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February 7, 2019

A House hearing on President Trump's zero tolerance immigration policy seems like the perfect place to ask how many children are still separated by the government. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.) proved that assumption wrong.

On Thursday, the House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing on the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy, which separated migrant children from their families at the border. The policy didn't account for reunifying those families, meaning that even months after the policy was repealed by Trump's executive order, children were still staying in overloaded detention facilities and tent cities while waiting for a sponsor or family member in the U.S. to pass screenings. The most notorious tent city in Tornillo, Texas once held as many as 2,500 minors, and wasn't empty until mid January.

So at the hearing, with a gathering of government officials directly involved with the family separation policy, Schakowsky decided to ask some simple questions. "Does anyone know how many children were separated from their parents?," she asked first, with no answer. "Does anyone know how many separated kids are still in U.S. custody?" she asked again. "No one knows," Schakowsky concluded. Watch her questioning below. Kathryn Krawczyk

February 4, 2019

Despite President Trump's objections, General Motors' layoff spree is already underway.

The manufacturer began laying off about 4,000 salaried workers on Monday, a spokesperson tells the Detroit Free Press. Most of the cut jobs will be in North America, and this latest round of layoff announcements is expected to wrap up in the next two weeks.

The move comes after GM said it would close five factories and eliminate 14,000 jobs in Canada and the U.S. last November. Trump had some choice tweets for the manufacturer at the time and threatened to slash the company's subsidies. But that seemingly didn't stop GM from cutting its first round of 1,500 contract workers in December and handing buyouts to another 2,300 salaried workers, officials said Monday, per CNBC.

A second round of layoffs launched on Monday, with most of the layoffs coming from GM's tech centers in Texas, Georgia, Arizona, and Michigan, Reuters reports. It's all part of GM's aim of cutting 15 percent of its 54,000 employees and saving $2.5 billion this year, the Free Press notes. Read more about the cuts — including how taxis were waiting to shuttle away laid-off employees who had to give up a company car — at the Detroit Free Press. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 27, 2019

At least 20 people are dead and 111 wounded after two bombs exploded Sunday morning during Mass in a Roman Catholic cathedral in Jolo, an island in the southern Philippines.

The first blast occurred while churchgoers attended a service, sending them rushing out as soldiers and police hurried inside to assist the victims. The second bomb, possibly attached to a parked motorcycle, went off by the main entrance. Those killed during the explosions include 15 civilians and five solders, reports The Washington Post.

Troops in armored carriers sealed the main road to the church while vehicles transported the dead and wounded to the hospital in town. Some casualties were also evacuated to nearby Zamboanga city by air, reports the Associated Press. Philippine armed forces are now on high alert, doing their best to secure all places of worship and public areas.

Islamist extremist Abu Sayyaf militants have been active on the island of Jolo for some time now. "We will pursue to the ends of the earth the ruthless perpetrators behind this dastardly crime until every killer is brought to justice and put behind bars," the office of President Rodrigo Duterte said in Manila. "The law will give them no mercy." Amari Pollard

January 26, 2019

At least nine people are dead and 300 more are missing after a dam collapsed in Brazil on Friday.

Mine workers were eating lunch Friday when a dam holding back tons of "reddish-brown sludge" collapsed, per The Associated Press. The mining waste flooded the worksite and poured into the nearby town of Brumadinho. Rescuers have so far recovered nine bodies, the governor's office of Minas Gerais state said, but it fears there will be many more.

At least 100 firefighters were at the scene by Friday night, and 200 more are scheduled to arrive Saturday. By Friday night, at least 187 people reported missing had been rescued, firefighters said.

The mine is owned by Vale, Brazil's largest mining company, AP says. A dam owned by Vale and another company similarly collapsed in 2015, killing 19 people "in what is considered to be Brazil's worst environmental disaster," BBC writes. The sludge that erupted last time contained dangerous heavy metals, the United Nations later found, though Vale's website says it is non-toxic. Vale's CEO said this collapse was "a human tragedy much larger" than the last one, though he said its environmental impact probably wouldn't be as bad.

Newly elected president Jair Bolsonaro called the situation a "tragedy" and said he would soon tour the damage by helicopter, per AP. He's pledged to deregulate the mining industry to stimulate Brazil's economy — something environmental groups say will only cause disasters like this to happen again. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 25, 2019

Roger Stone may have been arrested Friday, but his lawyer says it that doesn't mean he colluded with Russia.

The longtime adviser to President Trump was arrested Friday morning on charges including obstruction of an official proceeding, witness tampering, and making false statements. Some of those false statements were made to Congress, the indictment from Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team says. But in what seems to be a concession that Stone did make those misstatements, Stone's alleged lies were actually things he "honestly forgot about," Stone's attorney Grant Smith said in a statement Friday.

Apparently Smith also forgot something: that Stone repeated those supposed misstatements several times outside of congressional testimony. Stone appeared on Meet the Press last May, saying he "received nothing from Wikileaks or from the Russians" and "passed nothing on to Donald Trump or the Trump campaign." He also told C-SPAN last June that he "had no advanced knowledge of the source, content, or the exact disclosure timing of the Wikileaks disclosures."

Those repeated statements directly contradict findings in Mueller's Friday indictment, which say Stone told the Trump campaign he had contacts with WikiLeaks and imply he knew in advance about the publication of stolen Democratic emails ahead of the 2016 election. Read more about what Stone's lawyer contradicted at The Week. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 24, 2019

Media organizations are in crisis mode.

Newspaper giant Gannett cut an unknown number of positions from its publications under the USA Today network Wednesday. BuzzFeed slashed 15 percent of its workforce, or 200 employees, it revealed Wednesday night. And Verizon Media capped the purge by laying off seven percent of its employees, amounting to about 750 jobs cut. Altogether, that totals more than 1,000 media jobs lost in a single day.

Gannett, which owns a slew of papers across the country, had been expected to announce layoffs since a company owned by hedge fund Alden Global Capital announced a bid for Gannett earlier this month. Alden has been called the "destroyer of newspapers" due to the layoffs it brought to other papers it purchased in recent years. The extent of these latest layoffs is still unknown, but at least 20 employees, including senior editors with decades-long tenures and a Pulitzer Prize winner, announced their ousters Wednesday, per Poynter.

BuzzFeed's announcement was more surprising, but came after staffers learned senior editors were being sent to the company's New York City office for a major announcement, CNN reports. The cuts are part of a restructuring effort to move BuzzFeed toward profitability, as detailed in The Wall Street Journal.

Meanwhile, the biggest cuts came from the Verizon Media-owned HuffPost, AOL, and Yahoo. Specific layoffs were made official Thursday morning, HuffPost says, with editor Chloe Angyal announcing that HuffPost's entire Opinion section was being cut. All the layoffs sparked a wave of tweets from experienced journalists who learned their jobs were gone, followed by a rush of supportive responses and a call to tweet job openings at other media companies. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 17, 2019

Everything experts warned would happen after California's wildfires subsided? It's happening.

Massive snow, rain, and wind storms have rocked the state from top to bottom this week, leaving at least six dead, The Associated Press reports. And with thousands of acres of trees gone after October's massive wildfires, mudslides and flash floods were quick to follow.

Heavy rain and snow started falling Tuesday in "a significant part of California" thanks to a "storm rolling in from the Pacific Ocean," an Accuweather meteorologist told USA Today earlier this week. Conditions have remained harsh ever since, bringing a winter storm warning to southern California and blizzards to the tops of the Sierra Nevadas through Thursday. Four people died in storm-related car accidents, one died when a tree fell on a homeless encampment in Oakland, and another died while fleeing a falling tree, per AP.

While rain helped douse the Camp Fire in northern California in November, it also increased the risk of deadly floods and mudslides because no vegetation remained to absorb the runoff, experts said. Those risks became a reality this week as up to 7 inches of rain were expected through Friday in the ravaged town of Paradise, with the National Weather Service issuing a flash flood watch in the town's Butte County.

The storms came a week after President Trump said he would cut off federal disaster funding to the state because "with proper forest management," the wildfires "would never happen." Thousands of families are still rebuilding after last year's fires, and the government shutdown could delay recovery efforts even further. Kathryn Krawczyk

January 17, 2019

The Trump administration has owned up to taking 2,737 migrant children from their families after they crossed the border. A government report shows that number is probably way off.

Family separation is largely attributed to Trump's "zero tolerance" immigration policy, and previous counts usually just included children split from their parents after the policy took effect in spring 2018. But the Office of Refugee Resettlement actually saw a "steep increase" in family separations that started in summer 2017, a report issued Thursday by the Department of Health and Human Services' Inspector General says. "Thousands of children may have been separated" during that time, the report says — and the government never tracked just how many.

Even before zero tolerance took hold, "HHS faced significant challenges identifying which children in its care had been separated by" the Department of Homeland Security, and which had just arrived alone, assistant inspector general Ann Maxwell told BuzzFeed News. That meant the government had no accurate count of which children were separated, and couldn't easily find those children's families after a July 2018 lawsuit ordered their reunification. Separated children "were still being identified more than five months after the original court order" to find their families or sponsors, the report says.

Since the lawsuit, DHS intake forms now indicate whether a child was separated and include parental information. But Maxwell is still skeptical if they've recorded enough data to eventually reunite a child with their family, she told reporters Thursday. Based on this report, the inspector general's office plans to issue recommendations to the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Read more about the report's findings at BuzzFeed News and read the whole report here. Kathryn Krawczyk

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