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Michael Cohen Reportedly Resigns From Post On RNC Committee

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 19:23

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Michael Cohen reportedly stepped down from his leadership post within the Republican National Committee, and the crisis at the border was part of the reason. 

Cohen had been the national deputy chairman of the RNC's finance committee. In an email to the head of the RNC, Cohen reportedly cited the ongoing special counsel investigation and said he didn't have the necessary time to devote to the committee. 

But he also criticized the recent practice of separating migrant families at the border. 

According to ABC News, Cohen wrote, "While I strongly support measures that will secure our porous borders, children should never be used as bargaining chips."

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

TSA Homes In On Powder In Carry-On Bags

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 19:17

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The Transportation Security Administration is taking a closer look at powders in carry-on bags.

It'll now reportedly focus on containers with more than 350 milliliters of powder and ask passengers to place those items in checked luggage or risk being subjected to additional screening. 

The TSA told media outlets the security concerns have to do with the risk of improvised explosive devices and also substances that could pose a danger to travelers if released on board the aircraft — like fentanyl or pepper spray.

In April, the TSA announced it had completed the rollout of stronger screening procedures for carry-ons, which started in summer 2017. The guidelines included a recommendation to separate items, like powders, from a carry-on before sending it through the X-ray. 

According to a TSA spokesperson, the agency has implemented the powder limit domestically and will ask international airports with direct U.S. flights to do the same beginning June 30. 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.  

Trump Says He'll Sign Executive Order To Address Family Separations

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:15

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President Donald Trump says he'll sign an executive order to address family separation at the border.

"I'll be signing something in a little while that's going to do that. I'll be doing something that's somewhat pre-emptive and ultimately will be matched by legislation, I'm sure," Trump said.

Trump made the announcement at the White House on Wednesday.

The news came as outrage over the Trump administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy continues to boil over.

Under that policy, the U.S. government is increasingly separating migrant children who enter the U.S. illegally from their families.

Trump is expected to sign the order before he leaves for Minnesota on Wednesday afternoon.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Chris Hardwick And The Scrutiny Of The Nerd Entertainment Industry

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:43

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Last week, Chris Hardwick was accused of abuse and sexual assault by his ex-girlfriend Chloe Dykstra. The actor and television host wasn't explicitly named, and he denies the accusations.

Hardwick is best known for co-founding the Nerdist media outlet, and he's a frequent host of San Diego Comic Con panels. As a result, the allegations surrounding the so-called "fanboy-in-chief" are leaving a pretty negative impact on his industry — which has already seen plenty of other headlines about harassment and sexism.

Earlier this month, actress Kelly Marie Tran of "Star Wars: The Last Jedi" left Instagram after months of online harassment. That sparked a new discussion about sexist toxicity in the geek entertainment industry, but the issue has actually been around for a while.

Last winter, actor T.J. Miller of the sitcom "Silicon Valley" was accused of sexual assault and abuse, and producer Dan Harmon of the animated comedy "Rick and Morty" was accused of sexual harassment. Miller denied any wrongdoing, while Harmon issued an apology. But regardless of the response, critics say the issue is ingrained in the culture.

SEE MORE: 'Rick And Morty' Co-Creator Slams Online Harassment Of Women Writers

"I feel like people, and like so-called nerd culture, people who b identified with, you know, this subculture of being the underdog," writer and actor Arthur Chu told Public Radio International's "The Takeaway." "In high school and college, I knew that there were a lot of people I knew who had negative attitudes about women and treated women badly. But you didn't talk about it because you wanted to present a sort of unified front."

That's writer and public speaker Arthur Chu. Back in 2014, he wrote an op-ed about the normalization of misogyny in the nerd community. Four years later, critics wonder if this normalization will ever end. In the case of Hardwick, some fans and family members were quick to defend the personality and condemn Dykstra's account.

SEE MORE: This Comic Book Convention Has Had Enough With Nazi Cosplay

So far, Hardwick denies the accusations levied against him. But a day after the allegations came to light, AMC announced it was pulling the plug on Hardwick's shows and appearances at San Diego Comic-Con.

Nerdist wiped Hardwick's name from its properties and said in a statement: "That type of behavior is contrary to everything we stand for and believe in, and we absolutely don't tolerate discrimination, harassment, and other forms of abuse."

Why Trump Admin. Blames Immigration 'Loopholes' For Family Breakups

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:34

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President Donald Trump has reversed course amid public outcry over the rise in family separations at the border. His new executive plan stops the practice by detaining parents and children together – indefinitely. 

The plan would need to override an existing court ruling which forbids federal authorities from holding families with minors together in immigration detention for more than 20 days. The administration has repeatedly blamed that ruling and other laws enacted years ago for the family breakup controversy.

"If we close the loopholes, we can keep the families together," said Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen at the White House press briefing on Monday.

She also called on Congress to revise two specific laws that she called "loopholes":

"We need to amend the Flores Settlement Agreement. ... We need to amend the 2008 Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act."

So what exactly are these two laws, and why is the White House so desperate to amend them? 

First, the 1997 Flores Settlement Agreement. It essentially limits the amount of time Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, can detain immigrant families with children to 20 days. It's meant to diminish the potential harm to immigrant children caused by prolonged detention.

Because immigration courts take way more than 20 days to process new asylum cases, many detained families with legitimate asylum claims have, in the past, been released on parole until their day in court. But President Donald Trump is firmly against that practice, which he calls "catch and release." 

The second law the White House wants to tweak is the Trafficking Victims Prevention Reauthorization Act. It was signed by President George W. Bush in 2008. It requires border officers to transfer certain unaccompanied minors to the Office of Refugee Resettlement within 72 hours. That office will shelter children for an average of 51 days before placing them with a relative or a sponsor in the U.S.

"Until these loopholes are closed by Congress, it is not possible as a matter of law to detain and remove whole family units who arrive illegally in the United States," Nielsen also said on Monday.

The administration argues that, taken together, these two laws not only give an incentive to migrants to bring their children along to the border, but they also forced the government's hand in separating families. We should point out that these laws do not explicitly require the administration to separate families, but that is the administration's interpretation. 

Since Attorney General Jeff Session announced his zero-tolerance policy in April, parents crossing the border illegally have increasingly been prosecuted and separated from their children in the process. That has prevented the government from having to release the parents after 20 days. In the meantime, their children have been held in detention facilities. 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

EU Announces Retaliatory Tariffs Against The US

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:22

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The European Union announced Wednesday it will slap billions of dollars in tariffs on U.S. goods beginning Friday.

The tariffs will affect $3.24 billion worth of products ranging from Harley-Davidson motorcycles to blue jeans to bourbon.

The move is in response to President Donald Trump's steel and aluminum tariffs against the EU that went into effect earlier in June.

SEE MORE: Bourbon: One Of The All-American Targets For Counter-Tariffs

Those tariffs also affected Canada and Mexico. Mexico imposed retaliatory tariffs earlier in June. Canada said its tariffs against the U.S. would go into effect July 1. 

The Trump administration imposed separate tariffs on Chinese goods earlier this month. China responded with its own tariffs on $50 billion in U.S. goods.

In a statement, the European Commission said the EU will impose other tariffs on U.S. goods if the trade dispute isn't resolved.

The Federal Judiciary Spans 50 States, 100s Of Judges, 1,000s Of Cases

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 17:11

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The seed of the sprawling federal court system is found in Article III of the Constitution. 

It says this: "The judicial Power of the United States, shall be vested in one supreme Court, and in such inferior Courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish."

In other words, it was up to Congress to just fill in the details. The first effort was the Judiciary Act of 1789. It established an early version of the three-tiered system we have today. 

The structure was worked and reworked through the years. Circuits — geographic areas — were added, combined, morphed, reorganized. Sometimes for political reasons such as limiting Southern influence during and after the Civil War. Sometimes just for plain old practical reasons to manage an increasing case workload.

Two notable developments: In 1869, Congress set the number of seats on the Supreme Court at nine, which still holds; and in 1912, Congress established the federal court structure we have today. The three main levels: district courts (the trial court); circuit courts, which are the first level of appeals; and the Supreme Court of the United States, the final level of appeal.

There are 94 district courts, 13 circuit courts and, of course, one Supreme Court. All their members have lifetime appointments.

SEE MORE: Supreme Court Decides Against Getting Involved In Gerrymandering Cases

Let's jump into the weeds for a second and work our way up the tier: District courts are the trial courts for civil and criminal cases. Each has at least one district judge, appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. There are over 670 district court judges.

Then the circuit courts of appeal: A federal district court's decision can be appealed to a circuit court of appeals. There are 12 federal circuits that divide the country into different regions. Plus the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which has jurisdiction over national issues —things like trade and patents. 

Now the Supreme Court: It has the power to decide appeals on all cases brought in federal court or in state court if they deal with federal law.  They choose about 80 cases a year from 7,000-8,000 petitions they get. Members of the Supreme Court are referred to as "justices," not judges.

Interesting detail also: The Constitution does not specify qualifications for justices. They can be any age, have any education, profession or native-born citizenship. A justice doesn't even have to be a lawyer. They don't even have to graduate law school, but historically, all have been trained in the law. 

On top of deciding cases, justices also oversee one or more circuits. They can be asked to set bond for a defendant there, stop deportations from the circuit or screen applications for stays of execution.

There's a lot happening. It is a giant federal court system with thousands of cases and hundreds of judges — all resting on one short article in the Constitution. 

California Bill To Change Standard On Police Deadly Force Advances

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 16:25

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Some California lawmakers are looking to change the standard for when police officers can use deadly force.

According to The Sacramento Bee, Assembly Bill 931 — also known as the Police Accountability and Community Protection Act — passed its first policy committee Tuesday.

The outlet says, if the bill becomes law, the new legislation would change the state's use of lethal force standard from "reasonable" to "necessary."

Assemblymember Shirley Weber first introduced the bill in April, saying it's time to update the state's "reasonable force standard." 

But law enforcement organizations aren't on the same page about the legislation. They argue it could put officers and the public in danger.

Kate Spade New York Donating To Suicide Prevention Groups

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 16:10

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Kate Spade New York plans to donate more than $1 million to suicide prevention and mental health awareness groups.

The brand's foundation will give the first $250,000 to the Crisis Text Line and will also match up to $100,000 in public donations made to the organization between Wednesday and June 29.

Kate Spade New York is donating as a tribute to its founder, Kate Valentine Spade, who took her own life earlier this month.

SEE MORE: A New VA Report Examines The Suicide Rate Among Veterans

Even though the designer had not personally been involved with the company in more than a decade, the brand is "dedicated to carrying on her legacy."

The company's president and CEO said in a statement, "We hope that our support will shed even more light on the disease and encourage those who suffer from mental health issues to seek help. Collectively, we must all do more."

If you need to talk to someone about suicide prevention, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or text "HOME" to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

AP: Babies And Young Children Are Being Taken To 'Tender Age' Shelters

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 15:48

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The U.S. government has been sending babies and young children under 13 who have illegally crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to so-called "tender age" shelters in south Texas after separating them from their families, according to The Associated Press

AP learned that there are three "tender age" shelters — one each in Combes, Raymondville and Brownsville. Another is reportedly planned for Houston

The Trump administration is facing widespread backlash for its practice of separating kids from their families at the border. 

One Health and Human Services official told AP that the "tender age" shelters aren't "government facilities per se." He said the shelters meet Texas licensing standards for child welfare agencies and are staffed by people who work with young children.

Even though doctors and lawyers who had visited the shelters told AP they were clean and safe, one pediatrician said the shelters weren't the issue but "it's taking kids from their parents that's the problem."

Bidding War For 21st Century Fox Continues — Disney Offers $71.3B

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 14:22

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The bidding war for 21st Century Fox assets continues. Disney has bumped up the stakes and is now bidding $71.3 billion for most of the company. 

Besides more money, Disney is also offering shareholders the option of accepting payment in cash or stock.

If Fox accepts, Disney could get the rights to more Marvel characters, TV shows like "This Is Us" and Fox's regional sports networks.

This could be a huge plus for Disney, since it could expand its Marvel Cinematic Universe and have more content for its upcoming streaming service.

SEE MORE: Netflix Surpasses Disney As Most Valuable Media Company

But there's a catch. Comcast also really wants to merge with 21st Century Fox. The media company sent Fox an "unsolicited" offer of $65 billion for large portions of its business. 

Fox shareholders were supposed to meet July 10 to decide on an offer, but that meeting's been postponed. 

Fox reportedly said it would accept offers from other companies, including a revised offer from Comcast.

Technology Has The Power To Help People With Autism Cope

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 14:20

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"The Day Ahead" explores how technology developments and the use of social media create new ways for adults with autism to connect and build relationships. 

Washington, D.C., Approves Controversial Wage Hike For Tipped Workers

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:43

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Tipped workers in Washington, D.C., could soon be getting a pay raise, thanks to a ballot initiative in Thursday's primary.

The initiative, which passed with just over 55 percent of the vote, will raise minimum wage for tipped workers from $3.33 an hour to $15 an hour by 2026, at which point it will be in line with the city's non-tipped minimum wage. 

Washington's non-tipped minimum wage is set to reach $15 by 2020.

Currently, if tipped workers in Washington don't make minimum wage with their tips, business owners have to make up the difference.

SEE MORE: Disney Is Considering A Bump In Florida Workers' Minimum Wage

Opponents of the initiative worry the move will impose extra costs on business owners and that some of those costs might carry over to customers and employees.

But supporters say workers, especially women and minorities, won't have to endure mistreatment from customers to make a wage.

The initiative now heads to Capitol Hill for a congressional review. But the D.C. Council — which largely opposed the change — could also step in to repeal the new rule.

Kim Jong-Un Wraps Up His Third Trip To China

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:30

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North Korean leader Kim Jong-un wrapped up his two-day visit to China on Wednesday. 

While there, he and Chinese President Xi Jinping talked about what was discussed during the U.S.-North Korea summit earlier this month.

According to North Korean state media, the two leaders came to a "shared understanding" on Kim's commitment to denuclearize the Korean peninsula as well as other issues discussed at the summit in Singapore.

North Korea has yet to announce exactly how it plans to denuclearize — and at least one world leader wants more clarity on that process.

SEE MORE: Looming Trade War Could Hurt US-China Cooperation On North Korea

The Associated Press reported that South Korean President Moon Jae-in told reporters Wednesday that North Korea needs "to present far more concrete denuclearization plans."

North Korean state media described talks between Kim and Xi in China as "candid and friendly." This was the third time in 100 days that Kim's visited the country.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Maker Of OxyContin Has Fired The Rest Of Its Sales Team

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 12:24

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Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, has fired the rest of its sales team.

The company confirmed that about 350 employees were let go this week and that about half of that group was Purdue's remaining sales force. Purdue had already cut around half of its sales force in February.

The company also announced in February that it would stop promoting opioids to doctors. Multiple outlets report OxyContin is one of Purdue's best-selling drugs. 

Purdue said it would still manufacture OxyContin but that it'll focus more on new medications and unmet needs for cancer and certain central nervous system disorder patients. 

The pharmaceutical company is facing lawsuits from multiple states and local entities. Some of those lawsuits accuse the company of engaging in deceptive marketing practices and helping fuel the national opioid epidemic. 

Purdue has denied those allegations.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says opioids killed more than 42,000 people in 2016. And prescription opioids were involved in 40 percent of all opioid overdose deaths. 

North Korea To Return Remains Of Up To 200 US Service Members

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 10:51

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U.S. officials told multiple outlets that North Korea is expected to soon return as many as 200 sets of remains believed to be U.S. service members who fought in the Korean War.

Four members of the Trump administration told CNN that while those remains are expected to be handed over "in the coming days" it's not yet clear when and where that transfer will happen.

But once the U.S. does have possession of those remains, they'll reportedly be sent to a military lab in Hawaii where a DNA verification process will be conducted. 

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un agreed earlier this month to recover the remains of prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Korean War.

According to data from the Department of Defense, about 7,700 U.S. military personnel are still unaccounted for from the Korean War. And the remains of an estimated 5,300 Americans are still in North Korea.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

Canada's Legislature Just Voted To Legalize Marijuana

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 03:00

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Canada's legislature just voted to legalize recreational marijuana.

The House of Commons voted 52-29 for the Cannabis Act on Tuesday. That's after it rejected 13 different amendments to the bill.

This most likely means people in Canada will be able to purchase marijuana and cannabis oil from retail stores and on online by mid-September. Adults will also be allowed to possess 1 ounce of dried marijuana in public.

The minimum age to purchase is 18, and those caught selling to minors could go to jail for up to 14 years.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will decide exactly when the law will go into effect, but it'll take Canada up to 12 weeks to prepare. He said on Twitter Tuesday: "It's been too easy for our kids to get marijuana — and for criminals to reap the profits. Today, we change that."

Trump Gives His Support To Both House GOP Immigration Bills

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:48

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President Donald Trump gave House Republicans the green light to move forward with either one of their two immigration bills, saying he's behind them "1,000 percent."

A closed-door meeting with the president seemed to have encouraged multiple lawmakers to support the more moderate bill, which funds Trump's proposed border wall in exchange for offering certain undocumented immigrants a path to citizenship.

Another hot topic was the administration's "zero-tolerance" immigration policy, which has led to family separations at the southern border. While Trump could do away with this practice himself, he pushed for a legislative solution.

The moderate bill would also replace the visa lottery program with a merit-based system.

UN Report: More Than 68 Million Were Forcibly Displaced In 2017

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 02:29

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Wars, violence and persecution were the primary reasons for the forced displacement of more than 68 million people worldwide in 2017. That's a record number, according to the latest Global Trends report from the United Nations Refugee Agency, known as UNHCR. 

The report says that's equivalent to one person becoming displaced every two seconds or more than 44,000 people each day. The report also says that 53 percent of the global displaced population are children, which includes many separated from their families.

More than 25 million of those displaced in 2017 were refugees. Most of them, more than two-thirds, came from five countries: Syria, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.  

To help address the growing issue of forced displacement, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says in a few months a new Global Compact on Refugees will be presented to the U.N. General Assembly for adoption.

The US' Departure Could Weaken The UN Human Rights Council

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 01:38

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For the second time, the U.S. has opted not to be a part of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

When the council was founded in 2006, the Bush administration decided not to join. The Trump administration pointed to similar reasons as the Bush administration for its withdrawal on Tuesday: It says the council has a standing "anti-Israel bias" and that member states aren't held accountable for their own alleged human rights abuses. 

The HRC is responsible for "strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe and for addressing situations of human rights violations and [making] recommendations on them."

The Obama administration decided to join the group in 2009, saying it was easier to reform the council from the inside.

With the U.S. back on the sidelines, it could be difficult for it to promote the reforms the Bush and Trump administrations called for. It could also give countries with questionable human rights records, like China, an opportunity to push their own agendas without the U.S. there to challenge them.