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    California's liberal Legislature wants to give poor people a lot more money in their state tax refunds each year, including an extra $1,000 for people who earn less than $30,000 a year and have at least one child under 6. But to do it, they'll have to agree — at least partially — with Republican President Donald Trump. Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom's spending plan would triple how much the state spends on its earned income tax credit to $1.2 billion, making about 1 million more households eligible to get it. To pay for it, California would have to adopt some of Trump's 2017 tax overhaul that was despised by Democrats, especially in California, because it capped the amount of state and local tax deductions in a move they say disproportionately hit high-income, high-taxed states. State lawmakers last week sent a $214.8 billion operating budget to Newsom's desk that included the expansion of the state's earned income tax credit. But they have yet to adopt the tax changes to pay for it, leaving a hole in the budget and prompting intense negotiation. The state Senate could approve the proposal on Monday. But there is trouble in the Assembly, whose members are up for re-election every two years in a state where Trump remains unpopular. 'You have a federal tax law that was passed with the intention, in our opinion, to harm California. They don't like who we are, they don't like our politics, they don't like what we represent,' said Assemblyman Ian Calderon, a Democrat from Whittier and the Assembly Majority Leader. 'It's been difficult for us to kind of get to a position where we are comfortable with conforming to a law that really, in its conception, was meant to harm us as a state.' Newsom's plan would not adopt all of the federal government's changes. Instead, it would focus on the ones that mostly affect business income. Some changes would lower taxes and others would increase them. Taken together, the changes in the governor's plan would generate an additional $1.8 billion for the state, according to the California Department of Finance. 'The Trump administration got rid of these loopholes at the federal level to be able to provide a deeper tax cut to corporate America,' said Mike Herald, director of policy advocacy for the Western Center on Law and Poverty. 'We're flipping that on its head. Instead, we're going to use the same money ... to help people who need it the most. I think most of the progressive liberal members of the Legislature are completely comfortable with that.' Leaders who support the change include Sen. Toni Atkins, a San Diego Democrat who is the Senate's top leader. Atkins said Thursday the tax changes are 'really important' and that 'my colleagues want to see this done.' 'Sometimes taking the political perspective is not practical for what you need to do on the ground,' she said. 'When someone tells me this can support small businesses in the state of California, you know, I'm all for it.' Things are less certain in the Assembly, where Calderon said lawmakers rejected the Newsom administration's presentation of the tax changes as an 'easy vote.' Newsom's proposal included eliminating some fringe benefit deductions for businesses, including things like entertainment, food and transportation expenses. In May, Newsom told reporters the change would mean lawmakers could no longer write off their courtside seats at Sacramento Kings games. But Calderon said Assembly members are concerned eliminating the deduction would hurt small businesses that use it. 'There is zero trust in just conforming blindly to anything in their proposal without thoroughly understanding what exactly we know we're signing onto,' he said. State law required lawmakers to approve an operating budget by midnight on June 15 or else lose their pay. The operating budget divvies up $214.8 billion in state and federal tax dollars. But lawmakers are still working out key details about how to spend that money in more than two dozen 'trailer bills.' The bills allow budget negotiations to continue past the deadline. Not approving the tax changes could cause some budget problems. H.D. Palmer, spokesman for the Newsom administration's Department of Finance, compared the state budget to a building with the tax changes as a crucial part of the architecture. Without it, there would be no funding for the tax credit and lawmakers would have to recalculate the funding formula for public schools. 'If you take out a couple of the load-bearing beams, then you've got problems,' Palmer said. But Calderon said if lawmakers ultimately did not adopt the changes, the tax credit program would continue to exist. However, it would not be expanded in include more money and cover an additional 1 million households.
  • Julian Castro is the latest Democratic presidential contender to follow the trend of criticizing Fox News Channel while appearing on the network for a town hall. The former Housing secretary's scolding of Fox on Thursday for its coverage of Hillary Clinton was mild compared to recent attacks by Pete Buttigieg and Kirsten Gillibrand. But it drew an answer from moderator Bret Baier. The exchange illustrated the strong feelings Fox generates among many Democrats for its commentators' support of President Donald Trump, and the pressures faced by candidates who choose to engage with the network. The Democratic National Committee has said it won't sponsor a debate on Fox, and Elizabeth Warren has refused an invitation to appear there. She called Fox News a 'hate-for-profit racket.' Despite that, five candidates — including Bernie Sanders and Amy Klobuchar — have recognized Fox's reach and accepted invitations. Sanders' April 15 appearance on Fox was seen by 2.55 million people, the largest audience for a town hall or extended interview so far this campaign. That's nearly twice the number of people who watched him on CNN on Feb. 25. 'I certainly understand the reservations many people have about the Fox News organization,' Castro told The Associated Press. 'At the same time, I'm determined to be a president for everyone, and that means campaigning in front of everyone, including people who don't agree with me.' The topic of Trump's statement to ABC News about potentially accepting foreign help for his 2020 campaign was broached with Castro Thursday when Baier compared Trump's comments to those of a former Clinton campaign spokesman who suggested he'd be interested in spreading around a dossier of information on Trump compiled by a former British intelligence officer. Baier wondered if a double standard was at work. 'I don't understand why this network and in so many conservative circles, people are still talking about Hillary Clinton,' Castro said. 'Hillary Clinton is not on the ballot. Those of us who are running are on the ballot. And I can tell you ... those of us who are running want to focus on the issues that are important to Americans and their families.' Baier noted that there is an active investigation into how information about Trump began circulating. It didn't quite match the fireworks generated on June 2 when Gillibrand talked about the 'red herring' discussion on Fox about infanticide shortly before Trump gave his State of the Union speech, where she was interrupted by moderator Chris Wallace. 'I understand that maybe to make your credentials with Democrats who are not appearing on Fox News, you're going to attack us,' Wallace said. 'I'm not sure, frankly, that it's very polite. We've invited you to be here.' Responded Gillibrand: 'I will do it in a polite way.' Two weeks earlier, Buttigieg noted that many people in his party opposed his appearance on Fox News. He criticized the network's opinion hosts Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham for remarks they had made about immigration in recent months. 'There is a reason why anybody has to swallow hard and think twice about participating in this media ecosystem,' Buttigieg said. He drew pushback the next day from Fox personalities. Brian Kilmeade of 'Fox & Friends' said he shouldn't badmouth the network's hosts. 'If you feel that negative about it, don't come.' Fox has no further town halls scheduled presently, as attention turns to the first debate later this month in Miami, to be televised on NBC News. The network had no additional comment on the candidate critiques. Whether to engage with or ignore Fox is a still-unresolved argument among Democratic candidates. The candidates who choose to engage undoubtedly hope it shows they're willing to go unexpected places to seek votes, Democratic strategist Karen Finney said. Talking tough about the network's practices illustrates they're aware of what the network puts on its air. 'Part of the hope is that it says to viewers that 'I believe you're important and it's important to hear the other side,'' said Finney, a former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman. The liberal watchdog Media Matters for America has urged Democratic candidates to stay away from Fox, arguing the appearances helped the network at a time it was vulnerable following the Democrats' decision not to hold any of its debate on the network. 'When they go there and criticize the network, they're actually legitimizing the validity of our core critique,' said Angelo Carusone, Media Matters president. If candidates want to reach out to Fox viewers, criticizing the network doesn't help, he said. Neither do the attacks Fox personalities will heap on them after they leave the studio, he said. Some numbers are hard for candidates to ignore: Klobuchar reached 1.61 million viewers for her Fox town hall and 1.15 million for one of CNN, the Nielsen company said. Gillibrand's audience was 834,000 on Fox and 507,000 on CNN. Buttigieg's audience was slightly larger on CNN — 1.18 million versus 1.11 million on Fox. ____ Associated Press writer Jonathan Cooper in Phoenix, Arizona contributed to this report.
  • Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner took in as much as $135 million in revenue during their second year as aides to President Donald Trump, generated from their vast real estate holdings, stocks and bonds and even a book deal, according to their financial disclosures released Friday. Ivanka Trump's stake in her family's Washington, D.C., hotel down the street from the Oval Office generated $3.95 million in revenue in 2018, barely changed from a year earlier. The hotel, a favorite gathering spot for foreign diplomats and lobbyists, is at the center of two federal lawsuits claiming Donald Trump is violating the Constitution's ban on foreign government payments to the president. Another big Ivanka Trump holding, a trust that includes her personal business selling handbags, shoes and accessories, generated at least $1 million in revenue in 2018, down from at least $5 million the year before. Ivanka Trump announced in July of last year that she planned to close her fashion company to focus on her work as a White House adviser for her father. The disclosure for her husband, Jared Kushner, shows that he took in hundreds of thousands of dollars from his holdings of New York City apartments and that he owns a stake in the real estate investment firm Cadre worth at least $25 million. The disclosures released by the White House and filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics show minimum revenue for the couple of $28 million last year generated from assets valued at more than $180 million. The disclosures filed by federal government officials each year show revenue, assets and debts in broad ranges between low and high estimates, making it difficult to precisely chart the rise and fall of business and financial holdings. Among the dozens of sources of income for Ivanka Trump was a $263,500 book advance for 'Women Who Work: Rewriting the Rules for Success,' published in 2017. Trump has pledged to donate royalties to her charitable fund. Kushner's holdings of apartment buildings through his family real estate firm, Kushner Cos., were the source of much of his income. Westminster Management, the family business overseeing its rental buildings, generated $1.5 million. Separately, one of the family's marquee holdings, the iconic Puck Building in the Soho section of Manhattan, generated as much as $6 million in rent. Among other properties cited in the disclosure was a former warehouse-turned-luxury-condominium in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn that brought in more than $350,000 in sale proceeds and rent. Former and current tenants in the building have filed a suit against the Kushner Cos. alleging it used noisy, dusty construction to make living conditions unbearable in an effort to push them out so their apartments could be sold. The Kushner Cos. has said the suit is without merit. Cadre has also drawn conflict-of-interest questions. It launched a fund to take advantage of massive tax breaks by investing in downtrodden areas designated 'Opportunity Zones,' a Trump administration program pushed by both Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner. Also, this month the Guardian newspaper reported that Cadre received $90 million in foreign funding from an opaque offshore vehicle since Kushner entered the White House. Kushner lawyer Abbe Lowell did not immediately respond to an email and phone message seeking comment. Kushner appears to have cut his debt. He had loans and lines of credit worth at least $27 million at the end of last year, down from a minimum value of $40 million the previous year. His lenders include Bank of America, Citi Group and Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank is also a major lender to President Trump's company and has been subpoenaed by congressional investigators looking into his finances. Both Kushner and his wife took steps to distance themselves from their businesses before taking on their roles as unpaid White House advisers. Kushner stepped down as CEO of Kushner Cos. and sold stakes in many holdings, while Ivanka Trump similarly stepped away from executive roles at her companies.
  • President Donald Trump says his wife, first lady Melania Trump, is an icon on the same order of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Trump made the comparison Friday as he defended his decision to change the iconic Air Force One paint job devised under the former first lady's watch in the 1960s on the next version of the presidential aircraft due to enter service in 2024. Trump tells 'Fox & Friends,' ''You know the baby blue doesn't fit with us,' noting he plans to replace it with a darker navy and the gold stripe along the aircraft with one in red. He says: 'That was Jackie O and that's good, but we have our own Jackie O today, it's called Melania.' Trump added, 'We'll call it Melania T.
  • White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, whose tenure was marked by a breakdown in regular press briefings and questions about the administration's credibility, as well as her own, will leave her post at the end of the month, President Donald Trump announced. Trump said Thursday he's encouraging her to run for governor when she returns home to Arkansas, where her father once held the job. Sanders is one of Trump's closest and most trusted White House aides and one of the few remaining who worked on his campaign, taking on the job of advocating for and defending a president who had his own unconventional ideas about how to conduct the people's business. At an unrelated White House event, Trump described Sanders as a 'warrior' as he called her to the stage. Sanders, appearing emotional, said serving Trump has been 'the honor of a lifetime' and pledged to remain one of his 'most outspoken and loyal supporters.' Sanders, who is married and has three young children, later told reporters she wanted to spend more time with her family, but she did not rule out running for public office. 'I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out,' said Sanders, 36. She was the first working mother and just the third woman to be named White House press secretary. Under her roughly two-year tenure as chief spokeswoman for the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary became a relic of the past after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy, the investigation into possible coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia or any number of controversies involving the White House. Sanders has not held a formal briefing since March 11 and said she does not regret scaling them back. Instead, reporters were left to catch her and other administration officials on the White House driveway after their interviews with Fox News Channel and other networks. Trump also has made it a habit to regularly answer reporters' questions in a variety of settings, most notably on the South Lawn before boarding the Marine One helicopter. Sanders often sought to justify the lack of formal briefings by saying they were unnecessary when journalists could hear from Trump directly. Behind the scenes, Sanders worked to develop relationships with reporters, earning the respect and trust of many of those on the beat. Still, her credibility had come under question after she succeeded Sean Spicer , Trump's first press secretary, in mid-2017 in the high-profile role. The Russia report released by special counsel Robert Mueller in April revealed that Sanders admitted to investigators that she had made an unfounded claim about 'countless' FBI agents reaching out to express support for Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Sanders characterized the comment as a 'slip of the tongue' uttered in the 'heat of the moment.' She faced similar questions last year after Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal attorneys, surprised the White House by saying on national TV that Trump had reimbursed his then-fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen had paid porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet during the campaign about an alleged past sexual encounter with Trump. Trump has denied Daniels' claim. The White House had failed to disclose the reimbursement. Sanders said she didn't know anything about the repayment until Giuliani disclosed it. Sanders told reporters Thursday that she had informed Trump earlier in the day of her decision to step down. Her staff learned the news shortly before Trump tweeted, 'After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas.' Trump added that 'she would be fantastic' as Arkansas governor. Sanders said she's had people 'begging' her to run for governor for more than a year. Her father is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a two-time GOP presidential candidate. She managed his second White House bid. Asa Hutchinson, the current Arkansas governor, was re-elected in 2018 and is limited to two terms. The seat will become open in 2022. Sanders said she hasn't discussed possible replacements with Trump. She said she saw no reason to delay informing the president once she had made her decision, saying her departure should give Trump time to put someone else in place before the 2020 presidential campaign heats up. ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, whose tenure was marked by a breakdown in regular press briefings and questions about the administration's credibility, as well as her own, will leave her post at the end of the month, President Donald Trump announced Thursday. Trump said he's encouraging her to run for governor when she returns home to Arkansas, where her father once held the job. Sanders is one of Trump's closest and most trusted White House aides and one of the few remaining who worked on his campaign, taking on the job of advocating for and defending a president who had his own unconventional ideas about how to conduct the people's business. At an unrelated White House event, Trump described Sanders as a 'warrior' as he called her to the stage. Sanders, appearing emotional, said serving Trump has been 'the honor of a lifetime' and pledged to remain one of his 'most outspoken and loyal supporters.' Sanders, who is married and has three young children, later told reporters she wanted to spend more time with her family, but did not rule out running for public office. 'I learned a long time ago never to rule anything out,' said Sanders, 36. She was the first working mother and just the third woman to be named White House press secretary. Under her roughly two-year tenure as chief spokeswoman for the White House, daily televised briefings led by the press secretary became a relic of the past after Sanders repeatedly sparred with reporters who aggressively questioned her about administration policy, the investigation into possible coordination between Trump's campaign and Russia or any number of controversies involving the White House. Sanders has not held a formal briefing in more than three months - since March 11— and said she does not regret scaling them back. Instead, reporters were left to catch her and other administration officials on the White House driveway after their interviews with Fox News Channel and other networks. Trump also has made it a habit to regularly answer reporters' questions in a variety of settings, most notably on the South Lawn before boarding the Marine One helicopter. Sanders often sought to justify the lack of formal briefings by saying they were unnecessary when journalists could hear from Trump directly. Behind the scenes, Sanders worked to develop relationships with reporters, earning the respect and trust of many of those on the beat. Still, her credibility had come under question after she succeeded Sean Spicer, Trump's first press secretary, in mid-2017 in the high-profile role. The Russia report released by special counsel Robert Mueller in April revealed that Sanders admitted to investigators that she had made an unfounded claim about 'countless' FBI agents reaching out to express support for Trump's decision to fire FBI Director James Comey in May 2017. Sanders characterized the comment as a 'slip of the tongue' uttered in the 'heat of the moment.' She faced similar questions last year after Rudy Giuliani, one of Trump's personal attorneys, surprised the White House by saying on national TV that Trump had reimbursed his then-fixer Michael Cohen for the $130,000 Cohen had paid porn actress Stormy Daniels to keep quiet during the campaign about an alleged past sexual encounter with Trump. Trump has denied Daniels' claim. The White House had failed to disclose the reimbursement. Sanders said she didn't know anything about the repayment until Giuliani disclosed it. Sanders told reporters Thursday that she had informed Trump earlier in the day of her decision to step down. Her staff learned the news shortly before Trump tweeted, 'After 3 1/2 years, our wonderful Sarah Huckabee Sanders will be leaving the White House at the end of the month and going home to the Great State of Arkansas.' Trump added that 'she would be fantastic' as Arkansas governor. Sanders said she's had people 'begging' her to run for governor for more than a year. Her father is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a two-time GOP presidential candidate. She managed his second White House bid. Asa Hutchinson, the current Arkansas governor, was re-elected in 2018 and is limited to two terms. The seat will become open in 2022. Sanders said she hasn't discussed possible replacements with Trump. She said she saw no reason to delay informing the president once she had made her decision, saying her departure should give Trump time to put someone else in place before the 2020 presidential campaign heats up. ___ Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report. ___ Follow Darlene Superville on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dsupervilleap
  • Reality star-turned-criminal justice reform advocate Kim Kardashian West returned to the White House on Thursday to help President Donald Trump promote efforts to help those leaving prison get jobs and stay on track. At an East Room event attended by Cabinet secretaries, activist and formerly incarcerated people, Kardashian West announced the creation of a new ride-sharing partnership that will give former prisoners gift cards to help them get to and from job interviews, work and family events. 'Everyone wants the community to be safe, and the more opportunity we have and that they have and the support that we help give them, the safer everyone will be,' said Kardashian West, who became involved with the issue after learning about the case of Alice Marie Johnson, a grandmother who was serving a life sentence without parole for drug offenses. Kardashian West successfully lobbied Trump to grant Johnson clemency and has been studying law under the tutelage of attorneys Jessica Jackson and Erin Haney of the bipartisan criminal justice reform group #cut50 ever since. Trump pronounced himself a fan of Kardashian West's advocacy, praising her genes and declaring, 'I guess she's pretty popular.' And he marveled at the passage of the First Step Act, which he signed into law late last year. The bill — a rare bipartisan victory in hyperpartisan Washington— included measures to reduce the sentences of thousands of prisoners and expand job training programs to decrease recidivism rates and relaxed the 'three strikes' rule. More than 1,000 federal inmates have had their sentences reduced thanks to the legislation, according to a recent report by the U.S. Sentencing Commission this month. The White House has since been working with various companies, advocacy groups and federal agencies to try to give prisoners released early the tools and jobs they need to successfully adjust to life outside prison so they don't wind up behind bars again. Jackson and Haney praised the legislation and said its effects will make a real difference for former offenders. 'Let's keep this momentum going by making sure those who are coming out of federal prison are given support and empathy as they take the next step in their lives,' they said. Trump has embraced the efforts originally pushed by his son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner to make changes to the criminal justice system, using them to highlight the low unemployment rate and paint himself as a president focused 'on lifting up all Americans.' It's a deeply personal issue for Kushner, whose father spent time in federal prison when he was younger. In addition to the ride share vouchers — a Lyft spokeswoman later confirmed it was the partner involved — Trump announced several other measures, including stepped-up efforts by the Federal Bureau of Prisons to work with businesses to help line up jobs for those being released and additional funds for states to support companies that hire former inmates. He said his administration hopes to cut the unemployment rate for formerly incarcerated people to single digits within five years. 'Now we much make sure that the Americans returning from prison get a true second chance,' he said. Also attending the event was Trump's departing press secretary, Sarah Sanders, whose surprise resignation Trump announced by tweet just before it started. Trump invited Sanders up onstage midway through the proceedings and photographers jockeyed to snap photos of Sanders, in addition to Kardashian West. ___ Follow Colvin on Twitter at https://twitter.com/colvinj
  • Some of the younger candidates in the crowded Democratic presidential primary are suggesting that the early front-runner, 76-year-old Joe Biden , is too mired in the past. Former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke , 46, and Pete Buttigieg , the 37-year old mayor of South Bend, Indiana, have stepped up questions this week about whether Biden really provides new perspectives for the direction of the country after the 2020 election. 'We cannot return to the past,' O'Rourke told MSNBC on Thursday. 'That cannot be who we are going forward. We've got to be bigger, we've got to be bolder.' O'Rourke has spent months praising Biden's experience and perspective. His criticism now comes two weeks before Democrats gather for the first presidential debate of the primary and highlights the generational divide that some candidates are trying to draw in hopes of reshaping the race. Though O'Rourke didn't mention Biden's age, he said Biden, a two-term vice president under Barack Obama, represents a return to the past. That echoes Buttigieg, who seemed to refer to Biden during a lengthy speech Tuesday designed to bolster his own foreign policy credentials. 'Democrats can no more turn the clock back to the 1990s than Republicans can return us to the 1950s,' he said. 'And we should not try.' Buttigieg was just shy of his eighth birthday when the 1990s began. When Biden announced his first run for president in June 1987, Buttigieg was 5. Biden has long rejected notions he's too old for the White House, especially since President Donald Trump turns 73 on Friday. And Biden isn't the oldest Democratic candidate; that's Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, 77. Biden, a seasoned politician who arrived in the Senate in 1973, insists he can remake the nation's politics after Trump. But as Biden sits at the top of most polls, questions have begun to surface about whether some of the other candidates can get noticed. Brad Bannon, a Democratic pollster and consultant in Washington, said this is an issue in which younger candidates can potentially gain ground on Biden and Sanders. 'Basically, most voters think Washington is either Sodom or Gomorrah, or both combined, and I think the problem Biden has is he's been around too long,' said Bannon, who is unaffiliated with any 2020 presidential hopeful. 'People are very hostile to creatures of Washington.' Even O'Rourke's mild criticism demonstrates a shift for a candidate who had previously refused to speak ill of any other Democrats in the race, saying it simply wasn't in his DNA. Appearing Wednesday night on CBS' 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,' O'Rourke was asked jokingly, 'If trapped on a deserted island with all 22 other candidates, which would you eat first?' 'I would die first,' he said, refusing to take the bait. Former Obama administration housing chief Julian Castro , 44, has also championed the fresh political perspective he says he can offer, telling The Associated Press while preparing his presidential run in December, 'I think these times, right now, call for a new generation of leadership.' Asked about Biden, Castro said: 'I think that everybody brings their strengths. But I'll tell you that what I hear out there is that people want a new generation of leadership.' The issue remains on Biden's mind, too. Pressed by reporters this week in Iowa, he said, 'People have a right to question all of our ages. It's a totally legitimate thing.' Biden also indicated he was expecting criticism during the upcoming debate. 'My guess is it's going to be an inclination, instead of talking about the future, it's going to be talking about the past,' Biden said during a stop Wednesday at a cafe in Eldridge, Iowa. 'And I'm about the future, not the past. For real, there are so many opportunities we have. And so much has to be done.' ___ Associated Press writers Paul J. Weber in Austin, Texas, and Thomas Beaumont in Eldridge, Iowa, contributed to this report. ___ This story has been corrected to show that the name of the CBS show is 'The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,' not 'The Late Show with Seven Colbert.
  • The topic of reparations for slavery is headed to Capitol Hill for its first hearing in more than a decade with writer Ta-Nehisi Coates and actor Danny Glover set to testify before a House panel. The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Civil Liberties is scheduled to hold the hearing next Wednesday, its stated purpose 'to examine, through open and constructive discourse, the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice.' The date of the hearing, June 19, coincides with Juneteenth, a cultural holiday commemorating the emancipation of enslaved black people in America. Former Democratic Rep. John Conyers of Michigan, the longtime sponsor of House Resolution 40, first proposed the measure calling for a study of reparations in 1989. Conyers reintroduced the bill every session until his resignation in 2017 . Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, the resolution's new sponsor, introduced it earlier this year and pushed for next week's hearing. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in February that she supports a reparations study, a topic that hasn't been the subject of a House hearing since 2007. Reparations had been a fringe issue and occasional punchline until Coates' 2014 essay in The Atlantic, 'The Case for Reparations,' thrust the topic back into the national discourse. Glover, an activist as well as the star of the 'Lethal Weapon' movies and the classics 'The Color Purple' and 'A Rage in Harlem,' has spoken in favor of the issue for years. In an interview with Coates as he prepared to leave office, President Barack Obama questioned the implementation of reparations but not the concept. And in a conversation Coates had earlier this year with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the popular progressive endorsed reparations. The reparations debate became part of the 2020 presidential race early, as several Democratic presidential primary candidates signaled their support for compensating the descendants of slaves, though not in the traditional sense of direct payouts to black Americans. Most have been vague on more specific ideas, but they have instead offered policies addressing economic inequality that could disproportionately benefit black people. ___ Whack is The Associated Press' national writer on race and ethnicity. Follow her work on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/emarvelous .
  • Comedian Jon Stewart scolded Congress Tuesday for failing to ensure that a victims' compensation fund set up after the 9/11 attacks never runs out of money. Stewart, a longtime advocate for 9/11 responders, angrily called out lawmakers for failing to attend a hearing on a bill to ensure the fund can pay benefits for the next 70 years. Pointing to rows of empty seats at a House Judiciary Committee hearing room, Stewart said 'sick and dying' first responders and their families came to Washington for the hearing, only to face a nearly deserted dais. The sparse attendance by lawmakers was 'an embarrassment to the country and a stain on this institution,' Stewart said, adding that the 'disrespect' shown to first responders now suffering from respiratory ailments and other illnesses 'is utterly unacceptable.' Lawmakers from both parties said they support the bill and were monitoring the hearing amid other congressional business. Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., predicted the bill will pass with overwhelming support and said lawmakers meant no disrespect as they moved in and out of the subcommittee hearing, a common occurrence on Capitol Hill. Stewart was unconvinced. Pointing to rows of uniformed firefighters and police officers behind him, he said the hearing 'should be flipped,' so that first responders were on the dais, with members of Congress 'down here' in witness chairs answering their questions. First and foremost, Stewart said, families want to know, 'Why this is so damn hard and takes so damn long?' The collapse of the World Trade Center in September 2001 sent a cloud of thick dust billowing over Lower Manhattan. Fires burned for weeks. Thousands of construction workers, police officers, firefighters and others spent time working in the soot, often without proper respiratory protection. In the years since, many have seen their health decline, some with respiratory or digestive-system ailments that appeared almost immediately, others with illnesses that developed as they aged, including cancer. More than 40,000 people have applied to the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, which covers illnesses potentially related to being at the World Trade Center site, the Pentagon or Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after the attacks. More than $5 billion in benefits have been awarded out of the $7.4 billion fund, with about 21,000 claims pending. Stewart and other speakers lamented the fact that nearly 18 years after the attacks, first responders and their families still have no assurance the fund will not run out of money. The Justice Department said in February that the fund is being depleted and that benefit payments are being cut by up to 70 percent. 'The plain fact is that we are expending the available funds more quickly than assumed, and there are many more claims than anticipated,' said Rupa Bhattacharyya, the fund's special master. A total of 835 awards have been reduced as of May 31, she said. House Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat whose district includes the World Trade Center site, said a 70% cut — or any cut — in compensation to victims of 9/11 'is simply intolerable, and Congress must not allow it.' Just as Americans 'stood together as a nation in the days following September 11, 2001, and just as we stood together in 2010 and 2015 to authorize and fund these vital programs, we must now join forces one more time to ensure that the heroes of 9/11 are not abandoned when they need us most,' Nadler said.

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  • An Alabama woman was charged in the shooting death of her husband, an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Benning, just days after he filed for a restraining order against her.  >> Read more trending news  Brittnay Ryals Paonessa, 27, was charged Friday with the murder of 26-year-old Brandyn Paonessa, The Associated Press reported.  Brandyn Paonessa died Thursday afternoon after getting shot in the abdomen with a shotgun in the front yard of a Phenix City home, authorities said.  Local media outlets reported the shooting occurred just three days after the soldier filed for an emergency protection from abuse order against his wife. The court filings indicate Paonessa was concerned with his wife’s mental well-being, and said she was “very unstable,” Montgomery-based WSFA reported.  He reportedly accused her of stalking him and his family, as well as driving a truck into their home with their children inside. The couple married in 2013 and the youngest of their four children is two months old.  The infantryman joined the Army in September 2013 and completed two combat deployments to Afghanistan, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reported.  Brittnay Paonessa is being held at the Lee County Detention Facility on a $150,000 bond.
  • A Springfield, Ohio, man who pleaded guilty to killing his neighbor’s dog with a baseball bat in April avoided jail time and was sentenced to community service. Jeffrey Sagraves was ordered to 40 hours of community service and to pay $300 in fines for burglary and cruelty to a companion animal. >> On WHIO.com: Springfield man accused of killing dog with baseball bat He was facing a maximum of 18 months in jail for burglary and 12 months for cruelty to a companion animal. In October, Sagraves called 911 to report that there were two pit bulls in his backyard attacking his cat, according to Clark County Common Pleas Court documents. During the call, he reportedly told dispatchers that the dogs belonged to his neighbor and threatened to kill the dogs if police didn’t show up soon The cat died during the attack, according to court records. >> Read more trending news  Minutes later, a neighbor, Lisa Marie Everhart, called 911 and said a man identified as Sagraves reportedly broke into her home and hit her dog in the head with a wooden bat. She was visibly upset, as well as her young children, who were screaming and crying, according to a court affidavit. Everhart was charged with a misdemeanor for failing to confine her dogs.
  • President Donald Trump took to Twitter on Saturday to slam The New York Times for its report that the United States has increased cyberattacks on Russia's power grid. >> Read more trending news  'Do you believe that the Failing New York Times just did a story stating that the United States is substantially increasing Cyber Attacks on Russia,' Trump tweeted shortly after 9 p.m. Saturday. 'This is a virtual act of Treason by a once great paper so desperate for a story, any story, even if bad for our Country.' He continued: 'ALSO, NOT TRUE! Anything goes with our Corrupt News Media today. They will do, or say, whatever it takes, with not even the slightest thought of consequence! These are true cowards and without doubt, THE ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE!' >> See the tweets here Earlier Saturday, the newspaper, citing 'current and former government officials,' reported that the U.S. 'is stepping up digital incursions into Russia's electric power grid.'  The news comes at least seven years after U.S. officials began putting 'reconnaissance probes' in Russia's grid, the Times reported. 'But now the American strategy has shifted more toward offense, officials say, with the placement of potentially crippling malware inside the Russian system at a depth and with an aggressiveness that had never been tried before,' the Times reported, adding that the move is part-warning, part-preparation for launching U.S. attacks 'if a major conflict' with Russia develops. Two unnamed officials with the Trump administration said they did not think the president had received detailed briefings about the U.S. implants in the Russian electric system, according to the Times.  Officials have hesitated to give him the details over worries that he might divulge information to foreign officials or react unfavorably, sources told the Times. Read more here.
  • A two month, multi-agency investigation has ended with the arrests of two suspects involved in a Romanian skimming ring that affected nearly 400 residents across Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia.   Specifically, more than 80 Putnam County residents were affected with more than 300 others in areas like Jacksonville, Keystone Heights, Newberry, and into Southeast Georgia. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office plans to release further details on Monday, June 17th, but WOKV has learned the identities of the two suspects arrested.  Arrest reports from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office identify the two as 35-year-old Elena Matei and 18-year-old Plopsor Matei.  Both are facing a variety of charges, from using or possessing a skimming device to bank fraud.  While the arrest reports are heavily redacted, it does show Capital City Bank told investigators they’ve had to reimburse their customers about $46, 360 due to cards being compromised due to skimmers. The reports also show that SunTrust Bank told investigators it is at a loss of $6,230. The Putnam County Sheriff's Office says in addition to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the US Secret Service, the Florida Highway Patrol, the Clay County Sheriff's Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and the North Florida Financial Crimes Task Force also helped with the investigation.
  • A 16-year-old Indiana boy died Wednesday when he and his father were robbed during an arranged meetup with someone they’d met through an online sales app, according to multiple reports. >> Read more trending news Gary police and the Lake County Coroner’s Office told the Chicago Sun-Times that Johnny Peluyera, of Merrillville, Indiana, and his father had arranged to sell an Xbox. After arriving at the meetup location, they were robbed by two men, the newspaper reported. Authorities responded around 6 p.m. Wednesday to reports of the shooting, which took place near the intersection of 51st Avenue and Maryland Street, according to the Post-Tribune. In a statement obtained by the northwest Indiana newspaper, Gary police Cmdr. Jack Hamady said Johnny was reportedly sitting in the front passenger side of his father’s vehicle when he was shot in the back. The robbers fled the area and remained at-large Friday. “I just completely don’t understand,” Johnny’s mother, Kelly Arroyo, told WGN-TV. “I don’t understand how somebody – over an Xbox – can take somebody’s life.” Arroyo described her son to WGN-TV as a “wonderful kid who loved video games and cars.” She said he had recently gotten his driver’s license. Johnny is survived by his parents and a sister, according to WGN-TV. Gary police told the Post-Tribune that online buyers and sellers should only agree to meet in public places, such in a police station parking lot. Authorities continue to investigate.

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