October 10, 2019

There's trouble in paradise — or at least in the Rudy zone.

Two of Rudy Giuliani's associates were arrested late Wednesday, suspected of violating campaign finance laws, The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, reportedly worked with Giuliani in an effort to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden. Though there's little information about their nationalities, "both were believed to have been born in former Soviet republics," writes the Journal.

Both Parnas and Fruman are major donors to a pro-Trump fundraising committee. The Daily Beast reported that the super PAC they support, America First Action, may have improperly paid former Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) after he pushed for the removal of U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Sessions alleged Yovanovitch was biased against the Trump administration, something Giuliani and other Trump allies have repeatedly claimed as well. Yovanovitch was recalled in May, the same month Parnas and Fruman gave $325,000 to America First Action through a company called Global Energy Producers. Giuliani has alleged Yovanovitch was blocking important corruption investigations in Ukraine, namely an investigation into Biden's son, Hunter Biden, and his work on a Ukrainian energy company board.

America First Action said in a statement it put the $325,000 donation in a separate account after a complaint was filed with the Federal Election Commission.

The two men, who are reportedly Florida businessmen, have been under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan, reports the Journal, and were detained in Washington just before they were due to receive House subpoenas in the impeachment probe. They are expected to appear in court on Thursday. Summer Meza

12:12 a.m.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, but he has shown no rush to quit Congress. He has blown off reporters who've asked when he is resigning, and as of Wednesday, Politico reports, he had not met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to discuss his legal situation. "Our patience is not unlimited," a top Democratic leadership aide told Politico. A GOP lawmaker added that Hunter would be given time to "get his affairs in order .... but not forever."

The House Ethics Committee took the first step in nudging Hunter out the door on Thursday, telling him in a letter to stop voting in the House. If he does vote, the top Democrat and Republican on the committee warned Hunter, "you risk subjecting yourself to action by this committee, and by the House, in addition to any other disciplinary action that may be initiated in connection with your criminal conviction."

"In the past, members who have cut plea deals or been convicted of criminal offenses have come under enormous pressure to leave office quickly or face action by their colleagues, including expulsion," Politico reports. "The late Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), for instance, was expelled by the House following his conviction on bribery and other corruption charges. Traficant was convicted in April 2002, but then he refused to resign. Following a 'trial' by the House Ethics Committee, Traficant was expelled from the chamber three months later by a 420-1 vote."

Hunter took a plea deal to avoid dozens of federal counts of campaign finance violations for improperly diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, including, allegedly, extramarital affairs with lobbyists and congressional staffers. House GOP leaders asked Hunter to give up his committee assignments when he was indicted last year, and when he didn't, they forced his hand. Peter Weber

12:07 a.m.

It was a big day for Michael Orlando Clark Jr., and he wanted all of his kindergarten classmates to be a part of it.

Clark was adopted on Thursday, and his entire class came to the hearing in Grand Rapids, Michigan, filling up the courtroom benches and holding up paper hearts. They introduced themselves to Judge Patricia Gardner and told her how much they loved Clark. As soon as Gardner banged the gavel, making the adoption official, the kids burst into applause.

"We began the school year as a family," Clark's teacher told WZZM. "Family doesn't have to be DNA, because family is support and love." Clark was one of 36 children who were adopted during Kent County's 23rd annual Adoption Day, and he couldn't stop smiling throughout the hearing. After the event, as his father spoke to WZZM about the adoption, he was no longer able to contain his excitement. "I love my daddy," he told the reporter. "I love him so much." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

A sad milestone was reached this week, with the Ray Pfeifer Foundation reporting that 200 New York City firefighters have now died from "9/11 illness."

The foundation, which provides assistance to 9/11 first responders with medical bills not covered by insurance, said that Dennis Gilhooly, a retired FDNY captain, and Brian Case, a retired firefighter, are the 199th and 200th FDNY deaths related to the attacks on the World Trade Center, CBS News reports.

Toxins were released when the World Trade Center towers collapsed, and more than 50,000 people who were exposed have become sick, CBS News says. Studies have found a high number of deaths from non-Hodgkin's lymphoma and brain malignancies among 9/11 first responders and others who were exposed to the dust cloud after the towers fell. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

Uber released a startling 84-page review on Thursday outlining how many reports of sexual abuse the ride-hailing service received in 2018.

In the United States, there were 235 reports of rape, 280 reports of attempted rape, 1,560 reports of groping, and 970 reports of unwanted kissing. "Each of these incidents represents an individual who has undergone a horrific trauma," Tony West, Uber's chief legal officer, told NBC News.

Uber says the victims included both drivers and riders, with passengers accused of sexual assault in 45 percent of cases. "We do four million rides a day," West said. "And when you're operating at that kind of scale, thankfully, 99.9 percent of those rides end with absolutely no safety incident whatsoever." Uber said it has enacted stricter background checks for drivers and added more safety features in the app, including a button that lets users call 911. Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

A satellite image captured Thursday shows activity at a rocket launching site that North Korea had previously dismantled, CNN reports.

The image of Sohae Satellite Launching Station, obtained by CNN and analyzed by experts, shows a large shipping container at the facility's test stand, said Jeffrey Lewis, director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute. This was the first time analysts have seen this container, he added, and it could indicate that North Korea will soon start conducting engine tests at the site again. These engines would be used to power satellite launchers and intercontinental ballistic missiles, CNN reports.

While at the NATO summit in London on Tuesday, Trump mused that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un "really likes sending rockets up, doesn't he? That's why I call him Rocket Man." Trump also said he has a "good relationship" with Kim, but his remarks still irked Choe Son Hui, North Korea's first vice-foreign minister. According to North Korean state media, Choe declared that "if any language and expressions stoking the atmosphere of confrontation are used once again on purpose at a crucial moment as now, that must really be diagnosed as the relapse of the dotage of a dotard." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

Several West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation employees have been suspended following the leak of a photo showing more than 30 members of a basic training class giving a Nazi salute, WCHS reports.

Basic Training Class #18 was held Oct. 21 through Nov. 27, and WCHS recently obtained a copy of the photo, with blurred faces, from the office of Gov. Jim Justice (R). In a statement released Thursday, Justice said he has ordered "the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct. This will not be tolerated on my watch, within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation or within any agency of state government."

Jeff Sandy, the cabinet secretary for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, sent a letter on Wednesday to employees of the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, condemning the photo. "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate," he said. Sandy also announced that Betsy Jividen, the commissioner of the state Division of Corrections, has directed that all copies of the photo "be destroyed, sent to this office, or otherwise taken out of circulation to keep its harm from spreading." Catherine Garcia

December 5, 2019

If you want to get shredded like Star-Lord, why not cut out the middleman?

Guardians of the Galaxy and Jurassic World star Chris Pratt has opened his own Amazon storefront hawking a wide variety of health and fitness products, including rowing machines, boxing gloves, and protein powders. Unfortunately for those who really want to get motivated for their next run, the lineup of products doesn't currently include any live dinosaurs.

Read more at People. Scott Meslow

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