Day: October 9, 2020

M4 relief road: UK ministers ‘could bypass Welsh Government’

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Media captionWelsh Secretary Simon Hart said UK ministers would never “rule anything out”

The UK government would never “rule anything out” on bypassing the Welsh Government to build an M4 relief road, the Welsh secretary has told BBC Wales.

Simon Hart said UK ministers would “much prefer” a “collaborative project” to tackle congestion around Newport and the Brynglas tunnels.

He added that while they “probably could” bypass Welsh ministers it would be “complicated” and “controversial”.

The Welsh Government said the relief road was a matter for Wales.

Wales’ First Minister Mark Drakeford scrapped a relief road plan last year after declaring a climate emergency.

The recently published UK Internal Market Bill, if passed into law, will give the UK government power to spend on otherwise devolved areas such as infrastructure and economic development.

Speaking to the BBC Politics Wales programme, Mr Hart said that if the UK government could “find a way” of building the M4 relief road it would.

He said he did not want to bypass the Welsh Government, but added: “There are ways in which I suspect we probably could, it would be complicated, controversial, it would require years probably of legal wrangling.

“We would much prefer the Welsh Government to come to the table, look at this as a collaborative project.

“But until we get to that point, I’m afraid there’s not just a blockage at Brynglas, there’s a blockage in Cardiff as well.”

When asked whether new powers granted through the UK Internal Market Bill would allow UK ministers to bypass the Welsh Government if they could not get them on board, Mr Hart said: “We never rule anything in, or rule anything out.”

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The cancelled 14-mile relief road was estimated to cost £1.6bn

But he said these new powers were “not there to try and put Welsh Government in a difficult position” but to “enhance what we all want to do which is job creation and investment in Wales”.

The Welsh Government said a decision had “already been made” regarding the relief road.

It added: “We remain committed to tackling congestion with solutions that recognise the unprecedented challenge of climate change as well as the financial pressures caused by ten years of austerity and capital budget cuts.”

How could this be funded?

Mr Hart said the UK government had “already ruled out” using money provided to the Welsh Government by the Treasury through the block grant or Barnett formula to fund infrastructure projects because it was “earmarked for other things”.

He added there also “isn’t a lot of spare money knocking around at the moment” for new money to be made available.

But he said the Shared Prosperity Fund – promised cash to replace EU funding after the Brexit transition period – would be “one option”.

However, last week a cross-party group of MPs accused the UK government of making “negligible” progress in its plans to replace EU funds in Wales after Brexit.


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New law aims to protect finances, privacy of child social media stars

Some young children earn millions of dollars through social media influencing and promotion, but there’s little legislation or protection for most. A new law in France aims to try to safeguard children under the age of 16, protecting their finances and providing some privacy.

The legislation, which was passed unanimously by the French parliament on Oct. 6, creates a “legal framework” that gives social media stars the same protections as French child models and actors.

A press release about the law says videos of child influencers online raise “important questions about the interests of the children they portray” and raises questions about the “impact celebrity can have on the psychological development of children, the risks of cyber-harassment, even child pornography, and the fact that these activities are not regulated by labor law.”

Bruno Studer, the politician behind the bill, told the French newspaper Le Monde that the law would make France a pioneer in the rights of child social media stars.

“Children’s rights must be preserved and protected, including on the internet, which must not be a lawless area,” Studer told La Tribune, another publication.

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The multi-part legislation “guarantees that the conditions of employment” for social media influencers under the age of 16 are “compatible with his schooling and the safeguard of his health.” The majority of a child’s income garnered from social media influencing must be paid to a specific French public sector financial institution, which will hold and manage that money until the child comes of age. The law also places limits on how many hours a child can work as an influencer.

Another part of the law also gives children some protection from the platforms on which they post. One piece of the legislation “makes platforms participate more actively in the detection of problematic audiovisual content” and “creates an obligation of cooperation with public authorities.” Platforms face a fine of 75,000 euros, or around $88,700, for not complying with these obligations.

The legislation also includes a “right to erasure,” which means that minors can ask platforms to take down images of themselves and requires platforms to comply.

Children can earn millions of dollars online. According to Forbes, an American child named Ryan Kaji made more than $20 million in 2018 by reviewing toys on YouTube.

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Valentine is Your Rancho Coastal Humane Society Pet of The Week

This post was contributed by a community member. The views expressed here are the author’s own.

Valentine is pet of the week at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society. He’s an 8-month-old, 12- pound, male, Domestic Short Hair cat with a Brown Tabby coat.

Valentine was a two-month-old kitten when he was taken to another shelter. After that he was transferred to Rancho Coastal Humane Society through the FOCAS (Friends of County Animal Shelters) program. He spent a few weeks in foster care before returning to Rancho Coastal Humane Society, where he was quickly adopted.

Five months later, his adopter returned Valentine, saying that he was too active for their home situation.

Valentine is still very much a kitten. He’s outgoing and social with people. He might do best in a home where the owners have had cats in the past.

The $100 adoption fee for Valentine includes medical exams, vaccinations, neuter, and registered microchip. For information about Adoption by Appointment or to become a Virtual Foster log on to

Special Notes:

Act now. There are just a few openings left for the first week of Fall Animal Camp at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society. Safe, socially distanced Fall Camp has openings for October 19 – 23 from 9 AM to 2 PM at 389 Requeza Street in Encinitas. Ages are 6 to 12 years. Campers enjoy hands-on experiences with animals. For more information or to reserve space for your campers log on to

Join “Team Rancho Coastal Humane Society” to “Strut Your Mutt.” Now through October 24 you can take a walk and raise funds that support pets. The virtual Strut Your Mutt Walk is in partnership with Best Friends Animal Society. Teams across the country are walking to raise money for animal-related charities. You can join Team RCHS, form your own team, or support someone else. Visit and click on Strut Your Mutt.

“Fund a Need” at your Rancho Coastal Humane Society now through October 30th. Rancho Coastal Humane Society’s Celebration of Second Chances fundraiser was cancelled, but the animals still need your help. To Fund A Need and help save lives visit

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Social media impacts our elections, protests, and politics

Last April, states began to sporadically reopen after weeks of being shut down. Georgia was among the first to begin the process, while some states didn’t start lifting restrictions until June. The uncoordinated reopening caused chaos, according to Sinan Aral, director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy.

Why? Because Georgia pulled in hundreds of thousands of visitors from neighboring states — folks hoping to get a haircut or go bowling.

Aral was tracking Americans on social media, and it became clear to him that having uncoordinated policies for the coronavirus doesn’t make sense. As people watched their social feeds fill with images of people heading back outside, they stepped out too — even if their state wasn’t at the same phase.

Aral, the author of “The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy, and Our Health — and How We Must Adapt,” has used social media as a tool to gain insight into everything from pandemic reopenings to protests and politics. And core to what he’s learned is that “social media is designed for our brains.”

Humans have an intrinsic need to seek out and process social signals, he says — something we’ve used to our advantage throughout history.

But the invention of social media? It’s “like throwing a lit match into a pool of gasoline,” he said.

We can’t look away, no matter the cost.

Three takeaways:

  • Social media is immensely powerful, Aral says. The “tremendous leverage” it has to “influence opinions and behaviors in the physical world” can be captured for good or bad. How do we hang on to the good and scrap the bad? Aral says creating more competition could go a long way.
  • There’s a strange dance between real people tweeting fake stuff and fake accounts amplifying those tweets. That was clear in 2014 when Russians used social media to reframe the annexation of Crimea as an “accession,” rather than a takeover, Aral says. This changed its perception on the ground and internationally, as diplomats struggled to decide whether or not to intervene.
  • The Russian social media strategy in 2020 is “much more sophisticated” than it was in 2016, Aral says — and the US intelligence community agrees. As platforms have cracked down on fake accounts, Russia has covertly encouraged US citizens to “start and spread false propaganda and manipulative content.” Plus, they’ve moved their servers to US soil, which makes them harder to find.

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Coronavirus Live Updates : NPR

Police officers man a roadside checkpoint in Madrid Friday as travel restrictions are imposed to cope with a new wave of coronavirus infections.

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Police officers man a roadside checkpoint in Madrid Friday as travel restrictions are imposed to cope with a new wave of coronavirus infections.

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The Spanish government has declared a state of emergency in the Madrid region, making it possible to impose new anti-coronavirus lockdown restrictions, against the strong opposition of the local government.

Tensions have heightened between the center-left national government and the center-right regional government over how to fight the new wave of COVID-19 outbreaks.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez issued a 15-day lockdown order on Oct 2. Madrid President Isabel Díaz Ayuso took the issue to court and a judge in Madrid ruled in her favor. So Sánchez followed up with the emergency declaration.

The new restrictions limit freedom to travel outside Madrid and eight other nearby cities that are showing an increase of infection and transmission.

Police will enforce the restrictions, according to Noticias. Only people who have to travel for work, school or an emergency will be allowed to leave the nine cities and gatherings, even outside, will be limited to six.

“A total lockdown in Madrid isn’t possible,” Ayuso said at a press conference. She said the restrictions “create chaos,” and confuse people. She’s open to working with the national government, she said, but “we are asking for clear and simple rules.”

Ayuso said she opposes the blanket restrictions and prefers the tailored restrictions her government had imposed. Lockdown measures were made based on contagion levels in an area, she said, and they are working. At the same time she said the virus is still in the region “and it’s spreading.”

“Ayuso has decided not to do anything,” said Salvador Illa, Spain’s minister of health, at a news conference.

“We have to put in place measures to protect the health of Madrileños and to prevent the virus from spreading to other communities,” said Illa. He said 63 people have died in Madrid in the last week and 3,361 people are hospitalized in the city, with 498 in the ICU.

“We can cross our arms and stand by,” he said, “or we can stop the virus. We have to put restrictions in place to avoid transmission.”

Illa said that the Madrid region has seen 258,767 COVID-19 positive cases and 1,209 deaths since the pandemic began.

Spain has one of the highest numbers of COVID-19 infections and deaths around the world, lower only to Argentina, Colombia, Russia, Brazil, India and the U.S. The first COVID-19 case

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Fake heiress Anna Sorokin who swindled Manhattan’s high society is set to be paroled

Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress who swindled the high society elite of Manhattan, has been granted parole, according to a new report.

Sorokin, 29, appeared before a parole board earlier this month and was granted parole, and could be released as soon as early next year, her attorney Todd Spodek told the New York Post on Friday.

‘Anna has paid her debt to society handsomely, and I hope society repays the favor,’ Spodek said of his client, who prosecutors say scammed some $275,000 from her upper crust friends.

Sorokin is currently incarcerated at Albion Correctional Facility, a medium-security facility in upstate New York, and is eligible for release as soon as February 15, 2021 — but faces deportation to Germany upon her release.

Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress who swindled the high society elite of Manhattan, has been granted parole. She is seen above in May 2019 during sentencing

Anna Sorokin, the fake heiress who swindled the high society elite of Manhattan, has been granted parole. She is seen above in May 2019 during sentencing

Scammer Anna Sorokin reacts as she is sentenced from 2 to 14 years in prison in 2019

Scammer Anna Sorokin reacts as she is sentenced from 2 to 14 years in prison in 2019

Last year, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement said it had lodged a detainer request for Sorokin in New York and planned to deport her due to a visa overstay.

Sorokin was born in Russia but is a German citizen, after her family moved there when she was a teenager. An ICE spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment from

In April of last year, Sorokin was convicted of multiple counts of attempted grand larceny, theft of services, and larceny in the second degree for defrauding New York hotels and wealthy acquaintances.

She was sentenced to serve 4 to 12 years in state prison, fined $24,000, and ordered to pay restitution of about $199,000.

Her twisted tale is the subject of television series now under development at HBO and Netflix. 

During the month-long trial, jurors were told how Sorokin lived in luxury New York hotel rooms that she couldn’t afford, promised a friend an all-expenses trip to Morocco and then stiffed her with the $62,000 bill and peddled bogus bank statements in her quest for a $22 million loan for a private arts club. 

Anna Delvey a.k.a. Anna Sorokin during her trip to Morocco. Prosecutors claim Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey, conned friends, banks and hotels out of hundreds of thousands

Anna Delvey a.k.a. Anna Sorokin during her trip to Morocco. Prosecutors claim Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey, conned friends, banks and hotels out of hundreds of thousands

Prosecutors portrayed Sorokin as a profligate con artist, while her lawyer insisted she was an aspiring businesswoman taken in by New York’s extravagance.

Spodek, her defense attorney, insisted Sorokin had been ‘buying time’ and planned all along to settle her six-figure debts, portraying her as an entrepreneur who got in over her head. 

He compared her at one point to Frank Sinatra, saying ‘they both created their own opportunities’ in New York.

‘There’s a little bit of Anna in all of us,’ Spodek said. ‘This is the life she chose to live.’

Sorokin had ambitious business plans to build a private arts club in New York and that she was ‘persistent and she was determined to make her business

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Why Michigan Is Considered ‘Fertile’ Ground for Anti-Government Extremists

For the past decade, gun owners dressed in flak jackets and camouflage fatigues have brought their rifles into the Michigan Legislature at least twice every year, asserting their vehement support for gun rights by displaying weapons in the hallways.

This spring, those gatherings intensified as participants turned what had been a declaration about the Second Amendment into a protest over how far the government could go in limiting individual behavior amid the pandemic. Hundreds turned out to demand an end to lockdowns, social distancing and mask wearing.

Among the demonstrators who stormed into the Capitol to protest those measures were two brothers who have now been charged as part of an extremist plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and to commit other violence. The brothers subscribed to a larger anti-government movement that has evolved in Michigan and throughout the United States over decades, but was spurred on this year by the pandemic, social justice protests and the presidential election.

With its fervent gun culture and its gaping differences between urban and rural populations, Michigan has seen its divisions grow ever wider since at least the 1990s, when armed groups on the right adopted increasingly extreme positions on limiting the government’s power.

The brothers are among 13 men who face a variety of charges related to the kidnapping plot, including terrorism, conspiracy and weapons possession. The authorities said the men were also affiliated with an extremist group called the Wolverine Watchmen, which court documents called “an anti-government, anti-law enforcement militia group.” Such groups have existed in Michigan for decades, most notably in 1994 with the formation of the Michigan Militia.

“There have been militia-type groups in Michigan even before we started using the phrase domestic terrorism,” said Bill Ballenger, a former Republican state senator who represented a rural area. “Before it never got to armed insurrection or an attempt to overthrow the government or assassinate people or anything like that.”

In a sense, experts said, the fight over measures like mask requirements to contain the spread of the virus was the latest example of what these groups see as government overreach. “It is really the perfect issue for far-right conspiracy theorists to rally around,” said Daniel Levitas, a lawyer and the author of “The Terrorist Next Door,” a history of extremist groups.

In the early 1990s, armed groups in Michigan, and around the country, were formed in reaction to bloody federal sieges against Randy Weaver and his family in Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and against an armed cult in Waco, Texas, in 1993. The latter ended with the death of 76 people. The new far-right organizations accused the government of tyranny and began conducting paramilitary training and obtaining military equipment.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, later convicted of bombing a federal office building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, killing 168 people, attended some of the earliest meetings of the Michigan Militia. The gory details from the trial diminished the appeal of such groups, but they continued to exist.


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Good Samaritan Society reports 7 COVID-19 deaths at Lennox location

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A sign thanking workers a the Good Samaritan Assisted Living complex is staked in the front yard on Friday, March 1, in Sioux Falls. (Photo: Erin Bormett / Argus Leader)

Seven residents of a senior living facility in Lennox have died from COVID-19, and five of those deaths have occurred in the past 10 days.

As of Friday afternoon, the Good Samaritan Society facility in Lennox has reported seven deaths and 14 active cases of COVID-19. Out of the active cases, nine are residents and five are staffers, said Tess Hedrick, senior media relations specialist for Sanford Health. The facility has reported 47 COVID-19 cases since March.

Todd Anderson, Good Samaritan Society Lennox administrator, said the facility is following CDC guidelines and using personal protective equipment.

“Staff members are screened daily, monitor their health and stay home if they feel sick or have symptoms,” Anderson said.

On Sept. 28, the Lennox facility was reporting 25 active cases and two deaths, Anderson said.

More: Daily COVID-19 cases reach record high again in South Dakota

The Lennox location has the most active cases out of all the Good Samaritan senior living facilities in the Sioux Falls area.

The Sioux Falls Village location on Marion Road in southwestern Sioux Falls has one active case, a resident. Since the pandemic began that location has seen 26 deaths out of 147 COVID-19 cases, Hedrick said. The Argus Leader reported 20 of those deaths occurred before May 12.

Luther Manor in Sioux Falls has no active cases and 12 total resident cases. Three residents have died. Sioux Falls Center has had three resident cases and one death, Hedrick said.

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Anti-Government Groups Shift Focus From Washington to States | Political News


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. (AP) — The foiled plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor is a jarring example of how the anti-government movement in the U.S. has become an internet-driven hodgepodge of conspiracy theorists who have redirected their rage from Washington toward state capitols.

That’s in contrast to the self-styled “militia” movement that took shape in the 1990s — loosely connected groups whose primary target was the federal government, which they considered a tyrannical force bent on seizing guns and imposing a socialist “new world order.”

Deadly standoffs between FBI agents and extremists at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and Waco, Texas, stoked those groups’ anger. Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, convicted in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people, were reported to have met with Michigan militia activists.

Public revulsion over that massacre damaged the movement, which largely faded from public view. But recent protests over racial injustice, the coronavirus and other turmoil during the Trump administration have fueled a resurgence, with militias blending into a mishmash of far-right factions that spread their messages on websites and social media.

In many ways, their focus is unchanged, including contempt for authority, reverence for the Second Amendment and backwoods military-style training exercises.

But the plot targeting Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer illustrates one stark difference: Nowadays, much of the anger focuses on state officials whom extremists accuse of denying rights and freedoms.

“And this is largely due to the fact that Donald Trump, who the militia movement supports, is at the head of the federal government,” said Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism.

“But they can much more easily be angry at state governors, especially Democratic ones, but sometimes even Republican ones, who are involved with gun-control efforts or lockdown or anti-pandemic measures,” he added.

Whitmer told The Associated Press in an interview Friday that extremism targeted at state officials is “a very real threat to democracy.”

“There’s no question that these hate groups are domestic terrorists and I think we need to call them that,” Whitmer said while greeting voters in Traverse City. “We need leadership who steps up and takes it on. We need it coming out of the White House, we need it coming out of all of our statehouses as well.”

Seven of the 13 suspects charged in the kidnapping plot are linked to a paramilitary group called the Wolverine Watchmen, a Michigan State Police investigator said in a court filing. The group used Facebook to recruit members and communicated on an encrypted messaging platform, the affidavit said.

Joseph Morrison, 42, a founding member, used the screen name “Boogaloo Bunyan.” Group members gathered for training and drills as they prepared for the “boogaloo,” an anti-government, pro-gun extremist movement that has been linked to a recent string of domestic terrorism plots, the affidavit said.

Supporters have shown up at protests over COVID-19 lockdown orders and demonstrations over racial injustice, carrying rifles and

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Trump to give White House balcony speech on ‘law and order’

Trump will address guests from the White House balcony in his first public event since his COVID-19 diagnosis

President Donald Trump will address hundreds of invited guests on Saturday to discuss “law and order,” from the balcony of the White House.

Trump, who is still recovering from COVID-19, will appear before his supporters this weekend, ABC News reports. The gathering will take place on the South Lawn of the White House and highlight “remarks to peaceful protesters for law and order,” according to the official invite.

Read More: Trump tells Iran ‘if you f–k with us, we’ll do things ‘never done before’

(Credit: <em>This invitation to a White House event scheduled for October 10 was obtained by ABC News.</em>)
(Credit: This invitation to a White House event scheduled for October 10 was obtained by ABC News.)

Trump’s first public event since his diagnosis is being organized in conjunction with Blexit, the Candace Owens’ backed group which urges Black Americans to leave the Democratic Party per sources. Gates will be opened at 11:30 A.M. for those who register for a ticket.

The gathering comes two weeks since Trump publicly announced Amy Coney Barrett as his Supreme Court justice nominee at the Rose Garden on September 26. As theGrio reported, that ceremony is suspected as ground zero for the outbreak of the coronavirus in the West Wing.

Many of the attendees who attended the Rose Garden ceremony did not wear masks or practice social distancing. Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Sens. Mike Lee, Thom Tillis, and Ron Johnson, Trump aides Kellyanne Conway and Hope Hicks, and University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins attended the unveiling for Coney Barrett and all tested positive for the disease.

Former Gov. Chris Christie who helped Trump with his debate prep also contracted the disease.

White House staffers have also reportedly become ill with the virus and an internal government memo placed the number at 34.

Read More: Trump asked doctors at Walter Reed to sign nondisclosure agreements

President Trump Arrives Back At White House After Stay At Walter Reed Medical Center For Covid

The president needed to be transported by aircraft to Walter Reed Medical Center and was only released on Monday. However, he has maintained that he is “perfect” amid fears that he may still be contagious for the easily transmitted disease.

“The Trump administration continues to have disregard for the science,” said Dr. Jay Bhatt, an ABC News contributor and practicing internist. “This statement is premature given that we don’t know what will happen between now and Saturday given that symptoms can pop at any time. He put many people at risk and we saw the aftermath. This can’t happen again.”

Despite his own coronavirus diagnosis and more than 200, 000 Americans succumbing to the infection, pivoting to a theme of “law and order” is another sign that Trump is ready to resume his presidential campaign. Over the course of the past few months, he has promoted that message in response to the protests sweeping the country in response to the killings of Black people by police.

Trump also told Fox’s Sean Hannity this week that

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