July 16, 2019

The New York Police Department officer accused of strangling Eric Garner will not face federal charges.

NYPD officer Daniel Pantaleo will not be charged in the chokehold death of Garner, whose repeated last words of "I can't breathe" became a rallying cry for the Black Lives Matter movement, the Justice Department announced Tuesday. That decision reportedly comes after the DOJ's civil rights division recommended charges, but Attorney General William Barr overruled that suggestion, a senior DOJ official tells ABC News' Alex Mallin.

Garner's July 17, 2014 death was caught on camera after NYPD officers stopped him for allegedly selling cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner. Federal prosecutors then had five years to press charges against Pantaleo, who appeared to use an illegal chokehold on Garner to restrain him and could've been accused of violating Garner's civil rights. But with the statute of limitations on Garner's death expiring Wednesday, prosecutors declined to press charges.

That decision, officials tell ABC News and NBC News, comes against the wishes of lawyers in the DOJ's civil rights division. But it's in line with what the U.S. Attorney's Office in the Eastern District of New York recommended, those officials continued.

Pantaleo did face disciplinary action from the NYPD and has been on desk duty without a gun since Garner's death, The New York Times notes. The NYPD also wrapped a disciplinary trial against Pantaleo in June to determine if he should face further punishment. Kathryn Krawczyk

11:23 a.m.

Left-leaning and centrist news publications get fewer clicks on Facebook if they publish false stories. But far-right publications experience the opposite, nabbing nearly twice as much Facebook engagement on stories classified as misinformation.

That's according to a new study out Wednesday, as reported by Wired. The researchers at the Cybersecurity for Democracy project at New York University found that not only are far-right publications unique in that they are seemingly rewarded for posting faulty information, they are receiving by far the most engagement compared to slightly right, center, slightly left, and far-left publications in general.

Every other type of news outlet suffers a "misinformation penalty" if they share false information. The analysis found that in the far left, slightly left, and center categories, credible stories saw between two and five times as much engagement as fake news. On the far-right, however, misinformation received 426 interactions per thousand followers in an average week, while credible far-right information received only 259 engagements. "Both those engagement numbers dwarf any other category," notes Wired.

Lead researcher Laura Edelson told Wired this could demonstrate what type of information users are steered toward on Facebook, since the platform's algorithms generally try to maximize engagement. A Facebook spokesperson, however, said the report "looks mostly at how people engage with content, which should not be confused with how many people actually see it on Facebook." Even though Facebook closely guards the specifics on its recommendation algorithms, this study still "provides perhaps the most substantial evidence yet about what types of news—and fake news—perform best," writes Wired. Summer Meza

11:18 a.m.

"If digital advertising doesn't evolve to address the growing concerns people have about their privacy and how their personal identity is being used, we risk the future of the free and open web," Google's director of product management for ads privacy and trust David Temkin wrote in a blog post Wednesday. That's partly (regulatory pressure is also a significant factor) why the tech giant is promising it will scrap individual user tracking after it's finished phasing out third-party tracking cookies over the next year or so, Axios reports.

The advertising industry is mostly prepared for a future entirely without third-party cookies, but Axios notes that many ad tech companies are working to implement "work-around solutions" so advertisers can still target individuals through different technologies. However, Google says it is committed to avoiding that strategy.

Still, Google isn't completely abandoning targeted advertising. The goal, The Verge reports, is "to replace the more invasive methods of old with a new one of its own design, which it calls the Privacy Sandbox." Per The Wall Street Journal, this method involves analyzing web users' browsing habits, but groups them in with other users who have similar interests, creating "cohorts" for ad targeting. Temkin also notes Google will still use first-party data to target ads on its own publishing platforms, like YouTube. Read more at Axios, The Verge, and The Wall Street Journal. Tim O'Donnell

10:13 a.m.

Germany was one of the international stars of the early response to the COVID-19 pandemic last year thanks to a renowned contact tracing system that kept infection rates low, but its vaccine rollout is not going so well. So far, the country has only administered 6.2 million doses, well below the 21 million in the United Kingdom, which began its drive a few weeks earlier, but has a smaller population.

One of the big issues is how difficult it is to sign up for an appointment in the first place, at least in some regions of the country. Reports the Financial Times, the registration portal requires 10 online steps, including a two-step authentication process. For months, the website would also only allow people to sign up for one appointment, even though two doses of the vaccines available in Germany are required for full inoculation, and if everything is booked, there's no waiting list people to notify people when more doses become available. "It's totally amateurish and incredibly inflexible," one German health official told FT.

The jumbled nature of the system is giving some Americans "flashbacks" to the highly-anticipated healthcare.gov launch in 2013, which was tainted by a variety of technical difficulties and an incomplete website design that made it challenging for people to sign up for their health insurance. Read more at The Financial Times. Tim O'Donnell

9:32 a.m.

Former Vice President Mike Pence broke his silence Wednesday with an op-ed in The Daily Signal, criticizing congressional Democrats for their voter reform push and giving new life to former President Donald Trump's baseless claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen.

Despite being a central target of the mob that breached the Capitol on Jan. 6 because of his refusal to answer Trump's call to somehow block the Electoral College certification, Pence claimed the election was "marked by significant irregularities and numerous instances of officials setting aside election law." He said he shares "the concerns of millions of Americans" about its integrity, suggesting he still hasn't fully broken with Trump on the matter. For many people, the show of loyalty was baffling.

That said, Pence's op-ed didn't outright call the 2020 vote fraudulent. Rather, he framed its outcome as uncertain so he could launch into his argument about why Congress should not pass HR 1, the For the People Act, which includes measures such as required early voting and same-day voter registration in every state. Pence called the bill "an unconstitutional power grab" with the sole goal of giving "leftists a permanent, unfair, and unconstitutional advantage in our political system." Read the full op-ed at The Daily Signal. Tim O'Donnell

2:07 a.m.

At 14, Benjamin Kagan isn't old enough to get the coronavirus vaccine — but he can help those who are eligible secure appointments.

Due to a limited number of appointments, getting signed up has been hard for most people, and it's even more daunting for those who don't have access to a computer or have a slower internet connection. After making appointments for his grandparents, Kagan, a Chicago resident, was inspired last month to start Chicago Vaccine Angels, a group where volunteers secure appointments for people in need of assistance.

It hasn't been easy, the tech-savvy high schooler said. Kagan has to be on his computer at midnight, ready to get in a virtual line, and "it's incredibly complicated to navigate even for myself," he told CBS Chicago, adding, "If you're not on the ball and getting them as soon as they are released, they're gone." It's worth it, though — since launching Chicago Vaccine Angels, Kagan has helped more than 119 people, mostly seniors, get appointments. Catherine Garcia

1:35 a.m.

After interviewing 79 witnesses and reviewing numerous documents, the Department of Defense inspector general has issued a review of the time Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-Texas) spent as physician to the president, finding that Jackson made inappropriate comments about a female subordinate and drank alcohol while on trips with the president, violating policy.

CNN obtained a copy of the report on Tuesday, a day before its expected release. Jackson, who served as the top White House doctor during the Obama and Trump administrations, was elected in November to represent Texas' 13th Congressional District, and is on the House Armed Services subcommittee. The investigation into his conduct began in 2018, and the report says that the probe was "limited in scope and unproductive" because former President Donald Trump's White House counsel demanded on being present during all interviews with White House Medical Unit employees.

The report states 56 of the witnesses who worked with Jackson said they "personally experienced, saw, or heard about him yelling, screaming, cursing, or belittling subordinates." He was described as a "dictator," "control freak," and "crappy manager," and only 13 witnesses had anything positive to say about him, CNN reports.

While on trips with the president, the White House physician is not allowed to drink for 24 hours before the president's arrival until two hours after the president leaves. Witnesses said they observed Jackson drinking during two overseas trips with former President Barack Obama — in Manila in 2014 and in Bariloche, Argentina, in 2016. In Manila, witnesses said Jackson was intoxicated and made lewd comments about a female subordinate, with one person stating they also spotted him "pounding" on the door to her room while saying "I need you" and "I need you to come to my room."

In a statement, Jackson told CNN the report was politically motivated, and accused Democrats of using it "to repeat and rehash untrue attacks on my integrity." He also denied "any allegation that I consumed alcohol while on duty." Catherine Garcia

12:25 a.m.

More than 300 years after it was mailed, a letter sent from one cousin to another in the Netherlands has finally been opened — virtually.

Jana Dambrogio, a conservator with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries, told NPR that before the gummed envelope was invented in the 1830s, people would secure their letters via "letterlocking," using intricate folds, creases, slits, and holes to transform the piece of paper into a package. While some archivists have used scissors to cut locked letters, Dambrogio worried about what is lost "when we open the unopened."

With a team of researchers, Dambrogio was able to take a locked letter and read it, without disturbing anything. The letter, written in 1697, was found in The Hague in an old postmaster's trunk. Inks at that time contained high amounts of metal, so the team used an X-ray scanner that can create 3D images of teeth to make a 3D image of the letter. The writing showed up "as a very bright region on the scan," like a bone would appear on an X-ray, Amanda Ghassaei of Adobe Research told NPR.

Because it was folded so many times, the letter had several layers close together, making the words look jumbled. The team had to "find a way to manipulate that data and actually virtually unfold it so that we could get it into a flat state," Ghassaei said. Success came after the researchers used a brute-force algorithm, and they discovered that the letter was sent to request an official death certificate for a relative.

The folding pattern included an arrow shape, and is "quite beautiful," Dambrogio told NPR. She finds it "thrilling" that the note can be read "without tampering with the letter packet, leaving it to study as an unopened object." Catherine Garcia

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