May 22, 2018

A number of Amazon customers are complaining that they've been banned from the retailer over what the company claims are excessive returns, despite the fact that nowhere in Amazon's return policy does it suggest such a condition, The Wall Street Journal reports.

One customer who spoke with the Journal, Shira Golan, said she spends thousands of dollars a year on Amazon, buying household items and clothes. Golan said that she has on occasion asked for refunds on apparel or shoes when they arrive damaged or are the wrong item, and that the company closed her account permanently without warning, citing "an unusual number of problems."

"If I knew this would happen, I wouldn't buy clothes and shoes on Amazon," Golan said.

Chris McCabe, a former policy enforcement investigator at Amazon, said that people tend to get banned from the retailer when they are "creating a lot of headaches." Yet another customer, Nir Nissim, who lives in Israel, said he had returned just one item this year and four items last year but was nevertheless banned by the company. He was eventually able to get his account reinstated.

Amazon reserves the right to terminate users' accounts at its discretion, but many banned customers said they had no idea the retailer would flag their routine returns as abuse, and that they received no warning before getting the notice. Read more about the company's shadowy policy at The Wall Street Journal. Jeva Lange

August 8, 2017

GOP strategist Ana Navarro thinks it's about time for someone to have a little talk with President Trump about "taking his job seriously." "I think the solution is very simple: Start telling the truth. Start taking your job seriously, stop exaggerating, stop outright lying and then repeating it over and over and over again," Navarro said Tuesday on CNN's New Day. "I think the people around him ... need to tell him 'You are no longer the host of The Apprentice. You are not a used car salesman. You are the president of the United States.'"

Navarro's remarks were made in light of a recent CNN poll that revealed that just 24 percent of Americans trust the Trump administration, while 73 percent have some hesitations about its truthfulness. Navarro argued that if Trump is going to improve those numbers, he's going to have to start being more truthful. "We need to believe our president when he stands behind that podium and speaks to us," Navarro said.

But Matt Schlapp, a former political director to former President George W. Bush, disagreed with Navarro's "whole premise." He argued that Trump is "authentic" and attributed the credibility issue to the deep polarization of American politics.

But Navarro wasn't buying it. "This is not about policy disagreements," she said, pointing to Trump's baseless claims about voter fraud and his exaggerations about crowd sizes. Watch the exchange below. Becca Stanek

March 28, 2017

Eric Trump couldn't say enough good things about Fox News host Sean Hannity during his appearance Tuesday on Fox & Friends. For 30 seconds, President Trump's son sang Hannity's praises, calling him a "fantastic person" and a "great, great man" with "strong beliefs." "By the way," Trump said, "there is no better patriot in the world than Sean Hannity."

In a rebuttal to former anchor Ted Koppel's remark over the weekend that Hannity and his show are "bad for America," Trump argued that Hannity is actually great for the nation. While Koppel contended Hannity's show has "attracted people who are determined that ideology is more important than facts," Trump said that strong beliefs are crucial to American progress. "You know, beliefs are what get America to a great place," Trump said.

Watch Trump declare Hannity the best patriot in the world below. Becca Stanek

January 28, 2016

If your U.S. passport expires this year or next, the State Department is asking that you don't wait too long to get it renewed.

In 2006 and 2007, the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative went into effect, making it a requirement that Americans flying back to the U.S. from Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and Bermuda have a passport. Because so many people who previously didn't need to get passports applied, "we were overwhelmed then," Michele Bond, assistant secretary of state for consular affairs, told The New York Times. "We are not going to be overwhelmed again." Not only that, but more countries are starting to enforce requirements for six months' validity on a U.S. passport, Condé Nast Traveler reports.

The State Department is bracing itself for a flood of passport renewals, and is urging people whose passports will expire in 2016 or 2017 to start the process, since it's likely there will be a backlog. Officials told the Times the State Department expects to issue 17 million new passports and renewals in 2016 — 1.5 million more than in 2015 — and right now, processing time is estimated at six weeks. Catherine Garcia

January 8, 2015

The Pentagon is overseeing some moving and shaking for 67,000 U.S. troops stationed in Europe in response to behavior by Russia, and in an attempt to save $500 million a year by the early 2020's.

The Pentagon said today it plans to close 15 European bases. The Washington Examiner reports that The European Infrastructure Consolidation process "will better position U.S. troops... to meet challenges that have emerged in the year since Russia seized Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and menaced NATO allies in Eastern Europe."

Congress approved a $985 million account last year that will allow the Pentagon to build new infrastructure, as the Examiner puts it, "to accommodate new deployments in response to Russian moves."

Britain will be impacted most significantly by the changes. F-35 fighters will be added to one base — a first for Europe — while the number of U.S. military and civilian personnel stationed there will be reduced by 2,000 people. Teresa Mull

December 5, 2014

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have condemned the justice system's response to the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner at the hands of white police officers, say the presence of the victims' relatives at the president's State of the Union address would send a message to policymakers about criminal justice reform.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) endorsed the idea Thursday, saying that the presence of the Garner and Brown families at the address would "help educate and sensitize other members and humanize some of the issues that we're going to confront."

Fellow members of the Congressional Black Caucus, among them Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.), echoed Garner's sentiments.

While the lawmakers emphasized that no such invitations have been extended, President Obama is expected to address the issues surrounding law enforcement tactics in his annual address in January. Teresa Mull

October 10, 2014

President Obama is reportedly considering using an executive order to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Senior administration officials told the Wall Street Journal that the White House is drafting options that would allow the president to close the prison "by overriding a congressional ban on bringing detainees to the U.S."

One route Obama can take to accomplish this end would be to veto the annual defense spending bill, which stipulates that the president cannot move any of Gitmo's 149 inmates to the U.S. According to The Hill, Congress would then be forced to override the veto with a two-thirds majority, or risk cutting off funding for the military.

Obama's other option is to sign the defense spending legislation, but include a clause that declares the "restrictions on detainee transfers unconstitutional."

Republican House Speaker John Boehner, meanwhile, reacted by accusing the White House of "lawlessness." Teresa Mull

October 3, 2014

While many allege that it is increasingly dangerous to be a cop, the data tell a different story. As Radley Balko reports at the Washington Post, America is getting safer and safer for police officers: "In terms of raw number of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for cops since World War II. If we look at the rate of deaths, 2013 was the safest year for police in well over a century.”

2014 has seen a slight increase in violence against cops, but it is on track to be the second-safest year since 1959 in terms of total deaths and the safest year in more than a hundred years in terms of death rate:

(via The Washington Post)

While some have argued that militarized police forces are the cause of this decrease in violence, which corresponds neatly with the overall plunge in violent crime, Balko points out that the bulk of aggressive police actions are actually targeted at drug crime — and that has not seen a comparable decrease. Use of body armor, however, is an effective and nonviolent way to decrease police deaths. Bonnie Kristian

See More Speed Reads