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Takeaways From Latest Jan. 6 Hearing: Election Officials Felt Trump’s Pressure

Taking a step back in time to reexamine the pressure former President Donald Trump exerted in order to overturn the 2020 election results, the Jan. 6 Committee heard testimonies from those who endured terrifying and deadly threats originating from those efforts Tuesday.

Looking to show that Trump’s pushes and false claims ultimately led to the domestic terrorism events at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a number of officials from tightly contested battleground states in the election were examined, including one — Wandrea ArShaye “Shaye” Moss, a former Georgia election worker — who Trump accused of committing voter fraud, along with her mother.

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The surveillance footage and accused actions were debunked, but that didn’t stop Moss from being thrown into the fire by conservatives and Trump supporters. The impact from the events clearly affected Moss, whose emotions were evident in the Cannon Caucus Room.

“There were a lot of threats wishing death upon me,” Moss recounted. Moss’s Black skin color also factored into those threats, with one saying to “be thankful it’s 2020 and not 1920.” “A lot of them were racist. A lot of them were just hateful,” she said. Some protesters even attempted to make a citizen’s arrest on Moss’ grandmother.

“It’s turned my life upside down. I no longer give out my business card. I don’t want anyone knowing my name. I don’t go to the grocery store at all. I haven’t been anywhere at all.”

Another official, Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers (R), testified he was subjected to constant protesting and smearing outside his home, with one man weilding a pistol. Though supporting Trump in a reelection bid, Bowers explained he did “not want to be a winner by cheating.”

Bowers claimed he was asked by Trump and his attorney, Rudy Giuliani, to find evidence that illegal immigrants and dead people had voted in the 2020 election, along with decertifying Arizona’s electoral votes and replace them with Trump voters.

Biden won Arizona by just .4% (1,672,143 votes). Though Bowers asked to see this evidence of fraud, Trump and Giuliani never presented anything more than just “theories.”

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Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R) made similar statements to Bowers, saying Trump asked him during a phone call to “give him a break” and find 11,780 votes, enough to help him win by one vote in the state he lost by .3%.

The audio of the phone call was played for the committee, with Trump threatening to Raffensperger that those investigating voter fraud and found to be dishonest by claiming falsehood could face criminal behavior.

“You can’t let that happen, that’s a big risk to you. All of this stuff is very dangerous.”

Raffensperger detailed his intensive investigating of potential fraud, examining one of the 4.9 million total votes after another. “The numbers don’t lie. At the end of the day, President Trump came up short,” he said.

In terms of audience viewing, the American public may not be fully invested in the developments, which could spell trouble for Democrats hoping to use the hearings to sway voters in the upcoming midterms. The first hearing on June 9, treated to a primetime spot, peaked at 20 million viewers.

However, that number has since dropped as hearings take place during the daytime. 23% of voters said they saw, read, or heard a lot about the hearings on June 13 and 16, down 7% from the June 9 hearing.

Music

Lizzo Sparks Ableism Debate Over Her New Song ‘Grrrls’

Singer songwriter Lizzo created waves this week over her new song, “Grrrls,” set to appear in her new album, “Special.” Only, it wasn’t the kind of response she was hoping for. Instead, intense backlash came her way due to the song containing what many have claimed is an ableist slur.

In the original lyrics, the word in question comes in the opening line of the song: “Hold my bag, b***h (girls). Hold my bag. Do you see this s**t? I’ma spaz.” Short for “spastic,” spaz’s usage in Lizzo’s song was meant to signify losing physical or emotional control. In that context, the word seems harmless.

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However, many have called it offense due to spaz being associated with people who suffer from cerebral palsy and spastic paralysis, which cause muscle stiffness and loss of movement. In the past, spaz has also been used as a derogatory term, meant to label someone uncool or weird. According to Dictionary.com, spaz is defined as “an awkward or clumsy person.”

After the backlash, Lizzo updated her lyrics to “Do you see this s**t? Hold me back.” Additionally, she posted an apology on her social media accounts, explaining that her harm was never intended, and that she can relate to derogatory statements.

“As a fat black woman in America, I’ve had many hurtful words used against me so I understand the power words can have (whether intentionally or in my case, unintentionally),” she said. “This is the result of me listening and taking action.”

Lizzo ended her apology by saying that “as an influential artist I’m dedicated to being part of the change I’ve been waiting to see in the world.” The singer’s statement was generally well-received by her audience for being understanding and supporting.

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Some have been quick to call the responses as part of “cancel culture,” the idea of holding people accountable or punishing them in some way for wrongdoings. While some pushes in the vein of cancel culture are noble, others have gotten swept up in the political discourse of the nation, ultimately being ridiculed due to sensitivity.

However, as NBC News entertainment writer Charlotte Colombo explained, the push wasn’t simply meant to “cancel” Lizzo. Instead, those hurt by the slang saw it as an opportunity to show why the word can have such a profound effect on listeners who struggle with disabilities every day.

“Calling out the use of this word in the song is important because if the word is used in a song by a widely popular artist, there’s a chance that it can become normalized again.”

The idea of race has also been discussed in the debate that’s soon sprung up, with some claiming that black singers are more likely to be called out for using derogatory lyrics in their songs more than mixed and white singers are. In 2021, country singer Morgan Waller saw his following and chart placements increase following a video of him saying the n-word surfaced.

One such Twitter user used that idea in an argument, accusing rapper Cardi B of the same actions as Lizzo, but getting away with it. The Grammy Award winner didn’t hold back in her response, stating that if she was Lizzo, she would have told people to “SMD.”

Social Media

Addicted To Your Smartphone And Social Media? It Could End Up Being Harmful

It’s not hyperbole to say smartphones, social media, and technology in general has become the center of our lives. We communicate, work, play, date, take photos, and do a million other activities, all at the click of a button. It helps to make tasks effortless and quick.

But as the rule with all good things, there comes a problem. Social media and smartphones can have very addicting tendencies that are becoming increasingly obvious. According to a 2021 Pew Research Center study, 49% of U.S. adults on Facebook — seven-in-ten users — say they visit the site several times a day, with 22% visiting at least once.

For Snapchat, 45% visit several times a day, while Instagram has 38% of users logging on frequently. The increased activity is especially prevalent throughout younger age groups, which apps like Snapchat are catered too.

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Of course, just visiting a platform doesn’t mean you’re necessarily addicted, especially if it’s only for a few seconds each. But, as Wall Street Journal family and tech columnist Julie Jargon explained, there a number of ways to tell if you’re obsessed with your phone and social media.

Jargon explained that if you find it hard to put your phone down, it could mean you’re using it compulsively, indicting addiction. Some examples of this might be a person refusing to do an action — such as going to the bathroom or walking down the street — without checking their phone.

This can certainly end poorly in a number of ways, from not looking while crossing the street or when driving, leaving both yourself and others in potential danger. According to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Research Institute, texting while driving can reduce a driver’s attention by 37%.

Like with all habits, these compulsions can be hard to break. However, you have a weapon at your disposal: your phone’s settings, which can allow you to slowly chip away your need to be looking at the screen, even it’s its forced.

“Try logging how often you check your feeds in a day, including those brief glances during spare moments,” Jargon said, emphasizing turning off app notifications, turning on Do Not Disturb, and configuring settings that don’t allow the receiving of texts while driving. Finding other activities to put in place of the moments you use for your phone time can also help to fill the void.

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Among other signs to look out for include using social media to satisfy yourself, suffering withdrawal symptoms when not using a device, convincing yourself you have an audience you need to serve, or that social media use is getting in the way of your life and preventing you from time with family and friends.

All of those possible signs can have a draining impact on your self-esteem and relationships, while an addiction can also lead to other potential problems that can threaten mental states. Studies have found potential links between excessive phone usage and cognitive functions, emotional reactions, and medical problems that include a lack of sleep, unhealthy eating habits, and physical loss.

So, what else can be done to help? Jargon suggested developing a schedule for social media and phone use, helping you to give yourself much-needed no-screen time while not cutting yourself off completely. Therapy can also be helpful for those that have developed serious conditions.

Commanders

Commanders Owner Dan Snyder Declines To Appear Before Congress

In a four-page letter obtained by Axios, Washington Commanders owner Dan Snyder has informed the House Oversight and Reform Committee that he will not be attending the June 22 hearing on workplace misconduct in the NFL due to him being out of the country.

Inflation

Retail Sales Drop 0.3% In May As Federal Reserve Prepares To Hike Interest Rates Further

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, retail sales fell 0.3% in May, wiping out any progress made by a 0.7% rise in April. It comes as a 8.6% inflation jump has forced millions to focus their money on food and gas, the latter of which now sits above $5 per gallon nationally.

Montana

Study Shows ‘Yellowstone’ Show Has Had Giant Impact On Montana Economy, Real Estate

While it might not be accurate of the lifestyles that have taken up residency in the breathtaking and boundless plains and mountains of Montana, “Yellowstone” certainly does put on quite a show for the millions of viewers its racked up since its debut back in 2018.

Now in its fourth season, “Yellowstone” takes a look at the Duttons, a family led by patriarch John (Kevin Costner) that has built up a ranching and cattle empire. While trying to maintain their long-held control, they also face opposition from property-hungry land developers and Native Americans attempting to take back what they feel is rightfully theirs.

All of it amounts to a show full of twists, turns, fights, backstabbings, and murders, topped off by the authentic scenery that manages to steal the scene in almost every shot. But while the storylines and characters may be fiction, the impact it’s having on its setting certainly isn’t.

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A study by the University of Montana dived into the economic impacts the show has had on Montana, where it’s shot on location. It found that Montana households received $25.3 million in annual personal income because of the production, which turns into $24.6 million after taxes.

Meanwhile, businesses and non-businesses received $85.8 million in annual gross receipts. The show, fronted by Paramount, ended up spending $72 million on production, and the study doesn’t take into account the value earned by businesses and homes on free advertising.

The idea of roughing it as a cowboy — or at least pretending to — has resonated with viewers, however. Speaking to CNBC, boutique investment firm Beartooth Group’s founder, Robert Keith, explained that there has been an increase in buyers looking to follow in the Dutton’s footsteps.

“We’ve had an influx of all sorts of wealthy individuals looking for ranches. They’re looking to own really amazing large properties.”

The intention behind the move isn’t exactly a secret, either. “Everyone who gets into my truck and wants to go out looking at ranches, they all bring up Kevin Costner and ‘Yellowstone’ within the first 15 minutes of the drive,” Hall and Hall realtor Bill ­McDavid told Town & Country Magazine.

From July 2020 to 2021, Montana saw a 1.6% population growth from 1,086,193 to 1,104,271. That makes it just one of a handful of states to see a growth of over 1%, despite it being the eighth-smallest state. Of course, the show isn’t the only reason for the uptick.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has been a driving force in the idea of Montana making a good home. The small overall population presented families with the idea of isolation during the peak of COVID cautiousness, giving them added protection.

With that growth, however, comes rising costs. According to Zillow’s Home Value Index (ZHVI), the average single household value sits at $476,000, up from $369,000 at the same time in 2021. The average also sits $78,000 higher than the national average.

Though the newcomers may be responsible for creating apparent culture clashes in neighborhoods and towns, it’s hard to fault those wanting for a change in scenery and a new life — as long as they have the pockets to pay for it.

Flights Cancelled

Airlines Set To Cancel Thousands Of Flights Due To Staffing Shortage

Unless you happen to have a Boeing in your backyard and a pilot’s license in your pocket, you may be in trouble of missing out on a flight to your next vacation destination. Across the country, airlines are cutting thousands of flights ahead of the summer travel season due to pilot shortages.

No airline has suffered more than Southwest, which has cut around 20,000 flights from June to Labor Day. It’s also pushed up its yearly hiring goal by 2,000 to 10,000. Meanwhile, Delta Airlines stated it was cancelling 100 daily flights from July 1 to Aug. 7 in the U.S. and Latin America, with 517 total flights canceled in June and 700 cut over Memorial Day weekend.

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Similarly, American Airlines is also affected, with CEO Robert Isom confirming the airline had to ground 100 regional flights due to the shortage. “There is a supply and demand imbalance right now, and it really is within the regional carrier ranks,” Isom stated at an investor’s conference.

“We have probably a hundred aircraft — almost a hundred aircraft that aren’t, aren’t productive right now, that aren’t flying.”

Ironically, “reliability” was Isom’s biggest priority when he took the helm of American back on March 31. “People really need to feel like they have control of their itineraries and we give them control by making sure they get to where they want to go on time,” he said at the time. “I just can’t be any more blunt about it than that.”

The shortage has become so prevalent that some airlines are cutting down on the number of requirements potential pilots have to go through in order to fly. Delta previously announced in January it would end its requirement for pilots to have four-year degrees, while Republic Airways asked the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to hire pilots from its LIFT academy when they reach 750 flight hours instead of the required 1,500.

“Republic is not proposing overturning the 1500-hour rule or weakening safety; to the contrary, we are proposing a more intensive, mission-specific training pathway similar to what is permitted for military pilots under current law,” Republic CEO Bryan Bedford told Business Insider.

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Reports also suggested that Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC.) could propose a legislation that would raise the retirement age for commercial airline pilots from 65 to 67, a fix that could help to maintain the current workforce number over the short-term, however low it may be.

It’s not just U.S. airlines that are suffering, either. Germany’s flag carrier, Lufthansa — the second-largest airliner in Europe — and its subsidiary Eurowings announced they were scrapping 1,000 flights in July, while airlines like Irish’s Ryanair, Switzerland’s easyJet, and Spain’s Volotea are seeing strikes.

It’s certainly a problem that doesn’t have an easy and quick solution, and one that might not be ending anytime soon. Back in March, Republic CFO Joseph Allman forecasted the shortage reaching its worst in the second and third quarters of 2023, expecting the industry to be short 8,000 pilots next year.

Unfortunately for travelers, turning to road trips instead of dealing with flight uncertainty may not be a slam dunk either after the national gas price rose above $5 on Thursday. In California, drivers are facing prices up to an agonizing $6.40 per gallon.

Iphone

Apple’s New iOS 16 Transforms The Texting Game With Edit, Unsend Features

It’s happened to all of us. You send a text, and then immediately regret it. Perhaps it wasn’t finished, or you should have worded it differently. Maybe you didn’t mean for it to ever see the light of day. Regardless, it’s done, and there’s nothing you can do about it. Until now, that is.

Unveiling their new iOS 16, Apple revealed that it will allow iPhone users to not only edit sent messages, but also unsend them at the same time for up to 15 minutes. Select users will be able to beta test the new features this month, while the iOS will hit everyone’s phones in September.

“Today we’re going to push our platforms further than ever,” Apple chief executive officer Tim Cook said in a prerecorded message for the WWDC 2022 event.  The iOS will also allow for recovering deleted messages for up to 30 days, while marking messages and threads as “unread.”

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While the feature is certainly intriguing — and helpful to those hasty texters — it doesn’t appear that all the kinks will be sorted out upon its debut, as explained by Apple software engineering senior vice president Craig Federighi.

“It’s not implemented properly,” Federighi told The Charlotte Observer. “If the other person doesn’t have iOS 16, the message won’t unsend for them.” The feature will also only be available for those who have the iPhone 8 and up.

Additionally, users will be notified if a text has been unsent or edited. Of course, the texting wasn’t the only big change the iOS is set to bring. You’ll notice another massive development as soon as you turn on your phone.

The lock screen will undergo several major updates, including the ability to customize the screen’s color, font, and placement of elements. iPhone users will also be able to display widgets — shortcuts to apps like weather, calendar, and alarms — to the screen, similar to the Apple Watch.

Apple is also adding “live activities” to the screen, which means you can keep track of a sports game or watch your workout in real time, instead of having to see updates through a series of notifications.

Speaking of notifications, they’re seeing alterations as well. Instead of piling up at the top of the screen, they’ll now roll in from the bottom, which the tech company states will make them easier to read at a glance.

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Apple will be attempting to build on their safety features by offering a Safety Check feature for those in an abusive relationship. The feature will allow users to review and change who has access to information like passwords, location, messages, and other apps.

Speaking at WWDC, Apple privacy engineering manager Katie Skinner explained just how impactful a feature like that can be to those in such a situation. “Many people share passwords and access to their devices with a partner. However, in abusive relationships, this can threaten personal safety and make it harder for victims to get help.”

Considering technology can heighten the danger of an abusive relationship — such as if the abuser sees the victim was searching or texting for resources or help, is at a location they don’t approve of — this is a feature that should go far beyond simply giving users more privacy.

Federighi explained the iOS 16 beta is still “buggy,” though it should be ready to go for the Apple masses come fall. “Occasionally, things will take a bit longer to load than usual, but it’s normal. It’s always like this when they launch the beta.”

Olympics

Simone Biles, Other Victims Of Larry Nassar To File $1 Billion In Claims Against FBI

The more than 90 women who were sexually abused by former USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar have filed claims up to $1 billion dollars against the FBI for failing to stop the doctor when the agency first received allegations against him, attorneys said Wednesday.

Among those claimants are Olympic gold medalists Simone Biles, Aly Raisman, and McKayla Maroney, along with world champion gold medalist Maggie Nichols. According to their firm Manly, Stewart & Finaldi, each woman has asked for more than $50 million.

According to the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), claimants have to give government agencies notice before a lawsuit is filed in federal court. The agency then has six months to respond to the tort claims, either settling with the claimants or denying a claim.

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According to attorneys, the FBI possessed numerous claims of Nassar’s abuse over a number of years and across the globe by July 2015, but were “grossly derelict in their duties resulting in Nassar sexually assaulting approximately 100 young women and children between July 28, 2015 and September 12, 2016.”

In July 2021, a Justice Department inspector’s investigation and review into the FBI’s handling of Nassar found that “fundamental” and “inexcusable” errors were committed by the agency, and that the case was not treated with the “utmost seriousness.”

“The FBI knew that Larry Nassar was a danger to children when his abuse of me was first reported in 2015,” Nichols said in a statement. “It is time for the FBI to be held accountable.” Maroney voiced similar disappointment, saying that every institution supposed to protect them, betrayed them.

“I had some hope that [the Department of Justice] would keep their word and hold the FBI accountable after we poured out our hearts to the US Senate Judiciary Committee and begged for justice. It is clear that the only path to justice and healing is through the legal process.”

Nassar, 58, first joined the USA Gymnastics team in 1986 as an athletic trainer. According to a 2016 lawsuit, a gymnast alleged Nassar abused her in 1994 and continued to do so for six years. Over the next two decades, Nassar would continue his sexual abuse, with his victims as young as six.

After several instances of being clear of wrongdoing by Michigan State University, where he worked as a team physician, Nassar’s abuses would come to light as he was charged with three counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct with a person under 13, along with being indicted on federal child porn charges.

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From 2017 to 2018, Nassar would eventually plead guilty to 10 total counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct, and was sentenced to 60 years in prison on child pornography charges and 40-to-125 years on sexual assault charges.

In April, 13 of Nassar’s victims filed separate claims against the FBI totaling $130 million, saying the FBI had turned a “blind eye” towards the abuse. However, in May, the Justice Department announced it wouldn’t be bringing charges against the two former FBI agents accused of mishandling the case.

It was the third time the Justice Department had refused to bring charges against the FBI. Despite the investigation finding that the former agents likely provided incomplete information on the circumstances, more was needed to file.

“This does not in any way reflect a view that the investigation of Nassar was handled as it should have been, nor in any way reflects approval or disregard of the conduct of the former agents,” the Department stated.

Despite Death Threats, Jerusalem Proceeds With Pride Parade

Despite death threats against the organizer and lawmakers planning to attend, thousands of participants marched in Jerusalem’s annual pride parade, showing their determination and expression even in the face of danger.

This year’s march, which marked the 20th anniversary, attracted over several thousand and finished without a major incident. Police also arrested three individuals suspected of making threats about the event.

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Police presence was heavy, with some on rooftops and a helicopter soaring above. All in all, there were about 2,400 officers present. Police identified and monitored around 180 people who were considered suspicious, with 20 of them likely to try and attack. The parade has been the center of previous attacks such as in 2016, when an Israeli man stabbed a 16-year-old to death while injuring several others.

Addressing the crowds at the end of the parade, Speaker of the Knesset Mickey Levy said that he was “shocked to the depths of my soul” over the threats made, and that he came to “stand against this evil specter.”

“You are entitled to love who you want, you are entitled to marry who you love, you are entitled to raise a family like anyone else. These are not privileges, these are basic rights for every citizen in the country.”

Public Security Minister Omer Barlev also gave some encouraging words to attendees, stating that the event was “a victory of light over darkness, a victory of sanity over extremism.” Barlev expressed disappointment that police had to watch over the event, instead of “protecting citizens from crime and terror.”

“We will not allow the Pride Parade to take place in Jerusalem, the holy city. Shira Banki’s fate awaits you,” was the message of the threat sent to liberal Labor party politician Gilad Kariv, a longtime LGBTQ supporter, and organizer Emuna Klein Barnoy.

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“This post surprised me this morning and is definitely very disturbing. On the other hand, it is an important reminder of the importance of the march in Jerusalem,” Barnoy said before the march, still emphasizing others to come. “I believe that the real answer to this kind of incitement and threats is that everyone who supports freedom, equality and pluralism in the State of Israel will come to march with us tomorrow.”

“Our power as one large and powerful unit will make it clear in the clearest way that the LGBTQ-phobic cries that grate our ears belong to a marginal and extreme minority.”

The parade faced opposition elsewhere with Lehava, a far-right anti-LGBTQ group, holding a counter protest not far from the center of events. While Middle East countries have shown inequality towards LGBTQ communities — with it even being a crime and punishable of up to 14 years — Israeli has become a friendly destination for them.