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Democrats Vow to Protect Mueller’s Russia Investigation

Key U.S. Democratic lawmakers vowed Sunday they would try to protect the investigation of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign’s links to Russia from interference by his new acting attorney general, Matthew Whitaker, who often attacked the probe before Trump named him to oversee it.

Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said he would attempt to attach legislation to a must-pass government spending bill next month to keep the government from a partial shutdown to require that special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation be permitted to be completed unimpeded.

“There’s no reason that legislation shouldn’t pass,” Schumer told news network CNN. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell has opposed stand-alone legislation to protect Mueller, saying he has no reason to believe Trump will fire Mueller, even though the U.S. leader has often assailed the investigation as a “witch hunt,” a view echoed by Whitaker.

Schumer added, “I believe there are enough Republicans who will support us” in adding the Mueller protection measure to the budget legislation. Schumer said the Mueller legislation was needed because “there is every reason to believe there will be interference” by Whitaker, whom he called an “extreme partisan.”

Democratic Congressman Jerrold Nadler, set to become chairman of the House Judiciary Committee when Democrats assume control of the House of Representatives in January, said the panel’s first mission then would be to call Whitaker to testify at a hearing, via a subpoena if necessary, about his “expressed hostility to the investigation.”

Nadler called Whitaker “a complete political lackey” and said Trump appointed a “totally unqualified hatchet man to destroy the investigation.”

But Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway dismissed concerns about Whitaker’s past comments about the Mueller probe, saying “there’s no evidence to me” that he “knows anything about the ongoing Mueller investigation.”

Her husband, lawyer George Conway, wrote in a newspaper column last week that Whitaker had been illegally named, claiming that Whitaker needed Senate confirmation as does the head of any Cabinet agency. But Kellyanne Conway brushed off her husband’s contention, saying that “spouses disagree everyday.” Trump accused George Conway of trying to get “publicity for himself.”

The latest Democratic concerns about protecting Mueller arose last week when Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions, after criticizing him for more than a year for recusing himself from oversight of the Mueller probe. Trump then named Whitaker, Sessions’s chief of staff, to replace him, at least for the moment, as the country’s top law enforcement official.

Before joining the Justice Department last year, Whitaker said in commentary on CNN he could envision a scenario in which Trump might fire Sessions and replace him with a temporary attorney general, which is now what has happened. Whitaker, in the television remarks, suggested the replacement could then cut funding for Mueller’s investigation and his “investigation grinds almost to a halt.”

Whitaker suggested Mueller’s probe amounted to a “fishing expedition.”

But he has given no indication he plans to recuse himself from oversight of Mueller, saying he was “committed to leading a fair [Justice] Department with the highest ethical standards, that upholds the rule of law, and seeks justice for all Americans.” Sessions had handed Mueller oversight to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, recusing himself because of his support for Trump in the 2016 election and contacts he had with Russia’s then ambassador to Washington during the run-up to the voting two years ago.

Mueller has secured guilty pleas or convictions of several Trump campaign officials, but there is no deadline set for his conclusion of the investigation.

 

 

 

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Oman Oil Minister: Majority of OPEC and its Allies Support Cut

A majority of OPEC and allied oil exporters support a cut in the global supply of crude, Oman Oil Minister Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhi said on Sunday.

“Many of us share this view,” the minister said when asked about the need for a cut. Asked if it could amount to 500,000 or one million barrels per day, he replied: “I think it is unfair for me to throw numbers now.”

He was speaking in Abu Dhabi where an oil market monitoring committee was held on Sunday, attended by top exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“We need a consensus,” he said, indicating that non-OPEC Russia would need to approve any decision. Oman is also not a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal to cut oil output by up to 1 million barrels per day by OPEC and its allies, two sources close to the discussions told Reuters on Sunday.

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Oman Oil Minister: Majority of OPEC and its Allies Support Cut

A majority of OPEC and allied oil exporters support a cut in the global supply of crude, Oman Oil Minister Mohammed bin Hamad al-Rumhi said on Sunday.

“Many of us share this view,” the minister said when asked about the need for a cut. Asked if it could amount to 500,000 or one million barrels per day, he replied: “I think it is unfair for me to throw numbers now.”

He was speaking in Abu Dhabi where an oil market monitoring committee was held on Sunday, attended by top exporters Saudi Arabia and Russia.

“We need a consensus,” he said, indicating that non-OPEC Russia would need to approve any decision. Oman is also not a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.

Saudi Arabia is discussing a proposal to cut oil output by up to 1 million barrels per day by OPEC and its allies, two sources close to the discussions told Reuters on Sunday.

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Florida Declares Recount for Governor’s and US Senate Races

The Democratic candidate for governor in the state of Florida has rescinded the concession he made Tuesday night after the Florida secretary of state announced the governor’s race, as well as the race for a seat in the U.S. Senate, will be subject to a recount.

Andrew Gillum spoke to media Saturday shortly after the recount announcement. He said, “I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote. I say this recognizing that my fate may or may not change.” 

Gillum said every Floridian who participated in the election deserves the comfort of knowing that every vote will be counted.

After Gillum’s concession speech on Tuesday, DeSantis has proceeded as if he is the victor, appointing a transition team in preparation for taking office in January.

The recount decision was announced earlier Saturday after unofficial tallies were submitted. Florida state law requires a statewide machine recount when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, and a manual recount if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.

The governor’s race between Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, and Ron DeSantis, a Republican former congressman, showed DeSantis leading by 33,684 votes, or about 0.4 percent.

The contentious U.S. Senate race between Republican Governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson had Scott ahead by just 15,562 votes, a lead of 0.15 percent.

​Unofficial vote counts from county canvassing boards were submitted by a midday Saturday deadline, enabling the Florida secretary of state and the Division of Elections to determine that the returns met the legal thresholds requiring recounts.

The uncertainty over the outcome of the races has deepened divisions in a state that is likely to play a key role in the 2020 presidential election. The recounts will determine if Nelson returns to Capitol Hill or if Republicans increase their lead in the Senate.

The fight for Nelson’s seat has been particularly acrimonious, with both sides filing lawsuits. Scott, President Donald Trump and other Republicans have accused Nelson of trying to steal the election, while Nelson has alleged Scott is trying to stop officials from counting every ballot. Trump called the situation “a disgrace.”

Scott had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the election departments in South Florida’s Democratic-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed as ballots continued to be counted throughout the week. A state election spokeswoman said Friday, however, an investigation would not be launched because there was no evidence of fraud.

Judges ruled in favor of Scott late Friday, ordering election supervisors in the two counties to release information on the ballot-counting.

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Florida Declares Recount for Governor’s and US Senate Races

The Democratic candidate for governor in the state of Florida has rescinded the concession he made Tuesday night after the Florida secretary of state announced the governor’s race, as well as the race for a seat in the U.S. Senate, will be subject to a recount.

Andrew Gillum spoke to media Saturday shortly after the recount announcement. He said, “I am replacing my words of concession with an uncompromised and unapologetic call that we count every single vote. I say this recognizing that my fate may or may not change.” 

Gillum said every Floridian who participated in the election deserves the comfort of knowing that every vote will be counted.

After Gillum’s concession speech on Tuesday, DeSantis has proceeded as if he is the victor, appointing a transition team in preparation for taking office in January.

The recount decision was announced earlier Saturday after unofficial tallies were submitted. Florida state law requires a statewide machine recount when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, and a manual recount if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.

The governor’s race between Gillum, the Democratic mayor of Tallahassee, and Ron DeSantis, a Republican former congressman, showed DeSantis leading by 33,684 votes, or about 0.4 percent.

The contentious U.S. Senate race between Republican Governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson had Scott ahead by just 15,562 votes, a lead of 0.15 percent.

​Unofficial vote counts from county canvassing boards were submitted by a midday Saturday deadline, enabling the Florida secretary of state and the Division of Elections to determine that the returns met the legal thresholds requiring recounts.

The uncertainty over the outcome of the races has deepened divisions in a state that is likely to play a key role in the 2020 presidential election. The recounts will determine if Nelson returns to Capitol Hill or if Republicans increase their lead in the Senate.

The fight for Nelson’s seat has been particularly acrimonious, with both sides filing lawsuits. Scott, President Donald Trump and other Republicans have accused Nelson of trying to steal the election, while Nelson has alleged Scott is trying to stop officials from counting every ballot. Trump called the situation “a disgrace.”

Scott had asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the election departments in South Florida’s Democratic-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed as ballots continued to be counted throughout the week. A state election spokeswoman said Friday, however, an investigation would not be launched because there was no evidence of fraud.

Judges ruled in favor of Scott late Friday, ordering election supervisors in the two counties to release information on the ballot-counting.

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Unofficial Florida Vote Tallies Submitted to State Election Officials

Florida election officials are expected to announce soon whether hotly-contested midterm election races for the U.S. Senate and governor will be subject to recounts after unofficial tallies were submitted Saturday.

The contentious U.S. Senate race between Republican Governor Rick Scott and incumbent Democrat Bill Nelson has Scott ahead by about 15,000 votes, a lead of less than 0.25 percent.

The governor’s race between Republican former congressman Ron DeSantis and Democratic Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum has DeSantis leading by almost 36,000 votes, or about 0.4 percent.

Florida law requires a statewide machine recount when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent and a manual recount if the margin is less than 0.25 percent.

Unofficial vote counts from county canvassing boards were due to be submitted by midday Saturday. The Florida Secretary of State and the Division of Elections will then determine if the returns meet the legal thresholds requiring recounts.

The possibility of recounts has deepened divisions among voters in a state that is likely to play a key role in the 2020 presidential election. Recounts would determine if Nelson returns to Capitol Hill or if Republicans increase their lead in the Senate.

The fight for Nelson’s seat has been particularly acrimonious, with both sides filing lawsuits. Scott, President Donald Trump and other Republicans have accused Nelson of trying to steal the election, while Nelson has alleged Scott is trying to stop officials from counting every ballot. Trump called the situation “a disgrace.”

Scott has asked the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to investigate the election departments in South Florida’s Democratic-leaning Broward and Palm Beach counties after his lead narrowed as ballots continued to be counted throughout the week. A state election spokeswoman said Friday, however, an investigation would not be launched because there was no evidence of fraud.

Judges ruled in favor of Scott late Friday, ordering election supervisors in the two counties to release information on the ballot-counting.

Gillum conceded defeat Tuesday night but later said every vote should count after the results began to narrow. DeSantis has proceeded as if he is the victor, appointing a transition team in preparation for taking office in January.

 

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Study Links Social Media to Depression, Loneliness

University of Pennsylvania researchers say that for the first time they have linked social media use to increases in depression and loneliness.

The idea that social media is anything but social when it comes to mental health has been talked about for years, but not many studies have managed to actually link the two.

To do that, Penn researchers, led by psychologist Melissa Hunt, designed a study that focused on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The results were published in the November issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

How study worked

The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey and sent along photos of their battery screens, showing how often they were using their phones to access social media.

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” Hunt said. That term, ecologically valid, means that the research attempts to mimic real life.

The study divided the participants into two groups: The first group was allowed to maintain their normal social media habits. The other, the control group, was restricted to 10 minutes per day on each of the three platforms: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The restrictions were put in place for three weeks and then the participants returned and were tested for outcomes such as fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression and loneliness.

​Results of study

The results showed a very clear link between social media use and increased levels of depression and loneliness.

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness,” Hunt said. “These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She calls her findings the “grand irony” of social media.

What is it about social media that’s just so depressing?

Hunt says that it’s two major things. The first is that social media invites what Hunt calls “downward social comparison.” When you’re online, it can sometimes seem that “everyone else is cooler and having more fun and included in more things and you’re left out,” she said. And that’s just generally demoralizing.

The second factor is a bit more nuanced. 

“Time is a zero-sum game,” Hunt told VOA. “Every minute you spend online is a minute you are not doing your work or not meeting a friend for dinner or having a deep conversation with your roommate.”

And these real life activities are the ones that can bolster self-esteem and self worth, Hunt said.

What to learn

So what’s the takeaway?

People are on their devices, and that’s not going to change, she said. But as in life, a bit of moderation goes a long way. 

“In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” she added.

Hunt pointed out a few caveats to the study. First, it was done exclusively with 18- to 22-year-olds, and it is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people, Hunt said. But she expects her results should generalize at least for people through the age of 30.

Hunt says she is now beginning a study to gauge the emotional impact of dating apps.

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Study Links Social Media to Depression, Loneliness

University of Pennsylvania researchers say that for the first time they have linked social media use to increases in depression and loneliness.

The idea that social media is anything but social when it comes to mental health has been talked about for years, but not many studies have managed to actually link the two.

To do that, Penn researchers, led by psychologist Melissa Hunt, designed a study that focused on Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The results were published in the November issue of the Journal of Social and Clinical Psychology.

How study worked

The study was conducted with 143 participants, who before they began, completed a mood survey and sent along photos of their battery screens, showing how often they were using their phones to access social media.

“We set out to do a much more comprehensive, rigorous study that was also more ecologically valid,” Hunt said. That term, ecologically valid, means that the research attempts to mimic real life.

The study divided the participants into two groups: The first group was allowed to maintain their normal social media habits. The other, the control group, was restricted to 10 minutes per day on each of the three platforms: Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram.

The restrictions were put in place for three weeks and then the participants returned and were tested for outcomes such as fear of missing out (FOMO), anxiety, depression and loneliness.

​Results of study

The results showed a very clear link between social media use and increased levels of depression and loneliness.

“Using less social media than you normally would leads to significant decreases in both depression and loneliness,” Hunt said. “These effects are particularly pronounced for folks who were more depressed when they came into the study.”

She calls her findings the “grand irony” of social media.

What is it about social media that’s just so depressing?

Hunt says that it’s two major things. The first is that social media invites what Hunt calls “downward social comparison.” When you’re online, it can sometimes seem that “everyone else is cooler and having more fun and included in more things and you’re left out,” she said. And that’s just generally demoralizing.

The second factor is a bit more nuanced. 

“Time is a zero-sum game,” Hunt told VOA. “Every minute you spend online is a minute you are not doing your work or not meeting a friend for dinner or having a deep conversation with your roommate.”

And these real life activities are the ones that can bolster self-esteem and self worth, Hunt said.

What to learn

So what’s the takeaway?

People are on their devices, and that’s not going to change, she said. But as in life, a bit of moderation goes a long way. 

“In general, I would say, put your phone down and be with the people in your life,” she added.

Hunt pointed out a few caveats to the study. First, it was done exclusively with 18- to 22-year-olds, and it is unclear if the depressing effects of social media will cross generational lines to older or younger people, Hunt said. But she expects her results should generalize at least for people through the age of 30.

Hunt says she is now beginning a study to gauge the emotional impact of dating apps.

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