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Wednesday, Jan 26th

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Virginia Giuffre: Prince Andrew accuser in spotlight after years of fighting to be heard

Virginia Giuffre finally has a voiceVirginia Giuffre was a teenager working as a locker-room assistant at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in 2000 when she says she was approached by Ghislaine Maxwell. Maxwell asked her if she wanted to become a massage therapist.

Giuffre had been trying to get her life back on track, and this job was a key part of that plan. She has recounted how she had been sexually abused as a child, found herself moving in and out of foster care homes, and at 14 had been living on the streets suffering yet more abuse.

She has recalled how she initially thought Maxwell and her close friend, Jeffrey Epstein, were “nice people” looking to help her earn some extra money. She had opened up to them about her past. “That was the worst thing I could have told them because now they knew how vulnerable I was,” Giuffre told the BBC in 2019.

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Texas county rejects half of mail-in ballot applications amid new voter restrictions

Texas county rejects half of vote by mail applications Election officials in the Texas county that includes the state capital, Austin, have rejected about half of applications for mail-in ballots, following new voting restrictions brought in by Republicans.

The voter identification rules have led to the rejection of about half of the 700 mail-in ballots requested in Travis county for primary elections in March, according to the county’s clerk.

The denied ballots in Travis county follow a similar trend across Texas, with officials in Harris county, which includes the city of Houston, and Bexar county, which includes San Antonio, also turning down a substantial number of mail-in ballot applications.

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  • U.S. Supreme Court to hear dispute over football coach's on-field prayers

    SCOTUS to take up prayer on football fieldThe U.S. Supreme Court on Friday agreed to hear an appeal by a Christian former high school football coach who was suspended from his job at a high school in Washington state for refusing to halt his practice of praying at mid-field after games - a case that could expand the religious rights of employees of public institutions.

    The justices took up an appeal by Joseph Kennedy, who served as an assistant football coach in the city of Bremerton, of a lower court ruling that rejected his claims that the school district's actions violated his free speech and religious rights under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendme

    The San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last year ruled against Kennedy, determining that local officials would have violated the First Amendment's ban on government establishment of religion if they let Kennedy's prayers and Christian-infused speeches continue.

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    Proud Boys leader freed from Washington jail, served time for burning banner at Black church

    Proud Boys leader freed from jailA leader of the right-wing Proud Boys group, Enrique Tarrio, was released from jail on Friday after serving four months and a week for burning a Black Lives Matter banner at a historic African American church in Washington in December 2020.

    Tarrio was among a group of Proud Boys who stole the banner during a demonstration in Washington on Dec. 12, 2020. Tarrio then set it on fire, according to comments he made afterward. He pled guilty in July, was sentenced in August and began serving his jail sentence in September.

    Tarrio did not take part in the deadly Jan. 6, 2021 riots at the U.S. Capitol. He was arrested when he arrived in Washington two days before the failed bid to prevent Congress' certification of Democrat Joe Biden's November 2020 election win over then-President Donald Trump, a Republican.

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    South Braces For Major Winter Storm Expected To Bring Ice And Snow Mix

    South braces for major winter stormForecasts of snow and ice as far south as Georgia have put a big part of the Southeast on an emergency preparedness footing as shoppers scoured store shelves for storm supplies and crews raced to treat highways and roads as a major winter storm approached from the Midwest.

    In Virginia, where a blizzard left thousands of motorists trapped on clogged highways earlier this month, outgoing Gov. Ralph Northam declared a state of emergency and urged people to take the approaching storm seriously. In North Carolina, some store shelves were stripped bare of essentials including bread and milk.

    By Friday, the fast-moving storm had already dropped heavy snow across a large swath of the Midwest, where travel conditions deteriorated and scores of schools closed or moved to online instruction. Iowa was hit the hardest. Brad Small, a National Weather Service meteorologist said the airport in Des Moines saw more than 14 inches of snow and a big swath of the central and southern Iowa recorded between 9 inches and a foot of snow.

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    Expect More Worrisome COVID Variants After Omicron, Scientists Say

    Expect more worrisone COVID variantsGet ready to learn more Greek letters. Scientists warn that omicron’s whirlwind advance practically ensures it won’t be the last version of the coronavirus to worry the world.

    Every infection provides a chance for the virus to mutate, and omicron has an edge over its predecessors: It spreads way faster despite emerging on a planet with a stronger patchwork of immunity from vaccines and prior illness.

    That means more people in whom the virus can further evolve. Experts don’t know what the next variants will look like or how they might shape the pandemic, but they say there’s no guarantee the sequels of omicron will cause milder illness or that existing vaccines will work against them.

    They urge wider vaccination now, while today’s shots still work.

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    Violent online messages before Capitol riot went unshared by DHS, emails show

    Violent messages ignored before 1/6

    On Jan. 6, 2021, as a mob of Donald Trump supporters began besieging the Capitol, Department of Homeland Security officials reviewed a plea for help.

    Rioters had started climbing up scaffolding when, at 2:12 p.m., the Capitol Police requested information from DHS’ intelligence agency. That office monitors public social media chatter for clues on where violence might break out nationwide.

    A DHS official, whose name was redacted, outlined the request: “Are groups talking about taking over the Capital [sic] on social media. Are tactics being discussed about taking over the Capital. Tactics can include radio frequencies, weapons etc.”

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    Tsunami advisory in effect for U.S. West Coast after volcanic eruption: "Move away from the shore and head to high ground"

    Tsunami warnings all along west coast

    A tsunami advisory is in effect for the West Coast of the United States, Alaska and Hawaii after a volcano erupted in the Pacific. "A Tsunami is occurring," the National Weather Service's National Tsunami Warning Center said on Saturday.

    "Move away from the shore and head to high ground," it said, warning that the first wave may not be the largest.

    A tsunami advisory — meaning "a dangerous wave is on the way" — was issued for the following areas, stretching from southern California to Alaska's coastline, according to the warning center:

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    Hostage situation over at North Texas synagogue: Everyone is safe

    Hostage situation at Texas synagoguePolice on Saturday morning were evacuating residents of a Colleyville neighborhood while SWAT officers responded to a hostage situation.

    The Colleyville Police Department first tweeted about the situation shortly after 11:30 a.m.

    Police were "conducting SWAT operations" at the Congregation Beth Israel synagogue in Colleyville. An officer at the scene, located on the 6100 block of Pleasant Run Road, confirmed that the situation was a hostage incident, but more information had not yet been confirmed by officials.

    Texas Department of Public Safety officials confirmed that state troopers are helping Colleyville police at the scene, but more information was not available. The FBI was also responding to the situation.

    Note: This is a developing story.  Please check back for updates.

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    Update: 4:59 pm ET: Suspected hostage taker is demanding the release of his sister from a fedeeral prison.

    6:59 pm ET: FBI interviewed NYC rabbi contacted by hotage taker.

    8:30 pm ET: One male hostage has been released unharmed. Three others, including the rabbi of the congregation, remain inside the synagogue.

    11:00 pm ET: All hostages have been released and are safe.

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