July 12, 2019

The size and provenance of his wealth and the intricacies of his alleged sex trafficking operation are not the only mysteries surrounding Jeffrey Epstein. There are questions about why he did not have to register as a sex offender in New Mexico, where he owns a large ranch with a 26,700-square-foot mansion, and why prosecutors and police in New York — where his Manhattan townhouse is worth at least $100 million according to luxury real estate agent Dolly Lenz — but not judges appeared to treat him leniently.

And then there's Epstein's private island in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With Epstein in jail in New York, "it's quiet now on the island of Little St. James," Bloomberg News reports. "Epstein dubbed it Little St. Jeff's. Locals have other names for it: Pedophile Island and Orgy Island." On St. Thomas, where Epstein's businesses are headquartered in an unmarked office in a nondescript strip mall, "he has been a subject of lurid speculation for as long as anyone can remember," Bloomberg says. "Tourists still take boats out to get a glimpse of the island," topped with a blue-and-white building that resembles a temple.

A former employee told Bloomberg that Epstein ferried groups of young women out to his island after they flew into St. Thomas, and the crew of groundskeepers had strict orders that Epstein could never catch sight of them. "The only unusual aspect of the main residence the former worker said he was aware of were the security boxes in two offices," Bloomberg reports. "The level of secrecy around a steel safe in Epstein's office, in particular, suggested it contained much more than just money, he said. Outside of an occasional visit by a housekeeper, no one was allowed in those rooms." Presumably, the FBI could ask a judge for access, too. Peter Weber

9:08 a.m.

Microsoft announced plans to become "carbon negative" by 2030, seeking to erase its entire carbon footprint since the company's founding in 1975 and begin removing more carbon from the environment than it emits.

The company first wants to reduce emissions to zero across its entire supply chain by 2030, and then focus on eliminating all of the carbon dioxide it has ever released by 2050, reports The Verge.

Microsoft has been carbon neutral since 2012, and achieves this through purchasing renewable energy and carbon offsets. Going negative will require more technology and investment than going neutral. "Technology does exist that does this, but getting the price and the scalability to where we need it to be is a significant challenge," said Lucas Joppa, the company's chief sustainability officer, per CBS News. The company plans to spend $1 billion over the next four years on carbon reduction, capture, and removal.

Read more at The Verge and CBS News. Summer Meza

8:52 a.m.

Lev Parnas, the indicted associate of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani who worked as his envoy in Ukraine, communicated with a top aide to Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) about an effort to find damaging information on former Vice President Joe Biden, documents released Friday night by House Democrats revealed.

The evidence shows Derek Harvey, a former White House official and top aide to Nunes, communicated extensively with Parnas and sought to speak with Ukrainian prosecutors who were giving Giuliani information about Biden, reports The Washington Post. The documents corroborate Parnas' own claims about Nunes's office's involvement in the scheme.

Parnas has said President Trump and his associates were working to push Ukraine into announcing an investigation into Biden. The messages, the Post writes, "indicate Nunes's office was aware of the operation at the heart of impeachment proceedings against the president — and sought to use the information Parnas was gathering." Nunes, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, did not comment on the documents.

Read more at The Washington Post and NBC News. Summer Meza

8:23 a.m.

Former GOP Rep. Chris Collins was sentenced on Friday to two years in federal prison on charges of insider trading and lying to the FBI, reports NBC News.

Collins, who was a New York representative since 2013 and was the first member of Congress to endorse President Trump's candidacy, pleaded guilty to tipping off his son to confidential information regarding an Australian biotechnology company, which allowed them to make illegal stock trades avoiding more than $700,000 in losses.

At his sentencing, Collins tearfully apologized, reports The Washington Post. "I stand here today a disgraced former congressman," he said. "I cannot face my constituents. What I have done has marked me for life." The 26-month sentence will begin on March 17, and will likely be served at a federal prison camp in Pensacola, Florida.

Read more at NBC News and The Washington Post. Summer Meza

January 17, 2020

President Trump has a new target for his Twitter ire — Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei on Friday morning called Trump a "clown" who is only pretending to support Iran's people, and criticized the Trump-authorized killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani. In Khamenei's first time leading Friday prayers at the Mosella mosque in Tehran since 2012, he said Iran's retaliatory missile strikes were a "slap on the face" to the U.S. that demonstrated Iran's "power."

Trump responded with a tweet on Friday evening, adding the zinger that Khamenei had "not been so Supreme lately."

Aside from the schoolyard taunt, Trump threw in a vague threat, noting Khamenei "should be very careful with his words!" That will surely calm the simmering tensions between the two nations.

January 17, 2020

There's a brand new way Democrats can make the debate stage next month.

The Democratic National Committee announced requirements to qualify for February's primary debate Friday, saying the donor threshold will remain steady, with candidates needing at least 225,000 unique donors. Candidates will also, as before, need to hit at least five percent in four qualifying national polls or seven percent in two polls of New Hampshire, Nevada, or South Carolina voters. But there's now a third path that candidates can take to replace the poll requirement: If they win just one delegate in Iowa, they're in.

This could open a path for candidates such as entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who hit the donor requirement but didn't have enough qualifying polls to make January's debate. The Iowa caucuses are Feb. 3, and the next debate is Feb. 7 in New Hampshire. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 17, 2020

After traveling the world hunting for treasure in his personal life, Nicolas Cage can soon resume doing so in the movies, too.

A third National Treasure film is in the works at Disney with Bad Boys for Life's Chris Bremner writing a screenplay, The Hollywood Reporter wrote Friday.

No further details were provided in the report, which only briefly mentioned National Treasure while focusing on the status of a fourth Bad Boys film, which is also apparently happening. But this news comes more than a decade after National Treasure: Book of Secrets hit theaters, easily outgrossing the original but for some reason not being followed by five to eight more installments centered around Benjamin Franklin Gates' increasingly wacky adventures.

A third National Treasure has been discussed going back years, though, to the point that this movie could just be about the mythical quest for its own screenplay. Director Jon Turteltaub in 2018 suggested the odds it would come together weren't great, telling /Film, "I don't think Disney wants to make it," though he suggested it could happen as a streaming-exclusive film.

Now that it's apparently moving forward, though, what treasure hunt might be at the center of this installment? Could it just completely ignore the first two films and turn into a documentary about Nicolas Cage the actor's totally real attempt to locate the Holy Grail, which he revealed last year and dubbed his "grail quest"? Probably not, but Disney can have that idea for free. Brendan Morrow

January 17, 2020

The Harvey Weinstein trial officially has its jury.

Jury selection in the trial of the disgraced film producer ended Friday with seven men and five women set to serve, Variety reports. Three alternates, one man and two women, were also selected.

Lead prosecutor Joan Illuzzi during jury selection accused the defense and trying to "systematically exclude" young white women, The Hollywood Reporter writes. "They have eliminated every single white woman from this prospective jury panel," Illuzzi said, Variety reports.

The defense, in turn, accused the prosecution of trying to exclude men from the jury, but the Reporter writes Judge James Burke didn't accept either argument. The defense reportedly said it didn't seek to exclude young women but that, as The Associated Press writes, they "didn't want jurors who were too young to understand the way men and women interacted in the early 1990s."

The defense objected to one particular juror, a woman who wrote a forthcoming novel whose plot has to do with "predatory older men," Deadline reports. The judge ultimately said the woman could serve on the jury and denied the defense's subsequent request for a mistrial.

Weinstein is facing rape and sexual assault charges, which he has pleaded not guilty to. Opening arguments in the trial are set to begin on Jan. 22. Brendan Morrow

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