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May 14, 2019

Vaccines work, and Twitter wants you to know it.

Amid growing misinformation surrounding vaccines, Twitter has rolled out a tool that combats falsities with reliable information, it announced Friday. The tool drops a link to vaccines.gov at the top of U.S. searches for tweets related to vaccines, and links out to appropriate government information for Canada, Japan, Brazil, and several other countries.

In the past few months, the U.S. has seen the number of measles outbreaks skyrocket, putting it on track for the highest annual number of measles cases since the disease was declared "eliminated" in 2000. That's partially been furthered by people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, and who often chalk their decisions up to false associations between vaccines and autism. Conspiracy theorists and even the president have spread this misinformation, and it has proliferated widely on social media as well.

That's why Twitter on Friday quietly unveiled its small addition to its search function, which puts reliable information on top of anything questionable. Twitter also said it won't "auto-suggest queries that are likely to direct individuals to non-credible commentary and information about vaccines" in its blog post. It already works to ensure advertisements don't "contain misleading claims about the cure, treatment, diagnosis, or prevention of certain diseases and conditions," the post continues.

The move is similar to how Twitter offers resources when someone searches for tweets related to suicide or self-harm. It also has a reporting feature so users can notify a team that reviews mentions of self-harm or suicide on the site. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:48 p.m.

Joe Biden's anti-busing stance was a lot harsher than he'd like to admit.

The former vice president's opposition to federally mandated busing to integrate schools during his early senatorial career hit the mainstream in last month's Democratic primary debates, when Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) revealed how she'd benefited from busing as a child. That sparked the The New York Times' deep dive into "how Joe Biden became the Democrats' anti-busing crusader," which, published Monday, digs up a slew of anti-busing quotes from Biden's long political record.

Biden has tied his long civil rights record into his presidential campaign, and some black leaders in Wilmington, Delaware praised Biden for it. Yet he also "promoted nearly a dozen pieces of legislation" aimed at limiting federal busing programs, and despite his claims otherwise, outright said "I oppose busing" in 1975, the Times reports. And in 1977, Biden made a particularly questionable argument against using busing to achieve integration.

The quote comes from a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on the "busing of schoolchildren," during which Biden vehemently argued for a bill that would remove a U.S. court's power to "issue school transportation orders based on race, color, or national origin," per a congressional summary.

Biden at the June Democratic debate forcefully said he opposed federal busing but supported its use in individual school districts. That contradicts Biden's June assurance that he has "always been in favor of using federal authority to overcome state-initiated segregation." Read more about Biden's anti-busing record at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:30 p.m.

President Trump on Monday continued to defend his tweets telling four minority congresswomen to "go back" to where they came from as the House of Representatives planned to vote on a resolution condemning the remarks.

Trump during an event on Monday said that the congresswomen he targeted in the tweet, including Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), "in my opinion hate our country" and that "if they're not happy here, they can leave." Trump also said that the congresswomen "have to love our country." Asked if he's concerned about his tweets being seen as racist, including by white supremacists, Trump said he's not.

"It doesn't concern me because many people agree with me," Trump said.

Trump spoke shortly after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced that the House will consider a resolution condemning Trump's tweets, encouraging Republicans to join with Democrats in voting for it.

"The House cannot allow the president's characterization of immigrants to our country to stand," Pelosi said, The Hill reports. "Our Republican colleagues must join us in condemning the President's xenophobic tweets." Some GOP lawmakers have begun to push back on Trump's remarks, the latest being Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who in a statement on Monday afternoon said Trump's comments were "way out of line" and "he should take that down." Brendan Morrow

12:57 p.m.

After President Trump over the weekend tweeted that several minority congresswomen should "go back" to where they came from, some Republican lawmakers are beginning to criticize his remarks.

Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Twitter late on Sunday said that Trump's comments were "wrong," while Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) on Monday called them "really uncalled for" and "very disappointing," also speculating that "a good number of my Republican colleagues don't appreciate the comments as well," The Washington Post reports.

Roy and Upton were soon joined by their Republican colleague Rep. Paul Mitchell (D-Mich.), who tweeted that "we must be better than comments" like Trump's, which are "beneath leaders."

Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas) also blasted Trump's tweets as "racist" and "xenophobic" on Monday while adding that the president's behavior is "unbecoming of the leader of the free world," CNN reports. Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) said the tweet is "not reflective" of his district's values and called on Trump to "immediately disavow his comments." And Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) said Trump "was wrong" to say what he did because "three of the four were born in America," encouraging the president to critique the congresswomen for their ideas, CNN reports.

Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) is the latest Republican to speak out, saying that Trump's comments were "divisive, unnecessary and wrong," reports NBC News' Frank Thorp.

Outside of Congress, former Ohio Gov. John Kasich also condemned Trump's tweets as "deplorable and beneath the dignity of the office," reports NBC News' Kelly O'Donnell, while former Republican Sen. Jeff Flake called the remarks "vile and offensive."

These comments come after earlier silence from most Republicans and after Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) on Fox & Friends recommended that Trump "aim higher" but did not condemn the tweets, suggesting the spirit of Trump's remarks was correct because the lawmakers he was attacking "hate our own country." Trump on Monday denied that his tweets were racist. Brendan Morrow

12:21 p.m.

Immigrants across the U.S. buckled down in preparation for promised deportation raids over the weekend. They never came.

Several news reports had indicated Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers were headed to at least 10 major cities this weekend for deportation raids, with President Trump later confirming they were supposed to be a deterrent for prospective migrants. Instead, immigrant-heavy neighborhoods turned "eerily quiet" and pro-immigrant protesters took to the streets, but very few ICE agents actually came knocking, NPR reports.

ICE agents were reportedly set to single out about 2,000 migrants with deportation orders on Sunday, and Mexican officials said they were ready for the influx, per The Associated Press. Yet ICE agents were only reported at three residences in New York City, and the people there didn't open their doors, The New York Times reports. Democrats and advocates had warned immigrants not to open their doors to law enforcement without signed judicial warrants ahead of the reported operations — though the Times notes that agents sometimes devise tricky tactics to lure people outside.

Promised raids in Miami similarly "never got underway" even though some families hid in "secret shelters," the Miami Herald reports. That's because, as the Times reports, "plans for the operation were changed at the last minute" after news reports "tipped off immigrant communities about what to expect." Current and former Homeland Security officials now say that instead of one large-scale sweep, ICE will conduct smaller raids over the span of a week. That week of crackdowns reportedly started Sunday, though "individual ICE field offices were given the discretion to decide when to begin," the Times continues. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:20 p.m.

The Jeffrey Epstein case just keeps getting stranger.

During Epstein's bail hearing on Monday, federal prosecutors disclosed the contents of Epstein's safe after the FBI raided his Manhattan residences last week. Sure, they found "piles of cash." And some diamonds, too. That's to be expected.

But Alex Rossmiller, one of the prosecutors, reportedly revealed a more startling discovery.

One can only speculate about why Epstein has the passport and if he ever used it, but the enigma grows. No one can pinpoint how Epstein accrued his wealth, there are reports of a steel safe in a secretive room on his private island, and there are longstanding rumors, which may have been substantiated, that he has compiled blackmail to use against his powerful associates. Add the passport to the list.

Of course, these mysteries should not overshadow the actual reason Epstein is in the news — he has been charged with sex trafficking minors for years and accused of sexual abuse. But perhaps as investigators been to unravel this sprawling tale, some of the weirder components will begin to shed light on Epstein's alleged criminal history. Tim O'Donnell

11:09 a.m.

Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), who have made no secret of their disdain for the industry, are continuing to go after tech companies.

The two lawmakers on Monday sent a letter to the Federal Trade Commission demanding the agency investigate how Facebook, Google, and Twitter decide what content appears on their social media platforms, Bloomberg reports.

"They control the ads we see, the news we read, and the information we digest," the Republicans wrote in the letter. "And they actively censor some content and amplify other content based on algorithms and intentional decisions that are completely nontransparent."

The request is reportedly significant, but not earth-shattering.

Still, the two senators are feeling the heat, especially from libertarians, for the letter, as Cruz has in the past. The senators' stance remains caught in what feels like a strange middle ground for the Republican party, as they're choosing between increasing regulations on business and championing free speech for conservatives — though its clear Cruz and Hawley prioritize the latter, especially at a crucial political moment.

A Senate panel will hold a hearing on social media bias on Tuesday that will feature testimony from a top Google executive. Tim O'Donnell

10:44 a.m.

There's apparently a strategy behind President Trump's racist tweets, and he's not afraid to deploy it again.

Trump on Sunday alleged in a series of tweets that "'progressive' Democratic congresswomen" should "go back" to the countries "from which they came," sparking universal Democratic condemnations of his racist implications. Yet while GOP lawmakers have either defended Trump or stayed silent on the matter, GOP pundits and even Trump's own officials have declared Trump's words a mistake that's bound to happen again.

Following Trump's attacks, Power Line blogger John Hinderaker, who calls himself "a fan of President Trump," wrote a Sunday blog calling Trump's tweets "the worst unforced error of his presidency." Another blogger for conservative site RedState said the tweets were "so self-destructive that it makes me want to beat my head against a wall."

Trump allies and officials couldn't find the reasoning behind Trump's tweets either, with an anonymous official trying to explain them before giving up and just telling Axios "it's insane." An influential Democrat meanwhile said Trump's view "is that he simply cannot go too far," and that "the line" between inflammatory statements and outright racism "doesn't exist." And as Axios puts it, "Trump allies expect this to get worse, not better."

The New York Times columnist Jonathan Weisman tweeted Monday morning that Trump's attacks "completely succeeded in drawing attention away from the conditions at detention centers on the border." Democratic strategist David Axelrod tweeted Monday to back that reasoning up. Kathryn Krawczyk

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