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September 20, 2019

Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan announced Friday that white supremacy would become a top priority under the department's new strategy to fight terrorism and "targeted violence." The ramped up mission comes as mass shootings motivated by white supremacy seem to happen every week in the U.S., and McAleenan cites last month's shooting in El Paso, Texas as a major reasoning behind the change, The Atlantic reports.

After the shooting in a Walmart left 21 people dead, McAleenan told The Atlantic he recalled thinking "this is an attack on all of us." The shooting in a largely Hispanic community was seemingly motivated by racism, and much of DHS' workforce, especially at the southern border, is Hispanic. This and other shootings soon "galvanized" DHS to look "beyond terrorists operating abroad" and start tackling "violent extremists of any ideology," McAleenan said in a Friday speech.

The revised plan calls for analyzing the "nature and extent" of domestic terror threats and working more closely with local law enforcement to prevent them, NBC News reports. DHS will also crack down on technology companies who host hate-filled websites, provide more active shooter training to local law enforcement, and run antiviolence messaging campaigns, per the proposal.

The report came just hours after the House Oversight Joint Subcommittee held a hearing on confronting white supremacy, where conservative provocateur Candace Owens said that "white nationalism" isn't a problem for "minority Americans." As DHS's shifting priorities and general facts of life make clear, it definitely is. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 16, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is working her way up the primary ladder.

After interviews with five major candidates, the labor-focused Working Families Party announced its endorsement of Warren on Monday. It's a major blow to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who got the party's backing in 2016, and to former Vice President Joe Biden, who the party has explicitly opposed.

In a ranked ballot vote of "tens of thousands" of WFP members, Warren dominated five other candidates by earning 60.9 percent support, per The New York Times. Sanders, meanwhile, ended up with 35.8 percent. It was a "larger than expected" victory for Warren, a party spokesperson said, considering that Sanders has praised the WFP as "the closest thing" to "my vision of democratic socialism." But the Working Families Party's national director didn't see this as a "splintering of the Democratic left," the Times writes, and instead he called on other progressive groups to raise their powerful voices early to dethrone Biden's spot at the top of the polls.

Working Families interviewed five candidates it was considering for an endorsement: Warren, Sanders, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, and New York City Major Bill de Blasio. Kathryn Krawczyk

September 4, 2019

Israel was reportedly far closer to attacking Iran in 2012 than the general public knew.

The strong possibility of war between Iran and Israel reached a head near the end of former President Barack Obama's first term, when Israel learned of secret nuclear negotiations between the U.S. and Iran. It all precipitated into the strong possibility of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin "Bibi" Netanyahu ordering a strike on Iran, and it "wasn't a bluff," he tells The New York Times Magazine in an article published Wednesday. If he'd "had a majority" of his cabinet behind him, Netanyahu says he "would have done it ... unequivocally."

It's possible Netanyahu is more confident today than he was at the time, but Obama sure took the threat seriously. Obama sent a senior official to Israel every few weeks to "Bibisit," a former senior official tells the Times. "For an Israeli official, it meant you knew you could not strike without feeling that you've deceived somebody while they were sitting in your office," Obama's then-ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro explained. The former president's Pentagon also bombed a "full-size mock-up of an Iranian nuclear facility" in the U.S. desert in anticipation of an Iran-Israel war, the Times reports.

Then-Israeli ambassador to Washington Michael Oren fully anticipated a possible attack as well. "I went to bed every night, if I went to bed at all, with the phone close to my ear," he said, ready to tell the White House if and when Israel took action. Read more at The New York Times Magazine. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 7, 2019

The Trump administration is denying poor visa applicants like never before.

In the last year full fiscal year of former President Barack Obama's term, the State Department only denied seven Mexican visa applicants on the grounds that they could become too reliant on government benefits. But from Oct. 1 of last year until July 29, the State Department denied 5,343 Mexicans on the same "public charge" grounds — and that number will likely only grow as the Trump administration moves to expand the definition of what it considers a public charge, Politico reports.

As it stands, "public charge" grounds for visa denials aren't spelled out in State Department rules. They simply say "immigrants and visitors to the United States can be turned away if they’re likely to become a public charge after admission," Politico writes. Yet the Trump administration last year moved to spell out those so-called public charges, proposing that using food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, prescription drug subsidies, or welfare could be disqualifying. These changes are expected to take hold in the next few days, Politico says, though advocates say immigrants have already stopped using public benefits they fear would hurt their visa chances.

Yet even before this coming change was proposed, the department revised other guidelines in January 2018 that made it easier to be declared a possible public charge. Visa denials promptly skyrocketed from 1,033 in fiscal year 2016 to 3,209 in fiscal year 2017 to 12,973 in 2018. Fiscal year 2019 doesn't end until October, but the State Department has so far already rejected 12,179 applications on public grounds, Politico reports via preliminary data.

Read more at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

August 2, 2019

A magnitude 6.9 earthquake struck Friday off Indonesia's coast, prompting tsunami warnings and a call for residents to seek higher land.

The earthquake struck near the tips of the country's Sumatra and Java meet, in the Sunda Strait about 240 miles from Jakarta, per the U.S. Geological Survey. Buildings swayed in the capital city, and there were a few blackouts, but no injuries or major damages have so far been reported.

When the quake arrived in Jakarta around 7 p.m. local time, video footage showed people running out of buildings, and citizens reported that their furniture was shaking too, BBC reports. But there's more of a worry down in the Banten coastal area, where officials warned residents to "Immediately evacuate to a higher place." Indonesia's location along a major fault line means it frequently experiences earthquakes, and tsunami warnings often follow when they're strong enough. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 23, 2019

The NAACP just gave a huge boost to the impeachment train.

On Tuesday at its annual convention, the NAACP announced its delegates had unanimously voted to call for the impeachment of President Trump. The vote comes a day after the convention heard from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), and it clearly decided to follow Tlaib's point of view.

The NAACP is America's oldest and largest civil rights organization, and has 10 presidential candidates slated to speak at its annual convention tomorrow. But it has already heard from Tlaib, who insisted Monday that she's "not going nowhere, not until I impeach this president." Tlaib has long advocated for Trump's impeachment, including with some NSFW terms. Pelosi also spoke on Monday, but didn't touch the topic she's so far declined to endorse. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 22, 2019

A new Trump administration rule will make thousands more immigrants subject to immediate deportation every year.

The Department of Homeland Security has issued an expansion of "expedited removal" proceedings to immigrants anywhere in the U.S., it announced in a Monday notice. That means immigrants who've arrived in the U.S. within the past two years can be deported without a court hearing, expanding a policy that currently only covers areas within 100 miles of the border and migrants who've been here for less than two weeks.

As it stands, America's immigration court system is facing case backlogs that have some migrants waiting years for hearings. This rule change would help mitigate those numbers, but advocates argue it would also strip migrants of their due process rights. An estimate in the notice suggests it could put an additional 20,000 people into expedited proceedings each year. It could even force migrants who've been in the U.S. longer onto the expedited path, seeing as it's up to them to prove to authorities how long they've been in the U.S.

The American Civil Liberties Union quickly tweeted to say it would be suing to challenge this new rule.

The rule change is set to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday. Find the notice in its entirety here. Kathryn Krawczyk

June 3, 2019

Around 11.9 million Quest Diagnostics patients may have had serious personal information leaked due to an issue with a payment system the company contracts with.

Quest's billing collections vendor, American Medical Collection Agency, informed the company on May 14 about a system breach, Quest said in a Monday filing. AMCA didn't have access to patients' lab results, but social security, credit card, and bank account numbers could have been leaked, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Quest is one of the world's largest chains of blood testing facilities, and uses AMCA to bill about 11.9 million of its patients. Sometime between Aug. 1, 2018 and March 30, 2019, someone gained unauthorized access to the data stored in AMCA, NBC News Philadelphia reports. It's unclear just what or how much data was accessed because AMCA has not yet provided a "detailed or complete" report, Quest said Monday. But information stored on AMCA's affected system "included financial information (e.g., credit card numbers and bank account information), medical information, and other personal information (e.g., Social Security Numbers)," Quest continued.

Quest has since "suspended collection requests from AMCA and notified affected health plans," the Journal writes. It is working with law enforcement and security experts to evaluate just who and what was affected. Kathryn Krawczyk

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