June 20, 2018

President Trump has signed an executive order reversing his administration's own policy of separating children from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. "We're going to have a lot of happy people," said Trump, who in the past week doubled-down on his false claims that there was nothing he could do to stop it.

The executive order is titled "Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation," despite the family separation policy not being a law; it was introduced by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in May. The executive order states: "It is ... the policy of this administration to maintain family unity, including by detaining alien families together where appropriate and consistent with law and available resources." The New York Times more critically described the order as allowing authorities to detain "families together indefinitely."

Trump's executive order has to contend with the 1997 Flores settlement, which prohibits the government from holding minors in immigration detention for more than 20 days, regardless of whether they are with a parent or not. The order appears to declare a challenge to the settlement: "The Attorney General shall promptly file a request with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California to modify the Settlement Agreement in Flores v. Sessions ... in a manner that would permit the [homeland security secretary], under present resource constraints, to detain alien families together throughout the pendency of criminal proceedings for improper entry or any removal or other immigration proceedings." Read the full order here. Jeva Lange

11:12 p.m.

Rallies were held in dozens of cities across Russia on Wednesday in support of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is now in his third week of a hunger strike.

OVD-Info, a monitoring group, said 1,496 protesters were arrested, including 662 in St. Petersburg. The rallies coincided with Russian President Vladimir Putin's annual address to the country, and while he did not mention Navalny, Putin did warn "whomever organizes any provocations that threaten our core security will regret this like they've never regretted anything before."

Navalny, who survived a nerve agent attack last year, was arrested in January after returning to Russia from Germany. The 44-year-old began his hunger strike over what he said was the prison's failure to properly treat him for back and leg pain. Navalny's allies say he is in declining health and at risk of cardiac arrest and kidney failure, and they want him to be able to see his own doctors. Russia's human rights commissioner on Tuesday said four doctors have visited Navalny, and he has no serious health problems.

Navalny's wife, Yulia, attended the Moscow rally, where supporters chanted, "Freedom to Navalny!" and "Let the doctors in!" Before the rally began, Navalny's spokeswoman, Kira Yarmysh, and ally Lyubov Sobol were detained at their homes, and Yarmysh has been jailed for 10 days after being accused of inciting protesters. "This is repression," Navalny aide Ruslan Shaveddinov tweeted. "This cannot be accepted. We need to fight this darkness." Catherine Garcia

9:59 p.m.

President Biden is preparing to announce that the atrocities committed against Armenian civilians in the early 20th century were an act of genocide, officials familiar with the matter told The New York Times.

An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Empire amid a systemic death march that began during World War I, historians say. Biden is expected to make his declaration on Saturday, the annual day of remembrance for the victims. Turkey has said Armenians were killed amid clashes with Ottoman forces, but denies that the death toll topped 1 million and a genocide occurred.

At least two dozen countries have recognized the killings as a genocide, and in 2019, Congress passed nonbinding resolutions doing the same, but no sitting U.S. president has explicitly referred to an Armenian genocide, with the exception of a passing written reference by Ronald Reagan in 1981. Already, tensions are high between the U.S. and Turkey, with the countries clashing on everything from human rights to the situation in Syria. On Tuesday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told a reporter, "Statements that have no legal binding will have no benefit, but they will harm ties. If the United States wants to worsen ties, the decision is theirs."

Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian told told the Times on Wednesday that "recognition by the United States will be a kind of moral beacon to many countries. This is not about Armenia and Turkey. This is about our obligation to recognize and condemn the past, present, and future genocide." Catherine Garcia

8:24 p.m.

With a 51-49 vote, the Senate on Wednesday confirmed Vanita Gupta as associate attorney general.

As promised, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) joined the Democrats in voting for Gupta, who is now the first woman of color to serve as associate attorney general. In this role, Gupta is the No. 3 Justice Department official, after Attorney General Merrick Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco.

Gupta led the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division during the Obama administration, and Republicans accused her of having "radical" positions on topics like drug legalization and funding for police. Democrats fired back, saying her nomination was endorsed by several law enforcement organizations.

"We never have had a former civil rights attorney serving in such a position of prominence at the Justice Department," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said. "In that sense alone, Ms. Gupta would bring a long overdue perspective to our federal law enforcement agency." Catherine Garcia

7:36 p.m.

After a tough fall and winter, with record numbers of COVID-19 patients hospitalized in intensive care units and a high death toll, California now has the lowest coronavirus case rate in the continental United States.

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows California's seven-day rate of new cases is 40.3 per 100,000 people, compared to the nationwide rate of 135.3 per 100,000 people. Hawaii is faring slightly better, at 39.1 cases per 100,000 people, while Michigan is continuing to struggle with a surge in cases and is seeing 483 cases per 100,000 people.

California is home to more than 39.5 million people, and over the last week, the state reported an average of 2,320 new cases per day, down 13 percent from two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Times reports. During the winter, there were more than 40,000 new cases being reported a day, and at the height of the surge, 600 deaths were recorded daily. Today, an average of 81 deaths are being reported a day, and the number of COVID-19 patients in the hospital is at its lowest rate since last spring, the Times reports.

Californians are being urged to keep wearing masks, wash their hands, and social distance, and those measures, as well as an effort to quickly vaccinate residents, is helping matters. So far, 27 million vaccine doses have been distributed in the state, with 44 percent of Californians having received at least one shot and more than 25 percent fully vaccinated.

"All of the information currently available to us does indicate that our vaccines appear to be highly effective in preventing transmission, hospitalizations, and deaths, even with the increased presence of variants," Los Angeles County Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said on Wednesday. Read more at the Los Angeles Times. Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m.

It's an honor just to be nominated … because you still get a goody bag worth six figures.

The Academy Awards are this Sunday, but no matter who gets a trophy, all Best Actor and Actress, Best Director, and Supporting Actor and Actress nominees get an unofficial "Everyone Wins" gift bag, courtesy Distinctive Assets.

According to Vogue Australia, highlights include: A three-night stay at a lighthouse in Sweden; a four-night stay at a luxury spa; a plastic surgery session; a PETA emergency hammer designed to save dogs from hot cars; a home renovation project; vape cartridges; vitamin IV infusions; and, because it's 2021, an NFT.

Big ticket items are accompanied by a plethora of down-to-earth gifts, like cookies, alcohol, and sweatpants. Thank god for the goody bags, how would celebs have been able to afford this stuff otherwise?

Read more at Vogue Australia and HelloGiggles. Taylor Watson

5:32 p.m.

Dave Bautista is playing Bane! And no, excuse you, it doesn't happen to matter that there are no upcoming Batman movies featuring the villain, nor that there aren't any plans to otherwise bring back the character made famous by Tom Hardy in The Dark Knight Rises.

"I want to play Bane so bad I went to Warner Bros., had an appointment with them, had an appointment with DC, walked in the door and said, 'I want to play Bane.' I'm not kidding," the retired wrestler said, reports Indiewire. Notably, that is, uh, not how that usually works. "They were a little like, 'Whoa, we're not even casting Bane,'" Bautista said. "I was like, 'I don't care, I'm playing him.'" Now that's manifesting.

Read more at Indiewire and Jezebel. Jeva Lange

5:15 p.m.

Gen. Arnold Bunch, the commander of the Air Force Material Command, announced Wednesday that Maj. Gen. William Cooley of the AFMC is headed to court-martial on a sexual assault charge. The decision marks the first time an Air Force general has faced such a trial, Military.com reports.

Bunch said "this was not a decision made lightly," but he believes it was the right call after reviewing "all of the evidence from the investigation" and a preliminary hearing.

Cooley, the former head of the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, has been accused of making "unwanted sexual advances by kissing and touching a female victim," who is not a service member or Defense Department employee, in August 2018, Military.com reports. A charge sheet from last November obtained by Military.com provided more specific details about the off-duty incident, including the accusation that Cooley kissed the woman on the mouth without her consent. Read more at Military.com. Tim O'Donnell

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