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Taylor Swift Wins Big at AMAs and Encourages Fans to Vote

Taylor Swift kicked off her week with a rare political post on social media, and at the American Music Awards she continued the conversation by encouraging fans to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

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Los Angeles, CA, United States (NewsBahn) – Taylor Swift kicked off her week with a rare political post on social media, and at the American Music Awards she continued the conversation by encouraging fans to vote in the upcoming midterm elections.

Swift won artist of the year at the fan-voted show on Tuesday in Los Angeles, beating out Drake, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons and Post Malone for the top prize.

“This award and every single award given out tonight were voted on by the people, and you know what else is voted on by the people,” she said, “the midterm elections on November 6.”

Swift announced on Sunday that she was voting for Tennessee’s Democratic Senate candidate Phil Bredesen, breaking her long-standing refusal to discuss anything politics.

Voting was a hot topic at the AMAs. Host and Golden Globe-winning “black-ish” actress Tracee Ellis Ross wore a shirt that said, “I am a voter,” and comedian-actor Billy Eichner told the audience, “The biggest election of our lifetime is happening.”

“Please grab your friends and tell them to vote. Now is the time. If you believe in equality for women, for people of color, for the LGBTQ community. If you believe that climate change is real and that we need to do something about it,” he said onstage before presenting an award.

“And you can go to Vote.org like Taylor Swift told you to,” he added.

Swift kicked off the AMAs with a performance of “I Did Something Bad,” while Cardi B picked up the night’s first award, favorite hip-hop/rap artist, which she dedicated to her daughter.

“I really want to thank my daughter,” said Cardi B, who gave birth to Kulture Kiari Cephus in July. “I gotta prove people wrong. They said I wasn’t going to make it after I had a baby.”

The rapper hit the stage to give a festive and colorful performance of her No. 1 hit, “I Like It,” where she was joined by J Balvin and Bad Bunny, who was wheeled onstage inside a shopping cart. Cardi B’s husband, Offset of the rap trio Migos, danced along in the audience with group member Quavo as Cardi B worked the stage with vibrant dance moves, including the salsa.

Cardi B returned the favor, screaming happily when Migos was named favorite pop/rock duo or group, beating out Maroon 5 and Imagine Dragons, later in the show.

“We did not know we was winning this at all,” said Quavo, also giving a shout-out to group member Takeoff, who didn’t attend the AMAs.

“I want to thank you sexy lady,” Offset said, pointing to Cardi B.

Like Cardi B’s performance, rising newcomer Ella Mai also won over the crowd when she sang the year’s biggest R&B hit, “Boo’d Up,” starting the performance as she walked down the aisle of the Microsoft Theater. Khalid, Quavo and Offset were some of the audience members dancing along, while others sang and some even filmed her with their phones.

Others who shined onstage included R&B singer Ciara, who showed off her skilled dance moves and was joined by a fierce Missy Elliott. Carrie Underwood was in perfect form vocally, and Camila Cabello – who won new artist of the year – gave a heartful, touching and vocally impressive performance of the ballad “Consequences,” earning her a standing ovation.

The three-hour show closed with a rousing tribute to Aretha Franklin, who died in August. Gladys Knight, Ledisi, Mary Mary, Donnie McClurkin and CeCe Winans were among the musicians who paid tribute to the Queen of Soul’s gospel roots and her iconic album, “Amazing Grace.”

Rapper-singer XXXTentacion, who was fatally shot in June, was also honored: He won favorite soul/R&B album for his 2017 debut, “17.” It was days after he was named best new artist at the BET Hip-Hop Awards.

His mother, Cleopatra Bernard, said she was honored to accept the award on behalf of her son. “I’m so nervous,” Bernard said as the audience cheered her on.

Post Malone, who wore a baby blue suit and performed, won favorite pop/rock male artist, Underwood was named favorite country female artist, Khalid picked up favorite soul/R&B male artist, and Kane Brown won favorite country male artist.

Other performers included Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Shawn Mendes and twenty one pilots.

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Politics

US Budget Deficit Hits Record $204.9B for November

The federal budget deficit surged to a record for the month of November of $204.9 billion, but a big part of the increase reflected a calendar quirk.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for November was $66.4 billion higher than the imbalance in November 2017.

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Washington, DC, United States (VOA) – The federal budget deficit surged to a record for the month of November of $204.9 billion, but a big part of the increase reflected a calendar quirk.

In its monthly budget report, the Treasury Department said Thursday that the deficit for November was $66.4 billion higher than the imbalance in November 2017.

But $44 billion of that figure reflected the fact that December benefits in many government entitlement programs were paid in November this year because Dec. 1 fell on a Saturday.

For the first two months of this budget year, the deficit totals $305.4 billion, up 51.4 percent from the same period last year. The Trump administration is projecting that this year’s deficit will top $1 trillion, reflecting increased government spending and the loss of revenue from a big tax cut.

The new report showed that the higher tariffs from President Donald Trump’s get-tough trade policies are showing up in the budget totals. Customs duties totaled $6 billion in November, up 99 percent from November 2017.

Trump has imposed penalty tariffs on steel and aluminum imports froma number ofcountries and on $250billionof Chinese imports as the administration seeks to apply pressure to other countries to reduce their barriers to American exports. However, China and other nations have retaliated by imposing penalty tariffs on U.S. exports, sparking a tit-for-tat trade war.

The administration still believes it will prevail and is currently in talks with China over trade practices the administration feels are unfair to American companies and workers.

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Criminal Probe Launched into Trump’s Inaugural Spending

Federal prosecutors based in Manhattan have launched a criminal probe to determine if $107 million in donations to then President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural committee were illegally spent.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Manhattan, NY, United States (4E) – Federal prosecutors based in Manhattan have launched a criminal probe to determine if $107 million in donations to then President-elect Donald Trump’s inaugural committee were illegally spent.

Investigators are also looking into whether some of the committee’s top spenders traded money for access to the incoming Trump administration. They also want to know if Trump’s people sought money in exchange for “policy concessions or to influence official administration positions.”

Giving money in exchange for political favors can run afoul of federal corruption laws. Diverting funds from Trump’s inaugural committee, which is a registered nonprofit, also violates federal law.

More specifically, Trump’s inaugural committee is being probed for accepting cash-for-access from Middle Eastern nations like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Secret recordings made by Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed these cash-for-access transactions.

Investigators are focusing on Middle Eastern donors like Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. They’re trying to determine if these nations used straw donors to disguise their donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and the pro-Trump super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, in hopes of buying influence.

Foreign nations are banned from contributing to federal campaigns, PACs and inaugural funds by law.

Federal prosecutors have questioned Richard Gates, ex-partner of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. In February, Manafort pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying charges lodged by special counsel Robert Mueller.

Gates served as deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee. He’s cooperated with investigators in Mueller’s probe of Russian interference during the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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China Beginning to Feel the Pain from Trump’s Trade War

China said its retail sales and industrial output growth for November badly missed their targets, confirming that China’s economy continues to slow down amid Trump’s trade war.

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Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor

Beijing, China (4E) – China said its retail sales and industrial output growth for November badly missed their targets, confirming that China’s economy continues to slow down amid Trump’s trade war.

China’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reported that industrial output grew 5.4 percent year-on-year, the slowest pace in almost three years. This growth was also lower than the 5.9 percent analysts had predicted.

On the other hand, retail sales rose 8.1 percent, which is the weakest pace since 2003. This pace is also lower than the 8.8 percent analysts expected. November retail sales growth was down from 8.6 percent in October.

Fixed asset investment rose 5.9 percent from January to November, marginally higher than the 5.8 percent forecast by economists. FAI rose 5.7 percent from January to October.

Despite Trump’s trade war, data from China unexpectedly shows its economy on the upside for much of 2018. Manufacturing benefited from front-loading, or rushing to ship as much goods as possible, before tariff deadlines hit on Jan. 1, 2019.

The weaker Chinese data in November shows the positive impact of front-loading is beginning to vanish and that downward pressure on the Chinese economy is increasing, said RBC Capital Markets in Hong Kong. Industrial output and retail sales data released on Friday were ugly, said the firm.

NBS said after the release of the data that the impact from bilateral trade tensions with the U.S. was not yet obvious. So, the worst is yet to come and policymakers will be very worried, particularly with consumption growth falling off a cliff.

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