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December 5, 2018

One person is in critical condition after a robot in a New Jersey Amazon warehouse punctured a can of bear repellent spray, sending concentrated capsaicin — the major ingredient in pepper spray — into the air.

Officials said 24 employees in Robbinsville Township were sent to area hospitals on Wednesday morning, while 30 more were treated at the warehouse. "All of the impacted employees have been or are expected to be released from hospital within the next 24 hours," Amazon said in a statement Wednesday night. "The safety of our employees is always our top priority and a full investigation is already underway. We'd like to thank all of the first responders who helped with today's incident."

Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale, and Department Store Union, said in a statement that the robot "put humans in life-threatening danger today, the effects of which could be catastrophic, and the long-term effects for 80-plus workers are unknown. The richest company in the world cannot continue to be let off the hook for putting hard-working people's lives at risk." Amazon, he added, must be "held accountable for these and so many more dangerous labor practices." Catherine Garcia

12:30 p.m.

The LGBTQ community celebrated when Palm Springs, California filled its city council with openly LGBTQ members last year, but that celebration is pretty much over.

The council — made up of three gay men, one bisexual woman, and one transgender woman — represents a city that's majority gay and lesbian. But its white faces don't reflect the fact that the city is also 25 percent Latino, leading to a series of "internal and external" challenges that threaten the council's future, The Washington Post reports.

Palm Springs' city council "has had a gay and lesbian majority for a decade, but very few women have served in recent years," the Post writes. The city is often characterized as a retirement community, prompting "the question of age diversity" on the council, the Post continues. Yet the biggest problem has stemmed from an all-white council representing a city with an 80-percent Latino student body in its public schools. After last year's election, a Latino civil rights group threatened a lawsuit over Palm Springs' at-large voting system, saying it "dilutes the ability of Latinos to elect candidates of their choice."

The council stymied the lawsuit by voting last year to hold council elections by district instead of of city-wide. It'll also hold elections by those newly defined districts later this year. Two members, including Mayor Robert Moon, opposed the move, seeing as they live in the same district, along with a third councilmember. Only one of them — Geoff Kors, who voted for the districts — has said so far he'll run again. And in the newly-created District 1, Palm Springs native Grace Garner, who is a straight Latina woman, is likely to join the force. Read more at The Washington Post. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:11 a.m.

The publisher of a small-town newspaper in Linden, Alabama, doubled down on Monday when pressed by the Montgomery Advertiser about a frightening editorial that appeared in his paper last week. The editorial called for the Ku Klux Klan to "night ride again" and "raid the gated communities" in Washington, D.C., in response to politicians "plotting to raise taxes."

Goodloe Sutton first confirmed to the Advertiser that he was indeed the author of the no-byline piece and then reiterated his stance on the matter, going so far as to suggest lynching "socialist-communists" in both the Democratic and Republican parties. "We'll get the hemp ropes out, loop them over a tall limb and hang all of them," he said. He also defended the KKK, saying "they didn't kill but a few people."

Sutton's editorial actually ran on Feb. 14, but the Democrat-Reporter does not have a website, which likely allowed it to go unnoticed for the first few days. But two watchful student journalists from Auburn University, Mikayla Burns and Chip Brownlee, spotted Sutton's words in the physical paper and began to circulate the photos via Twitter, reports the Advertiser.

Brownlee than scoured through older editions of the Democrat-Reporter. His findings, published by the Alabama Political Reporter, showed that last week's was far from the first time that Sutton had published content like this.

Sen. Doug Jones (D-Ala.) called for Sutton's immediate resignation and deemed the editorial "disgusting."

In 1998, Sutton, who has been at the Democrat-Reporter since 1964 (his family purchased the newspaper in 1917), was commended by the likes of The New York Times and a member of Congress for his paper's reporting, which helped bring down a corrupt local sheriff. Tim O'Donnell

10:34 a.m.

Wisconsin should legalize medical marijuana and decriminalize the use, growth, and sale of small amounts of recreational marijuana, Gov. Tony Evers (D) said Monday.

"As a cancer survivor, I know the side effects of a major illness can make everyday tasks a challenge," Evers said in his pitch for medical legalization. "People shouldn't be treated as criminals for accessing a desperately-needed medication that can alleviate their suffering."

The new governor's case for recreational decriminalization emphasized its implications for criminal justice reform. "Wisconsin has the highest incarceration rate in the country for black men," Evers noted in a press release, "and drug-related crimes account for as many as 75 to 85 percent of all inmates in our prisons."

His proposal would bar law enforcement agencies in Wisconsin from creating their own rules and penalties to effectively reverse decriminalization. And it would expunge the records of those who have completed their sentences for past convictions of possession, production, or distribution of 25 grams of marijuana or less, which is the quantity this proposal would decriminalize.

The medical legalization portion of Evers' plan stands the better chance of success in Wisconsin's state legislature, where Republicans hold the majority in both houses. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R) has indicated support for medical marijuana but said Monday he does not support recreational decriminalization.

Michigan is at present the only Midwestern state with legal recreational marijuana use, though Minnesota, Illinois, and Ohio have legalized medical marijuana. Bonnie Kristian

10:30 a.m.

Sen. Bernie Sanders' (I-Vt.) announcement that he is running for president has already earned a response from President Trump's 2020 campaign.

A statement from the campaign's press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany, says that Sanders has "already won" the debate in the Democratic primaries because "every candidate is embracing his brand of socialism." It goes on to characterize him as being in favor of "sky-high tax rates, government-run health care, and coddling dictators like those in Venezuela" and says that "only President Trump will keep America free, prosperous, and safe."

This pushback is notable in part because, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, this is only the second time the Trump campaign has released a statement in response to a Democratic candidate jumping into the 2020 race. The first was released ahead of Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass) announcement, with a statement at the time similarly saying she's in favor of "socialist ideas." Both statements end with almost the exact same sentence, with the Warren one reading, "Only under President Trump's leadership will America continue to grow safer, secure, and more prosperous."

2020 announcements from candidates like Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) didn't garner statements from the Trump campaign, although Trump did tweet about the latter, saying that in her speech she "looked like a Snowman(woman)!" Brendan Morrow

10:13 a.m.

The House's top Republican won't give Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) his committee assignments back. So King's appealing to an even higher power.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) revoked King's committee spots after King made racist remarks to The New York Times last month. King tied the issue into a prayer for McCarthy when speaking to supporters on Monday, saying he hoped McCarthy would "separate his ego from this issue and look at it objectively," the Sioux City Journal reports.

In the Times interview, King pondered the terms "white nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization," asking, "how did that language become offensive?" The House nearly unanimously condemned King's language and some even called for him to step down. McCarthy, meanwhile, announced the House Steering Committee decided King could not serve on any committees.

King defended his comments yet again on Monday, alleging the Times reporter "'at best' misquoted him," the Sioux City Journal writes. King also declared "the language police are out there day after day ... searching the internet for something to be offended by," and said McCarthy made a "bad decision ... based upon one comment misquoted in The New York Times, reported as fact."

Even before January's situation, King has called for a "homogenous" America and has occasionally retweeted white nationalists. Perhaps most notably, he's said that "we can't restore our civilization with somebody else's babies" — something David Duke really seemed to like. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:08 a.m.

A collection of about 800 emails shared with Politico by a watchdog organization called American Oversight shows coordination between the offices of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her husband, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

On at least 10 occasions, politicians, business executives, and lobbyists from the couple's home state of Kentucky have been referred by McConnell's office to Chao's office, where a meeting with the transportation secretary has been arranged. Some, but not all, of these meetings were followed by the Kentucky constituent successfully obtaining their requested grant or other assistance from Chao's department.

Politico has not obtained records to show whether Chao is more responsive to this sort of request from McConnell's office than from other congressional offices or whether she meets with Kentuckians more often than people from other states. Nevertheless, American Oversight concluded Chao has "built a political operation in her office to favor Kentucky," such that constituent requests are processed through "a normal channel and a Kentucky channel," with the latter receiving extra care.

The Department of Transportation (DOT) denied the accusation of favoritism, noting that any federal agency "would be responsive to the requests of the majority leader of the U.S. Senate," and that Chao's office "is responsive to all members [of Congress] and their staff." An unnamed Democratic Senate staffer agreed, telling Politico "DOT will talk to anyone," and "people know they can pick up the phone and call DOT themselves." Bonnie Kristian

10:07 a.m.

Developing new policy platforms that might appeal to a larger swath of on-the-fence voters? That's not how President Trump campaigns.

Trump has more or less been gearing up for re-election already, holding rallies to excite his base. But now that the field of his potential 2020 Democratic opponents is taking shape, Trump is turning his attention to them. And he's going back to his ace-in-the-hole: nicknames.

Two anonymous sources told The Associated Press that the president has tested out some new monikers for the Democrats on them. Besides using his aides and advisers as a focus group, he's also using his rallies as a workshop for other "lines of attack" that could expose his opponent's "vulnerabilities."

Some of the candidates, like Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), have long been on the receiving end of Trump's insults. But others — such as Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) — have so far proven themselves immune to the president's infamous smears. Either way, it appears that it'll soon be time to update your running political nickname list. Tim O'Donnell

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