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March 14, 2018
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A Florida Department of Citrus employee has been arrested for improperly using the agency's computers to mine for cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, the Tampa Bay Times reports. The computers are typically reserved for matters having to do with the promotion and regulation of the local citrus industry.

Matthew McDermott, 51, was serving as the department's IT manager when he allegedly decided to use the computers "to solve mathematical equations in an effort to mine the virtual currency and win a reward," explained the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Because that process uses so much energy, the Florida Department of Citrus saw utility bills jump more than 40 percent between October 2017 and January 2018, costing an estimated $825. Additionally, McDermott allegedly spent nearly $22,000 on a state credit card to buy 24 graphic processing units, which " are often used to mine for cryptocurrency," the Tampa Bay Times writes.

McDermott is not the first employee to try to mine bitcoin on the job. Russian scientists working at a top-secret nuclear warhead facility were arrested earlier this year for trying to use a supercomputer to get rich quick. Jeva Lange

6:42 p.m. ET
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On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court pulled a measure to split up the state from the November ballot.

Proposition 9 was sponsored by venture capitalist Tim Draper, and called for the division of California into three states: California, Northern California, and Southern California. A conservation group sued, arguing the measure would abolish the state constitution, which cannot be done as a ballot initiative. The court ruled that "significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition's validity" and the "potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election."

The court agreed to rule on the measure's constitutionality at a later date, but University of Illinois law school dean Vikram Amar told the Los Angeles Times "they would not have removed it from the ballot unless it was their considered judgment that it is very likely not a valid measure that can go to the voters."
 Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m. ET
GOP.gov

Before Rep. Jason Lewis (R-Minn.) was a member of Congress, he hosted a radio show.

The Jason Lewis Show, which ran from 2009 until 2014, gave Lewis the chance to broadcast all sorts of compelling thoughts. One of his recurring arguments, CNN reported Wednesday, was that people should be allowed to call young women "sluts."

Lewis, whose show dubbed him "America's Mr. Right," said that women who vote based on health care that covers birth control lack "cognitive function," and suggested they were not "human beings." The congressman narrowly won his House seat in 2016, even after the Star Tribune in Minnesota published some of his misogynistic comments.

"It used to be that women were held to a little bit of a higher standard," Lewis lamented in a 2012 episode of his show. "We required modesty from women. Now, are we beyond those days where a woman can behave as a slut, but you can't call her a slut?"

He additionally called young female voters "ignorant of the important issues in life," saying "somebody's got to educate them." While discussing the notion that women are "guided by emotion, not reason" later that year, Lewis defended his respect for women by noting, "I'm married to a woman for heaven's sake."

A representative for Lewis defended his comments, telling CNN that "this has all been litigated before ... it was his job to be provocative while on the radio." The congressman is up for re-election in the fall in his competitive district. Read more at CNN. Summer Meza

4:34 p.m. ET
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While it's impossible to know exactly what President Trump discussed with Russian President Vladimir Putin in their one-on-one meeting Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said there was "some conversation" about allowing Russia to question U.S. citizens.

Reporter Maggie Haberman of The New York Times asked Sanders on Wednesday whether Trump supported the idea of allowing Russia to question people like Michael McFaul, the former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Sanders said Trump would "meet with his team" about the matter and make an announcement later if necessary.

McFaul is reportedly of interest to Putin regarding the Magnitsky Act, which imposed sanctions against Russia. Putin has accused officials like McFaul, British-American financier Bill Browder, and Steele dossier author Christopher Steele of financial crimes, some of which he alleged during Monday's summit. McFaul and Browder have denied the allegations, but Putin said he was interested in interrogating them to be sure.

The former ambassador himself was wondering whether Trump had pushed back on the suggestion, writing on Twitter to call the allegations against him "whacko." Rather than "push back," apparently, Sanders said that Trump had discussed it with Putin, suggesting that the president was considering allowing Russia to question the U.S. citizens. "There wasn't a commitment made on behalf of the United States," said Sanders, without offering any other details about the conversation.

McFaul wrote that he hopes the White House will "correct the record" and denounce the "ridiculous request." Russian state media, meanwhile, published an article titled "Nervous, are we?" taunting McFaul's "defensive" tweets. Summer Meza

3:36 p.m. ET

House Democrats have a new slogan, and it's no "Where's the beef?"

Actually, that would be a good question for Democrats' midterm election catchphrase, which is actually "For the People." Because it seems to invoke Lincoln-esque memories from 155 years ago, not provide the meat Democrats need to win back the House in a few months.

The tagline was unveiled during a private meeting Wednesday, Politico reports, presumably because Democrats haven't figured out how to explain that they borrowed the title of ABC's new law drama. It's been a journey to get to this point, as Democrats have toyed with "A Better Deal" and some variations of draining the swamp as their slogan since the 2016 presidential loss, Bloomberg's Sahil Kapur pointed out on Twitter.

Still, a series that's already been renewed for a second season makes for a better slogan than a Lady Antebellum song that peaked at nowhere on the charts. That seems to be where Republicans stole their catchphrase, "Better Off Now," which they couldn't even be bothered to buy the domain for.

We'll just have to see who's better off in November. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:58 p.m. ET
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Mark Zuckerberg seems to think Holocaust deniers don't realize they're lying when they spread that hoax on Facebook.

In a wide-ranging interview with Recode founder Kara Swisher published Wednesday, Zuckerberg was questioned about why Facebook doesn't remove objectively false information, like claims that the Holocaust or the Sandy Hook shooting didn't happen. His response? "I don't think that they're intentionally getting it wrong."

Facebook recently came under fire for allowing InfoWars, a consistent spreader of false information and hoaxes, to stay on the site. Swisher asked Zuckerberg why such conspiracy-peddling sources are granted a presence on Facebook. Zuckerberg responded that while Holocaust denial is "abhorrent" and "deeply offensive," it can be hard to "understand the intent" of those who post false statements such as Holocaust denials.

"Everyone gets things wrong, and if we were taking down people's accounts when they got a few things wrong, then that would be a hard world for giving people a voice and saying that you care about that," Zuckerberg said. So when Facebook's fact checkers identify a hoax, the site simply moves them down in users' News Feeds instead of removing them altogether.

Something that would be removed? "Going to someone who is a victim of Sandy Hook and telling them, 'Hey, no, you're a liar' — that is harassment," Zuckerberg explained. Read or listen to the whole interview at Recode. Kathryn Krawczyk

Update 5:04 p.m. ET: Zuckerberg issued a statement to Recode on Wednesday afternoon, attempting to clarify his comments about Holocaust deniers. "I personally find Holocaust denial deeply offensive, and I absolutely didn't intend to defend the intent of people who deny that," Zuckerberg said. Read his full statement at Recode.

1:31 p.m. ET
iStock.

For those of you currently shopping for an engagement ring, here's some good news: There are a lot more diamonds hiding in the ground than we thought.

By measuring seismic waves rippling through Earth, scientists have discovered a quadrillion tons of diamonds about a hundred miles below the planet's surface. That's as much as a thousand times more than previous estimates, National Geographic reported.

A quadrillion — which is about the number of ants that are alive worldwide, to give you some perspective — tons is still only a small percentage, as it turns out. The newly discovered diamonds amount to only about 2 percent of the layer of Earth where they were found. "It was unexpected," said Joshua Garber, the author of the study, "but not unprecedented."

The study, published in the journal Geochemistry, Geophysics, Geosystems, isn't perfectly conclusive; there's a possibility that the seismic waves measured could be caused by other compounds. But it presents "an exciting and elegant result," said Maureen Long, a seismologist at Yale University.

The rarity of diamonds has always been a little exaggerated by jewelry markets — and now, it's even more so. But it might be too much to hope that this new discovery will make getting that bling any cheaper. Read more about this study at National Geographic. Shivani Ishwar

1:31 p.m. ET

President Trump on Tuesday was forced to walk back his controversial statements about Russia's election interference, clarifying that he accepts the "intelligence community's conclusion that Russia's meddling in the 2016 election took place." But on Wednesday, he suggested that the issue was a thing of the past.

When ABC News' Cecilia Vega asked Trump whether Russia is still targeting the U.S., Trump reportedly shook his head and simply said "no."

After Trump held a joint press conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, critics condemned his failure to side with the U.S. intelligence community on its findings that Russia meddled in the election. Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, directly disputed Trump's defense of Putin, issuing a statement that reaffirmed his confidence in Russia's "ongoing" attempt to "undermine our democracy."

Former CIA and NSA director Michael Hayden expressed shock over Trump's claim that Russia is no longer attempting to interfere in U.S. election systems, writing "OMG. OMG. OMG." on Twitter. Whether Trump will walk back his walkback on the walkback remains to be seen.

Update 3:05 p.m ET: White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Trump was saying "no" to answering more questions, not to Vega's question. But as The Guardian's Sabrina Saddiqui notes, Trump continued answering questions about Russia after he said "no" following Vega's inquiry. "We believe that threats still exist," said Sanders. Watch her full explanation here. Summer Meza

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