Millions of Americans living in rural communities could be at risk of drinking and bathing in toxic water, a year-long investigation by USA Today has found. Four million Americans live in regions where small water operators skipped required safety tests and around 100,000 people get their water from operators that discovered high lead levels but failed to take action to remove it in a timely fashion. An additional 850 small water utilities have not tested for lead since 2010 despite having a recorded history of lead contamination in the system.
Ranger, Texas, is one such system out of about 130 since 2010 where operators failed to take action in a timely manner to treat known dangers in the water:
Three years ago, the city found excessive levels of copper [in the water]. Nine months after that, three of 20 sites tested over the limit of 15 parts per billion of lead. Under federal law, both required immediate action, but documents show the city waited until this fall to start planning to control corrosion. Testing this September found five sites above the limit for lead, the Walton home topping the list at 418 parts per billion. The federal limit is 15.
Similar scenarios play out in hundreds of mostly struggling communities — cities built on boom-bust industries like oil and coal, isolated rural places and mobile home parks housing the poorest people in town. [USA Today]
Additionally, "the bar for running tiny water systems is low," USA Today reports. Or, in the words of Paul Schwartz, who works with the Campaign for Lead Free Water to remove the toxin from drinking supplies, "you might have to get more training to run a hot dog stand than a small water system."
Beyoncé's music has been metaphorically taking fans to church for years — but now it's going to do it literally.
The Vine at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco is planning to host a Beyoncé-themed mass on April 25, NBC Bay Area reports. The service won't push parishioners to literally worship Beyoncé, but they will be invited "to sing your Beyoncé favorites and discover how her art opens a window into the lives of marginalized and forgotten — particularly black females." The special event comes on the heels of the Houston singer's legendary Coachella show last weekend, and will follow her second festival performance Saturday.
The founding pastor of the Vine, Rev. Jude Harmon, explained in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle that the Beyoncé-centric mass is "designed to be" a "conversation starter." The April 25 service will serve as an introduction to a three-part series called, "Speaking Truth: The Power of Story in Community." "We felt a need to lift up the voices that the church has traditionally suppressed," Harmon said.
Rev. Yolanda Norton, an assistant professor at San Francisco Theological Seminary who teaches a course called "Beyoncé and the Bible," will be joining in on the fun as a speaker at the mass.
While unique, this is not the first time a church in the Bay Area has used music to connect with parishioners: The African Orthodox Church of Saint John Coltrane was founded in honor of the late saxophone legend John Coltrane and uses jazz to show devotion. Amari Pollard
When Michael Cohen wired $130,000 to a former adult film actress in October 2016, the point was that everyone would stay quiet.
Instead, the transfer has blown up in his face, as President Trump's personal attorney has found himself in the center of a sordid scandal that has played out in television shows, front pages, and FBI raids. The actress, Stormy Daniels — real name Stephanie Clifford — had spoken publicly in 2011 about an affair she says she had with Trump, but Cohen's acknowledgement in February that he paid her to keep quiet just weeks before the election sparked a tabloid firestorm.
Daniels says the affair occurred in 2006, just one year after Trump married his third wife, Melania, and just a few months after the birth of their son, Barron. Trump has denied the relationship. In a somewhat somber picture of Cohen's place in the Trump orbit, The New York Times on Friday said that Cohen at one point even tried to make amends to the first lady for making the Daniels story national news:
In a Fox News interview last year, Mr. Cohen declared: "I will do anything to protect Mr. Trump." He told Vanity Fair in September that "I'm the guy who would take a bullet for the president," adding, "I'd never walk away."
At a Republican fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago earlier this year, Mr. Cohen went so far as to approach the first lady, Melania Trump, to try to apologize for the pain he caused her with the payment to [Daniels], the adult film actress who has claimed to have had the sexual encounter with Mr. Trump. [The New York Times]
The Times goes on to list many indignities reportedly suffered by Cohen at Trump's hands. As longtime Trump adviser Roger Stone told the paper: "Donald goes out of his way to treat [Cohen] like garbage." Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters
Mike Pompeo: former Kansas lawmaker, current CIA director, and possible future secretary of state. But Gulf War veteran? Despite it being widely reported that Pompeo served in the 1991 Gulf War, the CIA confirmed Friday to Splinter News that, well, he didn't. "Director Pompeo was in the U.S. Army at the time of the Gulf War — serving until 1991," the CIA said. "He was not deployed to that theater."
Pompeo's "participation" in the Gulf War has been reported in numerous reputable publications including The New Yorker, Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal, and at the time of publication, it has not been corrected on his Wikipedia page.
While the mix up is relatively inconsequential — and not apparently Pompeo's fault — Ned Price, formerly of the CIA, explained the importance of correcting the record. "This could all stem from sloppiness between having served 'during' the Gulf War vs. 'in' the Gulf War, but — if this is to be our secretary of state — we need a clear understanding of his background and record," he tweeted. Jeva Lange
Swedish DJ Avicii, 28, was found dead in Oman on Friday, his publicist confirmed. "It is with profound sorrow that we announce the loss of Tim Bergling, also known as Avicii," the publicist, Diana Baron, said in a statement.
Avicii had retired from performing in 2016 after suffering "very public health problems for the past few years, including acute pancreatitis, in part due to excessive drinking," The Hollywood Reporter writes. In an interview, Avicii told The Hollywood Reporter that he "took on board too much negative energy" touring and that since quitting, "I'm happier than I have been in a very, very long time. Stress-free more than I have been in a very long time. I can't say I'm never going to have a show again. I just don't think I'm going to go back to the touring life."
Avicii's hits include "Levels," which went platinum in the U.S., and "Wake Me Up," which hit #4 on the Hot 100, Rolling Stone writes. "Devastating news about Avicii, a beautiful soul, passionate and extremely talented, with so much more to do," tweeted fellow DJ Calvin Harris. "My heart goes out to his family." Jeva Lange
President Trump allegedly pressured his attorney general and FBI director to find "derogatory information within the FBI's files" about Peter Strzok and Lisa Page, two senior FBI officials who exchanged disparaging text messages about the president, in order to discredit and fire them, Vox writes. The meeting between Trump, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and FBI Director Christopher Wray reportedly took place at the White House on Jan. 22, and in it Trump allegedly expressed his ire that Strzok and Page still have their jobs.
Both Strzok and Page were briefly a part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into possible collusion between Trump campaign officials and Russia. They also badmouthed Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, although Trump and his allies have pointed to Strzok and Page's anti-Trump texts as proof that FBI agents are biased against the president.
Several months before his meeting with Sessions and Wray, Trump had been told by his then-defense attorney John Dowd that Page was "a likely witness against him in [Mueller's] investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice," Vox writes. "That Trump knew that Page might be a potential witness against him has not been previously reported or publicly known."
Trump has been known to demand loyalty, allegedly telling former FBI Director James Comey, "I need loyalty, I expect loyalty," in a conversation last year. Comey described the president's words as "very concerning, given the FBI's role as an independent investigative agency." Jeva Lange
The Justice Department is stalling on recommended civil rights charges against the police officer who killed Eric Garner in 2014, The New York Times reported Friday. Federal prosecutors have recommended bringing charges against Staten Island police officer Daniel Pantaleo, whose use of a chokehold while subduing Garner on a sidewalk led to Garner's death and sparked the rallying cry, "I can't breathe."
The prosecutors assert that Pantaleo's actions constituted a clear excessive use of force. But the Justice Department is wary of acting on the recommendation because it fears a case against Pantaleo may be lost at trial, the Times explains, as "juries frequently give great deference to police officers for actions carried out under pressure." Pantaleo has said he was trying to execute a different maneuver to subdue Garner — one that would not have put pressure on Garner's neck, like the chokehold did — but that his posture was adjusted in the struggle as he "feared he would be pushed through a storefront window behind him," per the Times.
The department's decision under Attorney General Jeff Sessions is sure to spark backlash, given Sessions' spotty history with race relations as well as the overall posture of the Trump administration. But both Loretta Lynch and Eric Holder, who served as attorneys general under former President Barack Obama, had reservations about the case as well, the Times notes; while Holder was convinced the evidence supported an indictment for Pantaleo, he conceded that prosecutors might lose at trial, and Lynch vacillated for months as to whether charges were truly warranted at all.
Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has "convened several meetings" as to whether to approve the charges, the Times reports, which have "revealed divisions within the Justice Department." One source told the Times that Rosenstein would likely eventually decline to pursue the case. Read more at The New York Times. Kimberly Alters
The Democratic National Committee is suing the Trump campaign, Russian government, and WikiLeaks for millions of dollars in relation to the 2016 hack of DNC emails and the subsequent election of President Trump, The Washington Post reports. "This constituted an act of unprecedented treachery: the campaign of a nominee for president of the United States in league with a hostile foreign power to bolster its own chance to win the presidency," said DNC chairman Tom Perez in a statement.
The DNC claims that high-level Trump campaign officials worked with Russia to hurt Hillary Clinton's chances by stealing Democratic emails and disseminating them via WikiLeaks. The lawsuit is similar to one filed by the party in 1972 over the Nixon re-election campaign's break-in at the Democratic headquarters, The Washington Post reports, which ultimately ended in President Richard Nixon's resignation.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is still conducting his own investigation into whether or not Trump's team colluded with Russia to swing the election. The House Intelligence Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, previously concluded that there is no evidence of such collusion.
Trump is not personally named as a defendant in the DNC lawsuit, although his son Donald Trump Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort are. Russia's GRU military intelligence service is also named as a defendant, as is WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange. Jeva Lange