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March 27, 2014
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Until Congress banned the practice four years ago, the U.S. military used burn pits to dispose of military waste. Activists say these burn pits have led to early deaths, birth defects, and the environmental poisoning of Iraq. On Wednesday, members of the group Right to Heal gathered in Washington to ask for help for thousands of people they say are suffering ill effects caused by the dark smoke from burning paint, rubber tires, munitions, chemicals, plastics, and metals.

The health problems have reportedly hit both Iraqis and members of the U.S. military. Kristi Casteel's son, Joshua, died from lung cancer in 2012 at the age of 32. While serving as an interrogator in Iraq for the Army, he lived roughly 100 yards from a burn pit, Casteel told a Right to Heal meeting. "While very aware of the thick black clouds that covered the base every day, and experiencing symptoms of congestion, burning eyes, and nausea at times," she said, "he, like most all the other soldiers, just labeled their symptoms the 'Iraqi crud.'"

A 2011 report from the Institute of Medicine determined there wasn't enough data to conclude whether or not pollution from the pits could cause long-term health problems, but acknowledged that chemicals found at the Joint Base Balad pit could eventually cause respiratory, heart, kidney, and liver problems, plus anemia and cancer. Right to Heal wants the U.S. to pay reparations to civilians who lived near the pits, and to help with environmental cleanup efforts. Catherine Garcia

8:53 p.m. ET
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Businessman Philip Bilden, President Trump's pick for Navy secretary, has withdrawn his name from consideration, citing ethics requirements.

In a statement on Sunday, Bilden said the position would cause "undue disruption" to his family's financial interests, and he would not be able to satisfy rules by the Office of Government Ethics. Bilden also said he still "fully supports" Trump's agenda. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a statement he will make a new recommendation to Trump soon. Earlier this month, Vincent Viola, a businessman and Trump's choice for Army secretary, dropped his bid for that position. Catherine Garcia

8:12 p.m. ET
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Judge Joseph Wapner, famous for presiding over The People's Court, died Sunday. He was 97.

Wapner's son, David, told The Associated Press his father, who was hospitalized a week ago, died in his sleep. Wapner was the original judge for The People's Court, staying with the program from 1981 until 1993 and inspiring the television judges who followed. A native of Los Angeles, Wapner was appointed to the Los Angeles Municipal Court in 1959 and the Los Angeles Superior Court in 1961. He retired in 1979, and was recommended for the show by a fellow judge. In 1986, Wapner told AP everything on The People's Court was real. "There's no script, no rehearsal, no retakes," he added. "Everything from beginning to end is like a real courtroom, and I personally consider each case as a trial." Catherine Garcia

1:00 p.m. ET
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While many Americans tune in to Sunday night's Oscars ceremony, the Trump White House will host its first major social event: the 2017 Governors' Dinner. The black tie affair includes a receiving line, reception, and formal dinner with the First and Second Couples. It is timed to correspond with the National Governors Association's winter meeting in Washington each year.

"The Governors' Dinner is one of the most important social events held at the White House each year," said Laura Dowling, who was the chief White House floral designer for six of President Obama's eight years in office. "In terms of scope, style and planning requirements, it is just one step below a state dinner in organizational complexity."

The dinner is First Lady Melania Trump's first in her new role as White House hostess. "The first lady has put a lot of time into this event, welcoming our nation's governors to the capital," said White House Press Secretary of the evening's festivities. Bonnie Kristian

12:24 p.m. ET

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Sunday offered a dismissive assessment of President Trump's first month in office in conversation with ABC's George Stephanopoulos. "What has the Trump administration done?" she asked. "From their inaugural address, where they talked about decay and carnage, they've done nothing except put Wall Street first, make America sick again, instill fear in our immigration population in our country, and make sure Russia maintains its grip on our foreign policy."

"I call him the deflector-in-chief," Pelosi added. "He has no jobs bill, so he has got to talk about the press. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about kids, transgender kids in school. He has no jobs bill, so he has to talk about immigrants and have a ban on Muslims coming to country." Watch an excerpt of her comments below. Bonnie Kristian

11:47 a.m. ET

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and former Republican Sen. Rick Santorum all said in interviews Sunday that calls for a special prosecutor to investigate alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election are premature. The possibility of such an appointment was raised Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who argued it is inappropriate for the investigation to be performed by someone, like new Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is a political appointee.

"The Justice Department over the course of time has shown itself, with the professionals that are there, to have the ability to investigate these type of things," Christie said in a conversation with CNN's Jake Tapper. "When a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control."

"I think that's way, way getting ahead of ourselves here," Cotton said while talking with Chuck Todd on NBC. "There's no allegations of any crime occurring, there's not even an indication that there's criminal investigations underway by the FBI as opposed to counterintelligence investigations, which the FBI conducts all the time."

"The rush to a special prosecutor is always a dangerous thing," Santorum said in a different segment of Tapper's show, contending that appointing a special prosecutor would usurp congressional power. Watch comments from all three below. Bonnie Kristian

11:25 a.m. ET
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Oscar-nominated actress Meryl Streep has accused Chanel designer Karl Lagerfeld of defamation for comments, published Thursday in Women's Wear Daily, in which he said she declined to wear his dress to Sunday's the Academy Awards ceremony because another designer offered to pay her for the exposure.

"Don't continue the dress. We found somebody who will pay us," Lagerfeld said he was told after beginning work on Streep's gown. He added, "A genius actress, but cheapness also, no?"

Streep denied Lagerfeld's account Thursday, and Chanel issued a statement confirming her claim that "there was no mention of the reason" she chose a different designer. But late Saturday evening, Streep issued a vehement second statement. "Karl Lagerfeld, a prominent designer, defamed me, my stylist, and the illustrious designer whose dress I chose to wear, in an important industry publication," she said. "That publication printed this defamation, unchecked. Subsequently, the story was picked up globally, and continues, globally, to overwhelm my appearance at the Oscars, on the occasion of my record breaking 20th nomination, and to eclipse this honor in the eyes of the media, my colleagues, and the audience."

Streep ended her statement with a demand for an explicit apology from Lagerfeld: "He lied, they printed the lie, and I am still waiting." Bonnie Kristian

11:05 a.m. ET

Emmy-winning actor Bill Paxton died Saturday due to complications from surgery, his family confirmed Sunday morning. He was 61 years old.

Paxton was known for his appearances in films including Terminator, Aliens, Apollo 13, Twister, and Titanic. He had a lead role in HBO’s Big Love and was shooting a new cop drama for CBS called Training Day.

"A loving husband and father, Bill began his career in Hollywood working on films in the art department and went on to have an illustrious career spanning four decades as a beloved and prolific actor and filmmaker," said a statement from Paxton's family. "Bill's passion for the arts was felt by all who knew him, and his warmth and tireless energy were undeniable." Bonnie Kristian

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