February 27, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions loves the drug war, and he's ready to fight it in a new theater of battle: the dark web.

Sessions' Department of Justice has announced the creation of the Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement team (super cool acronym for all the kids out there: J-CODE), which the FBI says will work on "disrupting the sale of drugs via the darknet and dismantling criminal enterprises that facilitate this trafficking."

How that will happen, FiveThirtyEight reports, is not clear. Past FBI efforts in this area have been less than stellar. For example, the American Civil Liberties Union obtained FBI documents in 2016 that revealed that the agency took control of about half of the dark web's child pornography sites and then continued to operate them out of federal facilities in an attempt to catch their anonymous users. In many of the resulting trials, the evidence collected via this ethical morass was deemed inadmissible.

The dark web drug war will pose significant challenges beyond those inherent in the larger war on drugs, which after half a century shows no effect on addiction rates. First, when one dark web site goes down, another reliably springs up to take its place. And second, as cybersecurity researcher Eric Jardine told FiveThirtyEight, this issue is "global in terms of its potential spread and facilitation." The internet is everywhere, so fighting dark net drug sales just in the U.S. is likely a futile project. Bonnie Kristian

2:26 p.m.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) suggested he isn't pleased with the current state of the Republican Party on Sunday, telling NBC News' Chuck Todd that it "bothers me" that Republicans have to "swear fealty" to former President Donald Trump "or you get kicked out." The GOP, he said, has become a "circular firing squad where we're just attacking members of our party instead of focusing on solving problems" or debating the Biden administration on policy.

Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), another Republican who isn't afraid to criticize Trump, had a different analogy for his party: the Titanic. "We're ... in the middle of this slow sink," he told CBS News' John Dickerson, later arguing that many of his colleagues trying to move on to quickly from reckoning with the Jan. 6 Capitol riot. Tim O'Donnell

1:52 p.m.

Minneapolis Federal Reserve President Neel Kashkari doesn't think people should "overreact" to the disappointing April jobs report, but he acknowledged the "bottom line" is that "we are still somewhere between 8 and 10 million jobs below where we were before" the coronavirus pandemic struck. "We still are in a deep hole," he told CBS News' John Dickerson on Sunday's edition of Face the Nation. "And we still need to do everything we can to put those folks back to work more quickly."

So how did economists' predictions miss by so much? Kashkari explained that the pandemic "is unlike any other shock in our lifetimes" because the economic recovery relies so heavily on individuals' assessments of personal safety. "It's very hard to model that out," Kashkari said, noting that people have spent so much time "conditioning" themselves to take precautions. Now, though, "we have to start to change what we've been telling people," he said, agreeing with an earlier point from former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb. "People feeling safe about the virus" will ultimately drive the economic recovery, Kashkari said. Tim O'Donnell

1:01 p.m.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made public the inevitable on Sunday, telling Fox News' Maria Bartiromo that he supports Rep. Elise Stefanik's (R-N.Y.) bid for GOP conference chair.

The No. 3 House position is currently held by Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), but she appears to be on the way out after clashing with many of her colleagues over the future of the party, particularly regarding whether former President Donald Trump should play a role. Cheney is one of the most prominent Trump critics within the GOP, and while McCarthy maintained his support for her for a while, he has recently made it clear that he considers her stance to be a hindrance to party unity, which is why he's backing Stefanik, a Trump loyalist, albeit one with a much more mixed voting record than the consistently conservative Cheney.

Stefanik thanked McCarthy for his endorsement. The conference chair vote is expected to take place Wednesday. Tim O'Donnell

12:35 p.m.

What a difference a week makes.

Last Saturday, trainer Bob Baffert was celebrating his record-breaking seventh Kentucky Derby victory. Flash forward to Sunday, and he's been suspended from entering horses at Churchill Downs, which announced Sunday that Baffert's 2021 Derby-winning trainee, Medina Spirit, tested positive for the anti-inflammatory drug betamethasone. The steroid isn't completely banned in Kentucky horse racing, but Medina Spirit's post-race blood sample reportedly was found to have double the legal threshold, which is why Baffert received the punishment.

It appears Medina Spirit will be tested again, so the win is still valid, but if the findings are upheld the horse and Baffert will be stripped of their victory, and Mandaloun, the runner-up, will be crowned.

Baffert has denied involvement and said he's not sure how Medina Spirit could have tested positive. "This shouldn't have happened," he said. "There's a problem somewhere. It didn't come from us."

It's not the first time one of Baffert's horses have registered positive drug tests, however. The New York Times has reported that his horses have failed at least 29 tests in his 40-decade career, including two last year. Read more at The Courier-Journal and The Associated Press. Tim O'Donnell

11:10 a.m.

A bombing at a girls' school in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Saturday killed at least 50 people, many of them students between 11 and 15 years old, The Associated Press reports. Tariq Arian, a spokesman for Afghanistan's Interior Ministry, said more than 100 people were wounded in the attack, but cautioned that casualty figures could still rise.

The Taliban denied responsibility for and condemned the attack, which took place as the U.S. continues its withdrawal from Afghanistan, although Arian blamed the group. The bombing occurred in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood, where many residents are of the ethnic Hazara minority, a mostly Shiite group that has been targeted by Islamic State loyalists in the past.

Frustrated by what they consider inadequate government protection, Hazara leaders from Dasht-e-Barchi met Sunday and decided to create their own protection force, which would be deployed outside schools, mosques, and public facilities, AP reports. The force would cooperate with the government. Read more at The Associated Press and The New York Times. Tim O'Donnell

8:25 a.m.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk poked fun at himself during his Saturday Night Live monologue, joking about his lack of "intonational variation," his marijuana-themed appearance on Joe Rogan's podcast, the spelling of his son's name, and some of his odder tweets.

"Look, I know I sometimes say or post strange things," Musk said, seemingly addressing the controversy surrounding the show's choice to have him host. "But that's just how my brain works. To anyone I've offended, I just want to say: I re-invented electric cars and I'm sending people to Mars in a rocket ship. Did you also think I was gonna be a chill, normal dude?"

Musk also revealed he has Asperger's syndrome, reportedly marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the diagnosis. Watch the full monologue below. Tim O'Donnell

7:46 a.m.

China's Long March 5B rocket crashed back to Earth on Sunday morning, landing in the Indian Ocean just west of the Maldives, the China Manned Space Emergency Office announced. Most of the debris from the rocket, which was launched in April, reportedly burned up when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere.

The risk of the rocket causing significant damage was considered low, but experts were concerned because the 40,000-pound Long March was out of control and traveling at a high speed, making it very difficult to predict where it would land.

While it appears the worst was avoided (it's unclear if any debris landed on the Maldives, CNN notes), NASA Administrator Bill Nelson still expressed displeasure with Beijing. "Spacefaring nations must minimize the risks to people and property on Earth of re-entries of space objects and maximize transparency regarding those operations," he said. "China is failing to meet responsible standards regarding their space debris."

Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who tracked the rocket, tweeted that regardless of the outcome, China was still "reckless." Read more at CNN and NBC News. Tim O'Donnell

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