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July 9, 2017

Record heat and two fast-moving wildfires prompted evacuations in southern California Saturday as about 1,000 firefighters struggle to contain the blazes. The Whittier Fire is in Los Padres National Forest, north of Los Angeles. It was started by a vehicle fire Saturday afternoon and spread across 5,400 acres in a matter of hours.

The nearby Alamo Fire has grown to nearly 20,000 acres. "Low humidity, high heat, and the winds are right — and there's just a lot of stuff to burn," said a Santa Barbara County representative. Neither fire has destroyed any buildings so far. Bonnie Kristian

11:32 a.m.

Friday night's federal court ruling that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, is unconstitutional because of its individual mandate provision raised two key questions: What does this mean for Americans' health-care coverage? And will the ruling stand?

On the first point, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said there will be "no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan." Beyond that, many legal experts are skeptical of the decision's longevity because though it claims the individual mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," 2017's GOP tax reform law nixed the mandate's penalty.

Law professor Jonathan Adler explained this argument at length at The Volokh Conspiracy and in brief for Vox:

[Legal experts] say [the ruling] willfully ignores the intent of the 2017 Congress, which zeroed out the individual mandate penalty without touching the rest of the Affordable Care Act.

"They are asking the court to evaluate the current law on the basis of what the law used to be," Jonathan Adler, a law professor at Case Western University who supported previous Obamacare challenges, has told Vox. "That whole analysis just doesn't apply or work anymore." [Vox]

Ted Frank, director of litigation for the conservative Competitive Enterprise Institute, likewise deemed Friday's ruling "an embarrassingly bad decision," arguing that "if a liberal judge had issued something like it goring a conservative ox, conservatives would be rightly up in arms." And New York Times editorial board member Cristian Farias contended the "partisan, activist ruling cannot stand," urging ACA supporters not to panic.

But George Mason University law professor llya Somin, also writing at The Volokh Conspiracy, sounded a note of greater caution. "I do not expect this ruling to survive on appeal," he said. "But I am not quite as confident on that subject as most other commentators seem to be. The fact that one federal judge has endorsed the states' severability argument increases the odds that others might, as well." Read his reasoning here. Bonnie Kristian

10:16 a.m.

President Trump on Twitter Saturday morning announced Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke is leaving his administration by year's end:

Trump did not say whether Zinke resigned or was fired.

Zinke's tenure at Interior has been marred by allegations of unethical conduct which have reportedly troubled Trump and prompted a Justice Department investigation. His policy proposals have included privatizing campgrounds on public land, shrinking national monument land, and raising national park visitor fees to cover renovations.

This announcement comes one day after Trump said Mick Mulvaney, director of the Office of Management and Budget and acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, will step in as acting White House chief of staff. A Politico report in late October indicated further turnover in the already volatile administration was likely following the midterm elections. Bonnie Kristian

8:36 a.m.

The Department of Education is forgiving about $150 million in student debt belonging to some 15,000 borrowers, around half of them former attendees of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges chain, which went bankrupt in 2015. The agency announced the loan cancellation Thursday in response to a federal court order and began notifying affected students by email Friday.

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had sought to avoid implementing a set of Obama-era "borrower defense" regulations, among them an option of loan discharges for students whose schools have closed. But a federal judge ruled against her plan in September and also rejected a similar push by for-profit colleges in October.

The loan forgiveness process could take up to three months to complete, but affected borrowers do not have to take any action to benefit. Any payments made on the discharged loans will be applied to other debt on the student's account or returned to the payer, the Education Department announcement notes, and "information related to a discharged loan and its payment history [will be] removed from the borrower's credit report." Bonnie Kristian

8:05 a.m.

A federal judge in Texas ruled Friday night that the Affordable Care Act (ACA), commonly known as ObamaCare, must be "invalidated in whole" because its individual mandate provision is unconstitutional.

District Judge Reed O'Connor argued the mandate is "essential to and inseverable from the remainder of the ACA," and that it cannot "be fairly read as an exercise of Congress's tax power," contrary a 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the ACA as a tax, "and is still impermissible under the Interstate Commerce Clause."

President Trump celebrated the decision on Twitter:

Despite Trump's enthusiasm, the ruling's immediate impact is limited. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services told Fox News ACA enrollment, which is open through Saturday, Dec. 15, will continue as usual because the case will be litigated further. "There is no impact to current coverage or coverage in a 2019 plan," the agency said. Bonnie Kristian

December 14, 2018

President Trump on Friday tweeted an announcement that Mick Mulvaney, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, will step in as acting White House chief of staff.

Mulvaney, who also worked as the acting director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau before bowing out this week, will replace current White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who will depart at the end of the year. "Mick has done an outstanding job while in the administration," wrote Trump, "I look forward to working with him in this new capacity."

Trump additionally praised Kelly as a "great patriot" who "served our country with distinction." Trump's reported first choice to replace Kelly, Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff Nick Ayers, turned down the job, leaving Trump to consider several administration officials and lawmakers for the post. Summer Meza

December 14, 2018

Gun deaths in the U.S. reached their highest point in nearly 40 years in 2017, according to a CNN analysis of a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC's data showed that nearly 40,000 people died by gun last year, CNN reports, which is up from 28,874 in 1999. CNN's analysis also found that more than 23,000 people died from suicide by guns, which is the highest rate in 18 years.

The report found that white men led the gender and racial demographics for gun deaths by suicide, and black men led in homicide deaths.

Former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D), who was nearly killed in 2011 due to a gun wound, released a statement reacting to the CDC's report.

"This data from the CDC reminds us how many lives our gun violence crisis alters every year – and why so many Americans are rising up to demand action," Giffords said. "It's unacceptable that the number of deaths from shootings keeps escalating while Washington, D.C. refuses to even debate policies we know would help save lives." Marianne Dodson

December 14, 2018

People are using the highest levels of government to come up with the world's lowest security passwords.

More than 5 million passwords were leaked this year, password manager SplashData's analysis of breached data reveals. Your standard "iloveyou" and "qwerty" made the list of the most popular passwords in the world, but so did one newcomer: "donald."

Of all the infinite combinations of letters, numbers, and symbols people could use, nearly 10 percent of internet users secured their accounts with one of the 25 worst passwords out there, per TechCrunch. After "123456" and "password," strings of numbers make up the next five "worst passwords" on SplashData's list. And making its first-ever top-25 appearance, clocking in at No. 23, is "donald."

No, SplashData's CEO assures us "this is not fake news." Hackers find "celebrity names" and other common words are often used as passwords, as are simple keyboard strings. So try passwords of at least 12 characters, and mix in some symbols and numbers, SplashData recommends. And whatever you do, don't use anything on the list below, as compiled by TechCrunch. Kathryn Krawcyzk

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