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March 23, 2018

President Trump's incoming national security adviser, John Bolton, once appeared in a strange promotional video for a Kremlin-linked gun rights group, NPR reports. The Right to Bear Arms, a Russian organization, brought on Bolton in 2013 to promote the creation of a Second Amendment-like addendum to the nation's constitution. "The Bolton video appears to be another plank in a bridge built by Russia to conservative political organizations inside the United States," writes NPR.

At the time of the video's recording, Bolton was serving on the NRA's international affairs subcommittee. Traditionally, Bolton — the former ambassador to the U.N. under President George W. Bush — has been no friend of Russia's. One person familiar with the video said former NRA president David Keene had personally asked Bolton to make the video.

The situation gets murkier when you look at the Russian group behind the footage. The Right to Bear Arms' founder, politician Alexander Torshin, is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has come under scrutiny recently by the FBI, which wants to know if Torshin illegally pushed money through the NRA to help elect Trump.

Russian citizens do not have a formal right to own a gun, as Americans do. "Were the Russian national government to grant a broader right to bear arms to its people, it would be creating a partnership with its citizens that would better allow for the protection of mothers, children, and families without in any way compromising the integrity of the Russian state," Bolton argues in the video. "That is my wish and my advice to your great people." Read more about the creation of the video and Bolton's involvement at NPR. Jeva Lange

October 25, 2016

Liberal activist Aaron Black — a former Occupy Wall Street organizer and associate with Democracy Partners — allegedly tipped off conservative website Breitbart ahead of his disruptions in order to coordinate coverage, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told Politico. Black harassed candidates in the primaries, reportedly alerting Breitbart by phone, email, and in person about protests, such as when he dressed up as a robot for one of Marco Rubio's rallies.

"[Black] worked directly with Breitbart's political team on the ground in the primary states to sabotage Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, and elect Trump as nominee of [the Republican] party," the person familiar with Black's alleged involvement said. "[Black] was coordinating with [Breitbart's] top staff to rabble rouse against Rubio at rallies."

Black also recently showed up in an undercover Project Veritas video, in which he claimed to work for the Democratic National Committee although he does not appear on its payroll. Black claims in the video he was the architect of protests in Chicago that resulted in Trump canceling a rally in the city; Trump touted the video as evidence of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama meddling in the election during the final presidential debate.

When reached for comment, Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow told Politico, "Breitbart News Network is proud to work with sources from across the political spectrum to cover important and breaking news stories so that we may bring the most informative reporting to our readers." Jeva Lange

October 13, 2016

A professor at the City University of New York's Brooklyn College reports he was asked to change a class syllabus by school administrators worried a participation grade could be misunderstood as a request for sexual favors.

Prof. David Seidemann wrote at Minding the Campus, a higher ed watchdog site, that his syllabus included a notice that grading would consider "Class deportment, effort etc……. 10% (applied only to select students when appropriate)." In an email to Reason about the resulting reprimand, Seidemann said his department chair told him that statement "could be construed as a prelude to sexual harassment" and should be immediately excised. The administrator also said Seidemann must remove an announcement that his classroom would welcome "all constitutionally protected speech" without censorship of unpopular viewpoints.

The investigation was reportedly initiated not by any student complaints but by the school's director of diversity investigations and Title IX enforcement. When Seidemann, who is tenured and thus cannot simply be fired for refusing to edit his syllabus, insisted further discussion of the participation grade happen exclusively over email so there would be a written record of the conversation, the investigation was dropped. Bonnie Kristian

July 1, 2015

Apparently, for many upstate New Yorkers the hunt for prison escapees Richard Matt and David Sweat — who were convicted of murder, mind you! — was the most excitement they'd seen... maybe ever? In fact, some are even a little disappointed the fun is over.

"I wanted them to keep running," Courtney Lord, 28, of Malone, New York, told The New York Times, pausing before amending, "But I also wanted them to be caught."

"I'll give them boys some props. Those boys had some serious testicular fortitude, I'll tell you that right now," raved Lord's boyfriend. "They really gave law enforcement a run for their money."

"My favorite kind of movie has always been prison escape movies, so it kind of played like a really good prison escape movie,” 85-year-old librarian Lofton Wilson told the Times, adding that, "I felt guilty about hoping that they would get away because they were such horrible guys."

A 23-year-old tattoo artist also weighed in, claiming he and his friends had rooted for Sweat to reach the border.

"He must've been thinking, 'Damn, I was so close!'" the tattoo artist, Adrian Sparkman, said. "He should go in the history books, as far as I'm concerned, murder or not."

Sparkman added, "Honestly, man, this is the most I've watched the news." Jeva Lange

May 1, 2015

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll captures the truly impressive confusion that marks American politics as we head toward the 2016 election. Just 42 percent disagreed with the statement "The federal government should have very little authority over domestic affairs," but when asked about which specific programs should be cut, respondents were much more hesitant.

For instance, only 28 percent agreed that "Most federal regulatory agencies, like the Food and Drug Administration, should be abolished or significantly reduced in size, while fewer than 15 percent were willing to say that "Government programs assisting the elderly like Social Security or Medicare should be abolished."

This presents a conundrum for libertarian-leaning Republican candidates, as voters are apt to applaud their generalized calls for reducing the size and scope of government but object to specific proposals for actually doing so. Bonnie Kristian

December 23, 2014

A new gun control PSA produced by Sleeper 13 Productions has a rather unsettling suggestion for how kids can help end gun violence: Steal your parents' guns and take them to school. Then give them to your understandably terrified teacher and say, "Can you take this away? I don't feel safe with a gun in my house."

Even assuming the gun hand-off went as smoothly and safely as the video depicts — which critics have noted seems unlikely — in real life the boy would at least face suspension, if not expulsion or worse, for breaking multiple laws. Earlier this year, for example, a 5-year-old was suspended for turning in the toy gun he accidentally brought to school; another little boy was suspended just for pointing his finger like a gun.

The creator of the PSA stands by her work, tweeting, "Lot of people are afraid to share my PSA! If you are not a coward please share." Bonnie Kristian

December 2, 2014

One hundred jars of human brains taken from the late patients of a mental hospital in Austin, have disappeared from the University of Texas at Austin.

The Atlantic reports that the brains, submerged in formalin, were kept in the campus' Animal Resources Center. The specimens date to the 1950s, when the Austin State Hospital (AHS) was known as the Texas State Lunatic Asylum. The brains revealed various medical conditions in the hospital's patients, including burst blood vessels and brain malformations.

Dr. Coleman de Chenar, the hospital's resident pathologist from the 1950s until 1985, collected roughly 200 brain specimens from his patients. A 1986 Houston Chronicle story reports that six institutions, including Harvard, were interested in acquiring the brains, and the University of Texas eventually won the battle.

One of the missing brains is that of Charles Whitman, the 1960s "Texas Sniper," whose brain had a five-centimeter-long tumor. Tim Schallert, curator of the brain bank, realized that Whitman's wasn't the only missing specimen — when Schallert was asked to move the brains in the mid-1990s, he discovered the brains "had vanished."

Schallert told The Atlantic that the university "never found out" what happened to the missing brains. "They just disappeared," Schallert said. Dr. Jerry Fineg, former director of the Animal Resources Center, told The Atlantic that Schallert sent the brains back to the Austin State Hospital, but both Schallert and the hospital confirmed that AHS never received the specimens. The brains' whereabouts continues to be a mystery.

Update, Dec. 3: The University of Texas at San Antonio has stated that it possesses the missing brains, and they are safe and sound. Meghan DeMaria

November 21, 2014

The Lynden Pioneer Museum in Washington state features exhibits on life in Victorian times, the area's natural resources, and the Pacific Theater of World War II. The latter display has gotten the museum in trouble with a new gun law approved by Washington voters in the recent election.

The law requires the recipient of any gun transfer not between family to undergo a background check. While it is unlikely that the museum would actually be prosecuted for retaining the guns, the difficulty of defining what would qualify as a background check on a museum — and the potentially ruinous legal fees if prosecution did occur — led to the decision to pull the weapons display by December 3.

Though there is an exception for antique guns in the new measure, the WWII-era rifles in the museum are too new to qualify. Exempted weapons must have been made before 1898. Bonnie Kristian

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