Ukraine-NATO to hold joint drills amid ongoing war with Russia

Ukrainian servicemen walk along a snow covered trench guarding their position at the frontline near Vodiane, about 750 kilometers (468 miles) south-east of Kyiv, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2021. The country designated 14,000 doses of its first vaccine shipment for the military, especially those fighting Russia-backed separatists in the east. Ukrainians are becoming increasingly opposed to vaccination: an opinion poll this month by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found 60% of the country's people don't want to get vaccinated, up from 40% a month earlier. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Ukrainian servicemen walk along a snow covered trench guarding their position at the frontline near Vodiane, about 750 kilometers (468 miles) south-east of Kyiv, eastern Ukraine, Saturday, March 5, 2021. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

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UPDATED 7:24 AM PT – Monday, April 5, 2021

Ukraine is preparing to hold joint military drills with NATO forces amid a renewed threat of escalation in the ongoing conflict with Russia.

“On this path, we have everyone’s full and permanent support,” stated Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy. “Support by Ukraine’s international partners, by Europe and United States in particular.”

The leader of Ukraine said the EU and the Biden administration have provided security reassurances in case of a major Russian offensive in the Donbas region. However, experts pointed out the U.S. and EU have already failed to honor their previous guarantees under the Budapest Memorandum back in 2014.

“As for the situation in eastern Ukraine, in Donbass, complete ceasefire is a prerequisite to continue tough, though very important talks in the Minsk and Normandy formats,” stated President Zelenskiy. “I underline, once again, that our army is able to resist anyone’s attack and it strengthens our stance in settling the conflict by diplomatic means.”

Russia is reportedly moving its forces toward the Ukrainian border because the Kremlin believes the weak Biden administration will not risk a major war over Ukraine.

MORE NEWS: Australian T.V.: Biden is illiterate, incoherent & cognitively deficient

Original Article

GOP, Democrats Battle Over Infrastructure Plan

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GOP, Democrats Battle Over Infrastructure Plan GOP, Democrats Battle Over Infrastructure Plan Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., said the proposed rise in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% was "a big mistake for the administration." (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

By Brian Freeman | Monday, 05 April 2021 10:04 AM

Republican congressmen are criticizing both the size of President Joe Biden’s proposed $2.25 trillion "infrastructure" plan and the fact that its funding is based on an increase in the corporate tax rate, while Democrats are touting it as a way to generate long-term job growth, The Hill reported.

"We think we can not only have a strong job rebound this year, but we can sustain it over many years,” National Economic Council Director Brian Deese told Fox News. “That’s the goal," adding that "let's also think to the longer term about where those investments that we can make that will really drive not just more job growth but better job growth, not just job growth in the short term but job growth in the long term by investing in our infrastructure, by investing in our research and development in a way that we haven't since the 1960s."

The Biden administration says its plan would provide billions of dollars to rebuild such structures as roads, bridges, and tunnels while also funding efforts to transition the United States away from the use of fossil fuels.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg explained on NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the legislation would be completely funded by an increase to the corporate tax rate and that it would also start cutting into the deficit after 15 years.

"Now is our chance to make infrastructure choices for the future that are going to serve us well in the 2030s and on into the middle of the century, when we will be judged for whether we met this moment here in the 2020s," Buttigieg said. He added that "across 15 years, it would raise all of the revenue needed for these once-in-a-lifetime investments. So by year 16, you'd actually see this package working to reduce the deficit."

But Republicans have slammed the tax hike included in the legislation, with Sen Roger Wicker, R-Miss, calling the rise in the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% “a big mistake for the administration,” according to The Hill. Wicker added the proposal represented "a repeal of one of our signature issues in 2017," referring to the GOP tax reform bill that passed that year.

Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., stressed Republicans would be willing to back a smaller infrastructure package, telling Fox News that "I think there's an easy win here for the White House if they would take that win, which is make this an infrastructure package, which is about 30 percent [of what their proposal entails]… My advice to the White House has been take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way.”

It is unclear , however, if Democrats will attempt to gain Republican backing to help pass the bill, as there is disagreement in the party if the effort it worth it or if it is better to push through the legislation by usinig budget reconciliation.

Original Article

Supreme Court Passes on Workplace Religious Bias Cases

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Supreme Court Passes on Workplace Religious Bias Cases Supreme Court Passes on Workplace Religious Bias Cases (BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images)

Andrew Chung Monday, 05 April 2021 09:58 AM

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sidestepped a chance to further expand religious rights, turning away two cases in which employees accused companies of violating federal anti-discrimination law by insufficiently accommodating requests for time off to meet religious obligations.

The justices declined to hear appeals by two men of different Christian denominations – a Jehovah's Witness from Tennessee and a Seventh-day Adventist from Florida – of lower court rulings that rejected their claims of illegal religious bias. Lower courts found that the accommodations the men sought would have placed too much hardship on the employers.

In a dissent, conservative Justices Neil Gorsuch and Samuel Alito said the court should have taken up the case from Tennessee.

At issue in the cases was the allowances companies must make for employees for religious reasons to comply with Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on religion as well as race, color, sex and national origin.

AP-NORC Poll: Border Woes Hurt Biden Approval on Immigration

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AP-NORC Poll: Border Woes Hurt Biden Approval on Immigration AP-NORC Poll: Border Woes Hurt Biden Approval on Immigration Central American migrants walk through Houston's airport during a transfer on March 30 after their release from a U.S. government holding facility in McAllen, Texas. (ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images)

WILL WEISSERT and HANNAH FINGERHUT Monday, 05 April 2021 08:06 AM

More Americans disapprove than approve of how President Joe Biden is handling waves of unaccompanied migrant children arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border, and approval of his efforts on larger immigration policy falls short of other top issues — suggesting it could be a weak point for the new administration.

A new poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research also shows that solving the problem of young people at the border is among Americans' highest immigration priorities: 59% say providing safe treatment of unaccompanied children when they are apprehended should be a high priority, and 65% say the same about reuniting families separated at the border.

Former President Donald Trump built his presidency around tough policies that expanded and fortified border walls, made it harder for people fleeing drug violence and other desperate circumstances in Mexico and Central America to seek U.S. asylum, and separated immigrant families.

Biden has tried to seize political momentum on the issue by promising a more humane and orderly system, but his administration has struggled to cope with rising numbers of migrants coming to the border, especially unaccompanied children.

Overall, 40% of Americans disapprove of Biden’s handling of children reaching the nation's southern border without their parents, compared with just 24% who approve. Thirty-five percent don't have an opinion either way.

“I don’t know how to politically correctly say this: I do feel that, because there’s this new administration, that people feel that they can come to the country,” said Mindy Kiehl, a 40-year-old real estate agent in Erie, Pennsylvania, who otherwise approves of Biden's handling of the presidency so far.

“I get it. They’re seeking refuge," Kiehl added. "But bringing these children, it’s not good for the children, it’s not good for the families. I don’t know how that’s going to solve the problem.”

Biden said at a recent news conference that “we’re sending back the vast majority of the families that are coming.” But his struggles on the issue go beyond unaccompanied minors.

Just 42% of Americans say they approve of how the president is handling immigration in general, and a similar share, 44%, say they approve of how he’s handling border security. Both are significantly lower than the 61% of Americans who say they approve of how Biden is handling his job overall and fall short of the president's rating on some other issues, including his response to the coronavirus pandemic and managing of the economy.

That gap comes despite the White House endorsing the most ambitious overhaul of the nation's immigration system in a generation on Biden's first day in office. It has stalled in Congress, though, and Republicans and even some top Democrats say passage will be difficult.

The plan would provide an eight-year path to citizenship for the estimated 11 million people in the U.S. illegally, but the poll shows doing so isn't high on the public's priority list. Only 29% of Americans overall, including 42% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans, called legal status for people in the country illegally a high priority.

Additionally, only a third of Americans each say that allowing refugees to come to the U.S. or expanding “guest worker” programs should be high priorities.

The gap between Biden’s overall approval rating and his handling of immigration crosses party lines. Seventy-four percent of Democrats and 10% of Republicans approve of Biden’s handling of immigration, compared with 96% of Democrats and 22% of Republicans who approve overall.

The difference also comes across racial and ethnic groups. Overall, 92% of Black Americans, 67% of Hispanics and 52% of white Americans say they approve of how Biden is handling his job. On immigration, 74% of Black Americans but only 50% of Hispanics and 34% of white Americans say they approve.

Jack Henes, a retiree in Sebastian, Florida, said Biden hasn’t handled immigration as well as some other hot-button issues while calling what's happening on the U.S. southern border an “administrative nightmare.”

While awaiting the larger legislative package, the Democrat-controlled House has passed smaller-scale reforms that face uncertain futures in a Senate split 50-50. Biden also has used executive actions to attempt to roll back many Trump administration immigration policies but has been criticized for failing to do enough fast enough.

Others feel he's already gone too far.

“My concern is that President Biden has allowed the world to feel it's OK to just come on in,” said Matthew Behrs, a Trump supporter in Wisconsin.

The poll shows many Americans rank some of the major goals of the Democrat proposal as moderate priorities instead of high ones, suggesting Biden lacks a clear mandate for how best to proceed on the issue, potentially hurting his leverage with Congress.

And many want to see efforts to step up enforcement be part of the conversation: For 53%, increasing security at the border is a high priority. Some 47% of Americans also say the federal government should make strengthening policies to prevent immigrants from overstaying their visas a high priority.

Fewer, roughly a third, say penalizing companies that hire immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and deporting immigrants living in the U.S. illegally should be high priorities.

The poll also finds Americans are more likely to favor than oppose providing a way for immigrants brought to the U.S. illegally as children to stay legally, 53% to 24%, with 22% saying they are neither in favor nor opposed. Still, just 41% call extending legal protections to so-called Dreamers a high priority. A plan approved by the House but awaiting Senate action seeks to do just that.

Biden has now assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to work with Central American countries to try to address the root causes of illegal immigration. Henes, the retiree, suggested that Biden has given the problem to Harris as a way of buying himself some time — but that it hasn’t helped.

“They’re still in the huddle,” Henes said. “They’re not ready to call a play.”

The AP-NORC poll of 1,166 adults was conducted March 26-29 using a sample drawn from NORC’s probability-based AmeriSpeak Panel, which is designed to be representative of the U.S. population. The margin of sampling error for all respondents is plus or minus 3.6 percentage points.

Original Article

DeSantis: ’60 Minutes’ Report on Vaccine Rollout a ‘Fake Narrative’

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DeSantis: '60 Minutes' Report on Vaccine Rollout a 'Fake Narrative' ron desantis speaks onstage at cpac Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the opening of the Conservative Political Action Conference at the Hyatt Regency on February 26, 2021 in Orlando, Florida. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

By Sandy Fitzgerald | Monday, 05 April 2021 08:06 AM

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is fighting back against a report on the coronavirus vaccine rollout in his state as being a "fake narrative" with its allegations that he aimed the distribution and administration of the vaccination toward the wealthy and to his own campaign contributors.

CBS' Sharyn Alfonsi, in an extensive report for "60 Minutes," reported allegations airing Sunday night that the governor had privatized the state vaccine rollout to benefit large donors who donated to his campaign and that he'd funneled the vaccines to wealthy communities at a time when minorities have been struggling to have access to the vaccine.

Florida's Democrat leaders are seeking a Justice Department investigation to determine if DeSantis had been rewarding high-dollar donors through allowing special access to the vaccine.

There have also been other questions raised about whether DeSantis discriminated when picking communities for pop-up vaccination sites, including at Lakewood Ranch in Manatee County just south of Tampa.

In Feburary, the "60 Minutes" report said, the governor announced he was giving 3,000 doses to the community, because "we saw a need, we want to get the numbers up for seniors."

The Lakewood Ranch developer, Pat Neal, however, had donated $135,000 to the Friends of Ron DeSantis PAC, the segment noted.

Alfonsi also reported that the Republican governor had given a contract to the grocery chain Publix to distribute the vaccines exclusively in the Palm Beach area after the company donated $100,000 to his campaign.

DeSantis declined CBS's request for an interview, according to Alfonsi, so she caught up with him at an event near Orlando.

"Publix as you know donated $100,000 to your campaign and then you rewarded them with the exclusive rights to distribute the vaccine in Palm Beach," she said.

"So first of all what you're saying is wrong," DeSantis told her. "I met with the county mayor. I met with the administrator. I met with all the folks in Palm Beach County and I said, 'here's some of the options. We can do more drive-thru sites. We can give more to hospitals. We can do the Publix.' And they said, 'We think that would be the easiest thing for our residents.'"

Alfonsi also told DeSantis that his critics are saying that his awarding the contract amounted to a "pay for play" scheme, and he argued with her again.

"I just disabused you of the narrative and you don't care about the facts because obviously I just laid it out for you in a way that is irrefutable," he said. "So clearly it's not."

And when she tried to question him further, DeSantis shouted over her: "No, no, no. You're wrong. You're wrong. You're wrong."

Meanwhile, Publix responded that there was no connection between its campaign contributions to DeSantis and the partnership to administer the vaccine.

"The irresponsible suggestion that there was a connection between campaign contributions made to Governor DeSantis and our willingness to join other pharmacies in support of the state's vaccine distribution efforts is absolutely false and offensive," the chain said in a statement. "We are proud of our pharmacy associates for administering more than 1.5 million doses of vaccine to date and for joining other retailers in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia to do our part to help our communities emerge from the pandemic."

State Rep. Omari Hardy, a Democrat, told "60 Minutes" DeSantis' decision choice to privatize the rollout meant that low-income communities were left without a way to get the shots if they did not have a Publix grocery store. She noted that in one instance, a community's residents, including several elderly residents, had to travel nearly 30 miles to get a shot."

"Before, I could call the public health director. She would answer my calls. But now if I want to get my constituents information about how to get this vaccine I have to call a lobbyist from Publix? That makes no sense," Hardy said. "They're not accountable to the public."

Corporations Gave Over $50M to Voting Restriction Backers

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Corporations Gave Over $50M to Voting Restriction Backers at&t store sign (Lynne Sladky/AP Photo)

BRIAN SLODYSKO Monday, 05 April 2021 06:39 AM

While executives from Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines got the spotlight for speaking out against Georgia's new voting law as unduly restrictive last week, leaders of many of the nation's most prominent companies are backing such moves with campaign contributions.

State legislators across the country who have pushed for new voting restrictions have reaped more than $50 million in corporate donations in recent years, according to a new report by Public Citizen, a Washington-based government watchdog group.

Telecom giant AT&T was the most prolific, donating over $800,000 since 2015 to authors of proposed restrictions, cosponsors of such measures, or those who voted in favor of the bills, the report found. Other top donors during the same period include Comcast, Philip Morris, United Health, Walmart, Verizon, General Motors, and Pfizer.

The money may not have been given with voting laws in mind, but it nonetheless helped cement Republican control in statehouses where many of the measures are now moving forward.

Whether companies continue to give to these lawmakers will test how far risk-adverse corporate leaders are willing to go in their increasingly forceful criticism of the restrictive efforts, which voting rights groups have excoriated as an attack on democracy.

"It really is corporate America, as a whole, that is funding these politicians," said Mike Tanglis, one of the authors of the report. "It seems many are trying to hide under a rock and hope that this issue passes."

More than 120 companies detailed in the report previously said they would rethink their donations to members of Congress who objected to the certification of President Joe Biden's win following the deadly attack on the U.S. Capitol.

The tension is most evident now in Georgia, where a far-reaching new voting law has drawn an intense national scrutiny, prompting the criticism from Delta and Coca-Cola. On Friday, MLB announced it would no longer host the 2021 All-Star Game in Atlanta.

Yet it's unclear whether this aggressive new posture will extend to corporate campaign donation practices. And early indicators show there is risk.

Georgia's Republican-controlled House voted to strip Delta of a tax break worth tens of millions of dollars annually for their criticism of the new law, though the action was rendered moot after the GOP Senate failed to take it up before the legislative session adjourned.

What is certain, though, is that withholding corporate donations to state-level candidates, like many companies did at the federal level, would have a far greater impact in statehouses.

"A contribution of $5,000 to a U.S. senator who is raising $30 million is a drop in a bucket. But in some of these state races, a few thousand dollars can buy a lot of ad time," said Tanglis.

Public Citizen analyzed about 245 voting restriction bills proposed before March 1. They culled a list of sponsors and cosponsors, while also analyzing vote roll calls. Then they cross-referenced the data with state-level donation records dating back to 2015, which included money from company-sponsored political action committees, as well as direct contributions from corporate treasuries.

Among their findings:

—Companies donated at least $50 million to lawmakers who supported voting restrictions, including $22 million in the 2020 campaign cycle.

—At least 81 Fortune 100 companies have given a combined total of $7.7 million to supporters of the restrictions.

—Nearly half of all Fortune 500 companies donated a combined total of $12.8 million to supporters of the restrictions.

—About three-quarters of the companies that changed their donation policies after the U.S. Capitol attack have also given to lawmakers who supported voting rights restrictions.

—More than 60 companies have given at least $100,000 to lawmakers who supported the restrictions.

—Separately, industry groups and trade associations contributed an additional $36 million to the lawmakers, $16 million of which was given during the 2020 cycle.

In response, AT&T said "the right to vote is sacred" but declined to say whether the company would withhold donations to state lawmakers as they did for members of Congress who objected to Biden's win.

"We understand that election laws are complicated, not our company’s expertise and ultimately the responsibility of elected officials. But, as a company, we have a responsibility to engage," AT&T CEO John Stankey said in a statement.

Verizon CEO Hans Vestberg said in a statement, "We strongly oppose the passage of any legislation or the adoption of any measure that would make it harder" to vote. But he stopped short of pledging any specific action.

Comcast said in a statement that "efforts to limit or impede access to this vital constitutional right for any citizen are not consistent with our values." The company would not comment on whether it would evaluate its giving to lawmakers who support the measures.

Altria, the parent company of Philip Morris, said in a statement that "every eligible voter should be able to exercise their right to vote" and pledged to monitor lawmakers' "alignment with our political contribution guiding principles when making future contribution decisions."

Other companies listed in the report declined to comment, or did not respond to inquiries from The Associated Press.

Pressure has been particularly intense in Georgia, where Republican Gov. Brian Kemp recently signed a sweeping new law that bans people from handing out food or water to voters waiting in line and allows the Republican-controlled State Election Board to remove and replace county election officials, among many other provisions.

Two of the top corporate contribution recipients detailed in Public Citizen's report were among the sponsors of the measure.

Since 2015, Republican state Sen. Jeff Mullis has collected more than $869,000 in donation from corporate PACs. Among his top corporate donors were AT&T ($15,900) and United Health Group ($12,900), according to the report. Mullis is chairman of the Georgia Senate’s Rules Committee, which plays a key role in determining which bills make it to the floor for a vote.

Republican state Sen. Butch Miller, another sponsor of the bill, has received at least $729,000 in corporate donations since 2015. Among his top corporate givers are United Health Group ($15,700) and AT&T ($13,600), the report states.

Miller and Mullis did not respond to requests for comment.

Original Article

Republicans: Government Overreach and Privacy Concerns Will Doom Vaccine Passports

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Republicans: Government Overreach and Privacy Concerns Will Doom Vaccine Passports a cell phone with a code for the passport in front of an american flag (Sipa via AP)

By Jim Thomas | Sunday, 04 April 2021 10:02 PM

Republicans are posturing against vaccine passports ahead of the 2022 midterms because of they believe their view is line with much of the public on the subject.

As part of the general strategy to take back the majority in the House of Representatives and recapture the majority in the Senate, Republicans believe that vaccine passports should not be mandated because they are violative of personal privacy rights and would be a product of government overreach by exerting too much public control over private lives, reports The Hill.

Outspoken Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) stated it was “unacceptable” for local governments or businesses to require proof of vaccination for people to “participate in normal society,” added The Hill. DeSantis also signed an executive order recently which banned any future vaccine certificate requirements in Florida. He also suggested that the Republican controlled state legislature draft a bill turning his executive order into state law.

“It’s a political winner,” Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based Republican strategist, said. “They look at it as an all-out assault on personal freedoms and the Constitution, but also, it’s about protecting the average, ordinary Floridian who wants to live their regular day-to-day lives,” according to the Hill.

GOP strategists are positioning campaigns on the proposition that vaccine passports will help them play on voters’ fears of government overreach and privacy violations. While there may be an increased desire to receive the COVID vaccination,there is still a strong reluctance to be required to carry a vaccine passport.

A Gallup poll released on Tuesday concluded that roughly 75% of those responding are willing to be vaccinated.

The White House said it expected the private sector to take the lead on verification of vaccine passports and would not issue a federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential, according to Reuters. However, the Biden administration was reviewing the issue and would make recommendations, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday, but she added, “We believe it will be driven by the private sector.”

“It’s not a COVID discussion for Republicans. It is a freedom discussion. It’s a role-of-government discussion,” one GOP strategist said. “Would I prefer to be having a COVID discussion next year? No. But we want to be having that freedom discussion.”

If strategists are correct, this position taken by Republicans on vaccine passports may put them over-the-top in their quest to recover the majority in both houses of Congress as they only need five seats in the House and only one in the Senate to seize the majority.

Not all in the GOP are confident that opposition to vaccine passports will be a winning issue.

“It’s red meat for the base, sure, but this doesn’t help us win back the middle,” one veteran GOP campaign aide reported to the Hill. “It’s just more of the culture wars … and it also means talking about COVID instead of the damage being done by Democrats.”

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, said on a “Utah Politics” podcast Friday that it should be an optional business issue and not a government one.

“I think vaccines are good, and I think once people have gotten a vaccine that they have the ability to present credentials to private property owners who might decide they want their customers to have been vaccinated,” Lee said.

“You don’t ever want to get us in a position where our own government is playing any part in the way human beings move within our own borders,” he added. “That’s something the American people, regardless of their political leanings, don’t want.”

Since Trump has yet to weigh in about vaccine passports, some Republicans deferred their agreement until Trump addresses the topic, reports the Hill.

Stanford Holds Off Arizona 54-53 to Win Women’s NCAA Title

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Stanford Holds Off Arizona 54-53 to Win Women's NCAA Title players smile as the pose with the championship trophy

Stanford players celebrate with the trophy after the championship game against Arizona in the women's Final Four NCAA college basketball tournament, Sunday. (AP/Morry Gash)

DOUG FEINBERG Sunday, 04 April 2021 08:52 PM

Tara VanDerveer hugged each of her Stanford players as they climbed the ladder to cut down a piece of the net.

It took 29 years, but VanDerveer and the Cardinal are NCAA women's basketball champions again.

Haley Jones scored 17 points and Stanford beat Arizona 54-53, giving the Cardinal and their Hall of Fame coach their first national championship in 29 years on Sunday night.

“Getting through all the things we got through, we’re excited to win the COVID championship," VanDerveer said. ”The other one was not quite as close, the last one. But we’re really excited. No one knows the score, no one knows who scored, it’s a national championship and I’m really excited to represent Stanford. It’s a great team. We did not play a great game today, however. But if we can win, not playing as well as we need to, I’m excited."

It wasn’t a masterpiece by any stretch with both teams struggling to score and missing easy layups and shots, but Stanford did just enough to pull off the win.

Stanford (31-2) built a nine-point lead in the fourth quarter before Arizona (21-6) cut it to 51-50 on star guard Aari McDonald's 3-pointer.

After a timeout, Jones answered with a three-point play with 2:24 left. That would be Stanford's last basket of the game. McDonald got the Wildcats with 54-53 with 36.6 seconds left converting three of four free throws.

“I just owe it all to my teammates, they have confidence in me when I don’t have confidence in myself,” said Jones, who was honored as the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. “I saw they needed me to come up big and I did.”

The Cardinal, after another timeout couldn't even get a shot off, giving Arizona one last chance with 6.1 seconds left, but McDonald's contested shot from the top of the key at the buzzer bounced off the rim.

“I got denied hard. I tried to turn the corner, they sent three at me. I took a tough, contested shot and it didn’t fall,” said McDonald, who fell near midcourt, slumped in disbelief while the Cardinal celebrated.

It's been quite a journey for VanDerveer and the Cardinal this season. The team was forced on the road for nearly 10 weeks because of the coronavirus, spending 86 days in hotels during this nomadic season.

The team didn’t complain and went about their business and now have another NCAA championship. Along the way the Hall of Fame coach earned her 1,099th career victory to pass Pat Summitt for the most all time in women’s basketball history.

Now the 67-year-old coach has a third national title to go along with the ones she won in 1990 and 1992. That moved her into a tie with Baylor's Kim Mulkey for third most all time behind Geno Auriemma and Summitt.

VanDerveer had many great teams between titles, including the ones led by Candice Wiggins and the Ogwumike sisters — Nneka and Chiney, but the Cardinal just couldn't end their season with that elusive win in the title game until Sunday night.

It was the first women’s basketball championship for the Pac-12 since VanDerveer and Stanford won the title in 1992. The last time a team from the conference was in the title game was 2010 when the Cardinal lost to UConn. That game was also played in the Alamodome — the site of every game in this tournament from the Sweet 16 through Sunday’s championship game.

The entire NCAA Tournament was played in the San Antonio area because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Stanford had history on its side, Arizona has been building under coach Adia Barnes, who was the fourth Black woman to lead her team to the championship game, joining Carolyn Peck, Dawn Staley and C. Vivian Stringer. Peck and Staley won titles.

Barnes starred for the Wildcats as a player in the late 90s and came back to her alma mater five years ago. She guided the team to the WNIT title in 2019 and led them to their first NCAA title game ever. This was the team's first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2005 — although the Wildcats would have made the NCAAs last season had it not been canceled by the coronavirus.

The Wildcats started the season No. 7 in the poll and moved up to as high as sixth — the best ranking ever in school history —for a few weeks.

McDonald, who followed her coach from Washington as a transfer, has been a huge reason for the team's success. The 5-foot-6 guard, who is lightning quick, is one of the rare two-way players in the game who can make an impact on both ends of the court.

She struggled against the Cardinal, finishing with 22 points while going 5-for-20 from the field.

McDonald got the Wildcats on the board hitting a 3-pointer, but then Stanford scored the next 12 points. The Cardinal led 16-8 after one quarter.

Arizona got going in the second quarter and took a 21-20 lead before Stanford scored 11 straight points, highlighted by Lexie Hull's four-point play. The Cardinal led 31-24 at the half. McDonald missed nine of her 11 shots in the first half.

The Wildcats were trying to be only the fourth team to trail by double digits and win a championship.

These teams met twice during the regular season and Stanford rolled past Arizona both times, winning by double digits in each game.

TIP-INS:

Sunday night’s game was the first with two teams from west of the Mississippi playing for a title since 1986. … Notre Dame had the biggest comeback of any team in the NCAA title game rallying from 15 down to win the 2018 title on a last-second shot by Arike Ogunbowale.

STRUGGLING AGAINST STANFORD

Barnes has beaten VanDerveer just twice in her career as both a player and coach at Arizona. She lost seven of eight playing for the Wildcats in the late 90s. The lone victory came in her senior year on a last-second shot off a pass from Barnes to teammate Reshea Bristol, who hit a 20-footer for the win in 1998. As a coach she had lost 10 of the 11 previous matchups before Sunday with the only victory coming in overtime on Feb. 28, 2020.

Prayer Vigil Planned for Stricken Rapper DMX

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Prayer Vigil Planned for Stricken Rapper DMX Prayer Vigil Planned for Stricken Rapper DMX DMX (Getty Images)

Sunday, 04 April 2021 08:09 PM

A prayer vigil was planned for Monday outside the suburban New York hospital where rapper DMX remained on life support Sunday following a heart attack.

The family of the rapper said in an email Sunday that the vigil will be held outside White Plains Hospital at 5 p.m.

“On Friday night, April 2nd, 2021, our brother, son, father, and colleague DMX, birth name of Earl Simmons, was admitted to White Plains (NY) Hospital, facing serious health issues,” the family said through a publicist. “We ask that you please keep Earl/DMX and us in your thoughts, wishes, and prayers as well as respect our privacy as we face these challenges.”

Another statement released Sunday afternoon said the rapper remained in a coma and was on a ventilator.

Simmons' longtime lawyer, Murray Richman, said the rapper was admitted to the intensive care unit at White Plains Hospital after going into cardiac arrest. Richman said he could not confirm reports that DMX, 50, overdosed on drugs and was not sure what caused the heart attack.

DMX made a splash in rap music in 1998 with his first studio album “It’s Dark and Hell is Hot,” which debuted No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The multiplatinum selling album was anchored by several hits including “Ruff Ryders’ Anthem,” “Get At Me Dog” and “Stop Being Greedy.”

The rapper had four other chart-topping albums including “…And Then There Was X,” “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” “The Great Depression” and “Grand Champ.” He has released seven albums and earned three Grammy nominations.

Along with his music career, DMX paved his way as an actor. He starred in the 1998 film “Belly” and appeared in “Romeo Must Die” a couple years later with Jet Li and the late singer Aaliyah. DMX and Aaliyah teamed up for the film’s soundtrack song “Come Back in One Piece.”

The rapper also starred in “Exit Wounds” with Steven Seagal and “Cradle 2 the Grave” with Li.

Over the years, DMX has battled with substance abuse. The rapper canceled a series of shows to check himself into a rehabilitation facility in 2019. In an Instagram post, his team said he apologized for the canceled shows and thanked his fans for the continued support.

Last year, DMX faced off against Snoop Dogg in a Verzuz battle, which drew more than 500,000 viewers.

Georgia GOP Legislators to Coca-Cola: We Want You Out

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Georgia GOP Legislators to Coca-Cola: We Want You Out Georgia GOP Legislators to Coca-Cola: We Want You Out Cans of Coca Cola are displayed on July 25, 2018 in San Rafael, California. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

By Jim Thomas | Sunday, 04 April 2021 05:24 PM

Certain Republican Georgia lawmakers want Coca Cola products removed from their offices after the corporation spoke out against the state's new election law, reports the Hill.

In a letter to Kevin Perry, president of the Georgia Beverage Association, eight members of the Georgia House of Representatives —Victor Anderson, Clint Crowe, Matt Barton, Jason Ridley, Lauren McDonald III, Stan Gunter, Dewayne Hill and Marcus Wiedower —complained about Coca-Cola.

“Given Coke’s choice to cave to the pressure of an out of control cancel culture, we respectfully request all Coca-Cola Company products be removed from our office suite immediately,” they stated. “Should Coke choose to read the bill, share its true intentions and accept their role in the dissemination of mistruths, we would welcome a conversation to rebuild a working relationship.”

Coca-Cola said in a statement obtained by Newsweek that it had been working with the Metro Atlanta Chamber in "expressing our concerns and advocating for positive change in voting legislation. We, along with our business coalition partners, sought improvements that would enhance accessibility, maximize voter participation, maintain election integrity and serve all Georgians."

The company stated it would continue to advocate for its position on voting issues in Georgia.

"We will continue to identify opportunities for engagement and strive for improvements aimed at promoting and protecting the right to vote in our home state and elsewhere," the company said.

Coca-Cola CEO James Quincey publicly attacked Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp for recently signing into law voting legislation Quincey declared as “unacceptable” and “a step backwards.”

The legislation expands early voting opportunities, weekend early voting and extends deadlines for absentee ballot requests. It also creates a state-wide voter ID absentee voting requirement and restricts ballot drop box usage.

Quincey said the new law moves Georgia backwards.

“Let me be crystal clear and unequivocal, this legislation is unacceptable, it is a step backward and it does not promote principles we have stood for in Georgia, around broad access to voting, around voter convenience, about ensuring election integrity, and this is frankly just a step backwards,” Quincey said.

One provision of the new law seems to be of particular interest to the Georgia Beverage Association: the prohibition on handing out either soft drinks or food voters waiting in a line at the polling station to vote, reports the Hill.

Original Article

Barrasso Says Easiest Way To Get Into US Is ‘Illegally’

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Barrasso Says Easiest Way To Get Into US Is 'Illegally' john barrasso stands in front of flags and speaks Senator John Barrasso, R-Wyo., speaks in 2020 in Washington, DC. (Nicholas Kamm-Pool/Getty Images)

Sunday, 04 April 2021 02:00 PM

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., on Sunday decried the lack of enforcement and crucial checks at the southern border for migrants — and their quick release into the United States.

In an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Barrasso, who was part of a group of lawmakers who visited the border region, declared “the easiest way to get into the United States today is to do it illegally.”

“You don't have to show proof of anything and they will allow you into the country. That's the Biden policy,” he lamented.

Barrasso offered the example of a midnight patrol the lawmakers were allowed to witness.

“They will tell you their job got a lot harder when Joe Biden became president,” he said of Border Patrol agents. “Only one in three of them is on the ground trying to enforce the laws because two-thirds of them are involved in either providing day care or escorts to the migrants who are being shown by signs on the ground where to go to turn themselves in.”

“The Border Patrol talked to the transition team from the Biden administration before they came into office,” he continued. “They said, if you eliminate this program that worked that [former] President [Donald] Trump put in place, the Remain in Mexico program, we are going to have a massive humanitarian crisis at the border. The Biden administration ignored them and that's what we have now — highest numbers of all times coming into the country illegally.

“No identification, carrying who knows how many diseases, but certainly high percentage with coronavirus that they are then taking all across the country.”

He added that what he witnessed was “the highest in history” of unaccompanied minors.

“They have crammed in like sardines and this is what the Biden administration is trying to hide from the American public which is why we took video and the Biden administration tried to stop us," he said. "You put so many people in captivity in this sort of way and 10% are testing positive for coronavirus, Joe Biden is turning into this super spreader of coronavirus in our country.”

Original Article

AG Paxton Says Open Borders Cost Texas ‘Billions of Dollars’

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AG Paxton Says Open Borders Cost Texas 'Billions of Dollars' ken paxton stands at a mic with the court in the background Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks outside of the US Supreme Court in 2019.(Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images)

Sunday, 04 April 2021 01:22 PM

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said Sunday President Joe Biden’s open border policies are costing the state “billions of dollars.”

In an interview on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures,” Paxton said the migrant surge is “a humanitarian disaster and the border towns are suffering more than any others.”

“We have the burdens in our state, we will have to educate them and take care of their health care, we have to figure out their family situation and deal with law enforcement issues,” he said. “It costs the state of Texas billions of dollars.”

“Every time the administration like Obama administration, the Biden administration, opens up the border, it increases our cost,” he added.“We also have the social cost, the crime, increased crime. I wish President [Joe] Biden would talk to the families that have been affected by the crime who have lost loved ones because of immigration. I think it might affect him and give him a different perspective on the downside of the policies that are devastating some of the families in my state.”

Paxton asserted Biden doesn’t have the power to change immigration law.

“He announced for the first 100 days of his administration that you can come across the border and you would not be deported,” he said. “That's not his job to change the law and I think his policies, his announced policies, send the signal to the world, ‘Come across the border and you'll be welcome, you'll be taken care of.’

“I think it's clear that he wants that to happen because he knows from past experience under the Obama administration that if you do that, people will come and it totally worked.”

Paxton also echoed the criticism of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, of HR1.

“Labeling this the ‘corrupt politicians act’ is absolutely true because it would eliminate voter ID, which we do in our state to verify that you are the right person voting,” he said.

“It would push mail-in ballots which are the highest incidents of voter fraud and allow for felons to votes and would allow for illegals and do everything possible to open up elections so they are not credible anymore,” he continued.

“I think it will ruin the democracy and make our election totally unreliable in every single state instead of just a few,” he said.

But he said it was just one of the measures he is concerned about coming from the Biden administration.

“We are extremely concerned about what this administration is doing even with things like the Keystone pipeline,” he said. “We think they are in a war against fossil fuel and there's no good stated purpose for shutting down the Keystone pipeline… we are losing jobs and we have to ship that through railcar which is not environmentally friendly like pipeline. I have not heard one good reason for shutting down the pipeline.”

Related Stories:

Original Article

Ex-NYPD Commish Ray Kelly: Mayor de Blasio ‘Has Destroyed’ NYC

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Ex-NYPD Commish Ray Kelly: Mayor de Blasio 'Has Destroyed' NYC bill de blasio stands at a bank of microphones and speaks New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks at a press conference with Governor Andrew Cuomo in 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

By Eric Mack | Sunday, 04 April 2021 12:59 PM

New York City remains "closed down" with no end in sight, and former NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said Mayor Bill de Blasio has "destroyed" the city.

"Unfortunately, I don't see it coming back anytime soon," Kelly, the father of Newsmax TV host Greg Kelly, told "The Cats Roundtable" on WABC 770 AM-N.Y. "I love New York. I've lived here my whole life, was born here, going to die here, but it's not the place it was 10 years ago.

"Compare the end of the Bloomberg administration, a little less than 8 years ago, with the end of the de Blasio administration. It's the difference between night and day. This man has destroyed the city. This will be his legacy."

Most alarming for the longtime top cop and potential future mayoral candidate is the recent outlawing of qualified immunity for police officers in New York City, Kelly told host John Catsimatidis.

"Isn't it incredible, John, that these politicians think that their constituents are more concerned about hamstringing the police than in protecting them?" Kelly said. "They may be right. The world has turned upside down.

"This elimination of qualified immunity is just another example of politicians throwing obstacles in the path of police officers so they can't do their jobs. It's clear that they want cops to do literally nothing."

Qualified immunity had protected New York City police officers from civil lawsuits, but now criminals can sue police for alleged wrongdoing that will get tied up in courts and lead to cops "stepping back" from enforcing the laws and protecting the community, Kelly said.

"Police officers, they're not going to jeopardize the well-being of their family, their own well-being," he continued. "They will step back; they have stepped back

"If you look at crime reduction in New York City, it’s a very bleak picture. There's no light at the end of the tunnel."

Supporting police is so difficult politically now, Kelly said, noting none of the city's mayoral candidates have talked about being tough on crime, which used to be a platform selling point.

"The mayoral candidates so far are not talking about any sort of crime reduction," Kelly said. "It's all about monitoring, restricting the police. I just don't get it. I've been around a long time.

"You can remember the days when politicians would say, 'I'm tougher on crime than my opponent.' Now, you don't hear any of that."

Equally concerning to Kelly is the lack of talk about mental health issues in society leading to dangerous crime in New York City.

"That terrible attack on the Asian woman on Monday — it kind of made you sick," Kelly said of the women beaten outside of an apartment building in broad daylight. "I think it's indicative of a much deeper problem: the huge number of people who need mental health assistance on the streets of our city, roaming free. These are the people pushing subway riders onto the tracks. They are the ones who are creating assaults.

"We need something done. As far as I can see, there's nobody even talking about this issue."

Concern of the lack of safety in the city is only increasing, despite the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns making it a relative "ghost town," Kelly concluded.

"The Zoom phenomenon is upon us: People can stay home, people are staying home and doing work and getting paid for it," Kelly said. "Those businesses, mom and pop stores, if they even exist anymore, those restaurants are not going to come back unless you have pedestrian traffic. Look on the streets of Manhattan. You don't see anybody. 'It's a ghost town.

"I'm unfortunately pessimistic about the future of New York."

Original Article

Turkey begins requiring negative PCR test for travel

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A woman wears a protective face mask while walking on Galata bridge in Istanbul, Turkey amid the outbreak of COVID-19. (Photo by OZAN KOSE/AFP via Getty Images)

OAN Newsroom
UPDATED 2:05 PM PT – Saturday, December 26, 2020

Turkey has begun requiring proof of a negative COVID-19 test in order to board an incoming plane. Turkey’s health minister announced the new policy Friday, which bars those who fail to comply.

All passengers flying in from Britain, South Africa or Denmark will be required to quarantine in addition to providing a negative test result. This is a change from Turkey’s previous policy, which only required a test for those showing symptoms.

One traveler said her trip to Amsterdam was derailed since she couldn’t get a PCR test on such short notice.

“Yesterday at 20 past 8 p.m., I got an email from Eurostar that if I want to go to Amsterdam, I need a PCR test,” the traveler said. “But how can I get PCR test in the night or even in one day?”

These new international requirements are effecting travelers worldwide. Only more changes are expected to come as countries continue to issue new policies to combat the pandemic.

MORE NEWS: Congress Is Focused On COVID-19 Relief Bill, Gov’t Funding

Original Article

Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline

Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline Downtown Nashville Explosion Knocks Communications Offline (AP)

KIMBERLEE KRUESI and THALIA BEATY Friday, 25 December 2020 05:39 PM

A recreational vehicle parked in the deserted streets of downtown Nashville exploded early Christmas morning, causing widespread communications outages that took down police emergency systems and grounded holiday travel at the city's airport. Authorities said they believe the blast was intentional.

Police were responding to a report of shots fired Friday when they encountered the RV blaring a recorded warning that a bomb would detonate in 15 minutes, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake said. Police evacuated nearby buildings and called in the bomb squad. The RV exploded shortly afterward, Drake said at a midday news conference. Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

“It looks like a bomb went off on Second Avenue,” Nashville Mayor John Cooper said after touring the site. Cooper issued a state of emergency and a curfew for the area.

Police did not immediately indicate a possible motive or the target.

Surveillance video published on a Twitter account Friday that appeared to be across the street from the blast captured the warning issuing from the RV, “… if you can hear this message, evacuate now,” seconds before the explosion.

The blast sent black smoke and flames billowing from the heart of downtown Nashville’s tourist scene, an area packed with honky-tonks, restaurants and shops. Buildings shook and windows shattered streets away from the explosion near a building owned by AT&T that lies one block from the company's office tower, a landmark in downtown.

“We do not know if that was a coincidence, or if that was the intention,” police spokesman Don Aaron said. Aaron said earlier that some people were taken to the department’s central precinct for questioning but declined to give details.

AT&T said the affected building is the central office of a telephone exchange, with network equipment in it. The blast interrupted service, but the company declined to say how widespread outages were.

“Service for some customers in Nashville and the surrounding areas may be affected by damage to our facilities from the explosion this morning. We are in contact with law enforcement and working as quickly and safely as possible to restore service,” AT&T spokesman Jim Greer said in an emailed statement.

The AT&T outages site showed service issues in middle Tennessee and Kentucky, including Bowling Green about 65 miles (105 kilometers) north of Nashville. Several police agencies reported that their 911 systems were down because of the outage, including Murfreesboro and Knox County, home to Knoxville about 180 miles (290 kilometers) east of Nashville.

The Federal Aviation Administration temporarily halted flights out of Nashville International Airport because of telecommunications issues associated with the explosion.

Three people were taken to area hospitals for treatment after the blast, although none were in critical condition, Aaron said. Cooper said the city was lucky that the number of injuries was limited. Authorities don’t know whether anyone was in the vehicle when it exploded.

Human remains were found in the vicinity, two law enforcement officials told the The Associated Press. It was unclear how the remains were related to the explosion or whether they might belong to the person believed to be responsible or a victim. The officials could not discuss an ongoing investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The FBI will be taking the lead in the investigation, agency spokesman Joel Siskovic said. Federal investigators from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives were also on the scene. The FBI is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating federal crimes, such as explosives violations and acts of terrorism.

A Philadelphia man staying in a nearby hotel said that when he heard the blast, he was knew it wasn’t harmless.

“We tried to rationalize it that it was an earthquake or something, but it was obvious it wasn’t an earthquake," Joseph Fafara said. He said he traveled to Tennessee with his family on Christmas because the state has looser COVID-19 restrictions than Philadelphia.

When he went to look at the damage, police barricades had already been put in place. At noon, police dogs continued to search cars and buildings in the nearby area.

Buck McCoy, who lives near the area, posted videos on Facebook that show water pouring down the ceiling of his home. Alarms blare in the background along with cries of people in distress. A fire is visible in the street outside.

McCoy said he heard gunfire 15 minutes before the explosion rocked his building, set cars in the street on fire and blew trees apart.

“All my windows, every single one of them got blown into the next room. If I had been standing there it would have been horrible,” he said.

“It felt like a bomb. It was that big,” he told The Associated Press.

President Donald Trump has been briefed, according to White House spokesperson Judd Deere. The U.S. Justice Department said Acting Attorney General Jeff Rosen was also briefed and directed all department resources be made available to help with the investigation.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said on Twitter that the state would provide the resources necessary “to determine what happened and who was responsible.”

The American Red Cross of Tennessee announced that it was working with officials to open a shelter for victims.

Fauci Acknowledges He Increased His Estimates on Herd Immunity

Fauci Acknowledges He Increased His Estimates on Herd Immunity anthony fauci speaks at press conference Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By Jeffrey Rodack | Friday, 25 December 2020 01:26 PM

Dr. Anthony Fauci admits he has been slowly increasing his estimates on what the U.S. would need to achieve herd immunity against COVID-19.

According to The New York Times, many epidemiologists have been estimating since the start of the pandemic that it would take 60% to 70% of the population to acquire resistance to the coronavirus in order for the disease to fade away.

And the Times noted Fauci, the most prominent U.S. infectious disease expert, tended to agree during the pandemic’s early days. But about a month ago he raised the estimate to ''70, 75%.'' In a Dec. 16 interview with CNBC he said: ''75, 80, 85%'' and ''75 to 80-plus percent.''

Fauci concedes he has been deliberately moving the goal posts, partly based on new science and his gut feeling the U.S. is finally ready to hear what he really believes.

He said it may take close to 90% immunity to stop the virus.

Now that some polls show that many more Americans are ready for vaccines, Fauci said he felt he could deliver the message that a return to normal might take longer than first believed, the Times noted.

''When polls said only about half of all Americans would take a vaccine, I was saying herd immunity would take 70 to 75 percent,'' Dr. Fauci said. ''Then, when newer surveys said 60 percent or more would take it, I thought, 'I can nudge this up a bit,' so I went to 80, 85.''

A Gallup poll last month showed that 58% of Americans are now willing to get the vaccine. The number is up from a low of 50% in September.