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US and Iran Held Indirect Talks This Week
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Two top Biden administration officials held indirect talks with Iranian officials in Oman this week on how to avoid escalating regional attacks, Axios reported.

The talks — involving President Biden’s top Middle East adviser, Brett McGurk, and Abram Paley the acting U.S. envoy for Iran — were the first round of discussions between the U.S. and Iran since January, when similar negotiations were held in Oman.

The talks occurred just over a month after Iran’s unprecedented missile assault on Israel on April 13.

The attack put the Middle East on the cusp of a regional war.

Iran fired 350 ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel in retaliation for Israel’s assassination of Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a top Iranian Quds Force general in charge of that nation’s military operations in Lebanon and Syria.

It was the first-ever direct attack on Israel that had been launched from Iranian soil.

Zahedi had been killed in an Israeli airstrike that targeted a building near the Iranian Embassy in Damascus.

Iran’s attack was defeated in an unprecedented joint air and missile defense effort by Israel, the U.S., the U.K., France, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Several days after the attack, Israel responded with a targeted strike on an S-300 air defense system at Iranian air force base.

One of the Biden administration’s main goals since Oct. 7 has been to prevent the Gaza conflict from leading to a regional war.

The U.S. thinks Iran has a lot of influence over its proxies in the region.

Those include Hezbollah in Lebanon, the pro-Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq that conducted attacks against U.S. forces, and the Houthis in Yemen who still attack ships in the Red Sea.

McGurk and Paley arrived in Oman on Tuesday and met with Omani mediators, the sources said.

It’s unclear who represented Iran at the talks.

The sources said the talks focused on clarifying the consequences of actions by Iran and its proxies in the region and to discuss U.S. concerns regarding the status of Iran’s nuclear program.

Several Iranian officials hinted in recent weeks about the possibility of Iran moving toward production of nuclear weapons.

Vedant Patel, the State Department’s deputy spokesperson, said Monday the Biden administration has ways to communicate with Iran when necessary.

“The Biden administration continues to assess that Iran is not currently undertaking the key activities that would be necessary to produce a testable nuclear device,” he said.

Patel added that the U.S. doesn’t believe Iran’s supreme leader has made a decision “to resume the weaponization program that we judge Iran suspended or stopped at the end of 2003.”

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Kansas Sues Pfizer Over ‘Misrepresentations’ and ‘Adverse Events’ of COVID Vaccine

The state of Kansas has filed a lawsuit against pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Inc. for alleged consumer protection violations related to the company’s manufacturing of the COVID-19 vaccine, saying the company marketed the shot as “safe” even though it “knew” the vaccine was connected to “serious adverse events.”

“Pfizer misled the public that it had a ‘safe and effective’ COVID-19 vaccine,” the 69-page lawsuit filed Monday in the District Court of Thomas County alleges.

“Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine was safe even though it knew its COVID-19 vaccine was connected to serious adverse events, including myocarditis and pericarditis, failed pregnancies, and deaths. Pfizer concealed this critical safety information from the public,” the suit alleges.

“Pfizer said its COVID-19 vaccine was effective even though it knew its COVID-19 vaccine waned over time and did not protect against COVID-19 variants. Pfizer concealed this critical effectiveness information from the public,” it says.

The lawsuit alleges that the company’s “actions and statements relating to its COVID-19 vaccine” violated the Kansas Consumer Protection Act, “regardless of whether any individual consumer ultimately received Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.”

“Pfizer must be held accountable for falsely representing the benefits of its COVID-19 vaccine while concealing and suppressing the truth about its vaccine’s safety risks, waning effectiveness, and inability to prevent transmission,” the lawsuit says.

The suit, filed by Republican Attorney General Kris Kobach, alleges that through the company’s “misrepresentations” of the vaccine, it earned “record company revenue” of approximately $75 billion in just two years.

The lawsuit alleges that “millions of Kansans heard Pfizer’s misrepresentations about its COVID-19 vaccine.”

“For example, Pfizer administered 3,355,518 Pfizer vaccine doses in Kansas as of February 7, 2024. This accounted for more than 60% of all vaccine doses in Kansas,” the lawsuit alleges, citing the state’s Department of Health Data.

The lawsuit alleges that Pfizer used various methods to “conceal critical data” related to the “safety and effectiveness” of the vaccine, including using confidentiality agreements, an extended timeline, and destroying the control group participating in its vaccine trial.

“Because Pfizer unblinded the original control group and allowed them to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, Pfizer, government regulators, and independent scientists cannot fully compare the safety and efficacy of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine against unvaccinated individuals,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Pfizer’s extensive and aggressive efforts to keep its COVID-19 vaccine information hidden conflict with its public transparency pledges and raise serious questions about what Pfizer is hiding and why it is hiding it,” it says.

The lawsuit also alleges that Pfizer failed to disclose the limitations of its COVID-19 vaccine trials.

“When Pfizer announced that the FDA had authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use, Pfizer did not disclose that its trial included only healthy individuals and excluded unhealthy individuals,” the suit claims.

“Pfizer made representations about its COVID-19 vaccine’s safety knowingly or with reason to know that it did not possess a reasonable basis to represent that it was safe for individuals who had been diagnosed with COVID-19, who were immunocompromised, or who were pregnant or breastfeeding,” it alleges.

The suit also claims that Pfizer had knowledge of “safety issues” with the COVID-19 vaccine.

Kobach alleges that Pfizer maintained its own adverse events database, separate from the Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System (VAERS) system, that “contain[ed] cases of [adverse events (AEs)] reported spontaneously to Pfizer, cases reported by the health authorities, cases published in the medical literature, cases from Pfizer-sponsored marketing programs, non-interventional studies, and cases of serious AEs reported from clinical studies regardless of causality assessment.”

“Upon information and belief, Pfizer’s adverse events database contained more adverse event data than VAERS because it included both information in VAERS and information not in VAERS,” the lawsuit alleges.

“Pfizer did not publicly release adverse events data from its database,” Kobach claims.

In a statement to Fox News Digital, Pfizer said: “We are proud to have developed the COVID-19 vaccine in record time in the midst of a global pandemic and saved countless lives. The representations made by Pfizer about its COVID-19 vaccine have been accurate and science-based. The Company believes that the state’s case has no merit and will respond to the suit in due course.”

“Pfizer is deeply committed to the well-being of the patients it serves and has no higher priority than ensuring the safety and effectiveness of its treatments and vaccines. Since its initial authorization by FDA in December 2020, the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been administered to more than 1.5 billion people, demonstrated a favorable safety profile in all age groups, and helped protect against severe COVID-19 outcomes, including hospitalization and death,” the company said.

“Patient safety is our number one priority, which is why we follow diligent safety and monitoring protocols,” it added.

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Celtics Win 18th Championship with Game 5 Victory Over Mavericks

Jayson Tatum put his hands behind his head, with TD Garden fans standing on their feet cheering around him, and took it all in.

Walking to the bench, he wrapped both arms around Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla.

The journey was complete.

The Boston Celtics again stand alone among NBA champions.

Tatum had 31 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds, and the Celtics topped the Dallas Mavericks 106-88 on Monday night to win the franchise’s 18th championship, breaking a tie with the Los Angeles Lakers for the most in league history.

Boston earned its latest title on the 16th anniversary of hoisting its last Larry O’Brien Trophy in 2008. It marks the 13th championship won this century by one of the city’s Big 4 professional sports franchises.

“It means the world,” Tatum said on stage after the team received the trophy from NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “It’s been a long time. And damn I’m grateful.”

Jaylen Brown added 21 points, eight rebounds and six assists, and was voted the NBA Finals MVP.

“I share this with my brothers and my partner in crime Jayson Tatum,” Brown said after the 107th career playoff game he and Tatum have played together — the most for any duo before winning a title.

Jrue Holiday finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds. Center Kristaps Porzingis also provided an emotional lift, returning from a two-game absence because of a dislocated tendon in his left ankle to chip in five points in 17 minutes.

They helped the Celtics cap a postseason that saw them go 16-3 and finish with an 80-21 overall record. That .792 winning percentage ranks second in team history behind only the Celtics’ 1985-86 championship team that finished 82-18 (.820).

Mazzulla, in his second season, at age 35 also became the youngest coach since Bill Russell in 1969 to lead a team to a championship.

“You have very few chances in life to be great,” Mazzulla said.

Luka Doncic finished with 28 points and 12 rebounds for Dallas, which failed to extend the series after avoiding a sweep with a 38-point win in Game 4. The Mavericks had been 3-0 in Game 5s this postseason, with Doncic scoring at least 31 points in each of them. He said the chest, right knee and left ankle injuries he played through during the finals weren’t an excuse for Dallas struggling throughout the series.

“It doesn’t matter if I was hurt, how much was I hurt. I was out there,” he said. “I tried to play, but I didn’t do enough.”

Kyrie Irving finished with just 15 points on 5-of-16 shooting and has lost 13 of the last 14 meetings against the Celtics team he left in the summer of 2019 to join the Brooklyn Nets.

Irving thinks better things are ahead for the Mavs.

“I see an opportunity for us to really build our future in a positive manner, where this is almost like a regular thing for us and we’re competing for championships,” he said.

NBA teams are now 0-157 in postseason series after falling into a 3-0 deficit.

Mavs coach Jason Kidd believes Doncic and his team will grow from this NBA Finals experience.

“I think the first step is just to be in it. I think that’s a big thing,” he said. “Yes, we lost 4-1, but I thought the group fought against the Celtics and just, unfortunately, we just couldn’t make shots when we had to, or we turned the ball over and they took full advantage of that.”

Boston never trailed and led by as many as 26, feeding off the energy of the Garden crowd.

Dallas was within 16-15 early before the Celtics closed the first quarter on a 12-3 run that included eight combined points by Tatum and Brown.

The Celtics did it again in the second quarter when the Mavericks trimmed what had been a 15-point deficit to nine. Boston ended the period with a 19-7 spurt that was capped by a a half-court buzzer beater by Payton Pritchard – his second such shot of the series – to give Boston a 67-46 halftime lead.

Over the last two minutes of the first and second quarters, the Celtics outscored the Mavericks 22-4.

The Celtics never looked back.

Russell’s widow, Jeannine Russell, and his daughter Karen Russell were in TD Garden to salute the newest generation of Celtics champions.

They watched current Celtics stars Tatum and Brown earn their first rings. It was the trade that sent 2008 champions Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn in 2013 that netted Boston the draft picks it eventually used to select Brown and Tatum third overall in back-to-back drafts in 2016 and 2017.

The All-Stars came into their own this season, leading a Celtics team that was built around taking and making a high number of 3-pointers, and a defense that rated as the league’s best during the regular season.

The duo made it to at least the Eastern Conference finals as teammates four previous times.

They finally reached the finish line in their fifth deep playoff run together.

After both struggling at times offensively in the series, Tatum and Brown hit a groove in Game 5, combining for 31 points and 11 assists in the first half.

It helped bring out all the attributes that made Boston the NBA’s most formidable team this postseason – spreading teams out, sharing the ball, and causing havoc on defense. And even chipping a tooth, like Derrick White did after he was landed on by Dereck Lively II.

“I’ll lose all my teeth for a championship,” White said.

And it put a championship bow on a dizzying stretch for the Celtics, that saw them lose in the finals to the Golden State Warriors in 2022 and then fail to return last season after a Game 7 home loss to the Miami Heat in the conference finals.

Tatum vowed that night to erase the sting of those disappointments.

Standing in a sea of confetti Monday night he was reminded by his 6-year-old son, Deuce, of what he’d accomplished.

“He told me that I was the best in the world,” Tatum said. “I said, ‘You’re damn right I am.’”

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NJ Dem Kingmaker Indicted on Racketeering Charges

George Norcross, who for decades had been a Democratic political kingmaker in New Jersey, was charged with racketeering in an indictment unsealed Monday.

Norcross’s brother, Phillip Norcross, and four other defendants also were charged in the 13-count, 111-page indictment filed by New Jersey Attorney General Matthew Platkin.

Platkin accused George Norcross of leading a “criminal enterprise” in South Jersey that used political influence to tailor economic redevelopment along the waterfront of Camden, New Jersey to suit the defendants’ financial interests, extorting and pressuring others to obtain property rights and tax incentive credits linked to the development efforts.

“The entities that benefitted, including Cooper Health and [the insurance firm Conner Strong & Buckelew CSB] then occupied the properties they obtained interests in and sold the tax credits they obtained for millions of dollars,” the indictment said.

George Norcross, a 68-year-old insurance executive and former member of the Democratic National Committee, was chair of the board of trustes of Cooper University Health Care and chair of Conner Strong & Buckelew.

Now a resident of Florida, George Norcross was in attendance at a press conference Platkin gave on the charges Monday in Trenton.

“The indictment unsealed today alleges that George Norcross has been running a criminal enterprise in this state for at least the last twelve years,” said Platkin.

“On full display in this indictment is how a group of unelected, private businessmen used their power and influence to get government to aid their criminal enterprise and further its interests,” the attorney general said. “The alleged conduct of the Norcross Enterprise has caused great harm to individuals, businesses, non-profits, the people of the State of New Jersey, and especially the City of Camden and its residents.”

“That stops today,” Platkin added.

The indictment says that Norcross’ criminal conduct included threatening a developer who had held the waterfront property rights necessary for the Norcross enterprise to build the tallest building on the Camden waterfront.

“When the developer would not relinquish his rights on terms preferred by George E. Norcross III, he threatened the developer that he would, in substance and in part, “f**k you up like you’ve never been f**ked up before and told the developer he would make sure the developer never did business in Camden again,” the indictment said.

“In a recorded phone call, [Norcross] later admitted to threatening the developer: ‘I said, `this is unacceptable. If you do this, it will have enormous consequences.’ [The developer] said, `Are you threatening me?′ I said, `Absolutely,′ ” according to the indictment.

Another brother, Donald Norcross, is currently a member of the House of Representatives for a district in southern New Jersey. David Norcross is not charged in the case involving his two brothers.

Phillip Norcross is managing shareholder and CEO of the Parker McCay law firm, and also is chairman of the board of the Cooper Foundation.

The other defendants in the case are William Tambussi, Dana Redd, Sidney Brown and John O’Donnell.

Tambussi is George Norcross’ long-time personal attorney, and counsel to the Camden County Democratic Committee.

Redd is a former mayor of Camden, a former state senator and is the current CEO of Camden Community Partnership.

Brown is the CEO of the trucking and logistics company NFI, and is a member of the board of Cooper Health.

O’Donnell is part of the executive leadership of The Michaels Organization, a residential development company.

The six defendants face a potential sentence of between 10-to-20 years years in prison if they are convicted of the top chaerge of first-degree racketeering.

The other charges facing the defendants include various counts of financial facilitation, misconduct by a corporate official, and official misconduct and conspiring to commit theft by extortion, criminal coercion, financial facilitation, misconduct by a corporate official, and official misconduct.

Donald Norcross became a member of the New Jersey state Assembly in January 2010, and held that post for just a week before he was appointed to replace Redd as as a state senator after she took office as mayor of Camden.

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House Republicans Launch Probe Against Office of Special Counsel for Alleged IRS Whistleblower Retaliation

House Republicans said Monday they are investigating the Justice Department’s Office of Special Counsel on allegations of retaliation against IRS whistleblowers for their disclosures regarding first son Hunter Biden.

The whistleblowers made protected disclosures last year alleging prosecutorial misconduct in the department’s investigation into Biden.

The GOP formalized the probe in a letter Monday to the special counsel’s office that was signed by House Speaker Mike Johnson, Majority Leader Steve Scalise, Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith.

They allege the office, an self-described “independent” federal investigative agency responsible for protecting whistleblowers, failed to publicly correct the record when Special Counsel David Weiss seemed to suggest in a court filing the whistleblowers – Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler – were under investigation for their disclosures to Congress.

Though the investigation did not exist, the OSC did issue a public correction to stem the media speculation that damaged Shapley and Ziegler’s reputation.

Instead, the OSC is investigating the claims of retaliation against the whistleblowers, though its decision to keep the investigation sealed led to unnecessary and negative speculation, the Republicans say.

You can read the full letter.

“IRS whistleblowers Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler have been wholly consistent in their testimony about misconduct and politicization in the Department of Justice’s criminal investigation of Hunter Biden,” the Republican leaders said in a press release.

“They did exactly what an honorable government employee should do: when they witnessed wrongdoing, they reported it responsibly and made legally protected disclosures. Because of their bravery and integrity, we are finally beginning to see steps toward accountability,”

The lawmaker’s also asked the agency to provide answers about its failure to correct the record and ensure there has been no improper influence on OSC investigation into the retaliation claims by the whistleblowers.

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Biden’s Title IX Rule Blocked in 6 More States

A federal judge on June 17 issued an order temporarily blocking the Biden administration’s new Title IX transgender rule in an additional six states. The rule has sparked controversy for changing the definition of “sex” to include “gender identity” and giving female-identifying male students access to girls’ locker rooms and bathrooms.

“There are two sexes: male and female,” begins the memorandum and opinion written by U.S. District Judge Danny C. Reeves, filed on June 17 at the U.S. District Court of the Eastern District of Kentucky, Covington Division.

The judge’s order grants a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the new rule in six states: Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The rule has also been blocked in at least five other states.

Judge Reeves found that the Department of Education (DOE) exceeded its statutory authority in setting the new rules and acted in a way that was “arbitrary and capricious.”

In a move that sparked controversy and a flurry of lawsuits, the DOE on April 19 announced a final rule expanding the decades-old Title IX law that prohibits sex discrimination in schools to now include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”

The changes, which are slated to go into effect on Aug. 1, give males who identify as females the right to use women’s restrooms and locker rooms and to join female-only organizations while construing “harassment” as including the use of pronouns that conform to one’s sex rather than one’s chosen gender identity. The new rules also mean that schools that refuse to comply risk losing essential federal funding and face the prospect of lawsuits.

Judge Reeves said the department failed to meaningfully address concerns regarding risks posed by the new rule to student and faculty safety and that the expanded Title IX has “serious” implications for free speech.

“The rule includes a new definition of sexual harassment which may require educators to use pronouns consistent with a student’s purported gender identity rather than their biological sex,” the judge wrote. “Based on the ‘pervasive’ nature of pronoun usage in everyday life, educators likely would be required to use students’ preferred pronouns regardless of whether doing so conflicts with the educator’s religious or moral beliefs.

“A rule that compels speech and engages in such viewpoint discrimination is impermissible.”

“We are reviewing the ruling,” the spokesperson said. “Title IX guarantees that no person experience sex discrimination in a federally funded educational environment. The Department crafted the final Title IX regulations following a rigorous process to realize the Title IX statutory guarantee. The Department stands by the final Title IX regulations released in April 2024, and we will continue to fight for every student.”

By contrast, Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman praised the ruling.

“The judge’s order makes clear that the U.S. Department of Education’s attempt to redefine ‘sex’ to include ‘gender identity’ is unlawful and beyond the agency’s regulatory authority,” Mr. Coleman said in a statement.

The case in Kentucky is among at least seven backed by more than 20 GOP-led states opposing the Title IX rule.

A Texas judge recently ruled to block enforcement of the new rule in the Lone Star State, while a judge in Louisiana halted its enforcement in Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, and Idaho.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order on March 8, 2021, that formally tasked the DOE with amending Title IX in a way that includes protections for an educational environment free of “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”

The department finalized the Title IX changes in April, expanding the definition of sex discrimination and sex-based harassment.

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Netanyahu Disbands Israeli War Cabinet

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has dissolved the six-member war cabinet, an Israeli official said on Monday, in a widely expected move following the departure from government of centrist former general Benny Gantz.

Netanyahu is now expected to hold consultations about the Gaza war with a small group of ministers, including Defence Minister Yoav Gallant and Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer who had been in the war cabinet.

The move was announced as U.S. special envoy Amos Hochstein visited Jerusalem, seeking to calm the situation on the disputed border with Lebanon, where Israel said tensions with the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia were bringing the region close to a wider conflict.

The Israeli military said on Monday it had killed a senior operative in one of Hezbollah’s rocket and missile sections in the area of Selaa in southern Lebanon.

The military also said its operations were continuing in the southern parts of the Gaza Strip, where its forces have been battling Hamas fighters in the Tel Sultan area of western Rafah, as well as in central areas of the enclave.

Hochstein’s visit follows weeks of increasing exchanges of fire across the line between Israel and Lebanon, where Israeli forces have for months been engaged in a simmering conflict with Hezbollah that has continued alongside the war in Gaza.

Tens of thousands of people have been evacuated from their homes on both sides of the so-called Blue Line that divides the two countries, leaving eerily deserted areas of abandoned villages and farms hit by near-daily bombardment.

“The current state of affairs is not a sustainable reality,” government spokesperson David Mencer told a briefing.

Netanyahu had faced demands from the nationalist-religious partners in his coalition, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich and National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir, to be included in the war cabinet. Such a move would have intensified strains with international partners including the United States.

The forum was formed after Gantz joined Netanyahu in a national unity government at the start of the Gaza war in October. It also included Gantz’s political partner Gadi Eisenkot and Aryeh Deri, head of the religious party Shas, as observers.

Gantz and Eisenkot both left the government last week, over what they said was Netanyahu’s failure to form a strategy for the Gaza war.

Protests

An agreement to halt the fighting in Gaza still appears distant, more than eight months since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel led by Hamas fighters that triggered Israel’s military offensive in the Palestinian enclave.

The Oct. 7 attack killed some 1,200 people and about 250 were taken hostage, according to Israeli tallies. Israel’s offensive has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians, according to Palestinian health ministry figures, and destroyed much of Gaza.

Although opinion polls suggest most Israelis support the government’s aim of destroying Hamas, there have been widespread protests attacking the government for not doing more to bring home around 120 hostages still being held in Gaza and against Netanyahu’s handling of the war.

Protesters calling for new elections clashed with police in Jerusalem on Monday. By sundown, a crowd of thousands had gathered outside the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, before marching to Netanyahu’s private home.

Some protesters tried to break through barriers set up by the police, who pushed them back. At one point a bonfire was lit in the street, and police used a water cannon to disperse the demonstration.

The northern border was relatively quiet on Monday, the second day of the Muslim Eid celebration, compared with previous days, when rocket fire set off widespread brush fires in heatwave conditions.

A survey for the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem-based think tank, found 36% of respondents favouring an immediate strike against Hezbollah, up from 26% a month earlier.

Israeli aircraft and artillery have pounded southern Lebanon and last week killed a senior Hezbollah commander in a strike against a command and control centre that drew a further intensification of attacks.

In addition to attacks by missiles and anti-tank rockets, there has been a marked increase in drone attacks that have underlined the strength of the arsenal Hezbollah has built up since the last major conflict between the two sides in 2006.

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US Surgeon General Calls for Warning Labels on Social-Media Platforms

The U.S. Surgeon General has called for warning labels on social-media platforms, saying urgent action was needed to address a mental-health emergency involving young people.

Warning labels, similar to those on alcohol and tobacco products, should accompany platforms to “regularly remind parents that social media has not been proved safe,” Dr. Vivek Murthy said in an op-ed for the New York Times Monday.

Murthy cited research showing that social media was an important contributor to a growing mental-health crisis among young people.

“Adolescents who spend more than three hours a day on social media face double the risk of anxiety and depression symptoms, and the average daily use in this age group, as of the summer of 2023, was 4.8 hours,” Murthy said.

Murthy has long warned of the risks of social media to young people, urging policymakers and technology companies to increase safeguarding efforts and strengthen standards for younger users.

​​“We are in the middle of a national youth mental health crisis,” he said in a report published last year.

“I am concerned that social media is an important driver of that crisis—one that we must urgently address.”

The report pointed to several studies examining a range of adverse effects of social media on adolescents. Those include online harassment, increased exposure to content related to self-harm and racism, and negative impacts on sleep, body image and physical activity.

The Wall Street Journal’s Facebook Files series in 2021 showed internal research at the company found Instagram was harmful for a percentage of young users, primarily teenage girls with body-image concerns. The research reviewed by the Journal showed the platform made body-image issues worse for a third of teenage girls. Facebook, which became Meta in 2021, scrapped plans to create an Instagram platform tailored to children after lawmakers and others raised concerns over the popular app’s impact on young people’s mental health.

A Meta spokesman said at the time that the investigation was premised on a misunderstanding of issues that also affect other social-media platforms.

Instagram has added more protections for teens in recent years, such as automatically making new accounts for those under 16 years old private.

Government officials, lawmakers and technology companies have for years grappled with how best to manage the issue. Lawmakers in the U.S. and Europe are weighing plans to tighten online age restrictions. Last year, Utah Gov. Spencer Cox, a Republican, signed a law requiring social-media companies to verify users are 18 years or older, and require those under age 18 to receive the consent of a parent or guardian to open an account.

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Major Venues Now Punishing People for Using Cash vs. Plastic

Fans heading to Yankee Stadium hoping to pay in cash at the iconic ballpark for their favorite concessions have been thrown a curveball: go cashless or pay extra.

As the Wall Street Journal reports, Noa Khamallah, a 41-year-old New Yorker, found out the hard way. Looking to enjoy some popcorn and soda at a game, Khamallah was shocked to discover that his cash was as good as obsolete. Instead, he was directed to a “reverse ATM,” where he inserted $200 only to receive a debit card with $196.50 – after he was hit with a $3.50 service fee for the ‘convenience’ of going cash-free.

“It’s just not right,” Khamallah told the outlet, echoing the sentiments of other New Yorkers shocked that what used to save you money – cash payments, now costs more. In some cases, transaction fees have soared more than $6 just for the privilege of spending your own funds.

Indeed, cashless venues and restaurants are popping up across the country, forcing cash lovers to either adapt or pay up as the war on cash continues.

Reverse ATMs like those at Yankee Stadium are now common at cashless venues and restaurants across the country as a way to cater to those who prefer paying in cash. People who want to pay their parking tickets, tolls, taxes or phone bills in cash, meanwhile, often learn that government agencies and businesses have outsourced that option to companies that usually charge a fee.

All that can amount to a penalty on the people who prefer paying cash. Though it is more common to buy things with cards and mobile devices, cash remains the third-most popular way to pay, accounting for 16% of all payments in 2023, according to the Federal Reserve. That’s down 2 percentage points from the year before, continuing a steady decline that accelerated during the pandemic. -WSJ

And it’s not just about convenience or the speed of transactions. Critics argue that the move sidelines those who rely on cash – often the young, the elderly, or the poor.

“To let my 13-year-old go buy a slushy at the amusement park, I’m already out $6,” said Prudence Weaver, 41, who said she would rather be able to use cash on trips to the zoo and other venues vs. paying fees for debit cards. “I understand that there is a place for electronic payment, but I don’t think it should be the only option.”

Despite the digital dominance, cash is still king for a significant chunk of Americans. According to the Federal Reserve, a full 16% of all payments in 2023 were made in cash, down 2% from 2022.

“It’s unbelievable that we actually have to tell retailers, ‘This is U.S. currency and it’s something that should be accepted,’” said Jonathan Alexander, executive director of the Consumer Choice in Payment Coalition, a group of businesses and nonprofits lobbying for the continued acceptance of cash.

The backlash has spurred some action. States like Colorado and Rhode Island have pushed back, banning cashless retail establishments. On Capitol Hill, lawmakers are batting around bills that would make it mandatory for businesses to accept cash for purchases under $500.

But the future of these efforts remains uncertain. In the meantime, companies like RedyRef are cashing in, literally, doubling their shipments of reverse ATMs to keep up with demand from businesses ditching traditional cash transactions.

“It has been a pretty wild shift,” said Will Pymm, senior vice president. “Probably one of the biggest we’ve seen for a specific product, in such a short amount of time.”

Even as venues pocket fees from these new systems, the debate rages on whether this shift truly serves the public or merely lines the pockets of corporate giants. At stadiums, amusement parks, and beyond, the cost of going cashless continues to climb – and it’s everyday consumers who are footing the bill.

So next time you head out to a ball game, remember: bring your plastic, or be prepared to pay up.

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JD Vance Dominates VP Poll at Turning Point Convention

Sen. J.D. Vance cemented his status as frontrunner to become Donald Trump’s running mate on Sunday, coming top in a poll of attendees at Turning Point Action’s People’s Convention in Detroit.

Trump’s pick is the subject of feverish speculation and the grassroots had its say with a poll run over the three day gathering of activists.

When 1,986 people at the Detroit event were asked who they favored out of Vance, North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum and Sens. Marco Rubio and Tim Scott, some 43 percent said they favored senator from Ohio.

Scott was a distant second on 15.4 percent, Rubio took third with 7.7 percent, and Burgum, who in particular has been talked up by Trump in recent weeks, took seven percent.

The poll was conducted by Big Data Poll for Turning Point Action, the grassroots movement founded by Charlie Kirk.

Kirk said Vance was the clear winner.

‘He has consistently been one of President Trump’s most capable and articulate defenders and surrogates and he speaks right to the Midwest Americans who attended our Detroit conference,’ he told DailyMail.com.

‘These are precisely the blue wall voters we need to win in November to reclaim the White House. His message and appeal clearly resonates with this critical voting bloc.’

Insiders say Trump has narrowed his choice down to Vance, Scott, Rubio or Burgum, although he is notorious for changing his mind or throwing in curve balls to keep people guessing.

Vance has become one of Trump’s most visible cheerleaders since being elected to the Senate and can count on his friendship with the former president’s eldest son, Don Jr. to help his case.

He rose to prominence with his 2016 memoir ‘Hillbilly Elegy.’ Its story of living with poverty and observations of addiction in Appalachia became a ‘Rosetta Stone’ for understanding life in forgotten parts of America and the corresponding popularity of Trump.

However, he was an outspoken critic of Trump before becoming one of his closest allies, endorsing the former president early in the 2024 nominating race.

Vance closed Turning Point Action’s gathering in Detroit on Sunday afternoon. He was asked by an audience member what a vice president should do to drive forward Trump’s agenda.

Show loyalty, he answered, without being drawn on his own chances.

‘There are a lot of smart good people that Trump is looking at, but it also applies to our senators. It applies to our congressmen and women too,’ he said.

‘We need to have people who are supporting Trump not trying to stab him in the back. It’s very very simple.’

Last time around, Trump picked Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as a figure who could help win over evangelical Christians who were wary of voting for a thrice-married, trash talking businessman from New York.

This time, however, Trump has let it be known that he believes voters will only look at the top of the ticket, freeing him up to pick a loyalist who will defend him in a crisis.

Turning Point has emerged as a major force in the MAGA movement and has become increasingly influential in GOP politics under Trump.

Attendees were also asked about the Republican Party’s congressional leadership and for their attitudes on policy issues.

Overall they said they disapproved of the performance of Rep Mike Johnson as House speaker. Some 35.4 percent said they ‘strongly disapproved’ and 23.2 percent said they ‘somewhat disapproved.’

In contrast, only 7.9 percent said they ‘strongly approved’ and 23.6 said they ‘somewhat approved.’

Attendees’ Trumpist instincts were clearly on display when they were asked about Sen. Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader who has repeatedly clashed with the former president.

Almost 80 percent said they ‘strongly disapproved’ of his performance.

And a whopping 93.7 percent said they were opposed to sending more aid to Ukraine.

But it is the VP results that will dominate headlines. For his part, Kirk has made no secret that he believes Vance would be the best pick for VP.

‘He is young,’ he told DailyMail.com before the results were released. ‘He has an amazing family and is the only veteran that is being considered of the finalists.

‘But most importantly, he’s a incredibly popular, successful politician from the region of the world where Donald Trump needs to win, which is the Rust Belt.’

There could still be surprises ahead.

On Saturday afternoon, Trump was introduced by Florida Rep. Byron Donalds at a Black church in a marginalized corner of Detroit.

‘He is on the list by the way and I don’t know if he’s gonna make it but he’s, … he’s on a list of a few people right?’ Trump told the crowd before turning to Donalds.

‘Would you like to be VP?’

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WATCH: Biden Appears to Freeze Up, Has to Be Led Off Stage by Obama at Mega-Bucks LA Fundraiser

President Biden appeared to freeze up on stage and had to be led off by Barack Obama at the conclusion of a star-studded campaign fundraiser in Los Angeles Saturday night.

The awkward moment took place after Biden and his predecessor sat for a 45-minute interview with late-night host Jimmy Kimmel at the Peacock Theater.

As the men stood for applause, Biden’s gaze seemed to become fixed on the crowd for a full 10 seconds until former President Barack Obama took his wrist and led him offstage.

The incident follows a spate of caught-on-camera moments where Biden appeared dazed or confused about where he was, including when he appeared to wander off at the G7 summit in Apulia, Italy, during parachute exhibition.

In that instance, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni stepped in to gently take Biden’s hand and lead him back in time for a group photo with other world leaders.

The Biden campaign raised more than $30 million at the event, which was attended by Hollywood luminaries like George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand.

The event was also swarmed by hundreds of anti-Israel protesters, who attempted to block entry to the ritzy gala — tickets for which ranged from $250 to $500,000.

Dozens of police clad in riot gear formed a line outside the theater to prevent the protesters’ advance, who shouted jeers at the President including “Biden, Biden you’re a liar, we demand a ceasefire.”

The group also waved Palestinian flags and chanted “From the river to the sea, Palestine will live forever,” a slight variation on a slogan the Antidefamation League says calls for the eradication of Israel.

No arrests were made, according to the LAPD.

The $30 million haul — reportedly the most a Democratic candidate has ever raised in a single night — comes at a time when the Biden campaign is trying desperately to blunt the fundraising momentum of former President Donald Trump.

Trump raised more than $50 million during an April fundraiser in Florida, and took in tens of millions more after he was found guilty last month in his historic “hush money” trial.

Biden and Obama, as well as First Lady Jill Biden, stirred up the crowd with a collection of common talking points.

The trip hit Trump on everything from the Jan. 6 Capitol riot, to moving the Supreme Court to the right, to threatening retaliation against his political adversaries.

Troubling polling for the Biden administration in recent weeks shows the incumbent lagging Trump in key states such as Arizona, Nevada and Florida.

A particularly ominous survey from Marist College earlier this week even shows Trump has carved out a small lead even in Biden’s boyhood state of Pennsylvania, with a majority of registered voters saying they were better off under the former president.

In an email, the White House hit back at critics who were troubled by the Biden footage, claiming they were, “once again by pretending the President taking in an applauding crowd for a few seconds is somehow wrong.”

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Texas Juneteenth Shooting Update: What We Know About Suspect So Far

Police are searching for a suspect who opened fire during a Juneteenth celebration in Texas over the weekend, killing two people and injuring over a dozen more.

The shooting began shortly before 11 p.m. on Saturday in Old Settlers Park in Round Rock, about 20 miles north of Austin.

Two people were pronounced dead at the scene and 14 more were transported to area hospitals with gunshot wounds, police said.

On Saturday night, the Round Rock Police Department released a description of a suspect they were searching for in connection with the shooting.

The suspect is described as a Black male with a thin build, about 5 feet 7 inches tall, with short dreadlocks.

He was wearing a white hoodie at the time of the incident, police said.

“Turn yourself in,” Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said in a message to the suspect during a press conference on Sunday night, according to CBS Austin.

“Turn yourself in. You’re man enough to carry a gun, pull the trigger. Be man enough to step up and turn yourself in.”

The shooting began after an altercation between two groups during a concert at the Juneteenth celebration in the park, Banks said during a news conference at the scene early on Sunday.

The shooting victims were not involved in the argument, Banks said.

Police officers and fire department personnel at the event immediately responded and began providing medical aid to the injured, Banks said. They were then taken to hospitals, he said.

“It is unfortunate that we were here celebrating a wonderful event and we have a tragedy that happens,” he said. “My thoughts and my prayers go out to the victims. My condolences go out to the families of the deceased.”

Juneteenth marks the day in 1865 when the last enslaved people in the United States learned they were free. Black Americans have celebrated the day with joy for generations, with parades, festivals and cookouts. In 2021, President Joe Biden signed a bill passed by Congress that made Juneteenth, or June 19, a federal holiday.

Anyone with information regarding the whereabouts of the suspect or who may have witnessed the incident is urged to contact Detective Maio at 512-341-3135 or email [email protected].

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the suspect or suspects involved in the shooting.

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Chuck Schumer Deletes Father’s Day Photo Tweet in Front of Grill After Critics Slam His Spatula Skills

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was ready to man the grill on Father’s Day – but couldn’t handle the heat when a slew of food critics on social media questioned his skills with a spatula and a patty.

The Brooklyn-born senator initially posted a photo to X of himself in front of a grill with burger patties and hot dogs – and an ear-to-ear smile.

“Our family has lived in an apartment building for all our years, but my daughter and her wife just bought a house with a backyard and for the first time we’re having a barbeque with hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill!” Schumer tweeted. “Father’s Day Heaven!”

But commenters were quick to grill the New York legislator and wondered if a piece of cheese on a patty was placed there prematurely.

“Chuck. I love you man, but you put the cheese on AFTER the burger is cooked,” one saucy user said.

“Might want to cook that burger longer, Chuck,” another commented.

Ex-National Republican Senatorial Committee Matt Whitlock tweeted, “Seeing that piece of cheese on a raw patty,” with a gif of a concerned Steve Carell slinking away.

But some came to the defense of the 73-year-old married father of two, with one user insisting, “Calm down people, it is not raw/cold, it is a veggie burger patty underneath a slice of tofu.”

“Chuck Schumer is actually doing better than me,” another user tweeted. “Today, my grill had a grease fire and destroyed my Father’s Day ribeye. Yay!”

Schumer deleted the tweet and photo following the onslaught of criticism, though his initial Father’s Day message from Sunday morning remained.

“Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there!” he had tweeted.

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538 Projects Trump to Win, for First Time

Trump is now favored to win the election in November, with 538’s simulations using polling, economic, and demographic data show a four-point lead over Biden.

In the early afternoon, 538 projected Trump winning 50 out of 100 times with Biden winning 49 out of 100 times in their simulations.

In a 2 pm update, Trump’s lead grew, with the former president winning 52 out of 100 times and Biden winning 48 out of 100 times the simulation was run.

Of 1,000 simulations run, Trump came out on top in 509 of them, while Biden won in 487 of the runs. There was no winner in 4 of the simulations.

538 states that its forecast “is based on a combination of polls and campaign ‘fundamentals,’ such as economic conditions, state partisanship and incumbency. It’s not meant to ‘call’ a winner, but rather to give you a sense of how likely each candidate is to win.”

As Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk noted, this is the first time Trump has, in any of his three campaigns, led a 538 forecast.

538’s simulations also found that Trump is more probable as of Friday to win the Electoral College, while Biden is more likely to with the national popular vote. Trump was found to win the Electoral College with less than 350 electoral votes 38 out of 100 times, while Biden won 28 out of 100 times. Biden was found to win the national popular vote 59 out of 100 times while Trump won 41 out of 100 times.

The simulations also found that Trump has a far higher chance of winning at least one state that he did not win in 2020. Trump won one of these states 80 out of 100 times, while Biden won one of these states 48 out of 100 times.

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Washington Post Reporters Probe Their Own Bosses Amid Newsroom Uproar

A 3,000-word Washington Post investigative story about new publisher and CEO William Lewis, plus an incoming top editor, had this surprising sentence: Lewis “declined to comment through a Post spokesperson in response to a list of detailed questions” — from his own reporters.

The storied Post newsroom is in an uproar over Lewis’ handling of several internal controversies over the past two weeks.

The fracas includes increased scrutiny over Lewis’ role in a phone-hacking scandal that rocked Britain’s Fleet Street in the 2000s.

Lewis has denied wrongdoing.

The front pages of Monday’s Post and New York Times both feature articles delving into Lewis’ U.K. past.

The Post’s story, with four bylines, was added to the front page between editions late at night. It explores journalistic ethics questions about Robert Winnett, a London editor who has been named to become the Post’s top editor after November’s election.

Lewis, who worked with Winnett at two British papers, has called him a “brilliant investigative journalist.”

The Times story asserts that in London two decades ago, Lewis “used fraudulently obtained phone and company records in newspaper articles.”

When Axios asked about the Post and Times stories, a Post spokesperson said both times that Lewis declined to comment.

During a series of “Say It” employee listening sessions Lewis held last week, he “said that his role as publisher is to create the environment for great journalism and to encourage and support it, that he will never interfere in the journalism, and that he is very clear about the lines that should not be crossed,” a Post source told us, requesting anonymity.

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James O’Keefe Teases New Undercover Report: ‘The Disney Tapes’

Independent journalist James O’Keefe teased a upcoming report on Sunday, warning that he had undercover video exposing Disney.

O’Keefe made the announcement at a Turning Point USA event, warning people everywhere that they should be careful lest they find themselves the subject of one of his undercover videos and promising to release what he referred to as “The Disney Tapes” sometime in the next week.

“The Disney Tapes,” he captioned the video clip. “6.20.24. Stay tuned.”

“The next time someone is stealing, scamming, defrauding, or simply lying, they might be sitting across from someone that works for me,” O’Keefe warned. “And stay tuned, because next week, we’re going after Disney.”

The crowd cheered and got to their feet, and after a few seconds, began to chant, “USA! USA!”

“That’s right, USA,” O’Keefe replied.

Disney previously landed in the hot seat after Christopher Rufo went public with internal videos exposing the company’s “not at all secret gay agenda” and intentional efforts to infuse young children’s content with LGBTQ themes and characters.

“Our leadership over there has been so welcoming to like, my like, not-at-all secret gay agenda,” Disney executive producer Latoya Raveanu said in reference to the team that worked on “The Proud Family” animated children’s series.

“I felt like … maybe it was that way in the past, but I guess, like, something must have happened,” she added, in response to critics who allege the company was not-so-LGBT-friendly. “They’re turning it around, and then all that momentum that I felt, that sense of ‘I don’t have to be afraid, let’s have these two characters kiss in the background … wherever I could, I was basically adding queerness to the show, if you see anything queer in the show, ‘The Proud Family,’ nobody would stop me and nobody was trying to stop me.”

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Judge Rules Students Who Protested Trans Athlete’s Participation Cannot Be Punished

On Thursday, a West Virginia judge ruled in favor of four middle school girls who refused to compete against a transgender athlete during the Harrison County District track and field championships.

The teen girls protested by purposefully scratching during the shot put competition, which resulted in school officials allegedly banning them from competing in future competitions.

However, Harrison County Judge Thomas Bedell ruled that the girls could not be banned for protesting and granted them a temporary injunction, per WBOY-TV.

The four Lincoln Middle School girls said they were prohibited from competing and were subjected to punishments after participating in a silent protest on April 18 against Becky Pepper-Jackson, a transgender biological male student-athlete from Bridgeport Middle School.

Pepper-Jackson won the competition in a landslide defeat.

“Even though there was no malice found on either part of the defendants, the plaintiffs have met their burden and the temporary injunction has been granted,” said Judge Bedell.

The board of education denied that the girls were subjected to retaliation, arguing that an official school policy forbids any player who “scratches” in an event from competing at the next competition.

“This neutral, school-specific rule was in place before the students’ protests and has nothing to do with those protests in any way,” the board wrote in a statement following the ruling, the Washington Times reported. “Other than not being permitted to participate in the same event in which they scratched at the next track meet, the students have competed in track meets and events following their protests without restriction.”

The scratch rule was unknown to two of the girls, according to their testimony. Additionally, they testified that they were subjected to “Indian runs,” which are also referred to as interval sprints, during the next practice as a means of retaliation.

Their protest occurred two days after the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals declared the state’s 2021 law, which mandated that school athletes participated in competition based on biological sex rather than gender identity, unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a challenge on behalf of Becky Pepper-Jackson.

The outcome of the lawsuit against the Harrison County Board of Education was perceived as a victory for safeguarding women’s sports, although a final injunction decision will be rendered at a later hearing.

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who filed an amicus brief in support of the middle school girls, said he has these students’ backs.

“You saw unfairness and you expressed your disappointment and sacrificed your personal performances in a sport that you love; exercised your constitutionally protected freedom of speech and expression. These girls didn’t disrupt anything when they protested. They should be commended, not punished,” wrote Morrisey in a statement.

Morrisey also vowed to take the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision to the Supreme Court.

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Texas Juneteenth Shooting: 2 Killed, 6 Injured

Two people died and at least six others — including two children — were injured during a shooting at a Juneteenth festival in Texas Saturday night, officials said.

A fight between two groups broke out at around 10:50 p.m. during the Round Rock Juneteenth Celebration.

“During that altercation, someone produced a gun and began to fire,” Round Rock Police Chief Allen Banks said. “Multiple victims were hit.”

Two people, who police said were not part of the altercation, were pronounced dead at the scene.

“We do not have a suspect in custody,” Banks added, saying the suspects fled the area.

A description of the suspect was not provided.

Four adults and two children were rushed to area hospitals with “potentially serious injuries,” according to Austin-Travis County EMS.

“I would like to thank the police officers and fire department for their quick response. I have no doubt that their actions of rendering aid to the victims saved lives,” Banks said.

“It is unfortunate that we are here celebrating a wonderful event and we have a tragedy that happens.”

Banks blasted the senseless actions of the suspect saying it ruined a family’s lives forever.

“Having an event where we are celebrating such an occasion as Juneteenth, and to come together as a community is a terrific monumental event for us, but then when you have it marred by senseless tragedy, it just breaks your heart,” Banks said.

“It breaks your heart for a family who was coming out to enjoy your evening, and now their life is forever changed as a result of somebody who couldn’t care less about somebody else’s life.:

“And that’s so disappointing. Our goal is to put those folks behind bars. And our goal is to get them put away for life.”

Banks vowed to find the gunmen responsible for the deadly shooting, leaving “no stones unturned.”

People had gathered in the 640-acre park outside of Austin for the Juneteenth festival, hosted by a local nonprofit and the city government that included the free concert

DJ Hella Yella, whose real name is Leon O’Neal, and rapper Paul Wall had been booked to perform at the concert.

O’Neal shared a video to X of him on stage, which was recorded “a few minutes before the shooting.”

“Couldn’t even tell anything was going on by the stage,” the DJ said.

The shooting occurred near the vendors’ area away from the concert stage shortly after Wall and his band performed.

“Round Rock, we are praying for everybody,” Wall said in a post on X.

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Obama, Clooney Help Biden Raise $30 Million-Plus at Star-Studded Hollywood Gala

Some of Hollywood’s brightest stars headlined a glitzy fundraiser for President Joe Biden, helping raise what his reelection campaign said was $28 million and hoping to energize would-be supporters for a November election that they argued was among the most important in the nation’s history.

George Clooney, Julia Roberts and Barbra Streisand were among those who took the stage at the 7,100-seat Peacock Theater in Los Angeles on Saturday night. Late-night host Jimmy Kimmel interviewed Biden and former President Barack Obama, who both stressed the need to defeat former President Donald Trump in a race that’s expected to be exceedingly close.

During more than half an hour of discussion, Kimmel asked if the country was suffering from amnesia about the presumptive Republican nominee, to which Biden responded, “all we gotta do is remember what it was like” when Trump was in the White House.

Luminaries from the entertainment world have increasingly lined up to help Biden’s campaign, and just how important the event was to his reelection bid could be seen in the Democratic president’s decision to fly through the night across nine time zones, from the G7 summit in southern Italy to Southern California, to attend.

He also missed a summit in Switzerland about ways to end Russia’s war in Ukraine, instead dispatching Vice President Kamala Harris who made a whirlwind trip of her own to represent the United States there, a stark reminder of the delicate balance between geopolitics and Biden’s bid to win a second term.

Further laying bare the political implications were police in riot gear outside the theater, ready for protests from pro-Palestinian activists angry about his administration’s handling of Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza.

The event featured singing by Jack Black and Sheryl Lee Ralph, and actors Kathryn Hahn and Jason Bateman introduced Kimmel, who introduced Biden and Obama. The comedian deadpanned, “I was told I was getting introduced by Batman, not Bateman.”

But he quickly pivoted to far more serious topics, saying that “so much is at stake in this election” and listing women’s rights, health care and noting that “even the ballot is on the ballot” in a reference to the Biden administration’s calls to expand voting rights.

Kimmel asked the president what he was most proud of accomplishing, and Biden said he thought the administration’s approach to the economy “is working.”

“We have the strongest economy in the world today,” Biden said, adding “we try to give ordinary people an even chance.”

Trump spent Saturday campaigning in Detroit and criticized Biden’s handling of the economy and inflation. The president was fundraising “with out-of-touch elitist Hollywood celebrities,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt said.

But Biden told the crowd in California that “we passed every major piece of legislation we attempted to get done.” And Obama expressed admiration for sweeping legislation on health care, public works, the environment, technology manufacturing, gun safety and other major initiatives that the administration of his former vice president has overseen.

“What we’re seeing now is a byproduct of in 2016. There were a whole bunch of folks who, for whatever reason, sat out,” said Obama, who, like Biden wore a dark suit and a white shirt open at the collar.

Obama, speaking about the Supreme Court, added that “hopefully we have learned our lesson, because these elections matter in very concrete ways.”

Trump nominated three justices who helped overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark decision guaranteeing a constitutional right to an abortion. The audience expressed its displeasure at the mention of Roe, to which Obama responded, “don’t hiss, vote.” That was a play on his common refrain prioritizing voting over booing.

Biden said the person elected president in November could get the chance to nominate two new justices, though a second Biden term probably wouldn’t drastically overhaul a court that currently features a 6-3 conservative majority.

He also suggested if Trump wins back the White House, “one of the scariest parts” was the Supreme Court and how the high court has “never been this far out of step.”

Biden also referenced reports that an upside-down flag, a symbol associated with Trump’s false claims of election fraud, was flown outside the home of Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito in January 2021. He worried Saturday that, if Trump is reelected, “He’s going to appoint two more who fly their flags upside down.”

Kimmel brought his special brand of humor to the event. At one point he asked how can a president get back at a talk-show host who makes fun of him on TV every night.

“Ever hear of Delta Force?” Biden responded, referring to the Army special operations unit.

Earlier in the program, Kimmel noted Biden’s campaign promise to restore the soul of America and said “lately it seems we might need an exorcism.” Then he asked Biden, “Is that why you visited the pope?” Biden and Pope Francis met in Italy on Friday.

Biden’s campaign said it was still counting, but Saturday night’s gathering had taken in at least $28 million, more money than any event for a Democratic candidate in history.

That meant outpacing the president’s fundraiser in March at Radio City Music Hall in New York, which raised $26 million and featured late-night host Stephen Colbert interviewing Biden, Obama and former President Bill Clinton.

Biden held an early lead in the campaign money race against Trump, but the former president has gained ground since he formally locked up the Republican nomination.

Trump outpaced Biden’s New York event by raking in $50.5 million at an April gathering of major donors at the Florida home of billionaire investor John Paulson. The former president’s campaign and the Republican National Committee announced they raised a whopping $141 million in May, padded by tens of millions of dollars in contributions that flowed in after Trump’s guilty verdict in his criminal hush money trial.

That post-conviction bump came after Trump and the Republican Party announced collecting $76 million in April, far exceeding Biden and the Democrats’ $51 million for the month.

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UPDATE: Michigan Splash Pad Shooter Identified

The gunman who opened fire at a Michigan splash pad, wounding nine people — including two little kids , lived with his mother and suffered from mental health issues, authorities said.

Cops also revealed that the gunman, identified Sunday as 42-year-old Michael William Nash, he may have planned additional attacks before killing himself during a police standoff on Saturday.

Police say Nash lived with his mother and had no criminal history, according to the Detroit Free Press.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said there’s reason to believe that the Brooklands Plaza Splash Pad in Rochester Hills may not have been the gunman’s only target — and that the horrifying shooting in which an 8-year-old boy was critically wounded could have been dramatically worse.

Police quickly tracked the Nash down to the mobile home he shared with his mother.

When they stormed the trailer, they discovered an AR-style rifle on the kitchen table and the gunman was lying dead next to a third gun, a pistol, which he used to take his own life, Fox 2 Detroit reported.

“Because we had quick containment on him, that if he had planned to do anything else, it wouldn’t surprise me. Because having that on the kitchen table isn’t an everyday activity,” Bouchard said.

The handgun used during the shooting was a registered 9mm Glock pistol, recovered at the shooting with three empty magazines — which would have held 30 rounds of ammunition.

Police say Nash emptied one magazine, reloaded, then emptied a second clip — then fled the scene.

The self-inflicted gunshot wound happened at some point during a five-hour-long standoff with police.

Nash lived at home with his mother and reportedly suffered from mental health issues, police said. His mother was not home but was notified of the shooting Saturday night.

The suspect had unloaded 28 shots at the splash pad around 5 p.m. during the first full week of summer vacation for public school students, injuring nine people total. Among those injured was an 8-year-old with a gunshot wound to the head in critical condition and a 4-year-old with a wound to his thigh in stable condition.

One other victim, a 39-year-old woman with wounds to the abdomen, was said to be in critical condition.

The other victims, men and women ranging in age from 30 to 78, were all in stable condition Sunday morning. Authorities said some of the victims were said to be part of the same family, according to WXYZ.

Bouchard said authorities were combing through evidence from the scene, including video that captured the chaotic shooting.

“It appears based on the evidence that I saw that he started firing once he was out of his car,” he said, noting the gunman was about 20 feet away from his victims. “(And) from the base of the steps, climbing the steps, reloading and then was firing from the top of the steps in the splash pad area before he left – and appeared to leave in no rush.

“He just calmly walked back to his car. So, a bizarre situation,” Bouchard added.

Authorities have not determined why the splash pad was the gunman’s target, but say it appeared to be random.

A motive has not yet been determined.

Rochester Hills is located about 28 miles from downtown Detroit.

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