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April 23, 2018

Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin (W.Va.) will vote to confirm Mike Pompeo for secretary of state, he announced Monday morning. Manchin, a moderate senator from a red state, had been pegged as a likely cross-aisle vote for Pompeo.

President Trump tapped Pompeo last month to replace the ousted Rex Tillerson as secretary of state. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is set to vote on Pompeo's nomination later Monday, where it is possible he will fail to receive a positive recommendation; Republican Sen. Rand Paul (Ky.) has already announced his opposition to Pompeo given Pompeo's hawkishness, and no committee Democrats support Pompeo.

Still, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) will likely proceed to a full Senate vote on Pompeo's nomination later this week. Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) already announced her intention to support Pompeo, and her vote alongside Manchin's should be enough to overcome any Republican defections and propel Pompeo to the State Department. Kimberly Alters

4:00 p.m. ET
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In the tiny liberal town of Altena, Germany, an extra allotment of refugees appeared to be welcomed with open arms. But local Facebook pages tell a different story.

Racist content permeates the town's online ecosystem in ways residents just don't see in real life — until it breaks out into anti-refugee violence. And a new study suggests Facebook is to blame, The New York Times reports.

Two researchers at the University of Warwick examined every incident of anti-refugee violence in Germany over a two-year period, breaking down the 3,335 attacks by wealth, far-right political support, and other relevant demographics. But the strongest correlation to violence appeared when towns had above-average Facebook use, per the Times. When a town's Facebook usage was a standard deviation above Germany's national average, anti-refugee attacks went up 50 percent. Across Germany, Facebook accounted for an estimated one-tenth of anti-refugee violence — or more than 300 attacks.

Altena locals could've told you about the Facebook factor without a study. When asked why seemingly harmless firefighter Dirk Denkhaus tried to burn down a refugee group house, residents mentioned a surge of racist Facebook posts on Altena pages to the Times. Nazi memes permeated event pages for food drives benefiting refugees and Denkhaus' own page, even though refugees wouldn't sense racism walking through the town square.

But in Germany and far beyond, the vitriol spewed on Facebook keeps bubbling over into the real world, the study suggests. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:51 p.m. ET
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Public health workers depend on face-to-face interaction with patients. Now, they're turning to smartphones to improve access to monitoring services.

Tuberculosis, one of the world's deadliest diseases, is a major problem near the southern border of the U.S., Stat reported Tuesday. The infectious disease killed 1.7 million people across the world in 2016, and precise, monitored treatment is one of the only ways to keep tuberculosis from spreading.

But many border region patients are frequently traveling to Mexico, writes Stat, and health-care workers can't always keep tabs on their medication intake. Smartphones are helping to solve that issue with video observation apps like SureAdhere, which allow patients to send encrypted videos to public health workers in order to record and verify proper dosage.

In regions where public health facilities are far away, especially, a digital solution could do wonders for proper monitoring. Patients who have used the option so far have told researchers they enjoyed increased autonomy and privacy, and public health departments say it saves money. One of the primary drawbacks, of course, is that not everyone has access to a smartphone or reliable internet access, particularly in developing countries where tuberculosis rates are much higher.

For now, use of the technology is on the rise in the U.S., and a two-year study of the video monitoring in San Diego, California, and Tijuana, Mexico, showed it was just as effective as in-person observation. Read more at Stat. Summer Meza

2:30 p.m. ET
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Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has kept mum on whether she'll vote to confirm Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. But what Kavanaugh said during their meeting Tuesday could be the biggest indicator of which way she's headed.

After the nominee and the senator spent more than two hours meeting, Collins told reporters that Kavanaugh agrees with Chief Justice John Roberts, who once said the landmark abortion case Roe v. Wade is settled law. Collins proceeded to call the meeting "an excellent session," per NPR. Kavanaugh's assurance could be a deciding factor for Collins, a pro-choice Republican thought to be a key swing vote in confirming President Trump's pick for the court.

Kavanaugh needs 50 Senate votes to earn a spot on the Supreme Court. But with just 51 Republicans in the Senate, Collins and fellow pro-choice Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) could spell the nominee's demise. Activists worried the conservative Kavanaugh would move to strike down abortion rights and lobbied Collins and Murkowski to oppose his confirmation alongside pro-choice Democrats.

But Kavanaugh has never publicly discussed or made legal decisions in abortion rights cases. Collins, who said she wouldn't support an anti-Roe nominee, promised a "thorough vetting" of Trump's pick in a July 9 statement, and on Tuesday she said she asked Kavanaugh if he considers Roe to be settled law. Kavanaugh responded that he agreed with Roberts, per Collins; in his 2005 confirmation, now-Chief Justice Roberts said Roe was "settled as a precedent of the court," per The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:21 p.m. ET
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The Trump administration on Tuesday announced new sanctions on one Russian company, one Slovakian company, and two Russian individuals for efforts to circumvent previous U.S. sanctions, Reuters reports.

The Treasury Department imposed the sanctions after discovering that the entities were helping a Russian company called Divetechnoservices, which was sanctioned in June for providing the Russian government with underwater equipment that aided the Kremlin's federal security and intelligence agency. The individuals sanctioned also helped Divetechnoservices evade its previous sanctions, the department said.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the new sanctions were "disrupting Russian efforts to circumvent our sanctions," calling the effort "critical" to blocking the companies and Russian nationals from any transactions with American companies or individuals.

In a separate announcement, the U.S. also imposed sanctions on two Russian shipping companies, accusing them of helping North Korea, which is a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. Read more at Reuters. Summer Meza

12:28 p.m. ET
Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Trump's former attorney, Michael Cohen, is negotiating a possible plea deal with federal prosecutors, sources told NBC News on Tuesday.

The potential guilty plea could protect Cohen from some of the fallout from the investigation into whether he committed tax fraud and bank fraud. The plea deal could be made as early as Tuesday, though sources clarified that no deal has been agreed upon yet. It was previously reported that federal prosecutors were considering filing charges against Cohen by the end of August, as the probe enters its final stages.

If Cohen agrees to a plea in the fraud case, "any cooperation agreement would likely extend to other federal investigations," NBC News noted — like Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian election interference in 2016. Summer Meza

12:20 p.m. ET

Asia Argento is firmly denying an allegation of sexual assault — but she revealed that her late partner Anthony Bourdain did make a deal with her accuser.

A quiet payoff from the Italian filmmaker to her accuser, actor Jimmy Bennett, was first reported by The New York Times on Sunday. Documents show Argento arranged to pay Bennett $380,000 after he accused her of sexual assault when he was 17 and she was 37.

Argento spoke out about the deal for the first time Tuesday in a statement obtained by reporter Yashar Ali. In it, Argento denied the Times story and said she'd never had "any sexual relationship with Bennett." She went on to claim that Bennett, who once played her son in a movie, was "undergoing severe economic problems" and "unexpectedly made an exorbitant request of money from me."

Argento said that because she had been dating the late chef Bourdain, Bennett knew Bourdain would be "afraid of the possible negative publicity" from a public settlement. So Bourdain "personally undertook to help Bennett economically, upon the condition that we would no longer suffer any intrusions in our life," Argento said in her statement.

Sunday's news of the deal was especially noteworthy considering Argento's role at the helm of the #MeToo movement, as she was one of the first women to accuse disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault. Argento's arrangement with Bennett was finalized after the Weinstein revelations began pouring in, per the Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:30 a.m. ET

Animal lovers, rejoice. In what PETA is claiming as a victory for "animal liberation," Barnum's Animals crackers have been freed from their oppressive illustrated cages.

For 116 years, animals gracing the snack menagerie's red boxes have been trapped behind bars and sequestered into a circus boxcar. But after a request from PETA, Nabisco has relocated the creatures to the African savannah, the animal rights group announced Tuesday.

Despite the fact that these uncaged creatures are purely fictional, PETA counts the move as "evidence that people are embracing compassion for animals like never before," per its blog post. It's a victory in the same vein as the closure of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus and the end of many exotic animal acts, PETA says.

Barnum's shortbread animals are still trapped inside their iconic red box, but that's an easy fix for anyone with an appetite. Kathryn Krawczyk

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