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Seagram heiress jailed for bankrolling sex cult

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Clare Bronfman (AFP)

The heiress of the Canadian drinks empire Seagram was sentenced to more than six years in prison by a New York court Wednesday after pleading guilty in a sex trafficking scandal linked to a cult.

The 81-month sentence handed down to Clare Bronfman, 41, was seen as particularly stiff, since prosecutors had themselves only called for five years of incarceration.

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Bronfman pleaded guilty last year to credit card fraud and harboring illegal immigrants on behalf of “self-help” group Nxivm, whose founder Keith Raniere was found guilty in June 2019 of having kept between 15 and 20 sex slaves for years.

Prosecutors said that Bronfman spent tens of millions of dollars supporting the group, known as Nxivm — pronounced “Nexium.”

“There can be little doubt that Raniere would not have been able to commit the crimes with which he was convicted were it not for powerful allies like Bronfman,” the prosecution said.

Her defense had hoped she would be able to avoid jail time and had called for a three-year suspended sentence.

Her lawyers said that even though she had pleaded guilty to credit card fraud and harboring illegal immigrants for the group, she did not know about the sexual abuse committed by Raniere in a group parallel to Nxivm called DOS, which was made up of “masters” and “slaves.”

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They said she only knew of the beneficial side of the Albany, New York-based organization, which purported to teach classes for women’s self-empowerment.

Of the six people charged in the scandal that broke in 2018, Bronfman was the first to learn her sentence.

Prosecutors have requested life in prison for Raniere, who will find out his sentence on October 27.

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Four others have pleaded guilty, including actress Allison Mack from the series “Smallville,” who admitted to two counts of racketeering in April 2019.

The dramatic story has been the subject of two screen adaptions: HBO’s recently released “The Vow” docu-series and “Escaping the Nxivm Cult,” a 2019 Lisa Robinson film focused on the testimony of a mother working to save her daughter from the organization.

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Republicans grow increasingly nervous over potential loss of Senate seat GOP has controlled for decades

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Rep. Roger Marshall (R-KS) wants to fill the state's open Senate seat that been in the hands of Republicans since 1932, and was once widely expected to do so, but thanks to the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, the seat is more likely to be a toss-up, according to the Washington Post's Annie Gowen.

Marshall’s Democratic opponent, Barbara Bollier, 62, is a state senator who recently left the GOP, and has focused her platform on battling the pandemic and expanding health care. Gowen reports that she has racked up a "record third-quarter fundraising haul of $13.5 million, and has raised a total of $20 million. Marshall raised $2.7 million in the third quarter and has a total of $5 million."

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Spain becomes first EU nation with one million virus cases

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Spain has become the first European Union nation to surpass a million coronavirus infections, official data showed Wednesday, as the government mulls fresh restrictions on public life to curb the spread of the disease.

The country recorded 16,973 confirmed cases of Covid-19 over the past 24 hours, the health ministry announced Wednesday, taking the total to 1,005,295 since its first case was diagnosed on January 31 on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands.

Of this number, 34,366 people have died, after 156 more deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

Spain, which is home to around 47 million people, is only the sixth country in the world to cross this grim milestone after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

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‘Beyond cringe’: Rudy Giuliani buried in ridicule after Borat catches him with hands down his pants

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Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, who has been peddling videos of Hunter Biden taking drugs to right-wing tabloids, is now dealing with his own bombshell video footage.

The Guardian reported on Wednesday that “the former New York mayor and current personal attorney to Donald Trump is seen reaching into his trousers and apparently touching his genitals while reclining on a bed in the presence of" 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova after being caught in a sting operation for Sacha Baron Cohen's new "Borat" film.

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