PHOENIX – A Christian minister seeking the congressional seat of a disgraced Arizona congressman is labeling reports that that he traded suggestive texts with a female staffer who included a topless photo of herself in one of the exchanges as “tabloid trash.”
But former state Sen. Steve Montenegro didn’t deny that he received the messages.
Meanwhile, one of the other Republican front-runners in the race to replace former Rep. Trent Franks, former state Sen. Debbie Lesko, is under fire for transferring $50,000 from her old state campaign fund to an independent group backing her congressional election bid.
The revelations are likely to roil the 12-way GOP race in the final days leading up to Tuesday’s special primary election to fill the vacant U.S. House seat in the state’s 8th Congressional District, a Republican stronghold in the western Phoenix suburbs.
The reports come on the day mail-in ballots, which represent about 3/4 of those expected to be cast in the primary, should be postmarked. It’s unclear whether they could bolster a Democrat’s chances to win the GOP-heavy district in the April general election.
Montenegro called the Arizona Republic and KPNX-TV 12 reports “tabloid trash that conservatives around this country have to deal with on a regular basis.”
“I am blessed with an amazing wife and marriage,” he said in a statement. “The media wants to drag us down with just a week to go, but we are not going to dignify this false tabloid trash with any further response.”
Montenegro was Franks’ district director and touts himself as a Christian minister and family man with a wife and young daughter.
The Republic said it reviewed a series of flirtatious messages on a cellphone account Montenegro has used in conversations with its reporters. The junior-level staffer who sent the messages repeatedly declined to speak with the newspaper.
The messages The Republic reviewed run between June 15 and Feb. 1. Much of the time, the messages involve work, personal lives, the weather, swimming pools and hot tubs, and the World Series.
But during one exchange in November, the woman sent him a topless photo of herself, which came while he was in Tennessee at a summit on education reform.
Montenegro reportedly responded: “You should have come.”
Franks resigned in December after acknowledging he had discussed surrogacy with two female staffers. A former aide told The Associated Press that he pressed her to carry his child and offered her $5 million to be a surrogate.
The resignation triggered a special election, with the primary on Tuesday and the general election on April 24. Two Democrats are seeking their party’s nomination.
On the day Franks resigned, the staffer sent a message alluding to the scandal: “Yeah, you would never, ever have to worry about me. So I hope that puts you at some ease,” adding, “I just saw that Trent Franks thing.”
She received the response: “Crazy.”
The allegations against Montenegro prompted a powerful state Capitol player, Center for Arizona Policy President Cathi Herrod, to say he should step aside.
“There comes a time when one has to speak out regardless of how difficult it might be when it regards a friend,” Herrod tweeted Wednesday. “Absent a clear denial or evidence to the contrary, I call upon him to withdraw from #az08 race.”
Former Gov. Jan Brewer, a Lesko supporter, also called on Montenegro to immediately “deny, confess, or withdraw.”
Former state Rep. Phil Lovas, another GOP contender in the crowded primary, said Lesko should quit the race, and if the allegations are true, Montenegro also should step aside.
“Think about what’s happened in this congressional district in the last two-plus months,” Lovas said Wednesday. “The congressman had to resign due to a sexual harassment scandal. His hand-picked successor has reportedly had racy texts sent to him. Another candidate is running an illegal money laundering scheme with state money in a federal account.”
Lovas said he filed complaints Wednesday with the FEC and the state attorney general for Lesko’s transfers.
Lesko transferred $50,000 from her old state Senate campaign fund to an independent group that is backing her congressional campaign. Debbie Lesko’s campaign consultant supplied a legal opinion that called the transfer above-board.
The transfer was first reported by an affiliate of the Arizona Capitol Times and disclosed in a Federal Election Commission filing earlier this week.
Gender gap: Ageing societies give more advantages to men than women, researchers say | World News
Men have more advantages than women in ageing populations, an international study has found.
Researchers say the gender differences in societal ageing suggest men have better resources to cope with the challenges of getting older.
Different gender roles within society not only shape women’s and men’s life opportunities but also their experience of ageing, the research suggests.
Worldwide, the number of people aged 65 years and older is expected to more than double in the next 30 years, rising from 703 million in 2019 to 1.5 billion in 2050.
The study, by researchers from the National University of Singapore and Columbia University in America, found men are especially advantaged when it comes to income and wealth.
They are more likely to be financially secure, have paid work and spend fewer years in ill-health than women in later life.
The first of its kind, the research investigated gender differences in the experience of people growing older in 18 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), which includes the likes of the UK and the US.
Women across the countries analysed were shown to have a three year longer average life expectancy than men, but spend more years in poor health.
They are also more likely to live alone at the end of their lives and earn less than men.
A disproportionately greater risk of disability and ill-health in women increased their likelihood of needing long-term care, the study found, as well.
Researchers used the latest data from the OECD and World Bank between 2015 and 2019 for 18 of the 35 OECD countries with sufficient data to develop a gender-specific ageing index.
The new index accounts for five categories that capture social and economic factors affecting the quality of ageing: wellbeing, productivity and engagement, equity, cohesion and security.
Using the system, researchers calculated the overall index and individual category scores that range from 0 to 100 for men and women.
A higher score suggests a successfully ageing society.
Key differences between men and women in ageing societies according to the study:
- Men have better resources to cope with the challenges of ageing
- Women have a three year longer average life expectancy than men
- Men are especially advantaged when it comes to income and wealth
- Women spend more years in poor health
- Men are more likely to be financially secure
- Women have a greater risk of disability and ill-health, which increases their likelihood of needing long-term care
- Men are more likely to be engaged in paid work
- Women are more likely to live alone at the end of their lives
- Women earn less than men
Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Norway, the Netherlands and Japan did well for both genders with an overall index score of 66 or above for men and 55 or above for women.
Countries in much of eastern and southern Europe were at the bottom of the rankings.
The UK achieved an overall index score of 57 for men and 47 for women. It also had the largest difference in wellbeing scores between the two genders, with a score of 74 assigned for men and 61 for women.
America’s overall performance score was 55 for men and 47 for women.
Both the US and the UK performed poorly in the study, indicating growing inequality in the distribution of income and wealth.
Lead author Dr Cynthia Chen, from the National University of Singapore, said: “Ageing societies reinforce the prevailing gender norms in which men continue to be allocated the majority of opportunities, resources, and social support.
“With the world’s population ageing at an unprecedented rate, and the ratio of older women to older men expected to increase, there is an urgent need to challenge the structural and policy biases that favour men.”
The authors have suggested four measures to help address gender bias and inequality in societal ageing including assessing minimum income requirements for healthy living in older people and minimum pensions.
The mystery of the whisky bottle, the US secretary of state and the department searching for answers | US News
The US State Department is investigating the apparent disappearance of a bottle of whisky worth nearly $6,000 (£4,320).
The Japanese government gave the bottle to Mr Pompeo in June 2019 when the then-secretary of state visited the country.
The department reported the investigation in its annual accounting of gifts given to senior US officials by foreign governments and leaders.
It noted that it could find no trace of the bottle’s whereabouts and that there was an “ongoing inquiry” seeking an explanation.
A spokesman for Mr Pompeo said he was unaware of the gift and the inquiry into its whereabouts.
It is thought the bottle of whisky was given to Mr Pompeo while he was attending a G20 summit in Japan, along with then-president Donald Trump.
But the state department’s Office of Protocol, which records gifts given to US officials, said that, while every other gift had been recorded, there was no record of the whisky.
If a gift is over a certain value, the recipient can give it to the National Archives or another government entity, or they can keep the gift and reimburse the Treasury Department.
Among the items given to Mr Pompeo during his time as secretary of state were two carpets worth a total of $19,400 (£14,000) from the president of Kazakhstan and the foreign minister of the United Arab Emirates.
Mr Trump and his wife Melania received more than $120,000 (£86,400) worth of presents from foreign leaders in 2019, including an Ottoman Empire rifle worth $8,500 (£6,120) from the Bulgarian prime minister, a bronze sculpture of an Arabian horse from the crown prince of Bahrain worth $7,200 (£5,100), and a statue of an Arabian oryx worth $6,300 (£4,500) from the emir of Qatar.
The Office of Protocol said all of these were given to the National Archives.
Greece wildfires: Families reflect on devastation as homes are destroyed – ‘if my mother saw this she would cry’ | World News
I spot George Kyriakopolous sitting in his car, the door open to blackened surroundings and smouldering earth.
To his left is his house. To the right, the one owned by his 95-year-old mother and 98-year-old father. His parents’ property is burned beyond repair. His own house is badly damaged.
George is a man in shock. He cannot believe what he is seeing. Twenty four hours earlier he was watching a wildfire at what seemed like a distance. In 10 minutes, he says, the fire was upon them in the village of Varympompi, north of Athens.
He tells me they had to drive through the flames to get out. He is one of the few residents here who have made it back to check on their properties.
George tells me: “If my mother saw this she would cry. She would cry.”
And I think any of us would. Homes that have been lived in and cherished for years were destroyed in minutes. Land cultivated through hard work, now scorched.
And this scene is repeated in street after street in this village where hundreds were forced to leave as one of the biggest wildfires in Greece this week penetrated Varympompi. Most who live here have not been allowed to return.
The area is still regarded as extremely dangerous and most residents can only watch the skies from where planes and helicopters dump vast containers of water on the area and hope things will be okay.
Sadly for many of them that will not be the case. Coming back here will be traumatising. It certainly has been for Rula Mantis who shows us around the charred remains of the fruit vegetable store she runs with her boyfriend. So much of it is destroyed and she wonders how they will ever recover.
She’s angry the property was allowed to burn but understands fire crews faced impossible pressure.
She tells me: “It’s very hard. It’s a lot of money you have to spend to make this from the beginning. You can’t save anything. As you can see, there’s nothing left.”
The massive flames which lit up the night sky here when the fire reached its peak may have quelled now but the danger for this village isn’t over. Everywhere we drive or walk in Varympompi the ground is smouldering.
Smoke threatens to ignite into fresh flames which on scorched earth could spread again. It is why residents are taking their fire extinguishers and buckets to douse where they can.
But they know they are up against challenging elements. Temperatures are predicted to remain high in Greece in the days to come when all villagers hope for is rain.
They also know they face the pain of seeing neighbours and friends return to a village where there will be so much pain to confront.
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