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Thursday, January 31, 2019

Senate Criticizes Trump Over Middle East Troop Withdrawal

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Senate Criticizes Trump Over Middle East Troop Withdrawal

The Senate voted "overwhelmingly" Thursday to advance an amendment rebuking President Trump's controversial decision to quickly withdraw troops from Afghanistan and Syria, The New York Times reports. The bipartisan vote limits debate on the amendment, all but guaranteeing it will be wrapped into a bipartisan Middle East policy bill that will likely pass next week. The amendment was written by majority leader Mitch McConnell, and backed by almost every single Senate Republican. McConnell is normally a staunch ally of the president—but he warned in the amendment that "the precipitous withdrawal of United States forces from either country could put at risk hard-won gains and United States national security." And while he never called out Trump directly, he wrote that "it is incumbent upon the United States to lead, to continue to maintain a global coalition against terror and to stand by our local partners."

The vote wasn't unanimous, however; surprisingly, some Democrats sided with Trump. "We've been in Afghanistan for a longer period than any war in American history; Syria, we've been there for too long and we've got to get out," Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-VT) told reporters Thursday. "What McConnell is saying is, 'Let's maintain the status quo.'"

Read it at The New York Times
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Trump Considering Herman Cain for Fed Board: Report

Herman Cain, the former Godfather's Pizza CEO who ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, is being considered by President Donald Trump for a seat on the Federal Reserve Board, Bloomberg News reports. In a 2012 op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Cain advocated for a "9-9-9 tax code" that would sharply cut taxes to businesses, and institute a 9 percent income tax, a 9 percent business tax, and a 9 percent national retail sales tax. Cain, who was reportedly at the White House yesterday, has repeatedly been accused of sexual harassment. Two female employees of the National Restaurant Association received payouts from Cain after making harassment claims against the CEO. They reportedly received settlements in return for signing non-disclosure agreements. Nominating Cain for the Federal Reserve Board will likely lead to a U.S. Senate confirmation hearing that resurfaces the allegations that emerged during Cain's presidential campaign.

Read it at Bloomberg
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Feds Seized 'Several Years' of Roger Stone's Communications

FBI agents seized several years worth of Roger Stone's communications following his arrest last week, prosecutors told a federal judge on Thursday. In a motion to ask for more time to bring Stone's case to trial, the feds said one reason is because discovery is "both voluminous and complex," adding up to "several terabytes of information." It includes results of search warrants served on Stone's Apple iCloud accounts and email accounts, as well as warrants served on his home, apartment, and office that seized Stone's cellphones, computers, and hard drives. After the evidence is filtered by a separate FBI team to separate out communications that are privileged (such as discussions with his attorney), it will be given to prosecutors and shared with Stone's defense. Stone is charged by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with eight counts related to alleged lies to Congress about his discussions with WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign during the 2016 election. The case will be jointly tried by the U.S. Attorney for D.C., who filed the motion. Stone's defense doesn't oppose the move.

Read it at U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia
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Facebook, Twitter Remove Thousands of Accounts From Iran

Facebook announced Thursday that it has removed over 700 pages, groups, and accounts tied to Iran that engaged in "coordinated inauthentic behavior." The social-media giant said in a press release that the inauthentic campaigns "heavily" targeted those in the Middle East and South Asia, and some accounts repurposed "Iranian state media content." According to Facebook, over 2 million people followed the pages, groups, and Instagram accounts in question. The company also found that these accounts spent less than $30,000 on Facebook and Instagram ads using "US dollars, UK pounds, Canadian dollars, and euros."

The Washington Post also reported that Twitter identified "thousands" of inauthentic accounts linked to Iran, Venezuela, and Russia that were spreading disinformation and targeting the 2018 U.S. midterm elections. The platform reportedly removed over 2,600 accounts thought to be tied to an Iranian campaign, with only a small fraction targeting the 2018 midterms. Twitter also reportedly said it removed 764 accounts thought to have originated from Venezuela and "mimicked Russia's information operations." The website found the Venezuelan accounts tweeted about the midterms "50,000 times," and were also involved in a second campaign targeting their own country's internal politics. Four hundred and eighteen Russian accounts were also reportedly found and removed prior to Election Day, but the website said it could not definitively tie the accounts to the Internet Research Agency—a Russian troll farm whose alleged members have been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for interfering in the 2016 election.

Read it at Facebook
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Kendall Schofield Defends Mansplaining NBC Sports Host

Kendall Coyne Schofield, five-time gold medalist at the IIHF World Women's Championships and a forward on the champion 2018 U.S. Olympic team, took to Twitter Thursday to address comments made by NBC Sports host Pierre McGuire, who was widely criticized for 'mansplaining' her while they analyzed Wednesday's Penguins-Lightning game. McGuire drew harsh backlash online for telling Schofield that "Tampa's going to be on your left. Pittsburgh's going to be on your right," and asking "What are you expecting out of this game? We're paying you to be an analyst, not to be a fan tonight!" But in a lengthy note posted to Twitter, Schofield wrote that "I've known Pierre McGuire for years. I know he respects me as a hockey player, a woman, and a friend and that's why I didn't think twice about our on-air exchange when it happened." While she would have been offended if she watched the interaction on TV without knowing the context, she said, "what I know is how excited Pierre was for me to be a part of this moment. While I wish it came out differently, I know Pierre doesn't question my hockey knowledge." 

McGuire also responded to the backlash on Thursday. "We were all thrilled to have (Kendall) join our coverage last night, but at times my excitement got the better of me and I should have chosen my words better," he wrote. "I have the utmost respect for Kendall as a world-class player, analyst of the game, and role model."

Read it at Twitter
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Cops: Mom Arrested After Pouring Water on Baby for 'Payback'

A South Carolina woman was arrested Thursday after she poured water on her 9-month-old baby, authorities said. According to a warrant, 33-year-old Caitlin Alyse Hardy was charged with cruelty to children after police saw the incident in a video posted to Facebook. The infant, authorities say, is stable and woke up coughing after the second round of water was poured on her. In the video, the mother allegedly explained that pouring water over her sleeping child's head was "payback for waking me up all kinda times of the night." The sheriff's office has notified the Sumter County Department of Social Services.

Read it at WJBF
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US Court Finds Syrian Gov. Liable for Marie Colvin's Killing

The Syrian Government was found liable for Sunday Times war reporter Marie Colvin's 2012 death in a Washington, D.C., civil trial Thursday, The Telegraph reports. The suit, filed by Colvin's sister, reportedly accused Bashar al-Assad's regime of specifically targeting Colvin on Feb. 22, 2012, by tracking her satellite calls before ordering an "artillery strike" on her makeshift media center. Judge Amy Berman Jackson reportedly ordered "$302 million in damages against Syria" and called the Syrian government's actions an "unconscionable attack" that "intended to intimidate journalists." "A targeted murder of an American citizen, whose courageous work was not only important, but vital to our understanding of war zones and of wars generally, is outrageous," Judge Jackson wrote. Cathleen Colvin, Marie's sister, told the newspaper that the suit was an "extension of [Marie's] legacy," and said she would have been "proud of what we achieved."

Read it at The Telegraph
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Increase in Reports of Sex Assault at Military Schools: DOD

The total number of sexual-assault reports at the three U.S. military academies increased slightly last year, but an anonymous survey suggests far more encounters are going unreported, according to a new report by the Department of Defense. The survey says the number of students at the Army, Navy, and Air Force academies saying they experienced unwanted sexual contact increased by nearly 50 percent over the 2016 survey. More than half of the encounters involved alcohol, and the survey found nearly a third of male students and 15 percent of females said they drink heavily. The 2018 survey, which is conducted every two years, was the first time participants were asked about alcohol use. Defense officials said Thursday they are frustrated and disheartened by the results. "Our cadets and midshipmen must be role models if they're to lead the world's finest fighting force," said James Stewart, performing the duties of undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness. "This year's report demonstrates that there is more work to be done to meet this goal."

Read it at AP
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Trump Admin. Covertly Shipped Plutonium From S.C. to Nevada

The Department of Energy disclosed Wednesday that it shipped weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site, despite objections from state officials. The Justice Department notified a federal judge in Reno that the government had already trucked the one-half metric ton of radioactive material to the site 70 miles north of Las Vegas when Nevada filed a request for an injunction to block the move in November. Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak said he's "beyond outraged by this completely unacceptable deception." The Democrat said he's working to fight back against the federal government's "reckless disregard" for the safety of his state's residents.

Nevada argues the DOE failed to study the potential dangers of moving the material to an area that is subject to flash floods and earthquakes. The Energy Department says it has safely shipped the toxic material between states before. But experts testifying for Nevada said the material would likely have to pass through Las Vegas on the way to the security site, where an accident could permanently harm the area's 2.2 million residents, not counting tourists.

Read it at USA Today
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