Georgia’s Kirby Smart issues blunt challenge to Stetson Bennett after thrilling win: ‘He must play better’

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Georgia skirted by Ohio State in the College Football Playoff semifinal on Saturday night thanks to a missed field goal from the Buckeyes at the end of the game.

Stetson Bennett had two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to help the Bulldogs win the game 42-41. He finished with four total touchdowns on the night. His coach, Kirby Smart, wasn’t about to heap praise on the quarterback just because Georgia miraculously got the win.


Smart said immediately after the game that Bennett has to buckle down.

“He showed great competitive character, but he’s got to play within our system and he’s got to do what he’s coached to do or you can’t win games,” Smart said as his players celebrated. “He didn’t get those opportunities until the defense stopped them and we got fortunate to stop them a couple times. He must play better if we expect to win the next one.”


Ohio State jumped out to a 21-7 lead and took a 28-24 lead to halftime. The Buckeyes were then leading 38-24 going into the fourth quarter before the wild fourth quarter changed everything around. Bennett had an interception and was sacked four times. Georgia was also just 2-of-10 on third down.

“If we want any chance of winning the national championship, we’ve got to play a lot better football than we played tonight, but we’ve got to keep our resilience,” Smart added in the postgame press conference.

Georgia will now meet TCU for a shot at back-to-back national championships.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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Kim Jong Un calls for exponential increase in North Korea's nuclear arsenal amid threats from South, US

Seoul, South Korea

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un is calling for an “exponential increase” in his country’s nuclear weapons arsenal in response to what he claims are threats from South Korea and the United States, Pyongyang’s state media reported Sunday.

Kim’s comments come as North Korea twice over the weekend tested what it claimed was a large, nuclear-capable, multiple-launch rocket system that could put all of South Korea in its range, according to a report from the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA).

Speaking on New Year’s Eve on the final day of a six-day plenary session that reviewed 2022, Kim said South Korea has become an “undoubted enemy” and its main ally, the US, has increased pressure on the North to the “maximum” level over the past year by frequently deploying its military assets to the Korean Peninsula.

North Korea's leader Kim Jong Un on Saturday praised the country's "super-large" Multiple Rocket Launcher (MRL), which he claims will put all of South Korea within range and can be loaded with tactical nuclear warheads.

In response, Kim said in the coming year that Pyonyang must mass produce tactical nuclear weapons while developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would give the North a “quick counterstrike capability,” according to the KCNA report.

Kim’s comments come at the end of a year that saw his regime test more missiles than at any time in North Korean history, including an ICBM that could in theory strike the US mainland.

On Saturday, in its 37th day of missile tests in 2022, North Korea fired at least three short-range ballistic missiles from a site south of Pyongyang, according to South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.

It followed that early Sunday with another test. North Korea said both Saturday’s and Sunday’s tests were of a 600mm multiple-launch rocket (MRL) system. Most multiple-rocket launch systems in service around the world are around 300mm in size.

The 600mm MRL was first introduced three years ago, and production has been increased since late October of 2022 for deployment, Kim said in his speech to the plenary session on Saturday, according to KCNA. He later added that an additional 30 of the 600mm MRL will be deployed to the military simultaneously.

Kim said the weapon is capable of overcoming high landforms, can consecutively strike with precision, has all of South Korea in its shooting range and can be loaded with tactical nuclear warheads, according to the KCNA report.

“Prospectively, as a key offensive weapon of our military forces, it will carry out its own combat mission to overwhelm the enemy,” Kim said.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol, pictured on November 2, 2022, said his country should respond with clear retaliation to North Korea's provocations.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry later responded to Kim’s comments, calling them “provocative language that seriously harms peace and stability of the Korean Peninsula.”

The ministry urged Pyongyang to “immediately stop” developing nuclear weapons and return to the path of denuclearization, warning that the “Kim Jong Un regime will come to an end if North Korea attempts to use nuclear weapons.”

The ministry vowed to maintain its military readiness posture to “firmly respond” to any North Korean threats, adding that the military will strengthen its “three-axis” defense system designed to counter North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats.

The three-axis defense system consists of the Kill Chain preemptive strike system, the Korea Air and Missile Defense system and the Korea Massive Punishment and Retaliation plan, an operational plan to incapacitate the North Korean leadership in a major conflict.

South Korea’s President Yoon Suk Yeol said on Sunday during a phone call with military chiefs that North Korea will continue to conduct constant nuclear and missile provocations, and South Korea’s military should respond with clear retaliation, his office said.

Leif-Eric Easley, a professor at Ewha University in Seoul, said Pyongyang has used the past year to demonstrate its ability to perform a range of military strikes.

“Its recent missile launches were not technically impressive. Instead, the high volume of tests at unusual times and from various locations demonstrate that North Korea could launch different types of attack, anytime, and from many directions,” Easley said.

Easley also noted that it’s not just missiles that North Korea is using to up the military pressure on the South. Last week, Pyongyang flew five drones into South Korean airspace, forcing Seoul to scramble fighter jets and helicopters to track them and later to send its own drones into North Korean airspace.

It all leads to an escalation of tensions, according to Easley.

“Such provocations, including drone incursions, appear excessive for deterrence and may be intended to scare South Korea into taking a softer policy. But with Kim disavowing diplomacy and threatening to mass produce nuclear weapons, the Yoon administration is likely to further increase South Korea’s defense capabilities and readiness,” Easley said.

For its part, South Korea is beefing up forces, too.

Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced last month it will spend more than $2.7 billion over 10 years to strengthen the mission capabilities and survivability of its fleet of F-15K fighters, jets that would play a key role in any possible strikes on North Korea.

Washington is also not standing still. As well as deploying assets like F-22 fighters and B-1 bombers to the exercises around the Korean Peninsula, the US military recently activated its first Space Force command on foreign soil in South Korea, with the unit’s new commander saying he is ready to face any threat in the region.

The new unit “will be tasked with coordinating space operations and services such as missile warning, position navigation and timing and satellite communications within the region,” according to US Forces Korea.

Even before Kim’s latest remarks, experts had noted the big strides Pyongyang had made in its missile forces over the past year.

Ankit Panda, a nuclear policy expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, told CNN in mid-December that Pyongyang has emerged as a missile power.

“The bigger picture is that North Korea is literally turning into a prominent operator of large-scale missile forces,” Panda said. “The word test is no longer appropriate to talk about most North Korean missile launches.”

“Most of the missiles they’ve launched this year are parts of military exercises. They are rehearsing for nuclear war. And that, I think, is the big picture this year,” Panda said.


Party’s over for debt-ridden America. Here’s how we bounce back in the new year

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Happy New Year, everybody!

Hope you had a wonderful party on New Year’s, whether you were out on the town, or just sipping champagne at home with your loved one. Enjoy it well – because this may be the last party you can afford for a while.

This week, the party’s over.

We’ve been living on borrowed money for too long. No, we’re not facing another 2009 financial meltdown. Banks and financial institutions are in much better shape now than they were then. But the government’s not. 


Our national debt is massive – at $31 trillion it’s now bigger than our annual GDP. We used to laugh at countries that were caught in that bind.

Of course, there’s a reason this happened. The extraordinary moment of turning off the economy because of the pandemic created a unique crisis in which we had to spend a lot. But it was expected to be a temporary safety net for individuals and companies. 

Instead, the Biden administration doubled down on the spending to expand government in a way that is unsustainable – way beyond what out private economy can maintain. That’s led to our high inflation and rising interest rates, both of which are causing tremendous pain for families and businesses.

And it looks like in 2023 we’ll throw an official recession into the mix of our misery index, particularly since our irresponsible representatives just threw another $1.7 trillion onto the fire.


The massive, omnibus spending bill will probably force the Fed to keep interest rates high, which means a tougher recession than what we were hoping for. And of course, recessions mean job losses, as businesses go bust. Our historic moment of having many more jobs than folks looking for jobs – which actually began during the Trump administration before the pandemic – may be phasing out soon.

But enough of the pessimism. We’ve made it through bad times before and we’ll get through all this. It just takes resolve – not from our politicians, most of whom lost their backbones some time ago. 

The resolve comes from a free people exercising their dreams and desires in a free economy to grow and support themselves and their families.


That should be our New Year’s resolution: To keep our economy and society as free as possible, so we can rebuild, pay off our debts, and become strong and fruitful again. 

It’s an individual resolution and a national resolution that we should all make together. So raise a glass to freedom – long may it reign.


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Dozens of states see new laws on abortion, minimum wage take effect in 2023

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Dozens of states will see major changes to abortion laws and minimum wage limits take effect after the U.S. rang in 2023 on Saturday.

California and New York will each begin enforcing new protections for abortion rights this week, while Tennessee will begin requiring physician prescriptions for all abortion-inducing drugs. Meanwhile, minimum-wage workers are receiving a pay raise in 23 states, and several other states will start enforcing changes to drug policies, Axios reported Sunday.

California’s Proposition 1 passed on Election Day, and enshrines residents’ “fundamental right to choose to have an abortion and their fundamental right to choose or refuse contraceptives.” California already had extensive protection for abortion access, even prior to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June 2022.

Meanwhile, New York’s law will require all private insurance plans offering maternity care coverage to include abortion care, the outlet reported.


Red and Blue states have taken aggressive action to restrict and protect abortion access in the months since the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dobbs v. Jackson.


More than a dozen Republican-led states had abortion “trigger laws” that severely limited or outright banned abortions just weeks or months after the ruling came down. Others took action and passed new legislation soon after the ruling.

Democrats also scrambled to enshrine abortion access in their states, as well as facilitate travel for women who were seeking abortions but lived in states where they could not get one.

President Joe Biden sought to pass federal legislation establishing a right to an abortion this month, but the Democratic Party lost control of the House of Representatives, making the move impossible.


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New York Mayor Eric Adams: ‘Resilient’ city ‘moving in the right direction’

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New York City Mayor Eric Adams hailed the “resiliency” of the city and touted New York as “moving in the right direction” in 2022 during an appearance on Fox News on New Year’s Eve as the nation counted down to 2023. 

Previewing the ball drop at Times Square, as well as the massive crowd, Adams enthused, “This is representative of New York. It’s a city with so much energy and vibrancy. Fifty-six million tourists are predicted to be here this year, 72 next year, and we are excited about the recovery of our city.” 

He touted, “We are resilient. Nothing keeps New Yorkers down.” Recounting 2022 for the city of New York, the Mayor saw progress: “We’ve had some ups and downs at the beginning of the year, in 2022. We were dealing with just a spike in crime. 40% of our major crimes, shootings, homicides. We were zero focused on violent crimes, particularly gun crimes and homicide. Double-digit decrease.” 


Regarding 2023, Adams described safety as the goal: “The men and women in police department and other law enforcement agencies responded, and I’m just excited about what the new year has to offer. It’s about being safe.” 

He added, “This is a prerequisite to our prosperity. And we are moving in the right direction.” 

Adams did note an “incident” on New Year’s Eve as the city prepared for the celebration.

“We had an incident earlier this evening. Two officers were assaulted,” he said. 


The New Year’s Eve attack in question was brutal with at least two officers stabbed with a machete near Times Square. One was a rookie cop reporting for his first day on the job. 

Talking to Fox News just prior to midnight, Adams praised the calmness of the NYPD.


“You respond to the danger, bring it under control and then get back to protect the public,” he said. “I’m going to go visit those officers now… These men and women are doing their job of protecting the city.” 


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Flooding temporarily closes major Bay Area highway and prompts evacuation warnings in northern California neighborhoods


Heavy precipitation and snow melt flooded roads and led to freeway closures and evacuation warnings in Northern California on Saturday, officials said.

At one point, US Highway 101 – one of California’s most famous routes – was closed in both directions in South San Francisco as “water is not receding due to non-stop rainfall & high tides preventing the water to displace,” California Highway Patrol said in an evening update. The freeway reopened later Saturday evening after flood waters receded, CHP said.

Authorities were also working to rescue submerged vehicles from the highway after some had chosen to drive through the closures, the agency said.

The California Department of Transportation also advised of a partial closure of Interstate 80 near the Nevada line midday Saturday “due to multiple spinouts over Donner Summit.” Driving through the mountain pass in the Sierra Nevada range has required tire chains for much of this month due to heavy snowfall.

In Sacramento County and adjacent areas, residents were advised to avoid travel as wind gusts of up to 55 mph toppled trees and covered roads with debris, according to a tweet from the National Weather Service in Sacramento.

A strong storm that brought widespread heavy rain Friday through Saturday, creating a flood threat for much of Northern and Central California, is nearing unprecedented levels.

By Saturday evening, San Francisco was closing in on breaking the city’s record for single wettest day ever.

“Downtown San Francisco is now at 5.45 inches, just 9 hundredths of an inch away from the daily (midnight to midnight) record of 5.54 inches,” the National Weather Service said in a 5 p.m. update on Twitter.

And meanwhile, an active jet stream pattern also brought a parade of storms fueled by an atmospheric river of Pacific moisture.

An atmospheric river is a long, narrow region in the atmosphere which can transport moisture thousands of miles, like a fire hose in the sky. This heavy rainfall will slide southward to Southern California on Saturday and Sunday, accompanied by gusty winds of 30 to 50 mph.

Several small communities in northern California were under evacuation orders and warnings Saturday due to flooding. Three communities near the city of Watsonville were told to evacuate by the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office due to creek flooding, while officials ordered the communities of Paradise Park and Felton to evacuate due to rising levels of the San Lorenzo River.

Neighborhoods near the Santa Rita Creek in Monterey County were put under a warning Saturday afternoon because of concerns the creek “will spill over its banks,” according to the sheriff’s office.

Evacuations from the floodwaters were being conducted Saturday with the help of an armored rescue vehicle in south San Ramon.

Residents in the community of Wilton, roughly 20 miles from Sacramento, were ordered to shelter in place due to the rains and floods.

“Rising water has made roads impassable in the area,” Sacramento County officials said on Facebook, urging those who were already on the road to head to safety and those who were home to “stay at home.”

The county on Saturday issued a proclamation of local state of emergency for the winter storms, saying the atmospheric river it’s been experiencing has caused “significant transportation impacts, rising creek and river levels and flooding” in the Wilton area.

A flood watch for more than 16 million is in effect including the entire Bay Area and Central Valley though Saturday night. Rain could ease Saturday evening before the calendar turns to 2023.

Earlier weather predictions said widespread rainfall accumulations of 2 to 4 inches are expected in northern and central California, but locally higher amounts of 5 to 7 inches are also possible for the foothills.

Northern California and the central California coast have already received 2 to 4 inches of rain in the last week. The cumulative effect of multiple Pacific storm systems laden with moisture from a potent atmospheric river will make impacts such as flash floods and landslides more likely.

Videos and photos shared by the National Weather Service in San Francisco show fallen trees blocking roadways, and multiple landslides.

In Oakland, local officials urged people to stay off the roads due to the heavy rain and flooding.

“If you have to travel, use caution. City crews are working through a backlog of reports of flooding and other weather impacts,” the city posted on Twitter.


NY lawmakers get pay raise making them nation’s best-paid

Top News: US & International Top News Stories Today | AP News 

FILE – Members of the New York Assembly debate legislation to approve a legislative pay raise during a special legislative session in the Assembly Chamber at the state Capitol in Albany, N.Y., Dec. 22, 2022. New York lawmakers are now the highest paid legislators in the nation under a bill signed Saturday, Dec. 31. Members of both houses will make a base salary of $142,000 starting Sunday, Jan. 1, 2023, under the pay raise bill they passed during a special session in late December. (AP Photo/Hans Pennink, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Just in time for the New Year, New York lawmakers have become the highest paid state legislators in the nation under a bill signed Saturday.

Members of both houses are getting a pay raise of $32,000, for a base salary of $142,000, under a bill Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a day before her inauguration Sunday. That’s a 29% raise over their previous salary of $110,000.

The law went into effect Sunday.

Before the pay boost, state lawmakers in California were the highest paid with a yearly base salary of $119,000, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New York lawmakers passed the pay-raise bill during a special session in late December.

The new pay raise comes with restrictions, though.

Starting in 2025, outside income will be capped at $35,000. Pay in excess of that from military service, retirement plans, or investments will still be allowed.

Some Democrats in the legislature supported the pay raise, and said it was necessary in order to keep up with the cost of living.

But some Republican lawmakers spoke out against the bill during the special session, criticizing the ban on the outside income.

“Their attempt to buy political cover by instituting a ban on outside income won’t make Albany better, it will make it worse,” said state Sen. George Borrello in explaining his “no” vote on the bill.

Hub peek embed (apf-politics) – Compressed layout (automatic embed)

Borrello said the ban would discourage citizen legislators, or “enterprising, accomplished individuals with real-world experience from entering public service.”

The last pay raise state legislators received was in 2018, and that was their first raise in two decades.


Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter at:


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Inflation is killing the first dinner date

New York

Singles are ditching pricey white tablecloth meals for romance in the park or on a walk instead.

The high cost of dining out and changes to dating habits during the pandemic have driven singles to seek out more affordable, casual first dates.

Singles are spending $130 a month on dates, up 40% from the past decade, according to an annual survey of 5,000 singles funded by Match

, the owner of Tinder, Hinge and Plenty of Fish.

Eighty-four percent of singles say they now prefer a casual first date, according to the survey. Thirty percent say they are now more open to doing free activities, while 29% want to go on dates closer to home to save on gas. Home-cooked meals, coffee or drinks and other low-cost dates are also becoming more appealing.

“Singles, more than ever, are open to free dates,” Rachel DeAlto, Match’s chief dating expert, said in an interview. “They are mindful of the time, energy and money that they’re spending on those initial encounters.”

Nearly half of single Millennials and Gen Z have suggested going on a less expensive, more budget-friendly date, according to a Plenty of Fish survey of more than 8,000 users. The app called this trend “infla-dating” – going on less expensive dates due to higher prices.

Covid-19 restrictions also changed dating habits.

People learned to embrace free dates and outdoor encounters like walks or picnics in 2020.

“The parks became the hot date spot,” DeAlto said. “This was a great way to meet people without the extra money and time.”

Video first dates also became more popular during the pandemic, a trend that has stuck around. People are still using video calls to vet potential candidates to ensure they are worth the time and money in person.

Prior to the pandemic, around 8% of people were open to a video date before meeting in person, according to Match. That number has jumped to 37%.

Match, Bumble and other dating companies have seen consumers make changes on their apps as inflation and the uncertain state of the US economy take a toll on their finances.

People are still signing up for paid subscriptions, but they are not buying as many profile boosters on the apps and other one-time purchases to try to get more “likes,” say the companies and analysts.

“Our younger users are more susceptible. If you have your first job out of school and you’re reading a lot about layoffs, you tend to get a little more nervous,” Match chief operating officer Gary Swidler said at a conference earlier this month. “Less affluent people are being more careful.”

People still want to date, he said, but they are making adjustments.

“I don’t think that we’ll see people fully pull back on dating, but they might kind of nip and tuck here and there.”

Kristin Moss, 28, who works at online charity connecter DealAid, said inflation has “made me more picky in terms of where and who I would go on dates with.”

She always checks menu prices before going on dates now and doesn’t frequent bars as often because “$15 to $20 per drink can add up quickly.”

When gas prices spiked this summer, she didn’t want to drive more than 20 minutes from her home on a first date.

“Location and cost of first dates matter more now than they have in the last few years,” she said. “Why should I spend extra time and money just to go on a date that might end poorly?”


Suspect in NYC police stabbing may have Islamic extremist ties

Latest & Breaking News on Fox News 

The suspect taken into custody for the stabbing of two New York City police officers may have ties to Islamic extremism.

Investigators are looking into whether the attacker, identified as Trevor Bickford of Maine, was a radical due to his recent activity online, police sources reportedly told the New York Post. Bickford, 19, is accused of slashing two officers at a security checkpoint near Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

A high-level police source also tells Fox News Digital that Bickford was being watched by the FBI’s counterterrorism task force in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s attack. The source also said Bickford recently converted to Islam and a tipster claimed he had expressed interest in going to Afghanistan.

A rookie officer, on his first night of policing, was slashed in the head, prompting another nearby officer to shoot Bickford. That officer was also struck, but he was not seriously injured. The rookie officer, identified by authorities only as Paul, is expected to recover.


“I want to be clear that the FBI, through the Joint Terrorism Task Force, is working very closely with [NYPD] to determine the nature of this attack,” the FBI’s Michael Driscoll said at a Sunday morning news conference. “And we will run every lead to ground. I also want to be very clear, as you’ve heard said tonight previously, this is very much an ongoing investigation so our ability to talk about specifics is limited.”

NYC Mayor Eric Adams praised the response of the officers in Sunday morning’s press conference. He added that all officers involved were in stable condition and are expected to recover.

“And as we do a preliminary review of the body cam video, we see how well these officers executed the plan that was put in place by the New York City Police Department in ensuring we protect those who came here to bring in a new year,” he told reporters.


Adams and other officials are expected to deliver further updates at a press conference later Sunday.

The attack was one of multiple instances of New Year’s Eve violence across the U.S. A shooting in Mobile, Alabama also sent partiers running late in the evening.

Police are still investigating that incident, which left one person dead and nine injured.


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Colorado library closes due to meth contamination


Boulder, Colorado, has closed its main public library due to methamphetamine contamination in the facility’s bathrooms and some seating areas, city officials say.

The library first closed on December 20 after “higher than acceptable methamphetamine levels were found in restroom air ducts,” according to a news release from the City of Boulder.

The city closed the library “out of an abundance of caution” and to conduct environmental testing, according to the release. Testing found meth residue inside airducts in the main library’s bathrooms. The testing was ordered based on “a spike in reports of individuals smoking in public restrooms over the past four weeks,” according to the release.

“This is truly a sad situation and represents the impact of a widespread epidemic in our country,” said library director David Farnan in the release. “The city is consulting with Boulder County Public Health officials and will take all steps necessary to prioritize safety. We are committed to transparency and appropriate remediation.”

Further testing confirmed that contamination was almost entirely limited to the public-facing bathrooms and “on the surfaces of the exhaust ducts in these enclosed spaces,” the city said in a December 28 news release.

In addition to contamination in the bathroom, there is also “a limited amount of surface contamination in a few discrete locations in highly trafficked seating areas in the south portion of the building,” according to the release.

The earliest the library could reopen to the public is January 3, according to the release. The city is still waiting on a final report from the environmental testing before city and health department officials will meet to discuss next steps. The city plans to release the exact test results within the next week, the release says. Several other library branches remain open.

The restrooms and seating areas affected will have to undergo “professional remediation” before they are made accessible to the public again, according to the release. The seating areas may be repurposed with furniture that can be cleaned regularly.

“It is not yet clear if, and when, public restrooms will be brought back,” the city said in the release.

Meth contamination usually occurs when individuals touch residue on surfaces directly, according to the release. The city noted that meth contamination regulations were developed particularly for contexts where continual exposure is likely, such as in buildings where people are manufacturing meth, not just using it.

“Episodic exposures, such as in public buildings, present much less threat to health,” the city said in the release.

2021 saw an increase in the number of deaths from methamphetamine usage in the United States, according to data from the CDC.