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Westlake Legal Group > News Corporation (Page 239)

Chicago jury convicts gangbanger who executed 9-year-old in revenge killing

Westlake Legal Group chicago-gangbanger-Tyshawn-Lee-execution Chicago jury convicts gangbanger who executed 9-year-old in revenge killing fox-news/us/crime/organized-crime fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime/chicagos-crime-wave fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc feb46bec-08d3-587c-9dfd-6ad48ac5b2c6 Danielle Wallace article

A Chicago jury on Thursday convicted a man of first-degree murder in the shooting death of a 9-year-old boy who was lured into an alley with the promise of a juice box.

Dwright Boone-Doty and fellow gang member Corey Morgan planned the November 2015 slaying of Tyshawn Lee before Boone-Doty took a gun Morgan gave him and shot the boy, prosecutors said.

The Cook County jury found Boone-Doty guilty on Thursday night. A separate jury deciding Morgan’s fate has been sequestered after not being able to reach a verdict.

2 CHICAGO GANGBANGERS EXECUTED 9-YEAR-OLD IN REVENGE KILLING AGAINST HIS FATHER’S RIVAL GANG: PROSECUTORS

The two alleged members of the Bang Gang/Terror Dome faction of the Black P Stones gang were co-defendants but were tried before separate juries as they sought to pin the blame on each other for the child’s slaying, reports said.

Prosecutors said that although Morgan did not wield the gun, he had the motive for murder. He allegedly targeted the 9-year-old because his father, Pierre Stokes, belongs to a rival gang — the Killa Ward faction of the Gangster Disciples.

Morgan blamed that gang for an October 2015 shooting that killed his brother and injured his mother. Morgan’s family also arranged the purchase of the gun that killed Lee, prosecutors added.

Three men drove to a park in the South Side of Chicago in November 2015 where Lee regularly went after school to play, according to prosecutors. He lured him into an alleyway and shot him in the head with a .40-caliber handgun, prosecutors said.

Morgan and Kevin Edwards, who prosecutors claimed was the getaway driver, watched from an SUV parked down the block. Edwards pleaded guilty before the trial to first-degree murder in exchange for a 25-year prison sentence, according to the Chicago Tribune.

Morgan’s attorney, Thomas Breen, tried to distance his client from the crime.

“That execution of that 9-year-old boy has to come from one singularly evil person,” Breen told jurors without naming Doty. “Not from a plan. His killer did so of his own volition and for his own reason. Not at the behest or help of Corey Morgan.”

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Prosecutors played a tape of Boone-Doty bragging to another jail inmate that he’d killed the boy. Boone-Doty’s lawyer dismissed the tape, saying that Boone-Doty was lying to the other inmate to make himself look tough. “I’m looking at him. We walking. Bop,” Boone-Doty said on the tape, according to The Washington Post. “Hit the ground. Bop-bop-bop-bop-bop. I’m laughing.” He faces up to life in prison.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Westlake Legal Group chicago-gangbanger-Tyshawn-Lee-execution Chicago jury convicts gangbanger who executed 9-year-old in revenge killing fox-news/us/crime/organized-crime fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime/chicagos-crime-wave fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc feb46bec-08d3-587c-9dfd-6ad48ac5b2c6 Danielle Wallace article   Westlake Legal Group chicago-gangbanger-Tyshawn-Lee-execution Chicago jury convicts gangbanger who executed 9-year-old in revenge killing fox-news/us/crime/organized-crime fox-news/us/crime/homicide fox-news/us/crime/chicagos-crime-wave fox-news/us/crime fox news fnc/us fnc feb46bec-08d3-587c-9dfd-6ad48ac5b2c6 Danielle Wallace article

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Texas judge’s gift of Bible to Amber Guyger draws complaint from atheist group

An atheist group that has counted Ron Reagan Jr. among its members says it was inappropriate for a judge to give a Bible to Amber Guyger, the former Dallas police officer who convicted this week of murdering a neighbor last year.

The Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) – the atheist group for which the 61-year-old son of former President Ronald Reagan has appeared in television ads – filed a formal complaint Thursday with the Texas State Commission on Judicial Conduct, FOX 4 of Dallas-Fort Worth reported.

The Wisconsin-based group objected to Judge Tammy Kemp giving one of her Bibles to Guyger after the former officer was sentenced to 10 years in prison Wednesday for the shooting death of Botham Jean, a 26-year-old accountant.

TENNESSEE HIGH SCHOOL STUDENTS DEFEND PRAYER BEFORE FOOTBALL GAMES AFTER ATHEIST GROUP COMPLAINS

“You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith,” Kemp said to a tearful Guyger, handing the Bible to her before the convicted former officer left the courtroom. “You start with this.”

Kemp also hugged Guyger – as did a brother of the murder victim, in actions that some observers said showed compassion for the newly convicted defendant.

Westlake Legal Group AP19276009856037 Texas judge’s gift of Bible to Amber Guyger draws complaint from atheist group fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/texas fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/special/sponsored/reagan fox-news/politics/judiciary fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio caed646d-67f1-5662-9ab5-6b7ee1e273da article

State District Judge Tammy Kemp gives former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger a hug before Guyger leaves for jail, Wednesday, Oct. 2, 2019, in Dallas. (Tom Fox/The Dallas Morning News via AP, Pool)

But in a letter Thursday to the Texas commission, the atheist group objected to what it termed the judge’s “proselytizing actions,” saying they “overstepped judicial authority,” and were “inappropriate” and “unconstitutional.”

“It is perfectly acceptable for private citizens to express their religious beliefs in court,” the letter states later, “but the rules are different for those acting in a governmental role.”

In a separate Twitter message, FFRF attorney Andrew L. Seidel further explained the group’s position.

“We need more compassion in our criminal justice system,” Seidel wrote, “but here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. Judges cannot impose their personal religion on others.”

“We need more compassion in our criminal justice system, but here, compassion crossed the line into coercion. Judges cannot impose their personal religion on others.”

— Andrew L. Seidel, attorney, Freedom from Religion Foundation

Seidel is the author of “The Founding Myth: Why Christian Nationalism is Un-American.”

Neither the group nor Seidel appeared to demand punishment for the judge. Their messages seemed aimed only at drawing attention to a “possible violation” of rules of judicial conduct.

However, another group – the Texas-based First Liberty Institute, which supports religious freedom – came to the judge’s defense.

“We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions,” said Hiram Sasser, legal counsel for the First Liberty Institute. “We stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”

“We should all be thankful the law allows Judge Kemp’s actions. We stand with her and will gladly lead the charge in defending her noble and legal actions.”

— Hiram Sasser, legal counsel for the First Liberty Institute

Guyger claimed she mistakenly entered Jean’s apartment, one floor above hers, thinking it was her own home, and shot Jean because she believed he was an intruder in her apartment.

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But on Tuesday, a jury decided that Guyger, 31, was guilty of murder. Guyger had been a member of the Dallas force for nearly five years.

Also on Thursday, the atheist group posted a Twitter message objecting to Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin’s support of “Bring Your Bible to School Day,” saying the Republican governor’s stand was “narrow-minded and totally inappropriate.”

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6090996769001_6090997682001-vs Texas judge’s gift of Bible to Amber Guyger draws complaint from atheist group fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/texas fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/special/sponsored/reagan fox-news/politics/judiciary fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio caed646d-67f1-5662-9ab5-6b7ee1e273da article   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6090996769001_6090997682001-vs Texas judge’s gift of Bible to Amber Guyger draws complaint from atheist group fox-news/us/us-regions/southwest/texas fox-news/us/religion/christianity fox-news/us/religion fox-news/special/sponsored/reagan fox-news/politics/judiciary fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/us fnc Dom Calicchio caed646d-67f1-5662-9ab5-6b7ee1e273da article

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Let’s Talk About The Black Women In ‘Joker’

Westlake Legal Group 5d960720210000a40251fbe4 Let’s Talk About The Black Women In ‘Joker’

Disclaimer: This piece contains spoilers for “Joker.”

Joker” is an ugly film. That isn’t a judgment call: There are plenty of good “ugly” movies. And “Joker” is good in the sense that it is competently shot, beautifully acted, and ticks all the right boxes that a film like this, so heavily influenced by the Scorsese pictures of the 1970s, is supposed to tick. 

Ugliness is a deliberate aesthetic choice of the film, an aesthetic aiding its main goal: to create a sense of atmosphere and tone so oppressive that it leaves no room for the story, or the audience, to breathe. It is a shame because as much as it plays up themes of class disparity, the pain of mental illness and the general brutal indifference of society, “Joker” doesn’t actually seem interested in exploring these themes beyond using them as atmosphere builders, as plot devices. 

It is particularly relevant when it comes to the presence of Black women in Joker’s world, a presence so glaring yet so subtle it almost goes unnoticed. We see Joker, or Arthur Fleck (played superbly by Joaquin Phoenix) interact with six women over the course of the film. One of the women is a TV producer he speaks with briefly over the phone. Another is his disturbed mother, who he learns has been lying to him all his life. The remaining four women are all Black: a mother on the bus, his social worker, his neighbor/love interest Sophie (Zazie Beetz), and a psychiatrist at the mental hospital.

Individually, these characters don’t give that much pause. But collectively, their presence made me wonder if there is a reason why the majority of the women Arthur interacts with on-screen happen to be Black. All of Arthur’s interactions with women are fraught and charged, each one establishing his view of the world as a cold, apathetic hellscape. When he playfully makes a small child laugh during a bus ride, the kid’s mother turns around and snaps at him, “Will you please stop bothering my kid?” His social worker is cold and standoffish, admonishes him. At one point, he calls her out for never really listening to anything he has to say.  

It would be easy to say that the film’s choices when it comes to Black women are willfully stereotypical or negative, playing up all-too familiar tropes of Black women as angry or cold. I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair distinction though. These Black female characters don’t feel forcefully lodged into the plot; they come up organically and naturally in the world that Arthur inhabits, and there are no strange or outlandish machinations that precede these interactions. Indeed, the original “Joker” script states explicitly that he lives in a Black neighborhood, though the film itself never makes this clear. 

But the presence and treatment of Black women, particularly Beetz’s character, are still worth considering, especially given the fact that writer-director Todd Phillips has famously cited two Martin Scorsese films, “The King of Comedy” and “Taxi Driver,” as inspirations for this iteration of the Joker’s origin story. 

In “Taxi Driver,” Travis Bickle’s racism and misogyny are implicit features of his personality. We see it in the way he sizes up the groups of Black men he encounters on the street and in the unabated glee with which he kills the Black man who robs a liquor store. Harvey Keitel’s pimp character, it should also be noted, was originally supposed to be played by a Black man. In the film’s final massacre, all the criminals Bickle kills were supposed to be Black, an indictment on his own racism, but studio executives called for that detail to be changed, afraid that there would be riots. 

With “Joker,” there have been similar murmurings about how the film might incite violence, or fuel the ideologies of incel culture. Of course, “Taxi Driver,” which “Joker” borrows heavily from, didn’t cause riots. But “Taxi Driver” is a smarter movie than “Joker,” which, as writer Sarah Hagi aptly pointed out on Twitter, might as well be called “We live in a society: the movie.” In other words, it simply doesn’t have the range. 

Where “Taxi Driver” makes it clear that Bickle’s desire to rid the streets of “scum” is not actually a noble crusade but rather the result of his own selfish neuroses and prejudices, “Joker” never quite delves deep enough beyond its indictment of a nebulous arbitrary “system.” 

There’s a fleeting, promising moment in the movie when Arthur’s social worker informs him that funding for the program has been cut, and she will no longer be seeing him. She makes a comment, something along the lines of, “They [the people at the top] don’t care about people like you and me.” But the line just sort of hangs there in the air; it doesn’t seem as if Arthur has actually absorbed (or can actually absorb) the idea that he is not the only cog in this grinding, indifferent machine. Rather than a critique of institutional abuse, the exchange feels more like an indictment on the individual for not understanding him, thereby justifying his hatred and his violence. 

Much like “Taxi Driver” and its ambiguous final montage, the thing to remember about “Joker” is that the story is being told intentionally and specifically through the main character’s eyes. In the third act, the audience learns that the budding romance we’ve witnessed between Arthur and Sophie has been all in his mind. He barges into her apartment, unannounced, and a startled Sophie pleads with him to leave. 

The film cuts to the next scene, never showing Sophie’s fate. The ambiguity of Sophie’s fate is, in a sense, largely emblematic of the ambiguity with which this film tackles gender and race. It also calls into question everything else we’ve seen up to this point ― the asshole finance bros whom Joker kills early on in the film, his overbearing mother, Thomas Wayne’s cruelty. The trick of “Joker” is presenting us Arthur’s skewed version of the world as true and then, and the last minute, forcing us to question our own empathy for him. At least, that’s the idea. 

That’s why his interactions with Black women are interesting, especially his infatuation with Sophie. If Black women play roles of alienating authority in his everyday life, it’s significant that he would project a romantic fantasy onto a Black woman, casting her as the nurturing and supportive female figure that has eluded him up until now. 

This is all worth thinking about, especially in a film that seems to be trying (but ultimately fails) to make some sort of commentary on the disparity between the haves and the have-nots. A racial reading of this movie is perhaps the last thing Phillips, who recently lamented how “woke” culture killed his desire to make comedy, wants the viewer to take away from this. But you can’t really have a discussion about class without having a discussion somewhere in there about race. I doubt Phillips was trying to make any sort of intentional commentary with his placement of Black women in positions of antagonizing authority or elusive romantic obsessions, but that’s what makes these characters, arbitrary as they seem, so important.

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Texts From Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Keep Aid From Ukraine

Westlake Legal Group 03dc-impeachment-facebookJumbo Texts From Top Diplomat Described ‘Crazy’ Plan to Keep Aid From Ukraine Yovanovitch, Marie L Volker, Kurt D United States Politics and Government Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Pompeo, Mike Pelosi, Nancy impeachment

WASHINGTON — A top American diplomat in Ukraine repeatedly raised concerns with colleagues about the White House’s decision to withhold $391 million in security aid from Ukraine, describing it as a “crazy” plan to withhold security assistance “for help with a political campaign,” according to texts released Thursday as part of the impeachment inquiry into President Trump.

The texts, which were turned over to Congress by Kurt D. Volker, the State Department’s former special envoy for Ukraine, come from a series of early September exchanges. They appear to show a dispute among American diplomats over whether the president was trying to use security aid or a White House meeting with the country’s new leader as leverage to pressure Ukraine to dig up dirt on a leading political rival — a charge at the heart of the impeachment investigation.

One message, written by William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, suggested that Mr. Trump was holding back the package of military aid to Ukraine as a bargaining chip to influence the country’s president to do his political bidding.

“As I said on the phone, I think it’s crazy to withhold security assistance for help with a political campaign,” Mr. Taylor wrote on Sept. 9 to Mr. Volker and Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union.

Mr. Sondland replied that he believed he had “identified the best path forward” for unfreezing the assistance. But he also took issue that there is any sort of direct agreement, writing in response, “The President has been crystal clear: no quid pro quo’s of any kind.” He then suggested the conversation move to phone rather than text.

That exchange and others emerged as congressional investigators met privately for more than nine hours on Capitol Hill with Mr. Volker, who is the first witness in their growing impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump tried to bend American policy for his own political benefit by pressuring President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and other Democrats.

While the president has openly admitted that he wanted Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter Biden, a crucial question has been whether Mr. Trump tried to use the security aid or a meeting at the White House as leverage. The money was delayed until the Trump administration released it last month amid a bipartisan outcry from lawmakers.

In his text, Mr. Sondland added, “The President is trying to evaluate whether Ukraine is truly going to adopt the transparency and reforms that President Zelensky promised during his campaign.”

It was not immediately clear what led Mr. Taylor to conclude that Mr. Trump was withholding aid as leverage over Ukraine. When the texts were sent, news reports about the delay in releasing the aid, and about attempts by Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani to pressure Ukraine into investigating Mr. Biden and other Democrats, had already prompted public speculation that Mr. Trump was engaging in a quid pro quo.

But his concerns persisted. Roughly a week earlier, on Sept. 1, Mr. Taylor had asked Mr. Sondland, “Are we now saying that security assistance and WH meeting are conditioned on investigations?”

Mr. Sondland replied simply, “Call me.”

The next day, Mr. Taylor described a “nightmare” situation in which the Ukrainians announced they would conduct the investigations Mr. Trump wanted and still not receive the security assistance. “The Russians love it,” he wrote of that potential outcome. “(And I quit.)”

Mr. Taylor could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The texts thrust him into the center of the blossoming controversy, and he is now almost certain to be called to testify by lawmakers.

Democrats leading the investigation said the messages “reflect serious concerns raised by a State Department official about the detrimental effects of withholding critical military assistance from Ukraine, and the importance of setting up a meeting between President Trump and the Ukrainian president without further delay.”

Republicans demanded a full transcript of Mr. Volker’s interview be released. “The facts we learned today undercut the salacious narrative that Adam Schiff is using to sell his impeachment ambitions,” wrote Representatives Jim Jordan and Devin Nunes, the top Republicans on the Oversight and Reform and Intelligence committees, referring to the chairman of the intelligence panel.

When the Trump administration forced out Marie L. Yovanovitch, the former ambassador, before her term was up, Mr. Taylor was sent to be the chargé d’affaires, the No. 2 post in an embassy, and acting ambassador. Mr. Taylor was a former ambassador in Ukraine, serving from 2006 to 2009.

The texts among Mr. Volker, Mr. Sondland and Mr. Taylor portray Mr. Taylor as a diplomat deeply skeptical of the Trump administration’s approach to Ukraine, flabbergasted that the military assistance had been cut off — and firmly believing that the White House was asking for Ukraine to begin political investigations in return for the aid being released.

In one text, he worried about how the hold would affect Ukrainians’ view of the United States and if it would have “shaken their faith in us.”

The texts also suggest that Mr. Volker, a former ambassador to NATO, was deeply intertwined in efforts by the president and Mr. Giuliani to press the Ukrainians into action.

Mr. Volker’s name appears several times in an anonymous C.I.A. whistle-blower complaint that set off the impeachment inquiry, and Mr. Giuliani has said publicly he briefed Mr. Volker on his efforts. The complaint centers on a July call Mr. Trump had with Mr. Zelensky, in which he pressed him to investigate Mr. Biden, and asserts that Mr. Volker advised the Ukrainians on how to “navigate” Mr. Trump’s demands.

In his session with investigators, Mr. Volker presented himself as a diplomat caught in the middle “trying to solve a problem” and help Ukraine, but as someone who was not “fully in the loop” on the president’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate his rivals, according to a person briefed on his testimony.

Mr. Volker told investigators that even as he agreed to set up a meeting between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Zelensky’s top aide, he warned Mr. Giuliani that he believed the conspiracy theories Mr. Giuliani was pursuing were unfounded. While there may have been Ukrainians interested in influencing the United States government, Mr. Volker told investigators that he thought it was implausible that Mr. Biden or the Hillary Clinton campaign did anything wrong.

Mr. Volker told the committee staff that he was never informed that Mr. Trump raised Mr. Biden or the 2016 election during the July 25 phone call, nor was he shown the rough transcript afterward. He was in Ukraine at the time and met the next day with Mr. Zelensky, who he said raised no concerns about the call with him.

In his testimony, Mr. Volker told investigators he believed Mr. Taylor was a diplomat of high integrity. But he also said he did not see the freezing of the assistance as directly linked to Mr. Trump’s interest in beginning a new Ukraine investigation as Mr. Taylor did, according to a person familiar with the testimony.

Mr. Taylor concluded that the assistance was linked to Mr. Trump’s desire for new investigations in Ukraine based on news reports, Mr. Volker testified, according to the person. While Mr. Taylor feared the aid would never come, Mr. Volker told House investigators he was sure that Congress or the Pentagon would force the administration to release the assistance and the issue would be resolved. Mr. Volker believed if he could persuade Mr. Trump that Mr. Zelensky was trustworthy, he could push the relationship to a better place, he said in his testimony.

Mr. Volker told the committee that he did not act at Mr. Pompeo’s behest but briefed the secretary of state who approved of his actions. He also said he kept John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, informed.

The interview, which Mr. Volker participated in voluntarily, took place out of public view. The text exchange was part of a trove of more than 60 pages of documents, many of them texts, that Mr. Volker provided before he arrived.

Mr. Volker resigned on Friday from his part-time, unpaid State Department post without public explanation. A person familiar with his thinking said the longtime diplomat concluded he could no longer be effective in the post in light of the unfolding scandal. But the resignation also freed him to appear before the House investigators without restrictions, according to people familiar with his account.

Democrats are pushing their impeachment investigation forward with haste, issuing near-daily requests or subpoenas for documentary evidence and witness testimony.

The session with Mr. Volker was the first in what is expected to be a fast-paced series of interviews in the coming weeks, when Democrats aim to bring a parade of witnesses behind closed doors for questioning. Ms. Yovanovitch is expected to appear next week.

Other State Department diplomats, including Mr. Sondland, and associates of Mr. Giuliani’s are scheduled to participate, as well, but it remains to be seen whether they will appear voluntarily. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the committee this week that its requests were inappropriately aggressive and untenable.

Maggie Haberman contributed reporting from New York, and Lara Jakes from Washington.

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Hong Kong Bans Face Masks At Public Assemblies

Westlake Legal Group gettyimages-1173576939_wide-9cd48d0322cf0599ef02f62713004d6f9a986f8d-s1100-c15 Hong Kong Bans Face Masks At Public Assemblies

A woman wearing a face mask with the characters meaning “conscience” takes part in a protest against a government ban on protesters wearing face masks in Hong Kong on Friday. Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images hide caption

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Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

Westlake Legal Group  Hong Kong Bans Face Masks At Public Assemblies

A woman wearing a face mask with the characters meaning “conscience” takes part in a protest against a government ban on protesters wearing face masks in Hong Kong on Friday.

Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

Hong Kong’s embattled chief executive Carrie Lam says she is invoking emergency powers to ban face masks during public assemblies starting at midnight Friday (12 p.m. ET).

The ban on face masks is an attempt to quell increasingly violent anti-government protests that have racked the city for more than 17 weeks.

“One thing is certain. If law breakers are not wearing masks, it is much easier for us to prove the charges and bring them to courts,” said Hong Kong’s security secretary John Lee Ka-chiu at a last-minute press conference held to announce the ban in Hong Kong.

Those who violate the ban face a year in prison or a fine of up to 25,000 Hong Kong dollars, or about $3,200. Face paint will also be prohibited.

The colonial-era Emergency Regulations Ordinance gives Lam broad powers to undertake security measures in times of public danger or emergency, such as censoring communications or raiding homes without a warrant. This is the first time the ordinance has been used in more than half-a-century; the last time was in 1967, during labor disputes and anti-government protests under British rule.

Yet Lam was adamant that Hong Kong was not in a state of emergency and reassured investors that Hong Kong was still a safe place to do business. “We would not use the ordinance to do things that harm Hong Kong’s public interest,” she told reporters.

Several pro-democracy activists have already said they will mount judicial appeals to challenge the use of emergency powers.

Hong Kong’s decision to invoke emergency powers comes after some of the worst violence yet occurred on Tuesday, the same day Beijing staged massive celebrations in commemoration of 70 years of Communist Party rule.

Thousands of Hong Kong protesters staged a peaceful march against “global totalitarianism.” But by mid-afternoon, the peaceful march had broken up into pitched street fights between hardcore protesters and Hong Kong police. During the violence, a police officer shot and critically wounded an 18-year-old protester.

Videos of the incident from multiple angles show masked protesters attacking the police officer with umbrellas and metal rods and tackling another to the ground before the shot was fired. Hong Kong police are armed with batons, tear gas and rubber bullets and are only permitted to fire live rounds when facing “assaults to cause or likely to cause death or serious bodily injury.”

Hundreds of protesters wearing surgical and other masks gathered in Hong Kong’s central business district Friday for a demonstration against the mask ban. A mass protest against police violence is planned for the weekend.

In the last few weeks, Lam has tried to deescalate the anti-government protests, which demand among other things that she call an independent police inquiry into violence against protesters, institute universal suffrage and step down.

In September, Lam officially withdrew a proposed extradition bill that would have sent suspected criminals to be tried in mainland China, a proposal that touched off the nearly four months of protests. She also held her first town hall meeting three weeks later with Hong Kong residents to better understand community grievances and to create policy solutions.

Protesters say that the compromises are too little, too late. Lam reiterated today that she would not step down.

Lam has indicated resolving the protesters’ demands may be up to Beijing and not entirely up to her, however. In a leaked recording of a private talk obtained by Reuters, Lam can be heard telling a group of businessmen that, “If I have a choice, the first thing is to quit, having made a deep apology, is to step down.”

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Price of General Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million

The childhood home of Robert E. Lee is now available with a price cut.

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Built in 1795, the historic home is back on the market for $5.6 million. It was available last year for $8.5 million.

Even with the hefty 34% price cut, the property in Alexandria, VA, still sits far above the city’s median list price of $549,900. It’s also the most expensive home for sale in the city. However, it’s now more in line with the top of the market. The second-priciest place in Alexandria is $5.2 million and offers a similar square footage.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-2-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

Even with the hefty 34% price cut, the property in Alexandria, VA, still sits far above the city’s median list price of $549,900. It’s also the most expensive home for sale in the city. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

SAN FRANCISCO’S LEAST EXPENSIVE HOME STILL COSTS $600G

This graceful structure was the home of the Confederate general from the age of 5 until he entered West Point in 1825. The home also hosted President George Washington before the Lee family moved in.

Mark and Ann Kington had purchased the property for $2.5 million in 2000 from the Lee-Jackson Foundation. The property had been a museum for decades, but the nonprofit group could no longer afford its upkeep.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-7-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

The original windows were rebuilt or replaced, and an astonishing 43 layers of paint were removed. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

After a three-year, multimillion-dollar renovation, the couple lived in the home with their children. But the 8,145-square-foot manse is now too big for the empty nesters, according to the Alexandria Times.

Improvements included a new kitchen and baths and a new roof. The original windows were rebuilt or replaced, and an astonishing 43 layers of paint were removed.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-6-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

The spacious master suite features a sitting area and fireplace. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

“It’s an amazing, extraordinary restoration of the home. The infrastructure is incredibly modern, but the whole house looks as if it’s of the period,” says listing agent Christopher Leary of HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-3-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

Featuring high ceilings, the space includes multiple seating areas and a large formal dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

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Located in Old Town Alexandria, the Federal-style abode, one of the earliest homes in the area, features a grand two-story space, with six bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms.

Featuring high ceilings, the space includes multiple seating areas and a large formal dining room with floor-to-ceiling windows. A modern kitchen includes a center island and glass-front cabinets. The spacious master suite features a sitting area and fireplace. The master bath comes with dual vanities and a stand-alone tub. Other features include an office, a drawing room, a family room, and a rec room.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-4-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

The location of the home is just steps to shops, restaurants, grocery stores, Founders Park, and the Potomac River waterfront marina. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

Outside, a half-acre of gardens and patios incorporates space for dining. The grounds include a detached studio as well as a two-car garage.

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The residence, filled with history, is a registered Virginia Landmark, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-5-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

Improvements included a new kitchen and baths and a new roof. (HRL Partners at Washington Fine Properties)

The location of the home is just steps to shops, restaurants, grocery stores, Founders Park, and the Potomac River waterfront marina. It’s also just minutes to downtown DC and Amazon’s future HQ2 in Crystal City.

This article appeared on Realtor.com.

Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-1-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article   Westlake Legal Group robert-e-lee-1-HRL-Partners-at-Washington-Fine-Properties Price of General Robert E. Lee's boyhood home slashed to $5.6 million Realtor.com fox-news/real-estate/selling fnc/real-estate fnc e50e0a30-3fa9-5f27-94a6-f1ca574524cb Claudine Zap article

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Medicare Shopping Season Is Almost Here

Westlake Legal Group 04Retiring-illo-facebookJumbo Medicare Shopping Season Is Almost Here Retirement Medicare Kaiser Family Foundation Health Insurance and Managed Care Elderly Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Aetna Inc

If you’re enrolled in Medicare but worry about the cost of health care, your chance to do something about it is right around the corner.

Most people enroll in Medicare when they become eligible at age 65. But every fall, they have the opportunity to change their coverage during an enrollment season that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is the time of year when you can switch between original fee-for-service Medicare and Medicare Advantage, the all-in-one managed care alternative to the traditional program. You also can re-evaluate your prescription drug coverage — whether that is a stand-alone Part D plan, or wrapped into an Advantage plan.

It’s a good idea to do a checkup on your coverage, even if you are happy with your current choices. Prescription drug plans often revise their lists of covered drugs, the rules under which they will be covered and their cost sharing. If you’re enrolled in an Advantage plan, it’s a good time to determine if your health care providers will be in your plan during the coming year, and whether a move to original Medicare makes sense.

Yet few Medicare enrollees take advantage of fall enrollment. For example, research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 11 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees voluntarily switch plans each year. Another study, conducted in 2013 by the foundation, found that 13 percent of Part D enrollees switch voluntarily. Yet nearly half (46 percent) of those who did switch plans cut their premiums at least 5 percent the following year.

“People are well aware that they should shop and compare, but it’s a lot of work,” says Tricia Neuman, director of the Kaiser foundation’s program on Medicare policy. “And they are not confident they’ll be able to choose a plan that provides better value.”

Fall enrollment provides the opportunity to make sure you’re getting the best-fit coverage and to save some money on premiums and other out-of-pocket costs.

The most basic Medicare enrollment decision is whether to use original fee-for-service Medicare or an Advantage plan. Most of the 64 million people enrolled in Medicare this year use the original program, but 34 percent are in Advantage plans, Kaiser reports.

Advantage plans often include extra benefits, including some level of dental, vision or hearing services, and gym memberships. This year, most Advantage enrollees (88 percent) are in plans that include drug coverage, and more than half of them (56 percent) pay no additional drug premium beyond their Part B premium, according to Kaiser.

The trade-off is that Advantage enrollees must use health care providers within their networks, or pay more for out-of-network services.

Enrollees in original Medicare have access to a much wider range of providers, and they do not need to navigate the referral requirements and prior authorization steps used by many Advantage plans.

Many enrollees in original Medicare buy supplemental Medigap policies to cover their out-of-pocket expenses. These can be significant. There’s no annual limit on what you pay out of pocket; Part A (hospitalization) has a deductible this year of $1,364 for each episode of illness, plus fixed daily costs for extended stays. Part B (outpatient care) covers 80 percent after you meet the annual deductible ($185 this year). Users of the original program usually also buy a prescription drug plan, with premiums averaging just over $33 a month this year.

But original Medicare can be less expensive for enrollees who encounter a serious illness and use a lot of services. That is because the annual premiums for Medigap, which cover nearly all cost-sharing requirements in Medicare Part A and B, usually are lower than the out-of-pocket limit found in Advantage plans.

Advantage plans are required to cap total out-of-pocket spending — the average among all plans this year for enrollees in H.M.O. or PPO plans is $5,059 for in-network services, according to Kaiser; the average limit rises to $8,818 when Advantage PPO enrollees use out-of-network services.

Medigap premiums, by contrast, vary greatly by region — but often it is possible to cap out-of-pocket costs at a lower level than what is available in Advantage plans. In New York City this year, Medigap Plan G plans, among the most comprehensive options, range in cost annually from $2,640 to $5,460, according to Medicare data. But in Nashville, Tenn., the same plans carry premiums ranging from $1,044 to $2,580.

“It’s important to look at the doctors and hospitals in the network,” Ms. Neuman said. “Many people are less likely to think about this when they first join Medicare, especially if they are relatively healthy. They don’t really consider whether specialists are in network until they do get a serious illness, which may come years after they first go on Medicare.”

Advantage enrollees who think they may want to shift to original Medicare with a Medigap plan should do so while they are still healthy. When you first sign up for Part B, Medicare’s “guaranteed issue” rules forbid Medigap plans from rejecting you, or charging a higher premium, because of any pre-existing conditions. But after that time, Medigap plans in most states are permitted to reject your application or charge higher premiums.

Medicare plan searches often begin with the Medicare Plan Finder, the official government website that posts stand-alone prescription drug, Medicare Advantage and Medigap offerings. The plan finder is a tool that allows you to browse plan options that match your medication and health provider needs, along with premiums. But a recent redesign of the plan finder has prompted worries among Medicare consumer advocates and organizations that help enrollees with plan selection.

Several studies had criticized the plan finder for confusing navigation and incomplete or incorrect information. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services aimed to correct these issues with the redesign, and Medicare advocates generally say the new tool is an improvement.

But the new plan finder was rolled out just before Labor Day, leaving little time for Medicare enrollment counselors to be trained and to identify problems before the busy fall enrollment period begins. (Users can choose between the old and new sites until Oct. 15; at that point, only the new site will be available.)

“October 15th is right around the corner, so the lead time has been very short,” said Ann Kayrish, senior program manager for Medicare at the National Council on Aging. Ms. Kayrish provides training to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, a national network of federally funded programs that provide free Medicare counseling using volunteers.

“SHIPs are struggling to train their volunteers not only on the new plan finder, but also all the changes with Medicare plans for the coming year,” she added.

The new site has shortcomings. After a detailed review, the Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy group, wrote to CMS this month calling for changes that are “urgently needed” before fall enrollment to improve the tool’s accuracy and usability. A key criticism is that the new tool does not allow users to sort plans by total out-of-pocket costs, including premiums but also deductibles, copays and coinsurance payments. That feature was available in the old plan finder.

“There are an overwhelming number of plans available, and our hope is that this new tool will make it easier for people to choose the best plan option with respect to affordability and coverage,” says Frederic Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “People are at risk of having to pay more for their drugs or plan by not reviewing their coverage. It concerns me that people pay more than they should or go without their prescription drugs due to plan restrictions.”

CMS declined to comment for this article, but in a posted FAQ about the new site it stated that a cost filter would be added, and that its plan to do so was “on track.”

The plan finder also lacks detailed information on health care providers in Advantage plans. That leaves enrollees the challenging task of reviewing directories provided by individual plan providers.

“Some plans give customers access to online search tools to look up a particular doctor or hospital,” Ms. Neuman said. “Others send out a PDF of a big, fat directory that you can look through.”

Directories often can be outdated or contain errors, studies have found. So it makes sense to ask your doctors and other providers directly if they participate in any plan you are considering.

The new plan finder also does not yet allow users to search for Medicare Advantage plans that will offer new nonmedical services next year.

The Chronic Care Act, approved by Congress last year, permits plans to begin paying for services such as grocery deliveries, caregiver support and retrofitting homes to support older adults with chronic conditions. They also are permitted to expand transportation services, which had been limited to visits to health care providers.

Advantage plans are not required to offer the new services, and they will be available on a very limited basis during 2020. Aetna, for example, expects to offer the expanded transportation services, fall prevention and help with meal preparation in just a few plans next year, said Christopher Ciano, senior vice president of Aetna Medicare.

“We’re still in a test and learning mode,” Mr. Ciano said.

Just as important, joining a plan that offers the new nonmedical benefits does not guarantee that you’ll receive them. The new benefits are targeted to enrollees with serious chronic illnesses or functional limitations, and Advantage plans will determine who qualifies. (Separately, President Trump signed an executive order this week instructing Medicare officials to propose ways to further beef up Advantage offerings and reduce their premiums. The executive order will not affect Advantage plan offerings for 2020.)

For now, the best way to find plans offering the new services is to contact plan providers by phone. But it’s not advisable to drive a plan choice solely by these new benefits, experts caution.

“It’s important to look beyond additional benefits, such as dental coverage or these new nonmedical services,” Mr. Riccardi said. “You need to look at the entire picture — the network of providers and cost-sharing for health services offered by the plan.”

The choices facing Medicare enrollees are complex, and it makes sense to get some unbiased help. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program provides free one-on-one counseling every year to nearly three million beneficiaries, their families and caregivers. Each state has a SHIP program; use this link to find yours.

The Medicare Rights Center suggests signing up for plans by contacting the program directly at 1-800-MEDICARE. Take detailed notes on your conversation, including the date and the Medicare representative’s name to protect yourself if you encounter any problems with enrollment.

Send us your questions on Medicare

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Medicare Shopping Season Is Almost Here

Westlake Legal Group 04Retiring-illo-facebookJumbo Medicare Shopping Season Is Almost Here Retirement Medicare Kaiser Family Foundation Health Insurance and Managed Care Elderly Drugs (Pharmaceuticals) Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Aetna Inc

If you’re enrolled in Medicare but worry about the cost of health care, your chance to do something about it is right around the corner.

Most people enroll in Medicare when they become eligible at age 65. But every fall, they have the opportunity to change their coverage during an enrollment season that runs from Oct. 15 through Dec. 7. This is the time of year when you can switch between original fee-for-service Medicare and Medicare Advantage, the all-in-one managed care alternative to the traditional program. You also can re-evaluate your prescription drug coverage — whether that is a stand-alone Part D plan, or wrapped into an Advantage plan.

It’s a good idea to do a checkup on your coverage, even if you are happy with your current choices. Prescription drug plans often revise their lists of covered drugs, the rules under which they will be covered and their cost sharing. If you’re enrolled in an Advantage plan, it’s a good time to determine if your health care providers will be in your plan during the coming year, and whether a move to original Medicare makes sense.

Yet few Medicare enrollees take advantage of fall enrollment. For example, research by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that just 11 percent of Medicare Advantage enrollees voluntarily switch plans each year. Another study, conducted in 2013 by the foundation, found that 13 percent of Part D enrollees switch voluntarily. Yet nearly half (46 percent) of those who did switch plans cut their premiums at least 5 percent the following year.

“People are well aware that they should shop and compare, but it’s a lot of work,” says Tricia Neuman, director of the Kaiser foundation’s program on Medicare policy. “And they are not confident they’ll be able to choose a plan that provides better value.”

Fall enrollment provides the opportunity to make sure you’re getting the best-fit coverage and to save some money on premiums and other out-of-pocket costs.

The most basic Medicare enrollment decision is whether to use original fee-for-service Medicare or an Advantage plan. Most of the 64 million people enrolled in Medicare this year use the original program, but 34 percent are in Advantage plans, Kaiser reports.

Advantage plans often include extra benefits, including some level of dental, vision or hearing services, and gym memberships. This year, most Advantage enrollees (88 percent) are in plans that include drug coverage, and more than half of them (56 percent) pay no additional drug premium beyond their Part B premium, according to Kaiser.

The trade-off is that Advantage enrollees must use health care providers within their networks, or pay more for out-of-network services.

Enrollees in original Medicare have access to a much wider range of providers, and they do not need to navigate the referral requirements and prior authorization steps used by many Advantage plans.

Many enrollees in original Medicare buy supplemental Medigap policies to cover their out-of-pocket expenses. These can be significant. There’s no annual limit on what you pay out of pocket; Part A (hospitalization) has a deductible this year of $1,364 for each episode of illness, plus fixed daily costs for extended stays. Part B (outpatient care) covers 80 percent after you meet the annual deductible ($185 this year). Users of the original program usually also buy a prescription drug plan, with premiums averaging just over $33 a month this year.

But original Medicare can be less expensive for enrollees who encounter a serious illness and use a lot of services. That is because the annual premiums for Medigap, which cover nearly all cost-sharing requirements in Medicare Part A and B, usually are lower than the out-of-pocket limit found in Advantage plans.

Advantage plans are required to cap total out-of-pocket spending — the average among all plans this year for enrollees in H.M.O. or PPO plans is $5,059 for in-network services, according to Kaiser; the average limit rises to $8,818 when Advantage PPO enrollees use out-of-network services.

Medigap premiums, by contrast, vary greatly by region — but often it is possible to cap out-of-pocket costs at a lower level than what is available in Advantage plans. In New York City this year, Medigap Plan G plans, among the most comprehensive options, range in cost annually from $2,640 to $5,460, according to Medicare data. But in Nashville, Tenn., the same plans carry premiums ranging from $1,044 to $2,580.

“It’s important to look at the doctors and hospitals in the network,” Ms. Neuman said. “Many people are less likely to think about this when they first join Medicare, especially if they are relatively healthy. They don’t really consider whether specialists are in network until they do get a serious illness, which may come years after they first go on Medicare.”

Advantage enrollees who think they may want to shift to original Medicare with a Medigap plan should do so while they are still healthy. When you first sign up for Part B, Medicare’s “guaranteed issue” rules forbid Medigap plans from rejecting you, or charging a higher premium, because of any pre-existing conditions. But after that time, Medigap plans in most states are permitted to reject your application or charge higher premiums.

Medicare plan searches often begin with the Medicare Plan Finder, the official government website that posts stand-alone prescription drug, Medicare Advantage and Medigap offerings. The plan finder is a tool that allows you to browse plan options that match your medication and health provider needs, along with premiums. But a recent redesign of the plan finder has prompted worries among Medicare consumer advocates and organizations that help enrollees with plan selection.

Several studies had criticized the plan finder for confusing navigation and incomplete or incorrect information. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services aimed to correct these issues with the redesign, and Medicare advocates generally say the new tool is an improvement.

But the new plan finder was rolled out just before Labor Day, leaving little time for Medicare enrollment counselors to be trained and to identify problems before the busy fall enrollment period begins. (Users can choose between the old and new sites until Oct. 15; at that point, only the new site will be available.)

“October 15th is right around the corner, so the lead time has been very short,” said Ann Kayrish, senior program manager for Medicare at the National Council on Aging. Ms. Kayrish provides training to State Health Insurance Assistance Programs, a national network of federally funded programs that provide free Medicare counseling using volunteers.

“SHIPs are struggling to train their volunteers not only on the new plan finder, but also all the changes with Medicare plans for the coming year,” she added.

The new site has shortcomings. After a detailed review, the Medicare Rights Center, an advocacy group, wrote to CMS this month calling for changes that are “urgently needed” before fall enrollment to improve the tool’s accuracy and usability. A key criticism is that the new tool does not allow users to sort plans by total out-of-pocket costs, including premiums but also deductibles, copays and coinsurance payments. That feature was available in the old plan finder.

“There are an overwhelming number of plans available, and our hope is that this new tool will make it easier for people to choose the best plan option with respect to affordability and coverage,” says Frederic Riccardi, president of the Medicare Rights Center. “People are at risk of having to pay more for their drugs or plan by not reviewing their coverage. It concerns me that people pay more than they should or go without their prescription drugs due to plan restrictions.”

CMS declined to comment for this article, but in a posted FAQ about the new site it stated that a cost filter would be added, and that its plan to do so was “on track.”

The plan finder also lacks detailed information on health care providers in Advantage plans. That leaves enrollees the challenging task of reviewing directories provided by individual plan providers.

“Some plans give customers access to online search tools to look up a particular doctor or hospital,” Ms. Neuman said. “Others send out a PDF of a big, fat directory that you can look through.”

Directories often can be outdated or contain errors, studies have found. So it makes sense to ask your doctors and other providers directly if they participate in any plan you are considering.

The new plan finder also does not yet allow users to search for Medicare Advantage plans that will offer new nonmedical services next year.

The Chronic Care Act, approved by Congress last year, permits plans to begin paying for services such as grocery deliveries, caregiver support and retrofitting homes to support older adults with chronic conditions. They also are permitted to expand transportation services, which had been limited to visits to health care providers.

Advantage plans are not required to offer the new services, and they will be available on a very limited basis during 2020. Aetna, for example, expects to offer the expanded transportation services, fall prevention and help with meal preparation in just a few plans next year, said Christopher Ciano, senior vice president of Aetna Medicare.

“We’re still in a test and learning mode,” Mr. Ciano said.

Just as important, joining a plan that offers the new nonmedical benefits does not guarantee that you’ll receive them. The new benefits are targeted to enrollees with serious chronic illnesses or functional limitations, and Advantage plans will determine who qualifies. (Separately, President Trump signed an executive order this week instructing Medicare officials to propose ways to further beef up Advantage offerings and reduce their premiums. The executive order will not affect Advantage plan offerings for 2020.)

For now, the best way to find plans offering the new services is to contact plan providers by phone. But it’s not advisable to drive a plan choice solely by these new benefits, experts caution.

“It’s important to look beyond additional benefits, such as dental coverage or these new nonmedical services,” Mr. Riccardi said. “You need to look at the entire picture — the network of providers and cost-sharing for health services offered by the plan.”

The choices facing Medicare enrollees are complex, and it makes sense to get some unbiased help. The State Health Insurance Assistance Program provides free one-on-one counseling every year to nearly three million beneficiaries, their families and caregivers. Each state has a SHIP program; use this link to find yours.

The Medicare Rights Center suggests signing up for plans by contacting the program directly at 1-800-MEDICARE. Take detailed notes on your conversation, including the date and the Medicare representative’s name to protect yourself if you encounter any problems with enrollment.

Send us your questions on Medicare

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Billy Hallowell: Amber Guyger’s murder trial ended with an amazing act of forgiveness

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6091844070001_6091847643001-vs Billy Hallowell: Amber Guyger’s murder trial ended with an amazing act of forgiveness fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime fox-news/opinion fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/opinion fnc Billy Hallowell article 96363140-a0d6-5b2c-b399-7df126e7bf22

Americans are captivated by the amazing forgiveness story out of Texas – a young man’s bold decision to not only forgive, but to openly embrace the ex-cop who killed his brother.

Video of the courtroom moment Wednesday when Brandt Jean – the 18-year-old brother of victim Botham Jean – chose to forgive and then embrace convicted killer Amber Guyger left many viewers in tears as the power of true faith and restoration was on full display.

But there was another element of the story that sparked some intense controversy: the presiding judge’s decision to also embrace and give her Bible to the convicted killer.

AMBER GUYGER SENTENCED TO 10 YEARS IN SHOOTING THAT KILLED BOTHAM JEAN IN DALLAS; VICTIM’S BROTHER HUGS HER IN COURT

Judge Tammy Kemp brought a Bible into the courtroom after Jean’s stunning act of forgiveness and handed it to Guyger before delivering a powerful message about hope, redemption and life change.

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“You can have mine. I have three or four at home,” Kemp told the convicted killer when the judge handed her the Bible. “You just need a tiny mustard seed of faith. You start with this.”

And Kemp wasn’t done there. She referenced John 3:16, embraced Guyger and offered an essential truth that can benefit all of our lives: “You haven’t done so much that you can’t be forgiven. You did something bad in one moment in time. What you do now matters.”

This was a moment that further touched many hearts, but some critics like writer Jemele Hill took a starkly different view on the matter, calling Kemp’s handling of the matter “unacceptable.”

“How Botham Jean’s brother chooses to grieve is his business. He’s entitled to that,” she tweeted. “But this judge choosing to hug this woman is unacceptable. Keep in mind this convicted murderer is the same one who laughed about Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, and killing ppl on sight.”

Hill is entitled to her opinion, but she and others miss the mark on the true depths of the remarkable moment that unfolded before the eyes of a weary and divided nation – a country so culturally splintered and desperate for hope, forgiveness and compassion that the bold audacity displayed by both Jean and Kemp stopped nearly everyone in his or her tracks.

Their extraordinary display placed grace, humanity, love and forgiveness in front of hate, anger and condemnation. As for Kemp – an official charged with upholding the law – she could have simply left the courtroom; she could have chosen to ignore Guyger and move on with her day.

But, instead, the judge looked beyond herself and outside of the terrible and horrific mistakes that Guyger made, and she saw a human being – an individual in need of truth, restoration and the saving grace that can only be found in the gospel narrative.

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Regardless of what one believes about faith and God, the judge’s kind act is not only commendable, but it’s essential. It doesn’t wipe away Guyger’s crime; instead, it offers her a pathway to the only spiritual antidote available.

Perhaps people don’t realize the true call Christians have to “love God” and “love others.” These aren’t mere words. They are a true and oft-times difficult calling for believers to live like Jesus. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus implores his followers to love their enemies and “pray for those who persecute you.” In Romans, Paul tells Christians to feed and help their enemies.

On the cross, Jesus himself asks God to forgive those crucifying him, saying, “they do not know what they are doing.” I could go on and on, as this is the central message of the Bible.

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Kemp both saw Guyger as more than a convicted killer. She saw her as a human being in need of God’s love, and that’s a powerful reminder of the level of kindness and compassion that we are called to as Christians and human beings.

No matter what you believe about faith, it shouldn’t be difficult to understand this judge’s pure motive to help this woman seek true heart change.

CLICK HERE TO READ MORE BY BILLY HALLOWELL

Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6091844070001_6091847643001-vs Billy Hallowell: Amber Guyger’s murder trial ended with an amazing act of forgiveness fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime fox-news/opinion fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/opinion fnc Billy Hallowell article 96363140-a0d6-5b2c-b399-7df126e7bf22   Westlake Legal Group 694940094001_6091844070001_6091847643001-vs Billy Hallowell: Amber Guyger’s murder trial ended with an amazing act of forgiveness fox-news/world/religion/christianity fox-news/us/crime/police-and-law-enforcement fox-news/us/crime fox-news/opinion fox-news/faith-values fox news fnc/opinion fnc Billy Hallowell article 96363140-a0d6-5b2c-b399-7df126e7bf22

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National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis

Whether you like your vodka cocktails shaken, stirred, dry, or dirty, there’s a lot to learn about this clear spirit. So in honor of National Vodka Day, Fox News consulted a range of experts to deliver some insights — and recipes — regarding one of America’s preferred spirits.

Bob Nolet, the vice president of marketing and the master distiller at Nolet Spirits, the producers of Ketel One, tells Fox News the drink has been “popular in the U.S. for a very long time,” but credits the “cocktail mania” of the ’80s for inspiring his own mother — among other spirit innovators — to develop their brands suited to new tastes.

WHISKEY VS. WHISKY: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?

And after long and careful consideration, he’s pretty confident that 007’s preferred martini was made with vodka as opposed to gin.

“James Bond’s preferred martini is a vodka martini, judging by how often he orders them in his novels,” says Nolet says. “He orders 19 vodka martinis, 16 gin martinis and one Vesper martini, made with both.” (The website VinePair also credits 1962 film adaptation of “Dr. No” with popularizing the notion of a vodka martini, after Bond is provided with one at his request.)

<img src="https://a57.foxnews.com/static.foxnews.com/foxnews.com/content/uploads/2019/10/640/320/DrNoGettyImages.jpg?ve=1&tl=1" alt=""James Bond's preferred martini is a vodka martini, judging by how often he orders them in his novels," claims Bob Nolet, the vice president of marketing and the master distiller at Nolet Spirits. (Bond also specifically ordered a vodka martini in the film version of "Dr. No.")”>

“James Bond’s preferred martini is a vodka martini, judging by how often he orders them in his novels,” claims Bob Nolet, the vice president of marketing and the master distiller at <a data-cke-saved-href=”https://www.noletspirits.com/” href=”https://www.noletspirits.com/” target=”_blank”>Nolet Spirits</a>. (Bond also specifically ordered a vodka martini in the film version of “Dr. No.”) (LMPC via Getty Images)

And not only is Bond fond of vodka —so are Americans. In the United States, vodka commands about 33 percent of the market share (by volume) among all spirits categories, and it ranks as the largest spirits category in the U.S., by volume, according to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis.

The popularity of vodka very much predates James Bond, however. Jonathan Hemi of Crystal Head Vodka says the spirit can be traced all the way back to the 15th century.

“The word ‘vodka’ has many different origin stories tracing back as early as 1405, and is said to be a Slavic word for water,” said Hemi.

LOOK: MAN DRINKS ‘SOURTOE COCKTAIL’ CONTAINING HIS OWN AMPUTATED TOE

As explained by Miguel Aranda, expert mixologist of Osteria 57, vodka became popular with monks and apothecaries in Eastern Europe around the 1800s. “It was used to cure illness, and was a very high-proof amount, and they used to give people a very little bit,” he said.

Aranda added, however, that the history gets complicated when it comes to whether vodka was created in Russia or Poland.

“A monk from Poland went to Russia, and then from Russia, another monk perfected the recipe,” said Aranda. “So both countries are really the motherland of vodka.”

Westlake Legal Group VodkaMartinis National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

Vodka’s interesting history goes back hundreds and hundreds of years. (iStock)

So how do Russia, Poland and the United States rank in vodka consumption? According to IWSR Drinks Market Analysis, the per capita adult consumption of vodka in Russia is 12.6 liters, versus Poland’s 7.1 liters and the United States’ 2.8 liters.

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When it comes to making vodka, Aranda says the spirit is typically made from grain or potatoes, but adds that vodka “can be made out of anything that produces sugar.”

Josh Gandee, the beverage director at Watershed Distillery in Columbus, Ohio, notes that his company’s vodka focuses on Midwestern staples.

“There are two ingredients that shine through in Watershed Distillery Vodka: corn and apples — sourced close to home in the Midwest,” explained Gandee.

Crystal Head Vodka’s Hemi, meanwhile, says the company’s original vodka uses Canadian corn while its Aurora vodka is distilled from English wheat. The founder of Empower cocktails, Tiffany Hall, opts for sweet potato vodka in her product, “as it has a unique smoothness and pairs well with other ingredients.”

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To find out more about the history of vodka and the distillation process, watch the full video above. For some vodka cocktails to enjoy see below:

The Perfect Ketel One Martini 

Westlake Legal Group Ketel-One National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

(Nolet Spirits)

Ingredients:

  • 1.25 ounces Ketel One® Vodka
  • 0.25 ounces dry vermouth
  • Lemon twist 

Method:

  • Stir vodka with ice in a mixing glass
  • Strain into a martini glass
  • Garnish with a lemon twist

Pop Art

Westlake Legal Group POP-ART National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

Pop Art, by Tyler Moschler and Kate Fitzgerrell, is served at Brooklyn’s Vietnamese gastropub Bricolage. (Bricolage)

 Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces lemongrass-infused Vodka
  • 1 ounce ginger syrup
  • 1 ounce lime
  • 2 ounces sencha tea

 Method:

  • Mix ingredients together
  • Carbonate (with at-home carbonation or soda machine) and bottle
  • Garnish with dehydrated lime and serve

Polish 75

Westlake Legal Group POlish75 National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

(Belvedere)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Belvedere Vodka
  • .75 ounces simple syrup
  • .75 ounces lemon juice
  • Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut

Method:

  • Add all ingredients, except champagne, to a shaker with ice and shake
  • Strain into a champagne flute
  • Top with Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut

Remember the Grain

Westlake Legal Group Remeber-the-Grain National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

(Belvedere)

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 ounces Belvedere Smogory Forest
  • .60 ounces Cherry Heering
  • .30 ounce sweet vermouth
  • 2 dashes absinthe
  • 2 dashes chocolate bitters

Method:

  • Stir all ingredients over cubed ice in mixing glass
  • Strain into chilled glass over large ice cube and serve

The NEFT Henry Africa Martini

Westlake Legal Group Henry-AFrica-Martini National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

(NEFT Vodka)

Ingredients: 

  • 1.75 ounces NEFT Vodka
  • .75 ounces fresh lemon juice
  • .25 ounces simple syrup
  • Splash of orange liqueur
  • Dash of Angostura bitters
  • Tajin sugar (one part Tajin seasoning mixed with three parts sugar) for rim
  • Lemon wheel for garnish

Method:

  • Shake all ingredients with NEFT Vodka and ice
  • Strain into a Tajin sugar-rimmed martini glass
  • Garnish with a citrus wheel

Espresso Martini

Westlake Legal Group EspressoMartini National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

Trevor Schneider, National Reyka Vodka ambassador, shares his recipe for the espresso martini. (iStock)

Ingredients:

  • 2 parts Reyka Vodka
  • 1 part espresso
  • ¼ part Sugar in the Raw
  • Coffee beans, for garnish

Method:

  • Shake all ingredients, apart from coffee beans, with ice
  • Strain into coupe glass
  • Garnish with coffee beans

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Emily DeCiccio is a video producer and reporter for Fox News Digital Originals. Tweet her @EmilyDeCiccio.

Westlake Legal Group VodkaMartinis National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5   Westlake Legal Group VodkaMartinis National Vodka Day: How the spirit rose to popularity, and why James Bond might prefer it in his martinis fox-news/food-drink/drinks/spirits fox news fnc/food-drink fnc Emily DeCiccio article 4826c90b-078f-52d5-8bf6-bdfe36f080c5

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