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The Latest Headlines You Need To Know

  • Its another year for the holidays, and the Seminole County Sheriff's Office wanted to make sure that the children who needed it most have a little something wonderful this year.   Despite some rain Saturday morning, the Christmas for Calhoun County Kids event at the Centennial Bank in Lake Mary carried on, with folks dropping off toys and gifts for kids, as well as back to school supplies and essentials. Santa even showed up in the SWAT team Bearcat vehicle to help add a little holiday cheer to the event.    These donated goodies will go to the children of Calhoun County in the Panhandle, which is still recovering from the devastation that Hurricane Michael left behind.
  • A Texas judge has sentenced a mom to 40 years in prison for the hot car deaths of her two toddler daughters. According to the Kerrville Daily Times, Amanda Hawkins, 20, was sentenced Wednesday, about three months after she pleaded guilty to child abandonment and endangerment charges in the June 2017 deaths of her daughters, Brynn Hawkins, 1, and Addyson Overgard-Eddy, 2, in Kerrville. >> Texas mother charged, accused of intentionally leaving toddlers in hot car to die Authorities said Hawkins left the girls in the car outside a Kerrville home overnight as she socialized and smoked marijuana with friends June 6 to 7, 2017, The Associated Press reported. Outdoor temperatures hit 85 degrees, according to the Daily Times. Prosecutors said the girls had been in the car about 15 hours when Hawkins retrieved them, bathing them and Googling heat stroke treatments before taking them to a hospital, the Daily Times reported. Hawkins initially told hospital workers that the girls had collapsed while smelling flowers, but her story 'wasn't quite adding up,' physician Daniel Gebhard said.  >> Read more trending news  Doctors pronounced the girls dead June 8. “There’s not a day that goes by that I think about what I should have done,” Hawkins said before she was sentenced. “It’s heartbreaking, and it will affect me for the rest of my life.” Read more here or here. – The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • Facing investigations by the Justice Department, his own Inspector General, and Democrats in the U.S. House, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke will leave his post by the end of this year, President Donald Trump announced on Saturday, continuing the high profile staff changes since the elections in his administration. “Ryan has accomplished much during his tenure and I want to thank him for his service to our Nation,” the President tweeted, not mentioning the investigations Zinke faced, covering excessive travel costs, improper political activities, and potential conflicts of interest. Zinke – like others in the Trump Cabinet – also faced the prospect of actual aggressive oversight in the Congress, with Democrats taking over the House of Representatives in January. The lawmaker who would lead most of those questions is Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), whom Zinke said a few weeks ago was nothing but a drunk. “It’s hard for him to think straight from the bottom of the bottle,” Zinke tweeted from his official account. My thoughts on Rep. Grijalva’s opinion piece. #TuneInnForMore pic.twitter.com/VMGxdtHwvU — Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) November 30, 2018 “This is no kind of victory, but I’m hopeful that it is a genuine turning of the page,” Grijalva said on Saturday. Among the investigations into Zinke, the internal watchdog at the Interior Department found that he had taken a security detail with him for a vacation with his wife to Turkey and Greece, costing taxpayers $25,000. Zinke also spent $12,375 on a chartered flight to take him from Las Vegas back to his home of Kalispell, Montana. During some of the Inspector General investigations of Zinke, the Trump Administration tried to move an appointed from the Department of Housing and Urban Development into the IG office at Interior; after complaints and questions about the legitimacy of the move, the change did not occur. Democrats in Congress, who often compared Zinke’s ethics questions to those of former Trump EPA chief Scott Pruitt, had nothing good to say about Zinke, who arrived at the Interior Department for his first day of work in Washington, on his horse. “Glad to see that Interior Secretary Zinke is being forced out,” tweeted Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ). “Tired of Trump Administration officials who use their office for personal gain.” “Ryan Zinke kept zero of his promises and used our public lands as handouts to his fossil fuel cronies,” said Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA). “Ryan Zinke’s tenure at Interior was a never-ending stream of terrible management decisions,” said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “I will not miss him.” Good riddance to Ryan Zinke and the horse he literally rode in on. pic.twitter.com/triFovIXPZ — Chellie Pingree (@chelliepingree) December 15, 2018 The President’s announcement about Zinke’s future came a day after the President announced that his budget chief, Mick Mulvaney, would be Acting White House Chief of Staff starting in 2019. Other Trump Cabinet officials also could be on their way out in coming weeks, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. “Thank u, next,” tweeted Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).
  • Insuring that North Carolina’s Ninth District seat will be vacant when the 116th Congress convenes in January, the North Carolina state elections board on Friday set a hearing for January 11, 2019, where officials will receive evidence on election irregularities focused on absentee ballot fraud which seemingly benefited Republican Mark Harris. “State investigators are awaiting additional documents from parties subpoenaed in this matter and finalizing the investigation prior to the hearing,” the State Board of Elections and Ethics said in a statement. Originally, the board had planned a hearing before December 21. In an interview with WBTV on Friday, Harris denied knowing that McRae Dowless – hired to run an absentee ballot operation in Bladen County – was doing anything which was illegal. “No, absolutely not,” Harris said in his first interview since allegations of election fraud began to surface after the November elections. This means Mark Harris will not be sworn in on January 3. #NC09 #ncpol — Joe Bruno (@JoeBrunoWSOC9) December 14, 2018 “In the Marines, I learned what it means to fight for our democracy,” tweeted Democrat Dan McCready, who lost to Harris by 905 votes. “I never imagined I would watch our democracy come under attack right here at home,” McCready added. It’s not clear if the U.S. House of Representatives will also investigate the possible fraud in the Ninth District race, which possibly involved ballot fraud and discarded ballots. The North Carolina board could still order a new election, which may involve a new primary as well, as some Republicans would like to get Harris out of the race for the seat in Congress, worried that he will be too tainted by the charges of election fraud. . @NCSBE will hold public hearing into 9th CD irregularities on Jan. 11. Notice below. #ncpol #ncga pic.twitter.com/5TYZOFhJYC — NCSBE (@NCSBE) December 14, 2018 The decision to extend the investigation of any election fraud into 2019 means that the U.S. House will start the 116th Congress with Democrats holding a 235-199 edge in the House – with the one vacancy from North Carolina.
  • A federal judge in Texas ruled President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act 'invalid' Friday, the eve of the sign-up deadline for coverage next year. In a 55-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor ruled that last year's tax cut bill knocked the constitutional foundation from under 'Obamacare' by eliminating a penalty for not having coverage.  Supporters of the law immediately said they would appeal.  California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who has been leading the multistate coalition to defend the law, issued a statement saying: 'The ACA has already survived more than 70 unsuccessful repeal attempts and withstood scrutiny in the Supreme Court. Today's misguided ruling will not deter us: our coalition will continue to fight in court for the health and wellbeing of all Americans.'  Becerra called Friday's ruling 'an assault on 133 million Americans with preexisting conditions, on the 20 million Americans who rely on the ACA's consumer protections for healthcare, on America's faithful progress toward affordable healthcare for all Americans.'  President Donald Trump hailed the ruling, tweeting: 'As I predicted all along, Obamacare has been struck down as an UNCONSTITUTIONAL disaster! Now Congress must pass a STRONG law that provides GREAT healthcare and protects pre-existing conditions.'  But Rep. Nancy Pelosi, who is expected to become House speaker in January, vowed to fight what she called an 'absurd ruling.' She said the House 'will move swiftly to formally intervene in the appeals process to uphold the life-saving protections for people with pre-existing conditions and reject Republicans' effort to destroy the Affordable Care Act.'  White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders issued a statement saying: 'We expect this ruling will be appealed to the Supreme Court. Pending the appeal process, the law remains in place.'  Twenty Republican-led states brought the lawsuit. After Trump ordered the Justice Department to stop defending the health law, a coalition of ACA-supporting states took up the defense.  O'Connor is a conservative Republican appointee who has previously blocked other Obama-era policies.