If New Zealand Is Middle Earth, Its Ganglands Are Mordor

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CHRISTCHURCH, New Zealand—If this country’s spectacular nature reserves are the peaceful Shire of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Hobbits in Middle Earth, its notorious ganglands are our Mordor.

The Bay of Plenty’s official tourism website gushes about the region’s “breathtaking views, beachside relaxation and year-round sun.” And New Zealand often is seen as an oasis of heavenly peace in a troubled world, its gorgeous sweeping mountain vistas made famous by Peter Jackson‘s Lord of the Rings movies. But an influx of foreign criminals and drugs is fueling a rash of violence across the country as gangs battle for control of lucrative turf.

KNOCKING ON THE MONGOLS’ DOOR

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An 86-Year-Old French Woman Tries a Burger for the First Time

Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photo Courtesy Publisher

The median age of my customers was getting older, but that was no surprise because I was getting older, too. Restaurant owners age with their clientele.

When Breakfast in America first opened in 2003, most customers were students in their twenties—and of those 70 percent were American. Within a couple years, it had completely flipped and 70 percent were français. And thanks to “regulars” who’d been frequenting the diner for nearly two decades, the average age was now 30 to 35.

That said, it was rare to get anyone over 60, unless they were dining with their extended family or babysitting their grandkids. And seniors over 70—almost unheard of. That’s why I was so excited when our 86-year-old neighbor said she’d never been to an American restaurant and wanted to try mine.

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Texas Lt. Governor Is Determined to Sacrifice Everyone but Himself for GOP Convention

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Nobody howled louder than Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick when Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner barred the state GOP from holding its convention there amid a COVID-19 explosion.

“This is nothing but a political hack job by Mayor Turner,” Patrick told Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

Patrick failed to mention that he and Gov. Greg Abbott and various other GOP elected officials had earlier opted out of actually joining the 6,000 party stalwarts who signed up for the July 16th gathering at the George R. Brown Convention center. They had instead planned to address the gathering via video.

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Trump Commutes Roger Stone’s Sentence Days Before Prison

Leah Millis/Reuters

Roger Stone, a longtime Trump confidant convicted of lying to Congress about his connection to WikiLeaks and intimidating another witness to do the same, was granted clemency by President Trump on Friday—just a few days before he was set to report to jail.

President Trump had raised the possibility of a pardon almost immediately after Stone, 67, was convicted last November, often complaining—without evidence—that Stone had been treated poorly by law enforcement or targeted unfairly .

As recently as Friday, Trump had said he was considering a pardon. “I think Roger Stone was very unfairly treated,” he told reporters. “In the meantime, Comey and all these guys are walking around including Biden and Obama.”

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The National Enquirer’s David Pecker ‘Tried to Extort Me,’ Claims Theme Park Promoter

Stephanie Keith

With all the seamy accusations of greed, bad faith, and extortion—plus a cameo appearance by Donald Trump and a tic-tac-toe-playing chicken—it’s a saga worthy of the National Enquirer.

“It’s been a tough time for me and my family,” theme park impresario Robin Turner told The Daily Beast concerning the demise last year, after a decade of planning, of “National Enquirer Live!,” a much-touted attraction inspired and licensed by the supermarket tabloid, with locations in the tourist destinations of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, and Branson, Missouri.

“We’ve just been in a damn firestorm,” Turner added, describing a financial debacle in which David Pecker, the chairman and CEO of the Enquirer’s parent company, American Media Inc., allegedly played a decisive role.

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Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith Address Those August Alsina Rumors on Red Table Talk

via YouTube

At long last, Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith have brought themselves to the Red Table. Earlier this month singer August Alsina told radio personality Angela Yee during an interview that he and Pinkett Smith had a relationship with Will’s “blessing.” On Friday, the couple said that while the two did have a relationship, it was not an affair—and Pinkett Smith never needed her husband’s blessing.

“I felt like it was really important to come to the table and clear the air,” Pinkett Smith said on her Facebook Watch show. Added Smith, “We were purposely not saying anything… We specifically never said anything. So coming to the table was like, we just felt like it got to the point where you gotta say something.”

During the 12-minute sit-down, Smith took his wife’s usual position on the program, interviewing her about the relationship she had with Alsina, which they agreed occurred roughly four years ago. The two said they’d befriended Alsina, who “just needed some help” with his mental health.

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Ghislaine Maxwell Was Never Hiding From Prosecutors, Hadn’t Seen Epstein for a Decade: Lawyer

via Reuters

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime Jeffrey Epstein confidant accused of helping him sexually abused underaged girls, had not been hiding from prosecutors since the pedophile billionaire’s jailhouse suicide in August—but from an “unrelenting and intrusive media,” her lawyers claimed in a Friday memo. 

“She did not flee, but rather left the public eye, for the entirely understandable purpose of protecting herself and those close to her from the crush of media and online attention and its very real harms—those close to her have suffered the loss of jobs, work opportunities, and reputational damage simply for knowing her,” her lawyers wrote in a Friday memo responding to a prosecutorial request that she remain in custody until her trial. 

Maxwell, 58, is being held in a New York federal detention facility after being charged with alleging enticing minors, some as young as 14, to engage in illegal sex acts with Epstein in the mid-1990s. She was arrested at an ultra-secluded New Hampshire mansion on July 2. 

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Trump’s Top COVID Adviser: Deaths Will Soon Start to Rise

REUTERS

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, said on Friday that she expected to soon see an increase in mortalities among Americans infected with the virus—a statement placing her at odds with the president, who has touted a falling death rate as a sign of success in his approach to the virus. 

“In the United States we have an increase in the number of cases over the last particularly three week,” Birx said during a virtual COVID19 conference. “We have not seen this result in increased mortality but that is expected as the disease continues to spread in some of our large metro areas.”

Brix’s remarks come as multiple different states across the south and southwestern part of the country scramble to contain new outbreaks where case numbers, positivity rates, hospitalizations and deaths are steadily increasing. Three states—California, Texas and Florida—this week recorded their highest daily death tolls since the pandemic began. According to Birx’s presentation on Friday, four states accounted for 50 percent of new cases “with unfortunately increases in deaths.” The daily case numbers, her slides read, have increased so rapidly in 154 communities that they triggered an “emergency country alert.” 

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