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August 12, 2018

NASA launched its Parker Solar Probe at 3:31 a.m. Eastern on Sunday. The launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is NASA's first mission to explore the sun. Powered by a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket, the car-sized probe will travel millions of miles to reach the sun's corona, or outer atmosphere.

The probe is protected by heat shields capable of withstanding temperatures up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, and it will complete 24 orbits of the sun by 2025, reaching speeds up to 430,000 mph. The first information from the mission will be transmitted back to Earth later this year.

"We've been inside the orbit of Mercury and done amazing things, but until you go and touch the sun, you can't answer these questions," Nicola Fox, mission project scientist, told CNN. "Why has it taken us 60 years? The materials didn't exist to allow us to do it."

The Parker Solar Probe is named for Eugene Parker, a 91-year-old astrophysicist best known for theorizing the existence of solar wind in the 1950s. He was invited to watch the launch. "All I can say is, 'Wow, here we go,'" Parker said. "We're in for some learning over the next several years." Bonnie Kristian

August 9, 2018
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Puerto Rico's government is finally acknowledging a Hurricane Maria death toll that's far closer to reality.

In the wake of last year's devastating storm, Puerto Rico said that only an estimated 64 deaths had resulted, despite every other calculation being far larger. A government report published Thursday bumps that number more than 20 times higher to 1,427 fatalities — and that's only deaths directly related to Maria's damage.

The island's government was slammed for underestimating its death count after the September 2017 storm, especially as continued power outages slowed medical care for months, per The New York Times. News outlets mapped numbers 10 times as large in the months after the storm, and the New England Journal of Medicine estimated the death count could've reached 4,500 by May 2018. But the same outages that killed more Puerto Ricans likely also kept the island's medical examiner from investigating and reporting more storm-related deaths, the Times says.

Thursday's report, submitted by the island territory to Congress along with a request for billions more in aid, recognizes Puerto Rico's initial shortcomings and estimates hurricane damage actually cost 1,427 lives. Anywhere from 800 to 8,000 deaths also resulted from "delayed or interrupted health care" after the storm, the report guesses. These numbers are closer to actuality, the Times says, though the Puerto Rican government has commissioned George Washington University's Milken Institute of Public Health to calculate a more accurate number. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 28, 2018
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The Cairo Criminal Court on Saturday sentenced 75 people to death for their participation in a sit-in protest in 2013. The sentences will be reviewed by the Grand Mufti, Egypt's top theological authority who heads a state agency, and can be appealed. In a similar case in 2014, only 7 percent of death sentences were upheld.

The protest in question took place in Cairo's Rabaa al-Adawiya Square before it was violently dispersed by the Egyptian government. Demonstrators supported former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, who was ousted in 2013 and is now imprisoned after appealing a death sentence of his own.

The Muslim Brotherhood, with which Morsi is affiliated, has been labeled a terrorist organization and banned in Egypt. Leaders of the group are included in the 75 sentenced Saturday. The defendants in Saturday's hearing are among 739 demonstrators being tried in this case. More sentences will be handed down in September. Bonnie Kristian

July 21, 2018
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Police in Clearwater, Florida, declined to arrest or charge a man who fatally shot another over a handicapped parking spot because they believe he is likely shielded by the state's controversial Stand Your Ground law.

"I don't make the law. I enforce the law," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri at a press conference Friday. "The law in the state of Florida today is that people have a right to stand their ground and have a right to defend themselves when they believe that they are in harm."

Gualtieri noted the state's attorney's office will review the case and could decide to bring charges if it seems realistic to "overcome that heavy burden at a Stand Your Ground hearing of proving by clear and convincing evidence [the shooter] was not entitled to use force in this circumstance."

The shooting took place at a convenience store Thursday afternoon. The shooter, Michael Drejka, confronted a woman, Britany Jacobs, who had parked in a handicapped spot to wait while her boyfriend, Markeis McGlockton, and their 5-year-old son went inside the store.

When McGlockton and the boy came outside, he saw the argument and intervened, forcibly pushing Drejka to the ground. From there, Drejka fired a single round at McGlockton's chest with his handgun, for which he had a valid concealed carry permit. McGlockton died at a hospital soon after. Bonnie Kristian

July 13, 2018

It was apparently the very night that then-candidate Donald Trump called on Russia to find his opponent Hillary Clinton's "missing" emails in July 2016 that Russian operatives "attempted after hours to spearfish for the first time email accounts at a domain hosted by a third-party provider and used by Clinton's personal office," Special Counsel Robert Mueller's latest indictment says. The Justice Department's discovery — that "on or about July 27, 2016" Russian intelligence agents apparently heeded Trump's call — casts uncertainty over the White House's claim that Trump was just "joking" when he asked for Russia to hack Clinton.

Earlier on July 27, 2016, Trump had said, "Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing." Just days later, WikiLeaks began publishing hacked Democratic National Committee emails, NBC News reports. On Friday, the DOJ indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials over that hacking, with the intention of interfering in the outcome of the election.

Trump has repeatedly maintained that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 election. "The phony Russian Collusion was a made up Hoax," the president tweeted as recently as June 17, 2018. "Too bad they didn't look at Crooked Hillary like this." Jeva Lange

July 11, 2018
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When former President George W. Bush's administration saw a spike in arrests at America's southern border, he spearheaded Operation Streamline and opened a handful of fast-paced courts to clear a backlog of immigration trials.

The program still exists today, and can crank out eight deportation verdicts in as little as four minutes. That's about one verdict every 30 seconds — a rapid-fire pace that lawyers, and even one judge, say is probably too fast for defendants to understand, BuzzFeed News reports.

Operation Streamline kicked off in 2005 with a few courts in Texas. It's since expanded to New Mexico, Arizona, and, just this week, California. Under the program, migrants are given public attorneys who are often juggling multiple cases in a day, BuzzFeed News says. The defendants get 20 to 40 minutes with a lawyer before they're shuffled into a courtroom with a handful of other migrants, where they're given headsets that translate English proceedings to Spanish — even if that's not their native language.

Attorneys and activists say the system results in most migrants pleading guilty and being deported, likely without a clue what's happening. Lawyers who spoke to BuzzFeed News acknowledge how problematic this can seem — and so did one immigration judge. "I am aware that a person could probably make it through the proceedings without a thorough understanding of their rights and the court proceedings," U.S. District Court Judge Leslie Bowman said during one case.

But some defense attorneys say the quick pace is actually better than proceedings before Operation Streamline. Under the previous process, migrants often waited in detention for weeks or months before getting a trial; now, they're detained for less than 72 hours and sent on the first bus home. Read more at BuzzFeed News. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 11, 2018
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The Trump administration is struggling to figure out how to reunite the immigrant families it separated as part of its "zero tolerance" enforcement policy, with DNA tests becoming a go-to method for the scrambling officials. Immigrant advocates have already expressed alarm over the method, saying children cannot give informed consent for the tests, but now The Daily Beast has learned that some migrant parents are being told that they have to pay for the tests themselves if they want to be reunited with their kids.

Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House in El Paso, said that four women in the shelter were told they had to pay for the tests to be reunited with their relatives. One immigration attorney who works with Annunciation House said her clients had to pay between $700 and $800 to prove their relationships to the government.

"None of them have the money [for the tests], so it's going to fall back on us to push back on that," said Garcia.

It isn't clear how widespread it is for the government to ask for payment, but the Office of Refugee Resettlement maintains that the tests are done at "no cost." Read more about the history of DNA tests and immigration at The Daily Beast. Jeva Lange

July 6, 2018

President Trump's former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, is being kept in solitary confinement at Virginia's Northern Neck Regional Jail, his lawyer said in court documents filed this week. "He is locked in his cell for at least 23 hours per day (excluding visits from his attorneys)," wrote his defense attorney, Kevin Downing, noting that the decision is in order to "guarantee [Manafort's] safety."

Manafort lived under house arrest after he was accused by Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team of crimes including conspiracy to launder money and conspiracy against the United States. He was jailed in June 2018 over witness tampering. Trump has tried to distance himself from Manafort, who worked on his campaign for five months in 2016, telling the press: "Manafort has nothing to do with our campaign." Jeva Lange

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