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Facebook Suspends Another Analytics Firm Over Data Security Concerns

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 19:54

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Facebook has suspended another data analytics firm over worries it might have improperly handled users' data.

The firm, Crimson Hexagon, used public data from a number of social media sites in order to gauge public opinion on a range of issues.

But the data firm had its access suspended Friday after the Wall Street Journal questioned Facebook about Crimson Hexagon's government contracts and how it stored user data. The company reportedly had contracts with the U.S. government and a Russian nonprofit with connections to the Kremlin.

Facebook told the outlet it wasn't aware of some the firm's contracts and that it plans to meet with a team from Crimson Hexagon within the next few days to look into the issue.

Acting CIA Inspector General Is Retiring Amid Allegations Against Him

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 19:18

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The acting inspector general of the CIA has withdrawn his nomination to officially take over the role, according to CNN

Christopher Sharpley, who has been the agency's acting IG since 2015, sent an email this week to coworkers saying he would seek other opportunities and retire within 30 days.

Now-retired employees have complained Sharpley punished them for reporting wrongdoing within the IG's office. He allegedly interfered in witness interviews to get the names of the whistleblowers, forcing the Department of Justice to throw out evidence and settle a contracting bribery case.

One whistleblower claims to have been put on administrative leave without pay after his name was revealed; another says he was restricted from doing his job.

Sharpley told senators in his confirmation hearing he wasn't aware of any investigations into the complaints against him. But CNN reports he was interviewed in the investigation and signed documents relating to the cases.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Study: Voter Purges On The Rise After 2013 Supreme Court Ruling

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 18:02

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States with a history of racial discrimination are reportedly purging their voter rolls at higher rates than other states.

That's according to a new study out Friday by the nonpartisan Brennan Center for Justice. The center reviewed voter purges across the country from 2012 to 2016 and found they were occurring at a higher rate in states that, before 2013, had special restrictions under the Voting Rights Act.

That year, the Supreme Court struck down a part of the law which required nine states with a history of discriminating against minorities to get the Justice Department's permission before changing their election laws.

In a New York Times opinion piece, the deputy director of the Brennan Center says that while purges aren't necessarily a bad thing, the rates of purges have led to a higher number of people being unable to vote in elections due to being missing from the rolls.

The report notes that voter purges are happening more aggressively nationwide and claims states are often using inaccurate and potentially illegal methods to do so.

Trump Claims Michael Cohen Might Have Broken The Law

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 17:51

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President Donald Trump suggested his former lawyer Michael Cohen broke the law when he reportedly recorded a conversation the two had about a payment to cover up an alleged affair Trump had with a former Playboy model.

Trump wrote on Twitter: "Inconceivable that the government would break into a lawyer's office (early in the morning) - almost unheard of. Even more inconceivable that a lawyer would tape a client - totally unheard of & perhaps illegal."

But if the conversation were recorded in New York, it would probably be legal for Cohen to record it. Cohen's office, which FBI agents raided in April and where the tape reportedly came from, is in New York. The state has what's called a "one-party consent" law, which means only one person in a conversation has to know about and consent to being recorded. 

It's unclear whether attorney-client privilege would cover such a tape. The special master in the case against Cohen allowed only a portion of the documents seized to be withheld from investigators under that privilege.

NASA To Boldly Go Where No Agency Has Gone Before: The Sun

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 15:47

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NASA's preparing to go where no other space agency has gone before: the sun.

The space agency is planning on launching the Parker Solar Probe — humanity's first mission to our star — in August.

The car-sized craft will aim to answer what NASA calls "three foundational questions" about the sun. The first of those questions is about how solar winds are accelerated to supersonic speeds. To answer this, NASA plans on flying the probe directly through the sun's corona.

Speaking of the corona: NASA's also hoping to figure out why it's so dang hot even though the sun produces all of its energy at the core.

And finally NASA wants to learn the secrets of solar energetic particles and how they can reach speeds more than half the speed of light.

All of this data isn't just to satisfy scientists' curiosity. The more we can learn about our sun, the easier it will be for scientists to predict space weather and, in turn, protect humans and machines in space.

US Will Send Ukraine $200M To Boost Defenses

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 14:34

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The U.S. will provide $200 million to Ukraine to bolster the country's defenses. 

The Defense Department said the funds would be used for "additional training, equipment and advisory efforts to build the defensive capacity of Ukraine's forces."

The U.S. has given Ukraine more than $1 billion since 2014, when Russia annexed Crimea. Since then, Ukraine has fought against separatists in the east that Western powers believe to be backed by Moscow. 

Before Ukraine could get the latest defense support, it had to pass a law updating its national security architecture.

Israel Launched Another Air Raid On Hamas Targets In Gaza

Sat, 07/21/2018 - 01:13

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Israel's air force said it launched a "wide-scale attack" Friday on Hamas targets in Gaza after an Israeli soldier was shot and killed along the border with the Strip. 

Israel Defense Forces responded, killing four Palestinians, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Reports vary on whether three or all four of the Palestinians killed were members of Hamas, the militant political group controlling Gaza. 

The IDF then targeted dozens of Hamas locations in Gaza. This barrage follows similar attacks in recent weeks that were reported to be the largest exchanges since the 2014 war. 

Gaza and Israel have been on edge for months amid continuing Palestinian protests against a yearslong blockade that has devastated its economy. 

Reuters reports a Hamas spokesman said the group agreed to a ceasef-ire. Israel has yet to comment on a possible break in fighting. 

One Last Blockbuster Store Left Standing

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:48

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There is one Blockbuster store left in the U.S., and that's in Bend, Oregon. The once-giant video and game rental house amassed more than 9,000 stores in the U.S. at its peak in 2004, with retail outlets internationally. But at its decline, even John Oliver tried to save a Blockbuster in Alaska by stocking it with memorabilia.

Streaming services like Netflix and video rental vending machines like Redbox proved to be tough competition for Blockbuster. The company filed for bankruptcy 2010 and closed all corporate-owned stores in 2013

Blockbuster had multiple opportunities to purchase Netflix in 2000 for $50 million but declined. Netflix's former chief financial officer said Blockbuster nearly laughed them out of the office and called them a "niche business." 

The store in Oregon is privately owned and licenses the Blockbuster brand. It's alone in the U.S., but not in the world. If you're feeling nostalgic, there are still Blockbuster stores overseas.

White House: Trump Won't Support Ukraine Referendum

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 22:08

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A White House spokesperson said President Donald Trump is "not considering supporting" a referendum in eastern Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin reportedly proposed the referendum in the separatist-controlled areas during the Helsinki summit. 

There has been some concern among analysts Trump would do something to validate Russia's claims on parts of Ukraine, including Crimea, which it annexed in 2014. The international community sees that as an illegal land grab and believes Moscow is behind separatist movements in the Donbas region. 

Self-rule referendums were held in separatist-controlled areas in 2014, though they were not internationally recognized. Putin's new proposal reportedly included oversight by international monitors. 

More Than 100 Allege Misconduct By Ohio State Team Doctor

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 21:46

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More than 100 former students at Ohio State have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct against a longtime team doctor. 

Ohio State confirmed it's investigating allegations against the late Dr. Richard Strauss, which span over three decades. The law firm running the investigation conducted more than 200 interviews with former students and staff about the allegations. 

Ohio State also confirmed an additional 100 or so people plan to do interviews with a local prosecutor's office.

The news comes days after a group of former athletes filed a pair of class-action lawsuits against the school. The suits allege Strauss inappropriately touched or groped male athletes during examinations and that Ohio State officials knew about his behavior. 

Ohio State launched the investigation in April after multiple former athletes came forward with their allegations against Strauss.

Capital Gazette Shooting Suspect Indicted On 23 Counts

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:19

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Prosecutors filed a 23-count indictment against the suspect in the deadly shooting last month at an Annapolis, Maryland, newsroom. 

According to the Anne Arundel County State's Attorney's office, a federal grand jury indicted 38-year-old Jarrod Ramos on five counts of first degree murder, one count of attempted first degree murder and six counts of first degree assault. The grand jury also indicted him on eleven counts for the use of a firearm in commission of a crime of violence.  

In June, five staff members of the Capital Gazette were killed during the shooting. 

A Look At The Persistent Gender Based Violence In Sweatshops

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 20:09

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Garment factories and sweatshops propel our fashion industry — and it's not surprising to hear about poor working conditions in them. But amid that conversation, one part doesn't always get attention: Gender-based violence.

"Floor supervisors harass and use humiliation as a form a control. And that also is a pervasive problem in the industry. It's not just one or two factories, it's sort of a consistent problem," said Aruna Kashyap, who's Human Right's Watch Women's Rights Senior Counsel.

Kashyap speaks with female workers in Asia for her research about garment factory working conditions. She's found a variety of abuses women endure from men in power and fellow line workers, including sexual harassment and assault, stalking and pressure to perform favors. 

SEE MORE: #MeToo Monologues: How Theater Empowers Survivors Of Trauma

"The challenge really for workers, at least a lot of the workers in my interviews, is that they internalize the process so much that getting them to identify inappropriate workplace behaviors as inappropriate ... and then say that's inappropriate, that's unacceptable behavior in the workplace itself is a challenge," said Kashyap.

And while Kashyap's findings aren't ground breaking, a recent Global Labour Justice report detailed physical and sexual abuse in factories that made clothing for H&M and Gap. But this issue is less about specific brands being at fault and more about the industry not making it easy for abuses to be reported.   

For example, multiple brands may utilize the same factory. And that's why even boycotting a brand may not be the most effective tool to create change.

Kashyap said: "The boycott doesn't really help. … Consumer pressure though, asking a brand you know, 'I want to know where my clothes are made' does. 'Why does this brand has this [information], why don't you?' is a very powerful message to send brands. ... There needs to be a grievance redress procedure where a woman can escalate the complaints that are not getting resolved in the factory, or she faces retaliation while pursuing a complaint to a brand. And this cannot happen brand by brand, we're talking about workers who are extremely disempowered and not particularly educated, they can't familiarize themselves with 500 different brands and their specific redress procedure. So there has to be something that brands collectively institute at the country level, which is accessible to workers. And that doesn't exist for the most part."

But for women facing repeated abuse, there can be lasting effects.

"In conservative communities, it's difficult for women to even ask to go out and work … and when they face workplace harassment and violence, [there] is tremendous pressure back at home to quit jobs, not go out and work because the idea that the worker has brought this upon herself by choosing to go out and work," Kashyap said. 

Senate GOP Won't Push To Block ZTE From Buying US Goods

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:54

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Senate Republicans are no longer trying to re-impose sanctions on Chinese tech company ZTE. Instead, the GOP agreed to strengthen the Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., which reviews overseas investment in the U.S. for national security concerns. 

The compromise means ZTE will not be blocked from buying U.S. goods, a ban that would likely have put it out of business. 

The decision was seen by some as a bow to the White House. President Donald Trump pushed for a deal that allowed ZTE to stay in business. 

Sen. Marco Rubio criticized the deal on Twitter. He said strengthening oversight on foreign investments was good news, but not at the cost of having to "cave" on the ZTE ban. 

Trump Weighs Imposing Tariffs On All Chinese Imports

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 19:01

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President Donald Trump said he is weighing the idea of imposing tariffs on all Chinese goods.

In an interview with CNBC that aired Friday, Trump said, "I'm ready to go 500."

He's referring to the more than $500 billion worth of Chinese goods imported into the U.S. last year. 

Trump has already placed a 25 percent tariff on $34 billion worth of Chinese goods.

The president told CNBC he isn't doing this for politics, he's doing it because China has been unfair to the U.S.

When asked if he would impose the tariffs even if it caused a sharp drop in the stock market, Trump responded, "If it does, it does."

Cohen Secretly Taped Trump Discussing Payment To Playboy Model

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:43

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According to several reports out Friday, Donald Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen secretly recorded a conversation he had with Trump two months before the presidential election. 

During that conversation, the two men reportedly discussed payments to a former Playboy model who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. 

The New York Times was the first to report the news, and outlets including CNN and ABC later confirmed with sources familiar with the matter.

Sources say the recordings were discovered during FBI raids on Cohen's office, hotel room and home earlier this year.

Federal prosecutors have been looking into Cohen's efforts to keep potentially damaging information about Trump under wraps ahead of the 2016 election. They're trying to determine whether those actions violated campaign-finance laws. And, as the Times notes, a recording like this "would be of keen interest" to investigators.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.

Ky. Medicaid Recipients Will Get Vision And Dental Benefits Back

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:32

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The state of Kentucky is reinstating vision and dental benefits for its hundreds of thousands of residents enrolled in Medicaid.

The coverage was cut on July 1 after a federal judge blocked Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin's plan to overhaul the state's Medicaid system, called Kentucky HEALTH. The cuts drew criticism from some Democratic lawmakers and others who advocate for public health. 

On Thursday, Kentucky's Cabinet for Health and Family Services announced the renewed benefits, saying the move is meant to "avoid a prolonged coverage gap" while the federal Medicaid agency reviews the state's program. Kentucky will cover eligible claims that were incurred after the court action, including those for non-emergency transportation services.  

The ruling is considered a snag in the Trump administration's plan encouraging states to implement Medicaid work requirements.  

Asylum Case Wins Vary Greatly By City, But It's Unclear Why

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 18:09

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While Attorney General Jeff Sessions is raising the asylum eligibility bar, the fates of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers still rest in the hands of 334 immigration judges in 60 courts across the nation

The odds of winning asylum — or receiving a deportation order — seems to depend on who hears the case and where, as well as what country the applicant is fromAccording to Reuters, Charlotte, North Carolina, deports 84 percent of immigrants who come to court. That number jumps to 89 percent in Atlanta. But in San Francisco, the deportation order rate is only 36 percent. In New York City? Only 24 percent. Immigrant rights advocates have long argued that this disparity between courts proves how arbitrary the system is.

But the head of the union that represents immigration judges told Newsy that drawing conclusions from those numbers is misleading and simplistic. 

"Judges are not given the exact same combination of cases. So it's kind of like trying to compare apples and oranges. You can't do that — each case is really fundamentally different," said Ashley Tabaddor, the president of the National Association of Immigration Judges. "I keep coming back and saying the judge has to make a decision based on the facts of the case, based on the law of the case." 

SEE MORE: How To Reduce The Immigration Case Backlog? Depends Who You Ask

"From our perspective, we look to see, 'Is there a reason to question whether that decision or whether that judge mishandled that case?' So if it turns out that a particular case was incorrectly decided, the parties can take up an appeal and, you know, get it reversed. So unless and until you can really demonstrate that there's been an error made, then I'm not comfortable with drawing any sort of conclusion about any particular geographic location or judges," she added. 

Besides where and by whom a case is heard, asylum outcomes can vary based on other factors, like whether someone is a convicted criminal when they apply or whether they have a lawyer. To get a better sense of how the asylum system truly works, Tabaddor welcomes anyone to observe her court and those of her colleagues.

"A lot of the misconception is washed away when you come in and you see the challenges, as well as what the judges are doing every day for the public, and how they are delivering and protecting our American judicial system," Tabaddor said.

Circumcision Is Controversial, But It's Not The Norm Everywhere

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:23

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Most newborn American boys leave the hospital circumcised. Some parents choose the procedure — surgical removal of the penis foreskin — for religious reasons, some because it's customary in their family, some because they think it's healthier. 

For Jews, circumcision is compulsory and represents a covenant with God. For Muslims, Islamic scholars differ over whether it is obligatory or recommended. 

It is an ancient practice, springing from antiquity, and might have originally been performed because it was thought to improve fertility. By the way, there's no evidence for that.

And there's even one theory that at some point in the deep, deep past, the father of the bride circumcised the bridegroom at the wedding.

Newborn circumcision remains the most common surgery in the United States, and the American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits outweigh the risks.  

SEE MORE: Johnson & Johnson Ordered To Pay Billions In Baby Powder Case

The benefits, according to the pediatricians:

—Less likely to have a urinary tract infection

—Less likely to acquire HIV

—Less likely to pick up some STIs

—Less likely to develop penile cancer

Immediate complications from the procedure are rare and usually minor, according to the Academy, affecting approximately 1 in 500 newborn circumcisions. The complications include bleeding and infection.  

That's conventional wisdom. But circumcision does have its critics, and it's far from customary around the world. Opponents argue that although circumcision lowers the risk of UTIS, fewer than 1% of uncircumcised infants get them, and they can be easily treated with antibiotics. 

They also point out that while men without a foreskin are less likely to get penile cancer, the disease is actually rare anyway — affecting roughly one in 100,000 men in the U.S. each year — and fairly treatable. And although research in Africa found that circumcision more than halved the risk of men getting HIV, critics say it is hard to justify such a prophylactic procedure in a place (like the US) with considerably less HIV risk across the entire male population. 

Then there's the issue of sexual satisfaction. Some say foreskin protects the head of the penis and, without it, it becomes less sensitive. Most research doesn't bear that out

Beyond the medical arguments, ethics is a growing question. Since circumcision permanently changes a male's body, should parents even make the decision to have the procedure performed (without significant benefits), or should each person decide for themselves as adults? 

The Danish Medical Association has recommended ending the practice, arguing it should be "an informed, personal choice."

Circumcisions are increasingly less common in Australia, Canada, Britain and New Zealand, and fewer than one-fifth of all European men are circumcised.

There is a fledgling group in the U.S. calling themselves "intactivists," trying to keep penises "intact." But for now, more than three-quarters of American boys are still circumcised at birth. 

Trump Administration Extends Protection For Somali Immigrants

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 17:08

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The Trump Administration is extending the Temporary Protected Status designation for Somalia.

TPS was created to protect immigrants that fled to the U.S. due to an environmental disaster, ongoing armed conflict or other extraordinary circumstance back home. Those under the designation are granted temporary protection from deportation and allowed work permits.

According to the Department of Homeland Security, there are around 500 Somalis currently in the U.S. under that protection, but their status was set to expire in September.

Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said the decision was made after reviewing the "ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions"in Somalia.

Somalis in the war torn country are facing religious persecution, targeted attacks on civilians and famine.

Somalis that already have the status can now re-register for an additional 18 months of protection. 

Judge Dismisses Climate Change Lawsuit Against Major Oil Companies

Fri, 07/20/2018 - 16:53

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A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against five major oil companies for their role in climate change.

The lawsuit was brought by New York City against Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, BP and Shell. The New York Times reports the city's case was considered a long shot and hinged on a state law allowing courts to hold certain parties responsible for interfering with property use.

New York City said the companies needed to pay for damage done by flooding, extreme weather and other effects of climate change.

The judge dismissed the case Thursday, saying the issue of climate change wasn't one for the courts and should be left up to Congress and the executive branch to deal with.

A similar case brought by the cities of San Francisco and Oakland, California, was dismissed last month. The judge in that case also said the issue of climate change was for the other branches of government to deal with.