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Oct. 22 2017 7:01 PM

Rookie Safety Sets Record, Becomes Patron Saint of Overachieving

Eddie Jackson is a defensive player for the Chicago Bears, but on Sunday he generously provided his team with the majority of their points in a 17-3 win over the Carolina Panthers.

In the first quarter, the rookie safety picked up a fumbled backward pass and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.

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In the following quarter, Jackson intercepted Cam Newton and ran the ball back 76 yards for his and the Bears’ second score of the day.

It was a record-setting display of multi-tasking. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Jackson is the first player in NFL history to score two 75-yard-plus defensive touchdowns in a single game.

In fact, Jackson was more productive on Sunday than a significant number of the league's quarterbacks. He tallied more yards and touchdowns than Green Bay’s Brett Hundley (who had 87 passing yards, no passing touchdowns, and 1 rushing touchdown), the Cleveland Browns’ DeShone Kizer (114 passing yards; 0 touchdowns), Kizer’s replacement Cody Kessler (121 passing yards; 0 touchdowns), and the Arizona Cardinals’ Carson Palmer (122 passing yards; 0 touchdowns).

Of course, it should also be mentioned that Jackson out-dueled the Bears’ own quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky, who contributed a modest 107 yards passing and 0 touchdowns. Lucky for him, Eddie Jackson was eager to chip in and share his workload. What a considerate coworker.

Oct. 22 2017 5:30 PM

Roger Goodell's Contract Extension Reportedly Delayed Due to "Anthem Issue"

NFL team owners have delayed commissioner Roger Goodell’s contract extension because “the overwhelming majority of the NFL's attention has been diverted to handling the anthem issue,” ESPN’s Adam Schefter writes. The new contract, which has reportedly already been drafted, would extend Goodell’s tenure through 2024.

“The committee still insists Goodell's deal will be completed,” Schefter reports, “but there is other business that currently is more pressing.”

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The exact reasoning for this delay is a little bizarre, as it requires us to believe that the NFL is too busy freaking out about the controversy surrounding "The Star-Spangled Banner" to do anything else. The anthem issue “has become so critical to the league,” Schefter reports, that the NFL's compensation committee, which is made up of team owners, “spent about only 20 minutes … discussing Goodell's extension” at Wednesday’s owners meeting. One assumes this group of celebrated job creators should be more effective at managing their time, but these assembled billionaires couldn't get Roger's contract in under the wire. Perhaps somebody else had booked the conference room?

There are no details as to what, specifically, the owners plan to do about the anthem controversy, but the issue has “overridden everything,” a league source told Schefter. The owners' original plan, which was to smile for the cameras and hope people forget about players protesting racial injustice, did not prove successful.

The owners did manage to discuss some non-anthem matters at last week’s meeting, including “making a dramatic shift from paper game tickets to all-digital ticketing” and a decision to hold the 2018 NFL draft in Dallas, but “neither topic received as much attention as the anthem issue.” As a result, Roger Goodell, who made $34.1 million in 2015, may have to wait a few days or even weeks before signing his lucrative extension.

It’s nothing short of tragic. If you would like send flowers and/or monetary donations to Roger during this difficult time, please do so care of the league office: 345 Park Ave, New York, NY 10154.

Oct. 22 2017 4:05 PM

WHO Finally Revokes Appointment of Zimbabwe’s Mugabe as “Goodwill Ambassador”

The World Health Organization seems to have finally come to its senses Sunday and backtracked on the decision to appoint a brutal despot who has plunged his country into ruins as a “goodwill ambassador.” Human rights groups, and numerous countries around the world, harshly criticized the WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, for naming Zimbabwea’s President Robert Mugabe as “goodwill ambassador” on Wednesday.

In the largely ceremonial role, the African leader who is often described as a dictator was meant to focus on noncommunicable diseases, such as heart attacks and strokes, on the continent. But many were quick to point out that Mugabe was not just a brutal despot who has destroyed his country’s once thriving economy, he has also destroyed its public health system. The country’s hospitals are in such bad shape that the 93-year-old Mugabe often travels abroad for medical care. The United States has imposed sanctions on Mugabe for human rights abuses and described his appointment as “disappointing.” The State Department said that it “clearly contradicts the United Nations ideals of respect for human rights and human dignity.”

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Samantha Power, who was U.N. ambassador during Barack Obama’s administration wrote on Twitter that “the only person whose health 93-yo Mugabe has looked out for in his 37 year reign is his own.”

On Sunday, the WHO said it was rescinding the appointment. “Over the last few days, I have reflected on my appointment of H.E. President Robert Mugabe as WHO Goodwill Ambassador for NCDs (non-communicable diseases) in Africa. As a result I have decided to rescind the appointment,” Tedros, the first WHO leader to come from Africa, said. At the time of the appointment, Tedros praised Zimbabwe as “a country that places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide healthcare to all.” But in the end the decision to rescind the appointment was “in the best interests of the World Health Organization,” he said.

Mugabe was head of the African Union when the bloc of countries endorsed Tedros, who was formerly a health minister in Ethiopia, to take over the top spot at the WHO.  

Oct. 22 2017 2:44 PM

Cub Scout Kicked Out After Asking State Senator a Tough Gun Control Question

One young Cub Scout got an up close and personal lesson on just what a sensitive issue gun control is in the country when a hard-hitting question to a state senator appears to have gotten him kicked out of his group. Ames Mayfield, 11, was told not to return to his den in Broomfield, Colo. after the group met with State Senator Vicki Marble, according to his mother, Lori Mayfield. The Cub Scout also asked Marble about previous comments she had made about African Americans that sparked controversy.

“I was shocked that you co-sponsored a bill to allow domestic violence offenders to continue to own a gun,” Ames said as part of the long question he posed on Oct. 9 that his mother filmed and posted on YouTube. “Why on earth would you want somebody who beats their wife to have access to a gun?” The 11-year-old also brought up the recent Las Vegas shooting and questioned why some seemed to place so much importance on gun rights. “There is something wrong in our country where Republicans believe it’s a right to own a gun but a privilege to have health care. None of that makes sense to me,” he said. Marble responds to the long question by emphasizing the need for “crime control” and pointed out that several shootings took place in “gun free zones.”

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At another point, the 11-year-old said he “was astonished that you blamed black people for poor health and poverty because of all the chicken and barbecue they eat.” The state senator said that “was made up by the media,” adding, “You want to believe it? You believe it. But that’s not how it went down.” That caused local news outlet to once again relive the 2013 controversy. The Denver Post recalled what Marble had said then:

“When you look at life expectancy, there are problems in the black race. Sickle-cell anemia is something that comes up. Diabetes is something that’s prevalent in the genetic makeup, and you just can’t help it.
“Although I’ve got to say,” she continued at the time. “I’ve never had better barbecue and better chicken and ate better in my life than when you go down South and you, I mean, I love it. Everybody loves it.”

Five days after the event, Mayfield was asked to meet with the leader of the Cub Scout pack in the area who told her Ames couldn’t return to his den. “He let me know in so many words that the den leader was upset about the topic of gun control,” Mayfield told the New York Times. “It was too politically charged.”

Marble said she didn’t “blame the boy for asking the questions” because she believes “there was an element of manipulation involved.” Mayfield denies she coached her son to ask the question, insisting she only told him to be respectful. A television reporter who talked to the 11-year-old said it was clear he was very passionate about the issue.

The Boy Scouts of America declined to comment on specifics, only saying Ames was now in another unit. “The Boy Scouts of America and the Denver Area Council are pleased that the family will continue their participation in Scouting,” the statement said.

Oct. 22 2017 12:59 PM

Trump Rushes Condolence Letters to Families of Slain Sailors Amid Controversy

President Trump sent condolence letters last week to at least three families of sailors who died aboard the USS John S. McCain in August. The relatives of Timothy Eckels Jr., John Hoagland and Corey Ingram all said they received the letters last week with one even telling the Atlantic the UPS package was dated October 18. That was a day after Trump claimed during a Fox News Radio interview that he had gotten in touch with “virtually” all of the families who had lost a member of the military service since he became president.

Now we know that the president’s statement on Fox News Radio caused the White House to scramble and ask the Pentagon for the names and contact information of the family members of service members who died while on duty. Now it seems that with that list in hand, the White House then rushed out condolence letters to people the president had not reached out to before.

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“Honestly, I feel the letter is reactionary to the media storm brewing over how these things have been handled,” Timothy Eckels Sr., whose son Timothy Eckels Jr. was killed in the USS John S. McCain collision told the Atlantic. “I’ve received letters from McCain, Mattis, and countless other officials before his. I wasn’t sure if the fact that the accident that caused Timothy’s death has still yet to officially have the cause determined played into the timing of our president’s response.” Eckels, however, had no complaints about the letter itself, saying it “seemed genuine” and was “respectful.”

After Trump claimed he had contacted “virtually” all families of fallen military service members, several news outlets quickly discovered that was not the case. The Associated Press reached out to the families of all 43 people who died in military service, and managed to make contact without about half of them. Of those who agreed to answer the question, nine said they had heard from the president, and nine said they had not. In at least one case, one family was told to expect a call from Trump but got one from Vice President Mike Pence instead.

Oct. 22 2017 11:28 AM

Trump Keeps Fight Over Condolence Call Alive by Calling Rep. Wilson “Wacky” Again

President Donald Trump seemed unwilling or unable to drop his squabble with Rep. Frederica Wilson over the weekend as he blasted the Miami-area Democrat for a second time in as many days Sunday. The one thing in common between the tweets the president sent out on Saturday and Sunday? He calls the black congresswoman “wacky.”

On Sunday, Trump went as far as to turn the tussle over a condolence call into a rallying cry for Republicans in the midterm elections. “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson is the gift that keeps on giving for the Republican Party,” Trump wrote. “You watch her in action & vote R!”

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A day earlier, Trump expressed hope that the “Fake News Media” continues talking about “Wacky Congresswoman Wilson” because she “is killing the Democrat Party!”

The weekend tweets that took aim at the lawmaker came after the White House defended Chief of Staff John Kelly after he clearly mischaracterized remarks that Wilson made in 2015. When journalists pushed back against Kelly’s clearly mistaken version of events, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it was “highly inappropriate” to “get into a debate with a four-star Marine general.”

Even though it seems Trump is more eager than anyone to keep this fight going, he also appeared to endorse a supporter’s tweet that said the media is talking about Wilson in order to keep the focus away from other issues. “People get what is going on!” Trump wrote.

Trump’s tweets over the weekend coincided with some 1,200 mourners gathering at a church on Saturday to remember Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, whose death sparked the political fight.

USPOLITICSMILITARY
Myeshia Johnson kisses the casket of her husband Army Sgt. La David Johnson during his burial service for at the Memorial Gardens East cemetery on October 21, 2017 in Hollywood, Florida.

GASTON DE CARDENAS/AFP/Getty Images

Oct. 21 2017 5:37 PM

Fox Knew O’Reilly Settled a Sexual Harassment Case Before Renewing His Contract

In January, Bill O’Reilly paid a $32 million settlement with longtime network analyst Lis Wiehl to settle sexual harassment allegations shortly before his contract was renewed, reports the New York Times. That makes it by far the largest of O’Reilly’s known settlements with women who have accused him of harassment.

The huge January settlement, which, according to the Times was due to “allegations of repeated harassment, a nonconsensual sexual relationship and the sending of gay pornography and other sexually explicit material to her,” amounted to at least three times the previously known largest settlement.

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Yet what makes the piece published by the Times Saturday such a bombshell is that it reveals Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, knew about the settlement before granting O'Reilly a four-year extension on his contract that paid $25 million a year.

It may have been the largest settlement but it was hardly the first. This latest payment to settle allegations of wrongdoing marked the sixth agreement the former anchor or the company made to settle harassment allegations against him. But at the time it seems Rupert Murdoch and his sons, Lachlan and James, all of whom are top 21st Century Fox executives, made the calculated decision to paper over the accusations and stand by O’Reilly. The calculation changed shorlty after the Times reported settlements with five women who accused O'Reilly of harassment. He was fired shortly thereafter although he denied any wrongdoing.

Fox News’ parent company insists it didn’t know about the amount of the settlement. “When the company renewed Bill O’Reilly’s contract in February, it knew that a sexual harassment lawsuit had been threatened against him by Lis Wiehl, but was informed by Mr. O’Reilly that he had settled the matter personally, on financial terms that he and Ms. Wiehl had agreed were confidential,” the company said in a statement. “His new contract, which was made at a time typical for renewals of multi-year talent contracts, added protections for the company specifically aimed at harassment, including that Mr. O’Reilly could be dismissed if the company was made aware of other allegations or if additional relevant information was obtained in a company investigation.”

Even though Fox knew about O’Reilly’s history it seems that Murdoch and his sons decided the network couldn’t take losing such a strong star at a time when Megyn Kelly had just left the network.

O’Reillly’s spokesperson issued a statement on behalf of the former anchor blasting the New York Times for mischaracterizing the situation:

Once again, the New York Times has maliciously smeared Bill O’Reilly, this time even failing to print a sworn affidavit from his former lawyer, Lis Wiehl, repudiating all allegations against Bill O’Reilly. The Times ignored that evidence, sworn under oath, and chose to rely on unsubstantiated allegations, anonymous sources and incomplete leaked or stolen documents.

Oct. 21 2017 12:26 PM

Trump Vows to Declassify JFK Files Despite Concern From CIA

Conspiracy theorists were rejoicing Saturday after President Donald Trump said he will give the green light to release thousands of long-declassified files related to the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The National Archives was already due to release the documents on Oct. 26 but recent reports claimed that Trump was under pressure from some in the intelligence community to leave at least a few of the documents under lock and key.

In the tweet announcing his decision, Trump left himself a little bit of wiggle room, saying that the move was “subject to the receipt of further information.” He did not specify what that information could be that would convince him not to release the files. It’s also unclear from the tweet whether the files will be released in full or whether there will be redactions.

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Recent reports about the upcoming declassification noted that Trump was under pressure from some government agencies to not release some of the documents. Specifically, the CIA had allegedly been pressuring Trump “to block the release of some of the assassination documents on national security grounds, possibly to protect CIA tradecraft and the identity of agency informants who might still be alive,” Politico reported this week. The concern seems to particularly be regarding documents about the assassination that were created in the 1990s that could expose recent intelligence and law-enforcement operations.

Trump also apparently received pressure from the other side. Roger Stone told conspiracy theorist Alex Jones of Infowars that he had been urging the president to release all of the documents. Stone, a longtime Trump confidante, told Jones that he believed the documents would shed “very bad light on the deep state—the same characters trying to take down our president right now.” Stone celebrated the decision on Twitter: “Yes ! victory !” Stone was hardly alone though as some academics also celebrated the move. Political scientist Larry Sabato took to Twitter, for example, to say it was “the correct decision.”

The declassification involves around 3,100 files that include tens of thousands of pages. There are also 30,000 pages that have only been partially released. The new documents are seen as potentially very interesting, even if they’re not expected to contain any major bombshells. “There's going to be no smoking gun in there,” Gerald Posner, the author of Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK told CNN. “But anybody who thinks this is going to turn the case on its head and suddenly show that there were three or four shooters at Dealey Plaza—it's not the case.”

Just because there are no expected bombshells though it doesn't mean scholars aren't excited to see the documents.“There’s no Star Chamber report,” Rex Bradford, president of the Mary Ferrell Foundation, told the Dallas Morning News. But “there are documents I am looking forward to seeing. ... It’s been peeling an onion for five decades. The bulk will be pretty impressive, if it happens.”

The documents are scheduled for release as part of the JFK Assassination Records Collection Act that Congress approved in 1992 in part due to the interest on the issue sparked by Oliver Stone’s movie on the former president. The Washington Post explains what could be particularly interesting about the documents:

The 3,100 new files are potentially some of the most intriguing because many of them concern Oswald’s six-day trip to Mexico City in September 1963, about two months before the Nov. 22 assassination. Oswald himself was shot to death by nightclub owner Jack Ruby on Nov. 24. They believe some of the papers might show the extent to which the CIA, which had been monitoring Oswald’s movements in Mexico, knew the magnitude of Oswald’s overtures to the Cubans and Soviets.
“I’ve always considered the Mexico City trip the hidden chapter of the assassination. A lot of histories gloss right past this period,” said Philip Shenon, a former New York Times reporter and the author of a book on the Warren Commission, the congressional body that investigated Kennedy’s killing. “Oswald was meeting with Soviet spies and Cuban spies, and the CIA and FBI had him under aggressive surveillance. Didn’t the FBI and CIA have plenty of evidence that he was a threat before the assassination? If they had acted on that evidence, maybe it wouldn’t have taken place. These agencies could be afraid that if the documents all get released, their incompetence and bungling could be exposed. They knew about the danger of Oswald, but didn’t alert Washington.”

Oct. 21 2017 10:31 AM

White House Had No Idea if Trump Really Called Nearly All Gold Star Families

The White House went into damage-control mode shortly after President Donald Trump said in an interview on Oct. 17 that he had called the families of “virtually everybody” in the military who has been killed this year. Turns out, senior administration officials had no idea if that was true, and they quickly got to working in getting an up-to-date list of those who had been killed since Trump’s inauguration, according to emails reported by Roll Call.

On the same day as Trump made the claims of having called nearly all the families of military dead, the White House asked the Pentagon for updated information about contact information for surviving family members. Capt. Hallock Mohler, the executive secretary to Defense Secretary James Mattis, provided the information in an email saying it had been requested “ASAP” from an aide on the National Security Council.

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“I have called, I believe, everybody — but certainly I’ll use the word virtually everybody,” Trump said in a Fox News Radio interview. But since then the Associated Press carried out a quick survey of the families of military members who were killed since Trump became president and quickly found out Trump’s words were an exaggeration as relatives of nine members of the military who were killed said they had not heard from the commander in chief.

That helps explain why administration officials later used careful and ambiguous language when reporters asked for confirmation that Trump had indeed called “virtually everybody” as he claimed. “The president’s made contact with all of the families that have been presented to him through the White House Military Office,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a briefing the day after Trump’s statement. “All of the individuals that the president has been presented with through the proper protocol have been contacted through that process.”

Oct. 21 2017 9:18 AM

Bannon Says George W. Bush Presidency Was Most “Destructive” in History

Steve Bannon is continuing his self-declared war on the Republican establishment and delivered a particularly withering takedown of former president George W. Bush on Friday night, characterizing him as a puppet who follows orders and has no idea what’s going on. “He has no earthly idea of whether he's coming or going, just like when he was president,” Bannon said.

Bannon was responding to a widely reported speech Bush gave in New York earlier this week in which he rejected bigotry and warned of “nationalism distorted into nativism.” Bush never actually mentioned President Donald Trump by name but there was little doubt what he was referring to when he said that “bigotry seems emboldened.”

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Bannon made clear Friday night he would not accept criticism from someone who he sees as representing everything that is wrong with the Republican Party today. Trump’s former adviser said Bush “embarrassed himself” with a “high falutin” speech that was written for him. “It was clear he didn't understand anything he was talking about,” Bannon said.

“There has not been a more destructive presidency than George Bush’s,” Bannon told a big crowd at the California Republican Party convention, putting at center stage the sharp divisions that exist within Republicans. “The permanent political class that runs this country is one of the great dangers that we face in this country,” he added. Bannon received a standing ovation.

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