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Updated: 7 hours 39 min ago

Trump's School Safety Panel Targets Discipline Policy On Minorities

7 hours 54 min ago

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When the Parkland school shooting in February sparked nationwide demands to end gun violence in schools, the Trump administration created a commission to ensure overall “school safety.” 

After nine months of visiting schools and meeting with survivors, the commission, led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, has released its recommendations — noticeably avoiding gun control. 

Instead, it recommends getting rid of Obama-era guidelines on school discipline meant to prevent minority students from being disciplined more harshly and at higher rates than white students.

The Obama guidance from 2014 points to federal data that found black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students. Research has linked excessive school disciplinary action to higher likelihood of entering prison, a phenomenon known as the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

According to the Department of Education, black girls are suspended at a higher rate "than girls of any other race or ethnicity and most boys." And in some cases, those suspensions were doled out for subjective misconduct, like inappropriate dress.  

And we've seen examples of even harsher punishments for girls in schools across the country.

The commission’s decision to rescind disciplinary guidelines for minority students — while most of the deadliest school shootings have been committed by white students — has angered advocates on two fronts: civil rights and gun control.

Senator Patty Murray, the Democrat on the Senate committee overseeing education said: “Despite overwhelming evidence and basic common sense, Secretary DeVos is trying to make the case that it’s not weapons of war in schools that make students unsafe, but rather the true danger is schools’ attempts to fight racism and inappropriate discipline.”

But the commission’s report says the 2014 guidance "undercut the ability of local officials to address the impact of disciplinary matters on school safety." The report includes testimonies from educators to illustrate their point: 

"Policymakers have made it so we have no authority. Only perceived authority. Only as much power as you get your kids to believe. Once the kid finds out he can say ‘F*** you,’ flip over a table, and he won’t get suspended, that’s that." 

The commission's lone recommendation related to guns was for states to pass "extreme risk protection orders," which would temporarily restrict access to firearms for people who might pose harm to themselves or others. 

Florida Election Official Sues Governor Over Suspension

8 hours 5 min ago

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A Florida election official says she's suing for her reputation after what she says was a "malicious" suspension from her position.

Brenda Snipes has been the elections supervisor in Broward County since 2003. She reportedly planned to resign due to controversy around her handling of the Florida governor's race and its recount.

But Snipes was forced to step down earlier than expected after Gov. Rick Scott suspended her, saying she'd misused her position and neglected her duty, among other offenses.

In response to the suspension, Snipes not only rescinded her resignation but also filed a federal lawsuit asking to be reinstated. She says some of the allegations against her are false and that she never got a fair chance to respond to them.

A spokesman for Scott said the suit was Snipes' attempt to "rewrite the history of her failed leadership."

Study: Opioids May Not Help Those With Chronic Pain

8 hours 17 min ago

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A new study says for those who suffer chronic pain, opioids may not actually be very helpful.

On average, opioids may offer only slight improvements over a placebo for adults with chronic, non-cancer pain, according to a study published the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Researchers reviewed nearly 100 randomized trials published in that same medical journal and found most patients will experience no meaningful benefit from the drugs. They also found benefits from the drugs may decrease over time and come with the increased risk of side effects.

According to the CDC, in 2016 about 20 percent of U.S. adults, or 50 million, had chronic pain, and it's one of the most common reasons they seek medical care. 

Also in 2016, the CDC issued guidelines for doctors on how to prescribe opioids more responsibly to patients with chronic pain.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

The Whole-Person Approach To Opioid Recovery

8 hours 55 min ago

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Recovering from opioid addiction goes far beyond just overcoming physical dependence. Often a person has to sift through the drugs' wreckage to rebuild a life. That's why experts are trying to emphasize recovery is biological, psychological and environmental.

To begin, there is no permanent "cure." 

Biologically, our brain's chemistry means the desire to use is not easily extinguished. Here's why: When addicted to a drug, there's the physical rush. But also, parts of the brain create associations between the good feeling and the environment where it's experienced. These "conditioned associations" lead to cravings when a drug user re-encounters the same people, places, highs and lows. 

Those associations get especially complicated for people with opioid addiction in the criminal justice system. According to a 2018 study published in the journal JAMA Network Open and analyzed by NPR, just 3 percent of the U.S. population had been recently arrested or were on parole or probation. Compare that with 20 percent of those addicted to opioids and 40 percent of heroin users.  

The study also found being locked up carries its own risks. Most jails and prisons don't offer medicine-assisted addiction treatment. Experts say without this, people with addiction are vulnerable to relapsing and at risk of an overdose. 

Obstacles for long-term sobriety mount from there, when someone has poor social support, medical problems and lack of money to support life after jail and addiction. 

Of course, a criminal record also makes finding a job hard. A few options exist. First, cooperative or therapeutic workplaces. They offer employment in exchange for sobriety. 

Then, federal employment assistance like the Access to Recovery program. It gives former addicts vouchers for work-related needs and pays them to attend career training classes. In Massachusetts, people who found a job using ATR were 40 percent more likely to stay sober, find housing and avoid jail.

Then there are the intangibles. Human connection can help break the cycle of isolation and desperation. A study of former inmates found family and spirituality are two key factors preventing relapse. And people in opioid addiction recovery with a recovery coach relapse less often.

Housing is also crucial. Right now, "recovery houses" are the norm. But they often require people to quit cold turkey without medication. That can backfire.

Some are now pointing to a "housing first" approach. In other words, a place to live without a "sober" requirement can actually stave off addiction in the long run. The opioid bill signed by President Trump in 2018 also includes a pilot housing program.

SEE MORE: US And China Reach Agreement On Fentanyl Classification

Pittsburgh Council Introduces Gun Bills After Synagogue Shooting

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 23:44

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Pittsburgh's city council introduced three new gun control bills Tuesday, just under two months after a deadly synagogue shooting.

The bills were first announced during a press conference last Friday. They include a citywide ban on assault weapons and gun accessories like bump stocks and armor-piercing bullets, as well as a measure that would let courts temporarily confiscate guns from people who are deemed a significant threat to others or themselves.

Seven of the nine council members agreed to co-sponsor the legislation. But some gun-rights advocate groups have threatened legal action if the measures pass. According to one local outlet, Pennsylvania law "broadly prohibits local municipalities from restricting gun ownership."

Eleven people were killed and six more were wounded when a gunman opened fire inside Pittsburgh's Tree of Life Synagogue. The accused shooter used a legally purchased assault-style rifle and three handguns. He has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

DC Moves Toward 100 Percent Clean Energy By 2032

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 23:29

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It looks like Washington, D.C., is on the fast track to running on 100 percent clean energy. 

The D.C. City Council unanimously passed a bill Tuesday that would require all the city's energy to come from renewable sources by 2032. 

That means all businesses, homes and local entities across the city's electric grid would need to transition to clean energy in that time frame.

To speed up the process, the bill would create new building efficiency standards, provide electric car incentives and raise fees on fossil fuels. Some of that revenue would go toward helping fund clean energy for lower-income residents.

D.C. isn't the first city or state in the U.S. making the green energy transition. 

Most recently, California passed legislation that requires the state to use 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045. Hawaii and several cities have also committed to running on clean energy, and more states are looking to do the same. 

The D.C. bill now heads to the mayor's desk for her approval. She's expected to sign it. 

Report: Violence Against Journalists Reaches "Unprecedented Levels"

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 23:06

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Violence against journalists reached "unprecedented levels" in 2018, according to this year's World Press Freedom Index. The nonprofit organization Reporters Without Borders publishes the index, which each year evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries. 

This year, at least 80 journalists were killed worldwide, an uptick from last year. Nearly half of those murdered were killed in countries not at war like the United States. Also, for the first time, the U.S. is listed as one of the deadliest countries in the world for journalists. Overall, the U.S. fell two more spots in this year's rankings to 45, behind countries like Canada, Australia, and Germany.

The six U.S. journalists killed in 2018 include four who were murdered during a shooting at the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. The other two died while covering severe weather in North Carolina.  

The nonprofit ranks Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands as the three countries with the most press freedom. North Korea is ranked last on the list.

Also according to the report, nearly 350 journalists were detained this year, 60 have been held hostage and three are still missing. 

Flynn, Cohen, Manafort: Where Key Players Stand In The Russia Probe

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 22:34

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More than 30 people have been indicted in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference. They range from Russian intelligence officers to Trump's campaign chair. But three stand out above the rest for the status they once held in Donald Trump's orbit: Michael Flynn, Michael Cohen, and Paul Manafort. Here's where those three stand in the investigation.

Of the three, Michael Flynn was the closest to the Trump administration. He briefly served as Trump's National Security Adviser in the White House, before being ousted over his effort to conceal contacts with Russian officials.

Flynn also pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about those contacts, which included discussions about Russia's foreign policy towards the U.S. Mueller's office has asked for leniency in Flynn's sentence due to his cooperation with the investigation; a judge postponed Flynn's sentencing to give him more time to continue that cooperation. 

Paul Manafort was Trump's former campaign chairman, and has been deeply connected to Russian interests. Before joining the Trump campaign, Manafort spent years lobbying for pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.

SEE MORE: The Cost Of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's Russia Investigation

Manafort struck a plea deal over several conspiracy charges levied against him; but prosecutors later said that he violated that deal by lying to investigators after striking the agreement. His sentencing is still to come.

Finally, Michael Cohen is more connected to Trump's personal life than his political one. He served as Trump's personal lawyer and self-described "fixer" for several years.

Cohen has admitted he lied to conceal work he did on a potential Trump construction project in Russia, as well as several hush money payments to conceal embarrassing stories about Trump. Cohen also cooperated with the investigation, but was still sentenced to three years in jail.

Right now, Cohen is the only witness to publicly link Trump to a potential crime: Cohen says Trump directed him to make those hush money payments, which could violate campaign finance laws. But Mueller is keeping a lot of info still under wraps, leaving the public to guess about the potential outcome.

3,500 Troops Are Ready In Case Britain Can’t Reach A Brexit Deal

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 22:21

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With only weeks left until Britain is set to leave the European Union, the country's cabinet is preparing for the possibility of leaving the international organization without a deal.

Britain Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson says one of those preparations is keeping 3500 soldiers ready to “support any government department on any contingencies they may need.”

It’s not quite clear exactly what contingencies the secretary was referring to, as the military hasn’t been formally asked to deploy troops; but reports say Britain could face a shortage of goods and traffic jams at ports should the country leave the Union without a deal.

AP reports the government has set aside $2.5 billion to cushion the economy against any disruptions, though its still deciding how it’ll allocate the funds.

The United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the EU, with a deal or not, on March 29.

Charter-Spectrum Reaches $174M Consumer Fraud Settlement

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 21:45

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The New York Attorney General's Office has reached at $174.2 million consumer fraud settlement with the parent company of internet provider Spectrum. 

It stems from a lawsuit filed in 2017 by then-state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. He alleged the company defrauded customers by providing broadband speeds that were up to 80 percent lower than advertised. 

Here's how that payout will break down: $62.5 million will be refunded to 700,000 active Spectrum customers. They'll each get between $75 and $150. 

More than $100 million will go toward offering complimentary streaming services and premium cable channels to more than 2 million New York customers.

As part of the settlement, Spectrum will also have to make some marketing and business changes in order to accurately describe its internet speeds. 

The state's current attorney general, Barbara Underwood, said the settlement represents a "wake-up call" to companies serving New York consumers. 

According to Underwood, this is the biggest consumer payout by a U.S. internet service provider.

White House Backs Off Threat To Shut Down Government Over Wall Funding

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 21:31

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"You know what I'll say: Yes, if we don't get what we want, one way or the other — whether it's through you, through a military, through anyone you want to call — I will shut down the government. Absolutely," Trump said on Dec. 11.

It looks like the Trump administration is backing away from its hardline demand for border wall funding. 

Congress has to pass a new budget by midnight Friday to avoid a government shutdown, and President Donald Trump has been demanding that legislation include $5 billion for a border wall.

But press secretary Sarah Sanders said Tuesday that the White House is looking at other sources for that money. She said all government agencies have been asked to look for funding that could be redirected to border security.

As for the fate of any budget bill, the White House is withholding its opinion until there's actual legislation to consider.

"We want to see what the Senate can pass. They've thrown out a lot of ideas. They've yet to take a vote. Once they do that ... . We're disappointed in the process and their inability to put something forward. Once they make a decision and they put something on the table, we'll make a determination on whether or not we'll move forward," Sanders said. 

AT&T Launches 5G Network In 12 Cities

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 21:15

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AT&T launched the first ever Mobile 5G service in 12 cities Tuesday.

In an announcement, the telecommunications giant said the 5G network went live in parts of Atlanta, Charlotte, N.C., Dallas, Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Fla., Louisville, Ky., Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Raleigh, N.C., San Antonio and Waco, Texas.

Initially, AT&T says only select businesses and consumers will be able to use the network, and they get it free of charge for at least 90 days. But starting next spring, anyone will be able to use it in those areas as long as you purchase the NETGEAR Nighthawk 5G mobile hotspot for $499 and 15GB of data for $70 a month with a compatible plan.

AT&T beat out competitors like Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile in the race to launch 5G. All three have said they will release the network starting in 2019.

Trump Administration Set To Officially Ban Bump Stocks

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 19:31

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The Trump administration is set to officially ban firearm bump stocks.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker signed a federal regulation Tuesday that effectively prohibits the devices. It's expected to be formally published by the end of the week. And once the ban is official, people who own bump stocks will have 90 days to return or destroy them. 

Bump stocks got the nation's attention after the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas. Authorities say the gunman used weapons rigged with the devices during the attack, which left 58 people dead and hundreds more injured.

When attached to a weapon, bump stocks harness recoil power to let a semiautomatic gun fire much faster than normal. Essentially, they let semiautomatic guns simulate automatic firing.

A few months after the Las Vegas attack, the Justice Department submitted a regulation proposal that would classify bump-stock-type devices as machine guns and ban their possession, sale and manufacturing. 

Since that shooting, 11 states have banned bump stocks.

Trump Signs Memo Reinstating US Space Command

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 19:17

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The Trump administration is making moves it hopes will lead to creating a future U.S. Space Force. 

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed a memorandum establishing a new U.S. Space Command under the Defense Department. 

During remarks at the Kennedy Space Center, Vice President Mike Pence announced the reinstatement of the command, which was created decades ago but assimilated into Strategic Command in 2002.

The administration has said it aims to make a U.S. Space Force a reality by 2020. That would be an entirely new military service dedicated to defense in outer space. 

But it may not be easy. Creating a sixth branch of the U.S. Armed Services would require congressional approval, and Democrats have already expressed skepticism about the initiative. 

Some lawmakers have pointed to the costs as a possible hurdle. A report obtained by media outlets this year estimated that a Space Force could cost close to $13 billion over five years, but subsequent reports have brought that price down a bit. 

Pence also said that Trump will sign a new space policy directive in the coming days. It's expected to give more details about the administration's plan and timeline for the new branch of the armed forces. 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

Sentencing For Michael Flynn Delayed Again

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:55

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In a courtroom surprise, former national security adviser Michael Flynn's sentencing has been delayed again.

Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI more than a year ago. But because of his ongoing cooperation with special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, his sentencing has been delayed multiple times. And in court Tuesday, both sides agreed that some cooperation could continue. 

Despite that, it looked like the sentencing was actually going to happen Tuesday. Mueller's team had recommended little to no jail time for Flynn, but the judge appeared to disagree with that assessment. 

In court, Judge Emmet Sullivan stressed the seriousness of Flynn's actions, and he seemed to reference crimes Flynn admitted to but wasn't charged with. The judge told him, "Arguably you sold your country out."

Sullivan told the defense that he couldn't guarantee a sentence with zero jail time today. He offered to delay again to wait until Flynn was completely done helping Mueller's investigation. Every bit of help could effectively shorten the sentence Flynn gets. 

Ultimately, the defense took him up on that offer. Both sides will need to update the judge on the status of the case in March. 

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN

As More Teens Pick Up Vapes, FDA Looks For Effective Regulation Plan

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:51

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In 2018, the FDA and U.S. Surgeon General both labeled teen vaping an “epidemic.”  To control it going forward, experts say regulators will need more specific rules than what we've seen so far. 

Health groups sued the FDA in March 2018 for delaying stronger regulations of new e-cigarette products. The planned federal crackdown on vape sales in retail stores and gas stations isn't as strict as the outright ban regulators had originally considered. Meanwhile, researchers found youth vaping almost doubled in 2018. They said the FDA's responses so far "clearly haven't worked."

SEE MORE: A Record Number Of Teens Are Vaping, But Their Opioid Use Has Declined

For what it's worth, the FDA is ready to try new solutions. It has a hearing scheduled for January 2019 to investigate whether new drug therapies could help youth smokers quit e-cigarettes.

And while the FDA wrestles with the problem, some local governments could step in with their own regulation. In June of 2018, San Francisco residents overwhelmingly approved a ban on sales of flavored tobacco products. The New York state legislature has plans to push for a statewide ban in 2019.

Women's Tennis Association Updates Ranking Rule For Returning Moms

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:44

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The Women's Tennis Association has served up new guidelines to help mothers returning to the sport after having a baby.

The WTA said Monday it will introduce a new special ranking rule for the 2019 season. Under that rule, a player will have up to three years after the birth of her child to use a special ranking to enter tournaments.

This makes it easier for new mothers who were playing at an elite level before pregnancy to pick up where they left off. The amended guidelines also apply to players who are out of competition because of an injury or illness.

The WTA didn't specifically mention Serena Williams in its announcement about the amended rule. But she more than likely helped prompt the changes.

When Williams returned to tennis after giving birth to her daughter in 2017, she was unseeded at the first several tournaments she played in, including the French Open.

But she was seeded at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open. She made the finals during both of those tournaments.

As of Tuesday morning, Williams had yet to comment on the new rule.

Trump Administration To Rescind Punishment Policy In Schools

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:38

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The Trump administration is planning to rescind an Obama-era policy on discipline in school.

On Tuesday, the Federal School Safety Commission released a report on recommendations to improve safety in U.S. schools. That's the group the Trump administration formed in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., 

The New York Times points out that instead of looking into how to keep schools safe from guns and mass shootings, the commission focused on disciplinary measures in schools. The letter claimed the Obama-era policy focused on disciplining students in a "nondiscriminatory manner," but actually contributed to more violence in schools.

The Education Department says the policy was put in place in 2014. The Times reports it came after evidence showed minority students were being punished more often and at a tougher degree than white students for the same or lesser offenses. The outlet also reports "disabled students were too quickly being shunted into remedial or special-education programs."

Critics said while these were simply guidelines and not required, it put pressure on schools to keep suspensions low rather than focus on school safety.

Education Secretary Betsy Devos said the commission's work proved, "there is no single policy that will make our schools safer," but she said the "report provides a wide-ranging menu of best practices and resources that all state, community, and school leaders should consider while developing school safety plans and procedures that will work for their students and teachers."

Rescinding the Obama-era punishment guidelines was just one of many recommendations by the commission. Other ideas included having schools try and find veterans and people with a law enforcement background to work in schools, as well as trying to reduce cyberbullying. 

One Sleepless Night Might Be Enough To Cause Unhealthy Cravings

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 18:18

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Ever worked an all-nighter and noticed a craving for junk food? According to new research, one lost night of sleep might be all it takes to lead to an unhealthy snack. It's the latest connection scientists have made between sleep quality and health conditions like obesity. 

In the new study, researchers had more than 30 healthy male participants eat the same dinner. After the meal, participants either returned home or stayed at the lab, where they were kept awake all night. In the morning, researchers gave the participants money and told them to bid on junk food or other trinkets, while a scanner recorded their brain activity.

After just one night of sleep loss, people were more likely to spend more of their money on food, regardless of hormonal effects.

SEE MORE: We're Still Learning How Music Helps Us Sleep

The study shows one possible way sleep deprivation may associate with obesity. Research into other possible connections has found that sleepy people might not have the energy to exercise, they may eat more calories because they're awake longer, or their lack of sleep could cause swings in the hormones that control their appetite.

Whatever causes are at play, the effects of insufficient sleep can be significant. One 16-year review of sleep habits in women found sleeping less than 5 hours per night increased their risk of obesity by 15 percent.

Martha McSally Tapped To Fill John McCain's Senate Seat

Tue, 12/18/2018 - 17:06

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U.S. Rep. Martha McSally is heading to the Senate after all.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey announced Tuesday that he's appointed the Republican lawmaker to replace GOP Sen. Jon Kyl, who's stepping down from his position at the end of the year.

Ducey tapped Kyl in September to temporarily fill the late Sen. John McCain's seat in Washington, D.C.   

McSally's appointment to the position comes a little more than a month after she lost out on Arizona's other U.S. Senate seat to Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema.

McSally will fill the Senate seat until the end of 2020. She'll have to run in a special election that same year if she wants to hold on to the position for the reminder of McCain's term, which runs through 2022.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN