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August 23, 2019

How did Jeffrey Epstein manage to keep his alleged and confirmed sexual abuse of young women out of the press for so long? NPR's David Folkenflik took a look, and what he found ranged from the banal to the creepy and downright sinister. There were prominent lawyers threatening lawsuits, there was largesse — a New York Times reporter exited the paper after disclosing he had solicited a $30,000 donation from Epstein, a source and subject of his profiles, for a favorite nonprofit — but also, Folkenflik found, there were some more mafia-like tactics. Epstein died by suicide in jail this month.

When he was editor-in-chief of Vanity Fair, Graydon Carter assigned Vicky Ward to write a profile of Epstein in 2002; in the winter of 2003, Epstein was waiting alone for Carter in Vanity Fair's office, where he pleaded with and prodded Carter to leave out any mention of Epstein's interest in very young women, according to John Connolly, then a contributing editor at Vanity Fair. "He was torturing Graydon," Connolly told NPR. Soon after the unflattering profile was published — without on-the-record accounts of abuse of an underage girl — Carter found a bullet outside his door. He and Connolly considered it a warning from Epstein.

In 2006, when Connolly started digging around for an article on Epstein's relationships with young women in Florida, Carter found a severed cat's head at his front door, Connolly and other Vanity Fair alumni tell Folkenflik. "It was done to intimidate," Connolly said. "No question about it." Carter was freaked out. Connolly dropped the story.

In the second part of his report, Folkenflik delved into an on-camera interview Epstein accuser Virginia Roberts Giuffre gave to ABC News, which didn't run after getting a warning phone call from Epstein lawyer and friend Alan Dershowitz. Listen below. Peter Weber

August 21, 2019

A California state senator who authored a bill to restrict vaccine exemptions was assaulted in Sacramento on Wednesday by an anti-vaccine activist, police said.

State Sen. Richard Pan (D) was walking with a colleague when Kenneth Austin Bennett pushed him from behind, the Los Angeles Times reports. Bennett livestreamed the incident on Facebook, and is heard saying, "I probably shouldn't have done that." When he uploaded the video, he added the caption: "Yes, I pushed Richard Pan for lying, laughing at us, and for treason." Pan, he continued, "got what he deserved, he would be hanged for treason for assaulting children, for misrepresenting the truth."

Pan was not hurt in the incident. Bennet was cited for assault and has been released. In 2018, Bennett tried to challenge Pan in the primary, but did not qualify for the general election. Earlier this year, he filed a recall petition against Pan, accusing him of committing treason because he wants more kids in the state to be vaccinated.

Ever since Pan wrote his 2015 bill tightening vaccine requirements for kids in schools, he has been targeted by anti-vaxxers, his spokeswoman Shannan Velayas told the Times. "This is moving from a peculiar fringe curiosity to a violent extremist movement," she said. "Unfortunately, this is not a surprise when violent rhetoric is used." Catherine Garcia

July 29, 2019

Capital One announced on Monday that a hacker was able to gain access to more than 100 million credit card applications, and stole thousands of Social Security and bank account numbers.

The FBI arrested a suspect, Paige A. Thompson, in the Seattle area on Monday, charging her with computer fraud and abuse. Court records show the data theft took took place between March 12 and July 17, and affected 100 million individuals in the United States and six million in Canada. "While I am grateful that the perpetrator has been caught, I am deeply sorry for what has happened," Capital One Chairman and CEO Richard D. Fairbank said. "I sincerely apologize for the understandable worry this incident must be causing those affected and I am committed to making it right."

Capital One said no credit card numbers were stolen in the breach, and the incident will likely cost the company between $100 million and $150 million. This is one of the largest data breaches to ever hit the financial world. Catherine Garcia

July 17, 2019

A protester armed with pictures of President Trump and Jeffrey Epstein with the words "CHILD RAPIST" disrupted Trump's Wednesday night rally in Greenville, North Carolina.

CNN reports that the man was "removed in a more aggressive manner than most protesters and pulled down behind a sign where he remained for a while as supporters took pictures." After the demonstrator was taken away with his hands behind his back, Trump said he was going "home now to mommy, and he gets reprimanded and that's the end."

Epstein, a financier, was arrested earlier this month and charged by prosecutors in New York with sex trafficking of minors and conspiracy. More than a decade ago, Epstein was accused of sexually abusing girls, but pleaded guilty to felony prostitution charges instead and received a lenient 13-month jail sentence.

In 2002, Trump told New York magazine, "I've known Jeff for 15 years, terrific guy. He's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said that he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side." After Epstein's arrest, Trump said he "knew him like everybody in Palm Beach knew him. I had a falling out with him. I haven't spoken to him in 15 years. I was not a fan of his, that I can tell you." Earlier on Wednesday, MSNBC aired footage from NBC's archives showing Trump and Epstein in 1992, laughing at a party. Trump appears to point at a woman and say "she's hot," and is also seen grabbing another woman in attendance. Catherine Garcia

July 11, 2019

An Air Canada flight headed to Sydney from Vancouver experienced extreme turbulence on Thursday afternoon, leaving at least 35 people with minor injuries.

There were 269 passengers and 15 crew members on board the plane, which encountered "un-forecasted and sudden turbulence" when it was about two hours past Hawaii, an Air Canada spokeswoman said. Once the turbulence struck, people were slammed into the ceiling, with passenger Stephanie Beam telling The Associated Press one woman hit it with enough force that she broke the casing of an oxygen mask. Another passenger, Alex MacDonald, said the flight attendants were passing out food when the turbulence started, and "they hit the roof as well."

The plane was forced to turn around and land in Honolulu, where emergency responders were waiting. More than two dozen people were taken to hospitals, a Honolulu Emergency Services Department spokeswoman said, with injuries including bumps, bruises, neck pain, and cuts. Air Canada said it will cover hotel accommodations and food for the passengers as they work out a way to get them to Sydney. Catherine Garcia

June 25, 2019

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in an address on Tuesday criticized President Trump's newly-imposed sanctions as "outrageous and idiotic" — and that's not all.

Trump on Monday signed an executive order imposing what he called "hard-hitting" new sanctions on Iran following its shooting down of a U.S. drone, saying the sanctions would deny Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others "access to key financial resources and support."

On Tuesday, Rouhani responded by saying the White House has become "mentally crippled," The Washington Post reports, also saying the administration is "afflicted by mental retardation," The Associated Press reports. The sanctions, Rouhani said, represent the Trump administration's "certain failure," and he asked, "You sanction the foreign minister simultaneously with a request for talks?"

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman additionally warned that the sanctions indicate "the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy," the Post reports. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton, meanwhile, says that Trump has "held the door open to real negotiations" and that "all that Iran needs to do is walk through that door." Brendan Morrow

June 19, 2019

The Trump administration wants to do away with the Office of Personnel Management, and will furlough 150 workers if Congress tries to intervene, The Washington Post reports.

The agency manages the government's civilian workforce. The Trump administration says it is a troubled department that needs to be dismantled, and it wants Congress to kill the department by June 30. Congress isn't on board with the plan, more than a year in the making. An internal briefing document obtained by the Post shows that if Congress balks, employees will be sent home without pay on Oct. 1, and after 30 days, they could be laid off. More than 5,500 people work in the department, and the Post reports that dozens of workers have retired or quit in recent months because they're not sure what will happen come October.

The Government Accountability Office, a federal watchdog, released a report this week concluding that if the agency is shuttered, it would increase, not ease, a retirement claims backlog. The Trump administration wants to divide the agency among three other departments, and acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert told the Post that "a legislative solution would be the most straightforward answer, but we've made it very clear we can't wait without action." Weichert, three officials told the Post, has told staffers that she is "planning to play chicken with Congress." Catherine Garcia

June 10, 2019

A Customs and Border Patrol subcontractor holding travelers' personal information has suffered a data breach, CBP revealed Monday.

The leaked information included "license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP," which had been stored with the unnamed subcontractor, CBP said in a Monday press release. That subcontractor had "transferred copies" of those files to its own network, which was "subsequently compromised by a malicious cyber-attack," CBP wrote.

CBP was sure to point out that the subcontractor acted "in violation of CBP policies and without CBP's authorization or knowledge" and that none of CBP's own systems were "compromised," the press release said. None of that leaked information has appeared on the internet or dark net, it also said. Still, British technology news site The Register did report last month that CBP data stolen from the firm Perceptics was being offered for free on the dark web. The Monday statement doesn't name the subcontractor, but the press release file CBP sent to The Washington Post contained the word "Perceptics" in its title.

The breach comes as CBP continues to implement its "biometric entry-exit system," which involves using facial recognition technology to identify all people traveling in and out of the U.S., BuzzFeed News notes. The leaked database contained passport and visa photos used in making that recognition system work. Kathryn Krawczyk

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