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Dear Abby: Ready to cut off assistance

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Danny V ‘s Thursday Pickorama

Dear Abby: I have a long-distance friend I met online 10 years ago. I took pity on her because she was nearly destitute, and I have been helping her pay her bills. She’s visited me a number of times, and I care about her a lot. However, her constant requests for money are starting to make me uncomfortable. (She can’t work for health reasons, and there’s a major scarcity of social services or competent care in her Rust Belt locality.)

I do not want to continue enabling her. I have tried suggesting she move closer to her sister, seek better care, etc., but she doesn’t have the motivation. I have a hard time saying “no” to people. I got married recently, and I don’t want this situation to negatively affect my relationship with my wife.

In my friend’s current emotional state, I’m afraid if I end my friendship with her, she’ll never recover from the emotional trauma. She even tattooed my name on her wrist so she’d see it every time she wanted to cut herself, like she used to do before we met. What should I do?

— Tied to Her

Dear Tied: Start researching assertiveness training programs for yourself, because you sorely need more help than I can give you in one column. Discuss this with your wife for additional emotional support, because you are right — continuing to give your online friend financial help WILL destroy your marriage. After that, tell this needy woman you won’t be sending her more money, and that you do not want her to contact you until she has moved closer to her sister so she can find the help she needs. Do not feel guilty for doing this. You have been extraordinarily generous to have let this go on for a decade.

Dear Abby: My husband and I have good friends who winter every year in another state, halfway across the country. For years they asked us to come for a visit. Last winter, we were vacationing about six hours from where they were staying. We called and asked if they were available and if it would be convenient for us to come for three days. They assured us they had no commitments and would love for us to come, which we did.

In the early morning of the third day, they announced they had been invited to go to a ballgame with a friend and would be leaving almost immediately, adding it was an hour’s drive away and they would be gone all day and returning early evening. They said we were welcome to “just hang out” and wait for them to return. We said we would head home the same time they left for the ballgame. I was stunned and felt they were incredibly rude. Am I overly sensitive, or was this an acceptable way to treat guests?

— Taken Aback in a Cold State

Dear Taken Aback: I agree that it was rude. Your friends had a choice, to fulfill their duties as gracious hosts, or be selfish and go to the game. By choosing the latter, they damaged a longtime friendship. I can see why you were “taken aback.”


Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com.

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Mother tosses 3-year-old from second-story window during apartment fire

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Mother tosses 3 year old from second story window during apartment fire

ST. LOUIS – Five people were treated following a fire at an apartment building on the 5800 block of Selber Court in north St. Louis.

Our partners at the Post-Dispatch report a mother tossed her 3-year-old daughter from a second-story window to a neighbor on the ground at the Hillvale apartments.

The fire department says one of those patients includes a child. Three people were taken to the hospital.

The paper also says the fire started in a vacant, boarded-up unit. The Bomb and Arson squad was called to the scene as well.

Firefighters can be seen on the roof trying to knock out the flames. There is also smoke pouring out of the roof.

Bommarito Automotive SkyFOX is over the scene. Authorities appeared to be walking with at least one resident who made it out of the burning building.

The Red Cross is helping 3 residents.

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Prosecutor: Jussie Smollett reported ‘fake hate crime’

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At Jussie Smollett trial, Osundairo brothers at center stage

By DON BABWIN

CHICAGO (AP) — Jussie Smollett staged a racist and homophobic assault and told police he was the victim after the television studio where he worked didn’t take hate mail he had received seriously, a prosecutor said during opening statements in the ex-“Empire” actor’s trial Monday.

Smollett has maintained he was the victim in the January 2019 attack in downtown Chicago. But special prosecutor Dan Webb said the actor recruited two brothers he worked with to help him carry out the fake attack. He then reported it to Chicago police, who classified it as a hate crime and spent 3,000 hours on the investigation.

“When he reported the fake hate crime that was a real crime,” Webb said.

Two brothers say Smollett paid them $3,500 to pose as his attackers on a frigid night in January 2019.

Webb was named as special prosecutor in the case after Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx’s office dropped the original charges filed against Smollett. A new indictment was returned in 2020.

Smollett, who arrived at the courthouse in Chicago Monday with his mother and other family members, is accused of lying to police about the alleged attack and has been charged with felony disorderly conduct. The class 4 felony carries a prison sentence of up to three years, but experts have said it is likely that if Smollett is convicted he would be placed on probation and perhaps ordered to perform community service.

Twelve jurors plus three alternate jurors were sworn in late Monday in a trial Judge James Linn said he expects to take about one week. During jury selection, Linn asked potential jurors if they have been the victim of a hate crime, if they have watched “Empire” or TMZ, a program and website about celebrities, or if they belong to any civil rights or pro-police organizations. Cameras are not allowed inside the courtroom and the proceedings are not being livestreamed, unlike in other recent high-profile trials.

Whether Smollett, who is Black and gay, will testify remains an open question. But the siblings, Abimbola and Olabinjo Osundairo, will take the witness stand where they are expected to repeat what they have told police officers and prosecutors: that they carried out the attack at Smollett’s behest.

Jurors also may see surveillance video from more than four dozen cameras that police reviewed to trace the brothers’ movements before and after the reported attack, as well as a video showing the brothers purchasing a red hat, ski masks and gloves from a beauty supply shop hours earlier.

Smollett’s attorneys have not spelled out how they will confront that evidence. Lead attorney Nenye Uche declined to comment ahead of this week’s proceedings. But there are clues as to how they might during the trial.

Buried in nearly 500 pages of Chicago Police Department reports is a statement from an area resident who says she saw a white man with “reddish brown hair” who appeared to be waiting for someone that night. She told a detective that when the man turned away from her, she “could see hanging out from underneath his jacket what appeared to be a rope.”

Her comments could back up Smollett’s contention that his attackers draped a makeshift noose around his neck. Further, if she testified that the man was white, it would support Smollett’s statements — widely ridiculed because the brothers, who come from Nigeria, are Black — that he saw pale or white skin around the eyes of one of his masked attackers.

Given there is so much evidence, including the brothers’ own statements, that they participated in the attack, it is unlikely that Smollett’s attorneys will try to prove they did not take part. That could lead the defense to contend that Smollett was the victim of a very real attack at the hands of the brothers, perhaps with the help of others, who now are only implicating the actor so they won’t be charged.

The $3,500 check could be key, although Smollett says he wrote it to pay one of the brothers to work as his personal trainer.

“I would assume the defense is going to zero in on that,” said Joe Lopez, a prominent defense attorney not involved with the case.

What they will almost certainly do is attack the brothers’ credibility, reminding jurors that they are not facing the same charges as Smollett, despite admitting they took part in the staged attack.

“Everything Smollett is responsible for, they are responsible for,” said David Erickson, a former state appellate judge who teaches at Chicago Kent College of Law and is not involved in the case.

Finally, Smollett’s career could take center stage. Prosecutors could make the same point that then-Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson made when he announced Smollett’s arrest in 2019: that Smollett thought the attack would win him more fame and a pay raise.

But Lopez said the defense attorneys might ask the jury the same question he asked himself.

“How would that help him with anything?” he asked. “He’s already a star.”

___

Associated Press reporter Sara Burnett contributed to this report.

___

Check out the AP’s complete coverage of the Jussie Smollett case.

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

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Zach Wilson’s return wasn’t great, but it was good enough with rest of team firing

In Zach Wilson’s return off a knee injury, the No. 2 overall pick struggled. Wilson threw for under 150 yards with a rushing touchdown and an interception.

But the coaching staff stepped up and Wilson allowed him to manage the game as the Jets snagged their first road win of the season over the Texans in Week 12.

While there was some disappointment from the fan base on Wilson’s outing, Robert Saleh was pleased with the performance of his rookie.

“Was it his best game? No. Did he do a lot of things? Did he get comfortable as the game went on? Absolutely,” Saleh said. “He orchestrated two 13-play drives that led the scores where we were able to lap them. Scored before the half, scored after the half and another eight-plus-play drive. So, he orchestrated three pretty long drives and did enough to win the football game and that’s what’s most important.”

Wilson wasn’t happy with his performance, but Saleh looked at those emotions as a positive because of his quarterback eagerness to improve.

“I love that he’s hard on himself,” Saleh said. “His desire to get better is up there with anybody. I mean, he works his tail off at it.”

Saleh added that when Wilson struggles, it isn’t all on the rookie.

“But at the same time, coaches also, we’re hard on ourselves, too. It’s our job to help him get better and do everything we can for him,” Saleh said.

And to the coaching staff’s credit, they helped Wilson in the second half. Jets offensive coordinator Mike LaFleur realized the flow of the game and took the pressure off of Wilson.

In the first half, the Jets were more balanced as they ran the ball 11 times for 49 yards and Wilson threw it 12 times as he completed six passes for 44 yards with an interception.

LaFleur realized his quarterback was struggling and his running attack was working and leaned on the run game.

They ran the ball 23 times for 108 yards in the second half. That alleviated pressure off Wilson. His first pass out of the half was a play action throw to Elijah Moore for 22 yards. Moore was wide open on his deep curl route because the linebackers bit on the fake.

That running attack allowed Wilson to manage the half as he went 8-for-12 for 101 yards in the second half.

“The run game, defense, special teams, that’s what travels. And especially in this time of year, in cold weather, when people are hurting,” Saleh said. “And so, the offense to run the ball the way it did yesterday, the o-line was moving people, there was space, the backs were finding the creases, they were hitting it hard, they were breaking tackles, they were awesome all the way across the board. And so, yeah, whenever you get the run game going, it takes pressure off of everybody.”

And Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich’s gameplan shut down the Texans offense as they mustered 202 yards, and held them to 45 yards in the second half.

Gang Green defense shut down the Texans’ rushing attack by holding them to 96 yards. And on passing downs, they exploited the weak offensive line with a four man rush, the style Saleh wants to play.

They sent four on 71% of Texans QB Taylor’s dropbacks and he went 11-for-19 for 112 yards with one interception and one touchdown. Taylor had a passer rating of 70 and was sacked three times.

While Wilson worked off the rust, the parts around him showed up.

INJURY REPORT

Mike White tested positive for COVID last week and missed the game against the Texans. He’s still in the protocol and isn’t expected to be available against the Eagles.

Joe Flacco was placed on the COVID list because he was deemed a close contact. Flacco didn’t test positive but he missed the Texans game. He was activated on Monday.

Denzel Mims was inactive against the Texans as he worked back from COVID. Saleh says he will practice on Wednesday.

Mekhi Becton has been out because of a knee injury he suffered Week 1 against the Panthers. Becton is on track to do field work as he works his way back to practice.

Tight end Trevon Wesco suffered an ankle injury on Sunday and is out two to four weeks.

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