new survey by the Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of prominent accounts on those seven platforms had previously been banished from others like Twitter and Facebook.

F.B.I. raid on Mar-a-Lago thrust his latest pronouncements into the eye of the political storm once again.

study of Truth Social by Media Matters for America, a left-leaning media monitoring group, examined how the platform had become a home for some of the most fringe conspiracy theories. Mr. Trump, who began posting on the platform in April, has increasingly amplified content from QAnon, the online conspiracy theory.

He has shared posts from QAnon accounts more than 130 times. QAnon believers promote a vast and complex conspiracy that centers on Mr. Trump as a leader battling a cabal of Democratic Party pedophiles. Echoes of such views reverberated through Republican election campaigns across the country during this year’s primaries.

Ms. Jankowicz, the disinformation expert, said the nation’s social and political divisions had churned the waves of disinformation.

The controversies over how best to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic deepened distrust of government and medical experts, especially among conservatives. Mr. Trump’s refusal to accept the outcome of the 2020 election led to, but did not end with, the Capitol Hill violence.

“They should have brought us together,” Ms. Jankowicz said, referring to the pandemic and the riots. “I thought perhaps they could be kind of this convening power, but they were not.”


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Mexican Faith Leader Jailed For Sex Abuse; Flock Stays Loyal

Legions of Naasón Joaquín García’s followers remain loyal to him, viewing his imprisonment as a challenge that will strengthen their church.

Their spiritual leader is behind bars in California after pleading guilty to sexually abusing minors. Yet legions of followers of Naasón Joaquín García in his home base in Mexico remain fervently loyal to him, viewing his imprisonment as a challenge that will strengthen their church, La Luz del Mundo (The Light of the World), rather than weaken it.

His continued hold on his flock was evident recently at the Christian church’s main temple in Guadalajara, as thousands gathered to pray for their absent leader during their Holy Supper, the most sacred festivity for La Luz del Mundo. To gasps of surprise, Joaquín García addressed the congregation by telephone from his Los Angeles prison, where he is serving a 16-year sentence.

“I do not see the bars that separate me from you,” he told his followers. “I see your beautiful faces … because you are the children of God.”

Even outside the temple, the sound of his voice stirred emotions among dozens of devotees guarding entries to the sanctuary. Nearly all closed their eyes. Many lifted their fists. Some knelt and wept.

Near the end of the call, Joaquín García asked his followers to raise their hands and their voices to God and repeat after him: “I promise you, Lord, that whatever the suffering, I will never abandon you.”

It seems clear that many members of the church, founded in Mexico in 1926 and now active in many countries, aren’t ready to abandon Joaquín García as their “apostle” — the term used for the church’s leader. Many believe he was sent by God to preach to them and are convinced he is innocent, despite his guilty plea.

“The apostle always shows determination to move forward,” said Phares Ruiz, who traveled from El Salvador to attend the Holy Supper. “He’s firm in his convictions, and the church is firm as well in its purpose of moving forward.”

Ruiz told The Associated Press that his family has belonged to La Luz del Mundo for three generations.

Joaquín García, 53, was arrested in 2019 in California. He initially faced more than 20 charges, but most were dismissed after a plea deal with prosecutors. The church contended that prosecutors withheld or doctored evidence, and said Joaquín García pleaded guilty because he didn’t think he could get a fair trial.

“The Apostle of Jesus Christ has had no choice but to accept with much pain that the agreement presented is the best way forward to protect the church and his family,” the church said.

The home base of the church is the Guadalajara neighborhood of Hermosa Provincia, Spanish for “beautiful province.” Jericho, Bethlehem and Nazareth are among the names of roads converging on the white temple that locals call “the cake,” for its white tiers that diminish in size as they rise upward.

Congregation members in the neighborhood call each other “brother” and “sister” and take pride in helping one another. The church’s media relations office claims there is no crime in the area.

The neighborhood has cafeterias, clinics, a recreation center and a store that sells Bibles and religious-themed games for children. From the walls hang photographs of Joaquín García, smiling and wearing a tuxedo. Spanning the main street is a sculpture spelling “innocent” in Spanish.

Sara Pozos, 49, is among many in the neighborhood who believe their leader’s imprisonment has strengthened the church.

“I think it changed for the better in the sense that now we feel more united, and we feel more empowered,” she said.

“It has been a very difficult issue, of course, for him and for us,” she added. “We all suffer something in life, but one learns to know those moments where you see that God is doing something to help you, to get ahead, not to let you fall.”

Another neighborhood resident, Sailem Castillo, also said she was upbeat despite Joaquín García’s imprisonment.

“For us everything is very nice, everything continues to work,” she said. “Ministers, pastors and deacons have their same duties. They bless the bread, the wine, and do other things as if he were here, although physically he is not.”

The jailed leader is the grandson of La Luz del Mundo’s founder: Eusebio Joaquín González, a member of the military who began preaching in 1926. He’s known to church members as Aarón — a result, he said, of God asking him to change his name.

Aarón’s wife was the church’s first member. Today it claims a membership of more than 5 million in some 50 nations.

La Luz del Mundo is sometimes described as evangelical, but its members do not embrace this term. The church’s doctrine is learned from the cradle. Parents give biblical names to their children and take them to the temple at 40 days old to promise they will guide them to follow their path.

Most teachings translate into something quotidian. During services, the women sit to the right and men to the left. In some cities, people tithe more than 10% of their monthly income to the church. Biblical verses are cited to explain behavior.

Castillo, a recently married woman of 25, told AP the church advises members how “to lead a decent life,” in which women may not drink alcohol or go out on frequent dates. Like other women in Hermosa Provincia, she wears dresses and skirts that are not form-fitting, eschews makeup and earrings and wears her hair long.

The religion is “very demanding,” said Arlene M. Sánchez-Walsh, a professor of religious studies at Azusa Pacific University, a Christian institution near Los Angeles.

“It is not sufficient to say ‘I have converted’ or “I have baptized'” she said. “You have to follow certain steps to prove your loyalty.”

For some young people, these steps include memorizing songs honoring the apostle, reading the Bible before bed and not marrying someone from outside the church.

“All this goes to show that although you are part of this world, you have accepted a very particular way of life because you are Christian,” Sánchez-Walsh said.

Those born in the community are baptized at 14 because, according to the church, that lets them decide whether to reaffirm or leave the faith. Nevertheless, there are former members who say their ceremony was not optional.

Ahead of the baptism, in a ritual known as “the revivals,” children undergo days of prayer and fasting inside a temple. The revival consists of repeating “Glory to Christ” nonstop until the youths are heard speaking in tongues to testify that the Holy Spirit has entered them.

For Raquel Haifa, 43, fulfilling the revivals was a traumatizing experience that she considers abusive, because minors are not able to decline to take part.

“I did cry, because I was saying, ‘God, deliver me from this, make this time pass quickly,'” Haifa said from Texas.

Currently, journalists are not allowed to attend services or take photographs inside the church’s temples. Since Joaquín García’s arrest, La Luz del Mundo’s media relations team says it cannot make official statements on his case because litigation is ongoing.

On Sept. 8 a lawsuit was filed in California against Joaquín García and four church members alleged to be complicit in the sex abuse. The suit was filed by five women who — under the pseudonym Jane Doe — were identified as victims in the original criminal charges against him.

It accuses Joaquín García of conditioning victims, under the guise of religion, to serve him above all else, ultimately resulting in the sexual abuse over the course of several years.

The lawsuit includes detailed accounts from the five plaintiffs alleging that they were pressured by Joaquín García and his associates into performing for pornographic photo shoots, and were forced to engage in sex acts with him.

“The church weaponized the faith of their most vulnerable members,” said Jonati Joey Yedidsion, one of the lawyers handling the lawsuit. “Instead of protecting those innocent women, Naasón and the church fostered and then brutally preyed on their blind trust and allegiance in the ‘Apostle'”.

The case has been difficult for some former members who have distanced themselves from the church.

Speaking on a podcast called “I Left a Sect,” Lo-ami Salazar said Hermosa Provincia used to be her “happy place.”

“Knowing that these abuses took place there, in my happy place, in my safe place, is horrible,” she said.

Additional reporting by the Associated Press.



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D23 Expo 2022: Disney Shares Its Future By Looking Back At Its Past

This year’s D23 Expo explored plans for Disney’s future, many of which are remakes of classic originals.

For being almost a century old, Mickey Mouse looks pretty good. 

The world’s best-known mouse and tens of thousands of his biggest fans came to celebrate what made him famous: The Walt Disney Company. 

Fans from all 50 states and 43 countries, according to Disney, gathered at the D23 Expo fan convention, filled with heroes and villains to celebrate all things Disney.

“It’s a place for Disney fans, Star Wars fans, Marvel fans,” said Kiara Ortiz, Disney fan. “There’s a little bit of everything for everyone. It’s just a fun experience.”

At D23 Expo, the company was already looking ahead to 2023 and its 100th anniversary.

In the last century, Disney has grown into a global, cultural and business behemoth with movies, streaming, broadcasting, theme parks, resorts and even cruise ships.

But it hasn’t all been smooth sailing. Earlier this year, Disney condemned a Florida law that critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. That decision angered Gov. Ron Desantis and lawmakers, who voted to revoke a special district status that Disney uses to operate like its own small government. Exactly how it will affect Disney and Florida taxpayers is still unclear.

Disney is looking to the past for some of its future, revealing at the D23 Expo the latest live-action movies that will reimagine classic animated films, like “The Little Mermaid,” starring Halle Bailey.

In a remake of the 1940 original, Tom Hanks plays a live Gepetto in a “Pinocchio” movie now running on Disney+.

It’s that nostalgia that fans, and especially collectors, can’t get enough of. Rare finds can bring in a lot of cash.

Anja Buehring is a big fan of the puppet who became a real boy. At an expo booth full of vintage Disney, she saw one thing she couldn’t resist.  

“I bought a trash can, a Pinocchio trash can,” Buehring said. “It’s too cute to trash it up.”

The company is also honoring its past by rescuing Walt Disney’s mothballed Grumman plane from the punishing Florida climate and restoring it to its former polish. It was the plane Walt Disney used to fly cross country to the 1964 World’s Fair, scouting locations for Walt Disney World. It even shows up in a couple of Disney movies.

“It was his pride and joy,” said Becky Cline, of the Walt Disney Company Archives. “He loved this plane. He had a special seat with his special instrument panel and his phone to the pilot and everything. He just loved this.”

These days, Disney has a hand in so many properties it’s hard to be a fan of just one.

The costume Emily Billones built is a mash up of two Disney characters: Moana and Boba Fett.

“I am Moana and Boba Fett combined,” Billones said. “We call ourselves Disney Fetts, so I go by Moana Fett. The helmet took me probably on and off, maybe a couple weeks.”

For Billones and countless fans like her around the world, Disney is a state of mind, as it’s about to start its second century.

“I feel like it’s a place where people can come together,” Billones said. “I feel like it’s very diversified, so I feel like there’s a princess for everybody, so to speak. And, it’s just fun. There’s really no growing up. You just live your life, enjoy life to the fullest. That’s really what life’s all about.”



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White House Sends Monkeypox Vaccines To Labor Day Weekend Pride Events

Louisiana got 1,500 additional vaccine vials for the Southern Decadence festival.

It’s a celebration.  

“This is a must-do in New Orleans. It’s like Mardi Gras but this is Mardi Gras for this community, said Jennifer Jones, New Orleans’ dancing queen.

Southern Decadence, an LGBTQ+ festival expected to attract up to 300,000 people to the city of New Orleans, is back for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic.

But new to the party: A vaccination clinic.  

The White House is focusing on events like this one across the nation in hopes of getting the monkeypox outbreak under control.

“Our goal, as with many of our public health interventions, is to bring the service to the people who need it,” said John Brooks, the chief medical officer at the CDC’s multinational monkeypox outbreak response.

Anyone can get monkeypox but has been most common among men who have sex with men.

“What we know about monkeypox is that the number one mode of transmission is skin-to-skin intimate contact,” said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director at the New Orleans Health Department.

The CDC is working with the Louisiana Department of Health and the New Orleans Health Department to boost immunizations in the LGBTQ+ population.  

The federal government sent thousands of extra monkeypox vaccines to the city of New Orleans ahead of Southern Decadence this Labor Day weekend.

The city has a vaccination clinic within walking distance of the French Quarter, where people who are most at risk can go, get the monkeypox vaccine and get tested if they need to.  

The state got 1,500 additional vaccine vials for the event; officials say it’s possible that can provide up to 6,000 vaccine shots if administered correctly by a medical professional. It’s way less than what the state originally asked for, but the New Orleans Health Department says it’s better than nothing.          

“We do think that we have enough doses to at least serve a large number of folks who might be interested. We’ve been doing a lot of work before Decadence, lots, and lots and lots of vaccine events before to try to get our community protected. We’ve been doing a lot of messaging nationwide,” said Dr. Avegno.

Residents like Jonathan Reazin are happy to get the vaccine if it means keeping the party going.       

“A lot of people that have already gotten shots, we’re comparing bumps. Mine’s on the backside. Theirs’ are on the front,” said Reazin. “For me, if it happens in this community, I want to do my part to prevent it from spreading so that’s why I got the vaccine.”

If the city runs out of the vaccine supply provided for the event, officials informed Newsy, the city is able to dip into state supply in stores, as long as they promise to replenish anything that was used.



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White House Sends Extra Monkeypox Vaccines Ahead Of Pride Events

The White House is sending tens of thousands of monkeypox vaccine doses to areas hosting Labor Day pride events.

Federal and state health officials are sharing their plans to prevent Labor Day pride events from becoming monkeypox super spreaders.

The White House monkeypox response team says they’re sending an extra 6,000 vaccine doses to the Southern Decadence event in New Orleans, 2,400 extra to Pridefest in Oakland, California and 5,500 doses to Atlanta Black Pride in Georgia.

“It was a great opportunity to get folks ready for the event in terms of getting vaccines on the ground early, but also a great opportunity to reach people who don’t feel comfortable in a clinic but do feel comfortable in less stigmatizing spaces that can occur in the events,” said Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, White House national monkeypox response deputy coordinator.

It comes as Texas health officials confirm the first U.S. monkeypox death. They say an adult patient in the Houston area also was severely immunocompromised. An autopsy is expected in the next few weeks.

“Death is possible due to monkeypox but remains rare,” said Dr. Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC’s monkeypox response incident manager.

Anyone can get monkeypox. The World Health Organization and the CDC say gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men make up the majority of the cases.

In the U.S., cases are slowly trending down compared to July.

The WHO say the Americas accounted for 60% of global monkeypox cases in the past month. 

“There are encouraging early signs, as evidenced in France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, the United Kingdom and other countries that the outbreak may be slowing,” said Hans Kluge, WHO Europe regional director.

Federal officials are cautiously optimistic, but challenges remain, like getting vaccines equally distributed. About 10% of monkeypox vaccine doses have been given to Black people. They account for one-third of U.S. cases, according to the CDC.

The FDA also recently green lit a different method for giving the JYNNEOS shot: underneath the skin, but not as deep in the muscle. Federal officials say that should help get two doses of the vaccine to the 1.6 million people in the U.S. who are most at risk of contracting the virus.



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Commanders Rookie Running Back Brian Robinson Jr. Shot In Washington

By Associated Press

and Newsy Staff
August 29, 2022

The 23-year-old former Alabama player was taken to the hospital with what the team called non-life-threatening injuries after an attempted robbery.

Washington Commanders rookie running back Brian Robinson Jr. was shot during an attempted robbery or carjacking, the NFL team said Sunday night.

The 23-year-old former Alabama player was taken to a hospital with what the team called non-life-threatening injuries. The team said in a statement staff members were with Robinson at the hospital.

Coach Ron Rivera said he had been with Robinson.

“He is in good spirits and wanted me to thank everyone for their kind words, prayers & support,” Rivera said on Twitter. “He wants his teammates to know he appreciates them all for reaching out and he loves them all & will be back soon doing what he does best.”

D.C. police reported a shooting in the northeast section of the city and said it was on the lookout for two possible suspects.

Robinson, a third-round draft pick, was expected to start for the Commanders this season. He had been particularly impressive during training camp and preseason games, likely earning the job over incumbent Antonio Gibson.

“Brian’s been great,” offensive coordinator Scott Turner said recently. “He’s a real serious guy. Football is extremely important to him. He takes a lot of pride in being a physical runner.”

Robinson traveled with the team for its preseason finale at Baltimore on Saturday night but did not dress.

The 6-foot-1, 228-pound back rushed for 1,343 yards and 14 touchdowns last season at Alabama. The Commanders selected him with the 98th pick in the draft.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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More Monkeypox Vaccines Will Be Made Available Ahead Of Pride Events

By Maura Sirianni
August 19, 2022

The U.S. is setting aside an extra 50,000 doses of monkeypox vaccines, specifically for large-scale pride events.

As monkeypox cases surge across the U.S., pressure is mounting on the White House and the CDC to distribute more vaccines. But in many cities, there is still a major shortage.

“States don’t really know when vaccines are coming; it’s kind of a day-to-day thing,” said Dr. Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious-disease expert at University of California San Francisco.

The Biden administration is now dividing up what were previously full doses in order to stretch the limited stockpile. Health care providers are also being encouraged to inject the vaccine just below the skin to stretch doses up to five times.

“Seeing a lot of people with sickness and suffering really makes me feel sad because, again, it’s something we have the tools to do, and it really shows us the importance of a system and a well-oiled machine,” Dr. Chin-Hong said.

It’s a distribution hurdle: With the COVID vaccines, the CDC’s detailed “VTrckS” system allows states to track and reorder vaccine supplies, but with monkeypox, the government is repurposing a shot originally designed for smallpox.

According to CDC data, the U.S. has the most infections of any country — nearly 14,000. About 98% of those cases are men, and about 93% were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.

Officials announced an extra 50,000 doses of the monkeypox vaccine are being set aside and shipped to various cities ahead of upcoming pride celebrations.

“This is a two-dose vaccine series, and receiving the vaccine at these events will not provide protection at the event itself,” said Dr. Rochelle Walensky, CDC director. “We recognize that there are going to be some people who have traveled to large scale events and that they’re going to have to receive dose one of their vaccine at the event, and then they won’t necessarily receive dose two at their local jurisdiction, and we anticipate that.”

Health officials say the number of doses sent to each location will be based on event size and the number of health workers available to administer shots, as well as the number of attendees considered “high risk” for catching or spreading the disease.

For those living in major cities and are able to travel, one health expert says taking a drive 20 or 30 minutes outside the city may create more luck finding doses in less crowded areas.

In the meantime, the White House says it will continue to stretch a limited supply.



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The White House Is Releasing More Monkeypox Vaccines

The Biden Administration is releasing more monkeypox vaccines amid criticism over its response to the outbreak.

White House officials are facing mounting criticism over the response to the Monkeypox outbreak. They announced Thursday an additional 1.8 million vaccine doses will be available next week.

“Here’s what we do want all Americans to know: it’s important that we all take Monkeypox seriously and it’s critical that we do all we can to keep this virus from spreading,” said Xavier Becerra, the U.S. Secretary of Heath and Human Services.

Officials said another 50,000 courses of the Monkeypox antiviral treatment Tpoxx will be made available for states.

The administration is also making 50,000 additional vaccine doses available for large LGBTQ+ events like pride parades. The goal is to reach more gay and bisexual men — a group that has been hit hardest by the outbreak.

Demetre Daskalakis is the director of the CDC’s Division of HIV/AIDS. 

“This is a multi domain intervention… communication about how vaccine works, strategies to prevent exposure and intervention in the right place means it gets to the right people,” Daskalakis said. 

Monkeypox continues to spread rapidly, with the total number of cases in the U.S. reaching nearly 14,000.

The influx of new vaccines comes as the White House battles mounting questions over a slow response to the outbreak and its decision to stretch limited supply of the vaccine. The CDC says changing the way the vaccine is administered can help existing doses cover five times as many people.

“This is a precious resource that we want used efficiently and wisely without sacrificing effectiveness. We’re working to get everyone to intradermal,” said Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director. 

The new steps come one day after the CDC director said her agency would undergo a restructuring aimed at restoring public trust that has been damaged by poor communication throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.



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Missouri AG Eric Schmitt Beats Eric Greitens In GOP Senate Primary

Schmitt had more votes than U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Greitens combined, turning what was expected to be a tight race into a blowout.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate on Tuesday with surprising ease, ending months of worry among GOP leaders that scandal-scarred former Gov. Eric Greitens might win the primary and jeopardize what should be a reliably red seat in November.

In November, Schmitt will be opposed by Anheuser-Busch beer heiress Trudy Busch Valentine, who defeated Marine veteran Lucas Kunce and nine others in the Democratic primary. Both also face a challenge from a well-funded independent, John Wood, who has the financial backing of former Sen. John Danforth.

With nearly 90% of results in, Schmitt had more votes than his nearest two competitors — U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler and Greitens — combined, turning what was expected to be a tight race into a blowout.

“I’m proud of my working-class roots, and I’m going to Washington to fight for working families, defeating socialism, and leading the fight to save America,” Schmitt said in his victory speech in suburban St. Louis.

Greitens told a downcast crowd in another St. Louis suburb to “go home with strength and pride.”

“God has a plan,” Greitens said. “It doesn’t always work on our timeline, but it does work on his. Sometimes we have to practice patience.”

Greitens resigned four years ago following a sex scandal, two criminal charges that were eventually dropped and a legislative investigation that could have led to impeachment hearings. This year, his ex-wife accused him of abuse.

Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s announcement last year that he would not seek a third term set off a frenzy for his job, with nearly three dozen people in the two major parties filing to run.

Schmitt defeated a field that also included Hartzler, U.S. Rep. Billy Long and Mark McCloskey, who gained notoriety in 2020 when he and his wife pointed guns at racial injustice protesters outside their home.

Voter Darrel Durham, a 63-year-old heavy equipment operator from Columbia, said he thinks Schmitt can bring a new voice to Washington.

“I like all of his positions on draining the swamp,” Durham said.

On Monday, former President Donald Trump expressed support for “ERIC,” presumably meaning either Schmitt or Greitens, without picking between them. Comedian and Navy veteran Eric McElroy was also on the ballot in the GOP primary.

“I trust the Great People of Missouri, on this one, to make up their own minds, much as they did when they gave me landslide victories in the 2016 and 2020 Elections, and I am therefore proud to announce that ERIC has my Complete and Total Endorsement!” Trump wrote.

Voter Richard Greenup, a 66-year-old computer programmer from Columbia, said he wants “somebody that’s going to support Trump” and that he chose Schmitt over Greitens because, “good or bad, Schmitt, I don’t think, has that baggage.”

Greitens, a former Navy SEAL officer and Rhodes scholar, had been governor for a year when in January 2018 he confirmed a TV report about a 2015 extramarital affair. He was subsequently charged with felony invasion of privacy for allegedly taking a nude photo of the woman and using it to keep her quiet. That charge was dropped months later amid allegations that the chief investigator and local prosecutor mishandled the investigation.

Greitens, 48, says he was the victim of a political hit.

He faced a second charge accusing him of illegally using a donor list from a charity he founded to raise money for his campaign. That was dropped when he resigned in June 2018 after the Missouri House began an impeachment investigation.

Greitens has denied the abuse allegations from his ex-wife that she made in an affidavit in a child custody case. She cited one instance where he allegedly slapped their then-3-year-old son’s face and yanked him by the hair. In another, she accused him of pushing her to the ground.

Greitens also drew criticism for a June campaign video showing him brandishing a shotgun and declaring he’s hunting RINOs, or “Republicans in name only.”

Schmitt, 47, has gained attention for lawsuits that critics contend are politically motivated. He sued China over the coronavirus; school districts over mask mandates; and the city of St. Louis over its plan to provide $1 million for women to travel out of state for abortions.

“I’ve always been a fighter and as your attorney general I have fought in court to protect those liberties,” Schmitt said in his victory speech, citing mask and vaccine mandates, among other things.

Valentine, 65, is the daughter of August “Gussie” Busch Jr., the longtime chair and CEO of Anheuser-Busch who built the St. Louis-based company into the world’s largest beermaker. The brewery was sold to InBev in 2008. Valentine said she entered the race after witnessing the “division in our country and the vitriol in our politics.”

“After hundreds of career politicians, it’s time for a nurse in the Senate,” Valentine said in a victory speech.

Bob Westlake, 67, and his wife, Mary Jo, 69, both voted for Valentine. The Chesterfield couple liked her push for better health care coverage.

“Health care is a big deal to us,” Bob Westlake said, adding that they have a daughter with a chronic illness and that he and his wife are on Medicare.

Kunce, 39, lost despite the endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders. Kunce served tours of duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. Like Senate candidate John Fetterman in Pennsylvania, Kunce fashioned himself as a populist.

Wood’s entry into the race created new drama. Wood, 52, is a lifelong Republican, former U.S. attorney and most recently a top investigator for the U.S. House committee examining the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection. Danforth’s PAC has pledged to spend up to $20 million in support of Wood’s campaign.

Additional reporting by The Associated Press.



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Cyclists Cross Iowa In The 49th Annual RAGBRAI Experience

The annual bike ride across Iowa known as RAGBRAI is kicking off its 49th tour.

They say one can sum up the RAGBRAI experience in two words: Iowa nice.

It’s the open air, the corn fields and above all the small communities and their uniquely midwestern hospitality along the way.

For roughly 20,000 participants, it’s an epic 450-mile adventure stretching for eight days, from one side of Iowa to the other. 

This year is the ride’s 49th edition, and it starts in Sergeant Bluff. 

Teams of riders often come with a truck so a designated driver can transport the gear from one overnight town to the next.  

Tom Kurth is a 77-year-old RAGBRAI veteran.

“You got to have a system to this,” Kurth said. “This is the 36th in a row. Every day, every mile, every hill.” 

The route changes ever year, so nearly all of Iowa has participated.

“My son made this up, and it shows every route that I’ve been on, 35 of them,” Kurth said.

RAGBRAI is steeped in tradition. For some, that includes playing drinking games along the way. 

“I like to drink the beers, and I like to enjoy my friends,” Tyrone Nichols said. “I know so many people from Iowa now since I’ve been here so many times.”

For 15 years, Nichols has been coming to RAGBRAI from Tulsa, Oklahoma. This year he brought in his girlfriend, a rookie.   

“He’s promised to change all my flat tires,” Nancy Fairchild said.

One stop, called a meeting town, is located right in the middle of the route. Anthon, Iowa — with a population of 545 — has been preparing for months to host one of the largest crowds it’s ever seen as a selected RAGBRAI meeting town. It’s where 20,000 people are regrouping and enjoying food and drinks from local vendors.

Anthon city clerk Jeni Umbach is in charge of the day’s events. 

“We want people to see what our little town can do, even though we’re few but mighty,” Umbach said.

She has been working day and night to set everything up, including a display of her town’s ultimate pride. Anthon was once home to the world’s tallest man and the man with the longest hiccups.

“When you look around and see everybody laughing, holding a beverage, eating a sandwich, you know, not leaving,” RAGBRAI director Matt Phippen said. “You know you’ve done it right.” 

Each year in January, RAGBRAI selects a few overnight towns from a pool of applicants.  

From there, other towns along the way, like Anthon, are added to the route. 

It all started in 1973 with two Des Moines-registered journalists who decided to bike across the state and invite readers along. 

It’s now a massive event. But Phippen says the focus remains the same: the people of Iowa.  

That includes state troopers, like Sergeant Alex Dinkla, who help guide the riders  and turn up the beat. 

Dinkla says it’s the same troopers who follow RAGBRAI for eight days, so they feel like part of the community. 

“We see different people that we’ve met year after year. They recognize us. They come up and hang out with us under our tents, talk to us for a while. And so that that means a lot and it makes our day go by much faster,” Dinkla said.  

After 53 miles on the road and many glorious stops, riders finally reached day one’s final destination: Ida Grove. 

Now here in Ida Grove, you get the ultimate RAGBRAI experience. It’s one of eight overnight towns where locals and riders come together for one giant open air party.   

When the party is over, riders can sleep at a nearby campground or in residents’ homes and backyards. 

Karen Maricle and Dan Knop welcome 70 riders into their home, garage and yard — and they’re cooking for everyone. 

“We decided we’d open up our backyards and let whoever needed a spot,” Knop said.  

In typical midwestern fashion, they also keep it humble. 

“They’re the ones paddling, and we don’t have to do anything,” Knop said.  

Tomorrow morning the riders will be gone and back on the road.  

They’ll create so many memories over eight days, they’ll lose count. 

But one thing they’ll never forget: the people of Iowa and their boundless hospitality. 



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