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White House preps for potential post-midterms staff turnover

The White House is bracing for a potential staffing turnover now that the midterm elections are in the rearview mirror, with some aides expected to depart in early 2023. 

The Biden administration so far has been remarkably stable compared to the Trump administration, with very few high-profile departures in its first two years. But that is likely to change as some officials prepare to move on, and others may be asked to transition to a potential 2024 reelection campaign. 

“We have made no secret of actively leading a diverse and wide effort to look for new talent from businesses, academia, labor and other sectors. And that’s just smart, prudent planning for the future,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday when asked if the White House was prepared for possible staff turnover. “But I don’t have any personnel announcements to make at this time.”

Jean-Pierre said Biden is “incredibly confident in his team here and is proud of the historic work that has been done these first two years,” highlighting the passage of an infrastructure law, legislation to fund computer chip manufacturing, a bipartisan gun safety bill and two sweeping Democratic bills passed via reconciliation that included key provisions on health insurance and climate change.

Some Democratic strategists believed there would have been calls for staffing changes at the White House had Democrats been wiped out in the midterms. But that didn’t come to pass, as the party will again hold a narrow Senate majority and a more narrow minority in the House than expected.

Instead, the midterms served as a galvanizing moment for Biden and his team that what they’re doing seems to be working for voters. Any changes to staff are likely to come from those who have been in the White House for two full years on top of any time spent on the 2020 campaign and are ready to move on.

“I just think we’ve reached the two year mark, there’s going to be change,” Jim Kessler, a co-founder of the centrist think tank Third Way, said in a recent interview.

One area where staff turnover is expected is on Biden’s economic team. Brian Deese, the director of the National Economic Council, will reportedly leave his role in the coming months, and Cecilia Rouse is scheduled to return to Princeton University in the spring after taking leave to serve as chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers.

Administration officials are hopeful that Biden’s Cabinet will remain intact to avoid any prolonged confirmation battle in a narrowly divided Senate. And administration allies are similarly optimistic that White House chief of staff Ron Klain will remain in the job for the foreseeable future.

“Ron’s ability to do so many things at the same time is something that I just, you rarely run across this,” Anita Dunn, a senior adviser to the president, said at an Axios event in late October.

“There is no better chief of staff,” she added. “My hope is he stays just as long as President Biden does, which means poor Ron is in for another six years.”

Klain, who has at times drawn the ire of some centrist senators amid legislative talks, has earned the backing of progressive Democrats in particular. And Biden himself has reportedly asked Klain to stay on.

That comes in contrast to the Trump administration, where the former president cycled through four chiefs of staff, four press secretaries and several Cabinet secretaries in one term.

In Trump’s first two years in office, 43 officials in the executive office of the president resigned or were promoted and therefore left their original positions, according to data compiled by Kathryn Dunn Tenpas, a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.

By comparison, Biden has seen 24 staffers in the executive office of the president depart or get promoted during his first two years in office, according to Tenpas’s tracker.

Trump also had seven Cabinet-level officials resign or be pushed out during his first two years in office. Meanwhile, Biden has yet to see a single Cabinet-level official step down since he took office.

Biden’s other top advisers — including Steve Ricchetti, Mike Donilon and Jen O’Malley Dillon — have also remained in their jobs for the past two years. Kate Bedingfield, who worked on the 2020 campaign and with Biden as vice president, briefly announced plans to depart from her job as communications director over the summer, only to reverse course and stay put.

The president likes to keep a tight inner circle filled with aides that he has known for years. One Democratic strategist who previously worked with Biden said they expected any major staffing changes would likely be in service of a possible reelection bid.

For example, Cedric Richmond left his job as a senior adviser to the president in May to work with the Democratic National Committee. 

Dunn, who herself left the White House in August 2021 only to return as a senior adviser, has already acknowledged that some planning is underway for staffing and strategizing around a 2024 campaign.

“He has said he intends to run,” Dunn said at the Axios event. “We are engaged in some planning, for the simple reason if we weren’t engaged in planning in November of this year, we should be in the political malpractice hall of fame.”

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Porch Pirates likely to strike this holiday season amidst online shopping peak times

JOPLIN, Mo. — Porch pirates are likely to be out in full force as online shopping hits a peak this time of year. They’re known for sneaking up to your porch – stealing those Christmas gifts that you just ordered.

Porch piracy is called “a crime of opportunity,” but it can be prevented. Some steps include installing security camera doorbells that can film the thieves and track movement.

Law enforcement officers also recommend taking another extra step by investing in a smart home security system, as it helps them out, too.

“They’re very effective. It usually is beneficial, a lot of them are pretty good on how clear the image is, and a lot of times we don’t know who that person is until we blast it out there on our Facebook page and say ‘Hey can you identify this person that was in a recent theft?’ You know, make sure that you aren’t a crime of opportunity when somebody walks by and sees it,” said Andy Blair – Sergeant of Training Division, Joplin Police.

Another way is to let a neighbor know when your packages are arriving so that person can collect them for you.

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Avoiding Black Friday, Cyber Monday scams

KSNF/KODE — Online shopping is expected to grow by 13.5% this holiday season. The ease and convenience of online shopping makes it an attractive option for busy holiday shoppers. However, with this increase comes the opportunity for cybercriminals to take advantage of shoppers.  

“Customers can do a lot to protect themselves from scams during the holiday season and all year. US Cellular wants to help businesses and customers sell and shop successfully, without worrying about fraud,” said Joe Cabrera, director of sales for US Cellular in Missouri and Kansas.

Here are some good safety tips to avoid seasonal scams:

  • Check out any links or attachments before opening — Go to sites for trusted retailers by typing their URL into the address bar directly instead of clicking on unknown links. Look for https:// at the beginning of the website address before entering payment information to ensure it is a secure website. 
  • Choose strong passwords and only use them in safe places — Use multi-factor identification if possible and ensure passwords are long and complex. Never log into a bank or use a credit card while connected to public Wi-Fi, and make sure cellular devices are set to “ask” networks to join.  
  • Shop reliable sites — Always verify that a website has a legitimate mailing address and a phone number for customer service questions. Don’t autosave credit card information and always read the reviews of an app or website to make sure it is secure. 
  • Look out for seasonal scams — Identity thieves know that shoppers may be particularly vulnerable during the holiday season. Be especially vigilant about fake promotions, pop-up ads, package tracking emails, phishing scams, e-cards, charity donation links and purchase confirmation emails. When in doubt, call the organization directly.  
  • Monitor all accounts closely — Enable automated notifications on the phone for credit card accounts to keep track of purchases and alert banks of any suspicious activity as soon as it happens.  
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Giving thanks to falling gas prices ahead of Thanksgiving

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Gas prices across the nation are continuing to drop, including here at home, so let’s give thanks to the little things.

The national average is now $3.66, down $0.11 from November 14.

Gas prices locally are now dropping, just in time for Thanksgiving travels.

New York’s average is now $3.85, up $0.05 from November 14.

On November 14, 2021, the New York average was $3.57.

On average, Syracuse residents are paying $3.77, down $0.04 from last week.

Prices of Gas Around CNY and WNY

  • Batavia – $3.71 (down 7 cents from last week)
  • Buffalo – $3.76 (down 2 cents from last week)
  • Elmira – $3.69 (down 8 cents from last week)
  • Ithaca – $3.80 (no change from last week)
  • Rochester – $3.80 (down 2 cents from last week)
  • Rome – $3.89 (down 2 cents from last week)
  • Syracuse – $3.77 (down 4 cents from last week)
  • Watertown – $3.91 (down 4 cents from last week)

Diesel fuel prices remain elevated, with the national average at $5.30, up from $3.65 one year ago.

The New York average for diesel is $5.95 compared to $3.76 one year ago.

According to AAA, Lower demand coupled with increased production from refineries that came back online, after being shut down for scheduled maintenance, is producing relief at the pump heading into the Thanksgiving holiday week.

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Reality TV’s Chrisleys sentenced for bank fraud, tax evasion

ATLANTA (AP) — Reality TV stars Todd and Julie Chrisley were sentenced Monday to lengthy prison terms after being convicted earlier this year on charges including bank fraud and tax evasion.

U.S. District Judge Eleanor Ross in Atlanta gave Todd Chrisley 12 years in prison plus 16 months of probation, while Julie Chrisley got seven years behind bars and 16 months of probation, news outlets reported.

The Chrisleys gained fame with their show “Chrisley Knows Best,” which follows their tight-knit, boisterous family. Federal prosecutors said the couple engaged in an extensive bank fraud scheme and then hid their wealth from tax authorities while flaunting their lavish lifestyle.

“The Chrisleys have built an empire based on the lie that their wealth came from dedication and hard work,” prosecutors wrote. “The jury’s unanimous verdict sets the record straight: Todd and Julie Chrisley are career swindlers who have made a living by jumping from one fraud scheme to another, lying to banks, stiffing vendors, and evading taxes at every corner.”

Todd Chrisley’s attorneys had argued in a court filing that he should not face more than nine years in prison. Julie Chrisley’s lawyers said a reasonable sentence for her would be probation with special conditions and no prison time.

The Chrisleys were convicted in June on charges of bank fraud, tax evasion and conspiring to defraud the IRS. Julie Chrisley was also convicted of wire fraud and obstruction of justice.

Prosecutors have said the couple submitted fake documents to banks and managed to secure more than $30 million in fraudulent loans. Once that scheme fell apart, they walked away from their responsibility to repay the loans when Todd Chrisley declared bankruptcy. While in bankruptcy, they started their reality show and “flaunted their wealth and lifestyle to the American public,” prosecutors wrote, and then hid the millions they made from the show from the IRS.

The Chrisleys also submitted a false document to a grand jury that was investigating their crimes and then convinced friends and family members to lie under oath during their trial, prosecutors argued. Neither has shown any remorse and they have, instead, blamed others for their criminal conduct, prosecutors wrote.

“The Chrisleys are unique given the varied and wide-ranging scope of their fraudulent conduct and the extent to which they engaged in fraud and obstructive behavior for a prolonged period of time,” prosecutors said.

Todd Chrisley’s lawyers said in a filing that the government never produced any evidence that he meant to defraud the banks, and that the loss amount calculated was incorrect. They also noted that the offenses were committed a long time ago and said he has no serious criminal history and has medical conditions that “would make imprisonment disproportionately harsh.”

His lawyers had also submitted letters from friends and business associates that show “a history of good deeds and striving to help others.” People who rely on Chrisley — including his mother and the many people employed by his television shows — will be harmed while he’s in prison, they argued.

They urged the judge to give him a prison sentence below the guideline range followed by supervised release and restitution.

Julie Chrisley’s lawyers contended that she played a minimal role in the conspiracy and was not involved when the loans discussed in sentencing documents were obtained. She has no prior convictions, is an asset to her community and has “extraordinary family obligations,” her lawyers wrote, as they asked for a sentence of probation, restitution and community service.

The Chrisleys have three children together, including one who is 16, and also full custody of the 10-year-old daughter of Todd Chrisley’s son from a prior marriage. Julie Chrisley is the primary caregiver to her ailing mother-in-law, according to the filing.

Her lawyers also submitted letters from character witnesses describing her as “hard-working, unfailingly selfless, devoted to her family and friend, highly respected by all who know her, and strong of character.”

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Support for stricter gun laws slips: Gallup

(The Hill) — The share of Americans supporting stricter gun laws has fallen 9 percentage points since June, according to a new Gallup poll.

The poll, released on Monday, found 57 percent of U.S. adults desired stricter gun laws, compared to 66 percent in June following high-profile mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, and a supermarket in Buffalo, N.Y.

The latest poll was taken before recent shootings at the University of Virginia and a Colorado Springs, Colo., nightclub, both of which have gained significant national attention.

Another 32 percent of respondents indicated gun laws should be kept as they are now, while an additional 10 percent wanted to see gun laws made less strict.

Gallup has surveyed the national mood toward gun laws since 1990, when it recorded a record high of 78 percent of Americans supporting stricter laws for gun sales.

Although the measure has fallen in recent months, it remains well above the record low of 43 percent recorded in October 2011 and the share who supported stricter gun laws one year ago.

Gallup’s newest survey, like those taken in the past, found support for stricter gun laws varies based on partisanship.

Eighty-six percent of Democrats, 60 percent of independents, and 27 percent of Republicans said they wanted stricter gun laws in the newest survey.

Support among each of the three groups has fallen since June, with the largest drop — 11 percentage points — among Republicans.

In the wake of the Uvalde and Buffalo mass shootings, lawmakers passed a bipartisan gun law that included provisions to strengthen background checks for firearm purchasers under the age of 21, provide funding for states to implement red flag laws and crack down on straw purchases, among others.

The bill had gotten unanimous support from Democratic lawmakers as well as 14 House Republicans and 15 Senate Republicans, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

The Gallup survey was conducted between Oct. 3 and Oct. 23 through telephone interviews with 1,009 U.S. adults. The margin of error is plus or minus 4 percentage points for the full sample.

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Taylor Swift fans sign petition against Ticketmaster after public ticket sale canceled

Taylor Swift fans aren’t ready to “Shake it Off” and move on from the fact that millions won’t get to see the artist in concert.

Graciela Perez from Florida started a Change.org petition asking the U.S. Department of Justice to end Ticketmaster’s Monopoly on concert tickets. Thousands of people signed the petition in less than a day.

The petition was created after Ticketmaster announced Thursday it canceled Friday’s planned general public ticket sale because there aren’t enough tickets.

The decision came two days after a presale event caused the site to crash and left many fans without tickets. The ticketing company said in a statement Thursday two million tickets to The Eras tour next year were sold during presales on Tuesday, the most tickets ever sold on the platform in a single day.

Swift is scheduled to play at GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium July 7, with a second show July 8.

The Chiefs said the organization didn’t have anything to do with ticket sales, but also hasn’t commented on whether the Arrowhead shows are sold out.

In the petition, Perez writes that the Justice Department needs to divide Ticketmaster and LiveNation.

“It’s impossible to understand Ticketmaster’s actual monopoly power without understanding that it is owned by LiveNation. LiveNation has a monopoly over promoting the biggest touring acts and securing them branded sponsorships in the process,” Perez wrote.

While it may seem like a long shot, it’s something at least one lawmaker is also suggesting.

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) believes the concert ticket situation was made worse when Live Nation and Ticketmaster merged in 2009.

Gillibrand says she also wants the Department of Justice to investigate what happened.

“We have to make sure that we can prove the merger did not harm consumers by creating this near monopoly,” Gillibrand said.

According to the Change.org petition, Perez agrees.

“If this is not stopped, ticket buyers will continue to deal with exorbitant fees and ridiculous wait times, with no other alternatives,” Perez wrote.

Perez also points out this issue doesn’t just impact people trying to buy tickets to see Taylor Swift’s latest tour, but it affects anyone who attends other concerts, sporting events, and live shows hosted by Ticketmaster-LiveNation.

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Starbucks workers plan strikes at more than 100 US stores on Thursday

Starbucks workers at more than 100 U.S. stores say they’re going on strike Thursday in what would be the largest labor action since a campaign to unionize the company’s stores began late last year.

The walkouts are scheduled to coincide with Starbucks’ annual Red Cup Day, when the company gives free reusable cups to customers who order a holiday drink. Workers say it’s often one of the busiest days of the year. Starbucks declined to say how many red cups it plans to distribute.

Workers say they’re seeking better pay, more consistent schedules and higher staffing levels in busy stores. Starbucks opposes the unionization effort, saying the company functions best when it works directly with employees. The Seattle coffee giant has more than 9,000 company-owned stores in the U.S.

Stores in 25 states planned to take part in the labor action, according to Starbucks Workers United, the group organizing the effort. Some workers planned to picket all day while others planned shorter walkouts. The union said the goal is to shut the stores down during the walkouts.

Willow Montana, a shift manager at a Starbucks store in Brighton, Massachusetts, planned to strike because Starbucks hasn’t begun bargaining with the store despite a successful union vote in April.

“If the company won’t bargain in good faith, why should we come to work where we are understaffed, underpaid and overworked?” Montana said.

Others, including Michelle Eisen, a union organizer at one of the first stores to organize in Buffalo, New York, said workers are angry that Starbucks promised higher pay and benefits to non-union stores. Starbucks says it is following the law and can’t give union stores pay hikes without bargaining.

At least 257 Starbucks stores have voted to unionize since late last year, according to the National Labor Relations Board. Fifty-seven stores have held votes where workers opted not to unionize.

Starbucks and the union have begun contract talks at 53 stores, with 13 additional sessions scheduled, Starbucks Workers United said. No agreements have been reached so far.

The process has been contentious. Earlier this week, a regional director with the NLRB filed a request for an injunction against Starbucks in federal court, saying the company violated labor law when it fired a union organizer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The regional director asked the court to direct Starbucks to reinstate the employee and stop interfering in the unionization campaign nationwide.

It was the fourth time the NLRB has asked a federal court to intervene. In August, a federal judge ruled that Starbucks had to reinstate seven union organizers who were fired in Memphis, Tennessee. A similar case in Buffalo has yet to be decided, while a federal judge ruled against the NLRB in a case in Phoenix.

Meanwhile, Starbucks has asked the NLRB to temporarily suspend all union elections at its U.S. stores, citing allegations from a board employee that regional officials improperly coordinated with union organizers. A decision in that case is pending.

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Sam's Club lowers hot dog combo to $1.38

TYLER, Texas (KETK) – Sam’s Club has decided to lower its hot dog combo from $1.50 to $1.38, nearly 10% lower.

“New lower price. Same great hot dog & drink combo. And the free refills are still flowin’,” Sam’s Club said on its website. “Frankly, it can’t be beat.”

Douglas McMillon, CEO and president of Walmart, Inc., said Tuesday that the decision is meant to help “families stretch their dollars as we head into the holidays.”

Costco offers the same combo for $1.50, a price that has remained the same since the deal was introduced in the mid-1980s.

In addition to lowering the hot dog combo price, McMillon said Sam’s Club was removing inflation on many traditional Thanksgiving food items, with whole turkeys being sold for under $1 per pound.

“Regardless of income levels, families are more price-conscious now, so it’s as important as ever that we earn their trust with value,” McMillon said.

Americans are bracing for a costly Thanksgiving this year, with double-digit percent increases in the price of turkey, potatoes, stuffing, canned pumpkin and other staples. The U.S. government estimates food prices will be up 9.5% to 10.5% this year; historically, they’ve risen only 2% annually.

Lower production and higher costs for labor, transportation and items are part of the reason; disease, rough weather and the war in Ukraine are also contributors.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.