February 1, 2019

Smartphones are terrible — present company excluded, of course — and addictive, and studies are showing that those little screens in our pockets are detrimental to our mental and physical wellbeing. This is especially true for children and teenagers. "Smartphones have made our kids dumber — it's measurable," Tucker Carlson said on his Fox News show Thursday night. "But they've also made our kids much less happy." Suicide rates and mental illness in teens "began to surge right around 2012," he added, "just as smartphones and social media became universal."

"Smartphone use makes your kids sadder, slower, and more isolated and, over time, can kill them," though if you've never tried "taking an iPhone away from a seventh-grader ... it's like trying to get a junkie into rehab," Carlson said. But he had a solution: "Parents need help, and there is no reason that the Congress, which made smartphones possible in the first place, shouldn't be part of the solution. So here's an idea: Ban smartphone use for children, pass a federal law tomorrow."

Comedian Neal Brennan agreed with Carlson about the awfulness of smartphones on Thursday's Daily Show. And like the generally anti-regulation, small-government Carlson, Brennan's solution relied on legislation. Unlike Carlson, he wasn't serious, probably. "I got my inspiration from another problem: guns," he said. "There are a bunch of great gun control ideas that we're never gonna use. That's when it hit me: What America needs is common-sense phone control."

"Our phones are just like guns: You think it's a good idea to have one, but statistically you're more likely to use it to hurt yourself," Brennan said, and he laid out phone-specific waiting periods, mental-health checks, and background checks. But like that seventh-grader, Brennan did not react well when Trevor Noah suggested he give up his phone first. "Typical liberal," Brennan said. "Trevor, you'll get my phone when you pry it from my cold, dead hands." Peter Weber

5:24 p.m.

Mark Zuckerberg is firing up the grill for the GOP.

The Facebook founder and CEO has received a lot of flack, including from President Trump and GOP lawmakers, for apparently holding a bias against conservative viewpoints. So in what seems to be an attempt to patch things up, Zuckerberg has been inviting conservative commentators and even one lawmaker to "informal talks and small, off-the-record dinners" over the past few months to discuss "free speech" and "partnerships," Politico reports.

Previous reports have indicated that Zuckerberg has been meeting for years with conservatives to "build trust" — not that it has curbed allegations of bias. But Politico's report details just who those conservatives are and how they feel about the meetings. Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Zuckerberg met up earlier this year after Graham suggested Facebook had become a monopoly, a spokesperson confirmed. Zuckerberg also reportedly met with Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who suggested Zuckerberg has led to "the death of free speech in America," and conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, who has called out purported "big tech bias."

Calrson and Hewitt declined to comment to Politico, but other conservatives who've talked to Zuckerberg seemed to be happy with the results. "I'm under no illusions that he's a conservative but I think he does care about some of our concerns," one person familiar with gatherings said. Another person said Zuckerberg is making a "genuine" effort to "make things right by conservatives."

Read more at Politico, and find Zuckerberg's response below. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:02 p.m.

President Trump has gone full bipartisan.

Matching calls from both sides of the aisle, Trump announced Monday that he would soon authorize sanctions "against current and former officials" in Turkey and "any persons contributing to Turkey's destabilizing actions in northeast Syria," as well as other tariffs against the country. The move comes after the U.S. withdrew troops from the Kurdish-held area and Turkey quickly invaded.

Trump's promised executive order includes an increase on steel tariffs back to 50 percent, "the level prior to reduction in May," a Monday statement from Trump read. The U.S. Commerce Department will "also immediately stop negotiations" with Turkey regarding a $100 billion trade deal. All of this will let the U.S. punish "those who may be involved in serious human rights abuses, obstructing a ceasefire," and other "threatening the peace, security, or stability in Syria," per the statement.

Talk of Turkey sanctions began last week when Trump unexpectedly announced he'd remove U.S. troops from the Kurdish-held area of Syria and essentially okay Turkey's imminent invasion of the area. Shortly after, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) agreed they'd introduce sanctions on Turkey if the country attacked the Kurds, which it promptly did. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:54 p.m.

A day after former Vice President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, announced that he was resigning from a Chinese private equity firm and that he would no longer sit on the board or work for any foreign company, the elder Biden unveiled a sweeping ethics agenda as part of his presidential campaign.

The plan, though, did not mention his son, whose foreign business dealings have raised some eyebrows and, well, conspiracy theories, despite no evidence of any actual wrongdoing. Instead, Biden went after President Trump and his administration, which he dubbed "most corrupt" in modern history. Like other Democratic candidates who have released ethics plans, Biden addressed issues such as campaign finance, tax returns, and lobbying.

Additionally, one of the points in the agenda seeks to prevent the president from "improperly interfering in federal investigations and prosecutions." If Biden is elected to office, that is, he will work to ensure that he and any succeeding presidents don't have too much say about "who or what to investigate or prosecute." While this addresses federal investigations, rather than foreign ones, it's worth noting that Biden and his son were the subject of unsubstantiated allegations of corruption in Ukraine by members of the Trump administration, which, in turn, led to Trump asking Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate them.

Biden also plans to eliminate a loophole in existing financial disclosure law that allows candidates and public officials to transfer personal assets into trusts controlled by family members and close friends, assuring voters that "any member of his administration who is a beneficiary of a discretionary trust" will "disclose all of its holdings." Read the full plan here. Tim O'Donnell

3:41 p.m.

A Fort Worth police officer who killed a black woman with her 8-year-old nephew in the room resigned Monday and could see criminal charges.

The officer, who Police Chief Ed Kraus identified as Aaron Dean, shot 28-year-old Atatiana Jefferson through a window at her house around 2:30 a.m. Saturday. Kraus said in a Monday press conference that he was going to fire Dean, but that the ex-officer had resigned before he could do so. Dean is now facing a criminal investigation, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports.

Neighbors of Jefferson's called for a welfare check at her home on Saturday morning because the home's doors were open and its lights had been on for hours, per The Dallas Morning News. The officers who responded didn't know it was a non-emergency call, Kraus said. When they arrived, Dean did not announce himself as a police officer, but shouted at Jefferson to put up her hands and then quickly shot her through a bedroom window, a body-cam video of the situation shows. Dean was set to be interviewed regarding the shooting Monday, but "resigned before his opportunity to be cooperative," reflecting a "dishonorable discharge," Kraus said Monday.

The news has sparked an ongoing stream of protests and rallies demanding justice for the Jeffersons. "Why this man is not in handcuffs right now is a source of continued agitation for this family and for this community, and it must be addressed," S. Lee Merritt, a lawyer for the family, told The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:10 p.m.

It appears that President Trump was a bit off the mark Monday morning when he tweeted a theory that Kurdish forces were releasing prisoners with ties to the Islamic State in an attempt to get the U.S. to continue fighting alongside them. Trump's suspicions were likely derived from the fact that the Kurds, longtime U.S. allies in the Middle East, were disappointed in Washington for removing U.S. troops from the region, providing Turkey — which considers Kurdish forces a national security threat — an opening to invade.

U.S. officials have said that prisoners with ISIS ties are being deliberately released, but it's actually Turkish proxy forces in the Free Syrian Army — a decentralized rebel group that has been linked to extremists groups and was once recruited by the CIA to aid the U.S. in its fight against ISIS — who are behind it, rather than the Kurds, Foreign Policy reports. The Free Syrian Army has also been accused of executing Kurdish prisoners and killing unarmed civilians.

As for the Kurds, one U.S. official said the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces have not abandoned or released any prisoners with ISIS ties and, in some cases, the SDF has reportedly moved detainees to other facilities further south.

Subsequently, Trump's theory is not sitting well with U.S. and Kurdish forces. "That has enraged our forces in Syria," another senior U.S. administration official said. "Kurds are still defending our bases. Incredibly reckless and dishonest thing to say." Tim O'Donnell

3:09 p.m.

It's been more than seven months since former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced he wouldn't run for president in 2020, but he's reportedly still thinking about doing it anyway.

Bloomberg has been telling associates recently that "Joe Biden's recent struggles against Sen. Elizabeth Warren are making him rethink his decision to stay out of the 2020 Democratic primary," CNBC reports.

“I think it's something he wants," an ally of Bloomberg's told CNBC. "He has not been shy about that."

There's a catch, though: In this hypothetical scenario, Biden would apparently need to drop out of the race early on in the primaries. "Nothing can happen unless Biden drops out, and that's not happening anytime soon," the Bloomberg ally told CNBC.

Axios similarly reported way back in April that Bloomberg would reconsider his decision not to run if Biden didn't get into the race. Biden did announce his candidacy soon after, but with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) overtaking him in some national polls recently, Bloomberg is apparently doing that reconsideration as we speak, even with just four months left to go until the Iowa caucuses.

"He's like everyone else," a Bloomberg associate told CNBC. "They can't get it out of their system." He can't get teasing the increasingly unlikely idea of a late entrance into the race out of his system, at least. Brendan Morrow

2:17 p.m.

As she seeks sole custody of their daughter, Jeremy Renner's ex-wife has reportedly accused him of threatening to kill her.

The Avengers actor is currently in a custody battle with Sonni Pacheco, who TMZ writes Monday is accusing him of "rhapsodizing about killing" her at a club while he was "coked up and drunk." Later that night, Renner allegedly "put a gun in his mouth, threatened to kill himself, and fired the gun into the ceiling" while his 6-year-old daughter, Ava, was sleeping in her bedroom.

Pacheco also claims in the legal documents that Renner was once overheard by their nanny saying he was going to kill Pacheco at her home because "it was better that Ava had no parents than to have [Pacheco] as a mother," TMZ reports. Additionally, she alleges Renner has often been under the influence while with their daughter and left cocaine on his bathroom counter, where she could have reached it. Renner and Pacheco married in 2014, with Pacheco filing for divorce less than a year later.

In a statement to TMZ, a representative for Renner said, "The well-being of his daughter Ava has always been and continues to be the primary focus for Jeremy. This is a matter for the court to decide. It's important to note the dramatizations made in Sonni's declaration are a one-sided account made with a specific goal in mind." Renner himself has yet to speak publicly about the report. Brendan Morrow

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