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A Yale grad and ex-banker ended up homeless in Los Angeles. Then a fellow alum made an unexpected offer

Los Angeles (CNN)Even with an economics degree from Yale and job experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood, the future for Shawn Pleasants looked increasingly glum. Homeless for 10 years in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, Pleasants had done little to extricate himself from a cycle of depression and methamphetamine use that began before…

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A Yale grad and ex-banker ended up homeless in Los Angeles. Then a fellow alum made an unexpected offer

Los Angeles (CNN)Even with an economics degree from Yale and job experience on Wall Street and in Hollywood, the future for Shawn Pleasants looked increasingly glum. Homeless for 10 years in the Koreatown section of Los Angeles, Pleasants had done little to extricate himself from a cycle of depression and methamphetamine use that began before he landed on the street. He depended on churches and other charities for free meals.I wrote about Pleasants, 52, in September, as part of CNN’s coverage of the homeless crisis plaguing California. The notion of a high school valedictorian and Ivy Leaguer who’d built a successful career, then fallen precipitously, garnered a lot of attention. Millions clicked on the story and shared it on social media.”I started reading it — and just tears,” said Kim Hershman, who’d studied a year ahead of Pleasants at Yale. Though they were barely acquaintances back then, Hershman immediately felt obligated to help, especially after she learned Pleasants’ encampment was mere miles from her home.”When we were at Yale in the ’80s, there were very few black students there,” Hershman recalled. “Things are very different now. But I know that for whatever he achieved, something changed, and he didn’t have the support that, maybe, I had.”A Hollywood business affairs consultant, Hershman is also an attorney who graduated from Yale Law School as well. She drew upon her alumni network for guidance and encouragement, and a flood of postings soon appeared on a Facebook page for black Yale alums.”If Kim wants to get something done, I’d better not stand in the way,” one member wrote.”Would he be willing to accept the offer of help?” queried another. There was only one way to find out. The day after my CNN story appeared online, Hershman made her way to Koreatown to try to find Pleasants amid the tent encampments.”I was a little nervous because I was, like, ‘Where am I going? I’m a 5-foot-1 female,'” she recalled, fearing that it may not be safe.Hershman — escorted by two Yale alums, including her significant other — began asking homeless people in the area if they knew where Pleasants camped out.”Yeah,” someone eventually told her. “He’s around the corner.”She had a familiar face and a persuasive offer Almost everyone in Shawn Pleasants’ orbit was homeless, like him. Some people walking by were friendly (“When people say, ‘Good morning,’ it really makes a difference,” he’d like others to know.) Others were indifferent or rude.So, when the woman wearing a Yale hat took a seat next to him on the sidewalk and grabbed his hand, Pleasants knew this was no ordinary visitor. Seeing the hat’s “Y” logo, his mind raced back to the magical setting of Yale’s campus in New Haven, Connecticut.”I had seen her, maybe, seven or eight times at school,” he recalled. Though they’d never been formally introduced, Pleasants knew who she was. But why had she come to see him today? he wondered.After a few minutes of small talk, Hershman had a simple yet extraordinarily complicated question for a man who’d been living on the streets for a decade.”My big thing was: ‘What do you want? And based on what you want, I’m going to do whatever I can to help you,'” she told CNN, recalling that initial conversation.”I want to make a difference,” Pleasants replied. “I’m in this situation, and there has to be a reason for it all, and I want to help others.”They talked about the possibilities. Pleasants explained his vision for a homeless resource center, where people living on the streets could take showers, receive mail, charge a phone or iron a shirt. A sort of one-stop shop to address some critical needs, he told her, was desperately needed.Hershman made no promises. But she did assure Pleasants that if he would accept her help, she would get him off the streets and help him regain his footing in life.But there was one catch, and it was nonnegotiable: He must agree to drug rehabilitation.Over the years, Pleasants had turned down similar offers from family. This time he said yes — but with a caveat of his own: “I have to bring my husband with me,” he told Hershman, referring to his longtime partner, David, who had been living with Pleasants for years, even before they both became homeless. Hershman agreed.”She’s quite charismatic and a persuasive leader,” Pleasants said. “And when she wants to do something, she does it, by golly. She’s an angel.” They set a moving date for a few weeks later. Still, Pleasants wasn’t sure.After a week, Hershman returned to check on Pleasants and to share a trove of supportive, encouraging messages that their Yale classmates had sent. He’d been “quite terrified that he had shamed his Yale family and biological family in doing the story,” she said, referring to CNN’s reporting. “To know that he had not, and had inspired people and touched people’s hearts, meant the world to him,” Hershman said via text. “The messages are really what made Shawn decide to move off the street.”A new life still feels like a fleeting fantasyPleasants’ belongings consisted of a series of grocery carts overtopped with clothes, blankets and other disheveled items. Tarps connected to the carts formed a roof. A laundry basket held unopened boxes of cereal that he had gotten from a food pantry. His things seemed to take up half a block. But he left everything behind, aside from some clothes that he packed in garbage bags and luggage he had acquired on the street. Pleasants also kept a battery-operated candle that “would mentally warm” him up and a baseball bat he kept for protection.”Sometimes I had to clutch that bat because I didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said. “I had been stabbed in the back by someone I didn’t even know. And my husband had been slashed with a machete by a total stranger in the night.”As he prepared to say goodbye, Pleasants, his partner and Hershman, along with some other homeless residents, formed a circle to say a prayer.”Let us not forget where we come from, what we’ve been through and where we’re hopefully going,” he said somberly to the group. Riding away, tears welling in his eyes, Pleasants said he was “nervous and happy.” They had planned to stop at a McDonald’s drive-thru but at the last minute decided to skip it, anxious to see what awaited them. Hershman had arranged for Pleasants and his partner to stay in a guest house in the back of a posh LA estate. It has a pool and a basketball court. It sits behind a gate and is entirely private. The guest house, more than big enough to accommodate two people, has its own kitchen that Hershman had stocked with all their favorite foods. Entering their new digs, the men went straight for the bathroom and spent several minutes hovering over a sink, washing their hands.Even weeks after leaving the streets, Pleasants was still acclimating.”At some point, someone is going to say, ‘April Fools,’ and it’s over,” he said.Pleasants has been addressing lingering medical problems, including with his vision. A congenital condition left him blind in one eye, and advanced glaucoma threatens the other. Meantime, David has been recuperating from heart surgery to address a genetic abnormality.Pleasants is also coming to terms with some earlier emotional trauma, including the death of his mother in 2010, which he said contributed to his downward spiral.”You gotta show a strong face out there,” he said, referring to his life on the streets. “But here, I can sit here and cry, and we can hug and just sort it out in 30 minutes.”His drug abuse, however, remains a work in progress. Pleasants and David have left their compound a few times, and Hershman believes they may have been getting drugs.It’s easy to tell, Hershman said, when he hasn’t been using. “He seems flatter, more depressed,” she said, adding that his addiction “is real — a crutch — and masks a lot of pain.””I’ve never been good at doing anything cold turkey. Life’s in the middle,” Pleasants said, adding that getting drug-free is “tantamount to my credibility.”Making plans to get sober and share his storyPleasants plans to check in Friday to a rehab facility in Los Angeles’ Tarzana neighborhood, he told CNN. Hershman identified the facility and deemed it to be a good fit. Pleasants’ partner will enter a few weeks later, after fully recuperating from heart surgery.”I’m ready,” Pleasants said Thursday by phone, adding that he “felt somewhat anxious” but that “it feels like the responsible thing to do.” Hershman is fronting the cost for 30 days of Pleasants’ treatment, which she said amounts to just over $10,000. Fellow Yale alums have offered to contribute, she said, though no reimbursements or financial arrangements have been made. The price tag could also rise because “they may recommend that he stay longer than 30 days,” she said.She’s also helping Pleasants get settled into more permanent housing using a federally subsidized Section 8 voucher, which he recently obtained. A mother to twin teenage boys who works as an independent consultant, Hershman said she has been a ’round-the-clock presence for Pleasants.Through it all, she’s has been chronicling the experience with the help of a videographer. They have visions for a TV docuseries “that takes viewers through this journey of everything they’re going through,” she said.Pleasants believes it could change people’s perceptions of homelessness. “From soup to nuts, you’re going to see everything. You’re going to see the good points, you’ll see the bad points because it’s gotta be real,” he said. “We’re people with a myriad of different circumstances. There are people from all cultures, countries, age groups and professions.”Policy experts point to the lack of affordable housing in California as the primary reason for endemic homelessness. Pleasants doesn’t disagree.”Not everyone can pay $2,000 a month for a studio,” he said. People who used to help homeless residents, he said, ended up sitting beside “us” on the streets.Pleasants also wants to call attention to the lack of facilities just to “clean your clothes.” “In order to get a job and get out, you need somewhere to shower. We need to get a computer to do a resume. Where are we supposed to do those things?” he said, adding that he and Hershman are brainstorming ways to advance his ideas for a resource center.Meantime, he’s written a note to be included in the next installment of Yale’s alumni magazine. Hershman shared it with CNN, reading, in part: “I want to thank all alumni for their support, understanding and compassion…and their critical eye as to what is going on in my situation. I don’t just want charity. I do need critical and constructive help (in terms of advice or real goods and services); not just someone throwing money at me. … I need more than a helping hand. I need a map as to where I’m going. Thank you for providing that – at a level that ‘another Yalie’ appreciates.”In the short term, Pleasants said he wants to be worthy of his new lease on life — made possible by a single news story — and a woman who felt inspired to act.He also knows there are people out there wondering if he’ll blow it, he said, and wind up back on the streets.”I hope the hell not,” he said. “And I hope for their sake that they don’t lose their footing because they’ll experience some of the worst times that I experienced. And it doesn’t matter who you are, it’s a possibility.”
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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween

The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year…

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A rare blue moon will light up the sky on Halloween
The night sky on Halloween will be illuminated by a blue moon, the second full moon in a month. The relatively rare occurrence happens once every two and a half years on average, according to NASA’s National Space Science Data Center.

Every month has a full moon, but because the lunar cycle and the calendar year aren’t perfectly synched, about every three years we wind up with two in the same calendar month.

The National Weather Service spotted a massive bat colony on its weather radar
October’s first full moon, also known as the harvest moon, will appear on the first day of the month. The second full moon, or blue moon, will be visible on October 31. It’s the first instance of a blue moon in the Americas since March 2018.
It’s also the first time a Halloween full moon has appeared for all time zones since 1944, according to Farmers’ Almanac. The last time a Halloween full moon appeared was for the Central and Pacific time zones in 2001.

The “once in a blue moon” phenomenon does not necessarily mean the moon will look blue on Halloween. While the dark blue tone of an evening sky can affect the coloring we see, Earth’s satellite will most likely not appear blue at all.

Typically, when a moon does take on a bluish hue, it is because of smoke or dust particles in the atmosphere, such as during a major volcanic eruption.

When the phrase “once in a blue moon” was coined, it meant something so rare you’d be lucky (or unlucky) to see in your lifetime, according to NASA.

So if anything unusual happens to you on Halloween, there might just be a good reason why.

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points.…

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Analysis: Why it could be a Biden blowout in November

(CNN)Poll of the week: A new ABC News/Washington Post poll from Minnesota finds Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden with a 57% to 41% lead over President Donald Trump among likely voters. Two other Minnesota polls released over the last few weeks by CBS News/YouGov and New York Times/Siena College have Biden up by nine points. What’s the point: The Trump campaign has made a significant investment into turning Minnesota red, after Trump lost it by 1.5 points in 2016. The polling shows his efforts are not working.They are part of a larger sign suggesting that Trump still has a ways to go to win not just in Minnesota but over the electoral map at-large. If his campaign was truly competitive at this point, he’d likely be closer in Minnesota. One day Trump may get there, and he definitely has a shot of winning with still over a month to go in the campaign. Yet, it should also be pointed out that despite folks like me usually focusing on how Trump can close the gap with Biden and put new states into play, there’s another side to this equation. There is also the distinct possibility that Biden blows Trump out. It’s something I’ve noted before, and the Washington Post’s David Byler pointed out a few weeks ago. If you were to look at the polling right now, there’s a pretty clear picture. Biden has leads of somewhere between five and eight points in a number of states Trump won four years ago: Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Those plus the states Hillary Clinton won get Biden to about 290 electoral votes. If you add on the other states where Biden has at least a nominal edge in the averages (Florida and North Carolina), Biden is above 330 electoral votes. That’s not quite at blowout levels, but look at the polling in places like Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas. We’re not really talking about those places right now, even though one or both campaigns have fairly major advertising investments planned down the stretch in all four. The polling there has been fairly limited, but it’s been pretty consistent. Biden is quite competitive. If you were to do an aggregation of the polls that are available in those states, Biden’s down maybe a point or two at most. In other words, Biden’s much closer to leading in Georgia, Iowa, Ohio and Texas than Trump is in Arizona, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, let alone Minnesota. Indeed, it’s quite possible he’s actually up in either Georgia, Iowa, Ohio or Texas, and we just don’t know it because there isn’t enough fresh data. For example, Clinton only lost in Georgia by five points in 2016, and Biden’s doing about five points better in the national polls than she did in the final vote. It would make sense, therefore, that Biden’s quite close to Trump there at this point. Wins in any of those states by Biden could push his Electoral College tally up to about 340 electoral votes or higher, depending on which states Biden wins. Victories in all four would push him well over 400 electoral votes.Models such as those produced by FiveThirtyEight show just how possible it is for Biden to blow Trump out of the water. The model actually anticipates a better chance of Trump closing his deficit than Biden expanding it. Even so, Biden has a better chance (about 45%) of winning 340 electoral votes than Trump has of winning the election (about 25%). Biden’s chance of taking 400 electoral votes is pretty much the same of Trump winning. Of course, the ramifications of a Biden blowout versus a small Biden win aren’t anywhere close to being the same as a small Biden win versus a small Trump win. It’s easy to understand why the focus of a potential error is on Trump benefiting from it. In 2012, however, we saw the leading candidate (Barack Obama) win pretty much all of the close states.In fact, there’s no reason to think that any polling error at the end of the campaign won’t benefit the candidate who is already ahead. That’s happened plenty of times. Whether it be Obama in 2012 or most infamously Ronald Reagan in 1980. The thing to keep in mind is that it is possible one candidate runs the board because polling errors are correlated across states. That’s exactly what happened in 2016, when Trump won most of the close states. This year we just don’t know how it’s going to play out. Just keep in mind that the potential change in this race could go to Biden’s benefit as well as Trump’s. Before we bid adieu: The theme song of the week is the closing credits to Murphy Brown.
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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or…

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At least 40 rounds were fired during shooting that left two dead at a party in New York

(CNN)At least 40 rounds were fired during a shooting that left two people dead and over a dozen others injured at a house party in upstate New York, authorities said.The party in Rochester started early Saturday as an invite-only event before it eventually grew in size after two nearby parties “infiltrated” the house. Three or four people had handguns, Capt. Frank Umbrino said. The two people killed and 14 wounded were in their late teens to early 20s. Police responded to calls of gunshots around 12:25 a.m. and were met with 100 to 200 people attempting to flee on foot and in vehicles, he said. Those killed did not live at the home and they were not the intended targets, Umbrino said. No suspects were in custody, and no motive was immediately known.”A number of our young people — babies — that came to just hang out a little while … left running for their lives. And that’s just something that we cannot have happen,” Mayor Lovely Warren said during a visit to the neighborhood Saturday. The party’s host told her she “invited a couple friends over, who invited a couple friends over who invited a couple friends over.””And it just got out of control. She’s just traumatized,” Warren said.Warren appealed for calm and healing in a city recently roiled by protests in a different high-profile case — the death of Daniel Prude after an encounter with police earlier this year.The party took place despite several restrictions on gatherings. Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the city has told residents to limit social gatherings to household members and not to gather in groups.Additionally, since July, the city has banned gatherings of more than five people from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to curb what the city said was a rise in violence.Police were not aware of the party beforehand, and had not received any calls for disturbance, Acting Police Chief Mark Simmons said.The shooting comes as the city and police department deal with the case of Prude, who died in March after Rochester police pinned him to the ground. The release of body camera footage this month led to protests and accusations that local leaders hid details about Prude’s death from the public.This week, Simmons succeeded the previous chief, who was fired over the fallout. A New York City law firm is leading an independent investigation into the city’s handling of the case. Also, New York ‘s attorney general has said she would empanel a grand jury to investigate Prude’s death.CNN’s Jason Hanna, Christina Maxouris, Alec Snyder and Alta Spells contributed to this report.
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