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August 1, 2018

Facebook and Instagram want to take up less of your time. Yes, really.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, the two platforms will soon debut a feature that clocks how long users spend on their apps, Recode reports. It's all part of Mark Zuckerberg's 2018 push to make sure time spent on Facebook and Instagram is "time well spent."

Users got a first look at the "time well spent" features when screenshots were leaked in June, per The Verge. "Your Activity" on Instagram and "Your Time on Facebook" display a graph of users' average time spent on the apps. Users can then set an alarm for when they've reached their daily average. To get even more disconnected, users can also mute Instagram and Facebook notifications for minutes or hours.

The two platforms profit off the time users spend scrolling, making the new features pretty ironic. But Ameet Ranadive, Instagram's product director of well-being, said at a press event that this is a trade Facebook is willing to make. It's in line with Zuckerberg's "responsibility" mantra, which led to a revamped algorithm prioritizing friends' content over pages'. These newest developments will similarly give users "power and control over how and when they want to engage," Ranadive said, per BuzzFeed News.

With Facebook's credibility — and stocks — falling, the company needs all the people-first features it can get. Read more at Recode. Kathryn Krawczyk

July 24, 2018

North Korea appears to be shutting down its primary satellite launch location, the North Korea-focused analysis site 38 North reports, citing satellite imagery taken this month.

Among the facilities being dismantled, 38 North says, are "the rail-mounted processing building — where space launch vehicles are prepared before moving them to the launch pad — and the nearby rocket engine test stand used to develop liquid-fuel engines for ballistic missiles and space launch vehicles."

This equipment is thought to have been crucial to the Kim Jong Un regime's development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs). However, some analysts caution against overstating the import of this deconstruction: North Korea has not permitted outside experts to verify the shutdown, and this change will have no effect on the regime's current stockpile of long-range missiles. Bonnie Kristian

July 13, 2018

First, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wanted to dictate what President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin discussed during their upcoming meeting. Now he wants it canceled altogether.

After Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced indictments against 12 Russian agents Friday, Schumer quickly called for Trump to pull the plug on the highly anticipated summit.

Trump is set to meet with the Russian leader in Finland on Monday. But Schumer wants the talks called off until Russia makes "demonstrable and transparent steps to prove that they won't interfere in future elections," he said in an expanded statement released Friday.

The newest indictments in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe allege 12 Russian intelligence officers were involved in hacking the Democratic National Committee and Hillary Clinton's emails. About 20,000 DNC emails were stolen and leaked in July 2016 — within days of when Trump called for Russia to hack Clinton's emails.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Schumer jointly slammed the upcoming summit in a Wednesday statement, calling on the president to take "concrete steps toward a full cessation of Russian attacks on our democracy" when he meets with Putin on Monday. Pelosi's post-indictment statement released Friday echoed the earlier message, but diverged from Schumer in declaring that "the stakes for the upcoming Trump-Putin meeting could not be higher." Kathryn Krawczyk

June 19, 2018

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) introduced a bill Monday evening to curtail the Trump administration's policy of separating migrant families at the U.S. border.

Per Cruz's press release, the Protect Parents and Kids Act would prohibit family separations "absent aggravated criminal conduct or threat of harm to the children," authorizing the construction of "new temporary shelters" that can house families intact. It would also require that asylum cases be adjudicated within 14 days and, to that end, nearly double the number of federal immigration judges to a total of 750.

"All Americans are rightly horrified by the images we are seeing on the news, children in tears pulled away from their mothers and fathers. This must stop. Now," Cruz said. "The answer is not what congressional Democrats are proposing: simply releasing illegal aliens and returning to the failed policy of 'catch and release.' Rather, we should fix the backlog in immigration cases, remove the legal barriers to swift processing, and resolve asylum cases on an expedited basis."

The Democratic bill Cruz referenced has the support of all 49 senators in the Democrats' caucus. The Keep Families Together Act would also prohibit separation of migrant families within 100 miles of the border except in some circumstances, such as those involving abuse or neglect. It requires development of procedure to reunite families already separated and expressly bans family separations "solely for the policy goal of deterring individuals from migrating to the United States or for the policy goal of promoting compliance with civil immigration laws." Bonnie Kristian

June 5, 2018

The United Nations on Tuesday urged President Trump to put an "immediate halt" to his administration's policy of separating children from their parents when the family has crossed the border illegally or, in some cases, when the family follows legal procedure to seek asylum at border checkpoints.

"Children should never be detained for reasons related to their own parents' migration status," said U.N. human rights office representative Ravina Shamdasani. "Detention is never in the best interests of the child and always constitutes a child rights violation."

Trump has attempted to deflect criticism of the family separation policy by claiming twice on Twitter, once in May and once Tuesday morning, that it "is the fault of bad legislation passed by the Democrats." In reality, the family separations are not required by law and were instituted by the Trump administration as an immigration deterrent. "If you don't like that," said Attorney General Jeff Sessions earlier this month, "then don't smuggle children over our border."

Sessions has continued to defend the policy even as Trump labels it "horrible." In a radio interview Tuesday, he said "it's certainly not our goal to separate children," but the policy should serve as a warning because "the United States can't be a total guarantor that every parent who comes to the country unlawfully with a child is guaranteed ... that they will be able to have their hand on that child the entire time."

Through repeated questioning, Sessions skirted any ethical critique the separation policy, conceding only that it is a "tough thing" to "separate children from their parents." Bonnie Kristian

July 1, 2017

The governments of Maine and New Jersey entered a partial shutdown Saturday after lawmakers in both states failed to reach a budget agreement with their respective governors.

In Maine, the fight is about taxes. "The Maine people are taxed enough. I will not tax them anymore and in my budget overall taxes were decreased," Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in his shutdown announcement. The legislature's budget proposes a 3 percent tax hike on Maine residents with an annual income of at least $200,000.

New Jersey's debate centers on opioid addiction programs and public worker pensions, with Gov. Chris Christie threatening to use his line-item veto to enforce his demands. State parks will stay open in Maine, but New Jersey's beaches could be closed throughout the July 4 holiday weekend, a development that will not sit well with New Jersey voters. Bonnie Kristian

January 29, 2017

A federal judge on Saturday evening issued an emergency stay temporarily and partially preventing the enforcement of President Trump's executive order banning visitors from seven Mideast nations. "This ruling preserves the status quo and ensures that people who have been granted permission to be in this country are not illegally removed off U.S. soil," said Lee Gelernt of the ACLU, which worked on the case.

The decision specifically applies to people, like the two Iraqi men detained at the airport in New York City, who have valid visas and were already arriving or in transit to the United States when the order was issued. It does not block the 90-day ban's broader enforcement against passport holders from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia who did not acquire travel papers before the order was issued.

Similar rulings were later handed down in Massachusetts, Virginia, and Washington state. The Department of Homeland Security indicated it will comply with the orders, and both Iraqi men in New York have been released. Bonnie Kristian

September 14, 2016

Donald Trump was in Flint, Michigan, on Wednesday, for a controversial campaign stop that the city's mayor herself derided as a "photo op." After touring a city water treatment plant, Trump headed to the Bethel United Methodist Church to seemingly discuss the city's highly publicized water contamination crisis.

When he arrived, however, Trump apparently couldn't resist politicizing his visit to the church, which has been passing out water and food items to residents affected by the lead contamination in Flint. During his remarks, he began lobbing attacks at Democratic rival Hillary Clinton — until the Bethel pastor came on stage and asked him to stop, saying she had invited him to "thank us for the work we've done in Flint, not to give a political speech":

CNN's Phil Mattingly reports Trump cut his visit to the church short after the incident, forgoing a planned question-and-answer session. And it seems the besieged city was a late addition to Trump's campaign schedule: The Republican candidate promised earlier this month to visit, but reportedly did not notify Flint Mayor Karen Weaver ahead of his Thursday arrival, and few details regarding the trip were available ahead of time. Kimberly Alters

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