Shut it down
February 13, 2019

Apple CEO Tim Cook says the company will "take a look" at a controversial app in Saudi Arabia that allows Saudi men to track their wives and daughters, reports NPR.

Absher, an app which was created by a subset of the Saudi Ministry of Interior, has been distributed on both Apple and Google app stores, with more than one million downloads on the latter platform, per Vice News.

The app says users "can safely browse your profile or your family members, or [laborers] working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online," NPR reports. App users can also receive a notification whenever one of the people they are tracking attempts to use a passport. All women in Saudi Arabia are required to have a male guardian and need permission to travel, per Vice News.

Human rights groups have taken issue with the app, and Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) called on Apple and Google earlier this week to remove the app. "It is hardly news that the Saudi monarchy seeks to restrict and repress Saudi women," wrote Wyden in a letter to the companies, "but American companies should not enable or facilitate the Saudi government's patriarchy."

Cook told NPR he had not heard about the controversy before being asked about it during an interview on Monday. The app has remained available on both platforms as of Wednesday. Marianne Dodson

December 4, 2018

The United States has been involved in conflict in Afghanistan for long enough, Defense Secretary James Mattis told reporters in India Monday.

"In Afghanistan, it's gone on now — it's approaching 40 years. Forty years is enough, and it's time for everyone to get on board, support the United Nations, support [Indian] Prime Minister [Narendra] Modi, support [Afghan] President [Ashraf] Ghani, and all those who are trying to maintain peace and make for a better world here," Mattis said. "So, we are on that track."

The United States has been actively at war in Afghanistan for 17 years, but was also involved in proxy fights against the Soviet Union beginning in 1979. U.S. intervention in Afghanistan continued through the 1980s and 1990s.

While Mattis has repeatedly spoken of ending the war in Afghanistan, highlighting the need for a diplomatic solution, other recent comments suggest his vision of an end to the war does not include U.S. troop withdrawal. "We are going to stand with the 41 nations, largest wartime coalition in history, who are still committed to this effort," he said at a defense forum in California Saturday. Bonnie Kristian

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

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