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A group of Michigan health practices and one patient filed a lawsuit against Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer over her shutdown order that is “risking lives and imperiling health.”

The owners of Grand Health Partners, Wellston Medical Center, and Primary Health Services, and Jeffery Gulick filed the lawsuit against Whitmer, state Attorney General Dana Nessel, and state health director Robert Gordon on Tuesday. The plaintiffs are pushing the governor to lift her ban on “non-essential” treatments, warning that the ban is endangering the lives of many patients.

“This shutdown is risking lives and imperiling health,” Grand Health Partners president and surgeon Dr. Randal Baker told Up North Live. “The curve has been flattened. There will likely be spikes of cases in the future, but we can’t shut down non-COVID health care every time. We need to reassess the best practices to save the most lives, particularly where COVID-19 cases are low.”

Whitmer banned elective surgeries throughout Michigan on March 20 while anticipating a flood of patients infected with the coronavirus. The administration expected a wave of hospitalizations that could overflow the state’s healthcare system. More than a month later, Whitmer has left the same strict rules in place and has extended them through May 28.

“Graphics depicted that while Governor Whitmer’s administration anticipated 220,000 patients being hospitalized without social distancing efforts, there had only been 3,000 hospitalizations as of April 27. That is less than 1.4% of the projected COVID-19 hospitalizations underlying the Governor’s declared states of emergency and disaster,” the lawsuit says.

Hospitals, clinics, and other medical providers across the state are struggling financially as they are forced to turn away all but the most serious illnesses and those with flu-like symptoms that may be COVID-19. Last month, Hillsdale Hospital Vice President and COO Jeremiah Hodshire wrote an open letter to Whitmer pleading with her to relax the ban on elective surgeries, citing financial strain.

“If there is one thing that we need now more than ever, it’s patients using our services instead of living in fear of leaving their homes while their health needs are left unmet,” Hodshire wrote. He said her “reckless and senseless” executive order banned his hospital from performing the procedures that generate one-fifth of its net income.

Michigan hospitals are losing roughly $300 million in addition to spending about $100 million a week on additional supplies because of the coronavirus, according to the Michigan Health and Hospital Association. Over 1 million Michigan residents have filed unemployment claims across all sectors since the outbreak, according to the Department of Labor.

“Medical providers are on the brink of financial ruin, facing extreme revenue shortages caused by the Governor’s order forcing the postponement or cancellation of so-called ‘non-essential’ procedures. Thousands of healthcare workers across Michigan have been furloughed or laid off,” the lawsuit says.

“Not only has this shutdown harmed my employees and my practice, but it has put my patients directly at risk,” said Jordan Warnsholz, owner of Wellston Medical Center and Primary Health Services. “These oppressive executive orders are meant to save lives, but instead, they are endangering many of them.”

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7 Comments
  • Stephen A Menice Sr says:

    Tell her to (Pardon my French) Fuck Off and just open back up. She needs to be told she is NOT a Queen!

  • kd says:

    You folks in Michigan had better get this bitch out of office as soon as possible. She is bad news along with many many more demon rats holding office.

    • David says:

      Maybe the people of Michigan will wise up. But I was unwilling to wait. I left the state for Texas last fall. So glad I did. Everything will be open with mild restrictions in 3 more days with most already open.

  • Gerry says:

    She is one of many who need to be thrown out of office –NOW !!!!

  • Evangeline says:

    And that’s her plan. To do the bidding of the Deep State to keep everyone locked up, to see how far she can go to control people, to drive them crazy so they become mindless sheep.

    • KD says:

      Democrats are hoping people will take to the streets, this gives them excuse to unleash Police State on Americans.
      Hitlers playbook on how he rode to power over the German people.

  • DJ says:

    Well you voted for her. You do not like what you get?

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    ‘Liberal Sherpa’ Arrested on Charges of Kidnapping, Financially Exploiting Her Mom

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    Remember the crazy “Liberal Sherpa“ who was a frequent guest at Fox News?

    Cathy Areu, known as “Liberal Sherpa“, was arrested in Miami, Florida on charges that she allegedly kidnapped and exploited her mother for money.

    According to the Miami Herald, Areu was arrested on Friday with charges ranging from fraud, kidnapping, and exploitation.

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    From the Herald:

    Miami-Dade police detectives had been trying to arrest her since June, when a judge signed a warrant for her arrest. According to a Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office press release, she is believed to have been evading arrest and even took off to Mexico for a time.

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    According to the Herald, the investigation has been ongoing since 2019:

    The elderly woman’s home had been turned over to Areu via a quit claim deed, a document the victim denied ever signing, according to the press release. Areu later claimed that other people were exploiting her mother, and that the woman had brain damage or dementia, the report said.

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    In 2018 CF reported, Cathy Areu said parents should get their baby’s consent before changing diapers.

    In 2020 CF reported, Cathy Areu accused Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson of sexually inappropriate behavior toward her. After an independent investigation, it was proven that she lied.

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    Elon Musk Releases Twitter Files Part 3: Reveals What Led to Trump Ban

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    The third installment of Elon Musk’s Twitter Files delved into what led to the removal of former President Trump’s account.

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    Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema Leaves Democratic Party, Registers as Independent

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    Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema is changing her affiliation to independent after decrying the stranglehold extremists have on both major parties in a move that potentially weakens Democrats’ already tenuous hold on the upper chamber.

    The first-term Democrat made the announcement Friday morning in a guest column for the Arizona Republic, just days after Democrats won a critical Senate runoff in Georgia. Sinema, who is up for re-election in 2024, did not say if she will continue to caucus with Democrats, as do independent senators Bernie Sanders, of Vermont, and Angus King, of Maine.

    “Everyday Americans are increasingly left behind by national parties’ rigid partisanship, which has hardened in recent years,” Sinema wrote. “Pressures in both parties pull leaders to the edges, allowing the loudest, most extreme voices to determine their respective parties’ priorities and expecting the rest of us to fall in line.”

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    “Nothing will change about my values or my behavior,” she said.

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    Sinema was stalked and harassed at Arizona State University in October of 2021 by pro-illegal immigration activists who followed her into a restroom while recording the confrontation.

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    Will Manchin Follow Sinema and Take Control of the Senate?

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    Arizona Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s decision to leave the Democratic Party raised immediate questions about whether West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin might follow her out the door, since the two senators have often played a role in gumming up the congressional pipeline for President Biden’s more progressive policies in a 50-50 Senate.

    But political strategists familiar with West Virginia politics say there’s little to no chance Manchin leaves the party he’s been with for decades.

    “Joe Manchin will switch parties the day after the sun rises in the west,” said one Republican strategist who works in West Virginia politics, adding Manchin’s connection to the party reflects a “deep sense of identity” for the senator.

    “He views their progressive turn as an aberration, historically speaking,” the strategist said. “Expect him to spend the next two years voting against everything Biden wants in an effort to restore his brand as a moderate and to bury memories of his dishonesty on Build Back Better.”

    “He despises the Republican Party and would never join it,” the strategist added.

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    “The senator has been successful because of his personal brand and the trust he’s built with voters over four decades, not being of the party label next to his name. I don’t think Sen. Sinema’s announcement today changes anything about Manchin’s thinking heading into 2024, when both senators are up for re-election,” he said.

    Party leaders in the Mountain State also agree Manchin is likely to stay loyal to the party he has represented for decades as secretary of state, then governor and now two-term senator.

    West Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Pushkin said any “rumors” Manchin wants to take an independent route away from the party is “wishful thinking” for Republicans.

    “We have no reason to believe that any of that is the case. And that’s not what we’re hearing in Sen. Manchin’s home state of West Virginia,” Pushkin said.

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    McArdle said she hopes Manchin finds more common ground with Republicans in the next Congress but noted that, in the times when Manchin did break Republican, it was often following Sinema’s lead.

    “I think he has certainly gone there eventually, but has never been the first one to jump ship,” McArdle said. “I can’t see him leaving the Democratic Party completely. I’d be very shocked.”

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    Musk Announces New Twitter Features — Reveals Company Targeted Political Candidates — Takes Shot at Biden

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    Twitter CEO Elon Musk revealed late on Thursday new product features that will soon come to Twitter.

    Musk made the revelations after journalist Bari Weiss released the second installment of “The Twitter Files,” which showed how Twitter built blacklists, prevented disfavored tweets from trending on the platform, and actively limited the visibility of entire accounts and even trending topics without informing users.

    Many users responded to the proof that Twitter had been suppressing conservative accounts to manipulate conversations on the platform by asking if action had been taken against their accounts since Weiss gave only a few examples.

    “Twitter is working on a software update that will show your true account status, so you know clearly if you’ve been shadowbanned, the reason why and how to appeal,” Musk tweeted.

    Musk later added that the platform would soon “start freeing the name space of 1.5 billion accounts.”

    “These are obvious account deletions with no tweets & no log in for years,” he added.

    Musk responded to a question about whether “any political candidates — either in the US or elsewhere — [were] subject to shadowbanning while they were running for office or seeking re-election” by answering, “Yes.”

    “Most engineers don’t feel strongly about politics, but do want to work with other great engineers,” Musk added. “Silicon Valley has world’s best engineering talent, but is co-located with San Francisco, which is far left. Thus, far left gained control of an incredibly powerful info weapon.”

    Musk also took a shot at President Joe Biden for not bringing home U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan during a prisoner swap in which the administration freed convicted Russian terrorist Viktor Bout, who plotted to sell weapons to terrorists for the purpose of killing U.S. federal agents, in exchange for WNBA player Brittney Griner.

    “Never leave a marine behind,” Musk tweeted. “Never.”

    Bout was convicted on terrorism charges back in 2011 for trying to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) to shoot down U.S. military helicopters.

    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed President Joe Biden for releasing Bout.

    “This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans,” Menendez said in a statement. “The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.”

    “We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention,” he continued.

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    Here Are The News Outlets That Spread Twitter Execs’ Lies About Not Shadow-Banning Conservatives

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    Legacy media outlets have been insisting for years that Twitter has not been covertly suppressing conservative accounts. After the release of the second iteration of the Twitter Files, the world learned that those outlets had been thoroughly duped, even as they sneered at conservatives for bemoaning the evident censorship.

    Journalist Bari Weiss shared on Thursday evening that the social media company built blacklists, prevented disfavored tweets from trending on the platform, and actively limited the visibility of entire accounts and even trending topics without telling users. Former company bosses such as founder Jack Dorsey, chief executive Parag Agrawal, and head of legal Vijaya Gadde collaborated to censor multiple popular conservative accounts. The latter two executives were dismissed after Elon Musk took over the company several weeks ago.

    For years, however, Twitter executives had insisted that no such censorship had taken place. “People are asking us if we shadow ban. We do not,” a blog post from 2018 co-authored by Gadde herself claimed. Dorsey answered with a simple “No” when asked by commentator Dave Rubin in 2020 whether the company shadow bans “based on political beliefs.”

    The only entities which spread the outright lie more fervently than Twitter itself were legacy media outlets.

    The New York Times claimed in a 2018 article that the controversy over shadow banning was based on semantics, insisting that the practice only refers to algorithmically shutting down traffic due to the content on a given page. “Is Twitter shadow banning Republicans? No, it is not,” correspondent Liam Stack declared in reaction to an article from Vice News which found that the platform limited search results when users looked for prominent conservatives on the platform. The Gray Lady then amplified a statement from Twitter provided to Vice — “As we have said before, we do not ‘shadowban’” — and mocked Republicans such as RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel and Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) for feeling “vindicated” by the report.

    The agent of the suppression was not an impersonal algorithm, but zealously censorious executives. Weiss found that some accounts, such as the one belonging to talk show host Dan Bongino, were slapped with a “search blacklist.” Twitter likewise placed a “do not amplify” directive on the account of conservative activist and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. Weiss determined that Twitter executives had also been playing semantic games, preferring the term “visibility filtering” to the more widespread term “shadow ban.”

    Meanwhile, a similar article from ABC News said that “President Donald Trump seized upon the claim and contended that such a move constitutes illegal discrimination, even as the company and digital experts defended the platform and pointed to faults and misunderstandings in the story.” A third piece from Intelligencer — simply entitled “Twitter Is Not ‘Shadow Banning’ Republicans” — argued that the notion of the shadow ban “has persisted among the conspiracy-minded, as a great weapon of censorship, generally thought to be perpetrated by liberal Silicon Valley operatives at the expense of conservatives.”

    Another article from The Verge contributing editor Casey Newton explicitly advised Twitter to “ignore the phony outrage” over shadow banning. “A consequence of covering the intersection of social media and democracy is that sometimes you wind up having to discuss things that are very dumb,” he wrote. “And yet how Twitter reacts to the attendant criticism could determine whether the company ever gets a handle on the abuse its platform is so well known for.”

    An analysis from CNN Business published in 2019 whined that Twitter had even increased the reach of “extreme political rhetoric” from conservative accounts, including Kirk, one of the influencers who was manually targeted by the platform’s executives, as revealed by Weiss.

    “There is some irony to the amplification of these right-wing voices,” CNN senior media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote. “Trump and other prominent Republicans have long accused Twitter of ‘shadow banning’ users with conservative viewpoints, an accusation Twitter has strongly denied. In reality, not only is Twitter not ‘shadow banning’ these right-wing personalities for their political viewpoints, the platform’s algorithm is actually amplifying some of their tweets to audiences who do not even follow their accounts.”

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    Elton John Quits Twitter, Cites ‘Misinformation.’ Elon Musk Asks Him One Question.

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    Pop star Elton John announced that he was leaving Twitter, claiming that “misinformation” was going to “flourish unchecked” on the site thanks to new company policies.

    “All my life I’ve tried to use music to bring people together,” John tweeted on Friday. “Yet it saddens me to see how misinformation is now being used to divide our world. I’ve decided to no longer use Twitter, given their recent change in policy which will allow misinformation to flourish unchecked.”

    “I love your music,” Twitter CEO Elon Musk responded. “Hope you come back. Is there any misinformation in particular that you’re concerned about?”

    When a Twitter user pointed out that it was possible someone else with a leftist perspective actually wrote the verbiage in John’s tweet, Musk noted that celebrities often don’t write the posts under their name.

    “It’s true that most celebrities don’t write their own posts. More should. Way better to hear directly from them,” he replied.

    One area Musk has changed Twitter’s misinformation policy has been related to the discussion of COVID.

    According to an update note posted on Twitter’s blog and “transparency report,” as of November 23, the platform is no longer enforcing policies it used to combat “misleading information” during the COVID pandemic. But there was no formal announcement of a policy change; news broke Tuesday when several conservative users posted screenshots of the updated policy. The policy change is the latest move in Elon Musk’s effort to reform Twitter into a “free speech” platform.

    “Effective November 23, 2022, Twitter is no longer enforcing the COVID-19 misleading information policy,” the note reads.

    Conservatives shared screenshots of the updated policy Tuesday and celebrated the change by posting facts about COVID-19 that were once deemed “misinformation” by Twitter.

    According to CNN, between January 2020 and September 2022, the platform suspended more than 11,000 accounts and took down more than 100,000 individual posts for violating the misinformation policy. Notable users suspended included Republican Georgia Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, journalist Alex Berenson, mRNA vaccine researcher Dr. Robert Malone, cardiologist Dr. Peter McCollough, and former San Francisco Giants player Aubrey Huff.

    The day after Twitter announced the policy change, CEO Elon Musk announced a blanket amnesty for users suspended from the platform. On November 23, Musk tweeted a poll asking whether or not to unban users that had been permanently suspended. “Should Twitter offer a general amnesty to suspended accounts, provided that they have not broken the law or engaged in egregious spam?” he wrote.

    More than three million users voted in the poll, and the vote was overwhelmingly in favor of amnesty; nearly three-quarters of voters, 72.4%, voted “yes,” while just 27.6% voted “no.”

    “The people have spoken,” Musk wrote after the poll concluded. “Amnesty begins next week. Vox Populi, Vox Dei.”

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    Elite Chicago School Responds to Sting Video Showing Dean Bragging About Sex Toys in Classroom

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    An elite private K-12 school in Chicago responded to a viral Project Veritas video Wednesday evening that showed one of its employees talking about sex toys being handed out in class for teenagers to examine.

    The video allegedly showed Joseph Bruno, Dean of Students, Francis W. Parker School — which costs tens of thousands of dollars to attend — telling an undercover activist for Project Veritas about activities that take place in his classroom.

    “So, I’ve been the Dean for four years. During Pride — we do a Pride Week every year — I had our LGBTQ+ Health Center come in [to the classroom],” he allegedly stated. “They were passing around butt-plugs and dildos to my students — talking about queer sex, using lube versus using spit.”

    “They’re just, like, passing around dildos and butt-plugs,” he continued. “The kids are just playing with ‘em, looking at ‘em…They’re like, ‘How does this butt-plug work? How do we do – like, how does this work?’ That’s a really cool part of my job.”

    Project Veritas published a note that the school allegedly circulated in response to the video that said administrators were “heartbroken to learn that one of our colleague’s words have been severely misrepresented for a malicious purpose” and referred to Project Veritas as a “far-right activist group” out to discredit educational institutions.

    The note accused Project Veritas of trying to “ambush” Bruno and then editing video of an interaction with “malicious intent.”

    “Please know this video contains descriptive language,” the school’s note stated. “If you choose to view it, we ask you not to share it, because it will add to its viral power.”

    The note stated that Parker’s administrators and Board of Trustees support the school’s curriculum, and the “dedicated and talented faculty and staff that teach it.”

    “We are sickened by this group’s deceptive tactics, their invasion during a People of Color conference, and their attack on the LGBTQ+ community,” the segment continued. “We will be meeting with Middle and Upper School students tomorrow to offer support and guidance.”

    Nowhere in the statement did school officials dispute anything that Bruno said, and school officials did not offer a single example of anything in the video that was “deceptively edited.”

    Go deeper ( 2 min. read ) ➝

    News

    Biden Announces $36 Billion Bailout for Union Pension Plan

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    President Joe Biden announced Thursday he will pump $36 billion into a union pension plan to prevent drastic benefit cuts for pensioners, just a week after he signed a railroad labor deal opposed by several union organizations.

    The announcement marks the largest federal award for retiree pensions in history and is funded by Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, according to the White House. The $36 billion will go to the Central States Pension Fund, which is for mostly Teamster union members.

    The $36 billion amounts to about half of the available federal funds for pension relief under the American Rescue Plan. The pension fund, which covers 350,000 members, was at risk of cuts as high as 60%, but the White House said the fund will now be stable until at least 2051.

    “Thanks to today’s announcement, tens of thousands of union retirees and workers in states like Ohio, Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri can go to bed tonight knowing their pension they worked so damn hard for is going to be there when they need it,” Biden said. He spoke at the White House with Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, Teamsters President Sean O’Brien and AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler.

    Biden’s announcement came a week after he negotiated a labor agreement with railroad companies that did not include paid sick leave. Four unions insisted that more paid sick days must be added to the deal, including the Teamsters’ maintenance union, but Congress passed the plan without extra sick time in order to avoid a strike.

    Giancarlo Sopo, a Republican strategist, said Biden’s decision is a makeup call to his union allies that he disappointed last week.

    “Joe Biden is using taxpayer coffers as his political piggyback to ameliorate his tensions with the Teamsters after failing to fight for the paid sick leave that workers wanted and, quite frankly, deserved,” Sopo told Fox News Digital.

    The White House said the timing of the announcement was related to a Dec. 10 deadline for awarding pension relief.

    “We are highlighting it because it is the largest award of the Special Financial Assistance program,” a White House official told Fox News Digital.

    Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Committee, said a bailout to failed pension plans is pointless without reform to ensure the program can last on its own.

    “Once again, Biden is paying back his Big Labor allies to the detriment of taxpayers and the 90 percent of American workers who have chosen not to affiliate with a union,” Mix told Fox News Digital. “Long before COVID, union officials have been mismanaging plans like the Teamsters Central States fund, which makes it especially offensive that the pandemic has been used as an excuse for this bailout.”

    Biden has declared himself the most pro-union president in history. He filled several positions at the National Labor Relations Board, the nation’s top labor arbiter, with influential union leaders such as Jennifer Abruzzo, a former attorney for the Communications Workers of America. He has pushed Congress to pass the PRO Act, which would end right-to-work laws in more than a dozen states that ban union membership as a term of employment.

    Labor unions donated $27.5 million to Biden’s campaign in 2020.

    Clark Ballew, the director of communications for the Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employees Division of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, which opposed Biden’s railroad agreement, said the pension funds are a relief to workers after they failed to win additional sick days.

    “We cannot claim that the president’s decision this morning was directly influenced by our push in Congress last week, those fellow Teamsters worked incredibly hard for years to obtain this victory,” Ballew told Fox News Digital. “But if the public browbeating we put on the miserly railroads last week in Congress helped with the Teamster pension gain this morning, then that is good. That is a win in our book.”

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    Here Are the Top 10 US Cities Where Immigrants Are Thriving

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    More than 1 in 5 people residing in the United States have come from abroad to find opportunities in every corner of the country, but 10 cities stand out as the best places for newcomers to thrive.

    The George W. Bush Institute-SMU Economic Growth Initiative in Dallas ranked every city across America in terms of the well-being of immigrants who lived there, according to a report published Thursday. The term “immigrant” was defined as a foreign-born person, regardless of legal status, and they comprise 23% of the U.S. population.

    The 10 places where immigrants are thriving are split across the north and south, leaving no one part of the country overwhelmingly more or less favorable than another.

    Positive factors that determined a city’s well-being for immigrant populations included major technology hubs, college towns, and mid-Atlantic and Midwestern metropolitan regions that have “been intentional in welcoming immigrants and helping them thrive,” the report read.

    California, a sanctuary state that does not allow local or state law enforcement to work with federal immigration police to arrest illegal immigrants, had two cities on the list, including the top-ranked San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metropolitan region.

    The Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland, region followed in second place, and the San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley region in California was in third place.

    Two other metropolitan areas (Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington, and Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C.-Maryland-Virginia) rounded out the top five.

    Smaller cities from the Southeast, Midwest, and mid-Atlantic regions filled the bottom half of the top 10.

    1. San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, California
    2. Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, Maryland
    3. San Francisco-Oakland-Berkeley, California
    4. Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, Washington
    5. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, D.C./Maryland/Virginia
    6. St. Louis, Missouri/Illinois
    7. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
    8. Raleigh-Cary, North Carolina
    9. Jackson, Mississippi
    10. Cincinnati, Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana

    The report explained that it was by no coincidence that smaller cities were moving up as top spots for immigrants and that it was largely due to immigrants already living in the U.S. choosing to relocate from larger cities.

    “Newly arriving immigrants tend to choose metros mostly on the East and West coasts and urban enclaves with large concentrations of people from the same origin country — consistent with more than a century of history,” the report read. “But immigrants making secondary moves within the United States are disproportionately moving away from traditional gateways into metros in the Sun Belt, Great Plains, and Mountain States — and to suburban counties.”

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    Top Democrat Senator Blasts Biden Over Releasing Terrorist for Griner

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    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed President Joe Biden Thursday for releasing notorious terrorist Viktor Bout in exchange for Brittney Griner.

    Griner, who has a criminal record in the U.S. stemming from a domestic violence incident several years ago, was arrested in Russia back in February on drug charges, charges to which she pled guilty.

    In exchange for Griner, Biden released Bout, a Russian weapons trafficker who was convicted on terrorism charges back in 2011 for trying to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the purpose of shooting down U.S. Military helicopters.

    “This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans,” Menendez said in a statement. “The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death.’ Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.”

    “We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention,” he continued.

    Menendez’s statement mentioned U.S. Marine veteran Paul Whelan, who was not rescued by the Biden administration from his jail cell in Russia.

    “My heart also goes out to the families of other American citizens in Russian prisons and labor camps, including Paul Whelan,” the statement concluded. “They have my renewed commitment and determination to use the power of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to secure Mr. Whelan’s safe return and to continue fighting for the release of all Russian political prisoners, like Vladimir Kara Murza, and all other unjustly detained Americans.”

    Whelan slammed the Biden administration during a CNN interview after the announcement was made that Griner was the one who was going to be freed.

    “I am greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release, especially as the four-year anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred,” Whelan said. “I don’t understand why I’m still sitting here.”

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    Video Emerges of Brittney Griner Being Swapped for Russian Terrorist; Critics Instantly Notice Problem

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    Video emerged Thursday afternoon of Brittney Griner being swapped on a runway for convicted Russian terrorist Viktor Bout after Democrat President Joe Biden agreed to the trade.

    The video showed Griner, who is wearing a red jacket, walking across the tarmac with three men while Bout walked toward her with a man standing next to him.

    Bout shook the hands of a couple of people in the video before an obvious cut appeared in the film. The footage then resumes just moments later showing Griner walking away from Bout.

    Critics online instantly noted the cut and that it appeared as though Griner was posturing herself to shake Bout’s hand right when the footage was cut.

    “There’s a jump cut here at :13 as everyone is shaking hands and hugging and right before it looks like Griner maybe going in to shake hands with Bout?” political commentator Stephen L. Miller tweeted. “Probably not great optics there to have your star prisoner swap shaking hands with the most notorious arms dealer on the planet.”

    Bout was convicted on terrorism charges back in 2011 for trying to sell tens of millions of dollars worth of missiles to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the purpose of shooting down U.S. Military helicopters.

    Newsmax host Rob Schmitt agreed, writing: “You can tell Griner went in for a handshake with Viktor Bout and it was completely edited out.”

    “Watch her body language just before the edit,” he added.

    The prisoner swap generated widespread backlash, including among Democrats, who noted that Bout was a very dangerous man and that by agreeing to the swap, President Joe Biden was effectively incentivizing rogue regimes to detain Americans overseas.

    Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, slammed Biden, saying, “This should be a moment of deep reflection for the United States government to recognize we have a serious problem with hostage-taking of Americans.”

    “The Russians and other regimes that take American citizens hostage cannot pretend that there is equivalence between the Brittney Griners of the world and people like Viktor Bout, the so-called ‘Merchant of Death,’” Menendez continued. “Nothing could be further from the truth, and we cannot ignore that releasing Bout back into the world is a deeply disturbing decision.”

    “We must stop inviting dictatorial and rogue regimes to use Americans overseas as bargaining chips, and we must try to do better at encouraging American citizens against traveling to places like Russia where they are primary targets for this type of unlawful detention,” he continued.

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    WATCH: Pope Francis Breaks Down in Tears for the Suffering in Ukraine

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    Pope Francis struggled to speak on Thursday as he was overcome with emotion while praying for peace in Ukraine, before a crowd cheered him on to finish.

    Appearing near the Spanish Steps in the centre of Rome during an annual Christmas visit to venerate a statue of the Virgin Mary, Francis leaned over and choked up, unable to speak precisely as he arrived at the part of the prayer.

    He said: ‘I would have liked to have brought you the thanks of the Ukrainian people -‘

    He began to tremble as he mentioned the Ukrainians and he had to stop speaking. As the crowd of thousands of dignitaries, clergy and ordinary Romans realised the pope was overcome with emotion, they broke into applause and urged him on.

    After a long pause of 30 seconds, Francis continued the prayer, picking up from where he left off: ‘- the Ukrainian people for the peace we have so long asked the Lord.’ When he resumed the prayer, his voice was cracking.

    ‘Instead I must present you with the pleas of children, elderly, mothers and fathers and the young people of that martyred land, that is suffering so much,’ he added.

    The moment came during the pope’s annual visit to the Spanish Steps, which falls on the December 8 feast day dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. The day is a national holiday in Italy, and the pope was joined by Rome Mayor Roberto Gualtieri.

    The event marks the unofficial start of the Christmas season in Italy.

    After reading the prayer on Thursday at the statue near the Spanish Steps, the pope greeted people in the crowd, including journalists.

    When one of journalists mentioned to Francis that she had seem him overcome with emotion, he responded: ‘Yes. It (the war in Ukraine) is an enormous suffering, enormous. A defeat for humanity.’

    Since Russia invaded its neighbour in February, Francis has mentioned Ukraine in nearly all his public appearances and grown increasingly critical of Moscow.

    On Wednesday, he compared the war in Ukraine to a Nazi operation that killed some two million people, mostly Jews, in the first years of World War Two.

    And in September, Francis said Ukraine was being ‘martyred’ and slammed Russian president Vladimir Putin’s ‘monstrosity’ in the war.

    That same month, the pope revealed he had been involved in efforts to release 300 Ukrainian prisoners of war held by Russia.

    Speaking at the time, he said he received ‘Ukrainian emissaries’ at the Vatican, including a military chief who brought with him a list ‘of more than 300 prisoners’.

    He made the remarks on September 15, a week before Russia and Ukraine carried out an unexpected prisoner swap involving almost 300 people – the largest since Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

    The pope said:’They asked me to do something so that an exchange could be made. I immediately called the Russian ambassador to see if something could be done, if an exchange of prisoners could be expedited.’

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    First Gen Z Person Elected to Congress Whines When Rental Application Is Denied Over His Poor Credit

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    The first member of Generation Z to be elected to Congress complained that his rental application was denied because of his poor credit.

    Community organizer Maxwell Alejandro Frost won a U.S. House seat for Florida, but he’s having trouble finding a place to rent in Washington, D.C.

    “Just applied to an apartment in DC where I told the guy that my credit was really bad. He said I’d be fine. Got denied, lost the apartment, and the application fee,” tweeted Frost from his official social media account.

    “This ain’t meant for people who don’t already have money,” he added.

    Members of the House get paid about $174,000 a year. The average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in D.C., according to Rent.com, is $2,435.

    Frost went on to explain that he had bad credit as a result of the expenses he incurred while running for Congress.

    “Didn’t make enough money from Uber itself to pay for my living,” he tweeted. “For that primary, I quit my full time job cause I knew that to win at 25 yrs old, I’d need to be a full time candidate. 7 days a week, 10-12 hours a day. It’s not sustainable or right but it’s what we had to do.”

    Socialist Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York had a similar complaint when she was first elected, saying that she could not afford the rent in D.C. before obtaining her first congressional paycheck. She then complained when Fox News hosts mocked her and her wardrobe.

    Here’s more about the first Zoomer congressman:

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    Parents Caught Up in After School Satan Club Controversy Speak Out

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    As controversy roils a Virginia town over a planned Satanist after-school club, organizers and parents on both sides of the issue spoke to Fox News Digital to share their perspectives.

    The city of Chesapeake has recently drawn national attention as the center of a firestorm sweeping the southeastern Virginia community after The Satanic Temple has attempted to establish an After School Satan Club (ASSC) for kids at the local B.M. Williams Primary School.

    ‘Fear and indoctrination’

    “Regarding parents who are upset about the club, I would like them to know that we are here because we have worked with educators to develop an after-school program that is engaging and fun and helps young minds grow and thrive,” June Everett, an ordained minister in The Satanic Temple and campaign director of ASSC, told Fox News Digital.

    Maintaining that ASSC “fosters creativity and projects [that] are often designed to benefit the community and promote empathy,” Everett said The Satanic Temple attempts to establish such clubs “as a constructive and positive alternative to other religious after-school clubs that often glorify fear and indoctrination.”

    Everett said she was first led to The Satanic Temple five years ago after her first-grader “was traumatized by his classmates on the playground one day, and they were attendees of the Good News Club that was taking place at the public elementary school he was attending at the time.”

    “I picked him up from school one afternoon, crying and upset after he was told that he would burn in hell away from his mommy and daddy and Molly, our dog at the time, if we didn’t accept Jesus Christ into our hearts and start going to church,” Everett continued. “I knew there was a Good News Club [there] at the time, and this prompted me to start researching them more, and I realized that this is their goal: to use children who attend the club to proselytize to their peers.”

    “Satanism truly has made me a better person, a better friend, a better parent and a much better contributing member of society.”

    Everett, who earlier this week resubmitted an application to establish an ASSC in Chesapeake after the original sponsor withdrew, said the congregation at her local chapter of The Satanic Temple took her in “with such open arms.”

    “I had never met such genuine, non-judgmental people in my life,” she said. “Satanism truly has made me a better person, a better friend, a better parent and a much better contributing member of society.”

    Everett said she believes that “the evangelicals” in particular emphasize fear and indoctrination in their approach, citing that the Child Evangelism Fellowship’s (CEF) stated mission for the Good News Clubs they sponsor is “to evangelize boys and girls with the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ and to establish (disciple) them in the Word of God and in a local church for Christian living.”

    ‘We emphasize the goodness of God’

    Lydia Kaiser, a spokesperson for the Missouri-based CEF, could not comment on the specifics of Everett’s situation because she was not involved, but she described as “typical” the accusation that Good News Clubs browbeat children into Christianity. Their curriculum materials for children, however, emphasize God’s goodness and do not contain vivid descriptions of hell, she told Fox News Digital.

    “We believe that there is a physical place called hell, we believe all that the Bible says about it,” said Kaiser. “But when we’re talking to children, the way we describe it is ‘separation from God.’”

    “You don’t need all the scary description,” Kaiser continued. “We don’t want to scare children into making a decision. We want them to desire a relationship with God. That’s our goal. And so we emphasize the goodness of God, how much God loves them and wants to forgive them for their sin and be their friend, their Savior and their Lord.”

    “We try to draw children into a relationship with God by describing him as good, and the bad we describe as separation from all of that,” she added.

    Kaiser, who noted that parents are welcome to observe what goes on at after-school Good News Clubs, parried arguments that children are too young to reflect on spiritual issues by pointing out how children are expected by adults to learn other basics of human existence such as a healthy diet and personal hygiene.

    ‘The real danger’

    Stephen Mannix, who said he has served for about 15 years as the chairman of his local CEF chapter in the Virginia Tidewater region, said he plans to speak about the ASSC brouhaha at next week’s scheduled school board meeting in Chesapeake.

    “They say they don’t have any religious content, but it’s bigger than that,” Mannix told Fox News Digital of the Satan clubs.

    ASSC claims not to teach of a personal devil, but rather serves as a place where young students can learn about benevolence and empathy, critical thinking, problem-solving, creative expression, personal sovereignty and compassion.

    Both Mannix and Kaiser believe that since The Satanic Temple started its ASSC campaign in 2016, it has been using the 2001 Supreme Court decision in Good News Club v. Milford Central School to stir up hysteria in various places that sponsor Good News Clubs until school boards feel compelled to shut down after-school clubs altogether.

    The case ultimately rose to the Supreme Court after an upstate New York school district denied an application to a Good News Club on the basis that “the kinds of activities proposed to be engaged in by the Good News Club were not a discussion of secular subjects such as child-rearing, development of character and development of morals from a religious perspective, but were in fact the equivalent of religious instruction itself.”

    The Supreme Court’s opinion, which was written by former Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled in favor of the Good News Club, noting that restrictions on speech in a “limited public forum” such as a public school must not discriminate on the basis of the speaker’s viewpoint.

    The school district’s attorneys in the case argued that having a religious club on public school property, even after school hours, would violate the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution by leading children to believe that the school or the government was somehow establishing a particular religion.

    The Court shot that argument down, writing: “Finally, even if we were to inquire into the minds of schoolchildren in this case, we cannot say the danger that children would misperceive the endorsement of religion is any greater than the danger that they would perceive a hostility toward the religious viewpoint if the Club were excluded from the public forum.”

    The Satanic Temple “does not believe in introducing religion into public schools and will only open a club if other religious groups are operating on campus,” according to their website.

    “We are only doing this because Good News Clubs have created a need for this,” Lucien Greaves, cofounder of The Satanic Temple, told The Washington Post in 2016. “If Good News Clubs would operate in churches rather than public schools, that need would disappear. But our point is that if you let one religion into the public schools you have to let others, otherwise it’s an establishment of religion.”

    “The danger becomes this lie of a secularized space that bans and censors and tells Christians to go home,” said Mannix. “That’s where the real danger is.”

    Kaiser and Mannix pointed out the short shelf life of Satanist clubs as an indication of their intention merely to sow discord in an attempt to shut down competing Christian clubs.

    Everett confirmed to Fox News Digital that only four clubs are currently active in the U.S., pending the approval of a fifth in Chesapeake.

    ‘Wearing down the inhibition of children’

    “They say that they don’t actually teach kids about Satan,” Kaiser said of the Satan clubs. “They say it’s more about humanism and so-called tolerance, which is ironic when they’re actually being intolerant, trying to get us kicked out.”

    “But they have an 8,000-pound statue of Satan with two little elementary-aged children looking at it adoringly,” Kaiser continued. “If every time the story was run, they would show a picture of this mascot, people would be able to judge for themselves whether they’re trying to appeal to children with Satanism.”

    “They’re wearing down the inhibition of children so that they’ll think it’s fine to attend a truly satanic event when they’re older,” she added.

    The statue Kaiser referenced, which The Satanic Temple unveiled in 2015, cost $100,000 to make and has featured repeatedly in its public campaigns. Standing at nearly 9 feet tall, the bronze figure depicts a boy and a girl gazing up at a winged, goat-headed hermaphrodite known as Baphomet, which has historically been presented as a satanic symbol.

    Based on an 1856 sketch of the “Sabbatic Goat” by French occultist Éliphas Lévi, the statue is replete with occult symbolism representing the union of supposed binary opposites such as human and animal, male and female or good and evil.

    In Lévi’s original depiction, the figure was androgynous, but Greaves told the BBC in 2015 that in their iteration, Baphomet’s breasts were removed to avoid wading into cultural gender debates. He noted to the outlet that the original drawing’s “male-female dualism” is represented instead by the two children.

    ‘At their wits’ end’

    Citing “the heightened emotional situation in our city” following the recent mass shooting at a local Walmart, the original sponsor of the ASSC in Chesapeake withdrew her name this week, according to The Virginian-Pilot. Other organizers promptly resubmitted the necessary paperwork and still aim to roll out the ASSC at the primary school on Dec. 15.

    Aspen Nolette, a local parent and founder of Chesapeake Parents for Freedom, said the ASSC has caused an “uproar” in her community and that parents are increasingly wearied by what is going on in public schools.

    “People are extremely upset, they’re extremely disturbed, I think,” Nolette told Fox News Digital. “In the nation right now, you’ve got boys attempting to go into girls’ bathrooms. You saw what happened in Loudoun County, Virginia, and the assault that happened there because of that. You’ve got pornographic books and graphic novels in our schools that parents are extremely upset about because we have laws about distributing pornography to children.”

    “And now you’ve got After School Satan Clubs. From what I’ve seen, and I’ve been involved in this for a couple of years, parents are at their wits’ end,” Nolette added. “The Satan clubs seem to be where they drew the line.”

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    ‘Suffered Immense Cruelty’: Former NYPD Officer Gets 25 to Life for Killing Autistic Son

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    A former New York City police officer was sentenced Thursday to 25 years to life in prison for the murder of his young son.

    Michael Valva was found guilty by a jury last month on five charges related to the January 2020 killing, including endangering the welfare of a child and second-degree murder.

    Prosecutors argued Valva forced his 8-year-old son Thomas and his older brother, both of whom had autism, to sleep in the family’s frigid Long Island garage as temperatures dropped below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

    Jurors were also told that Valva screamed at and struck Thomas as he died of hypothermia in the garage, according to WABC.

    The defense had argued during the case that the death was an accident, and Valva’s then-fiancée, Angela Polina, gave him the idea to put the children in the garage as punishment for urinating and defecating in the house. Polina is charged with murder, and her trial is still pending.

    “This guilty verdict will not bring back 8-year-old Thomas, who suffered immense cruelty at the hands of his father, the same person who was entrusted to protect, provide and unconditionally love Thomas and his older brother Anthony,” said Suffolk County District Attorney Ray Tierney, per NBC New York.

    “No child should ever have to endure such evil acts. While there is nothing that we can do to bring Thomas back, we are satisfied with the jury’s decision,” Tierney added.

    Local reports said Valva was crying as he read a statement to Judge William Condon, who was also emotional.

    “I don’t think you intended to kill Thomas, not at all,” Condon said to Valva. “But there is no getting around that Thomas and Anthony lived their lives in constant duress in the place they should have felt safest, their own home.”

    “An 8-year-old boy who right now should be getting excited for Christmas is dead, I speak for everybody out there, we can never let this happen again,” the judge also said.

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    ‘Twitter Files 2’ Reveal Secret Suppression of Conservatives — Elon Musk Announces Big Change Coming to Twitter

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    The second installment of the so-called “Twitter Files” was released Thursday evening after the company turned over documents to a journalist who then started to publish the findings on the platform.

    Musk released internal company communications through journalist Matt Taibbi on Friday about the company’s censorship of the New York Post’s Hunter Biden laptop story during the 2020 presidential election and about how the platform removed content at the behest of the Democrat Party.

    However, Taibbi’s release of the documents was somewhat muddled because one of the people that he was reporting on, former Twitter Deputy General Counsel Jim Baker — the same Jim Baker at the center of Trump-era drama at the FBI — was the person who was vetting the content that was being sent to Taibbi. Baker was subsequently fired by the company after this was revealed earlier this week.

    The second installment of the Twitter files was released by Bari Weiss in a similar manner that Taibbi released his installment of the files, slowly tweeting out content, making people wait several minutes before the next tweet was published, which annoyed many users.

    “A new Twitter Files investigation reveals that teams of Twitter employees build blacklists, prevent disfavored tweets from trending, and actively limit the visibility of entire accounts or even trending topics—all in secret, without informing users,” Weiss tweeted. “Take, for example, Stanford’s Dr. Jay Bhattacharya (@DrJBhattacharya) who argued that Covid lockdowns would harm children. Twitter secretly placed him on a ‘Trends Blacklist,’ which prevented his tweets from trending.”

    “Or consider the popular right-wing talk show host, Dan Bongino (@dbongino), who at one point was slapped with a ‘Search Blacklist,’” Weiss continued.

    Weiss further noted that another major conservative account was hit with a “Do Not Amplify” restriction.

    Weiss highlighted how executives at the company, including leftist Vijaya Gadde, then-Head of Legal Policy and Trust, had previously denied that the company took these actions.

    “The group that decided whether to limit the reach of certain users was the Strategic Response Team – Global Escalation Team, or SRT-GET. It often handled up to 200 ‘cases’ a day,” Weiss said. “But there existed a level beyond official ticketing, beyond the rank-and-file moderators following the company’s policy on paper. That is the ‘Site Integrity Policy, Policy Escalation Support,’ known as ‘SIP-PES.’”

    Weiss then documented how the popular conservative account Libs of TikTok was censored by the platform.

    Elon Musk’s Response

    Following tonight’s release of the Twitter Files Pt. 2, Twitter owner Elon Musk went online to comment on the findings.

    Elon took a veiled shot at his former head of censorship, Yoel Roth.

    And he also fired a tweet out on his former top censor Vijaya Gadde who openly lied to the public while she was censoring conservatives.

    And Elon announced a BIG change to the Twitter platform.

    Elon and his engineers are working on a software update that will notify users of their true status so you will be able to see if you are shadowbanned, and the reason why and how to appeal.

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    Same-Sex Marriage Bill Heads to Biden’s Desk: Here Are the 39 Republicans Who Voted for It

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    The House of Representatives gave final approval to the Respect for Marriage Act Thursday. The bill, which passed 258-169, is now headed to President Joe Biden’s desk.

    Every single Democrat voted for the legislation, as did 39 Republicans. Most Republicans (169) voted against the measure, while 1 voted “present” and four did not vote.

    The Senate passed the bill, 61-36, last week.

    The bill seeks to codify the Supreme Court’s 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Biden is expected to sign it into law.

    The House previously voted to pass the Respect for Marriage Act in July. All Democrats voted in favor (220), while 157 Republicans voted against. Forty-seven Republicans joined their Democrat colleagues in voting for the bill.

    These included Reps. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference; Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.; Scott Perry, R-Pa.; Liz Cheney, R-Wyo.; and Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y.

    Rep. Perry appears to have walked back on his decision to vote for the bill. Perry said in a November interview with Family Research Council President Tony Perkins that he did not have much information on the bill before it went up for a vote in July. “This bill did not come through committee in the House—it came directly to the floor,” said Perry. “We were given a choice, as we understood it… to vote either against traditional marriage or against interracial marriage.”

    Perry explained he had to vote on the bill almost immediately. “I calculated incorrectly … that my long-standing support of traditional marriage would be understood, and I didn’t want to vote against interracial marriage.”

    Remarking on the upcoming Senate vote, Perry said: “Now they’re going to offer some kind of amendment… but this literally destroys religious freedom.”

    Twelve Senate Republicans who previously supported the bill joined all 50 Senate Democrats in voting for its final passage last week. Among these Republican senators were Roy Blunt of Missouri, Richard Burr of North Carolina, Susan Collins of Maine, and Mitt Romney of Utah.

    Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, introduced a religious liberty amendment to the Senate version of the bill. “The [Respect for Marriage Act’s] leading proponents amended the bill by adding protections for religious service attendance and the solemnization of marriage,” Lee wrote in a November op-ed. “But those protections are inadequate to address many of the gravest risks posed by this bill, particularly those threatening the tax-exempt status of religious non-profits.”

    Lee’s amendment, which garnered 48-49 votes, failed to meet the 60-vote requirement to pass the Senate.

    Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, introduced his own amendment in the House Rules Committee last week. The House Rules Committee ruled his amendment—which would have offered protections for those who believe out of religious or moral conviction that marriage is a union between one man and one woman—out of order on Monday.

    “The House Rules Committee blocked my common-sense amendment to the so-called Respect for Marriage Act. In doing so, Rules Committee Democrats silenced the American people’s voice in the House chamber and put our fundamental rights in the crosshairs,” Roy said in a statement provided to The Daily Signal.

    Roy said that “not a single committee held a hearing, heard from witnesses, or deliberated the details of this legislation” before the vote, so members of Congress “will be forced to vote up or down on a bill that they were not allowed to amend or even seriously debate.”

    “No free American should have to live in constant threat of having their life upended and ruined in court for holding millennia-old religious beliefs,” Roy added. “Further, every Americans deserves to know whether their representative wants the federal government to target people of faith.”

    Here are the Republicans who voted for the bill, according to preliminary reports. Most also voted for it in July, but some did not:

    Kelly Armstrong (N.D.)

    Don Bacon (Neb.)

    Ken Calvert (Calif.)

    Kat Cammack (Fla.)

    Mike Carey (Ohio)

    Liz Cheney (Wyo.)

    John Curtis (Utah)

    Rodney Davis (Ill.)

    Tom Emmer (Minn.)

    Brian Fitzpatrick (Pa.)

    Mike Gallagher (Wisc.)

    Andrew Garbarino (N.Y.)

    Mike Garcia (Calif.)

    Carlos Gimenez (Fla.)

    Tony Gonzales (Texas)

    Anthony Gonzalez (Ohio)

    Jamie Herrera Beutler (Wash.)

    Ashley Hinson (Iowa)

    Darrell Issa (Calif.)

    Chris Jacobs (N.Y.)

    David Joyce (Ohio)

    John Katko (N.Y.)

    Nancy Mace (S.C.)

    Nicole Malliotakis (N.Y.)

    Peter Meijer (Mich.)

    Mariannette Miller-Meeks (Iowa)

    Blake Moore (Utah)

    Dan Newhouse (Wash.)

    Jay Obernolte (Calif.)

    Tom Rice (S.C.)

    Mike Simpson (Idaho)

    Elise Stefanik (N.Y.)

    Bryan Steil (Wis.)

    Chris Stewart (Utah)

    Mike Turner (Ohio)

    Fred Upton (Mich.)

    David Valadao (Calif.)

    Ann Wagner (Mo.)

    Michael Waltz (Fla.)

    Here’s a list of House Republicans who previously voted for the bill but voted against it on Thursday:

    Cliff Bentz (Ore.)

    Mario Diaz-Balart (Fla.)

    Brian Mast (Fla.)

    Dan Meuser (Pa.)

    Scott Perry (Pa.)

    Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.)

    Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.)

    Finally, two Republicans who supported the bill in July did not vote Thursday (Illinois’ Adam Kinzinger and New York’s Lee Zeldin), while Burgess Owens (Utah) voted “present” on Thursday after voting “yes” in July.

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    News

    House Passes $858 Billion Defense Bill That Reverses Military Vaccine Mandate

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    The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday authorizing $858 billion in national defense funding, including reversing the U.S. military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

    Lawmakers approved a final version to repeal the mandate through the passage of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill.

    The 4,000-page legislation advanced with a solid bipartisan majority, 350-80, which requires the Pentagon to rescind the Covid vaccine mandate for active duty service members within 30 days of its enactment.

    The bill also includes several policy provisions, including a 4.6% pay raise for military service members, strengthening defense strategies using air force, land warfare, cybersecurity, and increasing U.S. support for Ukraine and NATO, as reported by CNN.

    While the bill would remove the vaccine mandate for U.S. troops, it would not reinstate service members who were discharged or had their benefits slashed for refusing to be immunized against COVID.

    On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby asserted that President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opposed repealing the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate.

    “Secretary Austin’s been very clear that he opposes the repeal of the vaccine mandate, and the president actually concurs with the secretary of defense,” Kirby stated, adding that Biden “continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 … Vaccines are saving lives, including our men and women in uniform.”

    Part of the language in the new NDAA will order the Pentagon to find a means of compensating service members punished for refusing to be vaccinated.

    House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Tuesday night that the Biden administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for the U.S. military would end.

    “The end of President Biden’s military COVID vaccine mandate is a victory for our military and for common sense,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Last week, I told the president directly: it’s time to end the COVID vaccine mandate and rehire our service members.”

    White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that President Biden would “look at the NDAA in its entirety, and make his judgment on that” on wether he would sign the bill.

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    News

    Paul Whelan Speaks Out After Brittney Griner Released from Russian Prison

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    The former Marine still detained in Russia begged the Biden Administration to secure his release Thursday, saying not enough has been done to free him while speaking on CNN.

    Whelan spoke exclusively to CNN following news that WNBA star Brittney Griner had been released from a Russian penal colony in exchange for notorious arms dealer Viktor Bout.

    “I have to say I’m greatly disappointed that more has not been done to secure my release,” Whelan told CNN. “Especially as the four-year-anniversary of my arrest is coming up. I was arrested for a crime that never occurred.”

    “I would say that if a message could go to President Biden, that, you know, this is a precarious situation that needs to be resolved quickly. And I would hope that he and his administration would do everything they could to get me home regardless of the price they may have to pay at this point.”

    Whelan also said he was shocked to learn he was not being freed.

    “I was led to believe that things were moving in the right direction, and that the governments were negotiating and that something would happen fairly soon.”

    Whelan was detained in December of 2018 by Russian authorities who alleged he was part of an intelligence operation. Whelan was convicted and sentenced in June of 2020 to 16 years in prison.

    Go deeper ( < 1 min. read ) ➝

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