    “They are contacting people that they’ve found on the tapes,” a source told CNN.

    At least one male sex worker, who claims he has been victimized by Combs, has been questioned during the investigation, one source said, adding that this individual was seen in footage that is in possession of the federal investigators.

    In some of the lawsuits against Combs, accusers have alleged that they were informed, after the fact, that they were recorded having sex without giving their consent to be filmed. Combs has not responded to this specific accusation, but he dismissed all alleged wrongdoing in a blanket denial he posted in December 2023.

    In some of the civil suits, Combs is alleged of drugging multiple accusers. In the two most recent lawsuits filed against Combs within the past week, former fashion student April Lampros and former model Crystal McKinney both accused Combs of drugging them. In Lampros’ suit, she claims that Combs forced her to take ecstasy and then demand she have sexual intercourse with one of his former girlfriends before raping her.

    Combs was also accused in a civil suit filed last November of “intentionally drugging” and sexually assaulting Joi Dickerson-Neal back in 1991, when she was a college student. Though his legal team has filed a motion to dismiss portions of this suit, Dickerson-Neal also accused Combs of “revenge porn,” claiming that Combs secretly recorded the sexual assault. Days later, a male friend revealed to Dickerson-Neal that he had viewed it, according to her claim.

    Combs’ team did not respond to specific allegations of drugging or secret recordings, but a spokesperson at the time said the complaint was “made up and not credible,” discrediting the accusations as “purely a money grab.” In their motion to dismiss, which is still pending, attorneys for Combs called Dickerson-Neal’s allegations “false, offensive, and salacious.”

    Go deeper ( 4 min. read ) ➝


    UPDATE: Building Explosion Kills Bank Employee and Injures 7 Others in Ohio

    Citizen Frank



    A massive explosion blew out much of the ground floor of an apartment building, killing a bank employee and injuring several other people. Police and emergency officials initially blamed natural gas, but the fire chief later said the cause is under investigation.

    The blast happened around 2:45 p.m. Tuesday, collapsing part of the ground floor of Realty Tower into its basement and sending the façade across a street where both sides had been blocked off by orange construction fencing. The 13-story building has a Chase Bank branch at street level and apartments in upper floors.

    Speaking at a news conference Wednesday, city officials said the state fire marshal’s office was leading the investigation into the cause, and it wasn’t known when a determination may be made.

    The bank employee, 27-year-old Akil Drake, had been seen inside the building right before the blast, the Youngstown Police Department said Wednesday. Youngstown Fire Chief Barry Finley said in a news conference Tuesday that firefighters rescued several people and cleared the building to ensure no one else was hurt.

    Finley said Wednesday that two people — Drake and a woman whose name has not been released — were initially unaccounted for after the blast, so firefighters and other emergency responders remained on scene for several hours to locate them. Finley said the woman was found in a hospital where, for unknown reasons, she had been registered under another name.

    Drake’s body was eventually found in a basement.

    “We were not going to leave there until we found him. His family deserved closure,” Finley said.

    JPMorgan Chase mourned his loss and said it would work with local officials. “Our hearts go out to their family as well as our injured employees, their families and others affected by this tragedy,” a company statement read.

    Police and the Mahoning County Emergency Management Agency said there was a natural gas explosion, but the fire chief later said it was too early to say.

    “We have no idea what caused the explosion. We know that there was an explosion and it did a lot of damage to the bottom of the building,” Finley said Tuesday. He said none of the apartments in the building are habitable.

    Seven injured people were taken to Mercy Health Hospital in Youngstown. Finley said one woman remained in critical condition Wednesday.

    The blast shook downtown Youngstown, a city of about 60,000 residents. Bricks, glass and other debris littered the sidewalk.


    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Police Arrest Illegal Immigrant for 10th Time in 10 Months

    Citizen Frank



    Chicago police have reportedly arrested an illegal immigrant for the tenth time since he traveled to the city last year, according to court records and police.

    Carlos Mavarez Viloria, a resident of downtown Chicago’s Standard Club migrant shelter, is currently incarcerated in the Cook County Jail, authorities and filings reveal, CWB Chicago reported.

    Each time Viloria was arrested, he was reportedly released from custody. However, he faces a felony charge and is being held in jail, according to the outlet.

    The authorities first arrested Viloria on July 12, 2023, when he allegedly stole 10 Major League Baseball hats, a backpack, watches and food from a Walmart, amounting to around $193, CWB Chicago noted. A warrant was reportedly issued for his arrest when he missed his court appearance.

    Chicago law enforcement arrested him the day after for allegedly attempting to shoplift t-shirts worth approximately $158, the outlet reported. He reportedly received a seven-day sentence for the Walmart incident, though the other case was dismissed.

    Police detained Viloria for alleged possession of a crack pipe a month after, the outlet reported. Prosecutors reportedly dropped the charge and the evidence was ordered destroyed by a judge.

    Viloria had several other arrests for various alleged offenses, including shoplifting, threatening a store clerk with a firearm, resisting arrest, selling clothes without a permit and others, according to the outlet

    The latest arrest that led to his incarceration came when sheriff’s deputies apprehended him for multiple alleged shoplifting cases filed by a TJ Maxx, court records reveal, the outlet reported. Viloria allegedly fought at least two deputies, pulling one to the ground and injuring another, according to the outlet. He reportedly faces charges of felony aggravated battery of law enforcement, resisting arrest, reckless behavior and shoplifting.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Kentucky Prosecutors Drop All Charges Against Golfer Scottie Scheffler

    Citizen Frank



    All charges against top golfer Scottie Scheffler were dropped Wednesday after a Kentucky prosecutor said the high-profile arrest amounted to a “big misunderstanding.”

    Jefferson County Attorney Mike O’Connell told the court that the evidence against Scheffler doesn’t even meet the lower standard of “probable cause.”

    “Therefore based upon the totality of the evidence, my office cannot move forward in the prosecution of the charges filed against Mr. Scheffler,” O’Connell told the court, dropping all charges.

    The world’s No. 1-ranked player was arrested May 17 outside Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville during the PGA Championship.

    He was accused of failing to follow orders from police who were investigating a fatal accident outside the club earlier that morning. The golfer allegedly dragged Detective Bryan Gillis, who was trying to stop Scheffler’s car about 6 a.m., police said.

    But Scheffler insists he was following police directions on how to enter the club ahead of that day’s second-round action and said his arrest was because of miscommunication.

    “He’s glad it’s over,” the golfer’s defense attorney Steve Romines told reporters outside court.

    The golfer had considered filing a civil lawsuit against Louisville authorities but Romines said his client didn’t want that “distraction.”

    “Litigation is a distraction for anyone,” Romines said. “And the truly historic season he is having right now, being involved in litigation would be a distraction. ”

    Scheffler was led away in handcuffs that day and booked into custody on allegations of second-degree assault of a police officer, third-degree criminal mischief, reckless driving and disregarding signals from officers directing traffic.

    “Mr. Scheffler’s characterization that this was a ‘big misunderstanding’ is corroborated by the evidence,” O’Connell said. “Mr. Scheffler’s actions and the evidence surrounding their (Scheffler and Gillis) exchange during this misunderstanding do not satisfy the elements of any criminal offenses.”

    The prosecutor noted that he does not believe Gillis did anything wrong.

    “Detective Giillis was concerned for public safety at the scene when he initiated contact with Mr. Scheffler,” O’Connell said.

    Scheffler said he doesn’t hold a grudge against Gillis.

    “As I stated previously, this was an unfortunate misunderstanding,” her said in a statement he posted on social media Wednesday. “I hold no ill will toward Officer Gillis. I wish to put this incident behind me and move on, and hope he will do the same.”

    Police said they respected the prosecutor’s decision.

    “We respect the judicial process,” according to a statement by the Louisville Metro Police Department. “LMPD will remain focused on our mission to serve the city of Louisville and mitigate violent crime.”

    So far, there is no known video of any interaction between Scheffler and Gillis with the Louisville police already conceding that the detective did not turn on his body-worn camera, in violation of agency policy.

    The confrontation with police unfolded about an hour after a shuttle bus struck and killed Louisville resident John Mills, who was working for one of the vendors at the tournament, officials said.

    Scheffler that day was booked into custody a little before 7:30 a.m. but was released and made his tee time about 2 1/2 hours later.

    He shot a 5-under 66, his second best day of his four in Louisville, on his way to an eighth-place finish.

    Scheffler, who was not in court Wednesday, would happily play in town again, his attorney said.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    RESULTS: Texas Runoff Elections

    Citizen Frank



    Following Texas’ primary elections held in March, a handful of congressional races remained unresolved because candidates failed to clear the threshold necessary to clinch their respective party’s nomination outright.

    On Tuesday, runoff elections in the Lone Star State were held to finalize the field before November’s general election which will determine the U.S. House majority, currently narrowly controlled by Republicans.

    Most runoffs are in no-incumbent primaries, such as in the 12th Congressional District where a Republican runoff will determine which GOP candidate will advance to November’s ballot in a bid to replace retiring Rep. Kay Granger.

    In the 23rd Congressional District, however, GOP Rep. Tony Gonzales faces a challenger who forced the race into a runoff.

    Most polls in Texas close at 8:00 p.m. ET with results expected to start reporting in shortly thereafter.

    7th Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    12th Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    23rd Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    28th Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    29th Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    31st Congressional District (Dem Runoff)

    32nd Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    35th Congressional District (GOP Runoff)

    Go deeper ( < 1 min. read ) ➝


    Trump Trial Moves Toward End: 5 Takeaways on the Closing Arguments

    Citizen Frank



    The moment of truth is near for former President Trump, after defense lawyers and prosecutors delivered closing arguments Tuesday in his New York case.

    The court’s day was prolonged well past its usual end time in order to hear summations in full — first from Todd Blanche in Trump’s defense and then from prosecutor Joshua Steinglass, who went on for nearly five hours.

    Judge Juan Merchan is expected to give instructions to the jury Wednesday, after which the matter will rest in the jurors’ hands.

    Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.

    Those charges stem from a $130,000 payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels in the final stretch of the 2016 presidential campaign. Trump denies the affair and knowledge of the payment.

    Here are five takeaways from Tuesday.

    Trump team takes hard aim at Cohen’s credibility

    Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen, who made the payment to Daniels to keep her from going public about the Trump affair, was always going to be a flawed star witness for the prosecution.

    Cohen, who was later reimbursed from Trump’s personal bank account and from a Trump trust, served time in prison after pleading guilty in 2018 to tax evasion, violating campaign finance laws and lying to Congress.

    The prosecution contends the reimbursements were falsely classified as legal expenses to conceal their true nature — part of a hush-money deal with Daniels. Prosecutors also say this was done to affect the election’s outcome, not merely to save Trump personal embarrassment, and therefore amounts to election interference.

    Trump’s team argues the money paid to Cohen, who in the past said he would take a bullet for Trump but has also become an aggressive critic of the former president, was indeed for legal services.

    Blanche sought to take a sledgehammer to Cohen’s credibility Tuesday.

    The Trump attorney’s most memorable line came when he accused Cohen of being “the MVP of liars.”

    Later, modifying a well-known acronym, Blanche called Cohen “the GLOAT: the greatest liar of all time.”

    The soundbites were aimed at making the broader case that it would be unjust to convict Trump based upon Cohen’s tarnished word.

    But there was one instance when Blanche seemed to overreach. It came when the attorney told the jurors they should not send Trump “to prison” based upon Cohen’s words.

    The jury only decides whether to convict or acquit. In the event of a conviction, the sentence will be a matter for the judge.

    After the jury was ushered out, Merchan told Blanche his statement was “highly inappropriate.” When the jury returned for the afternoon session, the judge told them to disregard Blanche’s comment.

    Prosecution tries to stem doubts over Cohen

    The prosecution knows the stakes when it comes to Cohen’s testimony, so Steinglass tried to shore up jurors’ faith in the former Trump lieutenant, even while acknowledging his flaws.

    He defended Cohen’s stated desire to see Trump convicted, saying that given Cohen’s legal troubles, it was natural he would want to see Trump pay a price.

    Steinglass defended the basic veracity of Cohen’s testimony while also arguing the case did not rest upon him.

    He told the jurors that whether they liked Cohen was irrelevant.

    “It’s whether he has useful, reliable information to give you … and the truth is that he was in the best position to know,” the prosecutor said.

    “This case is not about Michael Cohen. It’s about Donald Trump.”

    Defense tells jurors not to see case as Trump ‘referendum’

    The question of how jurors will separate their feelings about Trump from the facts before them has hung over the case since the beginning.

    Jury selection was aimed, in part, at weeding out potential jurors who had especially strong feelings toward the former president.

    In his summing up, Blanche urged the jurors not to weigh the case as “a referendum on the ballot box — who you voted for in 2016 or 2020, who you plan on voting for in 2024.”

    He added: “The verdict you have to reach has to do with the evidence you heard in this courtroom.”

    More flashbacks to the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape

    The trial has at times served as a reprise of the chaotic final stretch of the 2016 campaign.

    To that effect, the lawyers’ summations made starkly different characterizations of the threat posed to Trump’s campaign by the release of the ‘Access Hollywood’ tape.

    The tape, which emerged about one month before Election Day but dated from years previously, featured Trump boasting about how his fame enabled crude behavior toward women, including grabbing them by their genitals.

    Steinglass, for the prosecution, said the tape’s release caused “pandemonium” within the Trump campaign.

    Blanche, for Trump, said it was not a “doomsday event.”

    The issue is important because the more severe the impact of the tape, the greater Trump’s political motivation to silence a new lurid allegation from Daniels.

    A cameo appearance by Robert De Niro

    President Biden’s campaign made its most assertive effort yet to wring political advantage from the trial.

    Actor Robert De Niro — a longtime Trump critic who narrates a new Biden campaign ad — appeared near the courthouse, along with two former Capitol Police officers who were present during the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone.

    Most of the star power resided with the 80-year-old De Niro, who warned that Trump would “never leave” if he is reelected in November, and who cast the former president as a danger to the U.S. and the world.

    Jason Miller, a top Trump aide, shot back, calling De Niro a “washed-up actor.”

    Go deeper ( 4 min. read ) ➝


    Israeli Tanks Reach Center of Rafah; Will Fight Outward

    Citizen Frank



    Israel Defense Forces (IDF) tanks reached the center of the town of Rafah on Tuesday. according to multiple media outlets, indicating that Israel intended to fight outwards toward the periphery rather than closing in from the outside.

    The Wall Street Journal reported:

    Israeli tanks advanced farther into Rafah on Tuesday, according to witnesses, as the Israeli military said it was expanding operations in the southern Gaza city amid growing international condemnation.

    The tanks passed near the Al-Awda mosque, a central Rafah landmark, Palestinians in the city told The Wall Street Journal. The Israeli military didn’t comment on the specifics of its push into Rafah, but Israel’s Army Radio said the military had added a brigade to the five operating in the city and troops were engaging in close-quarters combat with Hamas.

    The tactic of penetrating to the heart of an enemy city and fighting back out was pioneered by Israel in the West Bank during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, and later became a model of urban counter-terror warfare.

    The idea is to confuse enemy fighters by attacking them from the rear.

    Israel also (controversially) uses armored bulldozers in its attacks on terrorists in urban centers, carving out corridors for troops and vehicles to avoid booby-trapped pathways.

    There is another advantage in the present setting to starting the fight from the center of Rafah: it allows more civilians to escape.

    Already, close to one million Palestinians are estimated to have fled to nearby towns and camps.

    Finally, with international pressure against the Rafah operation building, Israel may also be looking to speed up its tactics, going straight to the heart of the city rather than fighting small, drawn-out skirmishes on the outskirts.

    Go deeper ( < 1 min. read ) ➝


    US Military Suspends Aid Shipments to Gaza After Pier Damaged

    Citizen Frank



    New problems are mounting for the Biden administration’s $320 million floating Gaza aid pier which was already facing setbacks, despite becoming operational less than two weeks ago.

    The U.S. military was forced to halt aid shipments to Gaza on Tuesday after the floating pier was damaged by bad weather over the weekend. The damage sustained from the bad weather is only the latest in a string of logistical and operational problems that have plagued the pier since it was constructed in mid May.

    The JLOTS pier was a “horrible idea,” Michael DiMino, senior fellow at Defense Priorities and former CIA and defense official, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “It’s a horrible idea due to the challenges that we just saw basically wreck the whole project.”

    “It was never a sound plan to begin with… whether it’s accidents, or logistical hurdles, or risk to our troops and all these problems that have come to fruition. I don’t think that there should be any effort to try to continue this, or salvage it, or fix it,” DiMino said, pointing to safer, more effective methods of delivering aid to Gaza. “I think now is an opportunity to say this failed. Let’s wrap this up before we continue to tempt fate.”

    Getting aid into Gaza via the JLOTS system requires several steps. Aid is first delivered by vessels to the floating pier roughly two miles off the Gaza coastline, where it is facilitated by U.S. officials. It is picked up by loading vessels and transferred back to a separate causeway pier attached to the shores of Gaza, then trucked by various aid groups to warehouses for distribution.

    Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh confirmed that U.S. aid deliveries had been halted after rough weather and choppy waters broke the causeway pier apart on Tuesday, rendering it useless for the time being. The pier will be removed from the coast of Gaza and towed northbound to Israel for repairs; it will take “at least over a week” to fix the pier before it can be re-anchored, Singh told reporters.

    “We had a perfect storm of high sea states… creating not an optimal environment to operate this JLOTS pier,” Singh said Tuesday, responding to a question as to whether the pier is too fragile to withstand tough conditions. “Hopefully weather conditions won’t hinder it anymore [once it is operational again].”

    The pier can only be operated during favorable sea conditions, in a maximum of three-foot waves and wind speeds not higher than 15 miles per hour. Aside from the minimum week timeline, reconstruction efforts cannot take place if sea conditions are poor, possibly adding further delays.

    The incident comes just a day after a separate stint of bad weather unmoored four U.S. Army vessels supporting the JLOTS system and sent them floating away from the operational site off the coast of Gaza. Two vessels floated north and were beached in Ashdod, Israel, while the other two anchored on the Gaza coast near the causeway. One of the vessels has been recovered, and the other three will be recovered by Thursday, Singh told reporters during Tuesday’s press briefing.

    A video from the incident appears to depict U.S. soldiers from one of the beached vessels in Gaza stranded on the shores while awaiting rescue, despite the Biden administration’s promise that there would be no U.S. “boots on the ground” in the region during JLOTS operations.

    “This is amateur hour. It’s unacceptable that there’s so little planning that appears to have gone into this, to the point where half a dozen U.S. troops are washed ashore in a war zone surrounded by Hamas,” DiMino told the DCNF.

    That problem was proceeded by another incident last week in which three U.S. troops suffered injuries during JLOTS operations. While exact details haven’t been disclosed — other than that it was a non-combat incident — two of the troops suffered minor injuries and the third was critically injured and subsequently evacuated to an Israeli hospital for emergency care; he is still in critical condition, Singh said Tuesday.

    Days after the JLOTS system was constructed, shipments that made it to the shores of Gaza via the causeway and floating pier were quickly stolen from trucks by crowds of hungry civilians, creating security concerns among aid groups responsible for distribution. The United Nations and U.S. have discussed alternate routes for trucks to transfer aid to warehouses in lieu of the episode.

    There are also security concerns for the U.S. troops supporting the JLOTS operations. Pentagon officials, including Department of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, have admitted there is a baseline risk that Hamas operatives on the ground in Gaza could stage an attack on the causeway or fire at troops offshore.

    More broadly, only a fraction of the aid needed to address the humanitarian needs of the millions of Palestinians in Gaza can be delivered via the JLOTS system, even when fully operational. U.S. officials have said that roughly 90 trucks worth of aid will be delivered to Gaza via JLOTS in the interim, and eventually up to 150 trucks once the system is at full capacity.

    But the UN previously told the DCNF in a statement that hundreds of trucks of aid are needed on a daily basis.

    “That makes the pier a relative drop in the bucket at best — a waste of $320 million American taxpayer dollars and the futile deployment of 1,000 U.S. service personnel,” Shoshana Bryen, senior policy director at the Jewish Policy Center, previously told the DCNF.

    It is far safer and more effective to deliver aid to the Palestinians through other methods, chiefly by truck convoys through border crossings in Egypt to the south and Israel to the west, of which there are several. The international community has expressed concern that Israel and Egypt are not allowing enough aid to enter through these crossings, though Israel counters that it is already going to great lengths to ensure delivery; Egypt refused to allow hundreds of trucks worth of aid to enter Gaza through the Rafah border crossing until recently.

    Go deeper ( 4 min. read ) ➝


    Mayor Shoots, Kills 3 Men After One ‘Forced Himself on His Wife’

    Citizen Frank



    A former law enforcement officer who served as the mayor of a small South Dakota town has been charged in the killings of three people.

    Jay Ostrem, 64, was jailed on $1 million cash-only bond on three counts of first-degree murder, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley said.

    A probable cause affidavit identified the victims as two brothers Paul Frankus, 26, and his 21-year-old brother Zach and Timothy Richmond, 35.

    Ostrem worked in law enforcement for more than two decades in Wyoming and South Dakota.

    He served as mayor of Centerville, a tiny town of less than 1,000 people, some 40 miles south of Sioux Falls, about a decade-and-a-half ago, but the exact dates weren’t immediately available.

    The probable cause document said a man in Centerville, identifying himself as Zach Frankus, called police at 9:44pm on Monday night to report that his brother had been shot by ‘a guy from across the street’ and that the shooter had gone back home.

    Frankus was still on the phone with a dispatcher when he said that he had been shot, too. He was described as ‘frantic’. Frankus then stopped talking, charging documents state.

    Authorities raced to the scene, where a Game Fish and Parks officer saw Ostrem leaving the home identified as the scene of the shooting.

    Ostrem initially ignored commands to stop before laying down on the ground. He was arrested a short time later.

    An AR-style rifle was on the ground near him, and he had a handgun in his pocket.

    Police noted how Ostrem was bleeding from his left hand and that he smelled of alcohol.

    Officers then went to the home where the call originated and found all three victims.

    Ostrem’s wife, who is British, told police that a neighbor, Paul Frankus had sexually assaulted her on Thursday, and she told Ostrem about the assault Monday night.

    The pair had been drinking together when he forcibly kissed her, exposed his genitals and pressed himself against her, reports the Argus Leader.

    She said Ostrem ‘got up and went raging out of the house,’ according to the document.

    She explained to officers how her husband did not tell her where he was going and that he didn’t leave armed, although weapons were kept in the home and he likely had some in his car.

    Ostrem was booked on Tuesday morning into the Minnehaha County Jail in connection with the Centerville shootings.

    ‘Jay Ostrem has been arrested and charged with three counts of first degree murder, and law enforcement has secured the scene,’ Attorney General Jackley stated in a news release.

    ‘There is no further threat to the public.’

    Ostrem initial appearance is scheduled for 3pm on Wednesday.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Vivek Ramaswamy Demands BuzzFeed Hire Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson, Charles Barkley and Aaron Rodgers

    Citizen Frank



    Former GOP presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy wants Buzzfeed to hire the likes of Bill Maher, Tucker Carlson, Aaron Rodgers and Charles Barkley to help turn around the struggling news site’s fortunes.

    Ramaswamy, who recently disclosed an 8.3% stake in the failing media company, fired off a letter on Monday to BuzzFeed’s board demanding that the company slash jobs, appoint three new members to its board of directors and give more prominent roles to conservatives so as to embrace “greater diversity of thought.”

    Shares of BuzzFeed, which is listed on the Nasdaq, soared by around 20% last week after it was learned that Ramaswamy took an activist stake in the company.

    In his letter, Ramaswamy criticized BuzzFeed for several moves that fed into public “distrust of the media,” including its decision in 2017 to publish a dossier by ex-British spy Christopher Steele that contained salacious and unproven allegations against former President Donald Trump.

    “Distinguish yourself from competitors by openly admitting your past journalistic failures and redefine BuzzFeed’s brand around the pursuit of truth,” Ramaswamy wrote in the letter.

    Jonah Peretti, the founder and CEO of BuzzFeed, claimed in a written response that Ramaswamy held “fundamental misunderstandings” about BuzzFeed’s business operations, adding that Buzzfeed was “definitely not going to issue an apology for our Pulitzer Prize-winning journalism.”

    Peretti owns a special class of voting stock that gives him effective veto power over any proposed overhaul of BuzzFeed’s board, according to The New York Times.

    Ramaswamy, who has thrown his support behind Trump in the 2024 election, wants BuzzFeed to scan “across the political and cultural spectrum” for talent.

    Ramaswamy proposed that BuzzFeed reach out to prominent media commentators such as Carlson, Barkley and Maher.

    “Cutting around the edges will not work,” Ramaswamy wrote in the letter. “You require a complete, ground-up re-think of every single piece of content being produced at the company.”

    “Stay tuned,” Tricia McLaughlin, a spokesperson for Ramaswamy, told The Post when asked for additional comment on Tuesday.

    Maher, the host of HBO’s “Real Time with Bill Maher,” is a former comedian and actor who has carved out a niche as a political commentator.

    Carlson, the former Fox News prime time star, formed his own media outlet that includes a streaming talk show available to subscribers.

    Barkley, the retired basketball Hall of Famer turned commentator, is a co-host of the popular “Inside the NBA” studio show on TNT.

    But all indications are that the NBA will turn its back on TNT parent company Warner Bros. Discovery and grant broadcast rights to NBCUniversal when its television contract expires at the end of next season — meaning that “Inside the NBA” will wrap up its decades-long run in a year from now.

    In light of the uncertainty surrounding TNT’s relationship with the NBA, Barkley’s future has been the subject of speculation.

    Rodgers, the Super Bowl-winning quarterback who is in the twilight of his career with the New York Jets, has generated buzz with his appearances on Pat McAfee’s popular podcast.

    The NFL star reportedly was in the running to be Robert F. Kennedy, Jr’s vice presidential candidate.

    As of Tuesday, BuzzFeed was trading at just shy of $3 a share — a far cry from the $40 a share that it boasted just three years ago.

    Earlier this month, BuzzFeed reported a first-quarter loss of $35.7 million, or 72 cents per share, on revenue of $44.8 million.

    Advertising revenue fell 22%, while content revenue declined 19% and the company is projecting a worsening revenue situation.

    BuzzFeed has struggled to prop up sales since it went public in 2021.

    In late 2022 job cuts began rolling out with the company citing a poor digital advertising environment, then early last year announced that it was shutting down its Pulitzer Prize winning digital media outlet BuzzFeed News.

    Peretti said in a memo to staff at the time that in addition to the news division, layoffs would take place in its business, content, tech and administrative teams.

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    Daily Beast Scrambles to Recruit Stelter Amid Massive Layoffs

    Citizen Frank



    Newly-installed Daily Beast boss Joanna Coles is scrambling to hire boldface names like ousted CNN host Brian Stelter – as she sharpens the ax to slash more than a third of the staff, The Post has learned.

    Coles — who was brought in by media mogul Barry Diller along with Disney bigwig Ben Sherwood last month to resuscitate the floundering news site — reached out to Stelter, the former anchor of CNN’s now-defunct “Reliable Sources,” to run the Beast’s media coverage, sources close to the situation told The Post on Tuesday.

    Coles’ purported attempt to lure Stelter comes as the outlet confirmed Tuesday that it offered voluntary buyouts to its 37 unionized staffers.

    A source close to The Beast said roughly 30% are expected to grab the lifeline before it expires in mid-June.

    “You either take the buyout or risk being laid off, as Coles wants to create a newsroom in her own image,” the source said, noting that layoffs will “likely be even worse” than the 30% figure.

    Coles and Sherwood hope to reap $1.5 million in cost savings from the union cuts, on top of the “millions” they are saving by reducing their footprint in the Frank Gehry-designed headquarters in Manhattan’s posh Chelsea neighborhood, another source said.

    Management has proposed a buyout package that would give the average Beast employee who has been at the company between two and four years roughly three to four months of pay, the first source noted.

    “The voluntary buyouts are part of a larger plan to reduce spending, grow revenue and put The Beast into a healthy and sustainable financial position,” a Beast spokesperson told The Post.

    “Everyone in digital media is facing tough choices. These buyouts are especially hard because we know some talented and valued colleagues will decide to leave next month. Throughout this process, we remain fully committed to The Beast’s core mission — great independent journalism that makes a difference.”

    The insider added that the heads of the non-unionized senior editors are also on the chopping block, including Daily Beast editor in chief Tracy Connor, as The Post previously reported.

    A second source said that job cuts will also hit the publication’s business side in the coming months.

    The rep would not comment on Connor’s future or that of other section heads.

    Coles, 61, was named chief creative and content officer after Diller gave her and Sherwood a minority stake in the tabloid-inspired site.

    Since grabbing the reins, the British-born editor has intimidated staffers with pointed questions about who they are and how they want to cover their beats, sparking anxiety over the possibility that they’d be replaced by new reporters with better ideas, sources told The Post.

    Employees are walking a tightrope in trying to please Coles — who is swanning around the office, the first source said. Meanwhile, Connor and executive editor Katie Baker have been laying low.

    “While Coles remains rather jovial and happy in the office, others feel as if the world is ending as they face the prospect of unemployment,” the source said.

    “No one has any idea who they should report to…Are Katie and Tracy still alive?”

    Ruffled by the changes and by Coles’ sometimes cheeky editorial direction — which includes covering lighter fare like Meghan Markle’s jam — a handful of journalists ran for the exits, including Washington DC bureau chief Matt Fuller.

    The staff was further demoralized by Coles’ announcement that the company would shrink its presence on the fifth floor of the sail-shaped IAC building, turning the newsroom into a “bullpen.”

    Coles, a former Guardian editor and Hearst exec, has hired Martin Pengelly, a longtime journalist at the UK-based publication, who in turn has tried to recruit other staffers, including reporter Hugo Lowell.

    Sources said Coles is also oddly obsessed with bringing on Hollywood writers to help punch up the site’s humor and culture coverage.

    She tapped Jill Twiss, a former writer for “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver,” who penned a listicle on former New York City mayor Rudy Guiliani, entitled: “7 More Embarrassing Things Rudy’s Done Than Peeing on Zoom,” among other things.

    She also hired Nell Scovell, a comedy writer who created the TV series “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” to write listicles, including “5 Rock Solid Theories on What Went Wrong for J.Lo and Ben,” as well as some opinion pieces on former President Donald Trump.

    The tension in the office has seemingly filtered down to Connor’s dog, Pearl, who has had “accidents” in the pet-friendly office.

    “Tracy’s dog crapped in the office,” a well-placed source said. “It triggered a complaint from a worker in the facilities department and now all dogs need to be on leashes!”

    There soon may be an edict issued that bans dogs from the office, the source added.

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    Judge Cannon Denies Jack Smith’s Request for Gag Order Against Trump

    Citizen Frank



    Judge Aileen Cannon rejected special counsel Jack Smith’s request that former President Donald Trump be barred from speaking about the law enforcement agents who searched his Florida home for classified documents.

    On Friday, Smith requested that Trump be barred from talking about the law enforcement agents who searched his home for their safety. Cannon said Smith’s request was “wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy” due to the timing of the request.

    “Sufficient time needs to be afforded to permit reasonable evaluation of the requested relief by opposing counsel and to allow adequate follow-up discussions as necessary,” Cannon wrote in response to Smith’s motion.

    “Because the filing of the Special Counsel’s motion did not adhere to these basic requirements, it is due to be denied without prejudice,” Cannon said.

    Cannon’s ruling echoes a motion Trump’s legal team filed on Monday, requesting Smith be sanctioned for his Friday evening request.

    They said the motion was filed Friday at 5:30 p.m. ahead of the Memorial Day weekend holiday, to which Trump’s team responded within 10 minutes.

    “We noted the suspicious timing of the communication,” the filing from Trump’s legal team said. Trump’s lawyers said they offered to meet with Smith’s team Monday evening, to which the special counsel called a conferral a “fruitless exercise.”

    On Friday afternoon, Smith requested a gag order against Trump because of the claim Trump made last week regarding the FBI agents who searched his home in August 2022, stating they were “authorized to shoot me” and were “locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.”

    During the search, the FBI followed a standard use-of-force policy that prohibits the use of deadly force except when the officer has a reasonable belief that the subject being searched has an intent to harm the officer or another person.

    Cannon laid the groundwork for future motions and said failure to comply may result in sanctions.

    “Any future, non-emergency motion brought in this case — whether on the topic of release conditions or anything else — shall not be filed absent meaningful, timely, and professional conferral,” Cannon said.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Report: Secret Service Met with Jail Officials to Prepare for Possible Trump Imprisonment

    Citizen Frank



    The Secret Service has reportedly met with jail officials in New York in anticipation of a possible conviction in former President Donald Trump‘s hush-money case.

    A corrections source told CBS News that such preparations were underway as the Manhattan trial reached closing arguments and jury deliberations this week.

    The report said corrections officers would be responsible for protecting any Secret Service agents tasked with safeguarding Trump if he spends any time behind bars.

    Although the location of where Trump might serve jail time remains unclear, CBS noted shorter sentences can be served at the Rikers Island complex, which has two wings typically used for high-profile inmates.

    Trump’s allies expressed outrage in response to the report, criticizing the case brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and pointing out how the defendant himself is a candidate for the presidency.

    “Today the government is trying to throw the leading candidate for President in prison on bogus charges in a city stacked with far left jurors,” political commentator Robby Starbuck said on X.

    “The lack of evidence won’t matter to many of these lunatics. Total commies. Trump’s only way out is if some sane people got on the jury,” he added.

    Social media influencer Rogan O’Handley, better known as “DC Draino,” said, “If Biden puts Trump in jail, Trump will win in a landslide we haven’t [seen] since Reagan.”

    The case involves 34 felony counts of falsifying business records to allegedly cover up damaging information as part of a “catch-and-kill” scheme to influence the 2016 election.

    Trump, who has pleaded not guilty to the charges, is also trying to fend off other criminal matters ahead of a potential 2020 rematch against President Joe Biden in November’s White House contest.

    If Trump is convicted in New York, POLITICO said the presiding judge would schedule a separate hearing to determine a sentence. He may not end up serving any prison time, with possible alternatives including probation or community service.

    During closing arguments, defense lawyer Todd got a scolding from Judge Juan Merchan for suggesting to the jury that Trump could go to jail if convicted, according to The Washington Post.

    “That was outrageous, Mr. Blanche. Someone who’s been a prosecutor as long as you have, someone who’s been an attorney as long as you have knows that is highly inappropriate,” he said.

    Merchan also reportedly announced that he would give the jury a curative instruction after a lunch break.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    Politico: Dems in Full-Blown ‘Freakout’ Over Biden

    Citizen Frank



    President Biden’s consistently poor polling is triggering panic among Democratic operatives with a little more than five months to go before his likely election rematch against Donald Trump.

    The outlook has grown so dire, Politico reported Tuesday, that one adviser to major party donors has been circulating a running tally of nearly two dozen reasons why the incumbent is in trouble — including his age, frustration over immigration and inflation, and the unpopularity of Vice President Kamala Harris.

    “Donors ask me on an hourly basis about what I think,” the adviser told the outlet, adding that it’s “so much easier to show them, so while they read it, I can pour a drink.”

    “The list of why we ‘could’ win is so small, I don’t even need to keep the list on my phone,” the person went on.

    “You don’t want to be that guy who is on the record saying ‘We’re doomed,’ or ‘The campaign’s bad’ or ‘Biden’s making mistakes.’ Nobody wants to be that guy,” one Democratic operative in close touch with the White House told Politico, explaining why the president’s allies are putting on a brave face while privately having a “freakout” about the election’s perceived stakes.

    “This isn’t, ‘Oh my God, Mitt Romney might become president,’” the operative added. “It’s ‘Oh my God, the democracy might end.’”

    In addition to polls showing Trump, 77, leading Biden, 81, in the battleground states that will likely decide the presidency, the 45th president is also catching up in the money race.

    In April, the Trump campaign and Republican National Committee outraised the Biden campaign and the Democrats by $25 million — including a record $50.5 million cash grab from an April 6 event in Palm Beach.

    The money gap triggered an urgent appeal from Democratic Massachusetts Gov. Maura Healey when Biden visited Boston for a pair of fundraisers last week.

    “To those of you who opened up your wallets, thank you,” Healey told the donors. “We’d like you to open them up a little bit more and to find more patriots — more patriots who believe in this country, who recognize and understand the challenge presented at this time.”

    The presumptive Republican nominee has also not been shy about courting traditional Democratic voting blocs, including black and Hispanic voters at a rally in the South Bronx last week.

    “New York Democrats need to wake up,” said Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine. “The number of people in New York, including people of color that I come across who are saying positive things about Trump, is alarming.”

    “I’m worried it’s going to be a 2022 situation, where everyone wakes up in the last seven weeks and has to scramble.”

    “The election is more competitive than it should be, given the wretchedness of who Donald Trump is,” admitted South Bronx Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY). “In a properly functioning democracy, Donald Trump should have no viable path to the presidency. The fact of a competitive race is cause for concern.”

    The Biden campaign dismissed the former president’s recent events in New York and New Jersey as “photo ops and PR stunts.”

    “The work we do every day on the ground and on the airwaves in our battleground states — to talk about how President Biden is fighting for the middle class against the corporate greed that’s keeping prices high, and highlight Donald Trump’s anti-American campaign for revenge and retribution and abortion bans — is the work that will again secure us the White House,” spokesman Kevin Munoz told Politico.

    “We have to run a campaign, where honestly, we drive home the message that Donald Trump takes us back to the 19th century. Biden takes us further into the 21st century,” agreed Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.), who declined to say whether he thought the president’s campaign was doing a good enough job making that point.

    “There’s still a path to win this, but they don’t look like a campaign that’s embarking on that path right now,” said longtime Democratic strategist Pete Giangreco in dissent.

    “If the frame of this race is, ‘What was better, the 3.5 years under Biden or four years under Trump?,’ we lose that every day of the week and twice on Sunday,” he added.

    “In 2020, there was enough energy to get Donald Trump out and there were other things on the ballot that brought young people out in subsequent elections,” suggested Michigan state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky, a Democrat.

    “That’s not the case this time. I worry that because we’ve had four years with a stable White House, particularly young voters don’t feel that sense of urgency and might not remember how disastrous 2017 was right after the Trump administration took over.”

    California RNC Committeewoman Harmeet Dhillon backed Pohutsky’s diagnosis, saying no Democrats are expressing enthusiasm to her for the octogenarian commander-in-chief.

    “The most diplomatic thing I hear from Democrats,” she told Politico, “is, ‘Oh my God, are these the choices we have for president?’”

    Go deeper ( 3 min. read ) ➝


    ‘Faggotry’: Pope Francis Apologizes for Using Vulgar Italian Slur to Refer to LGBTQ

    Citizen Frank



    Pope Francis apologized Tuesday after he was quoted using a vulgar term about gays to reaffirm the Catholic Church’s ban on gay priests.

    Vatican spokesman Matteo Bruni issued a statement acknowledging the media storm that erupted about Francis’ comments, which were delivered behind closed doors to Italian bishops on May 20.

    Italian media on Monday had quoted unnamed Italian bishops in reporting that Francis jokingly used the term “faggotness” while speaking in Italian during the encounter.

    He had used the term in reaffirming the Vatican’s ban on allowing gay men to enter seminaries and be ordained priests.

    Bruni said Francis was aware of the reports and recalled that the Argentine pope, who has made outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics a hallmark of his papacy, has long insisted there was “room for everyone” in the Catholic Church.

    “The pope never intended to offend or express himself in homophobic terms, and he extends his apologies to those who were offended by the use of a term that was reported by others,” Bruni said.

    Francis was addressing an assembly of the Italian bishops conference, which recently approved a new document outlining training for Italian seminarians. The document, which hasn’t been published pending review by the Holy See, reportedly sought to open some wiggle room in the Vatican’s absolute ban on gay priests.

    The Vatican ban was articulated in a 2005 document from the Congregation for Catholic Education, and later repeated in a subsequent document in 2016, which said the church cannot admit to seminaries or ordain men who “practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called gay culture.”

    Francis strongly reaffirmed that position in his May 20 meeting with the Italian bishops, joking that “there is already an air of faggotness” in seminaries, the Italian media reported, after initial reporting from gossip site Dagospia.

    Italian is not Francis’ mother tongue language, and the Argentine pope has made linguistic gaffes in the past that raised eyebrows. The 87-year-old Argentine pope often speaks informally, jokes using slang and even curses in private.

    He has been known for his outreach to LGBTQ+ Catholics, however, starting from his famous “Who am I to judge” comment in 2013 about a priest who purportedly had a gay lover in his past.

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝


    House GOP Investigates NIH Officer in COVID Cover-Up Inquiry

    Citizen Frank



    House Republicans are examining evidence that top leadership at the National Institutes of Health intentionally avoided compliance with Freedom of Information Act requests and other oversight efforts during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

    Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Pandemic Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-OH) wrote to current NIH Director Monica Bertagnolli on Tuesday requesting more information regarding the agency’s document retention, personal email, and FOIA policies.

    His inquiry follows the revelation that the former senior adviser to Dr. Anthony Fauci at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, David Morens, used his personal email address to avoid FOIA and received assistance from the agency’s “foia lady” to obfuscate public records requests.

    “This evidence taken together suggests a conspiracy at the highest levels of NIH and NIAID to avoid public transparency regarding the COVID-19 pandemic,” Wenstrup wrote to Bertagnolli. “If what appears in these documents is true, this is an apparent attack on public trust and must be met with swift enforcement and consequences for those involved.”

    In an email chain between Morens and former NIH employee Gerald Keusch in February 2021, Morens referenced the so-called “foia lady” instructing him how to delete emails from NIH records.

    Keusch advised Morens to use his personal email address to discuss sensitive information regarding COVID-19 in order to protect their mutual friend Peter Daszak, the head of EcoHealth Alliance, which had funded coronavirus research in Wuhan, China, using an NIH grant.

    “You are right, i need to be more careful,” Morens responded to Keusch. “However, as i mentioned once before, i learned from our foia lady here how to make emails disappear after i am foia’d but before the search starts, so i think we are all safe. Plus i deleted most of those earlier emails after sending them to gmail.”

    Neither the emails nor the letter from Wenstrup references the NIAID FOIA office by name. The chairman of the full Oversight Committee, Rep. James Comer (R-KY), however, confirmed with Morens that the “foia lady” was Margaret Moore, who has subsequently retired from the agency.

    Morens told the select subcommittee when testifying in an open hearing last week that he had been in contact with the public records officer for NIAID but she had said there was no way to delete emails permanently from NIH records.

    Fauci’s top adviser also told the subcommittee last week that he did not realize emails from his government account constituted federal records.

    Evidence also uncovered by the subcommittee indicates that NIAID staff routinely misspelled keywords in their day-to-day email correspondence, such as COVID-19 and EcoHealth, in order to avoid FOIA requests with specific keyword searches.

    “After an agency receives a FOIA request, it is common to employ key word search terms to identify and subsequently produce responsive documents to the requester,” Wenstrup wrote to Bertagnolli. “However, it can be undermined by government employees that strategically use language to avoid key word searches.”

    A Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson told the Washington Examiner that the department had received the letter and “will respond directly to the Chairman.”

    Although the select subcommittee is sharply divided on the origins of COVID-19, there is strong bipartisan agreement that accountability for any corruption in government health agencies is essential to restoring public trust.

    A spokesperson for the subcommittee Democrats told the Washington Examiner that they “consider recordkeeping requirements to be an important tool for promoting transparency to American taxpayers so that they can continue to maintain the highest degree of confidence in our nation’s premier scientific and public health agencies.”

    The leading Democrat on the subcommittee, Raul Ruiz (D-CA), said in his opening statement at Morens’s hearing last week that the adviser’s behavior “willingly betrays decades of dedication, diligence, and decorum for the thousands of federal scientists and public health workers who came before [him].”

    “It is not anti-science to hold you accountable for defying the public’s trust and misusing official resources,” Ruiz said to Morens.

    Wenstrup requested a briefing from the NIH regarding the agency’s records policy to occur no later than June 4, one day after Fauci is scheduled to testify before the subcommittee.

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