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Reince Priebus doubles down on Trump’s assertion that journalists are the enemy of the people

February 19, 2017 - 3:43pm

Reince Priebus did the rounds on the morning shows Sunday — and affirmed President Donald Trump’s controversial tweet that the news media are the enemy of the American people.

Speaking on CBS show “Face the Nation,” White House Chief of Staff Priebus said that the president meant it when he called the media the enemy.

The FAKE NEWS media (failing @nytimes, @NBCNews, @ABC, @CBS, @CNN) is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American People!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017

“I think you should take it seriously,” Priebus told CBS’ John Dickerson. “I think the problem we’ve got is that we’re talking about bogus stories… And I think the media needs to, in some cases, not every case… but in some cases, really needs to get its act together.”

Priebus criticized news outlets that rely on anonymous sources, pointing to two stories that he found especially problematic. The first was a recent story by the New York Times reporting that Trump aides were in repeated contact with Russia in the year prior to the election.

The second story was by the Wall Street Journal, saying that intelligence officials were withholding information from Trump because they were concerned that it could be leaked. Both stories relied on anonymous sourcing from current and former intelligence officials.

Dickerson asked Priebus whether the administration was fostering conspiracy around the media to shield themselves from potentially damaging stories, such as the allegations of communication between Trump’s team and Russian officials.

“I mean, you’re talking about people that you’re not naming, and whether or not some things need to be improved,” Priebus replied. “What things? What people. What are you referring to? Give me a specific question with a specific purpose — accusation, and I’ll answer the question.”

Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday also hammered Priebus over Trump’s tweets, asserting that the president “crosses a line when he talks about that we’re an enemy of people.” “That is concerning,” Wallace said.

“I don’t know why you’re so hot in here,” Priebus replied. “You’re going bananas here, Chris. It’s ridiculous.”

Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain’s comments on NBC’s Meet the Press have garnered a lot of attention. “If you want to preserve democracy as we know it, you have to have a free and many times adversarial press,” McCain said. “Without it, I am afraid that we would lose so much of our individual liberties over time. That’s how dictators started.”

McCain clarified that he was not accusing Trump of being a dictator, but instead made his comments during a broader discussion about dictators in the context of World War Two. “They get started by suppressing free press. In other words, a consolidation of power when you look at history, the first thing that dictators do is shut down the press. And I’m not saying that President Trump is trying to be a dictator. I’m just saying we need to learn the lessons of history.”

 

Phoenix Immigration Arrest

February 19, 2017 - 3:02pm

This segment originally aired Feb. 10, 2017, on VICE News Tonight on HBO. 

Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos was recently deported to south Nogales in what advocates are viewing as evidence of a change in ICE deportation policies under President Trump. Guadalupe Garcia de Rayos has called the United States home for the past 20 years and both her children are citizens.

VICE News Correspondent David Noriega reports yards from the U.S. Border in Mexico where he follows the family as they make sense of what Rayos’ deportation will mean for their families future.

The Scandinavian hygge lifestyle is taking the world by storm

February 19, 2017 - 2:13pm

This segment originally aired on Feb, 9, 2017 on VICE News Tonight on HBO. 

Hygge is a Danish term defined as “a quality of cosiness and comfortable conviviality that engenders a feeling of contentment or well-being.” In the past year, this concept of Scandinavian coziness has made inroads with an international audience.

At least six books about hygge were published in the United States this year, with more to come in 2017. Author of the international best-seller The Little Book of Hygge, Meik Wiking takes VICE News on a hygge tour of Copenhagen coffee shops, library gardens, and wine bars that epitomize the lifestyle trend.

Iraqi forces launch assault on west Mosul to take back control from Islamic State group

February 19, 2017 - 12:41pm

Iraq government forces launched an offensive Sunday to recapture the western part of the city of Mosul, the last stronghold for Islamic State jihadists in the country — but United Nations officials warn that as many as 650,000 civilians could be trapped there and at risk of being used as human shields or caught in the crossfire.

IS have previously threatened to kill any of the estimated 350,000 children still in Mosul if they try to leave the city.

Hundreds of Iraqi military vehicles rolled across the desert towards Mosul on Sunday, showering the city with airstrikes, the BBC reported, in what was the decisive day of a four month operation. The offensive was announced by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi on Sunday morning.

But the layout of Mosul’s west side could make liberating the city especially challenging, military experts and human rights advocates have said.

“An estimated 350,000 children are trapped in western Mosul, and the impact and other explosive weaponry in those narrow, densely-populated streets is likely to be more deadly and indiscriminate than anything we have seen in the conflict so far,” Maurizio Crivallero, Save the Children’s Iraq Country Director said in a statement. “This is the grim choice for children in western Mosul right now: bombs, crossfire and hunger if they stay; or execution and snipers if they try to run.”

Meanwhile, commanders have noted that military vehicles will be unable to pass through many of the narrow, winding streets, according to Reuters.

Iraq forces recaptured the eastern side of the city last month. Mosul’s two sides are divided by the Tigris River and normally linked by bridges. During Iraq’s assault on IS-posts in the eastern side of the city last month, U.S.-led coalition airstrikes targeted some of the bridges to prevent militants on the west side from sending reinforcements to their eastern counterparts.

After Iraqi forces successfully recaptured the east, IS militants reportedly destroyed remaining bridges in a “desperate act” to delay the government’s advance, according to a U.S-led Coalition spokesperson. The lack of bridges has made Iraq’s plan to liberate Mosul’s western region more challenging.

Iraq's EDRcelebrate their first success in the west mosul campaign, taking Alignatra village. 13 IS killed, four car bombs detonated. pic.twitter.com/wZRDrWhhn1

— Quentin Sommerville (@sommervillebbc) February 19, 2017

Mosul fell to Islamic State group in June 2014.

This Louisiana charter school is working miracles for dyslexic kids — but it may shut down

February 19, 2017 - 11:28am

This segment originally aired Feb. 7, 2016, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

Betsey De Vos’s confirmation as Secretary of Education comes with the expectation that she will be a strong ally for charter schools. Charter schools are publicly funded but are run like small businesses – it’s the state’s responsibility to regulate which are succeeding and which are falling short. But judging the efficacy of charters isn’t always easy.

In Louisiana, where the number of charters has grown significantly since Hurricane Katrina, the state is still figuring out how to manage the system. Roberto Ferdman visited to explore how the original promise of charters – creating the opportunity for more diverse and specialized schools – hasn’t come to be.

DHS memos signal strict new border enforcement and action on undocumented immigrants

February 19, 2017 - 11:07am

The Department of Homeland Security has drafted two new memos which aim to ramp up deportation efforts against undocumented immigrants in the United States.

The memos, which were signed by DHS Secretary John Kelly and dated Friday, were reportedly distributed to agency heads, such as U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, and Citizenship and Immigration services, according to media site McClatchy, who first obtained the documents.

Kelly’s memos offer a blueprint to agency heads for how they should implement Trump’s executive orders on immigration. But they aren’t final until the White House signs off on them, which it hasn’t yet done.

Here’s what the memos propose:

  • The new system would expand the criteria for “expedited removal proceedings.” At the moment, fast-track deportation applies to anyone who has arrived in the U.S. in the last two weeks. The new criteria would apply to anyone who arrived in the last two years.
  • Currently, Mexican immigrants apprehended at the border are given the option to be held at a U.S. detention center while they wait on the outcome of their proceedings. The new system would immediately return people to Mexico while they wait for their immigration hearing.
  • Children who arrived in the U.S. as “unaccompanied minors” and were later reunited with their parents living in the country illegally would not be protected from deportation. Their parents could be subject to prosecution though, especially if they paid human traffickers to transport their children over the border.
  • One memo says that Dreamers — young people whose undocumented parents brought them to the U.S. as children, and who became eligible for semi-legal status under Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program  — would be safe from immigration enforcement. But another section states that no class of immigrants will be given special protection.
  • The memos would also put the wheels in motion for the additional hiring of more Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers, building the infamous wall along the southern border, and expanding detention facilities.

 

People are confused after Trump alluded to terror attack in Sweden that never happened

February 19, 2017 - 9:42am

Swedish people have taken to social media to express their confusion over President Donald Trump’s allusion to a terror attack in their country that didn’t actually happen.

“You look at what’s happening,” Trump told the crowd at a campaign-like rally in Melbourne, Florida on Saturday night. “We’ve got to keep our country safe. You look at what’s happening in Germany, you look at what’s happening last night in Sweden.”

“Sweden, who would believe this? Sweden,” the president continued. “They took in large numbers. They’re having problems like the never thought  possible. You look what’s happening in Brussels. You look at what’s happening all over the world. Take a look at Nice. Take a look at Paris.”

Except, as Swedes pointed out on social media, nothing bad had happened the previous night in Sweden. “Sweden? Terror attack?” wrote former Prime Minister Carl Bildt on Twitter. “What has he been smoking? Questions abound.”

Swedish tabloid AftonBladet dedicated its front page to the headline, “In English: This Happened in Sweden Friday Night Mr President,” along with a bulleted summary of that days’ news events, such as a car chase involving a drunk driver and an avalanche warning due to harsh weather.

@sweden we all need to start to heal pic.twitter.com/1a1n14CB8J

— Virgile Le Maléfique (@Ad_Virgilium) February 19, 2017

Some asked whether perhaps Trump had confused Sweden with Sehwan in Pakistan, where more than 85 people died in a suicide bombing at a Sufi shrine on Friday.

Many have theorized that the president has a tendency to make public remarks based on what he’s seen on television on any given day. Given this, a school librarian who runs one of Sweden’s official Twitter accounts, wondered whether his comments were inspired by an interview aired Friday evening on Fox News with documentary-maker Ami Horowitz, whose recent film argues that there is a relationship between Sweden’s new refugee population and high crime rates.

The librarian, Emma, noted that the most pressing news in Sweden right now is actually about selecting their contestant for this year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

No. Nothing has happened here in Sweden. There has not ben any terrorist attacks here. At all. The main news right now is about Melfest. ->

— @sweden / Emma (@sweden) February 19, 2017

Trump was alluding to terror attacks in Europe to justify his frustration that a federal court two weeks ago blocked the implementation of a controversial executive order which temporarily banned foreigners from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.

Dear @realDonaldTrump, Sweden is immigration friendly, international & liberal. One of the most prosperous, richest, safest places on earth.

— Alexander Stubb (@alexstubb) February 19, 2017

Trump is not the first in his administration to refer to an attack that did not happen. His adviser, Kellyanne Conway recently urged viewers during an appearance on MSNBC to remember the Bowling Green Massacre (remarks she had made in the past during interviews with TMZ and Cosmopolitan). There was never a Bowling Green Massacre. In 2011 Federal agents arrested two Iraqi men in Bowling Green, Kentucky for conspiring to send money and weapons to al-Qaeda.

On Jan. 29, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer thrice alluded to a terror attack on Atlanta. There were bombings in Atlanta in the late 1990’s, but Spicer later clarified in an email to ABC News that he was actually talking about the attack on the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida.

Trump kicks off 2020 by ripping into the media: “They’re part of a corrupt system”

February 18, 2017 - 6:57pm

MELBOURNE, Fla. — Twenty-nine days after being sworn in, President Donald Trump kicked off his reelection campaign with a rally where he called the crowd his “friends” and framed the press as his enemy.

Speaking in a muggy airplane hangar in front of a crowd local officials pegged at 9,000-strong, Trump said he wanted to speak “without the filter of the fake news.”

“They’ve become a big part of the problem. They’re part of the corrupt system,” he said.

Trump promised: “When the media lies to the people I will never ever let them get away with it,” and warned the media “have their own agenda.”

It was an invigorated and in-control Trump that took the stage in front of a cheering crowd — a stark contrast to the Trump that’s stumbled during his first few weeks as president back in Washington. He delivered a largely standard stump speech, to a typically adoring crowd, and was introduced, unexpectedly, by his wife before taking the podium.

Trump used the speech to paper over what’s been by all accounts a rocky start to his tenure, marred by major policy defeats, the recent resignation of his National Security Adviser, nationwide protests and continued questions over his advisers’ relationships with Russia.

“The White House is running so smoothly,” he told the crowd.

The president listed a litany of accomplishments — moving towards approval of the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines; reducing regulations — and some he hasn’t yet achieved, like taking “decisive action to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country.” His one move in that direction — banning immigration from some majority-Muslim nations — was blocked in the courts.

Trump took particular ire with that court decision, calling it “unbelievable” and “so unfair,” and reading a statute he said defended his right as president to establish the ban, which judges ruled was too sweeping.

But he promised a new travel ban would come next week: “I think you’ll be impressed; we’ve got to keep our country safe,” he said.

He also promised action on Obamacare and rolling back environmental regulations, which he said were “clogging up the veins of our country.”

However surreal the campaign-style rally was so early into his tenure, it still marked the use of a more traditional presidential tactic: Speaking from the bully pulpit to move national sentiment in his favor. Trump told the crowd to “tell Democrats to stop their tactics of delay and obstruction and destruction,” lamenting the slow pace of confirmation for his cabinet nominees.

With Trump’s approval rating underwater in every recent poll, it’s unclear whether the president will have the same ability to use the bully pulpit to regain control of the news cycle or turn it in his favor.

But rallies were always both Trump’s strength and his source of energy during the campaign, and indeed he told reporters on Air Force One before descending onto the stage that it’s bigger than just a rally for him — “Life is a campaign.”

“Making our country great again is a campaign. For me, it’s a campaign. To make America great again is absolutely a campaign,” he said.

“It’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press.”

 

Former child immigrant protected under DACA act will remain in detention

February 17, 2017 - 4:48pm

Daniel Ramirez Medina, the first recipient of Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protections to be detained by immigration officials under the Trump administration, will remain a captive. The magistrate judge who presided over Ramirez’s Friday hearing said he doesn’t have the jurisdiction to order Ramirez released.

About 200 people chanting “Free Daniel now!” protested outside the Seattle courthouse as Judge James Donohue ruled that only an immigration court can hear a bond hearing for Ramirez, a Mexican immigrant who has been twice authorized for DACA protections. And because the outcome of the case could threaten the immigration status of all DACA recipients — people who came to the United States as undocumented children and are now legally allowed to live and work here — that hearing needs to happen by next Friday, Donohue said.

But getting a bond hearing in immigration court can take up to a month, Ramirez’s attorneys said. If Ramirez is detained for that long, they worry, the government could revoke Ramirez’s DACA designation before the hearing.

In a complaint filed Friday, Ramirez’s lawyers argued that recipients of DACA work permits are given the “reasonable expectation” that they won’t get picked up by immigration officials. And they’re worried that Ramirez’s detention might be the beginning of President Donald Trump’s crackdown on undocumented immigrants who had been protected against deportation.

“I’m disappointed that Daniel wasn’t released today. That was the hope,” Seattle City Councilmember Lorena González said in a Friday statement. “However, Judge Donohue’s comments indicate that he understands the gravity of the situation for both Daniel and DACA recipients across the nation…. We still need answers from [Immigration and Custom Enforcement] and will follow closely as this court pursues them.”

A second DACA recipient, 19-year-old Jose Romero, was taken into ICE custody in San Antonio on Thursday, according to the Guardian. Local police reportedly arrested Romero on Wednesday for possessing less than two ounces of marijuana — a misdemeanor in Texas — before handing him over to immigration officials. Romero was released Thursday.

ICE agents arrested Ramirez late last Friday, according to Ramirez’s complaint. He was at his father’s house when ICE agents arrived looking for his dad, who ICE described as “a prior-deported felon” in a statement. According to the lawsuit, the agents asked Ramirez, “Are you legally here?”

“Yes, I have a work permit,” he said before declining to answer any more questions. ICE agents took to him to a field office south of Seattle, according to the complaint.

At the hearing, Ramirez’s lawyers did not address the allegations that Ramirez is a “self-admitted gang member,” as an ICE statement labeled him, or that officials doctored legal documents in an attempt to prove it. Though Ramirez maintains that he doesn’t belong to any gangs, his attorneys argue that it wouldn’t even matter if he did — if everything ICE has claimed is true, Ramirez’s DACA status means he can’t be deported.

“DACA is much more than just a work permit,” Luis Cortes Romero, one of Ramirez’s attorneys, said in a press conference Friday after the hearing. “DACA provides us [the] ability to be integrated into our community. And so Daniel being detained, when he is just a person like me, is problematic.”

In an emailed statement, ICE declined to comment beyond its public filings and court statements.

Trump has signed two executive orders broadening immigration officials’ “enforcement priorities,” but his specific plans for DACA recipients are unclear. In a Thursday press conference, he told reporters, “DACA is a very difficult subject for me — you have these incredible kids. We are going to deal with DACA with heart.”

Florida doctors win back right to talk to patients about guns

February 17, 2017 - 3:19pm

A federal appeals court in Florida overturned a state law Thursday that prevented doctors from talking to patients about guns and gun safety, ruling that the law violates doctors’ constitutional rights to free speech.

The 2011 Firearms Owners’ Privacy Act stipulated that doctors risk losing their medical licenses if they discuss or record information about patients’ gun ownership and practices — unless they believed “in good faith” that the discussion was relevant to treating the patient. Shortly after the law was passed, several medical organizations and doctors filed lawsuits against the state, igniting a legal battle dubbed “Docs vs. Glocks.”

In a 10-1 decision, judges on the United States Circuit Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit sided with the docs.

“Due to the challenged provisions of FOPA, and in order to avoid discipline by the Board of Medicine, these doctors are engaged in self-censorship,” the court said in its majority opinion. “Against their professional judgment, they are no longer asking patients questions related to firearm ownership, no longer using questionnaires with such questions, and/or no longer maintaining written records of consultations with patients about firearms.”

The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians all recommend that doctors ask patients if there are firearms in their homes, according to the opinion. Research shows that a doctor’s advice helps gun owners store firearms more safely.

The appeals court judges did find that one part of the law was constitutional: Doctors can’t discriminate against or deny service to patients who own or use firearms. In doing so, the judges pointed out that lawmakers who drafted the act had heard of only “about six anecdotes” related to doctors treating patients improperly because they owned guns.

“I think this decision sends a clear message that states have to stay out of the business of instructing doctors what to tell their patients about firearms,” said Hannah Shearer, an attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. “It’s just kind of [a] lame argument that gun owners are so fragile that they need protection from doctors’ questions.”

Florida was the first state to pass what has been called a “doctor gag order,” but at least 10 other states have introduced similar bills in the past few years, according to the gun safety group Everytown Research. So far, not one has passed.

“Certainly, if a state was going to pass a law like this after this decision,” Shearer said, “it would be susceptible to the same kind of legal challenge.”

Scott Pruitt confirmed as EPA chief despite thousands of unreleased emails with oil companies

February 17, 2017 - 2:19pm

– Scott Pruitt confirmed as EPA head in vote along party lines
– Vote came days before release of emails between Pruitt and oil and gas companies
– President Donald Trump has said the EPA makes it “impossible for our country to compete.”

The U.S. Senate on Friday confirmed Scott Pruitt as head of the Environmental Protection Agency, putting the former Oklahoma attorney general in a position to carry out President Trump’s promise to severely cut back an agency he says makes it “impossible for our country to compete.”

The Senate voted 52-46 in favor of Pruitt, largely along party lines, with one Republican defecting, Susan Collins of Maine, and two Democrats in favor: Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, two states with substantial coal industries. The Republicans didn’t even need the vote of Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who skipped the vote to travel to a conference in Munich.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell pressed ahead with the vote against the objections of Democrats who wanted to delay the vote until the release of 3,000 emails detailing correspondence between Pruitt and fossil fuel companies. In 2014, a New York Times investigation showed that lobbyists for oil and gas companies were drafting letters for Pruitt to send from his office, and that those companies were some of Pruitt’s largest campaign contributors.

The Center for Media and Democracy sued Pruitt in 2015 to release the emails, and an Oklahoma judge ruled in favor of the suit this week and ordered the emails’ release on Tuesday.

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., called the fast-tracked vote “an epic ram-job.”

“The public has a right to know what is in all of those emails,” said Sen. Ed Markey, D-Mass. “They have a right to know what the record is of the chief protector of the environment in the United States.”

With Trump and Vice President Mike Pence out of town, Pruitt will have to wait until next week to be sworn in. At that time the president is expected to sign multiple executive orders scaling back Obama-era climate change initiatives and limiting the agency’s authority. An unnamed Trump administration official told Inside EPA that the orders would “suck the air out of the room.”

As attorney general of Oklahoma, Pruitt sued the EPA 14 times on behalf of oil and gas interests based in his state and issued more than 50 press releases celebrating lawsuits to overturn EPA standards. At his confirmation hearings earlier this month, he conceded he could not think of a single EPA regulation he supported. “There has never been a nominee for EPA administrator opposed so strongly by environmental and public health advocates, scientists, and hundreds of current and former EPA officials,” said Ken Cook, Environmental Working Group president, in a statement.

Pruitt will face a hostile environment at the agency he’s charged to lead. Nearly 800 present and former EPA officials have signed a letter opposing Pruitt; many have also taken it upon themselves to call U.S. senators to voice their disapproval.

Migrants storm a security fence to reach EU territory in North Africa

February 17, 2017 - 12:50pm

A 20-foot razor-wired fence separates Ceuta, a Spanish territory in North Africa, from Morocco. About 700 migrants rushed the barrier on Friday, with nearly 500 successfully making it through. The mass attempt resulted in 11 injured police officers and two hospitalized migrants.

Ceuta is one of two EU territories on the African continent, making it a sought-after destination for refugees and migrants seeking asylum.

Week 4 in Trump’s America: Flynn resigns, more links to Russia, and a wild press conference

February 17, 2017 - 12:08pm

To get “This Week in Trump’s America” delivered to your inbox, sign up here

Week 4, in one sentence: Donald Trump played a round of golf with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe; discussed national security issues in front of Mar-a-Lago diners and staff; brushed off ties to Russia — again — after national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned; had his first meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; saw yet another legal blow to his immigration ban; faced more mounting allegations about his ties to Russia after a New York Times report said members of his presidential campaign had repeated contact with senior Russian intelligence officials; met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu one day after appearing to abandon U.S. support of a two-state solution for Israel and Palestine; saw Andrew Puzder withdraw from the nomination for labor secretary after a series of scandals; attacked the media in a wild press conference; promised another immigration ban; announced plans to nominate his first Hispanic Cabinet pick; claimed to have an “outstanding” pick to replace Michael Flynn, but that pick turned down the job hours later; made Chris Christie order meatloaf; and insisted everything was running just fine.

Trump meets Shinzo Abe

Day 23 — Feb. 11: Donald Trump hosted a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, and the two played a round of golf at Trump’s resort in Florida. Black plastic covered the doors and windows overlooking the golf course, blocking journalists from witnessing the meeting.

A report put a price tag of $21.6 billion on the wall that’s supposed to be built on the U.S.-Mexico border. Trump tweeted an hour later that once he gets involved, the “price will come WAY DOWN!” 

Blunder at Mar-a-Lago

Day 24 – Feb. 12: Donald Trump apparently discussed national security issues (specifically, North Korea’s test-firing of a ballistic missile) on a Mar-a-Lago terrace full of diners and staff. Photographs posted on social media appeared to show aides swarming Trump’s table and using their phones’ flashlights to help the president and Abe read documents.

U.S. immigration officials arrested hundreds of undocumented residents in a series of raids across at least six states over several days. It was the first major crackdown since Trump signed an executive order on Jan. 25 vowing to ramp up immigration enforcement activity.

Flynn resigns

Day 25 – Feb. 13: Trump’s beleaguered national security adviser Michael Flynn resigned after admitting he misled Vice President Mike Pence and discussed sanctions with Russia before Trump took office. The timeline of Flynn’s resignation raises all kinds of red flags for the White House.

Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau held a joint news conference in Washington, and Trudeau refused to criticize Trump.

A federal judge in Virginia dealt perhaps the strongest blow yet to Trump’s attempt to keep residents of seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S. The judge said the state attorney general’s challenge to the ban would likely succeed under the religious freedom clause of the First Amendment.

Russia, Russia, Russia

Day 26 – Feb. 14: Bombshell leaks from inside the White House claim that senior members of Trump’s campaign team were in regular contact with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, directly contradicting statements by the president and his team. Trump has been dogged by controversy over his and his staff’s ties to Russia. Trump himself called on Russian hackers to find and release Hillary Clinton’s emails during a campaign event last summer.

The Senate’s second-ranking Republican joined other GOP lawmakers earlier that day calling for an investigation into President Trump’s ties to Russia.

Trump reportedly still uses an unsecured Android phone, and two senators called for an investigation.

****
VICE NEWS’ COVERAGE:

More than 200 Republicans in Congress are skipping town halls with their constituents 

Trump Towers Rio still hasn’t been built — and the residents it pushed out couldn’t be happier

Trump’s White House keeps making spelling mistakes, but his supporters probably don’t care

Senate Republicans suddenly want to investigate Trump’s ties to Russia

Minority activists discuss planning for Trump’s unpredictable executive orders

The latest block of Trump’s immigration ban is the strongest yet, experts say

The timeline of Flynn’s resignation raises all kinds of red flags for the White House

Trump has declared “open season” on young immigrants protected by Obama, activist says

These Democrats are vying to lead the party — and its fight against Donald Trump

****

Trump meets Netanyahu, and Puzder withdraws

Day 27 – Feb. 15: Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met at the White House for their first sit-down, and the two leaders were all smiles and handshakes. Just the day before, Trump’s White House announced a major policy shift that seemed to abandon the U.S.’s long-standing commitment to a two-state solution.

Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of labor, fast-food executive Andrew Puzder, withdrew from the confirmation process after scrutiny of his personal and professional life made some Republican senators reluctant to confirm him. They’d watched a decades-old episode of “Oprah” about “high-class battered women” in which Puzder’s ex-wife appeared incognito accusing him of abuse. Puzder had admitted to employing an undocumented housekeeper, and he has a history of supporting machine replacement of workers.

Trump’s wild press conference

Day 28 – Feb. 16: Trump attacked the media and dismissed suggestions of a White House in crisis during a bizarre, 80-minute press conference. “I’m really not a bad person, by the way,” he said. (See the key moments here.)

How can the leaks be real but the news be fake?
Here's Trump's response: pic.twitter.com/Q83lqLiKOU

— VICE News (@vicenews) February 16, 2017

During the news conference, Trump promised a new immigration order tailored to bypass the court decision blocking his current ban.

Trump also announced plans to nominate Alexander Acosta for labor secretary. Acosta would be the first Hispanic member of Trump’s Cabinet.

Military veteran Robert Harward — Trump’s “outstanding” candidate to replace Michael Flynn as national security adviser — rejected the offer for the job hours after Trump alluded to Harward during this news conference.

Everything is fine

Day 29 – Feb. 17: Donald Trump kicked off his day Friday by thanking his supporters for “all of the nice statements” he received regarding his performance at Thursday’s press conference.

“Rush Limbaugh said one of greatest ever,” Trump tweeted.

Trump also noted that he had more candidates to replace Michael Flynn — calling out Keith Kellogg by name — after Harward rejected the job, reportedly calling the position “a shit sandwich.”

The Associated Press reported that Trump’s White House was considering a mobilization of as many as 100,000 National Guard troops in 11 states to “round up unauthorized immigrants,” according to a draft memo. Governors in the 11 states would have a choice to participate or not, the memo said.

Chris Christie said Trump made him order meatloaf while dining at the White House.

‘‘This is what it’s like to be with Trump,’’ the New Jersey governor quipped. ‘‘He says, ‘There’s the menu, you guys order whatever you want.’ And then he says, ‘Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.’ ’’

This week in POTUS tweets:

The real scandal here is that classified information is illegally given out by "intelligence" like candy. Very un-American!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 15, 2017

The Democrats had to come up with a story as to why they lost the election, and so badly (306), so they made up a story – RUSSIA. Fake news!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 16, 2017

I know Mark Cuban well. He backed me big-time but I wasn't interested in taking all of his calls.He's not smart enough to run for president!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 12, 2017

Thank you for all of the nice statements on the Press Conference yesterday. Rush Limbaugh said one of greatest ever. Fake media not happy!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 17, 2017

For more, follow our Trump Tracker here.

These are the vile things people said to a Muslim politician who wants to condemn Islamophobia in Canada

February 17, 2017 - 11:43am

Liberal MP Iqra Khalid says she has been bombarded with thousands of Islamophobic messages, sexist comments, and death threats since tabling an anti-Islamophobia motion in the House of Commons.

Khalid, the MP for Mississauga-Erin Mills, said she’s received over 50,000 emails in response to M-103. That nonbinding motion calls on all Members of Parliament to condemn Islamophobia, collect data to contextualize hate crimes, and establish a committee to determine how best to combat xenophobia and religious discrimination of all stripes.

If passed, M-103 would not change Canada’s hate speech laws. But dissent against the motion has festered online, where far-right blogs have called it an attack on free speech and a sign of encroaching Sharia Law.

“Kill her and be done with it. I agree, she is here to kill us. She is sick, and needs to be deported.”

And Khalid has borne the brunt of that backlash. She read some of the threats she’s received in the House of Commons on Thursday.

“Kill her and be done with it,” one person wrote to the first time MP, who is herself Muslim. “I agree, she is here to kill us. She is sick, and needs to be deported.”

One person wrote that “we will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim.” Another said that there’s no need to debate Khalid — “simply remind her that she is merely a woman, and she needs to sit the ‘blank’ down and shut the ‘blank’ up.”

Others called for her deportation.

“Why did Canadians let her in? Ship her back,” said another.

“Simply remind her that she is merely a woman, and she needs to sit the ‘blank’ down and shut the ‘blank’ up.”

“Why don’t you get out of my country? You’re a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians.”

Khalid also quoted the transcript of a YouTube video that read “I’m not going to help them shoot you, I’m going to be there to film you on the ground crying.”

“Yeah, I’ll be there writing my story with a big fat smile on my face. Ha ha ha. The Member got shot by a Canadian patriot,” Khalid said, reading from the video’s transcript.

Khalid said she’s received supportive messages alongside all the hate, but she isn’t taking the death threats lightly.

“Why don’t you get out of my country? You’re a disgusting piece of trash and you are definitely not wanted here by the majority of actual Canadians.”

She has asked her staff to lock the office behind her and fears for her staff’s safety. She said that she’s asked her staff not to answer every phone call so they don’t “hear the threats, insults, and unbelievable amount of hate shouted at them and myself.”

Hate crimes against Muslim and Jewish communities are on the rise, and M-103 has taken on new urgency in the context of last month’s terror attack in Quebec City. That attack saw a 27-year-old French Canadian allegedly gun down six Muslim men praying at a Muslim cultural centre.

M-103 would also mandate that government conduct needs assessments to determine which communities need the most attention.

“‘I’m not going to help them shoot you, I’m going to be there to film you on the ground crying.”

Heritage Minister Melanie Joly told reporters on Wednesday that the Liberal party would support the motion. The NDP is also on board. But the Conservative Party is divided. While some Conservative MPs support the motion, others have shouted it down as an attack on freedom of speech that gives Islam special privileges.

So, Conservative MP David Anderson has tabled a competing motion, that instead removes the mention of Islamophobia and refers to Canada’s six most-practiced faiths.

Joly called Anderson’s motion a “watered down” version of M-103, adding that it was meant to address divisions within the Conservative party instead of the real problem — Islamophobia.

“We will burn down your mosques, draper head Muslim.”

Four Conservative leadership hopefuls — Kellie Leitch, Brad Trost, Chris Alexander and Pierre Lemieux — joined Rebel Media, the controversial right-wing website run by Ezra Levant, at a rally in North York earlier this week to rail against the motion. Leitch, who is promising to screen immigrants for “Canadian values” if elected, praised the rally for fighting back against “this politically correct nonsense.”  

One Vice News reporter saw a member of the audience give what looked like a Nazi salute, something organizers denied. Photographic evidence of the salute later emerged. 

Democrats feel a recession coming on while Republicans predict a booming economy

February 17, 2017 - 10:52am

Politics has completely devoured the American economy.

Not much has changed economically since President Donald Trump was sworn in last month. The most important economic update showed the U.S. economy churned out another 227,000 jobs in January, helping to pull more people back into the job market. That was a better-than-expected number and it continued what’s now the longest consecutive stretch of job growth on record.

But the Republican outlook on the U.S. economy has changed radically, and almost overnight, with the election of Donald Trump, whose promises to bring back wealth and manufacturing jobs rang like a bell to Americans in Rust Belt states like Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan that pushed him to victory.

The share of Republicans now saying that the economy will be better next year has surged to roughly 75 percent in the wake of Trump’s win. Democrats have gotten more pessimistic, with just 14 percent now saying that next year the economy will be better.

Of course, partisan feelings have long been known to shape the way Democrats and Republicans think about the health of the economy. But those who study these things suggest that partisanship has become a stronger force in recent years, with people saying the economy is doing well or poorly based largely on whether the party they prefer is in the White House.

But the effect with Trump has been massive. And it has bled over into other economic indicators. For instance, optimism among small-business owners — a cornerstone constituency for the GOP — has surged as well. And overall consumer confidence numbers also shot higher after Trump’s election, driven in part by a surge in Republicans.

In fact, in a note published along with the University of Michigan’s latest update on consumer confidence, economist Richard Curtin noted when the survey asked respondents to describe any recent news about the economy six in 10 mentioned Trump’s economic policies. (Those references were split down the middle as to whether Trump was an overall positive or negative.)

“These differences are troublesome,” Curtin wrote. “The Democrat’s Expectations Index is close to its historic low (indicating recession) and the Republican’s Expectations Index is near its historic high (indicating expansion).”

Betsy DeVos doubles down on guns and grizzly bears in latest interview

February 17, 2017 - 10:19am

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is finally easing into her job, after a historic confirmation vote early last week that required Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote, the first ever for a Cabinet nominee. In a new interview with Axios, DeVos explains what she wishes she’d said during her disastrous confirmation hearing.

Though DeVos did squeak through (by the thinnest of margins), her hearing was near-catastrophic, for a number of reasons. She defended keeping guns in schools because they could be used to fend off grizzly bears. She said that federal law protecting students with disabilities was really a state-level issue. And she appeared not to understand basic education policy terms.

Speaking with Axios, the billionaire heiress and Michigan-based school choice activist sought to fix some of the havoc that she had wrought in her hearing, by expressing what she “wishes” she’d said instead of what she actually said. From the interview:

  • DeVos still isn’t sure if the federal government should be involved in education, acknowledging that “there have been important inflection points” for government intervention but that she “can’t think of any now.”
  • She thinks her infamous example of using guns in schools to protect students from grizzly bears was a “valid illustration.”
  • DeVos now says she “absolutely” supports the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which at her confirmation hearing she said was a matter “best left to the states.”
  • There will be lots of new schools that don’t look anything like normal schools — she “expects” there to be more “public charter schools,” “private schools,” “virtual schools,” and “schools of any kind that haven’t even been invented yet.”
  • When asked how DeVos might change the education budget, she replied that she sees “opportunity” to make cuts but declined to specify further.

Since DeVos took office, she has been met by demonstrators blocking her entrance to public schools, and students around the country have staged walkouts in protest against her confirmation.

READ MORE: School choice gutted Detroit’s schools. America’s schools are next. 

Trump administration memo called for 100,000 National Guard troops to round up undocumented immigrants, report says

February 17, 2017 - 10:01am

The Trump administration is considering the mass mobilization of 100,000 National Guard troops to sweep up undocumented immigrants in 11 states, according to a draft memo the Associated Press reported Friday. The 11-page proposal under review would give the governors the ultimate say on whether to deploy these troops for that purpose.

President Donald Trump promised on the campaign trail that as president there would be a “deportation force” that would deport the millions of undocumented immigrants from the country. This order, if implemented, could be the beginnings of fulfilling that campaign pledge as it’s estimated that half of the country’s undocumented immigrants live in the 11 states named: California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters on Air Force One Friday that the report was “100 percent not true.” The memo has been circulating among staff at the Department of Homeland Security for the past two weeks, the AP reported.

This is not true. DHS also confirms it is 100% false https://t.co/MFIJci7XaU

— Sean Spicer (@PressSec) February 17, 2017

The DHS did not deny the existence of the memo, but said it was an early draft and not seriously considered.

A DHS official says memo was "a very early, pre decisional draft… and was never seriously considered by the Department"

— Dorey Scheimer (@DoreyScheimer) February 17, 2017

It became a common refrain during and after the presidential campaign that people should take Trump “seriously not literally,” a sentiment echoed even by Trump’s former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. But Trump’s actions as president—such as his executive order targeting immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries — have demonstrated that Trump meant what he said on the campaign trail.

“I’m keeping my promises to the American people,” Trump said at a press conference Thursday at the White House. “Some people are so surprised that we’re having strong borders. Well, that’s what I’ve been talking about for a year and a half, strong borders…. Some of the things I’m doing probably aren’t popular, but they’re necessary for security and for other reasons.”

Undocumented domestic abuse survivors may not seek help after courthouse ICE arrest

February 17, 2017 - 9:38am

Immigration and domestic violence advocates have condemned the arrest of an undocumented Texas woman last week as she left a court hearing in which she was seeking a protective order against her abuser. They’re also wondering what it means for other undocumented domestic abuse survivors.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested the woman outside an El Paso courtroom; one ICE agent attended the proceedings while another waited outside the room, said El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal in a Thursday press call about the incident. After the hearing concluded, the agents escorted the woman from the building and placed her in federal custody.

She remains in jail in El Paso.

Fear and uncertainty are reportedly already pervasive in immigrant communities in the wake of ICE raids nationally that resulted in almost 700 arrests in a five-day period. And the El Paso arrest will make undocumented abuse survivors even more unsure of whether they should leave abusive relationships, said Monica McLaughlin, deputy director of public policy for the National Network to End Domestic Violence.

Threatening undocumented victims with deportation, or telling them that they can’t get help without being deported, is a “really classic abuse tactic,” McLaughlin said. “If what [survivors have] been hearing from their perpetrator is then [what] they see come to fruition via another survivor, I think it makes them much less likely to seek help and assistance in the future.”

Detaining undocumented people who are seeking to escape domestic abuse isn’t unprecedented. In 2012, a Colorado woman who called police due to a domestic violence incident ended up being detained for two weeks by immigration agents. Yet the fact that the El Paso woman was allegedly arrested in a courthouse after her hearing for a protective order is unheard of, said Human Right Watch researcher Clara Long.

After Donald Trump’s election, some anti-domestic violence advocates started wondering if it’s a good idea to tell undocumented immigrants to turn to law enforcement, McLaughlin and immigration attorney Laura Polstein said, and this arrest only inflames those worries. Advocates often walk survivors through their options, letting them take the lead and ultimately decide what to do, but, “it is harder when the landscape is shifting and you can’t guarantee, ‘Hey, you won’t be picked up by ICE at this court,’” McLaughlin said.

Calls to the El Paso Center Against Sexual & Family Violence — where the survivor had been staying prior to her arrest and detention, according to an ICE affidavit — have spiked as undocumented abuse victims want to know if they’re safe from law enforcement, Stephanie Karr, the center’s executive director, said in the Thursday press conference.

The National Network to End Domestic Violence now recommends that advocates helping survivors figure out what to do should consider whether the survivors have a criminal record, as the El Paso survivor allegedly did. In an emailed statement, an ICE spokesperson said the woman had previously been convicted of crimes including domestic violence, larceny, and illegal re-entry to the United States after deportation.

The El Paso survivor’s boyfriend had battered her on at least three occasions, Bernal said; in one incident he allegedly chased her with a knife and threw it at her.

Under the Violence Against Women Act, if immigrants are abused by a relative who is a U.S. citizen or green card holder, they can apply for a green card without needing the abuser to file for benefits on their behalf. (Typically, they’d need those relatives to petition for them.) If immigrants are the victims of a crime and help law enforcement investigate that crime, they may be able to apply for what’s called a “U visa,” which allows them to stay in the country legally. And immigration status is not a barrier to seeking help from most domestic violence shelters and services.

“These options, these legal remedies, still exist,” said Rachel Goldsmith, who oversees a number of Safe Horizon domestic shelters. “They have not gone anywhere, despite the change in climate.”

How to secure your phone when crossing the border

February 17, 2017 - 8:47am

Privacy advocates and lawyers are advising travellers to wipe their phones of all data when crossing the U.S. border following a number of new reports of border agents seizing mobile devices and demanding passwords.

This week, American customs agents seized the phone of a NASA employee and U.S. citizen and demanded his PIN. In November, Canadian photojournalist Ed Ou had his phone confiscated by border agents, who told him to unlock it, and questioned him for six hours when he refused. Two Moroccan Canadians were denied entry into the U.S. this month, but only after agents had rifled through their phones.

The issue could get worse, if a proposal from Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly to demand the social media passwords of some travellers becomes reality.

Growing uncertainty over the rules is putting the onus on people to protect themselves. Here’s how.

Know your rights

Phone and password seizures were happening under the Obama administration. But in the wake of President Donald Trump’s now suspended travel and refugee ban, the American Civil Liberties Union says it has noted an increase in those types of reports from people crossing the border. 

You can’t be compelled to hand over your PIN or passwords at the U.S. border, according to Nathan Freed Wessler, staff attorney for the ACLU’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project, but depending on your status, there could be consequences for refusing to divulge them.

U.S. citizens and green card holders can be detained, and border agents can hold their devices, while visa-holders can be denied entry to the U.S. if they refuse to give their PIN or password.

“People’s phones and computers contain tremendous quantities of extremely sensitive, private and personal information.”

There have been few court cases in the U.S. testing the authority of border agents to search devices, Wessler said, and in most parts of the country, there is no court decision addressing this issue, so the government claims it can search any personal electronic device at the border.

“We are tremendously concerned with that position because people’s phones and computers contain tremendous quantities of extremely sensitive, private and personal information … so we think that there should be an impediment to the willy-nilly searching of these devices,” he said.

A 2013 appeals court ruling covering the western edge of the U.S. found that border security could not conduct forensic searches of devices — that is, download the full contents of a device and use forensic tools — without “reasonable suspicion” of criminal wrongdoing. Reasonable suspicion means they have evidence, not just a hunch, leading them to suspect wrongdoing.

But the catch-22 with “reasonable suspicion” is that it’s not possible for the traveler to know at the time their device is seized what evidence the border agent has to back up their suspicion.

At Canada’s border, the legal circumstances are similar. Brenda McPhail, director of the Privacy, Technology and Surveillance Project for the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, says the Customs Act allows border agents to search any goods coming into Canada, but the law is being interpreted so broadly that electronic devices can be searched, too. And in Canada, if you refuse to divulge the password to your device, you can be charged with obstruction.

“The border is what we call a zone of reduced privacy expectation, which means there’s more leeway to do things at the border than in other situations,” she says. “But even at the border, privacy invasions should be minimally impairing and they should be proportionate to the state interest or risk to the traveller.”

The power to demand passwords hasn’t been constitutionally tested in Canada, although she says the CCLA is looking for a test case so the law can be updated or clarified.

How to secure your device

Every security expert and privacy advocate VICE News spoke to advised travellers to back up their data on another device and then wipe their phones completely before crossing the border.

“Defeating encryption when they’re sitting there off is a lot harder.”

“I completely wipe it, back it up and go across the border with a fresh device,” says James Donaldson, head of Toronto-based organization Toronto Crypto. He recommends a “minimum data lifestyle” for those concerned about privacy.

Another simple trick is to power off your phone when crossing the border to ensure data can’t be easily extracted from it, explains Ryan Lackey, a Seattle-based security researcher who often visits Canada, China and Russia.

“The security of cell phones is a lot stronger when they’re sitting there cold and not running,” he said. “I’m pretty confident that there are ways to extract data from even the latest iPhones and Android devices when they’re operational. But defeating encryption when they’re sitting there off is a lot harder.”

When the device is turned back on, you must enter a passcode to access the phone. You want them to compel you to provide that passcode, Lackey says. “That’s a sign that everything else has worked up to that point,” he says.

You can also use tamper-proof tape or even pearlescent nail polish to create a seal over the SIM card slot and the screws holding your phone together so that if it is removed or altered after your phone is seized, you can tell your phone was tampered with.

Securing your phone will protect not only you, but any of your friends who may be vulnerable — journalists and activists, for example.

Tony Blair calls on British people to “rise up” and fight against Brexit

February 17, 2017 - 8:13am

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has called on the British people to “rise up” and fight against Brexit, arguing that it is not inevitable that the U.K. has to leave the European Union — despite the country voting to do just that in June last year.

In a controversial speech in London Friday, Blair criticized Prime Minister Theresa May and her government for its blinkered view on Brexit; slammed the current Labour leadership for its lack of opposition and said that the case for Scotland leaving the U.K. had been made “more credible.”

Blair dismissed accusations that it was undemocratic to discuss Brexit over six months after the public voted to leave the EU and just weeks before Article 50 is set to be triggered, saying the public did not have all the information they needed.

“They will say the will of the people can’t alter,” Blair said. “It can. They will say leaving is inevitable. It isn’t. They will say we don’t represent the people. We do, many millions of them and with determination, many millions more.”

Blair’s call for the public to “rise up in defense of what we believe” has been criticized by some who point out that more than one million people protested his decision to go to war with Iraq over a decade ago.

Tony Blair can crawl back under a rock. I remember about a million people rising up about Iraq and he ignored it

— RB (@piefan) February 17, 2017

Blair argued that Brexit would cause “pain and misery” for many, and make people less well off. “We are going to be poorer. The price of imported goods in our supermarkets is up, and thus the cost of living,” he said. “Making the best of a bad job doesn’t alter the fact that it isn’t smart to put yourself in that position.”

Blair also announced the establishment of a new institute which he said would help coordinate disparate groups across the U.K. who oppose Brexit, “to create informal links immediately and then build them into a movement with weight and reach.”

Blair had been rumored to be forming a new centrist political party, but on Friday he said he was not interested in going in that direction. The former Labour Party leader has previously said that his new organization is in reaction to “resurgent populism,” and he has drawn some support for his cause from the Liberal Democrats. Current leader Tim Farron said: “Tony Blair is right. The challenge now is to persuade people to change their mind.”

Former Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, said he agreed with every word of Blair’s speech.

I agreed with every single word of that.

— Nick Clegg (@nick_clegg) February 17, 2017

However the majority of the reaction to Blair’s speech has been negative. Conservative MP  Iain Duncan Smith labelled his comments “arrogant” and “out of touch,” while Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called the speech a “bare-faced effrontery” to the British people who voted to leave the EU by a majority of 52 percent.

“So I respectfully say to Tony Blair, who urges the British people to rise up, I urge them to rise up and turn off the TV next time Blair comes on with his condescending campaign,” Johnson said.

Blair also had a go at the current Labour leadership during the speech: “The debilitation of the Labour Party is the facilitator of Brexit. I hate to say that, but it is true.” According to one report, the reaction from Jeremy Corbyn and others at Labour headquarters to this criticism was less than animated:

Labour leadership source says office response to Blair speech is "just a collective shrug"

— Jessica Elgot (@jessicaelgot) February 17, 2017

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