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Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

    Efforts by the White House and Senate Republican leaders to quickly bring President Donald Trump's impeachment trial to an end this week were facing uncertainty on Tuesday, as the Senate Majority Leader indicated to GOP Senators that he does not currently have enough votes to stop witnesses like former Trump aide John Bolton from being called to testify. That message on witnesses was delivered at a closed door meeting of GOP Senators, which convened immediately after the President's lawyers had ended their opening arguments, ridiculing the idea that stories in a new book by Bolton should find their way into the impeachment trial. 'Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true - even if true - would rise to the level of abuse of power or an impeachable offense,' argued the President's personal attorney Jay Sekulow, who confronted the Bolton story head on in arguments. 'You cannot impeach a President on an unsourced allegation,' as Sekulow told Senators the Bolton book was 'inadmissible' as evidence. But the warnings about Bolton from the Trump legal team did not immediately dissuade all GOP Senators, as just four could join with Democrats to ask for his testimony, which would short circuit efforts to end this trial later in the week. 'I’ve said that I think that Mr. Bolton probably has some things that would be helpful for us,' said Sen. Lisa Murkowksi (R-AK). 'We’ll figure out how we might be able to learn that.' Murkowski, along with Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), and Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) were three GOP Senators considered to be possible votes to hear from Bolton, the former national security adviser for President Trump, whose new book reportedly raises questions about how Mr. Trump dealt with Ukraine, and the request for that government to start investigations of former Vice President Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. On conservative talk radio Tuesday night, there were also concerns aired that other Republicans considering testimony from witnesses included Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA), and others. One of those Republicans against witnesses - Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - warned that if Bolton is called, then Republicans would move to bring in a number of other witnesses as well. 'If you go down the road of witnesses, it's not going to be one - it's going to be many,' Graham told reporters in the Capitol. Democrats were left waiting on the sidelines, wondering what would happen with the GOP, not fully convinced that dissension in the ranks on Tuesday would translate into a defeat for the Senate Majority Leader at the end of the week. With the opening arguments for the President's side now finished, the Senate will start up to 16 hours of questions by Senators on Wednesday, which is expected to go for two days. That would bring the Senate to a showdown over witnesses on Friday. 'It seems to me the sooner we can get to a vote on conviction or acquittal, the better,' said Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), who said he is ready to vote, without any new witnesses. Coming back from a campaign rally in New Jersey on Tuesday night, the President made clear his frustration with the process. “The Impeachment Hoax is just another political CON JOB!” the President wrote on Twitter.
  • With Republican Senators facing uncertainty over whether to call witnesses like former national security adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump's legal team wrapped up its opening arguments in the President's impeachment trial on Tuesday by calling on the Senate to reject the case from House Democrats. 'It is time for this end end here now,' said White House Counsel Pat Cipollone. 'We urge the Senate to reject these articles of impeachment.' After almost completely ignoring the question of whether Bolton could tell a story about the President's actions regarding Ukraine, the Trump legal team took on Bolton directly on Tuesday afternoon. 'Nothing in the Bolton revelations, even if true - even if true - would rise to the level of abuse of power or an impeachable offense,' said the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. 'You cannot impeach a President on an unsourced allegation,' Sekulow concluded, as he said the President's defense was 'compelling.' Originally, the White House legal team seemed to be ready to go until close to dinner - but instead used less than two hours of arguments in their third and final day before the Senate. Bubbling underneath the surface of the final summary by the White House legal team was the question of whether GOP Senators would agree to call Bolton - and others as witnesses. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said there would not be a scenario where just one witness would be called by the Senate in this impeachment trial. 'If people want witnesses, we're going to get a lot of witnesses,' Graham told reporters before Tuesday's impeachment session began, as he said the GOP would be interested in calling Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, the whistleblower and more. Democrats felt like the White House wrap up was lacking. 'It's clear that they are still reeling from the revelations of John Bolton's book,” said lead House manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).
  • As lawyers for President Donald Trump pressed arguments Monday about questions related to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter's involvement with an energy company in Ukraine, some GOP lawmakers openly said the information should play a role in the current race for the White House, where Biden could well run against the President this November. 'I'm really interested to see how this discussion today informs and influences the Iowa Caucus voters,' said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), as GOP Senators openly mused about how the proceedings might impact other Democrats running for President. 'Will they be supporting Vice President Biden at this point?' Ernst said to reporters at the Capitol. 'Iowa Caucuses are this next Monday.' Naming the four Democratic Senators running for President, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) claimed all four were listening intently to the Biden charges, and maybe thinking about what it would mean politically. “I've never seen them all so attentive,” Barrasso told reporters. 'I think at a minimum, the most important witness for the Senate to hear from is Hunter Biden,' said Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), as Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) said it was the 'crux' of the impeachment trial. Democrats said the evidence was painfully clear that while Republicans said the President was not trying to go after a political opponent by asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens - the GOP was actually now using that same information to do everything possible to slow Biden as the 2020 race gets underway in earnest next week. 'Watching the expected Burisma-Biden barrage from Team Trump today, you got the feeling someone said 'If we have to go through this crappy impeachment thing, let’s at least get our money’s worth,'' said David Axelrod, the chief strategist for President Barack Obama's two campaigns for the White House. 'Incredible,' tweeted Michael McFaul, President Obama's former Ambassador to Russia. 'Admitting openly that Trump and team are using this impeachment trial to take down Biden in Iowa.' 'Mucking up Joe distracts from Trump's illicit recruitment of a foreign government to help win re-election,' said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA). 'Don't get it twisted.' 'We have strong evidence that President Trump withheld military aid to force Ukraine to smear Vice President Biden,' said Rep. Alan Lowenthal (D-CA). The comments from Ernst, Cruz, and other GOP Senators came after the first extended presentation by the President's legal team concerning Hunter Biden's work for the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, which Republicans have said presented corruption issues which drew a natural interest from President Trump. Former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi made the arguments on Biden for the Trump defense team, as she labeled Hunter Biden's board membership with Burisma, “nepotistic at best, nefarious at worst” on the Senate floor. 'The President had an obligation to investigate corruption,' Cruz told reporters on Monday evening, as he criticized Democrats for ignoring the issue. 'It would have been wrong for President Trump to have NOT been worried about the Bidens' business dealings in Ukraine,' Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) tweeted. While Graham has consistently complained to reporters about a lack of interest in the Hunter Biden story, Bondi's presentation on the Senate floor repeatedly noted news stories about Biden, and an interest in the matter. “The media didn't stop asking questions,” Bondi said, quoting stories from ABC, the New Yorker, the Washington Post, and more.
  • A day after reports that former Trump National Security Adviser John Bolton had submitted a book manuscript to the White House for review in late December which included passages that might contradict the assertions of President Donald Trump with regards to the Ukraine investigation, some GOP Senators on Monday quickly opened the door to approving testimony by Bolton in the President's impeachment trial. 'I think it's increasingly likely that other Republicans will join those of us who think we should hear from John Bolton,' Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) told reporters on Capitol Hill. 'The reports about John Bolton's book strengthen the case for witnesses and have prompted a number of conversations among my colleagues,' said Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME). The rapidly unfolding developments came as the White House continued to try to ward off the idea of opening the President's trial to witnesses, which had seemed to be less and less of a possibility - until the Bolton story broke on Sunday night. Democrats, who have been calling for testimony by Bolton, White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, and others who refused to appear before the House impeachment investigation, urged voters to swamp GOP offices with calls demanding witnesses. “Keep. Calling.” tweeted Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). “This is stunning,” said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer in a news conference at the Capitol. “How can Senate Republicans not vote to call that witness and request his documents?” Schumer told reporters. Many GOP Senators had said little about the Bolton news, and that continued as they arrived back at the Capitol for the resumption of the President's impeachment trial. “To me, the facts of the case remain the same,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) at a GOP news conference which was scheduled, cancelled, and then scheduled again with a smaller cast of Republicans. “It really doesn't change anything in terms of the process,” said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN) at the same event. But there were hints of turmoil inside GOP ranks, as Sen. Kelly Loeffler R-GA blasted Romney on Twitter, accusing him of trying to 'appease the left' by considering testimony from Bolton, which Loeffler said would be used to 'slander' President Trump. “The circus is over,” Loeffler tweeted. “There seems to be a giant cover up among so many leading people in the White House,” Schumer added.
  • With the White House legal team ready to resume the defense of President Donald Trump on Monday in his Senate impeachment trial, GOP Senators joined the President in targeting the lead House prosecutor in the case, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as the President on Sunday called Schiff 'corrupt' and 'probably a very sick man.' 'He has not paid the price, yet, for what he has done to our Country!' the President tweeted. The President's tweet was just a coda to a weekend filled with attacks on Schiff by GOP lawmakers in Congress, as in unison they praised the start of the President's impeachment defense. 'It completely undermined the case of the Democrats and truly undermined the credibility of Adam Schiff,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), as GOP Senators rushed to the microphones on Saturday afternoon to denounce the California Democrat. 'Adam Schiff has been involved in this from the beginning,' said Sen. Mike Braun (R-IN), as Republicans tried to portray Schiff as the evil genius behind the various investigations which have dogged this President. 'I think Adam Schiff got kneecapped,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) in an interview on Fox News, using a phrase sometimes associated with a mob punishment. Democrats said it was nothing but Republicans and the President trying to focus on anything other than the evidence in the impeachment trial. 'You are not a king, nor a mafia Don,' said Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). 'We aren’t afraid of you. But we can tell you are afraid of us.' Asked on NBC's 'Meet the Press' if he took the tweet as a threat, Schiff said that was likely the President's intent. The President's lawyers will continue their arguments starting at 1 pm ET on Monday before the U.S. Senate - if no witnesses are called by Senators, then the trial could be over by the end of the week.
  • After listening to Democrats for three straight days, President Donald Trump's lawyers started their rebuttal on Saturday in the President's Senate impeachment trial, accusing House prosecutors of ignoring evidence helpful to Mr. Trump, asking Senators to turn aside an effort to 'cancel an election.' 'You will find that the President did absolutely nothing wrong,' White House Counsel Pat Cipollone said to start the arguments in an unusual Saturday session of the Senate. 'Today, we are going to confront them on the merits of their argument,' Cipollone added, as the President's legal team accused the House of bending the facts, and ignoring evidence in favor of Mr. Trump. 'Let's get our facts straight,' said the President's personal lawyer Jay Sekulow. 'The House managers never told you any of this,' said White House lawyer Michael Purpura. 'Why not?' “Impeachment shouldn't be a shell game,” Cipollone said, as the President's team used just two of their 24 hours of arguments - they will continue on Monday afternoon. GOP Senators rushed to the microphones after Saturday's session to denounce what Democrats had presented earlier in the week. 'Within two hours, I thought the White House Counsel and their team entirely shredded the case which has been presented by the House managers,' said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA). 'It completely undermined the case of the Democrats and truly undermined the credibility of Adam Schiff,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). 'It was pretty stark today,' said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), who then used the famous quote from radio show host Paul Harvey to make the case for the President. 'Now you know the rest of the story,' Lankford told reporters. 'This was a good day for America frankly,' said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC). 'I don't believe anything they have said so far is impeachable,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) of the House case, as there continues to be no public evidence that any GOP Senators are ready to break with President Trump. Playing out behind the scenes was the ongoing partisan tussle over whether current and former Trump Administration officials - whose testimony has been blocked during the impeachment investigation by President Trump - should be issued subpoenas by the U.S. Senate. 'I don't know how you have a trial when you know there is evidence that you haven't seen, or witnesses you haven't heard from that have first hand knowledge,' said Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV). 'A fair trial means witnesses and documents,' said Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer. The trial resumes at 1 pm ET on Monday.
  • Democrats concluded their 24 hours of opening arguments in the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump with a blistering assessment of his effort to get Ukraine to announce investigations which would politically benefit him, as Democrats pleaded with GOP Senators to subpoena documents and witnesses blocked by the President. 'I implore you, give America a fair trial,' Schiff said. 'She's worth it.' In a final summary of the House impeachment arguments, Schiff said the President had clearly stepped over the line by trying to get Ukraine to start an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and his son. 'President Trump has abused the power of his office, and must be removed,' said lead House prosecutor Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA). 'Our founders worried about a situation just like this,' Schiff added, arguing the House charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress have 'been proved.' For Republicans, the third straight day of arguments by House prosecutors was like hundreds of fingernails on a Senate blackboard, as they all but accused Schiff of making up a story about President Trump. “It's kind of a story of the entire three days, of this invented story, weaving through bits of facts, but all this fiction weaved in it,” said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), as he told reporters that Schiff's final speech was 'insulting to everybody.' 'I don't anything they've said so far is impeachable,' said Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who earlier in the day told reporters that he thought the arguments of Rep. Schiff were 'horrible.' 'They shouldn't need anymore information to make a final decision,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), who made clear the GOP leadership position that Republicans should not vote for extra documents or witnesses, worried it will drag out the trial well into February. With the White House legal team ready to start arguments on Saturday, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) - who said he had been in touch with the President just yesterday - said there was no reason to ignore the story of Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joe Biden. 'The President is frustrated and I am frustrated that we live in a country where only one side gets looked at,' Graham told reporters, as he accused the news media for a second straight day of carrying the water for Democrats in this impeachment fight, and hinted he would start his own investigation. The end of the House prosecutors arguments set the stage for the White House to begin its defense of President Trump, which is set to begin at 10 am ET on Saturday, and last for about three hours. Schiff tried to preempt some of the expected arguments. 'If they couldn't get Ukraine to smear the Bidens, they want to use this trial to do it instead,' Schiff said about anticipated talk from the President's lawyers about investigating Hunter Biden. If the Senate refuses to call witnesses next week, then the President's impeachment trial could conclude by the end of January, or the first days of February.
  • Thrilling thousands of abortion opponents at the March for Life in Washington, D.C., President Donald Trump again emphasized his support for their cause, as he became the first President to travel the few blocks from the White House to appear in person at the march. 'Today, as President of the United States, I am truly proud to stand with you,' Mr. Trump said, as his speech was received with loud cheers, and chants of 'four more years' from some in the crowd. 'As the Bible tells us, each person is wonderfully made,' as the President repeatedly emphasized his pro-life stance, endearing him to more conservative and religious voters who have become a bedrock of his political support. 'We must protect, cherish, and defend the sanctity of every human life,' he added. While past Republican Presidents had always expressed their support for the March for Life, none had trekked the couple of blocks from the White House to appear in person. 'It is my profound honor to be the first President in history to attend the March for Life,' Mr. Trump said to loud cheers, 47 years after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion with the Roe v. Wade decision. 'I notified Congress that I would veto any legislation that weakens pro-life policies or that encourages the destruction of human life,' Mr. Trump said, as he also again expressed his opposition to late-term abortions. The President also spoke about conservative judges who have been approved for the federal bench during his time in office, also citing his two Supreme Court picks, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch. Even though he could easily see the Capitol from the rally, the President made no mention of his Senate impeachment trial, as the gathering brought together a number of GOP lawmakers for the march.
  • Republican Senators expressed growing frustration on Thursday with the arguments of U.S. House prosecutors against President Donald Trump, as Democrats accused the President of trying to use the government of Ukraine to help his 2020 re-election campaign by launching investigations linked to former Vice President Joe Biden and a 2016 election conspiracy theory involving Ukraine. 'It's the same story, the same videos,' said Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), as GOP grumbling grew about the trial. 'Apparently we're going to hear it all day again, same things over again.' 'It seems like Groundhog Day in the Senate,' said Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY). 'It is the same thing, day after day after day.' On the Senate floor, Democrats spent a second day diving into great detail about the President's actions regarding Ukraine, accusing him of trying to get a foreign country to meddle in U.S. elections. The second day wrapped up with an impassioned speech by lead House impeachment manager Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), who implored GOP Senators to acknowledge that the President does not have the interests of the nation in mind. “You know you can't count on him; none of us can,” Schiff said. “You know you can't trust this President to do what's right for this country,” Schiff added. “You can trust he'll do what's right for Donald Trump.” In their second day of arguments, Democrats focused entirely on the abuse of power charge against the President, as Schiff led the House impeachment managers in laying out the case. 'It's improper for the President of the United States to demand a foreign government to investigate a U.S. citizen, and a political opponent,' Schiff said, referring to former Vice President Biden. Schiff also mocked the President for embracing the 'Crowdstrike' conspiracy theory, noting that Mr. Trump asked the leader of Ukraine to see if the email server of the Democratic National Committee - which was hacked by Russian intelligence in 2016 - was now being hidden inside Ukraine. 'This completely bogus, Kremlin-pushed, conspiracy theory,' Schiff said. 'So when President Trump asks for a favor,' said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), 'the only priority was President Trump's corrupt demand for phony investigations.' 'This is corruption and abuse of power in its purest form,' Jeffries added on Thursday night. In their arguments, Schiff and other managers repeatedly indicated to Senators how the Trump Administration had blocked requests for witnesses and documents, as Democrats still hope to find four Republicans who would vote for witness testimony by Mick Mulvaney, John Bolton, and others. But there was no real evidence that GOP opposition to witness testimony was going to crack, as Senate GOP leaders have warned any effort to subpoena witnesses could create a messy court battle with the White House which could take months to resolve. 'I want to end this thing sooner, rather than later,' said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), who said he was not interested in extra witnesses sought by Democrats. Democrats will finish their arguments on Friday with a focus on the obstruction of Congress charge, as they continue to detail the numerous ways the White House defied supoenas from House impeachment investigators. The President's legal team has been sitting silent on the Senate floor - they are expected to start their defense of Mr. Trump on Saturday.
  • While Republican Senators continue to wave off the case presented by House Democrats in President Donald Trump's Senate impeachment trial, the GOP is expressing concern that the impeachment battle may have a negative impact on a group of Senators who are already in tough re-election battles in 2020. 'The entire process is not to remove the President from office, it's simply to remove certain Republican Senators,' said Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), as he rattled off a series of states where polls show incumbent Republicans with struggling poll ratings. 'Colorado, North Carolina, Iowa, Maine, and Arizona - this is absolutely an opportunity for them to over take the Senate,' Scott told reporters during a break in the Trump impeachment trial. Polling shows that GOP Senators from three of those states - Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Sen. Martha McSally of Arizona - have some of the worst approval/disapproval ratings in the country. Two others, Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado, and Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina are also facing concerted attacks from Democratic Party groups, hoping to unseat them in November. Back in Maine, Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) - already in hot water for her decision to support Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh - is now seeing a prime Democratic rival, Maine House Speaker Sarah Gideon, zeroing in on her votes in the Trump impeachment trial. While Collins is facing tough votes in the Trump trial, Gideon has been back in Maine firing away at the Maine Republican. “Senator Collins voted with Mitch McConnell to block witnesses and evidence from the impeachment trial,” Gideon said. 'She (Collins) has proven that she has won tough races in the past, but this will be her most difficult re-election,' said Nathan Gonzales, an elections analyst with Roll Call, told C-SPAN earlier this week. Also getting involved in some of these races is former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who is funneling some of ad money into Arizona, Colorado, North Carolina, and Maine.

News

  • Florida's St. Augustine Police Department said they are searching for the suspect who robbed a group of children at gunpoint at a popular park. The robbery happened at Project Swing park on Saturday around 9:30 p.m. Several signs at the park read, “For your safety, park is closed from dusk to dawn.” According to the report, the victims, whose ages are redacted, were sitting at the tables in the middle of the park when a man approached them and demanded money. In the report, one of the victims said the suspect pointed the gun into his chest when he told him he didn’t have any money. Police said the man took $16 from one of the victims before he tried to grab a backpack from the other. The victims told investigators when the suspect tried to take the backpack, they ran towards the parking garage for help. Detectives said the suspect took off running in the opposite direction toward Ketterlinus gym. By the time police responded, the suspect was gone. Investigators said they found a bag believed to belong to the suspect near the tennis courts next to the park. It was sent to the lab for DNA testing. Anyone with information on the suspect is encouraged to call the police department.
  • A 77-year-old man was punched in the face as he walked into a grocery store in Gwinnett County, Georgia, and now police are looking for the person responsible. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. It happened at the Kroger on Braselton Highway, and it all started in the fire lane in front of the store. The victim, who did not want to be identified by name, said on Jan. 23 around 4:30 p.m. he pulled up, saw someone parked there, and on his way inside the store, he said, “You're not supposed to park here.” Police said surveillance video shows a woman, who was in the parked car in the fire lane outside, go in the store, walk up to the victim and say something. Officials said a man who was with her then assaulted the 77-year-old man. “And the next thing I know, this jerk comes around and just cold-cocks me right flat on the floor,” the victim said. Witnesses told police they couldn’t believe it happened. The suspect took off and police are still looking for him now. There’s video of the assault that Kroger cameras recorded, but investigators said they’re not releasing it yet because the case is still open. “I had no idea he was even in the place until he came round in front and punched me,” the victim said. The incident is a reminder to shoppers that you may want to tell police when someone is doing something illegal instead of saying something to that person. You never know what they are going to do.
  • A bill sponsored by Utah Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, would restrict people from purchasing a hunting license if they aren’t up to date on child support payments. The “Fishing and Hunting Restrictions for Nonpayment of Child Support” House bill would prohibit “the issuance of a license, permit, or tag related to fishing or hunting if an individual is delinquent in child support.” According to KUTV, the bill would affect anyone who owes more than $2,500 in child support. Once a person is no longer behind on their child support payments, they can obtain a hunting license. If the bill passes, it will go into effect in the summer of 2021.
  •  For the first time, NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal opened up about the death of his former teammate and friend, Kobe Bryant. Bryant, his daughter 13-year-old daughter Gianna, and seven others were killed Sunday when the helicopter they were traveling in crashed in Calabasas, California. O’Neal’s comments came at the start of TNT’s pregame show, as he sat on the court at Staples Center along with the rest of the network’s studio team. TNT was supposed to televise a doubleheader, but the NBA canceled the Lakers-Clippers game that was scheduled to be the nightcap because the Lakers organization is still too devastated after the death of Bryant and his daughter. I haven’t felt a pain that sharp in a while,” O’Neal said. Shaq said he was working out with his son and nephew, when another nephew walked into the room crying and showed him the phone. “I snapped at him,” O’Neal said. “I said, ‘Get that out of my face.'” O’Neal said he thought it was a hoax at first, and then he started getting phone calls from friends and other fellow basketball players. “Forty-seven years old, I’ve lost two grandmothers … lost my sister. And now I’ve lost my little brother,' O’Neal said. O'Neal and Bryant teamed to help the Lakers win three straight championships from 2000-02, but they occasionally feuded and O'Neal was traded to Miami in 2004. He would win another title there, while Bryant would win two more with the Lakers. O’Neal said his heart broke even more when he learned who else was on the chopper. “It’s sort of like a triple stabbing to the heart because after you cry and wonder about that, then I get back on the internet – Rick Fox is on the (helicopter). So now, I’m sick even more,” O’Neal said. “And then the final blow, his lovely daughter was with him on the helicopter.” They eventually patched up their relationship and O'Neal said they texted frequently, though he said he hadn't actually seen Bryant since the final day of his career in 2016. O'Neal said he told Bryant to score 50 points and Bryant instead scored 60. O’Neal said Bryant even checked in with his son Shareef, who underwent heart surgery in December 2018. “Shareef called me, devastated, and said Kobe just texted me to check and see how he was doing. And he used to do that from time to time,” O’Neal said. O’Neal said this year’s NBA Hall of Fame induction ceremony will be a solemn event. “The fact that we’re not going to be able to joke at his Hall of Fame ceremony. The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘Ha, Ha. I got five. You got four.’ The fact that we’re not going to be able to say, ‘If we had stayed together to get 10,’ those are the things we can’t get back,” O’Neal said. O'Neal's comments were his first that were televised since Bryant's death. He had previously only posted on social media and spoken on a podcast. The Associated Press contributed to this story.
  • Last week, the head of a Chinese government expert team said that human-to-human transmission has been confirmed in the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that people avoid travel to China. Here are some tips for travelers who may be making their way to or from China or other destinations:  Check the CDC website for updates on the outbreak The CDC has a dedicated page that is kept up to date with travel information to China, impacted transportation in China and status of medical care in the country. Maintain good personal hygiene According to The New York Times, passengers should avoid touching their faces and practice proper coughing etiquette, such as coughing or sneezing into an arm instead of your hands or the environment. The CDC recommends washing hands for at least 20 seconds. An alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol can be used when soap is not available. The Times also reminded travelers that seatbacks and tray tables are wiped down by ground crews, but cleaning them again with a disinfecting wipe is recommended. Lastly, try to keep a safe distance from anyone who appears to be ill. If you are seated next to someone who may be ill, you can ask a flight attendant to reseat you. Please note that they may not be able to accommodate the request. Do I need a mask while traveling? Dr. William Schaffner, a professor of medicine in Vanderbilt University’s division of infectious diseases, told CNN that the benefit of masks may be impractical. “The scientific basis showing that people in the community wearing masks actually has any benefit is very thin and questionable,” Shaffner told CNN. Schaffner also told CNN that U.S. travelers who are traveling only within the United States should not be as concerned about the virus. Other noteworthy tips Henry Harteveldt, of Atmosphere Research, told USA Today that travelers should consider keeping air vents open above the seat to improve ventilation but also noted that he aims them away from his body. USA Today also suggested bringing tissues with you to use to avoid touching door handles when you use the bathrooms on flights. Book a window seat. A study published in 2018 concluded that the window seat is more likely to keep a passenger away from people who might be sick because it is furthest from the aisle where more people move through the cabin. What are other countries doing in response to the outbreak? Many countries are checking the temperatures of arriving airline passengers and adopting precautionary quarantine procedures in response to a new virus. India, Nigeria, Japan and the United States are some of the countries where airport screening procedures were in place. Below are some of the public health measures in multiple countries intended to prevent a repeat of the 2002-2003 outbreak of SARS, which started in China and killed nearly 800 people (Source:The Associated Press, Jan. 21, 2020) MAINLAND CHINA China’s often-secretive Communist government was blamed for making SARS far worse by initially hiding information and blocking the work of the World Health Organization. This time, leader Xi Jinping has called for tough measures and said “party committees, governments and relevant departments at all levels should put people’s lives and health first.” At the airport in Wuhan, the temperatures of departing passengers were checked and outbound tour groups were banned from leaving the city. Virtually everyone in a public role, from traffic police officers to bank tellers, is wearing a protective face mask. JAPAN Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged officials to step up quarantine checks at airports and other entry points, and Japan will require visitors arriving from Wuhan to fill in health forms. HONG KONG The semiautonomous city is one of the most popular destinations for mainland Chinese. It has stepped up surveillance and ordered more cleaning and disinfecting for planes and trains from Wuhan, as well as for train stations and the airport. Acting Chief Executive Matthew Cheung said authorities are ready for a worst-case scenario and are on extremely high alert. A lack of information and low levels of vigilance were blamed for Hong Kong becoming the second-hardest hit area by SARS after mainland China in the early 2000s. As in much of mainland China, Hong Kong residents favor traditional markets where live poultry and other animals are sold. The government advises people against visiting such markets or touching animals or their droppings. SOUTH KOREA South Korea reported its first case of the virus in mid-January, in a Chinese woman who works at a South Korean company. At Incheon International Airport near Seoul, the only airport in South Korea with direct flights from Wuhan, two special gates are designated for passengers from the city and ear thermometers are used to check their temperatures. Arrival halls are being sprayed with disinfectant twice a week, up from once a week previously, and escalator handrails, elevator buttons and other sensitive surfaces are wiped with disinfectant twice a day. NIGERIA Nigeria’s government says health authorities at points of entry are on alert for cases of coronavirus arriving in Africa’s most populous country. The Nigeria Center for Disease Control asked that travelers from Wuhan report to a medical facility and the center if they feel ill. China is Africa’s top trading partner. South Africa’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases said anyone with a severe respiratory illness should be tested if they have traveled to Wuhan within two weeks or had close physical contact with a coronavirus patient or treatment at a facility where a confirmed case has been reported. There were more than 200,000 Chinese workers in Africa as of the end of 2017, not including numerous informal migrants such as traders and shopkeepers, according to the China Africa Research Initiative at Johns Hopkins University. INDIA India will expand thermal screening of passengers arriving from China, including Hong Kong, to seven airports from the current three. In-flight announcements before arrival will direct passengers with a fever or cough who have traveled to Wuhan in the previous 14 days to declare themselves to health authorities. Thermal screening will begin in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Cochin, and continue in Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said. SINGAPORE AND MALAYSIA Singapore will expand temperature screening at Changi Airport, one of Asia’s busiest travel hubs, for all travelers on flights arriving from China beginning on Wednesday. The health ministry said individuals with pneumonia and a history of travel to Wuhan within 14 days of the onset of symptoms will be isolated in a hospital as a precautionary measure and investigated. Neighboring Malaysia has also beefed up screening at Kuala Lumpur’s airport. Deputy health Minister Lee Boon Chye said staff are being trained to handle possible cases. “If a case emerges, then we may have to take more drastic measures, but for now, we hope we can nip it at the entry point,” Lee told reporters. BANGLADESH Bangladesh civil aviation authorities have ordered airport managers to start screening incoming passengers from China. A.H.M. Touhid-ul Ahsan, director of the main Shahjalal International Airport, said doctors at the airport would look for fevers, coughs, breathing difficulties and sore throats. The country’s Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research will be notified of any passengers with symptoms for further examination, he said. AUSTRALIA Brendan Murphy, Australia’s chief medical officer, said biosecurity staff and state health officials in New South Wales are meeting flights from Wuhan and are distributing pamphlets printed in English and Chinese to all passengers. The pamphlets describe symptoms of infection and ask people to identify themselves if they are experiencing any. RUSSIA Russia’s Healthcare Ministry described the virus as a biological hazard, with Deputy Minister Sergei Krayevoy saying the virus was a “striking example” of the biological threats Russia faces. The Russian public health service, Rospotrebnadzor, said it had developed a testing kit that would allow labs to detect the new coronavirus quickly. Russia is one of the three most popular tourist destinations for people from China, according to Russian officials. They estimate that about 2 million tourists from China visited Russia in 2018. ITALY The Italian Health Ministry says passengers making direct and indirect flights from Wuhan, China, to Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci airport will be checked for potential signs of the virus. People with suspected infections will be quarantined at an infectious disease hospital in Rome, the ministry says. No cases have been reported so far. Posters at the airport advise travelers to consider delaying trips to the Wuhan area and if they do go there, to avoid touching animals or uncooked animal products. The Associated Press contributed to this story. Associated Press journalists Moussa Moussa in Canberra, Australia, Kim Hyung-jin in Seoul, South Korea, Cara Anna in Johannesburg, South Africa, Eileen Ng in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Daria Litvinova in Moscow, and Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo contributed to this report. xxx
  • It is a sad time. I need to have a pity party and go get some of my friends...let's go cry a minute.' That's Carol, one of the many dedicated and loyal customers of Life Grocery, the natural and organic foods and products store in Marietta. Carol's been a customer for 20-plus years. There's also Richard, who's been a customer even longer - since the 1980's. 'This was the original and only health food store where you could get organic groceries. It's very sad.'  On a Monday in the last week of January, the store along Roswell Rd. between the Big Chicken and the 120 Loop was busy. Busier than normal. A good bet that had lots to do with deep discounts at Life Grocery, as the store was closing its doors by the end of January.   'People are coming in, wanting to say goodbye. It's the end of an era,' store general manager Ronnie Hudson tells WSB Radio. It's been emotional for her too. She's been with the co-op business since the mid 90's and admits there will be a void as the doors close for good.  Life Grocery was founded by Life University students when Gerald Ford was president - back in 1976. Hudson says the business was one of the pioneers in the natural, organic food market, 'there weren't options back then...we were the template.' Stores like Life and some other early ones set the stage for what came years later - an explosion in the organic/natural food space, now dominated by major players like Whole Foods, Sprouts, and others. Life Grocery's reasons for closing are many says Hudson. 'The main distributor that we use, Whole Foods is their priority. So sometimes we can't even get our whole orders full.' Not only competition though. Aging equipment has also been an issue, rising costs, and location has played a part Hudson says. Life Grocery sits in an aging strip mall. Whole Foods used to be across the street. But when it left for a better location, Hudson says some of her customers told her, they'd forgotten about Life.  Still, in the store's final hours of existence Monday, longtime customers were stopping in for their last purchases. Hudson was exchanging hugs with many of them. 'The emotions at this point, even from our customers, has been so touching, heartbreaking, heartwarming. It feels good to know that people have appreciated what we have.'