Fox News 2024-04-01 16:03:42


Blue state accused of denying foster-care license because couple believes in biology

A Washington couple is suing the state because it denied them the opportunity to foster children due to their religious beliefs about gender identity. 

Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a federal lawsuit on March 25 on behalf of Shane and Jennifer DeGross against Washington officials at the Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), claiming the agency denied their application because they refused to use a foster child’s inaccurate pronouns based on their perceived gender identity instead of their biological sex and required parents to take children to cultural events like pride parades. 

In August 2022, the DeGrosses filed to renew their foster-care license in Washington state after serving as foster parents for nearly 9 years, but they were informed that new regulations in the state required all parents to adopt the government’s ideology on gender and that failure to comply meant their application would be denied. As Christians, the DeGrosses told the agency they would love and accept any child, but because of their Christian faith, they could not lie to a child and encourage them to reject their sex.

“We got into foster care because, as the Bible directs us to, to care for widows and orphans in their distress and keep oneself unstained from the world,” Shane DeGross told Fox News Digital. “There’s a huge need in the state of Washington for foster families to come alongside these children in need. So, we definitely felt compelled to take up that charge.”

Over the course of the nine years they served as foster parents, the DeGrosses cared for four children and in renewing their license, the DeGrosses hoped to serve as respite-care providers, acting as a stopgap for children without a stable home.

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“It’s been very publicized that the state has such a shortage of homes to the point where, like in 2023, there were over 4,000 instances where kids were placed in emergency housing, like hotel rooms,” Jennifer DeGross told Fox News Digital. “So, it’s really unfortunate and disheartening when they eliminate families such as ourselves that are willing to provide a loving home.”

The state itself admitted in its “Annual Foster Parent and Adoptive Home Recruitment Report Draft” from 2021 to 2022 that there was a “shortage of caregivers willing and able to be a respite or placement resource” and foster children have had to sleep in “hotels and office buildings as emergency placements.”

“We were devastated, there’s such a huge need in our state to have foster parents be able to stand in the gap for kids, it’s something that we’ve felt very compelled to participate in and to help out in,” Shane said. “We felt that we could best utilize our abilities and our resources as parents to help these kids and unfortunately, when the state’s ideology is put in place of children, it’s the children that suffer. There are thousands of children in care and it’s sad when they can’t get the help they need.”

ADF Legal Counsel Johannes Widmalm-Delphonse explained that this is not the first time Washington officials have attempted to prevent parents from caring for their children because they disagreed with state ideology. In Blais v. Hunter, the Blais family sought to care for their great-granddaughter but were denied because they would not “support hormone therapy” in a hypothetical situation should a child suffer from gender dysphoria.

“A federal court held that that was illegal discrimination and preliminarily enjoined it,” Widmalm-Delphonse explained. “Then, Washington state actually settled and agreed to a permanent injunction ending its discriminatory practices, basically conceding that what they were doing was wrong. But now they’re at it again, trying to exclude parents on the very same basis of this ideological litmus test that Shane and Jenn mentioned.”

“Not only does it hurt children, but it violates the First Amendment,” he added. “This is all about freedom of speech and freedom of religion … It’s all about the welfare of the children and there’s a win-win here, maximize the pool of foster families, make sure that every child has a loving home and that helps the children and it satisfies the Constitution.”

CALIFORNIA SCHOOL DISTRICT ACCUSED OF SECRETLY COUNSELING CHILD TO TRANSITION GENDER FACES PARENTS’ WRATH 

Jason Wettstein, the communications director for the Washington State DCYF told Fox News Digital that while they can’t comment on the specifics of legal action, they provided a statement affirming the importance of accepting gender identity.

“It is well-documented that children and youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ have high rates of depression, anxiety, suicide, self-harm, and eating disorders,” the statement said. “They are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide, have suicidal thoughts, or self-harm than youth who are cis-gender or straight.”

“Whether a family accepts or rejects a child’s sexual orientation, gender identity or expression (SOGIE) has a profound impact on their wellbeing, and children and youth who identify as LGBTQIA+ are over-represented among the foster care population,” Wettstein added. “In Washington, we are committed to ensuring that these vulnerable children and youth do not experience additional trauma when placed out-of-home into foster care.”

Wettsein also addressed Blais v. Hunter which he said ordered that DCYF have authority to require that foster parents follow a child’s case plan as determined by the dependency court, DCYF, and the child’s legal parents or guardians. 

He said applicants “must agree to follow the child’s case plan and to allow the physical, medical, psychological, emotional, cultural and social needs of foster children who identify as LGBTQ+ or who may so identify in the future to be met in their care” but that “does not mean that foster parents must agree with or support all of DCYF’s policies.”

“We cannot and do not disqualify people from becoming foster parents on the basis of sincerely held religious beliefs,” he concluded. “However, the permanent injunction does permit DCYF to take an applicant’s views on LGBTQ+ issues into account when reviewing foster family home license applications or family home study applications.”

SUPREME COURT ASKED TO RULE ON STATE LAW THAT PROHIBITS THERAPISTS FROM COUNSELING AGAINST GENDER TRANSITION

Widmalm-Delphonse said people can read the Blais v. Hunter option for themselves, but said he doesn’t “know how you can read that case consistent with the idea that you can also exclude the DeGrosses.”

“They’re [DCYF} picking and choosing different lines from the injunction and saying that, ‘We want to adhere to this part, but we don’t want it adhere to the other part, which was the entire basis for the judge’s ruling,'” he said. “We would submit that whatever you think about the injunction, it’s clear that they are violating the Constitution in this case and that’s the basis for our lawsuit.”

“The foster care and adoption system is all about the best interests of the children in the system and that means you have to look at the unique child in front of you,” he added. “But here, the state is making a blanket decision that some types of foster parents are categorically disqualified to care for any child and that’s what the judge said you couldn’t do in Blais v. Hunter.”

Shane said he hopes that by bringing this lawsuit, the state will reverse course with its current “ideological litmus test” for foster parents to be licensed. 

“Of course, we’d love to have our license reinstated and be able to serve children again, but more importantly for the children to be able to have homes for children to be placed in,” he said. “There are scores of other people that are faced with these new requirements as their relicensing comes due and they’re also going to be faced with that same moral imperative to basically have to make a choice between continuing serving children and their faith.”

“At the end of the day, fewer families will be available to help these children in need as a result of these regulations,” he added. “Every child deserves a loving home and when the state, government ideology comes in front of the needs of the children, only children are harmed.”

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ADF is fighting similar policies in other states, including in Oregon where a single mother of five claims her Christian faith and her beliefs about gender identify have prevented her from adopting. She is suing the state with the help of ADF on the grounds that their refusal to let her adopt is an illegal infringement of her constitutional First Amendment rights to free speech and the free exercise of religion.

Navy makes shocking aircraft carrier decision while China threat rises

What a shock. According to the newly released budget, the Pentagon wants to slow down America’s aircraft carriers. You may be thinking: no carrier, no “Top Gun,” no “Maverick.” How we’d miss those thriller movies.  

But the facts are even worse. Delaying aircraft carriers courts disaster at a time when their deterrence value is higher than ever. The Navy has a budget plan for new aircraft carriers that can launch drones, carry lasers and face down China, but President Biden’s budget took out so much money that the whole aircraft carrier plan may fall apart.  

I can’t remember when I’ve seen such a policy and reality mismatch.  

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Moving two aircraft carriers into place was vital to bottling up Iran and protecting deployed U.S. forces after the Hamas attack on Israel. The first thing Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did was send the USS Gerald R. Ford from the Aegean Sea to a combat position near Lebanon. Next the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower surged from her homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, to add more firepower near the Red Sea.  

The deterrence value of Navy aircraft carriers has never been higher. Don’t take my word for it. Back in December, Austin made a special trip to the USS Dwight Eisenhower, praising the action of her sailors and airmen. “Sometimes our greatest achievements are the bad things we stop from happening,” Austin told the crew. “In a moment of huge tension in the region, you all have been the linchpin of preventing a wider regional conflict.” 

Right now, the Ike is still there and the F/A-18EF Superhornet fighter planes she carries are mounting continuous air patrols, knocking down Houthi drones and missiles. At the same time, the U.S. has two carriers on operations in the Pacific making sure China’s navy and Coast Guard don’t block off vital sea lanes or encircle Taiwan. 

Deterrence in two major combat theaters is resting on these 100,000-ton ships. So, it’s astonishing that the Navy’s Fiscal Year 2025 budget just sent to Congress is going to slow down new Navy aircraft carriers by taking away shipbuilding funds for two years.  

You know what else makes me mad? China is racing to build aircraft carriers. It makes me mad to see Chinese President Xi Jinping’s admirals investing while the Pentagon backs off.  

China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian is bigger and a technological leap ahead for China’s navy. The Fujian started dead-load catapult testing last November. China is serious about launching aircraft carriers to compete with the Ford-class designs.  

Their aircraft carriers are still not nuclear-powered, and overall are not as capable as the Ford-class, but they can cause plenty of trouble, especially for allies. If China keeps producing the Fujian class, Chinese carriers could lock out the U.S. and allies from the Strait of Malacca to the Sea of Japan.  

So, the carrier slip is also damaging because it impacts the new carriers. Believe me, these are carriers you want the Navy to buy. The Ford class took lessons from decades of carrier operations and created a ship class with innovations and room to grow.  

Take the new launch catapults and arresting gear – the wire apparatus that catches the plane’s tailhook. Old steam catapults delivered a huge jolt to launch aircraft. Remember the grimace when Tom Cruise as Maverick and fellow naval aviators launched from the carrier in the “Top Gun” movies? That was old school. 

The Ford’s electromagnetic catapults finesse the launch with gradually increasing power, and vary the speed for launching lighter airframes such as drones. Pilots do say it’s strange not to see the iconic steam wafting up. However, the USS Ford generated 10,396 sorties in 239 days underway with the new catapults.  

All that opens up new options. Retired Rear Adm. Michael “Nasty” Manazir (a real Top Gun pilot and aircraft carrier commander) once described the Advanced Arresting Gear for USNI News as still “a controlled crash, but relatively more softly.” Navy planes had to be heavy to withstand the “cats and traps” getting on and off the ship. With the Ford-class carrier, “you can now start to do things with aircraft design that you couldn’t do before,” Manazir said.  

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Future carriers in 2040 in a heavy electromagnetic spectrum threat environment have many more options for the types of aircraft flying off their decks. But only if the Navy buys the carriers now.  

Don’t forget the Ford-class also has more electric power generation and can one day mount laser self-defense weapons. 

China’s newest aircraft carrier, the Fujian is bigger and a technological leap ahead for China’s navy. The Fujian started dead-load catapult testing last November. China is serious about launching aircraft carriers to compete with the Ford-class designs.  

Law mandates at least 11 operational aircraft carriers and the Navy always says they’d prefer 12. (Carriers can’t all be deployed at once, due to maintenance, nuclear reactor overhaul, and training schedules.) Yet the Navy’s plan delays CVN-82 and basically, every ship afterward. Older Nimitz class carriers have to retire when their nuclear reactors age out.  

That may sound like Washington math, but it’s the beginning of a death spiral. You can imagine how complicated aircraft carrier construction is. Right now, parts of three new aircraft carriers are in the assembly drydocks at Newport News, Virginia. If the Navy hits pause on CVN-82, the shipyards and suppliers can’t catch up.  

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Buying an aircraft carrier every six or seven years is not economical. Obviously. Worse, it’s probably not feasible. The precious workforce of American men and women who build carriers cannot stand around and they may drift away to other programs which have money. The Navy’s own charts show the result is a fall to 10, then nine aircraft carriers in the next decades. 

No carriers, no agile deterrence. Heck, we Americans invented the aircraft carrier and its Pacific tactics in World War II. China’s navy is already bigger than ours. The advanced aircraft carriers are key to America’s military edge that protects our way of life. This is not the moment to let China sneak ahead.  

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Nicola Peltz’s link to the activist investor as Disney gears up for battle

Disney and activist investors have been exchanging jabs in the lead-up to the entertainment giant’s Wednesday shareholder meeting.

The back-and-forth has arisen out of the ongoing proxy fights Disney is having with two entities, Trian Group and Blackwells Capital. 

Proxy fight started late last year

The Trian Group and Nelson Peltz, who founded Trian Fund Management, officially kicked off their latest proxy fight with Disney late last year. The group holds over $3.5 billion of Disney shares.

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That was followed in January by investment firm Blackwells Capital launching one of its own.

Activist investor heat

Trian Group

Trian has claimed Disney “has lost its way in the past decade, making strategic and operational missteps that have results in deteriorating financial performance and poor absolute and relative stock returns, costing shareholders billions.”

Walt Disney Co

It directed blame at Disney’s board, alleging it “lacks focus, and accountability and has consistently failed to fulfill its essential duties.” In response, it has put forward Peltz and former Disney CFO Jay Rasulo as its board nominees, arguing they should take the seats of Michael Froman and Maria Lagomasino. 

NELSON PELTZ: DISNEY’S BOARD HAS ‘SELF-INFLICTED’ WOUNDS

Trian has accused the board of “questionable strategic and capital allocation decisions, poor executive compensation alignment and suboptimal succession planning.” It has also flagged things like box office performance and linear TV. 

Peltz and Rasulo would “work constructively” with Disney’s board if elected to help “restore the magic” at the company, according to a Trian press release.

Peltz is connected to one of the most prominent celebrity families; his daughter, actress Nicola Peltz, is married to Brooklyn Beckham, the former model and son of David and Victoria Beckham. 

Blackwells Capital

Blackwells has also argued Disney shareholders could get more value.

In a recent presentation, the firm argued Disney has “fall[en] behind in the areas of content, media, technology and governance best practices,” among others.

It proposed its three board nominees could fill the gaps it perceives if they get elected as additions to the board. They are Jessica Schell, Craig Hatkoff and Leah Solivan.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
DIS THE WALT DISNEY CO. 122.36 +1.38 +1.14%

Blackwells also suggested Disney “could be worth more as two or three distinct entities.” It has offered the possible idea of spinning Disney’s massive real estate portfolio off into an REIT or “creating an IPCo/OpCo/PropCo structure.”

Last week, the firm slapped Disney with a lawsuit, raising questions about disclosures pertaining to ValueAct Capital, Reuters reported. Disney has refuted them as “baseless,” according to the outlet. 

Disney fighting back

Disney has pushed back on both the nominees proposed by the activist investors and their arguments. 

“We have aggressively executed our key strategic priorities to make Disney’s businesses more efficient and effective, reinvigorated our creative engines, and sharpened our focus on our greatest brand and franchise assets,” the company said on a website it created.

It has pointed to things like its recent dividend actions and the $7.5 billion in annual cost-savings it is working to achieve. It has also touted its work related to its streaming services, ESPN and parks.

The entertainment giant has questioned the qualifications of the activist investor-nominated board candidates for the job and claimed they could “disrupt” its progress.

Disney’s slate, which it argued is best suited, includes Mary Barra, Safra Catz, Amy Chang, Jeremy Carroch, Carolyn Everson, James Gorman, Calvin McDonald, Mark Park, Derica Rice, Bob Iger, Froman and Lagomasino.

Disney and the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District that runs Walt Disney World’s special tax district last week settled a lawsuit that arose out of a feud between the company and Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Prominent figures, firms have weighed in

A slew of prominent individuals and firms have publicly made clear where they stand in the proxy fight, particularly the one between Disney and Trian.

Disney has gotten expressions of support from JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Lucasfilm founder George Lucas, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner, Emerson Collective founder Laurene Powell Jobs and ValueAct Capital. Disney family members have also stood by the company and its board nominees.

Meanwhile, 13 business executives urged Disney’s board to “work with [Peltz] for the benefit of all shareholders.” They all had past experience with Peltz and Trian through their various companies.

Shareholders have also received recommendations from proxy voting advisory firms.

Glass Lewis recently said they should side with Disney’s slate in the board vote. Meanwhile, Egan-Jones issued a recommendation to vote in favor of Peltz and Rasulo. Another firm, Institutional Shareholder Services, offered an endorsement of Peltz.

Details of the shareholder meeting

Disney’s annual meeting will occur Wednesday and have a webcast. 

Shareholders of record as of Feb. 5 have a say in the board’s makeup. The company reported having about 768,000 common shareholders of record at the end of September.

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Proceedings are expected to kick off at 10 a.m. Pacific, the time zone that covers its Burbank, California, headquarters.

Disney previously engaged in a proxy fight with Peltz and Trian ahead of its 2023 shareholder meeting.

On their respective websites dedicated to the proxy fight, Trian and Disney have both been urging shareholders to side with them when they vote.

NY Times coverage of slain NYPD officer blasted as ‘disingenuous spin’

The New York Post shamed rival paper The New York Times on Sunday after the Gray Lady failed to cover pointed comments by Stephanie Diller, the widow of slain New York Police Department Officer Jonathan Diller. 

Stephanie Diller received a standing ovation when she approached the lectern to deliver her remarks at her husband’s funeral on Saturday before demanding change by asking, “How many more police officers and how many more families have to make the ultimate sacrifice before we start protecting them?” She also put a spotlight on other recent police officers who were killed on the job. 

The Post’s editorial board published a piece headlined, “The New York Times’ disgraceful, deceitful ‘report’ on Detective Diller’s funeral,” which said the remarks “somehow turned out to be news not fit to print for the New York Times.”

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“Her words made the front page of The Post and even the hyperleft Daily News; nebbishy Newsday at least put the funeral on Page One,” the Post’s editorial board wrote. “Yet the Times stuck its report on page A21, without even a ‘tracer’ on the front page. (The one local story that got that privilege was about… new city trash containers.) The article quoted the widow’s eulogy, but not her most newsworthy appeal.”

The editorial board continued: “Not even in the online version, with no space limit at all, though it ran 1,100-plus words. But the Times did find room for the ever-important ‘Republicans pounce’ angle: nearly 300 words on how ‘Some people — particularly Republicans — have seized on the killing as emblematic of what they consider the lax laws and public safety policies promoted by New York Democrats,’ when, the article ‘explained,’ major crime reports in the city are down 2% this year over last.”

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The Post’s editorial board wrote that the Times “offered a masterclass in how to present disingenuous spin in the guise of honest reporting” and declared its motto has become “Only the news that supports our agenda.”

The New York Times did not respond to a request for comment by Fox News Digital.

NYPD JONATHAN DILLER SHOOTING: SUSPECT GUY RIVERA CHARGED WITH MURDER, ATTEMPTED MURDER IN ATTACK ON OFFICERS

Diller was fatally shot last week during a traffic stop in Queens after a man with 21 prior arrests allegedly shot him in the stomach as Diller was trying to make the suspect — Guy Rivera, 34 — exit the vehicle. 

Rivera reportedly opened fire on Diller and his partner at about 5:45 p.m. The officers had approached the vehicle because it had been illegally parked at a bus stop. 

Another man who was in the vehicle at the time of Diller’s death, Lindy Jones, was also charged following the death, including for criminal possession of a weapon and defacing a weapon.

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Fox News Digital’s Timothy Nerozzi contributed to this report. 

CNN host calls out Democrats for enforcing ‘double standards’ on their platforms

CNN host Fareed Zakaria argued Friday on HBO’s “Real Time” that liberals should stop enforcing “double standards” on their platforms after the firing of former RNC chair Ronna McDaniel from NBC. 

NBC News terminated its contract with McDaniel after just four days. According to a memo and apology that NBCUniversial News Group Chairman Cesar Conde issued to staff, McDaniel’s hiring was not conducive to a “cohesive and aligned” newsroom.

When asked to weigh in on the controversial decision, Zakaria pointed out that the arguments to remove McDaniel were not fair to both conservatives and liberals. 

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“They say, no, it’s not about that, it’s that she lied,” Zakaria said of McDaniel’s firing from NBC. “Well, Bill Clinton lied, under oath. I think, last time I checked, he’s been on MSNBC. They say, well, she’s an election denier. Well, Stacey Abrams was an election denier about her own election and they’ve had her on.”

Abrams is a two-time failed gubernatorial candidate who famously refused to concede the election to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in 2018 and even suggested that Kemp, as then-secretary of state, enacted policies to suppress Georgia voters. She has since denied “challenging” the election and has acknowledged Kemp as the governor of Georgia “under the rules that were in place.” 

Zakaria also said that “liberals often trigger backlash when they use illiberal means to get to their ends.” 

“The way you’re going to defend [liberalism], the way you’re going to move it forward is by not cheating, not cutting corners, not having double standards, because if we have them, then what Trump says is, well, ‘you cut corners, I cut corners,'” he added. 

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Zakaria called out college presidents of elite universities for perpetuating the same double standards over liberal values. 

“People said, wait a minute, you’re saying it’s okay to say nasty things about Jews,” Zakaria said about the controversy at schools like Harvard University and University of Pennsylvania over antisemitism. “But wait, but when people said nasty things about African Americans, you said, oh no, that’s hate speech.” 

“You can’t have these double standards,” he said. “If you’re going to apply a standard, just apply it consistently.”

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Fox News’ Joseph A. Wulfsohn and Lindsay Kornick contributed to this report. 

Lawmakers raise alarm as gov’t handouts reach roughly 70% of federal spending

Lawmakers have long shied away from serious discussions about entitlement reform, but the issue appears to be coming back into focus for Republicans who are wary about the growing national debt.

“I definitely have noticed it,” veteran GOP strategist Doug Heye told Fox News Digital of the uptick in GOP-led discussions on the issue. “Republicans have talked about this for a long time, not always with specifics. But what tends to happen is, they talk about it, they get attacked, they fall back.”

Congress just ended the fiscal year 2024 government-funding fight with President Biden signing a $1.2 trillion spending package into law last week and averting a partial government shutdown. But the ugly battle, which took six additional months after the end of fiscal year 2023, only accounted for the government’s discretionary spending – which makes up just over a quarter of annual federal funds.

The vast majority of federal funding is classified as mandatory spending, which includes entitlement programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), known colloquially as “food stamps.”

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Discussions about raising the Social Security eligibility age or cuts to Medicare are always politically fraught. But economists are now warning that without changes, those programs are headed for forced cuts anyway, due to insufficient funds – with Medicare expected to become insolvent in 2028, and Social Security in 2033.

“I do think we should be willing to have real conversations about this, but I wouldn’t say this is a new issue,” Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., chair of the pragmatic House Main Street Caucus, told Fox News Digital.

Johnson noted that “every ten years” or so, Washington officials assemble task forces and commissions to discuss the national debt or the solvency of programs like Social Security and Medicare.

TERM LIMITS, PREVENTING LEADER ‘MONARCHY’ BECOME TOP CONCERNS IN POST-MCCONNELL GOP

“I think what is maybe ripening this issue a bit more now is the [threat of insolvency],” he said. “It is closer than ever.”

Johnson himself has led the charge in pushing for work requirements for federal food benefits, something Democrats have used as a political cudgel, despite the programs’ ballooning costs. But in recent months, more Republicans are declaring their support for curbing entitlements.

Meanwhile, House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., openly called for entitlement reform in his announcement that he would be running for House Appropriations chair.

“You cannot solve the U.S. deficit problem exclusively in the Appropriations Committee, as discretionary spending only amounts to roughly 28 percent of U.S. expenditures,” Cole said earlier this month. “If we are going to produce a balanced budget, which I strongly believe we should be striving to do, we should be having serious discussions on how to fund and reform our entitlement programs, which makes up approximately 60 percent of all spending.”

The Republican Study Committee, a 175-member House GOP group led by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., recently released a budget proposal that called for raising the “retirement age for future retirees to account for increases in life expectancy” as well as restructuring Medicare to compete with private options.

Democrats up to the White House pounced on the proposal, accusing Republicans of trying to gut Social Security and Medicare. Seizing on the looming November election as well, Biden’s campaign has sought to link any Republican victory to deep cuts to the programs.

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House Freedom Caucus Chairman Bob Good, R-Va., told Fox News Digital that he expects that Republicans will take on entitlement reform if they win the White House, House and Senate.

“My hope would be that if we have full control of government that we will take the steps necessary to preserve and protect Social Security and Medicare for the current retirees who are depending on it, those nearing retirement, depending on the next few years, [and] so that it’s there also for people like you,” Good said.

Former President Donald Trump, the presumed GOP nominee for 2024, has not been explicit about his stance regarding entitlement reform. 

He told CNBC earlier this month that “there is a lot you can do in terms of entitlements, in terms of cutting.” His spokesperson, Karoline Leavitt, later told NBC News, “President Trump will continue to strongly protect Social Security and Medicare in his second term.”

But Paul Winfree, Trump’s former White House budget policy director and current president of the Economic Policy Innovation Center (EPIC), backed entitlement reform to reduce the national deficit and save the programs themselves.

“Interest rates are significantly higher and so too are debt service payments. At the same time, the Fed has had a hard time getting inflation fully under control,” Winfree told Fox News Digital. “Those are market signals that the deficit really needs to come down. And the sooner policymakers begin to confront the biggest drivers of the deficit, specifically what is spent on federal health programs, the more likely it will be that they can protect programs for the most vulnerable.”

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The federal government spent $2.2 trillion on Social Security and Medicare in 2023, according to the Congressional Budget Office, out of $3.8 trillion in mandatory spending.

Strategist Doug Heye, who’s pessimistic about the talk becoming action, suggested that it was precisely because reforms seem too out of reach that Republicans are able to be vocal.

“Entitlement reform, depending on who you talk to, is – it’s a tool to show either voters or portions of conservative media that you’re fighting, and it doesn’t mean that any of this is going to happen. In fact, that’s sort of irrelevant to the process, showing the willingness to fight becomes paramount,” Heye explained.

Over 150 alumni sick with cancer have one thing in common

North Carolina State University in Raleigh continues to investigate student and alumni exposure to concerning levels of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), a probable carcinogen, in one of its campus buildings that the school officially shut down in November of last year.

More than 150 cancer cases in people who attended classes at Poe Hall have been reported to local news outlet WRAL, which began probing concerns about the building starting around November 2023, a month after PCB levels at more than 38 times the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) standards for building materials were detected inside five rooms within the building. 

“I was finishing up my finals, and I was going in for a physical at the health center. … I was having night sweats for weeks and weeks before this, and I could not figure out what was happening,” NC State alumna Christie Lewis told Fox News Digital. “I was having to get up in the middle of night and change clothes completely. And then I would fall asleep. And I had to put a towel down. It honestly took me weeks to even tell my husband about them because I kept on forgetting about it because it was just in the middle of the night.”

Lewis attended NC State between 2007 and 2012. She began studying in the business school and eventually ended up in the education department, where she took classes in Poe Hall, which housed NC State’s College of Education and Department of Psychology, “for about four years,” she said.

105 PEOPLE DIAGNOSED WITH RARE CANCERS ARE ALLEGEDLY LINKED TO A NJ HIGH SCHOOL, SURVIVOR SEEKS ANSWERS

Around 2011 or 2012, while in college, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Months later, after discovering a lump on her neck, she was diagnosed with angiosarcoma.

“And so just as I’m finishing up my finals and my papers, I’m going to see an endocrinologist and they’re doing a biopsy of my neck, and that’s traumatic,” she said. “They don’t sedate you or anything. They just kind of shove a huge needle into your throat and jab it around everywhere.”

NEW JERSEY TOWNSHIP INVESTIGATING MYSTERIOUS ‘TIME COHORT’ CANCER CLUSTER THAT MAY BE LINKED TO HIGH SCHOOL

When she was diagnosed, her first thought was “people get cancer,” Lewis recalled. But when she heard that the number of NC State alumni who were diagnosed with cancer was three times the number of average cancer cases in Wake County, as WRAL first reported, she became more skeptical.  

“I could have never made that connection by myself because I didn’t know anybody else. I was the only one in my little cohort of classmates who had cancer when I was in college,” she said. “And I just thought that something was just wrong with my body. That something was wrong with me. I have four siblings, and everybody’s so healthy except for me.”

When she started reading reports about a potential link between Poe Hall and cancer cases, she thought: “Maybe my body isn’t the problem. Maybe I was actually exposed to something that caused this. I don’t know, it definitely shook me a little bit.”

“Maybe my body isn’t the problem.”

— Christie Lewis

Poe Hall was constructed in 1971, when the use of PCBs in construction materials were common, but they would come to an end by the next decade.

The 152 total cancer cases in people who attended classes at Poe Hall reported to WRAL have not officially been linked to the building, nor can the cases officially be categorized as a “cluster,” which is “the occurrence of a greater than expected number of cancer cases among a group of people in a defined geographic area over a specific time period,” according to the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). However, records obtained by WRAL show that the building tested positive for PCBs as far back as 2018.

Jennifer Walter, another NC State alumna, was also diagnosed with thyroid cancer and synovial sarcoma years after attending NC State between 2004 and 2007. She attended classes in Poe Hall as a psychology major.

Walter was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2017 after years of trying to determine what was wrong with her. The synovial sarcoma diagnosis came later, in 2022.

“The biggest symptom was the fatigue,” Walter told Fox News Digital. “They had tested me for mono and all other things like that. … It was debilitating. I was able to work, but I couldn’t do anything else. And then there was really bad joint pain. So, I got tested for arthritis and all those types of things. Of course, they didn’t find anything. But it was, again, just debilitating. I couldn’t do anything. I was barely able to work, and then that was it. I would just go home and go to sleep.”

“I was engaged, and then I wasn’t,” Walter said when asked how the diagnosis had impacted her life. 

To Walter, her thyroid cancer “wasn’t a huge deal,” but the sarcoma changed her life, she said. 

“I have medical trauma or medical PTSD, I think they call it. Around my scans, I get ridiculously anxious, because you never know if what’s going to come back,” she said. “There are such scary statistics that are tied with sarcoma. It’s just a lot more real. … They got it early, which I’m grateful for, but that fear never goes away. It’s something I’m going to have every day for the rest of my life.”

“It’s something I’m going to have every day for the rest of my life.”

— Jennifer Walter

Since shutting down Poe Hall, NC State has created a webpage directing users to updates about its investigation into contaminants in Poe Hall and how the school continues to analyze testing results. The University referred Fox News Digital to the webpage when asked if they would like to share a statement in response to ongoing concerns.

“The university remains committed to doing the right things to ensure this is a safe place to work, learn and live,” reads a statement from Chancellor Randy Woodson on the page.

The webpage notes that the school initially received information from the Occupational Safety and Health Division of the North Carolina Department of Labor (NC DOL) saying an NC State employee had submitted a “complaint concerning alleged health and/or safety hazards related to Poe Hall” in August 2023.

Health officials began sampling in the building in October. The initial phase of NC State’s Indoor Environmental Investigation Report sharing sample test results are available on NC State’s website.

“Poe Hall is a 7-story academic building constructed in approximately 1971, when PCBs were widely used in building materials, such as paint, caulk, and some mastics, across the United States,” the report notes. “PCBs are a family of related artificial compounds, manufactured for use in a multitude of industrial and commercial products prior to 1979, when they were banned in the United States.”

On March 25, Chancellor Woodson spoke during a webinar with epidemiologists Dr. Zack Moore, of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NCDHHS), and Dr. Andy Olshan, of the University of North Carolina (UNC)-Chapel Hill. Moore explained during the webinar that “most” groups of cancer cases stemming from a specific area “don’t” fit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) definion of a “cancer cluster.”

“[CDC] guidance defines a cancer cluster as a higher-than-expected number of cases of the same or related cancers in a particular area over a particular period of time. So, not every concern that comes up meets that definition of a cancer cluster. In fact, most don’t,” Moore said during the March 25 webinar. “That’s not because it’s some impossibly strict definition, that’s because of challenges with actually having the data to understand whether a cluster is really present.”

NCDHHS said in a statement to Fox News Digital that “NC State has taken action to protect the public’s health including notifying staff about concerns, closing Poe Hall and consulting with an outside environmental expert to initiate remediation of the building.”

“NCDHHS is in frequent communication with NC State and understands NC State and [National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health] will be working together on the investigation at Poe Hall. Investigating potential linkage of cancer cases to occupational exposures is challenging and part of the specialized work of NIOSH,” the agency said, adding that NCDHHS does “not have information on whether the NC State situation will ultimately be determined to meet” the CDC’s most recent definition of a “cluster.”

Ben Whitley, an attorney at Whitley Law Firm in Raleigh, said his firm is looking into litigation against Monsanto, the company that made the materials that contained PCBs used in the construction of Poe Hall. He noted that Vermont recently passed a law requiring testing of school buildings renovated before 1980 for PCBs.

“Unfortunately, I think we’re going to see it more and more in these buildings that were built during that range — 1971 to 1979. That’s when the PCBs were around. They were being used in caulking and insulation and they were like this wonder material,” Whitley explained to Fox News Digital. 

“I think we’re going to see it more and more in these buildings that were built during that range — 1971 to 1979.”

— Ben Whitley

Whitley added that NC State may see more issues with PCB contamination as it tests more buildings on campus.

Lewis said she feels “violated” because she trusted that she was “getting a good education…in a safe place,” and then “all of a sudden,” she was “put in unsafe conditions.” She also has concerns that the “forever chemicals” can “pass in utero” and therefore onto her children.

“It’s made me just feel really nervous,” she said.

Walter similarly said the Poe Hall investigation has made her question “what else” she and her family have been or are being exposed to in their everyday environments.

“I feel like we deserve more answers. If there are more answers to be had … everyone should be actively looking for that,” she said.

Infamous trash-talking history fuels national championship showdown

Iowa and LSU will meet Monday night in a rematch of last year’s national championship with a trip to the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Final Four on the line.

And the spotlight has never been hotter for either team.

Caitlin Clark and the Hawkeyes are looking to solidify their run and put a cap on a tremendous season with the sharpshooter. Not to mention, Clark topped the all-scoring charts this season and her greatness will be debated for quite some time if she manages to attain a championship.

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LSU comes into the match with the media spotlight burning ever so brightly. Coach Kim Mulkey has had to defend her players from wild opinions – much of which came in a since-edited Los Angeles Times column in which the players were described as “dirty debutantes.” But besides that, the Tigers have immense firepower and are looking to repeat as champions.

Basketball fans will also have to wonder whether the Elite Eight matchup will match the intensity of last year’s national championship. Angel Reese was sure of herself as she pointed to her ring finger at Clark toward the end of the game. On Sunday, she insisted there was no animosity between her and the top guard.

“I don’t think people realize it’s not personal,” Reese said. “Once we get out from between those lines, if I see you walking down the street, it’s like, ‘Hey, girl, what’s up? Let’s hang out.’ I think people just take it like we hate each other. Me and Caitlin Clark don’t hate each other. I want everybody to understand that. It’s just a super competitive game.”

COURT BLUNDER MARS NCAA WOMEN’S TOURNAMENT GAME BETWEEN TEXAS, NC STATE

Clark also agreed that trash-talking is a part of the game.

“Both of us want to win more than anything, and that’s how it should be when you’re a competitor and you get into a situation like this, whether it was the national championship, whether it’s the Elite Eight,” she added.

It will be a matchup of two of the best players in the country.

Reese is leading the team with 18.7 points and 13.2 rebounds per game. Hailey Van Lith is leading the team with 3.2 assists per game.

Clark is leading the team in almost every major stat category – 31.7 points, 7.3 rebounds, 8.9 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Center Shannon Goodman is averaging 0.6 blocks per game.

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Iowa-LSU will tip off at 7:15 p.m. ET.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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‘Home Improvement’ star addresses rumors of a reboot in the works

Patricia Richardson is not looking to reprise her role in “Home Improvement,” despite rumors from the show’s star and her onscreen husband, Tim Allen, who has suggested otherwise.

In a recent conversation on the “Back to the Best” podcast, Richardson was emphatic that she did not want to do a reboot of the ’90s sitcom. “It was so weird… I would hear [Tim] was coming out publicly and saying this stuff about how everyone was on board to do a ‘Home Improvement’ reunion,” she remarked. “But he never asked me, and he never asked Jonathan [Taylor Thomas]. Who I talk to.”

“So I called Jonathan one day and said, ‘Has he asked you about this? And he went, ‘No.’ And “Why’s he going around telling everybody that we’re all on board when he hasn’t talked to you or me?'”

PATRICIA RICHARDSON SAYS CHEMISTY WITH TIM ALLEN MADE HER TAKE THE PART ON ‘HOME IMPROVEMENT’

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Richardson added that at one point, a rumor online had circulated about a specific script pertaining to her character, matriarch Jill Taylor. “He was kind of lying to people and telling people I was on board and I didn’t know anything about it,” she said of Allen. “So I wrote a big thing on Twitter and said ‘I’m not involved in any series with Jill and I’ve also never even been asked to do another ‘Home Improvement’ reunion thing. But I would not want to,” she added.

“I mean, Zach is now a felon,” she said, referencing her onscreen son Zachary Ty Bryan, who has been arrested for a litany of charges, including domestic violence. In October, he pleaded guilty to felony assault in the fourth degree. 

In 1978, Allen was arrested for possession of cocaine, pleading guilty to felony drug trafficking charges, avoiding a life sentence by giving the names of others involved. He served a little over two years before being paroled.

“Taran [Noah Smith] hasn’t acted since he left the show; he’s not an actor anymore,” Richardson continued of her youngest onscreen son. “And Jonathan’s not really interested in acting. He wants to direct and write. And we don’t have Wilson,” she said referencing late actor Earl Hindman, who portrayed the family’s neighbor.

“It’s not gonna be the show, at all,” Richardson said of a possible reboot. “And people think we can just magically go right back to who we were 30 years ago. And do a show that was 30 years ago and we’ve all changed quite a bit, I think, since then,” she admitted. “It would be very weird.”

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“I think we did it, we did it well, we quit at the right time before it got really bad. And it should just stay as it is,” she suggested. 

Her honesty comes months after initial rumblings of a reboot sparked by Allen in November. He told the now defunct outlet, The Messenger, as reported by Entertainment Weekly, “I see Richard Karn a lot,” who played Al Borland. “And I talk to the boys and I’m there as one of their friends. We keep talking about [a spinoff].”

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“It’s funny, one of the conversations we’ve had recently is how weird it would be if ‘Home Improvement’ would be about the kids’ kids,” Allen shared. “Like if all of them had children, and I’m a grandparent. ‘Home Re-Improvement’ or something like that. It’s come up.”