Monthly Archives: March 2012

Mega Millions Winning Numbers, March 30, 2012: Here They Are!

Mega Millions Winning NumbersIf you have these Mega Millions winning numbers, you are now at least a part owner of the biggest jackpot ever, estimated at $640 million.

Just hours before the drawing, a Mega Millions spokesperson said there was a 95% chance someone would win the jackpot tonight based on all the combinations sold.

Take a deep breath.

The winning numbers for Mega Millions tonight, March 30, are as follows:

46 – 23 – 38 – 4 – 2 – (Mega Ball) 23

As stated by the official website for Mega Millions, if no one wins the jackpot, the money will be added to the jackpot for the next drawing. The pot could climb to an estimated $975 million.


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MORENO VALLEY: Woman’s ATM slaying remains unsolved

Gene Thomas choked back tears while listening to the song he wrote for his daughter Carrie, who was killed during a robbery one year ago.

Things were good. / Life was bright. / She was on her way. / One selfish, senseless act / it was all wiped away.

“It doesn’t matter how many times I hear that song, it still gets to me,” Thomas said, wiping his eyes.

Writing the song, “Purple Stars and Penguins,” helped him cope with the grief since Carrie Thomas, 23, was shot to death. She was killed before midnight March 27, 2011, during a robbery at the Visterra Credit Union off Cactus Avenue in Moreno Valley.

She had just finished her night shift as assistant manager at Shakey’s Pizza.

The title and chorus are named after her affinity for penguins, her favorite color and her love of star-gazing.

Each day of our shattered lives / we have to ask God why. / Purple stars and penguins will always cloud my eyes.

As the family marks the one-year anniversary of her death, investigators are no closer to catching her killer. The only solid lead is a grainy ATM photo that captured a man as he fled the scene.

Visterra Credit Union has offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

The family has rented a billboard alongside the Ramona Expressway and Cajalco Road near Interstate 215 in Perris. It reads, “Help me find my killer,” and features the ATM photo of the suspect and a photo of Carrie Thomas.

Riverside County sheriff’s homicide detectives said the case has not yet gone cold and a few leads trickle in from those who see the billboard. So far, none has panned out.

“We just want people to keep doing what they’re doing,” Sgt. Herman Lopez said. “If they think they know something, let us know.”

Last week, Gene Thomas, 57, sat in his daughter’s former room, which the family has turned into a memorial for Carrie. It’s filled with photos, stuffed penguins and the same kitten calendar she kept her work schedule on.

It included that fateful night where she worked the late shift at Shakey’s Pizza in Moreno Valley, “4-close,” she noted.

“She always said, ‘You never say goodbye,’ so it was always, ‘I’ll see you later,’ ” Gene Thomas said.

‘Love that killed her’

The Thomas family and police do not believe Carrie knew her killer.

She was going to the bank just before midnight when her shift ended. She planned to withdraw money to lease a house she was going to share with her boyfriend and his 2-year-old son.

She expressed reservations to her boyfriend, Ryan Hassan, about going to the bank so late but agreed to get the money so they could make the house payment the next morning.

“It was love that killed her,” Gene Thomas said.

As she pulled into the drive-through ATM to make the withdrawal, she was accosted by a man with a gun. He shot Thomas, and she crashed her black Mazda into a light pole. Police have not said how much money was taken.

When she didn’t come home, Hassan went to look for her. He found her in the wrecked car. He called her parents, who went to Riverside County Regional Medical Center, believing she was being treated for injuries.

Her parents waited in a secluded room until a doctor and two police officers arrived to tell them that she had been shot and had no chance of survival. She was taken off life support and died about 4 a.m. March 28.

“We were astounded,” Carrie’s mother LaDonna Thomas, 58, said. “We had no idea.”

The family believes the gunman was waiting at the bank and Carrie Thomas was the first available target.

“It was senseless and extremely violent and needless,” her mother said. “It makes no sense. It makes me wonder, why did it have to be her? She just happened to be stopped there.”

Waiting for a suspect

Friends and family said Carrie Thomas’ death has left a void, and they’ll never forget her infectious smile and goofy, fun loving spirit.

Her father said he wrote the song to channel his emotions and honor his daughter’s free spirit.

As much as the family tries to accept the loss, they feel incomplete without knowing who took their daughter’s life.

They rented the billboard and modeled it after one for 10-year-old Anthony Martinez. Anthony’s billboard generated hundreds of tips after the Beaumont boy’s 1997 abduction and murder, but none led to his killer.

Joseph Edward Duncan III was found eight years later thanks to a fingerprint match. Duncan had been arrested for different murders in Idaho.

Police have no DNA evidence from the scene of Carrie Thomas’ killing. The bank’s camera’s filmed the shooting, but there is no video footage, only still photographs.

“We still think there’s someone out there that knows who did this,” Gene Thomas said. “He’s still out there. … Our only hope is if he trips himself up.”

To report tips

Moreno Valley police are asking anyone information to call them at 951-486-6700 or the central homicide unit at 760-393-3500.


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TEMECULA: Man with pickax on freeway prompts CHP chase

It took a Taser, a ramming by a CHP car and a police dog to subdue a man swinging a pickax in a Temecula freeway median Monday, California Highway Patrol officials said.

Authorities suspect the 24-year-old San Diego resident, Thomas Robert Landry, was under the influence of drugs, said Officer Nathan Baer, a Temecula-area CHP spokesman.

The CHP began receiving 911 calls about 9:30 a.m. reporting a shirtless man in the grassy center median of Interstate 15 south of Overland Drive, Baer said.

Callers said the man was digging a hole with a pickax — and riding a skateboard on a concrete divider and on top of his parked red Honda Civic, Baer said.

Officers tried to approach Landry, but he ignored their orders, Baer said.

An officer tried to shock him with a Taser but it didn’t work, possibly because one of the barbs did not make contact.

Landry got in the Civic and sped north on Interstate 15, reaching speeds of 100 mph, a CHP news release said.

He exited at Clinton Keith Road and headed east with two officers pursuing him, the release said.

Landry turned into a Wildomar neighborhood where one of the officers used a PIT maneuver — in which the patrol car rammed the Civic — to stop it.

The Civic struck a street sign and came to rest on a sidewalk near Elizabeth Lane and Benetta Court, Baer said.

When the officers, one of whom is a police dog handler, tried to handcuff Landry, he became combative, Baer said. With the help of a bite from “K9 Logan,” the officers arrested him, Baer said.

Landry was taken to Inland Valley Regional Medical Center in Wildomar for evaluation.

He was later booked into the Southwest Detention Center in French Valley on suspicion of driving under the influence, resisting arrest and other charges, the release said. His bail was set at $250,000, jail records show.


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Melissa Jenkins Missing: Body Found During Search For Vermont School Teacher


UPDATE: 9:10 p.m. — Authorities in Vermont believe they have found the body of Melissa Jenkins, a missing school teacher whose SUV was found abandoned along the side of a road with her 2-year-old child alone inside.

While checking remote pull-offs in the greater St. Johnsbury area, Vermont State Police located a suspicious area off of Comerford Dam Road in the Town of Barnet. Upon further investigation, detectives located a body determined to be that of a young adult female. Authorities have not elaborated further on the discovery.

The body has been transported to the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Burlington, where an autopsy is scheduled to be performed on Tuesday. According to Vermont State Police Major Ed Ledo, the body is believed to be that of Jenkins. Ledo said a positive identification will not be made until the autopsy is performed.


Police got a call around 11:30 p.m. Sunday from a friend of Jenkins’ who spotted the 33-year-old single mother’s 2006 silver Suzuki Grand Vitara — with its still engine running — along Goss Hollow Road in St. Johnsbury. The location is not far from where Jenkins lives, according to Vermont State Police Captain Dave Covell.

Police found no sign of Jenkins, but they did find indications at the scene that she had not voluntarily left her vehicle.

“Responding Troopers observed evidence at the scene to indicate that Ms. Jenkins’ disappearance is the result of foul play as evidence present showed signs that a struggle had occurred,” Ledo told reporters during a Monday afternoon press conference.

Ledo did not elaborate further on any potential evidence found at the scene. He did, however, say that Jenkins’ child is in good condition and is being cared for by a family friend.

According to Covell, Jenkins was last seen at approximately 8:30 p.m. Sunday. The friend who later located her car was the last known person to see her and became concerned when unable to locate her, police said.

Jenkins holds degrees from Lyndon State College in natural science and geology. She teaches high school science and coaches the girls’ basketball team at St. Johnsbury Academy, an independent boarding and day school. Jenkins also works as a part-time waitress at The Creamery Restaurant in nearby Danville.

The Vermont State Police processed the scene where Jenkins’ vehicle was found and the location where the body was discovered.

Anyone with information about the case is asked to contact the Vermont State Police in St. Johnsbury at 802-748-3111. Police are also looking to speak with anyone who may have driven Goss Hollow Road in St. Johnsbury on Sunday evening, between 7:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m.


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Syria Accepts Peace Plan Offered By U.N. Envoy Kofi Annan

Kofi Annan

QAA, Lebanon — Syria has accepted a peace plan by U.N. envoy Kofi Annan that includes a government cease-fire, but the bloodshed persisted Tuesday as intense clashes between soldiers and rebels spilled across the border into Lebanon, officials said.

There were conflicting reports about whether Syrian troops physically crossed the border. Two Lebanese security officials said only bullets whizzed across the frontier into a rural, sparsely populated area around the Lebanese village of Qaa.

“There is no Syrian military presence on the Lebanese side of the border,” the military official said.

But two witnesses in Qaa, who asked that their names not be published because of the sensitivity of the matter, said they saw dozens of troops enter Lebanon. One witness said the Syrian troops burned several homes.

An Associated Press reporter at the scene could not verify that any houses were burned, however, as Lebanese soldiers had cordoned off the area. The border in the area is poorly demarcated, and residents pass into each country easily and frequently.

Any incursion into Lebanese territory would escalate a conflict over an uprising against President Bashar Assad’s rule that already has caused regional tensions. As the conflict spirals toward civil war, there are concerns that the violence could cause a broader conflagration by pulling in neighboring countries.

The U.N., meanwhile, raised its death toll for the year-long conflict to more than 9,000. Robert Serry, U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, gave the number Tuesday while briefing the U.N. Security Council on the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

The Syrian uprising, which began last March with mostly peaceful protests against the regime has turned increasingly militarized after the government swiftly unleashed its military tanks, snipers and machine-guns to break up protests, which many opposition members say drove them to take up arms.

A diplomatic push to end the crisis has largely failed, but Ahmad Fawzi, a spokesman for Annan, said Tuesday that the Syrian government has accepted the envoy’s six-point plan to end the bloodshed. The plan includes a cease-fire and inclusive talks about a political solution.

Syrian opposition members reacted with skepticism, however.

Louay Safi, a U.S.-based member of the opposition Syrian National Council, said the regime has accepted other peace initiatives, but the violence always continues.

“We are not sure if it’s political maneuvering or a sincere act,” he said during an opposition conference Tuesday in Turkey. “We have no trust in the current regime. We would like to see some practical steps. We have to see that they have stopped killing civilians.”

Rami Jarah, another opposition member at the Turkey conference, said Assad is trying to stall for time.

“The Syrian government is going to depend on propaganda as it has over the past few months – propaganda of armed terrorists,” Jarah said.

The government denies that the country is facing a popular uprising, saying the revolt is being driven by terrorists.

Also Tuesday, Assad visited Baba Amr, a former rebel stronghold in the key city of Homs that became a symbol of the uprising after a monthlong siege by government forces killed hundreds of people – many of them civilians – as troops pushed out rebel fighters.

Homs has been one of the cities hardest hit by the government crackdown on the uprising that began last March. Assad’s forces overran the rebel-held Baba Amr on March 1 but faced resistance from other districts.

In footage aired on Syrian state TV, Assad appeared relaxed as he pledged that Baba Amr would return “better than it was before.” He was greeted by residents who shouted, “We are with you until death!”

Syria’s state-run news agency, SANA, reported Assad’s visit but gave no further details.

The violent conflict in Syria has posed a serious challenge to Assad, but neither side has shown any sign of giving in. The opposition, riven by differences, has failed to present a united front against Assad, which has added to the chaos.

Syrian opposition leaders were meeting in Istanbul on Tuesday in an attempt to resolve their differences and reassure international backers who are frustrated by the lack of cohesion.

The meeting comes ahead of an April 1 conference in Istanbul at which Turkey, the United States and their European and Arab partners will discuss ways to further isolate and pressure Assad, as well as measures to support the Syrian opposition. Some reports indicate that the debate among dozens of countries will include whether the opposition Syrian National Council and affiliated groups should be declared as the sole, legitimate representative of the Syrian people.

A Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that “if the majority of participants choose that, we’ll do that.”


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Colorado Wildfire: 1 Person Found Dead, 3,000 Acres Burned, 900 Homes Evacuated In Jefferson County Fire

Colorado WildfireCONIFER, Colo. — State forest officials had conducted a prescribed burn last week in the same area where a wind-driven wildfire has destroyed at least 15 homes and left one person dead, authorities said Tuesday.

Ryan Lockwood, a spokesman for the Colorado State Forest Service, said his agency conducted the prescribed burn on Thursday on land belonging to the Denver Water Board as part of an ongoing attempt to reduce fire danger. Such burns are usually done to thin out vegetation to reduce the chances of a major wildfire.

“This has been going on for the past year,” said Lockwood, who referred questions about the decision to other agency officials.

Jefferson County sheriff’s spokeswoman Jacki Kelley had said earlier that the wildfire, which spread to nearly 5 square miles within a matter of hours on Monday, may have been a controlled burn from last week that sprang back to life because of strong wind gusts.

The fire is burning several miles and mountain ridges west of Denver’s tightly populated southwestern suburbs, which are not under threat. The area of pines and grassland is mountainous and sparsely populated, dotted with hamlets and the occasional expensive home. It is about 25 miles southwest of Denver at an altitude that ranges from 7,000 to 8,200 feet.

About 900 homes have been evacuated and more remained under threat. It has destroyed 15 to 25 houses, authorities said.

A body was found late Monday but investigators have yet to determine the cause of death. The victim wasn’t a firefighter or emergency responder, Kelley said.

Strong winds fanned the flames, preventing air crews from spraying retardant and keeping firefighters mostly on the defensive on Monday. With winds expected to be lighter Tuesday, firefighters said they were also planning for a possible air attack. A lead plane was scouting conditions for an air tanker to drop slurry.

“The wind will really tell the story today,” Kelley said.

Federal firefighting teams from Idaho, Nevada and Utah were being sent to Colorado to take over management of the fire from Jefferson County, said Roberta D’Amico, information officer at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

Video from KUSA-TV’s helicopter showed one home burned to its foundation with a flicker burning in the rubble. Another home appeared untouched, a car parked in the driveway, although land across the road was charred.

Temperatures lately have been reaching into the 70s during an especially dry March, raising the fire danger around Colorado. Up to a dozen smaller fires were reported from the northeast Colorado plains to the southern part of the state.

Colorado’s snowpack has melted quickly in recent weeks, exposing terrain that is drying out weeks ahead of normal, said Mage Skordahl, assistant snow survey supervisor with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Denver. Snowpack in the South Platte Basin, where the fire is located, has dropped from 89 percent of normal to 69 percent this month, Skordahl said. Statewide averages have dropped from 81 percent to 65 percent.

“Typically, March is an accumulation month for us. We receive 20 percent of our snowpack in this month,” Skordahl said. “But it’s been very, very dry.”

“Normally, we have a lot of snow this time of year. You’d just never think you’d have to evacuate for a fire in March,” said Kathy Wilkens, a 21-year-old resident who fled her home with her husband after a reverse 911 call on Monday night.

Evacuees took shelter at nearby Conifer High School, where cots were set up in the gymnasium and two classrooms became makeshift kennels for dogs and cats. Outside the school, winding mountain roads were crowded with horse trailers as owners moved livestock to a fairgrounds.

County officials updated nervous residents early Tuesday, asking anxious homeowners to leave behind their addresses so they could be called with the status of their homes. They were told they wouldn’t be allowed to return home yet.

“We will not be able to allow any citizens back into that area (until) at least the end of the day – and that’s not a promise,” said Daniel Hatlestad, spokesman for the Jefferson County Incident Management Team.

He said rescuers brought out an unknown number of people who were trying to flee by car but were forced to pull over because of low visibility. Hatlestad said winds neared 90 mph Monday evening, so even cars couldn’t outrace the smoke.

“We were pushing people and dogs and cats into fire trucks,” he said.

Evacuees munched on pizza and fried chicken, with volunteers leading children in games of basketball in the school gym. Rose Applegate said she saw smoke on Monday afternoon and expected to be evacuated.

“I could tell we were in the path,” Applegate said. “We gathered up a few things and came here.”


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Craig Sonner, George Zimmerman’s Lawyer, Reportedly Flees Lawrence O’Donnell Interview

Craig Sonner Lawrence Odonnell

In a bizarre turn of events, MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell interviewed an empty chair on his program Monday night, after scheduled guest Craig Sonner reportedly fled from an MSNBC studio in Orlando just moments before the show began.

Sonner represents George Zimmerman, the former neighborhood watchman whoshot and killed 17-year-old Florida resident Trayvon Martin in February. His appearance on O’Donnell’s program would have been just the latest in a string ofhigh-profile media interviews over the past several days, as he’s attempted to shift the narrative surrounding the case. In previous conversations, Sonner has continually insisted that the shooting was motivated not by race, but was instead a matter of self-defense — though the attorney has declined to answer several questions about the specifics of his client’s defense.

O’Donnell characterized Sonner’s previous interviews as lacking in rigor, and claimed that it was his more aggressive approach to interviewing that scared the attorney away:

Craig Sonner has been the first guest in the history of this particular show, to get scared, to be terrified, so terrified of coming on this show that he has literally run away. He’s in our car right now, taking him home from our studio, afraid to face the questioning he would face on this show. Watch out for wherever Craig Sonner shows up next on television, because wherever he shows up next on television has an obligation to put him through serious questioning about what he’s doing and what he knows, and the contradictions in the things he’s already said on television.

Later on during the segment, O’Donnell turned to Sonner’s empty chair and began reciting the many questions he had planned for the aborted interview. Those questions included:

    • “Who is paying you, Mr. Lawyer?”
    • “Does George Zimmerman have a job?”
    • “Did you represent him when he was arrested for assault on a police officer in 2005?”
  • “Your client was not injured enough to go to the hospital that night. You say he sought some sort of medical treatment the next day. Do you have those medical records that you can show us?”

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Pope Benedict Arrives In Cuba In Footsteps Of John Paul II


SANTIAGO, Cuba — Pope Benedict XVI arrived in Cuba on Monday in the footsteps of his more famous predecessor, gently pressing the island’s longtime communist leaders to push through “legitimate” reforms their people desire, while also criticizing the excesses of capitalism.

In contrast to the raucous welcome Benedict received in Mexico, his arrival in Cuba’s second city was relatively subdued: President Raul Castro greeted him at the airport with a 21-cannon salute and a goose-stepping military honor guard, but few ordinary Cubans lined Benedict’s motorcade route into town and the pope barely waved from his glassed-in popemobile.

Santiago’s main plaza, however, came alive when Benedict arrived for his evening Mass, his main public event here before heading Tuesday to Havana. While the plaza, which has a capacity of about 200,000, was not fully packed there was a festive atmosphere, with Cubans dancing to the rhythms of a samba band awaiting Benedict’s arrival and waving small Cuban and Vatican flags.

“It is a message of love, this visit,” said Jorgelina Guevara, a 59-year-old homemaker as she waited for the Mass to begin. “The Cuban people need it.”

For major public events and holidays in Cuba, local Communist Party leaders strongly encourage attendance, granting workers time off and keeping careful track of who shows up and who doesn’t.

The trip comes 14 years after John Paul’s historic tour, when the Polish pope who helped bring down communism in his homeland admonished Fidel Castro to free prisoners of conscience, end abortion and let the Roman Catholic Church take its place in society.

Benedict’s message as he arrived was more subtle, taking into account the liberalizing reforms that Raul Castro has enacted since taking over from his older brother in 2006 and the greater role the Catholic Church has played in Cuban affairs, most recently in negotiating the release of dozens of political prisoners.

The pontiff, who at the start of his trip said Marxism “no longer responds to reality,” gave a much gentler message upon stepping on Cuban soil, saying he wanted to inspire and encourage Cubans on the island and beyond.

“I carry in my heart the just aspirations and legitimate desires of all Cubans, wherever they may be,” he said. “Those of the young and the elderly, of adolescents and children, of the sick and workers, of prisoners and their families, and of the poor and those in need.”


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Trayvon Martin Case: George Zimmerman Told Police Teen Attacked Him

George ZimmermanNearly a month after Trayvon Martin’s killing, the account of what occurred the night of the teen’s fatal confrontation with George Zimmerman is getting more complicated. As the public attempts to piece together what really happened on Feb. 26, more details have emerged telling Zimmerman’s side of the story.

According to law enforcement authorities, Zimmerman, who maintained he shot the teen in self-defense, told local police that Martin punched him in the face, climbed on top of him and slammed his head into the sidewalk, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Martin, who was black, was walking back to his father’s house after a trip to the convenience store in Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26. George Zimmerman, who was identified by his father as Hispanic, called 911 and told the dispatchers that the teen “looked suspicious.”

Despite being told by a dispatcher not to follow the teen, Zimmerman left his car and approached Martin. Neighbors called 911 to report a scuffle, some cries for help, and gunshots. When police arrived, Zimmerman admitted shooting the unarmed teen. Zimmerman has neither been arrested nor charged.

The case has attracted national attention, with many calling for the shooter’s arrest. But others have come to Zimmerman’s defense, saying he is an “admirable person,”and that safety, not race, was his main concern that evening. Zimmerman’s lawyer has also spoken out against critics who have claimed his client is racist.

There is about a one-minute gap between when Zimmerman made the 911 call and when he came face-to-face with Martin that police say they’re not sure what happened.

According to what Zimmerman told local officers, he lost sight of the teen and was returning to his SUV when Martin approached him and they exchanged words. He said Martin asked if he had a problem, Zimmerman replied no and reached for his cell phone. He then alleges that Martin said “well you do now” and punched him in the nose.

Zimmerman said he then fell to the ground and Martin got on top of him and began slamming his head into the sidewalk. Zimmerman said he began yelling for help.

An individual can be heard screaming on the 911 audio, however, there’s been a dispute amongst witnesses as to whether it was Zimmerman or Martin who was crying for help.

According to authorities, Zimmerman then shot Martin at close range. When the local police arrived at the scene, they found Zimmerman with a bloody nose, swollen lip and lacerations in the back of his head. Although paramedics gave him first aid, he said he did not need to go to the hospital and sought medical treatment the next day.


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Supreme Court signals health-care case go ahead

The U.S. Supreme Court began with the case of the Affordable Care Act of 2010 today by considering an argument by an outside lawyer that the case cannot be taken up until somebody is actually forced to buy health insurance. But principal attorneys for both sides argued that the case should be heard now and justices signaled that they agreed – although The New York Times and Fox News frame the news slightly differently.

Fox News characterizes the the issue as a technicality. Its report immediately moves into discussing the issue.

The New York Times quickly points out in its second sentence that both sides agree and takes a broader overview of the whole case in the top of its story.

(We’re launching an OC Political Pulse poll on what you think should be done with health care. I’ll add a link to the poll here shortly.)

While Fox News’ and the Times’ approaches are different, I think both are valid and neither displays a particular bias. Personally, I’ve read a lot about the larger nature of the case and appreciated Fox News getting into the details of the technicality – even though it’s somewhat arcane and is likely to be quickly forgotten as the high court moves to more substantial issues.

Meanwhile, addresses five key questions in court’s proceedings: How will politics enter the chamber? What do the tea leaves tell us? How does the government handle the “broccoli” question? If the mandate goes, then what?

Politico also details six possible outcomes.


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