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January 10, 2017
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When you bring your computer to a Best Buy for repairs, the Geek Squad first makes you sign an agreement that states: "I am on notice that any product containing child pornography will be turned over to the authorities." If that seems cut and dry, a case wending through federal court in California has revealed some wrinkles, and a federal judge has ordered FBI agents, Geek Squad employees, and a federal prosecutor to testify starting Wednesday to examine how cozy a relationship the FBI has with the Geek Squad and whether it violates any laws.

The case in question involves Dr. Mark Rettenmaier, a gynecological oncologist in Orange County, California, who brought his desktop in to a Best Buy for repairs in November 2011. A technician at Best Buy's repair facility in Kentucky found an image of a naked prepubescent girl on a bed in a choke collar, then informed his boss, who told the FBI. Both Best Buy employees received some payment from the FBI, as did at least six others over four years, court records show.

The FBI got a warrant and searched Rettenmaier's home and computers in February 2012; federal prosecutors indicted him in November 2014. Rettenmaier's lawyer, James D. Riddet, argues that the relationship between the FBI and the Geek Squad is "so cozy" and extensive "it turns searches by Best Buy into government searches." Court records show the "FBI and Best Buy made sure that during the period from 2007 to the present, there was always at least one supervisor who was an active informant," Riddet told OC Weekly.

Riddet argues that this relationship violates the Fourth Amendment ban on warrantless searches, and U.S. District Judge Cormac J. Carney is letting him pursue that theory. Federal prosecutors say that if a technician "stumbles across images of child pornography" without the knowledge of the government, it can't be intentionally "assisting law enforcement efforts." Best Buy spokesman Jeff Shelman said Monday that "Best Buy and Geek Squad have no relationship with the FBI" but that "from time to time, our repair agents discover material that may be child pornography and we have a legal and moral obligation to turn that material over to law enforcement." If those employees are paid by the FBI, he added, that shows "extremely poor individual judgment" and violates company policy. You can read more about the thorny case at The Washington Post and OC Weekly. Peter Weber

October 21, 2017
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The World Health Organization (WHO) came under intense criticism Saturday for its decision to name Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe as the organization's newest goodwill ambassador. The position is mostly symbolic, but the 93-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, is widely considered a dictator, and his government stands accused of gross human rights violations.

"The decision to appoint Robert Mugabe as a WHO goodwill ambassador is deeply disappointing and wrong," said Dr. Jeremy Farrar of Wellcome Trust, a prominent British health charity. "Robert Mugabe fails in every way to represent the values WHO should stand for."

WHO's Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Mugabe was chosen because his government "places universal health coverage and health promotion at the center of its policies to provide health care to all," but outside observers say the Zimbabwean health-care system is in "a shambolic state" with hospitals lacking "the most basic necessities." Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017
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President Trump is considering further revisions to refugee admission procedures, Reuters reported Friday evening, including a plan to suspend a program that allows refugees to settle with family members already living in the United States. In the new proposal, incoming refugees would be delayed by additional scrutiny before being admitted to rejoin their families.

Also on the table is increased use of security advisory opinions (SAOs) for refugees coming from high-risk countries. SAOs are in-depth security checks that are currently mandatory for male refugees from some countries; the new plan would apply them to women as well. Refugee fingerprinting requirements may be expanded, too.

The Department of Homeland Security declined a Reuters request for comment as the proposed changes are still under review. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017
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Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Saturday announced Madrid will remove Catalan President Carles Puigdemont from his position, suspend Catalonia's regional autonomy, and impose direct national rule to suppress the Catalan independence movement.

This is an unprecedented step under the current Spanish Constitution. Rajoy is invoking the document's Article 155, which says if a region "acts in a way that is seriously prejudicial to the general interest of Spain," the national government can, with majority Senate approval, "take all measures necessary" to stop it.

Catalan Vice President Oriol Junqueras labeled the move "totalitarianism," and Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau called it "an attack on everyone's rights and freedoms." Puigdemont led a large protest in Barcelona Saturday afternoon.

In a referendum earlier this month, 90 percent of Catalans who turned out to vote endorsed independence from Spain. The vote was held despite intense opposition from Madrid, including widespread reports of police brutality against would-be voters. Catalan leaders have sought international assistance to negotiate a peaceful resolution, but so far their calls have gone unanswered. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017

President Trump indicated on Twitter Saturday he will most likely release 3,600 top-secret files about the assassination of former President John F. Kennedy this coming week, with the caveat that new information could lead him to change his mind:

The Oct. 26 release deadline was set by a 1992 law. Trump can miss that deadline if he certifies that publishing the papers at that time would cause "an identifiable harm to the military defense, intelligence operations, law enforcement, or conduct of foreign relations [that] outweighs the public interest in disclosure." Members of both houses of Congress from both major parties have sponsored legislation urging Trump to go ahead with publication. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017

Georgia state Rep. Betty Price (R), who is an anesthesiologist and the wife of former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned last month, asked in a committee hearing Tuesday whether some sort of quarantine of people with HIV might be a viable option for limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS. Price's comments come as the surgeon general reports a new HIV epidemic could be brewing in places like Georgia.

"If you wouldn't mind commenting on the surveillance of partners, tracking of contacts, that sort of thing — what are we legally able to do?" Dr. Price asked Dr. Pascale Wortley, director of the Georgia Department of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Epidemiology Surveillance Section. "I don't want to say the 'quarantine' word, but I guess I just said it," she added, noting that "public dollars are expended heavily in prophylaxis and treatment of this condition, so we have a public interest in curtailing the spread."

Wortley replied that Georgia already has a program called "Partner Services that involves talking to people who are newly diagnosed with HIV and asking them to list out partners" so either the patient or a public health worker can contact them. Watch the rest of the exchange below; the relevant section runs from around 1:02:00 to 1:05:30. Bonnie Kristian

October 21, 2017

President Trump spoke at length about his social media habits in a Friday transcript of a forthcoming interview with Fox Business Network's Maria Bartiromo. He said his Twitter account is an important way to spread his views, manipulate lawmakers, and keep the public's attention — among other purposes. The interview will air on FBN Sunday and Monday, but in the meantime, read below seven of Trump's most noteworthy Twitter-related comments from the conversation. Bonnie Kristian

1. "Tweeting is like a typewriter — when I put it out, you put it immediately on your show."

2. "You have to keep people interested."

3. "You know what I find; the ones [who] don't want me to [tweet] are the enemies."

4. "I was in a faraway land, and I was tweeting. And I said very little. I said, like, 'I'm in Italy right now,' you know, for the summits. So, 'I'm in Italy right now and the weather is wonderful.' And one of the dishonest networks said, 'Donald Trump is on a Twitter stomp again.'" (See the Italy tweets here.)

5. "When somebody says something about me, I am able to go 'bing, bing, bing' and I take care of it."

6. "I doubt I would be [president] if it weren't for social media, to be honest with you."

7. "[My tweets] are well crafted. I was always good student." [Donald Trump, via FBN]

October 21, 2017
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After the Senate on Thursday approved the GOP budget plan 51-49, House Republicans are considering whether to pass the Senate version as-is to accelerate their tax reform agenda. "There's a very clear possibility that the House clears this next week," House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas) said of the Senate legislation Friday.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus on Friday agreed to back the Senate bill if House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) will first pledge to schedule a floor vote on taxes by the second week in November. Ryan has said he intends to complete tax reform by "early November," but many on the Hill consider that schedule deeply unrealistic.

President Trump addressed the situation on Twitter Friday and Saturday, decrying Democratic opposition, complaining of inadequate media coverage, and promising historic tax cuts soon. "Budget that just passed is a really big deal, especially in terms of what will be the biggest tax cut in U.S. history," he wrote Saturday morning. "MSM barely covered!" Bonnie Kristian

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