Six female Democratic senators called on Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) to step down Wednesday, just hours after a seventh woman accused him of inappropriate conduct, BuzzFeed News reports. In a lengthy Facebook post, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) described her disappointment in learning her "friend" had "engaged in behavior towards women that is unacceptable."
"Enough is enough," Gillibrand wrote. "The women who have come forward are brave and I believe them."
Democratic Sens. Maggie Hassan (N.H.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Patty Murray (Wash.), Claire McCaskill (Mo.), and Kamala Harris (Calif.) also added their voices to the chorus:
It is clear that Al Franken has engaged in a pattern of egregious and unacceptable behavior toward women. He should resign.
— Sen. Maggie Hassan (@SenatorHassan) December 6, 2017
Today, I am calling on my colleague Al Franken to step aside. I’ve struggled with this decision because he’s been a good Senator and I consider him a friend. But that cannot excuse his behavior and his mistreatment of women. (thread)
— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) December 6, 2017
— Leigh Ann Caldwell (@LACaldwellDC) December 6, 2017
Al Franken should resign.
— Claire McCaskill (@clairecmc) December 6, 2017
Dem CA Sen Harris tweet: "I believe the best thing for Senator Franken to do is step down." 6 Dem female senators have called on Franken to step aside now.
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) December 6, 2017
Franken has admitted to some of the allegations against him, including that he groped radio host Leeann Tweeden during a 2006 USO tour. Tweeden's allegation, the first made against the senator, came nearly three weeks ago. On Wednesday, he denied the allegations brought by a seventh woman who chose to remain anonymous, calling them "categorically not true." Jeva Lange
A New York judge on Tuesday rejected President Trump's motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed by Summer Zervos, a contestant on The Apprentice in 2005.
Zervos has claimed that in 2007, while in Trump's New York office, he kissed her on the lips twice, making her "uncomfortable, nervous, and embarrassed." She also alleged that while at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Trump kissed and groped her, and pressed his genitals against her. In January 2017, Zervos filed a defamation suit against Trump, after he made inflammatory comments on the campaign trail about Zervos and other women who accused him of misconduct.
In her decision, Judge Jennifer Schecter wrote that "no one is above the law," and "nothing in the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution even suggests that the president cannot be called to account before a state court for wrongful conduct that bears no relationship to any federal executive responsibility." Trump's attorney, Marc Kasowitz, has argued that Trump's comments were just political rhetoric, and on Tuesday, said he will appeal the decision. Catherine Garcia
It's been six months since Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, and the island still has a long way to go in recovering from the storm, which left hundreds of thousands of citizens without homes, electricity, or running water. But beyond infrastructure reconstruction, Puerto Rico faces another challenge as a result of the storm: skyrocketing suicide rates.
The number of suicide attempts between November 2017 and January 2018 was more than double the same period a year ago, Vox reported, based on data from the island's Commission for Suicide Prevention. The report found that in those three months, a crisis hotline run by Puerto Rico's health department received more than 3,000 calls from people who said they had attempted suicide — a 246 percent increase from the same period the previous year, Vox said.
In the same period, the hotline also received more than 9,600 calls from people who reported suicidal thoughts — an 83 percent increase from a year ago. El Nuevo Día, a Puerto Rican newspaper, reported that high rates of unemployment and homelessness after Hurricane Maria were likely contributing to the mental health crisis.
Puerto Rico was hit by the Category 4 storm in September, resulting in an estimated $100 billion in damage, reports The Washington Post. The island has made some headway restoring the electrical grid and rebuilding roofs on damaged homes, though many residents are still without power. The storm's total death toll is still unknown, as a recount is set to be completed in April. Summer Meza
Google is ready to shell out $3 million in the battle against fake news.
A new project called Mediawise, which is being funded by the tech giant, aims to help teenagers identify fake news online. The Poynter Institute, a resource for journalists, will head the project, which intends to enlist the help of educators and YouTube content creators, including author John Green.
Mediawise will include a media literacy curriculum for middle and high school students and a "first-of-its-kind teen fact-checking initiative," Poynter explained. The teenaged fact checkers will work with professional journalists online to parse real news from fiction and will produce "heavily visual" reports, Poynter said, "to reach teens wherever they are consuming news."
The effort is centered on a body of research from the Stanford History Education Group that shows that "despite being constantly online, the vast majority of teenagers are unable to correctly evaluate the credibility of online news and information," Poynter said. Adults, Poynter added, "didn't do much better."
Poynter is hoping to engage 1 million students with Mediawise, with at least 50 percent coming from "underserved or low-income" communities. Google's $3 million investment in the project will come over the course of two years. Also Tuesday, the company announced its larger $300 million Google News Initiative, which is an effort to "strengthen quality journalism" through new tools and partnerships with news organizations, per CNN. Mary Catalfamo
New research suggests that the key to understanding obesity might be hidden in your taste buds.
In a study published Tuesday in the journal PLOS Biology, scientists discovered that mice that were fed a high-fat diet lost about 25 percent of their taste buds in just eight weeks, Science News reported.
Taste buds are clusters of cells on the tongue that help the brain identify flavors, Pacific Standard reported. Although taste buds have a natural life span of about 10 days, in mice with high-fat diets, new taste buds weren't being produced nearly fast enough to replace the old ones as they died off.
This research suggests that obesity might be part of a dangerous, self-fulfilling cycle: Because taste plays a significant role in the amount of satisfaction we get from food, people with a dulled sense of taste may naturally seek out more food to appease their appetites. Robin Dando, one of the co-authors of the study, told Pacific Standard that learning more about this phenomenon could help treat obesity in the future, by changing "how people perceive their foods."
Scientists don't yet fully understand why the obese mice weren't producing enough new taste buds, but per the study, it might have something to do with a molecule called tumor necrosis factor alpha. When the researchers repeated their study with mice that couldn't produce that molecule, the mice who were fed high-fat diets still gained weight, but their taste buds reproduced just like their normally-fed counterparts, Pacific Standard reported.
America can't 'dictate how other countries operate,' Sarah Sanders says about the Russian election. But that's kind of our thing.
Putting "Russia" and "elections" in the same sentence makes for a touchy subject, given the country's spotty record of voting integrity. So it's no wonder that a reporter asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders whether Russia's elections were "free and fair" in Tuesday's press briefing, in light of reports that President Trump called Russian President Vladimir Putin to congratulate him on winning re-election.
"We don't get to dictate how other countries operate," Sanders responded.
Q: Does the White House believe the election in Russia was free and fair?
Sanders: "We're focused on our elections, we don't get to dictate how other countries operate" pic.twitter.com/tU2IU5uoe5
— BuzzFeed News (@BuzzFeedNews) March 20, 2018
All well and good — except dictating how other countries operate is kind of what the U.S. is known for. For example, 15 years ago today, U.S. forces invaded Iraq en route to deposing its leader, Saddam Hussein.
Want another example? We've got you covered. Kathryn Krawczyk
1. The Roosevelt Corollary: Teddy Roosevelt whipped out that big stick policy to "protect" South and Central American countries from angry European creditors. Venezuela and other at-risk nations didn't end up needing much help, but the U.S. did use it as an excuse to barge in anyway.
2. The Truman Doctrine/Marshall Plan: This one boils down to the U.S. giving money to European countries if they promised to say no to communism.
3. 1953 Iranian Coup: The CIA waited 50 years to admit it organized a coup to overthrow a democratically elected prime minister in Iran.
6-49. These 44 other countries where the U.S. meddled with elections — not including the times where America just overthrew a foreign leader it didn't like.
A former Playboy model who says she had an affair with President Trump is suing the media company that paid her to stay silent about the allegations back in 2016, The New York Times reports. The model, Karen McDougal, filed a lawsuit Tuesday to be released from the agreement.
The New York Times reports that McDougal was paid $150,000 by American Media Inc., the parent company of The National Enquirer, in the summer of 2016. The media company then buried the story, never publishing her allegations. David Pecker, the CEO of AMI, once called Trump a "personal friend," Rolling Stone noted last month.
In the lawsuit filed Tuesday, McDougal argues the contract is invalid because AMI and her lawyer at the time misled her about the agreement. She also alleges that Michael Cohen, Trump's personal lawyer, was secretly involved in the negotiations to bury the story and provide payment.
McDougal's allegations and details of AMI's payment were first reported by The Wall Street Journal in November 2016, as were strikingly similar allegations from adult film star Stormy Daniels, who is also involved in litigation to speak freely about Trump. After McDougal spoke of the 2006 affair in an interview with The New Yorker published last month, AMI told her that "any further disclosures" would be considered a breach of contract and "cause considerable monetary damages," reports the Times.
United Airlines won't load any more large animals on flights until it figures out what's going wrong with its furry passengers.
Last week, a dog died after it was put in an overhead compartment. The next day, a German Shepherd from Kansas was swapped with a Great Dane and sent to Japan. Two days after that, another flight was diverted to drop off a pet that had been loaded on the wrong plane.
The mistakes prompted United to announce it would suspend PetSafe, its program for transporting large animals in climate-controlled compartments, "to conduct a thorough and systematic review" of how to improve the program. Any PetSafe reservations made before Tuesday will be honored, but the program will be shuttered from now on.
United already said it would review its animal transport system before making the announcement Tuesday. It's decided to introduce color-coded tags to identify carry-on pets as one solution to the overheard compartment debacle.
Passengers can still bring small animals as carry-ons during thePetSafereview, which United expects to wrap up by May 1, per its website. Kathryn Krawczyk