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CMS Interaction & Design Issues

Hey Friends,
I’m having a tough time with my blog page’s CMS and I’m hoping someone can help me out!

1.) Rather than just the container filled with a transparent black, I’d like the thumbnail itself to have an overlay on top of the image, but when I try to add a fill layer, I just get a zoomed in version of the thumbnail image.
2.) When I hover over thumbnail I have Effects set to zoom with an ease transition of 1000ms … however it doesn’t ease no matter what number I expand the time to. And yes, I’ve applied to all properties.
3.) I have thumbnails nested in a link block which is set to target the blog post… however when I click nothing happens. It won’t navigate anywhere.
4.) Does anyone know how I can access the pagination nav buttons so I can style them?

Thank you so much!

Here is my public share link: LINK
(how to access public share link)