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In wake of Iowa chaos, American politicians do Russians’ work for them


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Who needs the Russians when you have Lindsey Graham, the president’s own sons, Joe Biden’s campaign, and Ilhan Omar all questioning the legitimacy of the Iowa caucuses?

Faith in American elections took a big hit in 2016, thanks in part to Russian disinformation campaigns. But as Americans head into the 2020 presidential campaign, U.S. political figures are already undermining faith in the democratic process.

The Iowa Democratic party’s embarrassing faceplant on caucus night offered the perfect opportunity for conspiracy mongering. However, Sen. Bernie Sanders — who accused the Democratic party of rigging the 2016 election to box him out and help Hillary Clinton win the nomination — rejected those rumors.

“We should all be disappointed in the inability of the party to come up with timely results, but we are not casting aspersions on the votes that are being counted,” Sanders said Tuesday. “There’s no excuse for not having results last night, but that doesn’t mean to say that the totals that come in will be inaccurate. That’s unfair, I think, to try to do.”

Sanders’s comment was a swipe at Joe Biden’s campaign, which reacted to the chaotic mess of Monday night by sowing doubt about whether the results could be trusted.

“We have real concerns about the integrity of the process,” said Kate Bedingfield, deputy campaign manager for Joe Biden, on CNN Tuesday morning. “Election integrity is obviously of the utmost importance.”

Iowa Democratic officials were “saying they’re just trying to get it right. What reason do you have to believe that this isn’t just a matter of getting it right,” CNN’s John Berman asked Bedingfield.

“If you have a process where you can’t be confident that the results that are being reported are reflective of the votes people cast last night and the process, that’s a real concern,” Bedingfield said. “People should be able to have faith that the process was fair.” 

Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at his rally in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., February 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)
Democratic presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders speaks to supporters at his rally in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S., February 3, 2020. (REUTERS/Carlo Allegri)

This reflected a dramatic turn of events. Sanders claimed just last summer that the 2016 election was “rigged” against him. As recently as last week, one of his closest advisers, Jeff Weaver, accused the Democratic National Committee of creating a “rigged system” by changing the rules to qualify for debates.

But by Monday, Weaver was on MSNBC saying the 2020 election is “not currently rigged.”

Other Democrats who support Sanders, however, speculated that the delay in releasing the Iowa results was part of a plot to hurt Bernie. Some made similar claims after the Des Moines Register canceled the release of poll results on Saturday due to a problem with its methodology.

Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., who has endorsed Sanders, retweeted a pro-Bernie writer’s breathless attempts to spin conspiracy theories with a sarcastic “This can’t be it!”

Now, there were still questions about the accuracy of the first batch of caucus results when they were released late Tuesday afternoon. “I don’t know if I trust this information,” CNN’s Chief Political Correspondent John King said on live television as Wolf Blitzer asked him to dig into county-by-county results. 

Troy Price, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, tried to tamp down concerns about the reliability of the caucus results. “The underlying data, the raw data, is secure. It was always secure,” Price said at a press conference.

But on the Republican side, there was another form of conspiracy theory promotion. Prominent Republicans like Eric and Donald Trump Jr., the president’s sons, gleefully promoted the idea that the DNC was plotting against Sanders.


Donald Trump Jr., center, speaks with his brother Eric, second from left, during a "Keep Iowa Great" press conference in Des Moines on Monday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)
Donald Trump Jr., center, speaks with his brother Eric, second from left, during a “Keep Iowa Great” press conference in Des Moines on Monday. (Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images)

Donald Trump Jr.’s Twitter feed was an incoherent mix of accusations that the Democrats were conducting an elaborate scheme to steal the nomination from Sanders while at the same time he claimed that they are too incompetent to conduct a caucus effectively. Both cannot be true.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also chimed in about the reasons for the caucus results delay. “What are the odds that … it has nothing to do with a Bernie blowout and a Biden crash?” Graham wrote.

Erick Erickson, a conservative talk radio host and writer, was at least honest enough to admit what was really going on. “I don’t think Iowa sabotaged the caucus to hurt Bernie Sanders. But I really hope a lot of Bernie Sanders supporters think that,” Erickson tweeted.

But Bo Harmon, a Republican political operative, voiced concerns to Erickson about the corrosive impact on American democracy.

“I just fear [that with] Trump saying the elections are rigged, all the interference from Russia and others, now the Iowa debacle, neither side trusts the election results, doesn’t honor them,” Harmon wrote. “It doesn’t seem good.”

Erickson wrote back that he was being “flippant” with his original tweet but agreed with Harmon’s concern. “You’re right, we have a serious situation with both the integrity of and faith in institutions that is increasingly bipartisan,” he said.

Paul Barrett, who has overseen the publication of reports on disinformation in the digital age at New York University’s Stern Center for Business and Human Rights, compares what the Republicans are doing now to Russian interference four years ago. 

“Republicans alleging without proof that the Iowa caucuses were rigged strikes me as domestically generated partisan disinformation,” Barrett told Yahoo News.

The most recent Stern report states that “while Russian operatives and other foreign-based actors are all but certain to surface (or resurface) in 2020, a greater volume of disinformation probably will come from domestic U.S. sources.”

And once those types of conspiracies are floated or amplified by U.S.-based sources acting out of partisan motives, they can be weaponized and spread even further by bad actors whose goal is to attack American democracy. 

“As for Biden questioning the legitimacy of the flawed Iowa process,” Barrett said, “I’m afraid that just smacks of desperation by a desperate candidate.” 


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Selena Gomez announces ‘Rare Beauty’ collection for summer 2020

Selena Gomez announces ‘Rare Beauty’ collection for summer 2020 originally appeared on

On the heels of her highly anticipated new album , Selena Gomez, 27, just announced to the world that she’s launching a beauty line.

On Tuesday, she posted a teaser video revealing “Rare Beauty,” which is slated to debut in Sephora stores this summer.

“Guys, I’ve been working on this special project for two years and can officially say Rare Beauty is launching in @sephora stores in North America this summer,” Gomez wrote in an Instagram post. Follow @rarebeauty and become part of our beautiful community. Here’s a tiny sneak. There’s more to share and I can’t wait.”

(MORE: Selena Gomez’s new album ‘Rare’ is finally here)

In the short clip, we get a short behind-the-scenes look at Gomez testing products from her new line. She tries on lipsticks, swatches concealer and applies face powder.

“Being rare is about being comfortable,” she says at the beginning of the video.

Gomez continues, “I think Rare Beauty can be more than a beauty brand. I want us all to stop comparing ourselves to each other, and just start embracing our own uniqueness.”

Since posting this new, the famed “Cut Yor Off” singer has received over 1 million views in less than an hour.

Gomez also let fans know to follow Rare Beauty’s Instagram page, which also already has more than 1 million followers.

One post from the brand reads, “You are not defined by a photo, a like, or a comment.”

In August 2019, Gomez filed to trademark the line under “fragrances, perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, cosmetics, cosmetic preparations, body care preparations, skincare preparations, hair care preparations, soaps, moisturizers, incense, nail preparations, beauty products, and essential oils.”

(MORE: Selena Gomez’s makeup-free selfie on Instagram gets over 8 million likes)

“We are honored to partner exclusively with Sephora and bring Rare Beauty to Sephora and Sephora inside J.C. Penney stores throughout North America this summer,” Rare Beauty’s chief executive officer Scott Friedman told WWD. “They’re passionate about bringing Selena’s message to life, a message that is aligned and in sync with Sephora’s ‘We Belong’ values.”

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Utah lawmaker proposes warning label for pornography

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A Utah lawmaker has unveiled a proposal to require pornography to carry warning labels or be subject to a $2,500 penalty, though an adult-entertainment industry group warned the idea would violate the First Amendment.

The label about the potential harm to minors would have to appear on both print and digital material that appears in Utah if the bill proposed by Republican Rep. Brady Brammer passes the Legislature.

If the label doesn’t appear, the producer could be sued for $2,500 per violation, either by the Utah Attorney General’s Office or a private group. The enforcement process would be similar to warning labels about toxic substances that are required in California, Brammer said.

“We continue to have people complain about the prevalence of obscene materials and the impact on their children,” Brammer said. The digital warnings, for example, would allow people to navigate away quickly if something obscene comes up online accidentally, he said.

The bill doesn’t contain a specific definition of pornography. Instead, that would be decided in court if a lawsuit is filed under the law, Brammer said. The law wouldn’t regulate the content itself, so doesn’t violate free-speech rights, he said.

“It’s not censorship because it doesn’t stop anything from being said or printed or published,” he said.

Mike Stabile, a spokesman for the Free Speech Coalition, an adult-industry trade group, disagreed. Such a warning label would violate the First Amendment because it would require producers to communicate a specific message, he argued.

“You can’t force someone to say something,” he said, pointing to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning a California law that would have required anti-abortion pregnancy crisis centers to post signs saying they are not medical facilities. Warning systems like those for rating movies with an R or PG-13 are different because they are voluntary, he said.

Meanwhile, the Utah bill is broad enough that it could cover everything from the TV show “Game of Thrones” to a partially nude selfie on Twitter, he argued.

Stabile also questioned the proposed language of the warning, which states that exposing minors to pornography is “known to the state of Utah” to negatively affect minors’ emotional and brain development and their ability to maintain intimate relationships.

Unlike the effects of toxic substances, the research on pornography is not exhaustive or definitive, he said.

“This is the government coming in and trying to control something that should be handled by parents,” he said, adding that explicit material is intended for adults.

Brammer, though, said he drew the language of the warning from a resolution passed by Utah in 2016 that declared pornography a public-health crisis, citing its widespread availability online. Since then, more than a dozen states have advanced similar resolutions.

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Iowans angry over Democratic presidential caucus

By Tim Reid and Joseph Ax

DES MOINES, Iowa (Reuters) – From excitement to embarrassment to full-on rage, Iowa Democrats who took part in the first of the state-by-state nominating contests in this year’s U.S. presidential race ran the gamut of emotions as their quadrennial moment in the spotlight descended into chaos.

Jessica Leonard, who runs a food truck, was so furious about her state’s Democratic caucus on Monday that she said she may vote for Republican President Donald Trump in the Nov. 3 general election rather than the eventual Democratic nominee.

“It makes you want to distrust the whole procedure,” said Leonard, 41, explaining she had been a fan of former South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, one of the Democratic candidates. “I’m not happy at all with how the Democratic Party is representing itself. It looks like a disorganized mess.”

Thousands of voters met on Monday night in venues ranging from barns to basketball arenas, an initially joyous process that soon turned into frustration at the party’s failure to quickly produce voting results.

The Democratic Party blamed technical problems for the delay in vote counting and planned to release results later on Tuesday.

The campaigns of the various candidates also criticized the process. Opinion polls had shown U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders and Former Vice President Joe Biden in the lead in Iowa, followed by Buttigieg and U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren. The state-level nominating contests will determine the Democratic nominee to face Trump, who does not face a serious challenge within his party.

Precinct captains responsible for calling in results from around the rural state – which usually takes pride in its outsized role in the presidential race – reported difficulties using an electronic application as well as calling them in.

“We had people with their phones on speaker who were stuck on hold from 9 (p.m.) through at least 11,” said Bret Nilles, the Democratic chairman in Linn County, seated in Cedar Rapids.

Some voters blamed procedural changes for the delays. Iowa Democrats had pledged this year to make public how voters aligned on their first-choice candidates as well as the final caucus results once supporters of candidates who did not attract enough support to stay viable in the caucus system made a second choice.

“When you are trying to keep track of 1,700 precinct caucuses and totaling up all the numbers like that … the process just does not really support that very well,” caucus voter Tom Chapman, 56, said in Des Moines.

(Additional reporting by Daniel Fastenberg; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Will Dunham)

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Luckin Coffee share price may nearly double to $60 on U.S. exchanges: hedge fund Citron Capital

By Saqib Iqbal Ahmed

NEW YORK (Reuters) – China-based Luckin Coffee Inc’s <LK.O> shares could double in price after it overcomes the negative impact of the coronavirus outbreak and a widely publicized bearish bet against its stock, according to Andrew Left, managing partner at hedge fund Citron Capital.

Better known for his short bets, Left, who is also editor of the online investment newsletter Citron Research, has come out in defense of Luckin’s stock, which his fund owns. The stock will probably eventually trade at $60 per share on U.S. exchanges once uncertainty over the coronavirus clears, he told Reuters.

Luckin was forced to temporarily close an estimated 200 coffee shops in Wuhan, capital of the Hubei province in China and epicenter of the deadly virus outbreak.

Its stock slumped as much as 27% on Friday after hedge fund Muddy Waters said it had sold short the shares of the Chinese challenger to Starbucks <SBUX.O>, citing an anonymous report that questioned the coffee chain’s financials.

Short-sellers aim to profit by selling borrowed shares, hoping to buy them back later at a lower price.

Luckin has denied all allegations in the anonymous report.

Left said he decided to take a position in the stock after conducting an analysis of Luckin’s business, including speaking with stakeholders and competitors and reviewing payments data.

“I don’t think that report is correct,” Left told Reuters.

Luckin shares staged a partial recovery on Friday when Left mounted a defense of its fundamentals via Twitter and said his fund had bought the stock.

Shares were up 14% to $35.64 in afternoon trading on Tuesday.

About 30% of Luckin’s available shares have been sold short, with the dollar value of these bearish bets at $951 million, according to financial analytics firm S3 Partners. Left, dubbed “The Bounty Hunter of Wall Street” by New York Times Magazine, is known for successful bets against Valeant Pharmaceuticals and for publishing critical reports on Chinese companies and profiting when their shares fell.

Carson Block, founder of Muddy Waters, has made his mark in the hedge fund industry by betting against the stocks of a number of Chinese companies that trade on North American stock exchanges after challenging their accounting practices.

Muddy Waters declined to comment.

The shop closures and movement restrictions due to the spreading coronavirus are putting a damper on Luckin’s first-quarter results, brokerage Needham said in a note on Tuesday.

Nevertheless, the firm boosted its target price on the company’s shares by 48% to $40, pointing to Luckin’s new unmanned retail and tea partnership store initiatives.

(Reporting by Saqib Iqbal Ahmed; Editing by Ira Iosebashvili and Bernadette Baum)

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Montana lawmaker rejects resigning over socialism comments

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana lawmaker on Monday rejected legislative leaders’ call for his resignation over his assertion that the U.S. Constitution allows socialists to be jailed or shot.

Republican Rep. Rodney Garcia of Billings, responding to the letter by the three leaders of his own political party, said the “only way I would give my resignation is if God asked me to.”

Garcia made his original comments at a Republican gathering in Helena on Friday, saying he was worried about socialists entering the government, according to Lee Newspapers of Montana.

He stood by those comments on Saturday and again on Monday, saying socialism — which he called “pretty much communism” — is dangerous. He could not cite which part of the Constitution supports his claims.

“They have to be tried, and if they’re found guilty,” they can be jailed or shot, Garcia said. “But more than likely they would never be shot because we just don’t do that in today’s society. We’re supposed to be civilized.”

Speaker of the House Greg Hertz, Speaker Pro Tempore E. Wylie Galt and House Majority Leader Brad Tschida wrote to Garcia on Monday, calling the “inflammatory remarks” he made Friday “deeply disturbing” and stating that Garcia refused a request from Hertz to retract the comments.

“Your reckless and un-American remarks are beneath that of a public official and do not represent the values of the Republican Party, Montana House of Representatives or the people of our great state,” the leadership wrote. “Your actions have irreparably undermined the body in which you serve and irrevocably broken the trust of those you were elected to represent. We believe it is clear that you can no longer effectively discharge the duties of the office you hold; therefore, it is our request that you submit your resignation with immediate effect.”

Garcia told The Associated Press that he won’t resign. But he won’t be returning to the state House next year, either. He said he filed to run for the state Senate on Friday, a decision that had nothing to do with the response to his comments.

“They can ask me to step down, but, no, I don’t think so,” Garcia told The Associated Press. “I’m going to run for the Senate and I’m going to win. People are going to have to eat their words.”

Hertz, Galt and Tschida were at the Republican gathering on Friday and they didn’t say anything to him, Garcia alleged, nor did Spenser Merwin, the executive director of the Montana Republican Party who condemned his comments on Saturday.

“I’m getting my head so big from people saying, ‘Thank you, Rodney, for bringing this up,’” he said. “If people don’t want me in the Senate they can say: ‘Well, I’m not going to vote for ya.’ That’s their prerogative.”

Garcia said he’s also received some threats.

“They can’t come up to me and talk to me, but they want to shoot me,” Garcia said. “That’s fine, but if you miss, I won’t.”

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EU executive promises new strategy to fight cancer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission will present a new strategy to fight cancer by the end of the year, its president Ursula von der Leyen, who lost her younger sister to the disease, told the European Parliament on Tuesday.

The Commission estimates the economic impact of cancer in Europe at more than 100 billion euros ($110 billion) annually and said that without further action, cancer cases in the EU would double over the next 15 years to affect 40% of people.

The new Commission plan will propose actions from lifestyle changes to fighting pollution, vaccinations and better diagnosis. Prevention will be top priority because some 40% of cancer cases stem from causes that could be averted, the Commission said.

Von der Leyen noted the last EU scheme to prevent and detect cancer, a term that covers more than 200 diseases, was from 30 years ago.

“The world has changed. Europe has changed. And the number of cases is sadly on the rise,” von der Leyen told a news conference in Brussels.

A new case of cancer is diagnosed in the EU every nine seconds and the illness kills 1.3 million people annually in the bloc, according to data from EU statistics agency Eurostat.

(Reporting by Marine Strauss @StraussMarine, editing by Robin Emmott, Jan Strupczewski, William Maclean)

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Oscar contenders embraced beyond the art house

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – From billion-dollar blockbuster “Joker” to one of Quentin Tarantino’s highest-grossing films, many of this year’s Oscar best-picture nominees have drawn crowds to the box office.

It is the second straight year that Academy Awards voters have spotlighted widely seen movies, bucking a trend toward honoring independent films like “Moonlight” and “The Hurt Locker” that played to smaller audiences in art house theaters.

Six of nine contenders for the film industry’s most coveted trophy, which will be awarded on Sunday, have grossed more than $100 million worldwide, according to data from Box Office Mojo. Dark comedy “Joker,” from AT&T Inc’s Warner Bros, leads the pack with $1.07 billion.

Next is the $389.3 million for Tarantino’s love letter to 1960s Tinseltown, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” released by Sony Corp’s film studio. That ranks as the second-biggest box office take of Tarantino’s career.

And both World War One epic “1917” and 1960s racing drama “Ford v Ferrari” have crossed $200 million worldwide.

The sizable ticket sales showed that moviegoers last year flocked to adult-oriented dramas and not just the action hero spectacles and sequels that dominate modern multiplexes, said Vulture film critic Alison Willmore.

“It’s been a heartening year in that way,” Willmore said. “It felt counter to the narrative that the only movies people really turn out to see in larger crowds are franchises.”

Past honors for smaller films had stoked concern that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences was out of touch with movie audiences and that its choices where hurting TV ratings for the Oscars telecast. When “Moonlight” was named best picture in 2017, it had sold just $22.3 million worth of tickets in the United States and Canada.

Oscars organizers considered creating a best “popular” film category for the 2019 awards ceremony. They dropped the idea after a backlash that it would establish a two-tiered system of popular and what might have been seen as “unpopular” fare.

Popular films did, however, break into the best picture race last year. The field included Marvel’s superhero film “Black Panther” and rock biopic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

This year’s nominees feature two movies from Netflix Inc, “Marriage Story” and “The Irishman.” The company does not reveal how much money its films earn in theaters but has said that Mafia epic “The Irishman” is a hit on streaming.

More than 26 million Netflix accounts streamed at least 70 percent of the film over the first seven days, Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos said in December. He projected that figure would reach 40 million over 28 days.

Netflix has not released figures for divorce drama “Marriage Story.” Both movies are still playing in theaters and streaming on Netflix.

Even the Korean-language film “Parasite,” a dark satire about inequality and best picture nominee this year, has lured audiences to movie houses. It has collected $163.3 million at ticket windows around the world.

“You have a case of a foreign language film that has crossed over and become an incredible success and just a buzzed-about phenomenon,” Variety film critic Owen Gleiberman said.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine; Additional reporting by Alicia Powell in New York; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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Indonesia says to stop livestock imports from China

JAKARTA, Feb 4 (Reuters) – Indonesia said on Tuesday its plan to temporarily stop some imports from China over coronavirus concerns would only apply to shipments of live animals, and not all food and beverage products, a senior minister said.

The trade minister said on Monday the Southeast Asian country will suspend food and beverage imports from China as a precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“The methods of disease transmission are by human-to-human and through wild animals, so the government’s policy is to ban imports of live animals from China,” Airlangga Hartarto, chief economic affairs minister, said in a live broadcast on the Cabinet Secretariat’s Twitter account.

“If any had been shipped for Indonesia, we will return them,” he said, while underlining that Indonesia will continue importing fruit and vegetable products from China.

Hartarto made the comments after attending a cabinet meeting with President Joko Widodo in Bogor city, West Java, discussing the economic impact and Indonesia’s response to the epidemic in China, which has killed over 420 people, infected some 20,000 others and spread to over 20 countries. There have been no confirmed cases of infection in Indonesia.

Expecting a hit in tourism, Hartarto said the government will encourage airlines to give special rates for the country’s top tourism destinations, such as Bali, Riau Islands and North Sulawesi’s Manado city, to attract tourists from countries other than China.

Indonesia has barred entry to visitors who have been in China for 14 days and will stop all flights to and from there from Wednesday.

It will also stop sending migrant workers to China, Manpower Minister Ida Fauziyah said, adding there would be tighter measures for workers who want to work in Hong Kong and Taiwan.

(Reporting by Tabita Diela and Agustinus Beo Da Costa; Writing by Gayatri Suroyo; Editing by David Evans)

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‘Strahan, Sara and Keke’ Deals and Steals inspired by star styles

‘Strahan, Sara and Keke’ Deals and Steals inspired by star styles originally appeared on

Tory Johnson is back on “Strahan, Sara and Keke” with exclusive Deals and Steals inspired by star styles.

Score big savings on everything from vegan leather tote bags and jeans to jewelry and cosmetics.

The deals start at just $4.50 and are all 50% off.

PHOTO: Deals & Steals Inspired by Star Styles (Jslides, Burlix, Wunder2, ABC News Photo Illustration)

Deal Details:

1. Use the links provided below on the date(s) listed to receive the savings.

2. All deals are available only while supplies last. No backorders, unless specified by the individual vendor. No rain checks.

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5. Shipping rates indicated are valid in the continental United States only.

NEED HELP? CONTACT TORY: For those who need assistance with a deal, please email Tory Johnson directly: Tory and her team respond to all viewer emails within an hour during business hours.

By visiting these website addresses, you will leave and be directed to Shopify-powered web stores. Any information you share with the retailer will be governed by its website’s terms and conditions and privacy policies. ABC will receive a small share of revenue from purchases through these links.

NEED HELP? CONTACT TORY: Anyone who needs assistance with a deal can email Tory Johnson directly: Tory and her team respond to all viewer emails within an hour during business hours.