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Sen. Mitch McConnell to step down as Senate GOP leader after 17 year-run

Mitch McConnell, 82, announced he will step down as Senate GOP leader in November. McConnell said he plans to serve out his Senate term, which ends in January 2027, “from a different seat in the chamber.”

McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, announced his decision Wednesday with prepared remarks which began: “One of life’s most underappreciated talents is to know when it’s time to move on to life’s next chapter. So I stand before you today … to say that this will be my last term as Republican leader of the Senate.”

McConnell’s announcement is said to be unrelated to his health — he had a concussion from a fall last year, and two public episodes where his face briefly froze while he was speaking. Despite the concerns about his health, colleagues have said in recent months that they believe he has recovered and that McConnell was not impaired cognitively, but did have some additional physical limitations. McConnell said in his prepared remarks: “As I have been thinking about when I would deliver some news to the Senate, I always imagined a moment when I had total clarity and peace about the sunset of my work. A moment when I am certain I have helped preserve the ideals I so strongly believe. It arrived today.” McConnell gave no specific reason for the timing of his decision, but cited the recent death of his wife’s youngest sister as prompting the decision: “The end of my contributions are closer than I’d prefer.”   He added:“I love the Senate. It has been my life. There may be more distinguished members of this body throughout our history, but I doubt there are any with more admiration for it,” but added, “Father Time remains undefeated. I am no longer the young man sitting in the back, hoping colleagues would remember my name. It is time for the next generation of leadership. I still have enough gas in the tank to thoroughly disappoint my critics and I intend to do so with all the enthusiasm which they have become accustomed.”

The Kentucky senator had been under increasing pressure from the wing of his party that has aligned firmly with former President Donald Trump. McConnell and Trump have been estranged since December 2020, when McConnell refused to abide Trump’s assertion that the election of Democrat Joe Biden as president was the product of fraud. After the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol, McConnell assigned blame and responsibility to Trump and said that he should be held to account through the criminal justice system for his actions.

Editorial credit: mark reinstein /

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Hunter Biden appears on Capitol Hill for closed-door deposition with Republican lawmakers

On Wednesday, Hunter Biden testified before two GOP-led House committees leading the impeachment inquiry into President Biden, telling lawmakers in a closed-door deposition that his father was not involved in his various business deals.

In a copy of his opening statement, Hunter Biden said his father was never involved in his business: “I am here today to provide the committees with the one incontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business. Not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist. Never.”

The two House committees have alleged that the Biden family, including the president, financially benefitted from Hunter Biden’s business dealing overseas, despite having direct evidence. The committees subpoenaed Hunter Biden and threatening him with contempt of Congress when he at first refused to testify in private, while he said he preferred to testify in public instead. After negotiations, Biden agreed to the private deposition voluntarily, arguing that his testimony was a “critical component” of their impeachment inquiry, which has centered around allegations that the president profited off of his family members’ foreign business dealings while he was vice president.

Hunter Biden said in his prepared statement: “For more than a year, your Committees have hunted me in your partisan political pursuit of my dad. You have trafficked in innuendo, distortion, and sensationalism — all the while ignoring the clear and convincing evidence staring you in the face. You do not have evidence to support the baseless and MAGA-motivated conspiracies about my father because there isn’t any.” While Biden acknowledged he “squandered” opportunities afforded him during his addiction, he said that those “shortcomings are my own and not my father’s.”

Editorial credit: Domenico Fornas /

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Adele pauses Las Vegas residency due to health issues

Adele is being forced to pause her Las Vegas residency show due to health concerns.  The 35-year-old postponed dates of her Weekends with Adele residency show at The Colosseum at Caesars Palace in March, posting on X saying: “I love you, I’ll miss you like mad and I’m sorry for the inconvenience x

A statement read: “Sadly I have to take a beat and pause my Vegas residency. I was sick at the end of the last leg and all the way through my break. I hadn’t quite gotten the chance to get back to full health before shows resumed and now I’m sick again, and unfortunately it’s all taken a toll on my voice. And so on Doctors orders I have no choice but to rest thoroughly. The remaining 5 weekends of this leg are being postponed to a later date. We are already working out the details and you will be sent the information asap.”  The shows affected were to take place March 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30.

Adele first launched her Weekends with Adele residency show in 2022, announcing new dates in March 2023 and a final run of dates for 2024 in October. She said at the time: “This residency, these shows have changed my life. I desperately needed to fall back in love with performing live again, and I have. I needed to reconnect with my songs and remember what they mean to me, and I have! Being on stage over the last year so up close and personal with an audience again after all these years has been a truly extraordinary restorative experience that I’ll never forget.”

Editorial credit: Fred Duval /

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Take a look at Billy Joel’s video for “Turn the Lights Back On”

Billy Joel is sharing the music video for “Turn the Lights Back On”, directed by Warren Fu and Freddy Wexler. “Turn the Lights Back On” was co-written by Joel along with Wexler, Arthur Bacon and Wayne Hector. Joel returned to the Billboard Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts for the first time since 1998 since its debut.

The video begins with a shot of the sheet music of “Famous Last Words” – the last song on Billy’s 1993 album, “River of Dreams” – before he starts performing the song in the present day on an empty stage in a theater. Throughout the performance, Joel transforms into how he looked in the ’70s, turns into Billy in his ’80s-era, and is wearing shades as he did in the early ’90s. The clip ends with Billy in the present, as real-life footage of him through the years is displayed.

According to a press release, Joel’s physical transformation through his life in the video was achieved by technology from a company called Deep Voodoo, ‘to show the singer as the 74-year-old man he is today to the man he was in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s.’

Check out the video for “Turn the Lights Back On” – here.

Editorial credit: Debby Wong /

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Macy’s shutting down 150 stores by 2026; will expand luxury brands

Retail giant Macy’s shared in a press release on Tuesday that they will be shutting down up to 150 locations over the next two years.  Macy’s statement said it would be “focusing resources by closing approximately 150 underproductive locations, including approximately 50 by the end of the fiscal year.”

While some branded locations will be shut down, the company plans to keep investing in its 350 other locations. Macy’s CEO Tony Spring said: “We are making the necessary moves to reinvigorate relationships with our customers through improved shopping experiences, relevant assortments and compelling value. A bold new chapter serves as a strong call to action. it challenges the status quo to create a more modern Macy’s Inc.”

The company said it would be “prioritizing investment in approximately 350 go-forward locations and the continued expansion of small-format stores,” and will continue to invest in its subsidiary outlets, including Bloomingdale’s and Bluemercury, which the company says have been “outperformers within the Macy’s Inc. portfolio across the broader luxury landscape.”

]The company plans to build out 15 new Bloomingdale’s stores and at least 30 new Bluemercury stores, along with roughly 30 Bluemercury remodels, over the next three years.

Editorial credit: Jonathan Weiss /

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Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs sued for sexual harassment and assault by record producer

In a new lawsuit, Sean “Diddy” Combs has been accused of sexual assault by a former employee. Rodney “Lil Rod” Jones, a former producer and videographer for Diddy, filed the lawsuit in New York federal court alleging that Combs sexually harassed, drugged and threatened him for more than a year. Jones produced nine songs on Combs’ recent ‘Love’ album from September 2022 to November 2023; he is seeking $30 million in damages.

According to the 73-page lawsuit, Combs’ adult son, Justin; his chief of staff, Kristina Khorram; Universal Music Group CEO Sir Lucian Grainge; and former Motown Records CEO Ethiopia Habtemariam are also named as defendants. Jones said that while working on the ‘Love’ project, he lived with the Diddy, 54, in various U.S. cities and also also vacationed with him outside of the country. Jones claims that during this time, he “witnessed, experienced, and endured many things that went far beyond his role as a producer on the Love album.”

Jones alleges that due to his role as a videographer, he was “required to constantly record” Diddy, and “as a result, Mr. Jones has secured HUNDREDS of hours of footage and audio recordings of Mr. Combs, his staff, and his guests engaging in serious illegal activity .. throughout his time living with Mr. Combs, Mr. Jones was the victim of constant unsolicited and unauthorized groping and touching” by Mr. Combs. Jones also alleges that on Thanksgiving Day in 2022, the female cousin of Yung Miami (Combs’ girlfriend at the time), sexually assaulted him as well “in the presence of Mr. Combs and his staff.”

Shawn Holley, Combs’ lawyer, responded in a statement: “Lil Rod is nothing more than a liar who filed a $30 million lawsuit shamelessly looking for an undeserved payday. His reckless name-dropping about events that are pure fiction and simply did not happen is nothing more than a transparent attempt to garner headlines. We have overwhelming, indisputable proof that his claims are complete lies. Our attempts to share this proof with Mr. Jones’ attorney, Tyrone Blackburn, have been ignored, as Mr. Blackburn refuses to return our calls. We will address these outlandish allegations in court and take all appropriate action against those who make them.”

A rep for Justin Combs told TMZ, “Justin Combs categorically denies these absurd allegations. They are all lies! This is a a clear example of a desperate person taking desperate measures in hopes of a pay day. There will be legal consequences for ALL defamatory statements made about the Combs family.”

Editorial credit: Kathy Hutchins /

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Two men convicted in 2002 murder of Run-DMC’s Jam Master Jay

Two men have been found guilty on all counts in the Oct. 30, 2002, murder of Jam Master Jay, a member of the pioneering hip-hop group Run-DMC, which was founded in 1983 along with Joseph “Rev. Run” Simmons and Darryl McDaniels. Mizell was gunned down in his studio in front of witnesses on Oct. 30, 2002.

The defendants — Karl Jordan Jr., 40, and Ronald Washington, 59, were each charged with one count of murder while engaged in narcotics trafficking, as well as one count of firearm-related murder for the fatal shooting of Jam Master Jay (real name was Jason Mizell). Jordan was also charged in August 2020 with one count of conspiracy to distribute cocaine and seven counts of cocaine distribution.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York, each defendant is facing a minimum of 20 years to life in prison or the death penalty; both defendants had pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors claimed during the trial hat Mizell was murdered by Jordan and Washington (Mizell’s childhood friend) because Mizell was allegedly going to cut them out of a cocaine distribution deal due to the drug dealer, later identified as Ralph Mullgrav, declining to work with Washington. Mullgrav claimed that Mizell “wasn’t a drug dealer,” but had dabbled in drug sales “to make ends meet” — a claim that the DJ’s family disputes.

Attorneys for Jordan and Washington argued during closing arguments that there was no physical evidence linking their clients to the fatal shooting, and drew attention to a third man who was charged in the fatal shooting, who is expected to face trial in 2025.

Editorial credit: Everett Collection /

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Rep for Taylor Swift addresses alleged altercation between father Scott Swift and photographer

A spokesperson for Taylor Swift is addressing reports that Swift’s father, Scott Swift, was involved in an altercation with an Australian photographer early Tuesday morning. Swift’s rep shared with PEOPLE in a statement: “Two individuals were aggressively pushing their way towards Taylor, grabbing at her security personnel, and threatening to throw a female staff member into the water.”

On Tuesday morning, Feb. 27 (local time), Australian outlet Sky News reported that Scott Swift, 71, allegedly assaulted a photographer on Sydney’s North Shore hours after her last Eras Tour concert in Sydney, Australia. In a statement to PEOPLE, police said they were investigating an “alleged assault after a 71-year-old man allegedly assaulted a 51-year-old man at Neutral Bay Wharf” approximately 2:30 a.m. local time on Tuesday, but could not confirm the identities of those involved. The statement continued: “The younger man reported the incident and inquiries are now underway by officers attached to North Shore Police Area Command. The man did not require medical treatment.”

Scott Swift has traveled across the globe to support his daughter since Taylor first embarked on her Eras Tour in March 2023. He’s been a familiar face at Taylor’s record-breaking ERAS TOUR and is often spotted recording Taylor on his phone, singing/dancing to her music and trading friendship bracelets with fans – he even recently handed out sandwiches and fruit to concert-goers.

Swift, 34, wrapped up her fourth and final Eras Tour show at Sydney’s Accor Stadium Monday night. She is taking her Eras Tour to Singapore for a six-show stint starting on March 2. After a month-long break, she will head to Paris for four more concert dates.

Editorial credit: Graham Drew Photography /

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Donald Trump appeals ruling in $464 million NY civil fraud case

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump filed notice on Monday that they’re appealing the $464 million civil fraud judgment against him and his company. The First Judicial Appellate Division will hear the case to determine whether Trump can have the penalty dismissed.

In the filing, Trump’s attorneys request that an appeals court determine whether New York Judge Arthur Engoron “committed errors of law and/or fact, and whether he abused his discretion and/or acted in excess of his jurisdiction” when he handed down the massive judgment against Trump and his company on January 16th.  The $464 million figure includes the prejudgment interest that accrued on Engoron’s more than $350 million award against Trump and the Trump Organization. The order also bars Trump from running any New York businesses for three years.

Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a statement: “We trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious fine and take the necessary steps to restore the public faith in New York’s legal system.” The appeal was filed along with Trump’s co-defendants – his sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., as well as various Trump Organization entities and two executives.

Last week, Judge Engoron refused a requested from Trump’s attorneys to delay enforcing the penalty, which totals $355 million plus interest for 30 days, to protect his appellate rights. Engoron said: “You have failed to explain, much less justify any basis for a stay. I am confident that the Appellate Division will protect your appellate rights.”  In addition, Engoron’s ruling calls for an independent financial monitor for the Trump Organization, and said that the two elder sons of the former president, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, cannot do business in New York for two years and both have been ordered to pay $4 million each in restitution.

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RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel announces her resignation effective March 8

Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel announced on Monday that she will step down next month as chairwoman, after having served as chair of the RNC since 2017. She was the second woman to lead the RNC.

McDaniel, 50, said in a statement that she will step down on March 8 shortly after the Super Tuesday primaries to allow the party’s presidential nominee to select the next head of the committee. The statement read: “Some of my proudest accomplishments include firing Nancy Pelosi, winning the popular vote in 2022, creating an Election Integrity Department, building the committee’s first small dollar grassroots donor program, strengthening our state parties through our Growing Republican Organizations to Win program, expanding the Party through minority outreach at our community centers, and launching Bank Your Vote to get Republicans to commit to voting early. I have decided to step aside at our Spring Training on March 8 in Houston to allow our nominee to select a Chair of their choosing. The RNC has historically undergone change once we have a nominee and it has always been my intention to honor that tradition.”

McDaniel, the niece of former presidential candidate and Sen. Mitt Romney, was chair of the Michigan GOP in 2016 where she was credited with helping Trump win the state. Trump hand-picked McDaniel after the 2016 election to serve as RNC chair as Reince Priebus left the post to become his first chief of staff at the White House, and she was re-elected to a fourth term in January 2023, defeating challengers California attorney Harmeet Dhillon and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell. In her statement McDaniel thanked Trump for “the opportunity to lead our party …It has been the honor and privilege of my life to serve the Republican National Committee for seven years as chairwoman to elect Republicans and grow our party.”

McDaniel’s announcement Monday cames on the heels of Saturday’s South Carolina primary where Trump won 59.8% of the vote, defeating Nikki Haley. It also comes less than two weeks after Trump endorsed North Carolina GOP chairman Michael Whatley to be the next chairman of the RNC, his daughter-in-law Lara Trump to be co-chair and top campaign aide Chris LaCivita to be the party’s chief operating officer.

Editorial credit: Maxim Elramsisy /