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October 15, 2018

New Jersey Senate candidate Bob Hugin is bringing out the big, unsubstantiated guns in his narrowing race against Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez.

In a dramatic ad released Monday, the GOP challenger singled out Menendez's call to "believe women" when they come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct. "What about the underage girls who accused you, according to the FBI?" the ad menacingly shoots back. What follows is a dive into one aspect of the FBI investigation into Menendez's corruption charges, which were ultimately dropped earlier this year.

The ad cites an FBI affidavit that says "for several years, Senator Menendez had been traveling to the Dominican Republican to engage in sexual activity with prostitutes, some of whom were minors." The affidavit quotes an email from an anonymous tipster, but doesn't provide substantiated evidence, as Hugin's ad implies. The FBI investigated those claims, but they were "never corroborated," reports Politico. Menendez has likewise denied the allegations.

Still, these allegations are treated as fact on a website run by the Hugin campaign. That is, until you scroll to the bottom of the site, where the Hugin campaign answers one big question: "Are you accusing Senator Menendez of having sex with underage girls?" "No," the campaign responded. "We are asking why Senator Menendez says all victims should be believed, but not his alleged victims?" One of the alleged victims, in this case, later said she was paid to lie about having sex with Menendez.

Hugin's ad comes on the heels of a poll showing him statistically tied with Menendez. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 10, 2018

Hurricane Michael made landfall in Florida on Wednesday afternoon, and the results already look catastrophic.

The Category 4 storm rolled in with winds at 155 miles per hour, taking direct aim at Panama City on the Florida panhandle. Winds only a few miles per hour faster would've made Michael a Category 5 storm, and they still tore down this home under construction ahead of the eyewall's arrival on shore, per 7 News Miami.

Michael also brought at least eight feet of storm surge to Apalachicola, Florida, and the waters could grow up to 10 feet deep, CBS News reports. Beach towns across the Florida coast are being swamped in what FEMA Administrator Brock Long called the "most intense" storm to hit the area since 1851.

As of 5 p.m. Wednesday, Michael was still rolling inland and projected to bring tropical storm conditions as far north as North Carolina, per The National Weather Service. But it's clear the harshest damage will be centered on the Florida coast, as you can tell from this absolutely terrifying footage below. Kathryn Krawczyk

October 2, 2018

President Trump's infamous $1 million loan may have sparked his real estate business, but the $413 million he reportedly received from his father's own empire probably helped too.

Far from the measly operation Trump has claimed, Fred Trump's real estate business reportedly shunned taxes and engaged in fraud as he funneled millions into his children's pockets, a massive investigation by The New York Times reveals. The president himself has reportedly reaped enormous benefits — far more than his siblings, in fact, because he helped his parents "sharply reduc[e] the tax bill when properties were transferred to him and his siblings," the Times says.

For nearly all his life, Trump has been accruing payments from his father's business in a trust fund that's still growing to this day, the Times' analysis of tax returns and financial records indicates. To minimize taxes as Fred Trump passed that money to his children, he reportedly made them stakeholders in a shell company, All County Building Supply & Maintenance. Fred and his wife Mary "transferred well over $1 billion in wealth to their children, which could have produced a tax bill of at least $550 million," the Times says. But records show they apparently only ended up paying about $52.2 million.

To reap bigger profits, Fred Trump also allegedly undervalued his real estate holdings via "dubious tax schemes" often orchestrated by Trump himself, the Times says. And in one case, Fred Trump reportedly used All County invoices to make it seem as if he'd made improvements on a rent-stabilized apartment complex he owned. Payments for maintenance work from All County were actually going to his children, but the state would still approve rent increases.

A lawyer for Trump denied all the Times' findings as "100 percent false and highly defamatory." Still, they do raise questions about Trump's never-released tax returns.

Read it all — and watch an astounding video illustrating Trump's gain — at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 11, 2018

Opioid addictions are on the rise in America, and researchers may have found a reason why.

From 2006 to 2015, nearly one-third of opioid prescriptions went to patients who weren't even diagnosed with pain, per a study published Tuesday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine. Researchers broke down nearly 32,000 cases where opioids were prescribed and found they often went to patients with hypertension, high cholesterol, and even "opioid dependence."

America's opioid epidemic has skyrocketed over the past 20 years, with deaths from prescription and especially synthetic opioids still rising as of 2016. About 115 Americans die every day from an opioid overdose, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That includes deaths from misused prescriptions. The CDC has encouraged doctors to dole out lower-grade painkillers to combat addiction.

After breaking down a survey of physician visits, the study found that 71 percent of opioid prescriptions went to patients with cancer- or non-cancer-related pain. But doctors didn't give a good reason for the other 28.5 percent of prescriptions, the researchers found. It was especially common for doctors to keep giving opioids to patients already on them, even if the recipients didn't report ongoing pain.

The study's researchers suggest doctors should better document why they're prescribing opioids. This way, they can more accurately determine which health issues warrant the strong painkillers — and be held accountable if they prescribe them to patients who don't need them. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 10, 2018

China is persecuting, detaining, and even torturing Muslims under the guise of combating terrorism, a report compiled by Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental advocacy organization, reveals.

The apparent rights violations are happening in China's northwest Xinjiang region, where Turkic Muslims used to be in the majority. But the Uyghur and Kazakh minorities now make up just half the population, and Human Rights Watch's interviews suggest China's "Strike Hard Campaign against Violent Terrorism" may be to blame.

China has long sought to repress Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities' culture by forcing them into "political education camps" if they're caught with "religious materials." In one case, having some e-books in a native language constituted a crime, one Uyghur told Human Rights Watch. Detainees have to learn at least 1,000 Mandarin Chinese characters and memorize intense anti-Uyghur rules before leaving, in an attempt to "eradicate" their religious and ethnic roots, authorities have said. Many Uyghurs that Human Rights Watch interviewed said that more than half of their immediate families are in these camps, awaiting trial, or in prison. And if they're not detained, Uyghurs still have to go to Mandarin classes and other Chinese cultural education programs.

But these camps have recently taken their offenses beyond education, Human Rights Watch says. Detainees describe being strapped to a metal "tiger chair" and interrogated for days, and saw others beaten and hanged until they admitted to terrorism charges. Some Uyghurs have left the country in search of asylum, but the Chinese government has requested that other nations deport them back to China, and they've complied. This "loyalty drive" has transformed into "human right violations ... of a scope and scale not seen in China since the 1966-1976 Cultural Revolution," Human Rights Watch says.

Read the full report at Human Rights Watch. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 6, 2018

The Catholic Church's Pennsylvania scandal could be headed north.

New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood has launched a civil investigation into the state's Catholic churches, she announced Thursday. To get it started, she's subpoenaed the state's eight dioceses for all their records regarding child sexual abuse allegations, a source tells The Associated Press.

A massive investigation and report into Pennsylvania's Catholic churches exposed over 1,000 abuse allegations against 300 priests last month. It drew apologies from as far up as the Vatican, but also led victims around the world to share their stories and sparked incredible condemnation of the Catholic Church.

Underwood's announcement addressed the Pennsylvania revelations and encouraged New York victims to report their stories even if they happened years ago. And in a telling display of where the investigation might be headed, Underwood reportedly sent subpoenas to the seven Catholic dioceses of New York state and the archdiocese in New York City, per AP. They request abuse allegations, records of churches paying off victims, and anything else that internal church investigations dug up.

Church leaders have said they'll cooperate with Underwood's civil investigation even if it transforms into a criminal one, AP reports. The attorney general's office is also working with local prosecutors, who can launch criminal investigations within their jurisdictions. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 29, 2018

America saw 37,200 firearm-related deaths in 2016. That's the second highest total of any country in the world.

The count puts America right behind Brazil when it comes to gun deaths — and far ahead of most of the world's most populous countries, a study from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation reveals. It also means that for every 100,000 people in the U.S., 10.6 died by homicide, suicide, or an accident involving a firearm in 2016.

Six of the countries with the most firearms deaths are in the Americas: Brazil, the U.S., Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Guatemala. Those six countries racked up half of all firearm deaths in the world, the study shows. Meanwhile, countries like the U.K., China, and Japan had the lowest firearm death rates worldwide.

The U.S. saw more than 10,000 more firearm deaths in 2016 than India, which had the next-highest total, the study shows. But India is also home to nearly a billion more people, pushing its gun death rate to 2.1 — far below America's 10.6. The U.S. also had a firearm-related suicide rate of 6.4 per 100,000 people, the second highest rate in the world.

Read more shocking statistics at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 28, 2018

Senators took to the floor Tuesday to share memories of the late Sen. John McCain, who died Saturday a year after being diagnosed with brain cancer. And Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who's long considered McCain his closest friend and mentor in the Senate, had one of the most touching salutes of all.

Graham kicked off his tribute with one of the jokes McCain was well-known for: how McCain often wished Graham was in his U.S. Naval Academy class because he would've "been sixth from the bottom, not fifth." A few more rapid-fire jokes was as far as Graham made it before the tears began:

Next up came Graham's commendation of McCain's military and public service, which he said taught him that "serving a cause greater than yourself hurts." McCain couldn't put on a jacket or comb his hair thanks to the injuries he sustained in the Navy, Graham said, but he still showed Graham how to "fight everything and everybody," and also how to forgive. Graham then tearfully described just how it made him feel to be "loved by" McCain:

The senator rounded off his tribute with a nod to the future, saying there's "a little John McCain in all of us. And a little John McCain, practiced by a lot of people, can make this a really great nation." Watch it all on CSPAN. Kathryn Krawczyk

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