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April 17, 2019

It's getting more likely that the public will see video evidence of Robert Kraft's alleged involvement in a Florida sex trafficking ring.

The New England Patriots owner was arrested in February on charges of soliciting a prostitute at a Florida spa where women were kept in "sexual servitude." Prosecutors have maintained that they have video proof of his involvement, and in court documents obtained by The Boston Globe, they said they'll release it to the public and the media now.

Prosecutors aren't intending to release the police surveillance video as part of Kraft's case, in which he has pleaded not guilty to two misdemeanor solicitation charges. Instead, his video will be released in the prosecution of Lei Wang, the spa's alleged owner, the Globe reports. Prosecutors say they "cannot delay the release of" videos of Kraft and 24 other men all charged in the sting, citing the Public Records Act and saying the men can't be allowed to "raise a constitutional challenge to the release."

Wang's attorney has asked for the videos to remain private as her criminal case unfolds. Likewise, in a hearing last week, Kraft's lawyer questioned the relevance of showing the footage and said it would "destroy" the prospect of a fair trial. If what prosecutors are correctly characterizing what's on the tape, "it's basically pornography," the lawyer said, meaning the public doesn't need to see it. Still, prosecutors said they'll release the pixelated videos unless a judge rules otherwise. Read more at The Boston Globe. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 7, 2019

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg hasn't missed an oral argument in her 25 years on the bench — until today.

The 85-year-old justice is still recovering from her Dec. 21 surgery to remove two cancerous growths from her lungs. So she'll miss Monday's oral arguments and instead follow along via transcripts, The Washington Post's Robert Barnes reports.

Ginsburg was hospitalized and quickly returned to work after a fall in early November, though she missed the arrival of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Testing after the fall revealed the two nodes on her lungs. Ginsburg was released five days after the surgery, and has since been resting at home, the Supreme Court said at the time.

Ginsburg previously survived colon cancer in 1999 and pancreatic cancer in 2009. Until Monday, she'd never missed an oral argument since her appointment in 1993. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 19, 2018

Facebook apparently has a new weapon against fake news: Facebook users.

In a post to the site Friday, Facebook CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg explained that in an effort to surface only trustworthy news content, the social media giant will allow its users to opine on which news sources they believe are most credible. These results — culled via customer surveys — will help Facebook determine which content deserves to show up in users' news feeds.

The change is part of Facebook's ongoing effort to revitalize its news feed after it came under fire for promulgating false news stories from untrustworthy sources during the 2016 presidential election. "There's too much sensationalism, misinformation, and polarization in the world today," Zuckerberg wrote, adding that the "objective" solution is to have the "community determine which sources are broadly trusted." "We could try to make that decision ourselves, but that's not something we're comfortable with," Zuckerberg wrote.

Adam Mosseri, the Facebook official tasked with overseeing the news feed feature, told The Wall Street Journal that Facebook executives can't "decide what sources of news are trusted and what are not trusted, [in] the same way I don't think we can't decide what is true and what is not."

Of course, Americans have had quite a tough time determining what is and is not fake news. BuzzFeed News reported shortly after the 2016 presidential election that fake news did better on Facebook than real news in the final months of the election. Mosseri emphasized to the Journal that user opinions would be "just one of many [methods used] to order posts in users' news feeds."

Facebook will begin prioritizing posts by user feedback in the U.S. next week. Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kelly O'Meara Morales

July 5, 2017

Concentration camp selfies are never a good idea, but Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) apparently didn't get the memo. The Louisiana lawmaker uploaded an ill-advised hand-held video of his visit to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum in Poland, in which he used the horrors of the Holocaust as a segue to promoting homeland security — all over a clichéd, mournful-sounding violin soundtrack.

Over the course of the five-minute video, Higgins attempts to express his "great sense of dread," apparently oblivious to the wildly inappropriate nature of his video. At one point, speaking from a gas chamber, Higgins details the way cyanide pellets were used to murder thousands of people, concluding, "This is why homeland security must be squared away, why our military must be invincible."

The Auschwitz Memorial responded to Higgins' video on Twitter:

"I note the two final words in Hebrew — 'al sheket,'" one Twitter user responded, "which means 'in silence.'" Jeva Lange

December 15, 2016

Five federal agencies held 1,183 dogs in captivity in 2015, and 294 of them were used by the government in experiments that caused the animals "significant pain and distress," says a new report from the White Coat Waste Project, a nonpartisan organization dedicated to stopping tax-funded vivisection.

The testing was mostly conducted on beagles, the report notes, "because of their small size and docile temperament, the same qualities that make them beloved pets." Experiments involved "exposing dogs to anthrax, forcing them to suffer heart attacks, and drilling into their skulls."

The report has caught the notice of 13 members of the House of Representatives, who are now seeking a full audit of federal animal experimentation. "Unfortunately we have discovered it is impossible to determine what federal animal research programs currently entail, what they cost, and if they meet federal standards because of the limited and decentralized information available publicly," said the representatives in a letter to the Government Accountability Office. One firm dollar figure the White Coat Waste report was able to cite is that taxpayers spent nearly $6 million in the past five years on experiments that gave dogs heart attacks.

The five agencies overseeing the vivisections are the Centers for Disease Control, the Department of Defense, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. An additional 60,000 dogs are held for experimental use in universities and other laboratories that receive federal funding. Bonnie Kristian

July 6, 2015

An Iraqi plane returning from an airstrike against the Islamic State accidentally dropped a bomb over eastern Baghdad, reportedly killing at least 12 people and wounding about 25 others. The bomb apparently failed to properly detach during the airstrike, and then was dropped due to a "technical failure" as the Russian-made plane returned back to its base.

Iraq has received many fighter jets from Russia and Iran as part of the fight against ISIS. The United States has promised Iraq 36 F-16 warplanes, but have not delivered them yet, reports Al Jazeera. Jeva Lange

September 29, 2014

A new study has found that wind turbines are causing "unprecedented numbers" of fatalities in tree bats.

The study, conducted by researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey's Fort Collins Center in Colorado and published in PNAS, found that tree bats are more susceptible to wind turbine deaths, because the turbines' wind current resembles the wind currents surrounding tall trees. The bats approach the turbines expecting to find the resources they'd find in trees, such as a place to rest or insects to eat — and end up dying instead.

"These bats have been around for millions of years, but nothing in their history would prepare them to recognize wind turbines," Paul Cryan, a research biologist at the U.S. Geological Survey and author of the study, told The Week.

So, what can we do to reduce the bat fatalities at the turbines? The wind turbines already have flashing red lights, which can help bats distinguish the turbines from trees, but Cryan's study also found that changes in the turbines' operation could reduce bat deaths, too. Most of the bat fatalities the researchers observed occurred when average windspeeds were lower, though more research is needed to determine why this is. Cryan said that fatalities could be reduced by waiting until the wind speed is higher to start the turbines' rotation, so the bats will be able to sense the turbulence and avoid the turbines.

Since adult bats reproduce very slowly, their deaths could have lasting effects on the species' population. "We know that thousands of bats are being found beneath wind turbines each year," Cryan told The Week. "These populations may be doing okay, they may be headed toward extinction, we simply don't know based on the information we have right now." Meghan DeMaria

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