February 28, 2014

Troubled Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox filed for bankruptcy protection in Japan on Friday. At a press conference in Tokyo, CEO Mark Karpeles blamed his company's implosion on a "weakness in our system" that might have led to a hacking attack and caused clients to have their digital currency stolen. It's estimated that roughly 750,000 customer Bitcoins were taken during this week's attack, along with 100,000 of Mt. Gox's coins, reports The New York Times.

Mt. Gox once accounted for some 80 percent of the world's Bitcoin trading. The possibility of Mt. Gox users ever getting the stolen crypto-currency returned to customers seems somewhat slim, though Karpeles insisted that trading Bitcoins is still a healthy and growing industry, and said he is working on a solution to getting Mt. Gox operational again. Jordan Valinsky

10:14 a.m.

Belarus' embattled President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday appealed to his long-time ally Russian President Vladimir Putin as protesters continue to call for his resignation following his recent disputed election victory, which the opposition alleges he rigged.

Lukashenko has been in power for 26 years, but the so-called "last dictator in Europe" is facing one of his strongest challenges yet, as tens of thousands of people remain in the streets, CEOs in the country's up-and-coming information technology sector threaten to leave, and even some riot police put down their shields and embrace demonstrators.

He said it is necessary to contact Putin because the protests are "not a threat to just Belarus anymore." The appeal comes at a rare point of uncertainty in the two countries' relationship, Reuters notes. Lukashenko has recently balked at deepening economic and political ties with Moscow, fearing a breach of Minsk's sovereignty. Russia, in turn, had scaled back subsidies propping up Lukashenko's government, but it seems Putin and Lukashenko are on the same page when it comes to the demonstrations.

Meanwhile, the opposition is re-emerging after Lukashenko cracked down on potential challengers, including Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who ran against him in last week's election. Tikhanovskaya left the country for Lithuania this week for safety reasons, but resurfaced on social media Friday and said she is ready to enter talks with Lukashenko, mediated by international partners. Read more at Reuters and NPR. Tim O'Donnell

8:04 a.m.

As the controversy over the state of the United States Postal Service grows, the agency on Friday night said it will stop removing letter collection boxes in at least several states after facing backlash from lawmakers.

Photos of the removal of collection boxes began circulating online Friday, prompting critics of the Trump administration to add the action to their list of examples, which include potential mailing delays and reduced post office operating hours, of why they believe the president may be trying to manipulate the 2020 election by making mail-in voting more difficult. Kim Frum, a spokeswoman for USPS, said the removals were routine and that the agency was moving "low-use boxes to high traffic areas."

Nevertheless, USPS spokesman Rod Spurgeon told CNN in a statement that the service would stop removing the boxes in 16 states — mostly in the West and Midwest — and in parts of two others until after the election. It wasn't clear if the moratorium would go into effect nationally, per CNN, although Spurgeon did tell NBC News that "we are not going to be removing any boxes." Read more at CNN. Tim O'Donnell

August 14, 2020

The Trump administration has found yet another way to reduce the number of immigrants who can claim asylum.

Even though federal asylum rules generally state that any migrant fearing harm or mistreatment in their home country can apply for asylum protections in the U.S. within one year of arriving, no matter how they entered the country, a new draft rule would block asylum-seekers from protections if they arrived via Mexico or Canada, BuzzFeed News reported Friday.

If implemented, any migrant who had been in Mexico or Canada in the last two weeks would be treated as a security threat. The draft rule is described as necessary to curb the number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.; the Trump administration previously blocked some green cards and visas with the same explanation. The new rule would apply to both migrants who present themselves at ports of entry and those who enter the U.S. without authorization.

"The Trump administration is once again using COVID-19 as a pretext to accomplish their long-sought goal of destroying the United States' asylum system," American Immigration Council policy analyst Aaron Reichlin-Melnick told BuzzFeed.

The draft rule also strengthens previous restrictions, experts say. An ongoing policy cites public health and the pandemic to allow border agents to turn migrants away. If that policy is blocked by a federal court, the Mexico-and-Canada rule could allow the same rule to effectively continue. "By layering their policy change with multiple bureaucratic tools," said Migration Policy Institute analyst Sarah Pierce, "they are doing everything they can to insulate the asylum shutdown against legal challenges." Read more at BuzzFeed News. Summer Meza

August 14, 2020

The United States Postal Service is warning that delays could prevent voters' mail-in ballots from being counted this November in almost every state.

Reports emerged on Thursday that officials in Pennsylvania had been warned by the USPS that for voters who request their ballots close to the October deadline, there's a risk that the ballots will end up being delivered too late for them to count. But this is evidently a concern throughout almost all of the country, as The Washington Post on Friday reported that the USPS has "sent detailed letters to 46 states and D.C. warning that it cannot guarantee all ballots cast by mail for the November election will arrive in time to be counted."

Among the states that were warned that their deadlines are "incongruous" with how quickly the Postal Service can actually deliver the ballots to election officials were reportedly Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, three crucial swing states that could decide the election.

"The Postal Service is asking election officials and voters to realistically consider how the mail works," a USPS spokesperson said.

These reports come as President Trump continues to claim without evidence that the use of mail-in ballots during the coronavirus pandemic will result in widespread voter fraud and after he suggested in an interview this week that he's blocking additional funding for the USPS due to his desire to prevent universal mail-in voting this November.

In Pennsylvania, officials are trying to move the deadline to allow for three extra days to count mail-in votes. Yet the Post writes that the "deadlines in many other states have not been or cannot be adjusted." Additionally, the Post reports that the "threat of ballot rejection because of missed delivery deadlines may be highest for voters in 40 states" with almost 160 million registered voters. Brendan Morrow

August 14, 2020

R. Kelly's manager has been charged after he allegedly threatened a theater to stop it from showing a documentary on the sexual abuse allegations against the disgraced R&B star.

Prosecutors in New York on Friday said they charged Donnell Russell, Kelly's manager, for making a "threatening phone call to a theater in Manhattan to prevent" a screening of Surviving R. Kelly in December 2018.

The Lifetime docuseries detailed the sexual abuse allegations against Kelly, who is in jail while awaiting trial on federal sex crime charges. Russell contacted a theater employee and claimed "that there was a person in the theater with a gun prepared to shoot up the screening," forcing the event to be canceled canceled, prosecutors said. Some of Kelly's alleged victims were in attendance.

"Threats of gun violence aimed at intimidating and silencing victims of sexual abuse are unlawful as well as unacceptable," Acting U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said. "We are committed to aggressively investigating and prosecuting such crimes.”

Earlier this week, prosecutors charged three men connected to Kelly for their alleged "efforts to illegally influence pending federal cases" by trying to silence his accusers. One of the men was Russell, who prosecutors said threatened to release sexually explicit photos of one of Kelly's alleged victims unless she withdrew a lawsuit against him. Brendan Morrow

August 14, 2020

A government watchdog has found that two top Department of Homeland Security officials are not eligible for their jobs — and Democrats want them to immediately "resign in disgrace."

The independent Government Accountability Office on Friday said that Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf and Kenneth Cuccinelli, his deputy, were appointed to their positions in violation of the Vacancies Reform Act, and the two top officials are "serving under an invalid order of succession," The Washington Post reports.

The watchdog explains that when former Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen resigned in 2019, the official who became acting secretary, Kevin McAleenan, "had not been designated in the order of succession to serve," and since "the incorrect official assumed the title of acting secretary at that time, subsequent amendments to the order of succession made by that official were invalid."

House Homeland Security Committee Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Committee on Oversight and Reform Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) in a statement called for the officials to resign, while Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chair Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) also said Wolf and Cuccinelli "must resign in disgrace" or be removed from office.

"There are also major questions about the legality of their actions over the last 16 months that the DHS Office of the Inspector General must swiftly review," Castro added.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security in a statement per the Post said "we wholeheartedly disagree with the GAO's baseless report and plan to issue a formal response to this shortly." Brendan Morrow

August 14, 2020

Former President Barack Obama isn't happy with all the changes afoot at the United States Postal Service.

In an interview on Friday, Obama urged lawmakers to fight against what he called President Trump's attempt to "actively kneecap the Postal Service," reports NBC News. Trump has repeatedly falsely claimed mail-in voting is unsafe, and on Thursday said he didn't want more funding for the USPS so that universal mail-in voting couldn't be set up before November's election.

Obama said action was necessary, both by members of Congress and citizens, to "protect the integrity" of the presidential election.

"What we've never seen before is a president say, 'I'm going to try to actively kneecap the Postal Service to encourage voting, and I will be explicit about the reason I'm doing it.' That's sort of unheard of, right?" said Obama. He also accused Republicans of trying "to discourage people's votes from counting" with other measures like gerrymandering and voter identification restrictions.

The Trump administration recently installed major Trump donor Louis DeJoy as Postmaster General, and his campaign has sued several states' efforts to expand mail-in voting amid the pandemic.

"The thing I'm most worried about," said Obama, is "how do we protect the integrity of the election process? How do we make sure that people's votes are counted? How do we police and monitor how state officials are setting up polling places and ensuring that every vote is counted?" He said despite previous Republican efforts to alter voting processes, Trump's attacks on USPS are "unique to modern history." Summer Meza

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