October 27, 2014

An Iowa woman named Carole Hinders saw her bank balance go from $33,000 to zero thanks to IRS confiscation. Hinders, who owns a small, cash-only Mexican restaurant, has not been charged with any crime and is not suspected of tax fraud. The IRS says they took her money solely because she deposited too little of it at a time, and the agency claims she did so to avoid the required reporting of any bank transaction over $10,000. She says she just thought it was helpful to save the bank paperwork.

Though the $10,000 rule is ostensibly designed to help catch terrorists and drug dealers, it is far more often used on regular citizens who are unlikely to ever see their money returned. "I don't think [the IRS is] really interested in anything," said a lawyer representing another seizure case. "They just want the money."

To keep her restaurant afloat following the confiscation of her savings, Hinders has had to take out a second mortgage and max out her credit cards. "How can this happen?" she asks. "Who takes your money before they prove that you've done anything wrong with it?" Bonnie Kristian

6:25 a.m. ET

Eleven days before Election Day, at least 12.6 million Americans have already voted in 37 states, according to data collected by CNN and Catalist. The partisan split is generally slightly better for Democrat Hillary Clinton that for President Obama in 2012, but that's not true across all key swing states — and early voting isn't all that predictive of which candidate actually wins in the end. Still, 12.6 million is a pretty impressive number.

To put it in context, 12.6 million is more than the entire Hispanic vote in the 2012 election, 11.2 million, and a little less than the total ballots cast in California (13.2 million), the largest and most electorally important state. It's roughly equal to the number of votes cast in 2012 in Florida and North Carolina combined, or the total population of Pennsylvania (12.8 million), and greater than the number of people who live in Ohio, 11.6 million.

If you want to know who's going to win the presidential race, you'll have to wait until the night of Nov. 8. But if you haven't cast your ballot yet, the BBC has a short reminder of things you shouldn't do in the voting booth (see: selfies) — inspired by this year's most famous early voter, Justin Timberlake. Peter Weber

5:07 a.m. ET

On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) gave final approval to new rules that prevent broadband internet service providers like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast from collecting your private digital information and sharing it with third parties, unless you give your explicit permission. The 3-2 vote followed months of intense lobbying by the broadband industry, which opposes the new rules, and was welcomed by privacy and consumer advocates. "There is a basic truth: It is the consumer's information," said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler. "It is not the information of the network the consumer hires to deliver that information."

Previously, internet providers could gather up your web browsing habits, location data, and app usage unless the consumer told them not to. They used this sometimes sensitive data to help advertisers target ads at users. The companies have a year to comply with the new rules. The broadband industry complained that the regulations will cost consumers by reducing the number of free, ad-supported services — though internet companies like Google and Facebook aren't directly affected, since they fall under the umbrella of the Federal Trade Commission, not FCC.

"For the first time, the public will be guaranteed that when they use broadband to connect to the internet, whether on a mobile device or personal computer, they will have the ability to decide whether and how much of their information can be gathered," Jeffrey Chester at the Center for Digital Democracy tells The New York Times. "Today the government did something that benefits you," said William Turton at Gizmodo. "Remember: There is literally zero benefit for you as a customer and user give up your personal information so that rich guys at tech companies or telecoms can sell it." Peter Weber

3:23 a.m. ET

For an operation that appears to be run via Donald Trump rally and Donald Trump tweets, Donald Trump's presidential campaign actually has a very sophisticated data-mining operation, called Project Alamo, that was detailed in BloombergBusinessweek on Thursday. Trump campaign chairman Steve Bannon told Bloomberg that Trump has built the "underlying apparatus for a political movement" that will "dominate Republican politics" after the election, and Trump's digital director, Brad Parscale, added, "We own the future of the Republican Party." Megyn Kelly asked columnist Charles Krauthammer on Thursday's Kelly File if he thinks that is true.

Krauthammer said it depends on whether Trump wins. Any successful president, like Ronald Reagan, will dominate and change his party, Krauthammer said, and Trump is backed by a plurality of Republicans now. If Trump loses, however, what he does next is up to him. "If Trump decides to stay in the game, the first test will be whether he can successfully bring down Paul Ryan, who's become a nemesis of his, and then we'll know how transitive is his influence," Krauthammer said. Kelly was skeptical.

All along, she noted, Trump "has said, 'If I lose, this was all for nothing, it has been a complete waste of time, and I'm going to go back to running my successful business and, you know, focus on profit-making.'" It's up to Trump, and we don't know if he'll want to build a media empire, try to become a kingmaker, or return to his business, Kelly said. "But we know one thing from his entire life history," Krauthammer said. "He loves the spotlight, he finds it hard to be away from it." Win or lose, Trump will have changed, "he'll have acquired a powerful instrument, a political instrument — he didn't have that before he ran," Krauthammer said, and "it's extremely tempting because he built this, essentially on his own and out of nowhere, and he's got a lot of options. He's not the retiring type, you might have noticed." Kelly had noticed. They laughed. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:12 a.m. ET

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) is one of the most vulnerable incumbents this election, and he probably didn't help his chances to retain his seat in his debate Thursday night with his Democratic challenger, Rep. Tammy Duckworth. Kirk had been pretty low-key in their first debate, but he was decidedly more feisty on Thursday night, accusing Duckworth of lying about a workplace discrimination lawsuit and calling her record of serving veterans "very questionable." His biggest hit, however, was also his loudest thud.

Duckworth had just explained why she wanted to serve in the Senate "when the drums of war sound," to explain the costs and risks of war. "My family has served this nation in uniform going back to the Revolution," she said. "I am a Daughter of the American Revolution. I've bled for this nation." That's not hyperbole — Duckworth served as a U.S. Army helicopter pilot in Iraq, and she lost both her legs when a rocket-propelled grenade took down her chopper in 2004. "I had forgotten your parents came all the way from Thailand to serve George Washington," Kirk said, apparently referring to the fact that Duckworth's mother is Thai of Chinese descent; Duckworth was also born in Thailand.

Kirk's comment was met with an awkward silence, then a moderator told Duckworth, "You're welcome to take some time to respond to that, too," and Duckworth laughed: "There's been members of my family serving on my father's side since the American Revolution.... I'm proud of both my father's side and my mother, who's an immigrant."

Kirk, who served as an intelligence officer in the Naval Reserve for 23 years until a serious stroke prompted his retirement in 2013, had been urged by the National Republican Senatorial Committee to "stay out of the media" as much as possible this election, the Chicago Tribune reports, and he has mostly made news so far for being the first Republican to unendorse Donald Trump after Trump attacked a Mexican-American judge. Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway joined the many jeers of Kirk's gaffe, because revenge is a dish best served five months later. Peter Weber

2:11 a.m. ET
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

Police in riot gear arrested at least 141 people near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota on Thursday, with charges including criminal trespassing, engaging in a riot, and conspiracy to endanger by fire, the Morton County Sheriff's Department said.

The protesters were blocking the path of the planned Dakota Access oil pipeline, which will stretch 1,172 miles. Native American demonstrators are worried the pipeline, which goes through an area they hold sacred, could contaminate the water, and they say they are reclaiming land that was given to the Great Sioux Nation in the 1851 Ft. Laramie Treaty, but later revoked. Temporary barricades the protesters set up were dismantled, and authorities say there is no one left at the encampment. Police showed up at the scene with military-style vehicles, including one meant to withstand roadside bomb explosions. While most protesters were peaceful, one did set fire to tires that were part of a barricade. Catherine Garcia

1:31 a.m. ET
JP Yim/Getty Images

A memo attached to a hacked email shows that in 2009, former President Bill Clinton was invited to go sightseeing in North Korea by then-ruler Kim Jong Il, and seemed open to the offer.

Clinton was in North Korea to help with negotiations to free two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who had been arrested and jailed; he was successful, and the women were released. The memo was apparently written by David Straub, a Stanford University professor whose name was at the bottom of it, BuzzFeed reports, and it was attached to an email forwarded to John Podesta, Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and Bill Clinton's former White House chief of staff. It's believed Podesta's email was hacked by Russians.

Kim, the father of current North Korean ruler Kim Jong Un, died in 2011. During his meeting with Clinton, he suggested the former president "tour someday when there were no problems in bilateral relations." The memo states that Clinton shared he would like to visit a "beautiful seaside location" depicted in a painting at his guesthouse, and "Kim said he would show him a much more beautiful place, and that President Clinton should come back to the DPRK on holiday." The pair also spoke about Clinton being forced to cancel a trip he planned to take to North Korea at the end of his second term because of last-minute peace talks between Israel and Palestine, and Kim noted Clinton was the first foreign leader to send his condolences when his father, North Korea's founder Kim Il Sung, died. Read more about the memo and Kim's thoughts on George W. Bush and President Obama at BuzzFeed. Catherine Garcia

12:57 a.m. ET

Last week, filmmaker Michael Moore released a secretly made movie urging voters — especially those in the white working class — to vote against Donald Trump. It received a surprising endorsement:

The (NSFW) clip Trump posted ends with Moore saying that voting for Donald Trump will feel good, but Moore told Megyn Kelly on Thursday that Trump cut off the rest of the sentence: "for a day, maybe a week," but then people will find out their life "probably will get worse," and in fact, "if we elect Donald Trump as president, it won't be the same country in four years, I'm absolutely convinced of that. This is the most vile, disgusting candidate that has ever run for office in this country."

Kelly noted that Moore, who understands the white working class, still pretty adroitly explained why that group is Trump's strongest demographic: because they want Trump to blow stuff up. "So I'm here, and I'm here on Fox, to appeal to people who are watching, to not do that," Moore said. "I understand why you're angry, you have every right to be angry, the system has failed you, but he is not the solution to this." His new film "is sort of a humorous love poem to Hillary Clinton," Moore said, and Kelly laughed, "I can hear the ticket sales now!" "Well, it's been No. 1 on iTunes since last Friday," Moore said. "Thanks to Trump!" Kelly interjected. "Obviously he didn't watch the movie," Moore noted. "If he'd watched the whole movie, he and Don Jr. wouldn't be promoting this, because the movie says get out there and vote for Hillary Clinton."

Kelly was curious about that, reminding Moore that he backed Bernie Sanders. "You seem to be, like, a reluctant Hillary supporter, am I wrong?" she asked. Moore said he was: "She voted for the war, I thought she was too cozy with Wall Street, I supported Bernie, I supported Obama eight years ago." But Clinton has long backed universal health care and will fix ObamaCare, he argued, and I "care about women should be paid the same as men, I care about the polar ice caps melting, I care about the big, big issues, and those are the ones you've to have the smart person in the room." Watch below. Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads