Senate grapples with consequences of Flake’s vow to block Trump nominees

It’s not uncommon to discuss law in this space. After all, we report on Congress.

However, it’s rare that we discuss laws of physics here. In particular Newton’s Third Law of Motion: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Newton’s law details how force, introduced by friction, tension, gravity and magnetic fields trigger a polar and uniform reaction.

This week, the laws of physics can be fused with the laws of politics.

Here is the “Third Law of Congress”: For every action on Capitol Hill, there is an equal and opposite reaction – and consequences.

The Third Law of Congress dominated the United States Senate this week. The Third Law linked the investigation led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller to the failed nomination of Thomas Farr to the federal bench.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has tried for weeks to get the Senate to consider and approve legislation to protect Mueller from getting canned. The Senate requires the blessing of all 100 senators to start debate on a bill, called “unanimous consent.” But takes just a singular objection by any senator to keep the debate at bay.

On Nov. 14, Flake went to the Senate floor and asked unanimous consent that the Senate call up the Mueller protection bill and simultaneously pass it. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., objected, blocking Flake. Flake attempted the same gambit this past week. This time Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, jammed Flake with an objection of his own.

“This is a solution in search of a problem. The president’s not going to fire Robert Mueller nor do I think he should,” argued McConnell. “We have a lot of things to finish up this year without taking votes on things that are completely irrelevant to outcomes.”

Back to congressional physics.

There was an action by Flake, met by an equal and opposite reaction by McConnell and Lee. And then, as is the case on Capitol Hill, there were consequences.

Flake warned colleagues that he wouldn’t help President Trump advance any of his judicial nominees unless he got a vote on his bill. That’s where the Mueller protection legislation found a nexus with the nomination of Thomas Farr to become a federal judge for the Eastern District of North Carolina.

Republicans gain two seats in the Senate next year. But for the remainder of this Congress, the GOP controls only 51 seats. That means there’s not much margin for error to confirm a slate of judges before end of the 115th Congress.

All 49 Senate Democrats long ago declared their opposition to Farr, concerned about his views and earlier rulings on race.

The Senate took a procedural vote to break a filibuster on Farr’s nomination Wednesday. Flake followed through on his promise and voted against stopping the filibuster, joining the 49 Democrats. Vice President Mike Pence motored to the Capitol, in anticipation of breaking a tie vote. The tally sat at 49 yeas and 50 nays for nearly a half hour. Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., the lone African American GOPer in the Senate, was nowhere to be found. Scott finally materialized and voted aye. Scott’s ballot spurred the 50-50 tie. Pence then voted “in the affirmative,” helping the Senate vault the procedural hurdle on the Farr nomination, 51-50.

The Senate then scheduled Farr’s confirmation vote for noon on Thursday.

As is often the case on Capitol Hill, everything boils down to the math. Farr could lose the support of Flake and still secure confirmation if the Vice President broke the tie. But any more defections would tank the nomination.

On Thursday, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., was absent due to a family emergency. That meant the Senate didn’t have the votes to confirm Farr. With Inhofe out, there would only be 49 available GOP yeas. Vice President Pence couldn’t be called upon to break a tie on a 49 yea, 50 nay roll call. So the Senate postponed the confirmation vote on Farr.

But there were questions as to whether support for Farr was waning. Sometimes senators vote yes to end debate on a subject – but vote no on the final roll call.

Scott wouldn’t entertain questions on if a delay may be connected to his views about Farr. When asked if her backing of Farr may be wavering, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, replied “I’m doing research.”

A few hours later, Scott withdrew his support for Farr. The nomination was toast. Farr lacked the votes.

The Third Law of Congress. Action. Reaction. And consequences.

Democrats took a victory lap.

“Sen. Tim Scott has done a courageous thing and he’s done the right thing,” thundered Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Thomas Farr has been involved in the sordid practice of voter suppression for decades and never should have been nominated, let alone confirmed to the bench.”

Remember when McConnell dismissed Flake’s ploy about Mueller? The leader treated it as a peripheral subsidiary “completely irrelevant to outcomes.”

Due to Flake’s protest, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, delayed a meeting this week to prep a slate of year-end judicial nominations for confirmation. The Judiciary panel favors Republicans 11-10. That means Flake’s vote is critical to vote the nominees out of committee and onto the floor. Nowhere is it written that a nominee must receive a “favorable” recommendation or vote from the Judiciary Committee. But Grassley is concerned about establishing a new precedent.

“I don’t know that that’s ever happened,” said Grassley about sending nominations to the floor without a successful committee vote.

Action: Senate Republicans block Flake. Reaction: Flake blocks a slate of nominees.

But, there are consequences to Flake’s exercise.

“He’s not here next year,” said Grassley of his Arizona colleague.

Flake’s retiring. His term expires on January 3. Senate Republicans will hold 53 seats next year and not have to contend with Flake. Grassley indicated that if the Senate can’t advance the nominees now, he would expect the administration to re-nominate the unresolved picks and send them to Capitol Hill in 2019. With 53 GOPers, the new Senate will confirm them with ease.

The Third Law of Congress.

Action: Flake blocked the nominees. Reaction: McConnell and Grassley wait Flake out. Consequences: It’s likely the Senate confirms nominees next year.

No. 6 Ohio St. ignores sideshows as Big Ten title game looms

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Urban Meyer arrived in Indianapolis on Friday with one goal — heading home with another Big Ten championship trophy.

He treated everything else as a sideshow.

Meyer ignored speculation about his coaching future and deflected talk about what No. 6 Ohio State would need to earn a spot in the college football playoff. Instead, Meyer stuck to the same message he’s relayed to his team all week: Just focus on football.

“We wanted to be hard on them, be fresh and be mentally prepared and I think we’re there,” Meyer said. “I like where we’re at.”

Being back in Indy for another shot at the title and yet another possible playoff berth should be a relief in itself.

Seven weeks ago, the Buckeyes’ championship hopes nearly vanished with an embarrassing 49-20 loss at Purdue. But Ohio State rebounded by hanging on against Nebraska, walloping No. 18 Michigan State and outlasting Maryland in overtime before moving back into playoff contention with an impressive 62-39 Big Ten East-clinching victory over No. 4 Michigan

Since then, Meyer has dealt with all sorts of chatter and speculation, ranging from potential playoff scenarios to reports about his future at Ohio State (11-1, 8-1, No. 6 CFP),

“Uh, no comment on that,” Meyer said when asked Friday about a report that next season would be his last in Columbus, Ohio.

Northwestern, meanwhile, continues to embrace playing the underdog.

Few expected the Wildcats (8-4, 8-1, No. 19) to dethrone Wisconsin in the Big Ten West, especially after losses to Duke, Akron and Michigan in successive weeks in September. But their only other stumble came against Notre Dame, another playoff hopeful, and now it appears Northwestern is one win away from reaching its first Rose Bowl since coach Pat Fitzgerald was a Wildcats’ player in 1995.

It’s Northwestern’s first appearance in Indianapolis and one Fitzgerald believes is overdue.

“We’ve been building this program now for 13 years and a lot of thoughts, a lot of emotions when we pulled in here,” Fitzgerald said, recalling what former coaches Gary Barnett and Randy Walker did for the program and his career. “This was the next hurdle for our program to get over. The next goal is to win it.”

Again, the doubters give the Wildcats no chance against the suddenly resurgent Buckeyes.

Ohio State was installed at a two-touchdown favorite Saturday, one week after they hung 62 points on one of America’s stingiest defenses. They’re led by Big Ten offensive player of the year Dwayne Haskins, who set conference single-season records for yards passing (4,081) and touchdown passes (42).

And while Northwestern relies on an old-school style, Fitzgerald knows just how well the Wildcats must play to give themselves a chance against a team that seemingly needs a huge win to impress the selection committee.

“I only deal with it when you ask me, so it’s not uncomfortable,” Meyer said about what the Buckeyes must do. “We don’t deal with it.”

STYLE POINTS COUNT

Meyer may not believe his team needs in style points. His players understand, though.

“I think it’s very important,” senior wide-receiver and team captain Terry McLaurin said. “In situations like this it’s great to get the win because you have a conference championship in your belt. But it’s pretty obvious that the committee looks on how you beat teams and how you look collectively on offense and defense.”

HEISMAN HOPEFUL

Haskins was the obvious choice as this season’s top Big Ten player. How obvious?

“If I had a Heisman vote, I would have voted for him,” Fitzgerald said Friday. “He’s a complete player and you watch the type of leader that he is and you hear a young man who says ‘I’m at 60 or 70 percent of what I can be,’ that’s scary.”

ALL GOOD

Meyer’s anguished sideline demeanor has sometimes led to speculation he could soon retire. He has acknowledged a cyst in his head flares up and causes severe headaches during stressful times. One such headache dropped him to a knee during an October game.

The stress was compounded by a three-game suspension to start the season for his mishandling of a now-fired assistant who was accused of domestic abuse.

When asked how he felt earlier this week, Meyer said “good” before steering the conversation back around to football.

BIG STAGE

While Fitzgerald said he treated this week like a normal road game, it’s not.

Fifty buses full of students are expected to make the trek from Evanston, Illinois, to Indy and Fitzgerald hopes the school’s men’s basketball team will swing by Lucas Oil Stadium on its way home from Bloomington.

For Northwestern, all this is new.

“They have been in some bowl games and we’ve found a way to get on the podium in two big games, last year in Nashville and two years ago in New York City,” Fitzgerald said. “Those were great opponents and atmospheres. We’ve been in some big games, been on the short end of it this year obviously, but I think our guys have learned from it.”

___

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Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top lieutenant to ‘El Chapo’ sentenced to life in prison

A top lieutenant to drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman was sentenced in a Virginia courtroom Friday to life in prison.

Damaso Lopez, a leader in Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel, pleaded guilty in September in an Alexandria federal court to drug trafficking charges after being extradited from Mexico earlier this year.

The life sentence was expected after both sides agreed to a life term as part of a plea bargain.

In court papers, Lopez admitted he was a senior leader in the Sinaloa cartel and controlled a faction with hundreds of men. He admitted using “sicarios,” or hitmen, to conduct murders to further the cartel’s interest and move tons of cocaine and other drugs throughout the Americas.

Lopez’s sentencing comes as Guzman is facing his own trial in New York.

It is unclear whether Lopez, Guzman’s right-hand man, would be called to testify at Guzman’s trial. The publicly available court documents from the plea agreement do not include a requirement for cooperation, as they usually would. But several documents in the case remain under seal.

Also, while Lopez has been sentenced to life, it is a relatively common practice at the federal courthouse in Alexandria for prosecutors to file a post-sentence motion seeking reduction of a sentence for defendants who provide substantial cooperation on other cases.

In court papers, prosecutors said the cartel generated billions of dollars in illegal profits.

“Simply put, the defendant had a leadership role in the Sinaloa Cartel, the largest and most violent drug trafficking organization in the world,” prosecutors wrote. “It would be hard to imagine a more egregious drug offense.”

Mexican authorities arrested Lopez — known as “El Licenciado,” which is a title for college graduates — at an apartment in Mexico City last year. Authorities say that arrest led to the collapse of his faction within the cartel.

Defense attorneys did not return calls and emails seeking comment.

Lopez was also ordered to forfeit $25 million.

Where to get meal deals and freebies

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Setting and maintaining a holiday budget will be the smartest thing you do all year.
USA TODAY

The month of December can be expensive.

There are gifts to buy and holiday parties to prepare for and more gifts to buy.

But thankfully, there are also some ways to save this month and a few sweet days too.

Dec. 4 is National Cookie Day, Dec. 8 is National Brownie Day and National Cupcake Day is Dec. 14. 

Bookmark this page because it’ll be updated frequently with more freebies, meal deals and additional ways to save.

Here are the best deals, big days and ongoing specials, available at participating locations. To be on the safe side, check with your closest location before heading out.

More: Best Buy’s ’20 Days of Doorbusters’ promises exciting deals in December

More: Target’s massive one-day gift card sale is happening this Sunday

More: Starbucks concocts new winter drink and contest with 30 years of free drinks up for grabs

Limited-time deals

Domino’s: Through Sunday, Dec. 2, get 50 percent off all menu-priced pizzas ordered online, via apps and Domino’s AnyWare ordering with Google Home, Alexa, Facebook Messenger and Slack.

Hardee’s: On Tinder? If you are and you match with “Chris P.” you’ll get a buy-one-get-one free offer on Hardee’s five-piece chicken tender small combo to redeem through Dec. 9.

Moe’s Southwest Grill: Instead of kids eating free, this is a parents eat free deal. Through Sunday, Dec. 2, with the fast-casual chain’s smartphone app and a kid’s meal purchase, get a free adult entree up to $8. The child needs to be present and this offer is in-store only.

Pizza HutThrough Sunday, Dec. 2, get 50 percent off all menu-priced pizzas with promo code 50OFFNOV2018.

Dec. 1: Worlds AIDS Day

These aren’t deals but ways to give back.

Blaze Pizza: In support of Worlds AIDS Day, Blaze is offering a new Peppermint S’more Pie in each of its more than 300 restaurants and has committed $5,000 to support (RED)’s effort.

StarbucksOn Saturday, will donate 20 cents for every latte purchased in participating U.S. and Canada Starbucks stores to the Global Fund to help (RED) fight AIDS.  

More: Apple says iPhone XR is ‘best-selling’ iPhone, as it promotes RED model to help fight AIDS

More: The AIDS crisis is not over. We need help from Trump and Congress to continue the fight.

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This holiday attraction at Walt Disney World’s Disney Springs won’t cost you a thing.
USA TODAY

Dec. 4: National Cookie Day

More sweet deals are expected.

DoubleTreeThe Hilton hotel brand known for its warm cookies announced it’s celebrating the made-up holiday by giving guests and non-guests a free cookie Tuesday at U.S. DoubleTree locations.

Great American CookiesGet one free original chocolate chip cookie at participating stores Tuesday. No purchase necessary and limit one per customer.

Insomnia CookiesGet a free traditional cookie with any in-store purchase Tuesday at the chain’s 145 locations. Then Wednesday and Thursday, get one free traditional cookie with any delivery order and for one week get 20 percent off shipping orders.

Mountain Mike’s Pizza: Coupon Club members can get a free pizza cookie with purchase of a large specialty pizza. Sign up for the club at www.mountainmikespizza.com/coupons.php and you can also access club member coupons at the same link.

Mrs. Fields: Get a free cookie with any purchase Tuesday.

Nestlé Toll House Café by ChipBuy three classic cookies, get three free Tuesday.

Schlotzsky’s: Get a free small cookie when you buy an entree Tuesday. Entree meals include sandwiches, salads, pizza and flatbreads.

Dec. 5: The Cheesecake Factory’s birthday deal

To celebrate the restaurant’s 40th anniversary, The Cheesecake Factory is partnering with DoorDash to give away 40,000 free slices of cheesecake on Wednesday, Dec. 5. The promotion starts at 11:30 a.m. local time and is available through 10 p.m. Wednesday or while supplies last, according to the offer terms.

To get the free slice, place a DoorDash order and use promo code FREESLICE at checkout for a credit up to $8.95 for the slice.

Also Wednesday through Dec. 11, get free delivery on all Cheesecake Factory orders through DoorDash.

Dec. 8: Schlotzsky’s Guest Appreciation Day

For Schlotzsky’s Guest Appreciation Day, starting at 9 a.m. Dec. 8, customers can get a year’s worth of sandwiches for $30. The Schlotzsky’s Rewards app is needed to purchase the package to get one The Original Sandwich weekly in 2019. The first 100 guests at each location will receive a free 4 count Cinnabon Classic pack with purchase of the deal. Learn more at www.schlotzskys.com.

Ongoing offers

Applebee’s: The December drink of the month is the Dolly Jolly, a $1 Jolly Rancher Vodka Drink available in cherry or green apple at participating locations.

Burger King: Cini Minis, considered a fan favorite from the ’90s, are back for a limited-time with a four-piece costing $1.49 at most locations. The treat also is available for delivery exclusively on Grubhub. With $10 or more Grubhub orders, get a free order. A coupon code isn’t needed and the freebie should unlock once you have $10 in your cart. Burger King also has a DoorDash deal with an item just for dogs.

Chili’s: The December Margarita of the Month is the Red Nose Rita, a mix of Sauza Blue, Cointreau, Monin blackberry syrup and strawberry puree. The margaritas are $5.

Hungry Howies: Through Dec. 31, buy two medium one-topping pizzas for $5 each with promo code DEAL40 at participating locations.

IHOP: Through Dec. 31, IHOP has a kids eat free deal and a special holiday menu inspired by “Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch.” Kids 12 and under receive a free entrée from the kids menu with each purchase of an adult entrée from 4 to 10 p.m. daily. 

Subway: For a limited time, buy a kids meal at participating restaurants and get a code for a free ticket to “Mary Poppins Returns.”

Wendy’s: The fast-food chain has extended its $1 fries deal. Through Dec. 26 at participating restaurants, get a small, medium or large fry for $1. Not valid with any combos. Also for a limited time, get a $2 Frosty Key Tag for a year of free Frosty treats.

More: Wendy’s Frosty Key Tag is back and a way to get free frozen treats everyday in 2019

More: Burger King is going to the dogs and giving away free flame-grilled dog bones

More: Subway giving away free kids’ tickets to new ‘Mary Poppins Returns’ movie

Kelly Tyko is a consumer columnist and retail reporter for Treasure Coast Newspapers and TCPalm.com, part of the USA TODAY NETWORK. Read her Bargainista tips at TCPalm.com/Bargainista, follow her on Twitter @KellyTyko and email her at kelly.tyko@tcpalm.com.

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Appellate court plans closed session in mystery plaintiff’s suit against Mueller

A federal appeals court announced Friday that it would hold a closed oral argument session on Dec. 14, to address a lawsuit apparently filed against Special Counsel Robert Mueller by an unidentified grand jury witness.

Much of the detail in the case remains under seal, and there has been intense speculation in the legal and political communities over the identity of the mystery appellant.

Speculation in some media was that President Trump himself had filed the lawsuit back in August, but his attorney denied it.

The suit could be related to a possible subpoena for the witness to appear before the federal grand jury empaneled by Mueller, who is looking into a range of issues, including the extent of Russia interference in the 2016 election.

This case is not related to the appeal by Andrew Miller, a former associate of Trump confidant Roger Stone, who is resisting a Mueller subpoena. Miller’s case was argued Nov. 8 before the same D.C.-based appeals court.

The three-judge panel hearing the mystery case includes those appointed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan.

Military mulls DHS request to extend troop deployment

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Alan Gomez on the increase in asylum claims at the southern border and why Trump administration policies tightening restrictions are causing tension.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is seeking to bolster security along the southern border with Mexico by extending the deployment of military troops to the end of January and adding law enforcement staff from other federal agencies.

A portion of the 5,800 active-duty military troops stationed along the southern border are expected to stay beyond the initial Dec. 15 deployment, but the Defense Department was still reviewing the request Friday from the Department of Homeland Security.

DHS formally requested the deployment to be extended to Jan. 31 for “the ongoing threat at the southern border,” according to department spokeswoman Katie Waldman. The request is for the number of troops to remain at about 4,000, according to The Associated Press.

But Defense Secretary James Mattis hadn’t approved it by late Friday, according to AP. Staffers from both departments had been discussing the needs for a deployment extension for weeks.

DHS has also requested law-enforcement officers working at other departments across the government contribute to border security because President Donald Trump “has made it clear that border security is a top administration priority,” Waldman said.

“In line with the president’s direction and given the very real threat we face at the border from potential mass migration actions – of course, DHS has reached out for assistance from partners across the federal government to defend our sovereignty, protect our frontline men and women, and secure our border,” Waldman said. “We appreciate all of the support we have received to date.”

Trump initially ordered the military deployment in late October when he warned about a possible “invasion” by members of the migrant caravan crossing Mexico from Central America. 

The troops so far have mainly built barriers of concertina wire and Jersey walls around ports of entry and transported Customs and Border Patrol officers where needed.

“It comes down to logistics issues right now primarily – how many miles of wire do they need?” Mattis told reporters Thursday. The areas around the ports are pretty much done, but there could be more work around their flanks, he said.

Tensions rose on Nov. 20 when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly authorized the troops to use lethal force, if necessary, to defend themselves or any CBP agents who came under attack by migrants. That order has been questioned because it followed Trump’s comments suggesting that troops could fire upon migrants if they throw rocks at the troops.

“I told them to consider it a rifle,” Trump said during a White House speech on Nov. 1. “When they throw rocks like what they did to the Mexican military and police I say consider it a rifle.”

About 1,000 migrants clashed Sunday with CBP officers at the San Ysidro port in California. Advocates for the migrants criticized the use of tear gas in dispersing the crowds.

But Homeland Security officials defended the use of gas as the least intrusive way to deal with migrants throwing rocks and bottles at officers. No shots were fired. The port also closed temporarily.

Mattis said those clashes were with CBP – not the military.

“As far as the use of force, the Border Patrol is using what they believe is appropriate,” Mattis said. “We would be backing them up, they have multiple lines in front of them, so right now I can’t even forecast what would be necessary after seeing the Border Patrol’s response under the pressure that we saw this last weekend.”

The troop deployment has been criticized as a political stunt because Trump announced it while campaigning around the country in the final weeks leading up to the midterm elections led to accusations of using the troops as a political prop in a bid to rile up the Republican base. 

The Pentagon estimated at the time that about 800 troops would go down in a purely support role – stringing concertina wire and helping CBP officials with transportation and logistical help. But that deployment quickly expanded to more than 5,800 troops deployed throughout the border.

The lethal force order also calls into question whether the active-duty troop deployment violates the Posse Comitatus Act, which generally forbids the military from conducting law enforcement duties within the U.S.

A Congressional Research Service report in April concluded that the military can be deployed domestically, but only if it is limited to “certain types of support” to law enforcement, such as conducting aerial surveillance, operating equipment, sharing intelligence and providing advice. But the report said the administration would run into legal trouble if it tasked the military with conducting law enforcement activities.

“There must be a constitutional or statutory authority to use federal troops in a law enforcement capacity to stop aliens from entering the country unlawfully, or to apprehend gang members or seize contraband,” the report found.

After Kelly authorized lethal force, Mattis said Nov. 21 that most of the troops weren’t carrying weapons other than a few noncommissioned officers. Troops also weren’t conducting law enforcement or detaining anyone, other than a brief period when they might pull somebody out of a disturbance, then turn the person over to CBP for arrest, he said.

“We’re not going to arrest or anything else,” Mattis said. “To stop someone from beating on someone and turn them over to someone else – this is minutes not even hours, OK?”

Mattis said at that point that some troops could be home by Christmas but that others would likely be extended beyond Dec. 15, based on what was needed.

“So some of those troops certainly will be home, I would anticipate they would be,” Mattis said. “But some troops may not be or some new troops may be assigned to new missions.”

The mission at that point was estimated to cost $72 million – a figure Mattis said could rise.

“I am confident that number will go up,” he said.

 

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Pontius Pilate’s ring may have been discovered at ancient biblical fortress

Experts in Israel have identified a ring that may have belonged to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor who oversaw the trial and crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Haaretz reports that the bronze ring was discovered 50 years ago during excavations at the Herodion fortress in the Judean desert.

Initially uncovered in a dig led by Professor Gideon Foerster of Hebrew University of Jerusalem, the ring was handed over to a team researchers currently working Herodion, led by Roi Porat, also of  Hebrew University. Intense cleaning and a specialist camera owned by the Israel Antiquities Authority have revealed the ring’s secrets.

HOW JESUS DIED: ANCIENT CRUCIFIXION VICTIM OFFERS NEW CLUES

A wine vessel and the Greek inscription “Pilatus” can be clearly seen on the ring, according to Haaretz.

Views and cross-section of the ring.

Views and cross-section of the ring.
(drawing: J. Rodman; photo: C. Amit, IAA Photographic Department)

As prefect of the Roman province of Judea, it is quite possible that the ring belonged to the infamous Pontius Pilate. Experts also speculate that it may have been used by a member of Pilate’s court to sign documents in the prefect’s name.

A photograph of the ring clearly shows the inscription of a ‘krater’ – a vessel used to water down wine.

9,000-YEAR-OLD RARE STONE MASK DISCOVERED IN ISRAEL

The latest research on the ring is published in the Israel Exploration Journal.

Postcard from 1900 depicts Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus Christ to a hostile crowd shortly before his crucifixion. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

Postcard from 1900 depicts Pontius Pilate presenting Jesus Christ to a hostile crowd shortly before his crucifixion. (Photo by: Universal History Archive/UIG via Getty Images)

The Herodion, the winter palace of the biblical King Herod, is located on a cone-like hill that still today juts out prominently in the barren landscape of the Judean Desert, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem.

Part of the imposing fortress and mausoleum was used by the Roman officials that governed ancient Judea, according to Haaretz, making a link with Pontius Pilate possible.

‘JESUS’ FACE’ UNCOVERED AT ANCIENT CHURCH IN THE ISRAELI DESERT

The ring is just the latest fascinating biblical-era discovery in Israel. In February, archaeologists announced the discovery of a clay seal mark that may bear the signature of the biblical Prophet Isaiah.

Aerial view from northwest of the Herodion palace-fortress. (Courtesy of G. Foerster)

Aerial view from northwest of the Herodion palace-fortress. (Courtesy of G. Foerster)

At the site of an ancient city on the West Bank, archaeologists are also hunting for evidence of the tabernacle that once housed the Ark of the Covenant.

Some experts also believe they have found the lost Roman city of Julias, formerly the village of Bethsaida, which was the home of Jesus’ apostles Peter, Andrew and Philip.

‘SHIPS IN THE DESERT’: STRANGE 2,000-YEAR-OLD GRAFFITI DISCOVERED IN ISRAEL

The discovery of an ancient skeleton in northern Italy could also shed new light on brutal Roman crucifixions. There is relatively little archaeological evidence of crucifixions, the method used to execute Jesus Christ, according to Christian tradition.

View of the area where the ring bearing Pontius Pilate's name was found. (Courtesy of G. Foerster)

View of the area where the ring bearing Pontius Pilate’s name was found. (Courtesy of G. Foerster)

New analysis of a heel bone found in Gavello, near Venice, in 2007 may offer fresh insight into the brutal execution method, which was widely used in the Roman Empire.

The Associated Press contributed to this article. Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

Dallas officer indicted for murder for shooting neighbor in racially charged case

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Dallas police officer Amber Guyger, who allegedly shot and killed a man in his own apartment is fired, according to the Dallas Police Department.
USA TODAY

A grand jury indicted a fired white Dallas police officer on a murder charge Friday for fatally shooting her unarmed black neighbor after mistakenly entering his apartment, a killing that triggered national outrage and claims of police racial bias.

Officer Amber Guyger, who was employed on the force at the time of the shooting and was in full uniform, said she mistook the neighbor’s apartment for her own and thought 26-year-old Botham Jean was a burglar.

Guyger told investigators that after finishing her shift, she returned home in uniform and parked on the fourth floor of her apartment complex’s garage, rather than the third floor, where her unit was located, according to an affidavit prepared by the Texas Rangers.

She said she got to what she thought was her apartment – Jean’s was directly above hers – and found the door ajar. She opened it to find a figure standing in the darkness. She said she pulled her gun and fired twice after the person ignored her commands.

The circumstances of the shooting sparked outrage and led many to question Guyger’s account of what happened. Critics, including Jean’s family, also wondered why it took three days for Guyger to be charged, why she wasn’t taken into custody immediately after the shooting and whether race played a factor in her decision to use deadly force.

Responding to criticism that the original manslaughter charge was too lenient, Dallas County District Attorney Faith Johnson said the grand jury could decide on the more serious charge of murder, which it did.

Guyger had been terminated from the force by Police Chief U. Renee Hall. An internal investigation revealed Guyger “engaged in adverse conduct when she was arrested for manslaughter’’ three days after the Sept. 6 shooting of Jean.

Police did not specify the nature of the “adverse conduct,” but Dallas police spokesman Sgt. Warren Mitchell later described it in a written response as “conduct which adversely affects the morale or efficiency of the Department or which has a tendency to adversely affect, lower, destroy public respect and confidence in the Department or officer.”

A five-year veteran, the officer was going home after a more than 12-hour shift and said she went to the wrong apartment, believing it was hers. 

Guyger called 911 and authorities responded and took Jean to the hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. 

A blood sample was drawn from the officer to test for alcohol and drugs.

Allie Jean, Jean’s mother, said she wants transparency from the police officer who shot her son.

“Come clean. Speak the truth. I’m a Christian and I will forgive her, but she could never give me my son back,” said Jean’s mother.

Jean attended and studied accountancy at Harding University in Arkansas.

According to the university, Botham frequently led worship for chapel and for campus events. In a service this morning, Harding University President Bruce McLarty shared some memories of Botham with students in chapel.

In a Facebook post, Earl, Jean’s uncle posted a collage of pictures in remembrance of his nephew.

“How can this nasty world take you away from me…this is the worst day of my life thus far…uncle loves you so much,” he wrote.

Jean’s sister also took to Facebook posting the following: “Just last week I was thinking of what to get you for your birthday, now I have to go pick out your casket. You will always be my baby brother. I love you with all of my heart,” she wrote.

Jean’s killing thrust Dallas into the national conversation on the intersection of race and law enforcement, a dialogue revived by the high-profile trials of officers charged with murder in police shootings.

In October, white Chicago officer Jason Van Dyke was found guilty of second-degree murder in the 2014 on-duty shooting of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Van Dyke shot McDonald 16 times.

And in August, white former Dallas-area officer Roy Oliver was convicted of murder after firing into a car filled with black teenagers leaving a house party in 2017 and fatally shooting 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.

CONTRIBUTING: Associated Press

 

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Video gaming becomes official after-school league at US high schools

Charles Slack is a student at Mesa Community College who plays video games several hours a day. He considers it his passion. And he’s not alone.

As video games keep gaining popularity, schools are taking notice – and trying to capitalize on the booming trend.

Schools across the country are beginning to recognize gaming as an “electronic sport” – and making it an official, after-school activity, complete with statewide tournaments.

Arizona became just the latest in a growing number of states welcoming video games in schools. Beginning in February, the Arizona Interscholastic Association, or AIA, will partner with Legacy eSports to start a regular season, tournament, and championship for schools to compete in.

“We find this as a unique opportunity to get those students that might normally go home after school and play a game on their computer but now get them into school to where they can meet up with their peers,” said Brian Bolitho, AIA director of business development. “And school pride—compete for a state tournament and a championship there and engage these students that normally might not be involved in their high school community.”

Charles Slack is a student at Mesa Community College who plays video games several hours a day. He considers it his passion. And he's not alone.<br data-cke-eol="1">

Charles Slack is a student at Mesa Community College who plays video games several hours a day. He considers it his passion. And he’s not alone.<br data-cke-eol=”1″>
(Fox News)

Bolitho said at some Arizona schools, there’s already been more students at the eSports informational meetings than football, basketball, and baseball informational meetings combined.

Legacy eSports will be launching similar leagues in California, New Mexico and Louisiana next year. The High School eSports League, another group that organizes eSports tournaments and clubs, has partnered with high schools in almost every state, including Hawaii, Florida, Texas and New York.

But the move has triggered a backlash among parents, mental health professionals and athletic coaches who call the trend both troubling – and dangerous.

“I think sitting in front of a TV is a sedative – your metabolism is going to change. It’s going to cause us to become fatter, it’s going to cause us to become more unhealthy than we are as a community and a society versus if we can get out and get everyone playing together, it’s better for our brains,” said Brieann Salisbury, a mother of two from Washington state, where some schools have video game leagues.

She said she will not allow her kids to join gaming clubs.

“It’s better for our kids to be outside and enjoy it,” she said.

Brian Bolitho, AIA director of business development, said at some Arizona schools, there’s already been more students at the eSports informational meetings than at informational meetings of football, basketball, and baseball combined.

Brian Bolitho, AIA director of business development, said at some Arizona schools, there’s already been more students at the eSports informational meetings than at informational meetings of football, basketball, and baseball combined.
(Fox News)

Michael Fraser, a child psychologist who specializes in video game addiction, said he’s seen firsthand the drawbacks of gaming. He said an alarming number of kids are becoming video game addicts, which affects their grades and could make them physically aggressive.

“I think it starts out as recreational. Certainly they have fun,” Fraser said. “A lot of kids, instead of doing their homework, are going to play the video games after school. The homework then either doesn’t get done or the homework gets pushed back to a very late hour where the child is either too tired to do it or they’re up late, they lose sleep. The next day they’re showing poor focus, poor attention. They fall asleep in class.”

Regardless of the backlash, gaming keeps growing at an astronomical pace. The 2018 professional League of Legends video game final was watched live by more than 200 million people. That’s more than the Super Bowl, NBA Finals, and Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony combined, according to figures compiled by ESC, Sports Media Watch, and Variety.

And supporters don’t only point to its growth as the reason to train students. Professional gaming has become a lucrative enterprise – with players making millions a year sitting on a couch for video game competitions.

Bolitho said more than 70 universities are offering scholarships for students to play video games at their college and he said studies have shown that kids playing eSports are more likely to pursue STEM-related careers.

There are more than 70 universities offering scholarships for students to play video games at their colleges.

There are more than 70 universities offering scholarships for students to play video games at their colleges.
(Fox News)

“There’s obviously opportunity for these students, after the fact, to then get involved in those tech-related fields—streaming, programming and development,” Bolitho said. “So, that’s the avenue that we’re looking at here.”

Some say gaming could also help with socialization, particularly with kids who have trouble making friends.

“I think electronic sports…they provide you ways to socialize and become closer to other people,” said Luis Perez Cortes, an Arizona State University doctoral student who plans on conducting eSports research and how it affects learning. “In schools, that might translate to any number of other positive things, such as greater feelings of belongingness. This might also increase retention or, in other words, how students want to stay in school maybe even because they can now play video games in school.”

The amount of time Americans spend playing video games (and board games) has risen by 50 percent since 2003, according to the Washington Post.

Pure eSports in Gilbert, Ariz., opened up recently this year and houses gaming counsels for teams like Saint Benedictine University - Mesa eSports team to use for practice.

Pure eSports in Gilbert, Ariz., opened up recently this year and houses gaming counsels for teams like Saint Benedictine University – Mesa eSports team to use for practice.
(Fox News)

That has athletic instructors concerned, particularly since some schools are encouraging gaming.

“If they do this, they also understand that they need to go out and play—that they need to do physical activities in addition to this,” said William Kuehl, Grand Canyon University exercise science professor and lead for physical education.

Studies on the effects of gaming are uneven. One study by RMIT University in Australia study found competition in video games leads to increased aggression. Another study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health’s National Library of Medicine found that “competitive active video games improved children’s psychological responses (affect and rate of perceived exertion) compared with single play, providing a solution that may contribute toward improved adherence to physical activity.”

AIA and Legacy eSports said they steer away from violent games and prohibit games rated “M” for “M” for Mature.

“They’re a trend, I think it’s important for us to recognize that and channel it and not try to fight it,” Kuehl said. “I don’t think that that’s going to solve anything, anyway. Children are going to do what they’re going to do.”

Challenge to vote for student workers’ union could chill unionization

DES MOINES, Iowa – A private liberal arts college in Iowa wants to halt the campuswide expansion of a student workers union and if successful, student organizing efforts probably will be hindered at private universities and colleges nationwide.

Grinnell College student workers this week overwhelmingly voted to expand the Union of Grinnell Student Dining Workers to include the school’s more than 700 student workers.

Grinnell officials said they will ask the National Labor Relations Board to overturn the Tuesday vote. A former board chairman said the college probably will prevail, and the board’s decision could erode unionization rights undergraduate and graduate students have at private colleges and universities across the country.

The decision will “certainly impede and eliminate student organizing,” said William B. Gould IV, former chairman of the National Labor Relations Board and a Stanford University law professor. “There will be no obligation for colleges and universities to bargain with student workers.”

August 2016: NLRB rules graduate students at private universities can unionize

March 2016: 9 universities file brief against Columbia grad student unionization efforts

In recent years, student worker unions have reached agreements with their schools’ administrators without involving the NLRB, Gould said.

That tactic preserved a 2016 decision by the then-Democrat-controlled labor board that ruled Columbia University’s student assistants were employees under the federal labor law. The 2016 decision allowed student workers at private universities to organize.

The board now is controlled by Republicans and at least two have indicated they want to revisit the Columbia ruling.

Two years ago – after the national board’s Columbia decision – Grinnell students voted to form the dining workers union. Grinnell administrators bargained with the group, which succeeded in raising wages for dining workers.

In 2017, the Grinnell student workers union notified college administrators that they planned to expand the union to include all student workers.

While Grinnell officials didn’t interfere with student workers organizing in 2016, this year has been a different matter.

The college asked the NLRB’s regional director to block the election from occurring or impound the ballots after the election. The regional director, in early November, allowed the election to take place. The college asked the full board to halt the election or impound election ballots; the student union group opposed Grinnell’s request.

The NLRB didn’t make a decision.

Now that the election is over, Grinnell wants the NLRB to declare the election void. In its brief opposing the regional director’s decision to allow the election, Grinnell argued that the board’s previous decisions regarding student workers were erroneous. Grinnell, in the brief, argued that student workers do not meet the National Labor Relations Act’s definition of “employee.”

In addition, Grinnell argued that continuing to allow student workers at private institutions to organize creates “tension, divisiveness and a fracturing of relations among students and faculty.”

August 2015: Northwestern football players’ petition to unionize dismissed by NLRB

April 2015: 4,000 UW student employees to strike

Members of the student workers union said they understand the national implications if the NLRB sides with the college.

“Grinnell is not only rejecting our rights to unionize here on campus, but potentially jeopardizing the rights of hundreds of thousands of other undergraduates around the nation,” said Nate Williams, a Grinnell student and union representative.

Members of the union have called on the college to drop its opposition to the unionization of all student workers.

That’s not likely, college officials said.

Debra Lukehart, Grinnell’s vice president of communications, in a statement, wrote that officials believe expansion of the union would “undermine (Grinnell’s) core educational mission and culture, impede learning and diminish educational opportunities for students.”   

Grinnell, a private liberal arts college with about 1,700 students, had $173.4 million in expenses in the year that ended June 30, 2017, the school’s 990 tax form shows. The school funds about half of its operating budget annually with its endowment, which totals more than $1.8 billion.

Less than 2 percent of expenses – about $2 million – is spent on student wages, briefs filed with the National Labor Relations Board show.

Quinn Ercolani, a junior who is president of the student worker union group, said the college can afford to pay student workers higher wages. He said he and others don’t understand why the school is fighting so hard against unionization.

“Grinnell is abandoning its mission for the sake of profit,” said Ercolani.

Follow Kathy A. Bolten on Twitter: @kbolten

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