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March 9, 2017
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A memo from Attorney General Jeff Sessions to all federal prosecutors on Wednesday primarily focuses on violent crime, but one passage suggests Sessions is pushing for a change in charging policy that would produce longer prison sentences.

"[M]any violent crimes are driven by drug trafficking," Sessions wrote, so aggressively prosecuting the drug war could reduce violent crime, he argued. "I encourage you to employ the full complement of federal law to address the problem of violent crime in your district," Sessions continued. "Further guidance and support in executing this priority — including an updated memo on charging for all criminal cases— will be forthcoming."

As Politico reports, this likely means the reversal of former Attorney General Eric Holder's guidance to prosecutors allowing them to make charges that would not trigger mandatory minimum sentences, long prison terms that kick in for certain quantities of drugs. "My take is the Holder [policy] is toast," explained Doug Berman, a law professor at Ohio State University. "Holder said you don't have to charge mandatory minimums and it looks like [Sessions is] going to say, 'Oh, yes, you do have to.'"

Sessions is a hardline drug warrior whose Justice Department has already announced a federal crackdown on state-legalized recreational marijuana. Mandatory minimum sentencing has come under significant criticism across the political spectrum in recent years and is a major contributor to prison overcrowding. To learn more about mandatory minimums, see this explainer from The Week's Dan Stewart. Bonnie Kristian

7:34 a.m. ET

President Trump continued his feud with LaVar Ball, the father of a UCLA basketball player, on Wednesday following Ball's downplaying of the president's role in getting his son, LiAngelo Ball, and two other student athletes, released from shoplifting charges in China.

"It wasn't the White House, it wasn't the State Department, it wasn't father LaVar's so-called people on the ground in China that got his son out of a long term prison sentence — IT WAS ME," Trump tweeted, taking full advantage of his 280 characters:

The president added "shoplifting is NOT a little thing," alleging incorrectly that LiAngelo could have spent "the next 5 to 10 years" in jail; Chinese law dictates the crime's maximum term would have been one to two years, with an opportunity for the sentence to be mitigated, The Washington Post reports.

Ball has claimed that if he were going to thank anyone for releasing his son, it would be Chinese President Xi Jinping. But "I don't have to go around saying thank you to everybody," he told CNN's Chris Cuomo.

Trump, though, sees things differently. For good measure, he retweeted a Twitter user claiming that "if Hillary got my kid out of prison, as much as I hate the woman, I'd thank her corrupt a--!" Jeva Lange

4:47 a.m. ET
AP Photo/Vincent Yu, File

A U.S. Navy transporter carrying 11 people crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Japan on Wednesday. Search and rescue is underway for survivors, the Japan-based Seventh Fleet said in a statement. As of Wednesday morning, eight people had been found and were in "good condition," The Washington Post reports. The crash happened while the plane was traveling to the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier, and the cause remains unclear.

This is the latest in a series of recent accidents for the Seventh Fleet, which is conducting exercises in response to rising tensions with North Korea. In June, seven sailors died when the USS Fitzgerald hit a container ship off the coast of Japan. And in August, 10 people were killed when the USS John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore. Both incidents were considered avoidable and blamed on crew negligence, prompting new training exercises and examinations of how crew deal with stress and exhaustion. The Seventh Fleet commander, Vice Admiral Joseph Aucoin, was removed from duty in August. Jessica Hullinger

This is a breaking news story and has been updated throughout.

1:26 a.m. ET

Friendships can form anywhere — including in front of the dairy section at the grocery store.

After his wife died, Dan Peterson, 83, of Augusta, Georgia, couldn't shake his grief. He tended to his garden, where his wife once grew roses, and was "just waiting it out to see how long I was going to live," he told NPR. One day last year, during a quick trip to the grocery store, he met a 4-year-old named Norah Wood, who could sense he was down. "I thought he needed a friend because he was sad," she said. Norah ran up to Peterson and said, "Hi, old person. Today's my birfday.'"



Her excitement was contagious. "When you have a little girl bouncing up and down and being so happy to be alive, you sort of change," Peterson said. Norah, her mom Tara, and Peterson began chatting, and Norah asked to take a photo with Peterson before they went their separate ways. She posted the picture on Facebook, and learned from a mutual friend that it was the first time Peterson smiled since his wife's death. Tara arranged a visit with Peterson, and after a fun afternoon, on their way out the door, Norah stopped to smell one of Peterson's red roses. "It was precious to me, the only thing I had to give back, so I got it and gave it to her," he told NPR. "That sort of sealed our friendship, I think." Catherine Garcia

12:43 a.m. ET
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LeVar Burton is not LaVar Ball, okay Twitter?

Their names are incredibly similar, but only one is the beloved host of Reading Rainbow (LeVar Burton) while the other is the outspoken father of Los Angeles Lakers rookie Lonzo Ball and UCLA guard LiAngelo Ball (LaVar Ball). LaVar "My Son is Better than Steph Curry" Ball was on CNN Monday night, and during an interesting interview with Chris Cuomo, defended LiAngelo, who was arrested with two teammates last week in China for shoplifting. He also commented on his feud with President Trump, which started when LaVar "Shoplifting Is Cool When My Son Does It" Ball downplayed Trump's role in getting the players home from China, causing Trump to tweet, "I should have left them in jail!"

Unfortunately for LeVar "I Starred in Roots" Burton, a bunch of Twitter users thought he was LaVar "I'm Trolling All of You" Ball, and they started sending him angry messages — one man told LeVar "I Taught You How to Read" Burton that he is a "has been actor with a thief for a son and Trump is the president of the United States. Get the picture?" For the record, LeVar "I Should Probably Consider Changing My Name" Burton's Twitter handle is @levarburton, while LaVar "All Publicity Is Good Publicity" Ball can be reached at @lavarbigballer. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2017

After several years in foster care, Anthony Berry never thought he'd be adopted at age 16 — and he definitely didn't think his new mom would be his former English teacher.

Anthony met Bennie Berry last November, and she thought he was kidding when he asked her to adopt him in January. "Then later I found out that it was really an option to adopt him, so we pushed forward," she told ABC News. Anthony entered the foster system at age nine, and had decided he didn't want to be adopted, but that changed when he met Bennie. "Life is like a box of chocolates," he joked. "You never know what you might get."

Last week in Beaumont, Texas, the adoption was made official, and both members of the Berry family are excited to see what the future brings. "I have a son," Bennie said. "I'm more than elated. I have a son for the rest of my life." Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2017
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Olympic gymnast Gabby Douglas wrote in an Instagram post on Tuesday that she was sexually abused by Larry Nassar, Team USA's doctor.

Douglas, 21, said she didn't tell anyone about the abuse because "for years we were conditioned to stay silent, and honestly, some things were extremely painful. I wholeheartedly support my teammates for coming forward with what happened to them."

Her former teammates Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney have both said they were abused by Nassar, 54, who served as the national team doctor for more than 20 years. He is accused of molesting several girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University, and will plead guilty to multiple charges of assault, a person with knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press Tuesday. Catherine Garcia

November 21, 2017
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The Partridge Family star and former teen heartthrob David Cassidy died from organ failure Tuesday in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. He was 67.

Cassidy's family confirmed his death to People magazine, saying he "died surrounded by those he loved, with joy in his heart and free from the pain that had gripped him for so long." He was hospitalized last week with liver and kidney failure, and had been in the intensive care unit.

Cassidy hit it big starring in The Partridge Family, alongside his stepmother, Shirley Jones. A singer, he toured the world in his early 20s, but decided to quit and focus on songwriting and recording. Cassidy publicly shared his struggles with alcohol, and in February announced he had dementia. He is survived by Jones; son Beau Cassidy; daughter Katie Cassidy; brothers Shaun, Patrick, and Ryan Cassidy; and several nieces and nephews. Catherine Garcia

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