GOP senators under pressure for witness testimony at Trump trial after Bolton revelations

24 0 27 Jan 2020

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said Monday it’s “increasingly likely” that there will be enough Republicans to vote in favor of calling witnesses in President Donald Trump’s Senate trial in the wake of the major revelations from a soon-to-be released book from former national security adviser John Bolton.

At least four Republicans would need to vote alongside all Democratic senators in order to secure new testimony.

Romney, Susan Collins, R-Maine, Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., are considered to be most likely Republicans to vote in favor of witnesses.

Other Republicans cast doubt on the bombshell report that Bolton alleges in his book that Trump directly linked the withheld Ukrainian military aid and his push for investigations into Democrats.

And they also said that if the Senate now votes to hear from witnesses such as Bolton, senators better allow for Trump’s preferred witnesses to be called to testify as well.

On the other hand, Trump suggested he would block Bolton’s testimony and said last week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that Bolton’s testimony would present “a national security problem.”

“If there is a desire and decision by the Senate to call Democratic witnesses, then at a minimum the Senate should allow President @realDonaldTrump to call all relevant witnesses he has requested,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., tweeted.

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A day earlier, on Sunday, Graham told Fox News that seeking witness testimony would “throw the country into chaos,” and said the Senate should get testimony from witnesses Trump seeks, like former Vice President Joe Biden, his son Hunter Biden and the whistleblower, outside the impeachment process.

Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told “Fox & Friends” that if new testimony is approved, the Senate should hear from those Trump-sought witnesses too. Of Bolton’s book, Hawley said “it’s certainly going to sell a lot of” copies.

“Listen, I can’t tell from the New York Times report what is actually being reported here,” he said. “I can’t tell if this is something new. I can’t tell if they’ve actually seen the manuscript. It’s all a bunch of hearsay and clearly it’s an attempt to try to influence the course of the trial.”

According to a manuscript of Bolton’s book, obtained by The New York Times and not seen by NBC News, Trump told Bolton in August that the nearly $400 million in aid to Ukraine would not be released until the country provided all of the information it had in connection to the investigations of Democrats the president sought. One month earlier, Trump asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and Democrats.

Trump and allies have said the investigations and aid were not linked, though acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney said late last year that the aid was linked to an investigation of so-called Ukrainian electoral interference in 2016. Mulvaney later walked back those remarks. Meanwhile, Trump’s impeachment defense has argued in its “six facts” of the case that “not a single witness testified that the president himself said that there was any connection between any investigations and security assistance, a presidential meeting or anything else.”

Democrats ramped up their call for witness testimony after the report on Bolton’s book.

On Monday, Trump tweeted he “NEVER” told Bolton of a link between investigations and aid, saying Bolton was “only” making that assertion “to sell a book.”

Fellow Republicans didn’t seem shaken by Bolton’s allegations.

Speaking with “Fox and Friends,” Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said “the timing” of the Bolton report “is a little interesting, isn’t it?”

“But the best I can tell from what’s reported in the New York Times [is] it’s nothing different than what we’ve already heard, and as I said, no crimes were alleged and these events never actually occurred, the withholding of aid and the investigations,” Cornyn said.

Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told MSNBC’s “Kasie DC” on Sunday that, moving forward, you have to take into consideration whether there was “anything that would motivate” Bolton to make the assertions.

Elsewhere on “Fox & Friends,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said he did not think witness testimony was needed in the Senate in light of the new claims.

“Not based on something – not based on all of the assumptions, presumptions, and hearsay and some anonymous source telling the New York Times about some draft manuscript when the facts have never changed,” Jordan said.

NBA legend Kobe Bryant dead in LA-area helicopter crash

73 0 27 Jan 2020

Kobe Bryant, who won five NBA championships with the Los Angeles Lakers, and his 13-year-old daughter died Sunday in a helicopter crash in the Los Angeles area. Seven other people were also killed, according to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

David Shapiro, a City Council member and former mayor of Calabasas, where the crash occurred, confirmed to NBC News that Bryant, 41, and his daughter Gianna were on the helicopter.

Kobe Bryant hugs his daughter Gianna during a Los Angeles Lakers game on Nov. 17, 2019.Allen Berezovsky / Getty Images file

Other victims included John Altobelli, the head baseball coach at Orange Coast College in Costa Mesa, California; his wife, Keri; and their daughter Alyssa. The college, in confirming the deaths, said in a statement that Altobelli had coached there for 27 years.

Payton Chester, a 13-year-old basketball player, and her mother Sarah were also on board. Calling the crash a “freak accident,” Payton’s grandmother Catherine George told NBC News that “they had to get on the helicopter as a convenience today, they usually drove by car.”

Christina Mauser, a coach, was also killed, according to a her husband Matt Mauser, who posted the news on Facebook.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said a manifest for the helicopter listed nine people — eight passengers and a pilot. He said authorities believe nine bodies were found at the scene.

Kobe and Gianna Bryant were captured by cameras last month sitting courtside at a Brooklyn Nets game in New York. They were reported to have been on their way to a travel basketball game when the helicopter crashed, according to ESPN.

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A call for a downed helicopter and brush fire in Calabasas went out at 9:47 a.m., Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said. Osby said the fire, which covered a quarter-acre, was difficult to extinguish because it included magnesium, a chemical that reacts with oxygen and water.

The recovery effort will probably take several days to complete given the terrain and condition of site, Chief Medical Examiner Jonathan Lucas said at a press conference on Sunday.

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“It’s a logistical nightmare in a sense, because the crash site itself is not easily accessible,” Villanueva said on Sunday at the press conference.

The National Transportation Safety Board confirmed it was sending a team to investigate the crash of the Sikorsky S-76B. Officials are looking closely at whether dense fog may have been a contributing factor, aviation sources told NBC News.

The fog in Los Angeles was so dense on Sunday morning that the Los Angeles Police Department grounded its helicopters until the afternoon, LAPD spokesman Joshua Rubenstein said.

The department requires 2 miles of visibility and an 800-foot cloud ceiling, he said.

“The weather situation did not meet our minimum standards for flying,” Rubenstein told the Los Angeles Times.

Los Angeles police alerted fans who wished to mourn at the Lakers’ arena that they would be unable to reach the Staples Center as the Grammy Awards were being held there Sunday evening.

NBC Los Angeles reported that Bryant, who lived south of Los Angeles in Orange County, often used helicopters to avoid Southern California’s notorious traffic. As a player, he traveled to practices and games by helicopter — a practice he continued after retirement.

On Saturday night, Bryant tweeted his congratulations to LeBron James after James surpassed him on the NBA’s all-time scoring list.

Bryant was one of the most influential basketball players of the late 1990s and the early 21st century, racking up astronomical scoring totals while playing elite defense over a 20-season career that ended in 2016.

He was the son of the longtime professional basketball player Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, who played for the Philadelphia 76ers, the San Diego Clippers and the Houston Rockets. Joe Bryant also had a long career playing in Italy.

People watch as smoke rises from the scene of a helicopter crash that killed basketball star Kobe Bryant in Calabasas, California, on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.Ringo Chiu / Reuters

Bryant attended Lower Merion High School just outside Philadelphia and was drafted directly into the league. He took R&B superstar Brandy Norwood to his 1996 prom.

He was named Most Valuable Player in four of the 15 All-Star Games he played in. He was the NBA’s MVP in 2008 and was twice MVP of the NBA Finals.

Bryant was accused in 2003 of sexually assaulting a 19-year-old hotel employee in Colorado, where he was staying for surgery. He admitted to having had sex with the woman but insisted that it had been consensual.

Bryant was charged with rape, but the case was dropped after the accuser declined to help prosecutors. She sued Bryant, and they settled out of court.

NBA athletes, officials and fans mourned the loss of Bryant, who was considered one of the greatest players of all time.

“May your memory be a blessing,” Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tweeted.

Retired forward Paul Pierce expressed his disbelief on Twitter, saying, “This is not real right now.”

Bryant’s former teammate and friend Shaquille O’Neal said he was sick over the news and sent condolences to all of the victims’ families.

“There’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing my neice Gigi & my brother @kobebryant,” he said in a tweet. “I love u and u will be missed.”

President Donald Trump tweeted that the crash was “terrible news.” Former President Barack Obama expressed his condolences to Bryant’s wife, Vanessa, and their family.

“Kobe was a legend on the court and just getting started in what would have been just as meaningful a second act,” Obama said on behalf of himself and his wife, Michelle. “To lose Gianna is even more heartbreaking to us as parents.”

NBA Commissioner Adam Silver remarked on Bryant’s 20-year career and legacy in a statement posted to Twitter on Sunday, noting his achievements on the court.

“But he will be remembered most for inspiring people around the world to pick up a basketball and compete to the very best of their ability,” Silver said.

David K. Li, Andrew Blankstein, Jay Blackman and Tom Costello contributed.

China coronavirus death toll climbs to 80 as government scrambles to contain outbreak

32 0 27 Jan 2020

The death toll from the new coronavirus outbreak in China rose to 80 Monday as the government, scrambling to contain the epidemic, extended the Lunar New Year holiday to try and stop people from traveling.

The death toll stood at 56 on Sunday, according to health officials who have warned that the spread of the virus was accelerating.

Officials with China’s National Health Commission said there were 2,744 confirmed cases — up from 1,975 — of which 461 are considered severe. Officials are also investigating 5,794 suspected cases and tracking over 32,000 close contacts with infected patients.

Health officials in the capital, Beijing, said Sunday that the youngest patient was just nine months old.

Workers wearing protective clothing disinfect a residential area in Ruichang, in China’s central Jiangxi province.AFP – Getty Images

Cases of the virus have been reported on four continents, including in the U.S. where the fifth case was confirmed Sunday. All of the U.S. cases are patients who have recently traveled from Wuhan. No deaths have been reported outside China.

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The city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the viral outbreak, was still on lockdown with more than a dozen neighboring cities facing similar severe transport restrictions to help stop the spread of the virus.

Health officials are asking anyone who had traveled to Wuhan or other affected areas recently to register and quarantine themselves for 14 days.

The limitations on movement for millions of people come amid one of the busiest times of the year for travel — Chinese Lunar New Year. Chinese officials extended the week-long holiday until to Feb. 2 to reduce mass gatherings and slow down the spread of the virus.

Local authorities in Wuhan have also announced they were suspending all passport and visa services for Chinese citizens until at least Jan. 30 to help control the virus.

Chinese health officials have warned that people who are carrying the virus but not showing any symptoms may still be contagious, which could complicate early detection and isolation efforts.

The State Department has said it would evacuate its personnel and some private U.S. citizens on a plane departing from Wuhan to San Francisco Tuesday.

Other countries, including France, Australia, Spain and Japan, are also looking into moving their citizens out of the city.

The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) is due to hold a special meeting with officials in Beijing Monday to discuss how to contain the virus. The WHO officials ruled last week that the outbreak did not yet constitute a global health emergency.

Reuters reported Monday that China has allocated nearly $9 billion to help contain the virus.

Over the weekend, President Xi Jinping said the country was facing a “grave situation.”

State media reported that Chinese Premier Li Keqiang arrived in Wuhan Monday — the most senior official, “entrusted” personally by Xi to visit the city and inspect the ongoing efforts to contain the epidemic as Chinese government faced pressure to do more to stop the outbreak.

Yuliya Talmazan reported from London; Eric Baculinao from Manila; Leou Chen from Shenzhen.

SNLs White Male Rage song goes viral, prompting critical discussion of Oscars

30 0 27 Jan 2020

During the “Weekend Update” segment of this week’s “Saturday Night Live,” a standout bit performed by cast member Melissa Villaseñor acknowledged a commonality between a majority of the Oscar nominated films, leading to a lively discussion on social media.

Villaseñor appeared on the segment to show off her “Oscar songs,” each about a different film nominated this year, only for a trend to appear — each film centers around “white male rage.”

After “Weekend Update” co-host Colin Jost remarked that none of Villaseñor’s songs appeared in any of the films, she replied, “Of course none of these songs are in the movies, Colin. Here’s another one.”

When Jost asked how many more songs there were, Villaseñor said she had “a whole bunch” but conceded to “combine them all,” before rattling through nominated films that shared the narrative of “white male rage” like “Once Upon A Time In … Hollywood,” “Jojo Rabbit” and “1917” — while adding that “Little Women” director Greta Gerwig, whose film was not about “white male rage,” was snubbed for a best director nomination.

The bit, which was written by Villaseñor and SNL writers Dan Bulla and Steven Castillo, struck a chord on Twitter, where the hashtag “#WhiteMaleRage” began trending and had well over 14,000 tweets by Sunday afternoon.

New York Times media reporter Nicole Sperling tweeted, “Welp @TheAcademy you’ve just been handed your opening number for #Oscars2020. hope you do it justice.”

“Every Oscar Best Picture nominee has only been created because of #WhiteMaleRage. Gotta love #SNL,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another wrote, “@melissavcomedy gives the best summary of Oscar season thus far. #WhiteMaleRage.”

The conversation on social media began to deviate from just talk about the Oscars, and gradually escalated into a conversation about “white male rage” in modern society and in the 2020 race for the presidency.

“Fragile men set out to prove that SNL is completely irrelevant by…tweeting about it all night long #WhiteMaleRage,” one Twitter user wrote.

Another tweeted, “If you’re white and male and don’t like being treated as a faceless part of a group, losing all your individuality, when someone talks or jokes about #WhiteMaleRage it could be a chance to understand that people in other groups may feel that way too when you stereotype them.”

While Twitter went back and forth on the segment, a handful of users found one idea they could agree on.

“Melissa Villaseñor should host the Oscars,” Baltimore Magazine’s editor-in-chief Max Weiss tweeted.

Survivors return to Auschwitz 75 years after liberation

87 0 27 Jan 2020

When more than 200 survivors of the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp gather there on Monday to mark 75 years since its liberation, many will do so for the last time.

Elderly survivors from the United States, Israel, Australia, South America, Russia, Slovenia and elsewhere will be among presidents, prime ministers and royalty from across the globe who will join the ceremony in southern Poland, which was under Nazi occupation during World War II.

The event will recall the moment Auschwitz was liberated by the Soviet army on Jan. 27, 1945.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and the head of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, will lead a commemoration for the more than one million people slaughtered at Auschwitz, the vast majority of whom were Jewish.

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A delegation of survivors of the Auschwitz and their families arrive to lay wreaths at the camp’s execution wall on Monday.Sean Gallup / Getty Images

World leaders gathered in Jerusalem last week for a separate event to commemorate the Holocaust. Poland’s Duda boycotted that event over a disagreement with Russia over Poland’s role in triggering World War II.

“This is about survivors. It’s not about politics,” Lauder said Sunday as he went to the death camp with several survivors.

Lauder warned that leaders must do more to fight anti-Semitism, including by passing new laws to combat it.

Many of the survivors lost parents and grandparents in Auschwitz or other Nazi death camps and some will be saying kaddish, the Jewish prayer for the dead, some alongside their own children, grandchildren and even great grandchildren.

“I have no graves to go to and I know my parents were murdered here and burned. So this is how I pay homage to them,” said Yvonne Engelman, a 92-year-old who came from Australia, joined by three more generations now scattered around the globe.

She recalled being brought in from a ghetto in Czechoslovakia by cattle car, being stripped of her clothes, shaved and put in a gas chamber. By some miracle, the gas chamber that day did not work, and she went on to survive slave labor and a death march.

A 96-year-old survivor, Jeanette Spiegel, was 20 when she was brought to Auschwitz, where she spent nine months. Today she lives in New York City and is fearful of rising anti-Semitic violence in the United States.

“I think they pick on the Jews because we are such a small minority and it is easy to pick on us,” she said, fighting back tears. “Young people should understand that nothing is for sure, that some terrible things can happen and they have to be very careful. And that, God forbid, what happened to the Jewish people then should never be repeated.”

Kobe Bryant, former NBA star and Los Angeles Lakers legend, dies at 41

36 0 27 Jan 2020

Retired Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant, who authorities say was killed Sunday in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles, is being remembered as a five-time NBA champion who built a dominant dynasty with the franchise and soared as one of the greatest basketball players of his generation.

Bryant, 41, was killed along with one of his daughters, Gianna, 13, Calabasas City Council member David Shapiro said. Authorities believe seven other people were also killed.

Bryant’s death sent shock waves across the sports world and beyond, blindsiding current and former NBA players who were confronted with the enormous and unexpected loss of a titan of the sport.

“He inspired a whole generation of young athletes,” former Laker Kareem Abdul-Jabbar said in an emotional video posted on Twitter.

“I had the privilege of being there when he scored his 81-point game, and it’s something I’ll always remember,” Abdul-Jabbar said, adding, “Rest in peace, young man. This loss is just hard to comprehend.”

Kobe Bryant, then age 17, holds his Los Angeles Lakers jersey during a news conference in Inglewood, California, in July 1996.Susan Sterner / AP file

Bryant was born in Philadelphia to Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, a former NBA forward and coach of many teams around the world, and Pam Fox, the sister of former NBA player John “Chubby” Cox. He was one of the NBA’s most prolific scorers, playing his entire 20-year career with the Lakers after he entered the league straight out of high school in 1996 — a choice that would become a trend among other young players. His time on the court was marked by scoring records that also came with criticism that he was being selfish with the ball and hogged the spotlight from his teammates.

Bryant had given himself the nickname The Black Mamba, which he described in the 2015 Showtime documentary “Kobe Bryant’s Muse” as his way to help him cope after dealing with struggles off the court in 2003 and 2004, including an allegation of sexual assault.

As a shooting guard, he helped the Lakers win championships after the 2000, 2001, 2002, 2009 and 2010 seasons — cementing his status in the pantheon of franchise legends, alongside Abdul-Jabbar, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain and Magic Johnson.

In 2006, at age 27, Bryant scored an amazing 81 points in a single game against the Toronto Raptors. Two years later, he won the league’s Most Valuable Player award, calling the trophy a blessing at the time.

“It’s Hollywood. It’s a movie script,” he said of his achievement.

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At 34, Bryant became the youngest player in NBA history to score 30,000 career points, edging other scoring greats such as Abdul-Jabbar, Chamberlain, Karl Malone and Michael Jordan.

He is the fourth-highest scorer of all time; on Saturday, LeBron James, who plays for the Lakers and had been an adversary of Bryant’s, surpassed him for third.

It was an accomplishment that didn’t go unnoticed by Bryant on social media.

Former NBA star Shaquille O’Neal, who won three championships with Bryant during his time with the Lakers, tweeted Sunday that “there’s no words to express the pain Im going through with this tragedy of loosing [sic] my neice [sic] Gigi & my brother @kobebryant I love u and u will be missed.”

Although O’Neal and Bryant were teammates, they also carried on one of the great feuds in the sport. Bryant had complained that O’Neal lacked the work ethic to win more championship rings, and O’Neal complained about his diminishing role on the team. Their on-again, off-again relationship culminated with O’Neal asking to be traded to the Miami Heat in the summer of 2004.

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In a 2015 interview with Bryant, GQ magazine described the pair’s complex relationship.

Bryant told GQ that when he and O’Neal played together, “the perception was that Kobe was trying to break up the team.”

“That was wrong,” he said. “I am a maniacal worker, and if you’re not working as hard as I am, I am going to let you know about it. That’s why Shaq and I still have a good relationship: He knows I have zero fear of him. I would tell him what he was doing and what he wasn’t doing. And vice versa.”

Former Lakers coach Phil Jackson wrote about the rivalry and his difficulties with Bryant in his 2004 tell-all book, “The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul.” Jackson wrote that Bryant was uncoachable and that his star player wanted more freedom, while Jackson believed he needed discipline.

Jackson said in subsequent interviews that he had learned to communicate better with Bryant in his last few seasons coaching the Lakers, although the pair’s relationship was strained.

Kobe Bryant, Lindsey Hunter and Shaquille O’Neal of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrate after winning the NBA championship against the New Jersey Nets in East Rutherford, New Jersey, in June 2002.The Sporting News / via Getty Images file

“I’ve always seen Kobe as a truly great player, an intelligent guy and a remarkable person,” Jackson told ESPN in 2015.

Jackson was at the helm when Bryant was embroiled in controversy off the court: A 19-year-old hotel desk clerk in Colorado accused him of raping her in 2003.

The charges were dropped after the woman declined to testify in 2004, and a civil suit was later settled. Bryant, who married Vanessa Laine in 2001, also admitted to a consensual affair but denied the allegation of assault.

“I had to separate myself,” Kobe said in his Showtime documentary. “It felt like there were so many things coming at once. It was just becoming very, very confusing. I had to organize things. So I created The Black Mamba.”

Bryant hung up his two jersey numbers — 8 and 24 — for good after the 2015-16 season. His retirement had been widely anticipated after he suffered a devastating Achilles tendon injury.

Bryant earned hundreds of millions of dollars in endorsements during his time in the NBA, and his post-hoops career continued by intersecting sports with the movie business.

In 2018, Bryant surprised even himself when he won an Academy Award as executive producer of the year’s best animated short film, “Dear Basketball: The Legend of Kobe Bryant,” which was loosely based on his retirement letter.

It was yet another accolade for a man whose stellar career included selection to 18 NBA All-Star teams and winning two Olympic gold medals in men’s basketball, in 2008 and 2012.

“I don’t know if it’s possible,” Bryant said upon his Oscars win. “I mean, as basketball players, we are really supposed to shut up and dribble. But I am glad we do a little bit more than that.”

Bryant is survived by his wife and three other daughters.

Bloomberg addresses anti-Semitic violence, throws shade at Sanders and Trump

33 0 27 Jan 2020

MIAMI — Former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Sunday offered a strong rebuke of President Donald Trump’s foreign policy vision and the recent spate of anti-Semitism in a speech centered on his Jewish faith.

Bloomberg joked that while he isn’t the only Jewish candidate in the 2020 race, “I am the only one who doesn’t want to turn America into a kibbutz” — a thinly veiled reference to Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

“Attacks on Jews, especially the Orthodox, have been taking place with horrifying regularity,” Bloomberg said, referring to the recent violence in the New York area during Hanukkah and the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh last year. “As these attacks occur, our children look to us with faces turned upward for answers, for reassurance, for safety.”

Former Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine introduced Bloomberg to the nearly 850 people at the event — more than the campaign expected.

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Bloomberg spoke for about 20 minutes to the enthusiastic crowd, which was fired up to see the former mayor. Loud music filled the space before Bloomberg took the stage, creating a buzzing, club-like atmosphere — and the energy built in the room as the speech progressed.

Bloomberg proposed adding bulletproof doors and installing bollards to increase security and safety at synagogues and other places of worship.

“Sadly, I suppose, we must do these things. But while we harden our buildings, we must never harden our hearts,” said Bloomberg, who has advocated for and funded gun violence prevention efforts across the country for years.

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While Bloomberg’s Jewish faith was the vessel for the speech, he acknowledged that Jews are not the only group to experience a rise in hostility and attacks.

“No single person is entirely to blame,” he cautioned, adding: “Anti-Semitism is hardly the exclusive domain of one political party. It can be found on both the right and the left — on town squares and campus quads. But there is one fact that we cannot ignore: Presidential leadership matters.”

While Bloomberg didn’t directly blame Trump, he lambasted the president’s past comments as a sign of “complicity.” Trump most notably received widespread criticism over his response to the violent 2017 white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where, Trump said, there were “very fine people on both sides.”

With this “personal attachment to Israel,” Bloomberg also affirmed his commitment to the U.S. ally, quickly pivoting to a rebuke of Trump for withdrawing from the Iran deal. That commitment “is also the reason I opposed President Trump’s decision to unilaterally walk away from the deal and our partners in Europe. Because doing so was tantamount to giving Iran permission to relaunch its nuclear program.”

Bloomberg, the billionaire former mayor of New York, promised to secure a deal that would constrain Iran and the regime’s “aggression and territorial ambitions” — putting an end to its nuclear program and working to ease tensions in the region.

“There are those who will cite moving the embassy to Jerusalem as a reason to support the president,” Bloomberg said. “And to that I say very clearly: If I am elected, you will never have to choose between supporting Israel and supporting our values here at home. I will defend both — because unlike this president, you and I know they are inextricably linked.”

Kobe and Gianna Bryant honored at Grammys in emotional tribute

30 0 27 Jan 2020

Singer Alicia Keys, host of the Grammy Awards, took a moment as the ceremony got underway Sunday night to reflect on the deaths of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna, who died in a helicopter crash Sunday.

“Here we are together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best, but to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys said.

“Because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero,” Keys continued after show opener Lizzo performed at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, where Bryant played for much of his career. “And we’re literally standing here heartbroken in the house that Kobe Bryant built.

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“Right now, Kobe and his daughter Gianna and all of those that have been tragically lost today are in our spirit, they’re in our hearts, they’re in our prayers, they’re in this building,” she continued.

Keys asked everyone “to take a moment and just hold them inside of you.”

“We never imagined in a million years we’d have to start the show like this,” Keys said. “So we wanted to do something that could describe — a tiny bit — how we all feel right now.”

She was joined on stage by Boyz II Men for a performance of the R&B group’s song “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday.”

Afterward, Keys said: “I love you, Kobe.”

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Bryant, 41, and Gianna, 13, were killed Sunday morning in a helicopter crash in Calabasas, California. Authorities said they believe nine people died in the crash.

Fans gathered outside the Staples Center after hearing of Bryant’s death.

At the start of the show, Lizzo declared, “Tonight is for Kobe,” before she performed a medley of “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts.”

Could Bloombergs (huge, ginormous, oh my gosh!) money really topple Trump?

25 0 27 Jan 2020

Michael Bloomberg could spend $1 billion or more in his quest to beat President Donald Trump — and experts and consultants in both parties say that unprecedented sum could tip a close presidential election.

“He’d be a super super PAC,” said Bob Shrum, a longtime Democratic strategist. “Obviously, it makes a big difference. If he’s going to spend a billion dollars, I see no way that Republicans could match that.”

Bloomberg hasn’t said exactly how much he’s willing to reach into his own pockets to unseat Trump, but he’s estimated to be worth more than $50 billion and has already pledged to keep tapping his personal war chest to help Democrats defeat Trump, even if he’s not the party’s nominee.

Some of Bloomberg’s TV ads look like they’re from a Democratic super PAC, focusing more on attacking Trump than boosting himself.

“The straight answer is that nobody has any idea what that would do, because no one has talked about spending that kind of money in a presidential race,” said Whit Ayers, a leading Republican pollster who runs North Star Opinion Research. “It’s an absolutely breathtaking amount of money.”

Trump may have reason to be concerned about his fellow New York billionaire’s money, but whether he’s afraid or not, Bloomberg does seem to have gotten under the president’s skin. After Bloomberg aide Kevin Sheekey appeared last week on “Fox and Friends,” the Fox News morning show Trump is known to watch regularly, to debut a new ad hitting Trump, the president fired off a series of tweets attacking the man he called “Mini” Mike Bloomberg (the former mayor once described himself as 5-foot-7, but has also been listed as 5-foot-8).

The conventional wisdom among political insiders is that campaign spending, which primarily goes toward advertising, eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns. “But no one has really tested the proposition,” Ayers said.

History shows money doesn’t always win elections, but it often does.

In the 2018 midterms, top-spending House candidates won 88.8 percent of their races, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. And in 2016, their win rate was 95 percent.

“Money is the No. 1 factor in most elections,” said former Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a Republican from Florida who, until the 2018 blue wave sent him packing, represented a Democratic-leaning district that includes Miami. “If you look back at the data, candidates that have the most resources at their disposal tend to win.”

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Curbelo said Bloomberg’s ads are already ubiquitous in Florida, a state so big and expensive to advertise in that national Republican and Democratic party groups often don’t bother.

“You can’t watch a football game without seeing him,” Curbelo said of Bloomberg.

Speaking of which, viewers of next Sunday’s Super Bowl, one of the largest TV audiences of the year, will see a 60-second Bloomberg spot — at an estimated cost of $10 million. Trump and the Republican National Committee are building an unprecedented war chest of their own and plan to deploy some of that to run their own Super Bowl ad, which his campaign said cost $10 million.

With the country deeply polarized, almost everyone expects the 2020 election to be a close race, decided on the margins in a handful of now-familiar Electoral College swing states, where Trump won by just tens of thousands of votes.

And tight races are where money can make a real difference, according to a growing body of academic research.

“A lot of ads can potentially swing an election that is close,” said Jörg Spenkuch of Northwestern University, who conducted one of the most-cited studies on the impact of political advertising. “But ads are probably not effective enough to change the outcome of a race that wasn’t close to begin with.”

And how money gets spent can be just as important as how much. Research suggests that a lot of it is wasted. A 2017 analysis of 49 field experiments testing various campaign tactics, such as canvassing door-to-door, having volunteers make phone calls, and sending direct mail found an “average effect of zero in general elections.”

But Stanford University’s David Broockman, who conducted that study, said the impact of spending “in the context of a close election can still be very important.”

Liam Donovan, a Republican consultant, said that “money is always going to matter at the margin,” before ticking off a string of caveats.

For instance, if Bloomberg is not the Democrats’ choice for president, will his spending reinforce or clash with the nominee’s message and strategy? What if the nominee is Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., whose campaign is all about challenging the power of billionaires like Bloomberg?

Is there even a way to effectively spend another billion or $2 billion in a money-drenched election year? “There’s only so much airtime you can buy,” Donovan noted.

Democrats will have plenty of money no matter what, said Tara McGowan, the founder of the Democratic digital group Acronym.

“Of course resources matter, but I don’t believe that you can simply buy your way into the White House with unlimited dollars without also having a compelling vision a majority of voters want to align themselves with — and for democracy’s sake, I sincerely hope that we don’t see this proven wrong this year,” she said.

Time will be a big problem for Democrats, since they can’t start running against Trump in earnest until after their primary contest is sorted out. That begins for real on Feb. 3 with the Iowa caucuses.

Bloomberg has sought to address that by running ads hitting Trump in swing states now — such as a new one on the president’s reported belittling of military generals that seemed to infuriate the president.

Jim McLaughlin, a Republican strategist who worked as a consultant on Bloomberg’s mayoral campaigns, doubts Bloomberg will really spend nine figures this year, suspecting he is dangling the promise of the massive payout mainly to curry favor with Democrats.

“Do I think he can spend $2 billion? Of course. Do I think he will? No,” McLaughlin said.

And he questioned the impact of that money, either way.

After all, the most expensive presidential campaign in history was Hillary Clinton’s in 2016, and she wasn’t able to stop Trump, though she did win the popular vote. She spent almost twice what Trump did per electoral vote won.

“Donald Trump was significantly outspent,” McLaughlin said, “and at the end of the day, it didn’t matter.”

Grammys 2020: top moments from the show

46 0 27 Jan 2020

Chock full of both debut and veteran performances and tributes to some of the cultural icons recently lost, the 62nd annual Grammy Awards offered few lulls. Here are some of the most memorable moments from the show.

Alicia Keys, Boys II Men honor Kobe Bryant

Although the Grammys are typically a vibrant celebration of the most talented artists in the industry, this year’s show took on a more somber tone as musicians honored NBA star Kobe Bryant, who with his daughter Gianna died Sunday in a helicopter crash.

The tributes began with Lizzo’s performance of “Cuz I Love You” and “Truth Hurts,” after which she declared, “Tonight is for Kobe.” Lizzo was followed by Alicia Keys, the show’s host, who took a moment as the ceremony got underway to reflect on the Bryants.

“Here we are together, on music’s biggest night, celebrating the artists that do it best, but to be honest with you, we’re all feeling crazy sadness right now,” Keys said. “Because earlier today, Los Angeles, America and the whole wide world lost a hero.”

Keys, joined by Boys II Men, sang “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye.”

Lizzo performs during the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020.Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Billie Eilish wins best new artist and three other Grammys

Billie Eilish won the Grammy for best new artist, a stacked category in which she competed against Lizzo, Lil Nas X, Black Pumas, Maggie Rogers, Rosalía, Tank and the Bangas, and Yola. Eilish first gained traction after she uploaded a song called “Ocean Eyes” on SoundCloud in 2016, but 2019 proved to be a breakout year for the 18-year-old artist. Her album “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” was released in March and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and on the UK Albums Chart, making her the first artist born in the 2000s to have a No. 1 album in the United States and the youngest female ever to have a No. 1 album in the United Kingdom. She also took home Grammys for best song for her track “bad guy,” best pop vocal album and album of the year.

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Rob Kinelski, Finneas O’Connell and Billie Eilish accept the record of the year award at the Grammys in Los Angeles on Sunday night.Kevin Winter / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

“We stand up here confused and grateful,” Eilish’s brother, Finneas O’Connell, said during the duo’s acceptance speech for the best pop vocal album award.

When the pair returned minutes later to collect the award for album of the year, they simply said, “Thank you.”

Camila Cabello sings to her father

Camila Cabello‘s Grammys performance struck an emotional chord with viewers, who said her song reminded them of the Bryant family. While singing, Cabello descended the stage and approached her father, Alejandro Cabello, as pictures of her childhood appeared on a screen behind her. Her father appeared to cry as she sang to him, and they shared a hug after the performance.

Lil Nas X and BTS’ “Old Town Road” Performance

Lil Nas X, who gained prominence through his country trap single “Old Town Road,” continued to fuse different genres in his latest performance of “Old Town Road,” featuring K-pop band BTS and viral yodeling star Mason Ramsey. It was the first Grammy performance for BTS and Mason, 13, who is one of the youngest Grammy performers ever.

Demi Lovato debuts song written before overdose

Demi Lovato debuted “Anyone,” a song she wrote days before her overdose, calling it “a cry for help.” The “Confident” singer got choked up and began the song a second time, but that was of no importance to fans who called her performance “powerful” and gave her a standing ovation. The emotional song marked the first time Lovato has performed onstage since the overdose in 2018. She will also perform the national anthem before the Super Bowl on Feb. 2, adding to a stacked halftime lineup that includes Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.

Demi Lovato performs during the Grammy Awards at the Statples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.Emma McIntyre / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Nipsey Hussle tribute

The late Los Angeles rapper Nipsey Hussle was honored with performances by John Legend, Meek Mill, Kirk Franklin, Roddy Ricch and YG. The artist, who died in March, posthumously won the best rap performance award for his track “Racks in the Middle,” a collaboration featuring Ricch and Hit-Boy.

“I wanted to thank all of you for showing all the love that I have felt for him all of his life and will always live in my heart,” his grandmother Margaret Boutte said as she and his family accepted the award on his behalf. “So thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Images of the late Nipsey Hussle and Kobe Bryant are projected onto a screen while YG, John Legend, Kirk Franklin, DJ Khaled, Meek Mill and Roddy Ricch perform during the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Sunday.Kevin Winter / Getty Images for The Recording Academy

Ozzy Osbourne makes first public appearance following Parkinson’s diagnosis

Ozzy Osbourne, 71, made his first public appearance since announcing he announced last week that he had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He and his wife, Sharon, presented the Grammy for best rap/song performance and introduced H.E.R. Osbourne also walked the red carpet with his daughter Kelly.

A call for “the truth”

Although no overt references were made to the turmoil within the Recording Academy’s leadership, Keys alluded, in closing, to Grammy Awards chief Deborah Dugan, who was placed on leave 10 days before the ceremony after she alleged gender discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation and unequal pay.

“We’ve got a lot to change. We’ve got a lot to do,” Keys said. “Keep speaking the truth.”

She ended the show the same way she opened it: “God bless Kobe’s family.”