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Sara Hall

Likes: Good (read: bad) puns, puppies, embarrassing pop music, burritos, idolizing Beyoncé and Tina Fey
Dislikes: Squirrels, typos, socks with sandals (and other unforgivable fashion mistakes)

Sara hasn’t always been a journalist — unless you count that time she put out a newspaper in the third grade about her dog. Still, she’s been making up for lost time ever since she began attending Eastern Illinois University and started writing for The Daily Eastern News. When people ask her why she wants to be a writer, she tells them it’s because she genuinely enjoys journalism and everything that goes with it (which is true, but let’s be real, she not-so-secretly wouldn’t mind just being Carrie Bradshaw for the rest of her life). In the fall, you’ll find her where she really belongs: as online editor, blogging and tweeting like it’s her job — because hey, it actually is (thank God).

Jesse Jackson Jr. on mysterious medical leave of absence

Jackson’s condition said to have worsened

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. has some explaining to do. The Democrat Illinois Representative took a leave of absence more than a month ago, but his office has not confirmed the definite reason and has been vague with the circumstances.

A source for Jesse Jackson Jr., 47, said his staff and doctors may provide information on his condition soon, even as early as today, NPR’s David Schaper first reported. Jesse Jackson Jr. has provided some information about his condition, however. On June 25, his office released a brief statement saying he was being treated for exhaustion.

The office for Jesse Jackson Jr. also issued another statement saying his condition has worsened and become more serious than previously thought, saying he has been battling “certain physical and emotional ailments privately for a long period of time” and will require extended impatient treatment. Jackson has been on medical leave since June 10.

Rev. Jesse Jackson, Jackson Jr.’s father, also told Schaper, “The crisis is deeper than we thought it was. But the good news is he’s under good supervision. He’s been in touch with his mother and his wife, and he’s on the rebound. To me, that’s the good news about it all.”

Despite small statements on Jesse Jackson Jr.’s condition, other representatives are calling for a better explanation.

“I think that he has a responsibility to give us more information, and I’m not demanding that information, but I think the people of his congressional district deserve it,” Rep. Luis Gutierrez  said. “The people of Illinois deserve it. If he’s going to stand for re-election, you guys [reporters] are going to demand it.”

Jesse Jackson Jr. is up for re-election in November in the Chicago district.

Episcopal Church approves sanction of same-sex unions

Church becomes largest denomination in U.S. to approve same-sex unions

The Episcopal Church has officially become the largest U.S. denomination to approve the sanction of same-sex unions.

In a vote on Tuesday evening by its House of Deputies, the Episcopal Church approved a measure to allow same-sex civil unions and civil marriages but not actual same-sex marriage.

Supporters of the same-sex blessings by the Episcopal Church did make clear that this approval did not include marriage ceremonies, despite any similarities. Instead the ceremony is called the “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” in which prayers are held and vows and rings are exchanged.

To participate in “The Witnessing and Blessing of a Lifelong Covenant,” same-sex couples must complete counseling before their unions or civil marriages are blessed by the Episcopal Church.

Many other mainline Protestant churches in recent years have created barriers for gay ordination or instead allowed individual congregations to celebrate gay or lesbian unions. The United Church of Christ is the only major U.S. Protestant group to fully endorse same-sex marriage.

According to the website for the Episcopal Church, “The Cognate Subcommittee on Blessings of the Committee 13, Prayer Book, Liturgy, and Church Music,” reports that its resolution “also asks the Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music (SCLM) to undertake further study during the next three years on how the blessing of lifelong, committed same-sex relationships relates to Christian theology and scripture, and to reflect on the matter with our sisters and brothers throughout the Anglican Communion and with our ecumenical partners.”

Daniel Tosh in hot water for rape joke

Comedian has since apologized, but only somewhat

Daniel Tosh is trying to dig himself out of a hole, but he may only be making it deeper.

The comedian apologized on Tuesday after he responded to a female audience member’s distaste for the subject of rape jokes last Friday at one of his comedy shows.

After Daniel Tosh began talking about how rape jokes could be funny, a displeased female audience member vocally disagreed with him in the middle of the show.

Daniel Tosh went on to insist rape jokes are always funny; the anonymous female audience member said in a post on her Tumblr.

“After I called out to him, Tosh paused for a moment. Then, he says, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if that girl got raped by like, 5 guys right now? Like right now? What if a bunch of guys just raped her…’ and I, completely stunned and finding it hard to process what was happening but knowing I needed to get out of there, immediately nudged my friend, whom was also completely stunned, and we high-tailed it out of there,” she said.

Daniel Tosh then apologized via Twitter, linking to the woman’s post and  tweeting, “All the out of context misquotes aside, i’d like to sincerely apologize.”

Still, Daniel Tosh almost undermined his own apology by then tweeting, “The point i was making before i was heckled is there are awful things in the world but you can still make jokes about them. #deadbabies.”

Laugh Factory, the comedy club that hosted Daniel Tosh, remains mainly unapologetic for Tosh’s behavior.

“Comedians sometimes tell jokes and sometimes they can be off color. I think Daniel Tosh is one of the funniest comics alive. He is one of the most caring people I know. He had no intentions of hurting anyone,” Jamie Masada, Laugh Factory owner, told E! News.

Frank Ocean's coming out won't affect his career

Ocean receives support from Beyonce

Frank Ocean is out as bisexual, but will it hurt his career?

Members and influencers of the hip-hop community are saying, “No”.

Last week, Frank Ocean revealed in a letter on his Tumblr he was in a romantic relationship with a man.

Since then, support has flooded in for the rapper, saying his sexual orientation does not directly affect the quality of his music.

Brian “B.Dot” Miller, content director for the popular blog site Rap Radar, said as long as Frank Ocean produces quality music, his career will not be affected at all.

“I think hip-hop right now is a free-for-all. It doesn’t even matter. If the music is good, no one even cares, man,” Miller said.

R&B singer Anthony Hamilton also agreed with Miller.

“You know what? He’s creative, doesn’t matter if it’s his album or whatever album he puts his talent to, it’ll be OK,” Hamilton said in an interview with Global Grind.

Paula Renfroe, editor in chief of Juicy Magazine said the move will help the hip-hop community break free of the former stigma against the gay community.

“Hip-hop also has grown, society as a whole has grown and that’s the beauty of hip-hop, it reflects our culture and our society,” she told MTV News on Friday.

Even Beyonce has come out in support of Frank Ocean, writing in an online letter, “Be fearless. Be honest. Be generous. Be brave. Be poetic. Be open. Be free. Be yourself. Be in love. Be happy. Be inspiration.”

Ocean’s upcoming album, Channel Orange, will be released on July 17.

Wellpoint buys rival to double its Medicaid business

Company buys Amerigroup for $4.6 billion

WellPoint Inc is said to buy its rival Amerigroup for $4.46 billion, a move that will nearly double its Medicaid business. This is a major move on the expansion of the U.S. government’s health plan for the less wealthy.

The companies both announced the deal on Monday, a week and a half after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld President Barack Obama’s healthcare law. The law aims to extend coverage to more than 30 million uninsured Americans.

The decision is said to help serve as a catalyst to kick off a wave of acquisitions among insurers.

“With or without healthcare reform, the Medicaid business is extremely lucrative and offers big growth potential,” Oppenheimer analyst Michael Wiederhorn said. “A lot of states already want to move their business to Medicaid HMOs. But the Affordable Care Act (healthcare law) would further expand the business, so you get a double bonus.”

With WellPoint and Amerigroup combined together, they will serve more than 4.5 million beneficiaries of state-sponsored healthcare plans. This includes Medicaid recipients in 19 states, the companies said together in a joint statement.

The move will also increase WellPoint’s Medicaid presence and make it one of the largest Medicaid plan administrators in the United States, along with UnitedHealth Group Inc.

The 2010 healthcare reform law is designed to provide coverage for 16 million more Americans through privately run health insurance exchanges in each state.

Still, the Supreme Court ruling allows states to choose if they wish to participate in the Medicaid expansion. The law will take full effect in 2014.

Adam Lambert in talks to become American Idol judge

Lambert could replace current judge Jennifer Lopez

Adam Lambert’s time at American Idol may not be over forever. E! News has reported Fox has been in talk with Adam Lambert for the past month about him becoming a new judge on Idol.

Adam Lambert was a former contestant on Idol in 2008 where he placed second place in the singing competition.

Many are speculating about the reason for bringing in Adam Lambert, but the main consensus is that current judge Jennifer Lopez is leaving the show because the show can no longer afford to continue her contract.

“They have been talking about Adam for over a month,” an anonymous source told E!. “He personifies the show and will be a popular choice right from the start.”

E! News also has reported Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler’s contracts are also up for renewal.  

Adam Lambert has neither confirmed nor denied his possible new career move but did provide CNN with a response.

Idol has an amazing history of introducing great musical talent, and I was very fortunate to have had the Idol stage play a big part in my career,” he said. “IF Idol wants to talk to me about judging, I’d be more than flattered to have that conversation.”

Jennifer Lopez, also, has not made a definite statement in regards to continuing her time at Idol.

“There is no truth to reports that say I am definitely leaving Idol. All I said was I haven’t decided what I am doing next year,” Lopez said on her Twitter account.

Obama proposes one-year tax cut extension for those making less than $250,000

Proposal not likely to pass before election

President Barack Obama has proposed a one-year tax cut extension for families earning less than $250,000 a year as part of his efforts to bring focus back to the economy.

Obama’s campaign for tax cut extensions will continue on in a series of battleground-state events this week, especially at his campaign trip to Iowa on Tuesday.

In his call for the extension, Obama has proposed a permanent tax cut for those families earning less than $250,000 and for cuts that aid wealthier families to discontinue.

This tax cut extension proposal is also significant because it is the first time Obama is specifically calling for a one-year extension for the lower-earning group of tax payers.

“Let’s not hold the vast majority of all Americans and our entire economy hostage while we debate the merits of another tax cut for the wealthy,” Obama said.

Despite Democrat support, the resolution is not expected to pass, at least not until after the November election.

As expected, Mitt Romney is not in favor of Obama’s proposal, saying it would hurt the economy.

“President Obama’s response to even more bad economic news is a massive tax increase. It just proves again that the president doesn’t have a clue how to get America working again and help the middle class,” Andrea Saul, a Romney spokeswoman, said.

Is your computer safe from Malware Monday?

Computers could have been infected more than a year ago

Malware Monday is as malicious as it sounds, and it could knock thousands of Americans off the Internet today. Despite multiple warnings about Malware Monday, if Americans don’t do a check for malware that could have taken over machines more than a year ago, they may lose Internet access.

Warnings have been sent across Facebook and Google while Internet service providers have sent notices. The FBI has also set up a special website in response.

According to the FBI, approximately 277,000 computers worldwide are most likely infected. About 64,000 infected computers are said to be in the United States.

Those with computers still infected on Malware Monday will lose the ability to go online and will have to call their service providers for steps on deleting the malware and reconnecting to the Internet.

The problem of Malware Monday first originated when international hackers ran an online advertising scam to infect more than 570,000 computers. FBI agents tried to take down the hackers, but if they took over the malicious servers, all victims would lose Internet connection.

Instead, the FBI set up a temporary server to control the hackers; still, this temporary Internet system was shut down at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, thus sparking the name Malware Monday.

Most victims of Malware Monday are unaware that their computers are infected, although slower Internet surfing is a warning sign.

Both Facebook and Google are trying to combat Malware Monday by creating their own warning messages that shows up if someone using either site appeared to have an infected computer. Facebook users that are susceptible to Malware Monday receive a message saying, “Your computer or network might be infected,” along with a link that users can click for more information.

Google users also receive a similar message.

To check whether a computer is infected, users can visit a website run by the group brought in by the FBI: http://www.dcwg.org .

Kourntey Kardashian finally gives birth to healthy daughter

Daughter’s name is generating some buzz

Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick have another reason to celebrate with the birth of their first daughter. Penelope Scotland Disick was born on Sunday at Cedars Sinai Medical Center, joining brother Mason, 2, E! News first reported.

Penelope Scotland Disick weighed in at 7 pounds 14 ounces.

Kourtney Kardashian is said to be doing well and is overjoyed at the birth of her daughter.

“Scott and I are overjoyed to welcome our precious angel Penelope Scotland Disick into our lives. We are forever blessed. Mommy and baby are resting comfortably,” Kourtney Kardashian told E! News in a statement.

Grandma Kris Kardashian added in a statement, “It was a great. She had an easy delivery. [Penelope] is so cute. She looks just like Mason. She’s so beautiful. We are so happy.”

The name Penelope Scotland Disick is generating some buzz because of its unusualness. However, Kourtney Kardashian made it clear all along, even in her first pregnancy, that she did not want to follow the “K” name trend that defines her family.

At the time of his birth, Mason was the 34th most popular name, but is now the second most popular boys’ name.

This same rise in popularity could happen with the name Penelope, which is a classic Greek name meaning “weaver.” It is currently the 169th most popular baby name.

The baby’s middle name, Scotland, most likely comes from Scott Disick’s father’s first name.

It is still unknown if Kourtney Kardashian’s birth of Penelope Scotland Disick will be aired on E! as the birth of Mason was. Still, Kourtney Kardashian did not rule out the possibility all together, “We’re gonna film it again ourselves, and honestly, my experience last time was so peaceful and calm and everything you don’t see in the movies,”

Kourtney Kardashian said on The Tonight Show. “And I really wanted to share that with people, so they knew it doesn’t have to be a crazy screaming session.”

Katie Holmes thinks she's being watched

The actress thinks Scientology church is watching her every move

Katie Holmes filed for divorce from Tom Cruise, and now it is rumored the Scientology church is watching her every move.

The Sun reported that Katie Holmes believes she is “under surveillance by private investigators hired by Scientologists.”

Katie Holmes was reported to have asked her security to take detailed photos of the six alleged spies and report them to the police.

The men told the team they were “waiting for someone off the bus.”

Tom Cruise’s Scientology beliefs are said to be one of the main causes behind the couple’s split. Cruise allegedly wanted to get the couple’s 6-year-old child more involved in the church.

The Church of Scientology has come out saying these rumors are not true, telling The Daily Caller in a statement from The Church of Scientology’s International counsel representative Gary Soter that “there is no truth whatsoever to the TMZ.com report (or any other report) that the Church of Scientology has sent anyone to follow or surveil Katie Holmes.”

Katie Holmes is reportedly filing for sole custody of Suri.

In the divorce, Dennis Wasser, the Los Angeles-based divorce attorney will represent Cruise against Holmes. Cruise was also represented by Wasser in his divorce from actress Nicole Kidman.

Holmes is said to be supported by Jonathan Wolfe and divorce attorney Allan Mayefsky, who also represented Christie Brinkley in her divorce with Peter Cook.