June 6, 2019

YouTube says it plans to "reexamine" its harassment policies after coming under fire for its response to a conservative commentator's use of homophobic insults in his videos.

The company faced pressure to take action against conservative host Steven Crowder after Vox's Carlos Maza compiled instances of Crowder attacking him in videos by mocking his sexuality and ethnicity. Crowder in some of the videos also wears a T-shirt with a gay slur on it, which he also sells on his store. YouTube came to the decision that Crowder's videos did not violate its policies, but on Wednesday decided to suspend monetization on his channel.

YouTube attempted to explain its thinking in a subsequent blog post, saying that "using racial, homophobic, or sexist epithets on their own would not necessarily violate" its harassment or hate speech policies and that it's only "when the primary purpose of the video is hate or harassment" that a video would be removed.

But in the coming months, YouTube says it's going to be "taking a hard look at our harassment policies with an aim to update them," with the company saying it plans to consult experts, creators, journalists, and victims of harassment.

It remains to be seen how this closer look might alter YouTube's harassment policies, but YouTube on Wednesday had previously announced new policies banning all supremacist content and videos promoting hoaxes. As BuzzFeed News reports, however, this initially had some unintended consequences, with a history teacher's channel being removed because it had Nazi propaganda on it for educational purposes. YouTube later brought the account back online. Brendan Morrow

6:48 a.m.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi made a linguistic shift from "quid pro quo" to "bribery" last week. She explained at a press conference Friday that when discussing the possible impeachment of President Trump, often "we're talking Latin around here," from "'E Pluribus Unum,' from many one," to "quid pro quo," but "bribery" is actually "in the Constitution attached to the impeachment proceedings." It is also English, which is helpful for explaining things to an English-speaking electorate. But in the same press conference, Pelosi dipped into Latin derivatives — and then explained what she meant to an audience of one.

"If the president has something that is exculpatory — Mr. President, that means you have anything that shows your innocence — then he should make that known and that's part of the inquiry. And so far, we haven't seen that, but we welcome it."

Pelosi, like any Catholic who grew up before Vatican II, could probably figure out what "exculpatory" means without having to consult a dictionary, but she is likely right to assume that Trump, raised in the Presbyterian tradition, has never uttered the phrase mea maxima culpa. So in an interview with CBS's Margaret Brennan for Sunday's Face the Nation, she broke down "exculpatory" into its Latin roots for any president who might be watching. If Trump "has information that is exculpatory — that means ex, taking away, culpable, blame — then we look forward to seeing it," Pelosi explained.

In both interviews, Pelosi also argued that Trump has already admitted to offenses worse than those that drove Richard Nixon to resign. So perhaps she is hoping that Trump, confronted with the prima facie evidence of his actus reus, will reflect on his culpability ex post facto, when he is president emeritus. Peter Weber

5:16 a.m.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky did not announce an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden or his son Hunter Biden before President Trump's administration belatedly released Ukrainian military aid on Sept. 11 — a point President Trump's Republican defenders frequently raise to dismiss the House impeachment inquiry. But Zelensky had been prepared to capitulate and announce the investigations in a Sept. 13 interview with CNN's Fareed Zakaria, The New York Times reported. On his show Sunday night, Zakaria recounted his "best understanding of what actually happened."

"Ever since Zelensky was elected president in April, my team and I have been interested in having him appear on the show," Zakaria began. "On Sept. 13, I met with Zelensky in Kyiv on the sidelines of a conference I was participating in. He came across as smart, energetic, and with a much sharper feel for politics than you might expect from a neophyte." In their "brief conservation," they discussed Ukraine's issues with Russia and the U.S. and also corruption, he said. Zelensky seemed "a bit distracted," but "it's a testament to Zelensky's skill that he did not let on in any way the immense pressure he was under" from Trump and his allies.

Zelensky apparently decided he would announce the Biden-linked investigation during an already schedule interview with Zakaria, "though neither he nor any of his team ever gave us any inkling of that," Zakaria said. The contours of the pressure campaign were starting to sharpen in early September, but "just imagine Zelensky's dilemma. By the time I met with him in Kyiv, he knew the aid had been released but the backstory had not yet broken into public view," and Zelensky's aides said at the time they were unsure why the aid was suddenly unfrozen," he said. When The Washington Post revealed the plot on Sept. 18, "the interview was called off — we are, of course, still trying to get it." Peter Weber

4:02 a.m.

John Oliver spent the bulk of Sunday's season finale of Last Week Tonight on something that will take place before he starts filming his next season: The decennial U.S. census. "The concept of the census is very simple," he said. "At the start of each decade, the government does a comprehensive count of every single person residing in the United States — not just citizens, not just voters, every single person. Because only by knowing how many people live where can communities effectively plan to provide things like roads, schools, and emergency services."

"However hard counting every single person seems, it's actually much harder," Oliver said. "Conducting the census is the largest and most complicated peacetime operation that the government undertakes, and the 2020 census is likely to be even more challenging than usual, for reasons ranging from budget shortfalls to active Republican meddling. So tonight, let's talk about it. And let's start with what questions are actually on the census, because a lot of people don't know what they are — and that very much includes the current president."

Oliver ran though the simple list of questions, listed some reasons people refuse to provide the government that basic information — there's a quick trip down a libertarian YouTube rabbit hole — and laid out why participation in the census is so important. He recapped the flap about the citizenship question President Trump wanted to add to the 2020 census, explained how it was revealed to be explicitly driven by a scheme to entrench Republicans in power, and lamented that the damage might already be done.

"All in all, there is a lot working against this census, and experts are worried an undercount next year is inevitable," possibly by millions of people, Oliver said. "So what can we do?" Fill out the census, mostly — and he gave some incentives, ending with how much your participation would "irritate" Trump. There's NSFW language. Watch below. Peter Weber

2:55 a.m.

A handful of Republicans went on the Sunday talk shows to defend President Trump after a rough first week of public impeachment hearings.

On Fox News, Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) argued that Democrats shouldn't impeach Trump for a scheme to withhold military aid from Ukraine until its president publicly announced investigations into Joe and Hunter Biden and the Democratic National Committee, because "it didn't happen" and "Ukraine got the money." Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio) told CNN that "it is not okay" for a U.S. president to even "raise his political opponent" in a phone call with a foreign leader, but it's also not "scandalous" because Trump acknowledged doing it when he released the partial transcript of his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) lamented the "damage that's being done to our entire country through this entire impeachment process" and argued that "it's going to be very difficult for future presidents to have a candid conversation with a world leader, because now we've set the precedent of leaking transcripts" — an apparent reference to the White House's own transcript release. The whistleblower who flagged concerns about that call, and the subsequent public revelation of the behind-the-scenes struggle over Ukraine military aid, "has exposed things that didn't need to be exposed," Johnson told host Chuck Todd.

"You seem to blame this on everybody but the president," Todd said. "I'm not blaming anybody, Chuck," Johnson replied. "Isn't the president's own behavior, which raised all of these yellow and red flags, isn't that why we're here?" Todd asked. Johnson said the whistleblower's lawyer has been advocating for impeachment since Trump's inauguration, Todd noted that Johnson suggested Hillary Clinton's impeachment before the election, and Johnson brought up former FBI agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. Johnson, protector of things that needn't be exposed, has released a year of Strzok and Page's private text messages. Peter Weber

12:56 a.m.

President Trump spent about two hours at Walter Reed Medical Center on Saturday for what he called "phase one of my yearly physical" in a tweet on Sunday. White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham said Saturday afternoon that Trump, 73, was simply "taking advantage of a free weekend here in Washington, D.C., to begin portions of his routine annual physical exam."

Unlike Trump's previous two physicals, this one wasn't on his public schedule — or, CNN reported Sunday, his private calendar. Also, NBC News notes, the previous exams didn't involve "multiple 'phases.'" The medical staff at Walter Reed "did not get a staff-wide notice about a presidential" or "VIP" visit, as would normally happen, CNN says, "indicating the visit was a non-routine visit and scheduled last minute." One source told CNN that Trump's visit was "abnormal" but he'd appeared to be in good health late Friday.

On Saturday night, Grisham told NBC News that Trump "is fine — perfectly healthy," he had undergone "a routine checkup," and "speculation of this nature is irresponsible and dangerous for this country." On Sunday, she told CNN her previous statements "were truthful and accurate" and "actively trying to find and report conspiracy theories really needs to stop."

It's certainly possible everything Grisham said is "truthful and accurate," but it's also odd, according to White House veterans:

Like "thousands of other people who have worked" in the White House, "here is something I know first-hand," tweeted James Fallows, a Carter administration alumnus: "If a president needs routine tests, there's an amply staffed medical office right inside the White House. It's a one-minute walk." Whatever Trump was doing Saturday, he added, it was "100 percent not 'routine.'" Peter Weber

12:06 a.m.

In response to the youth vaping epidemic and growing concerns about lung disease, President Trump — at the urging of first lady Melania Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump — announced he wanted to ban candy, fruit, and mint e-cigarettes. His outlook changed after White House and campaign officials warned him such a ban could cause him to lose the votes of people who own vape shops and those who use the products, The Washington Post and The New York Times report.

A Trump adviser told the Post on Sunday that on Nov. 4, Trump refused to sign a "decision memo" about the ban because he was worried about the repercussions. A news conference had been set for the next day, with officials prepared to say the flavored e-cigarettes would be off the market within 30 days, but Trump was reportedly spooked by what he heard from his campaign manager, Brad Parscale, who said a ban could hurt his chances in battleground states.

"He didn't know much about the issue and was just doing it for Melania and Ivanka," a senior administration official told the Post. It's unclear if he will come up with a new policy.

After Trump first mentioned the ban, angry vapers took to social media, tweeting their thoughts on the matter along with the hashtag #IVapeIVote. While the move may please pro-vaping advocacy groups, anti-tobacco activists aren't ready to give up just yet. "If the federal government doesn't take strong action, it's clear now the states will," Matthew Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, told the Post. "There's a crisis that needs to be addressed." Catherine Garcia

November 17, 2019

Ashleigh Bentz wants to make sure every child has a toy that looks just like them.

The Springfield, Missouri, resident was born without a fibula in her right leg, and was also missing bones in her foot and two toes. When she was 2, her leg was amputated and she was fitted with a prosthetic. "I played kickball, sometimes my leg would fall off during kickball, but that's just it," she told KY3.

Bentz is now a certified prosthetic assistant, and wants to make sure that kids who have had limbs amputated don't feel left out. She launched a fundraiser and used the $2,500 in donations to purchase 600 Barbie dolls that either have prosthetics or use a wheelchair. "For there to be a gift that a kid could potentially pick out that looks just like them, that's big," Bentz said.

The dolls have been given to Shriners Hospital for Children in St. Louis, and officials there said they have enough dolls to pass out for several years. Bentz hopes there will soon be a male doll, for full inclusion. Catherine Garcia

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