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June 13, 2018

California's secretary of state's office said Tuesday that a ballot measure to split the Golden State into three — California, Northern California, and Southern California — had gotten more than enough valid signatures to make it onto the November ballot. The initiative was spearheaded by Silicon Valley venture capitalist and cryptocurrency enthusiast Tim Draper, whose previous efforts to split California into six states failed due to insufficient valid signatures. If successful, the plan would potentially create the first division of a state since West Virginia was hewn off of Virginia in 1863.

Northern California would stretch from just north of Monterey across to Nevada and up to Oregon, encompassing the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, and Napa Valley wine country. New California would be a coastal stretch from Monterey down through Los Angeles, while Southern California would encompass the rest of Southern California, including Death Valley, San Diego, and Orange County.

California, the most populous U.S. state, is no stranger to attempts at geopolitical reinvention — in its 168 years as a state, more than 200 attempts have been made to split it apart, change its boundaries, or withdraw it from the U.S., the Los Angeles Times reports, with the most recent three-state split shot down in the state legislature in 1993.

But even if Draper's plan passes — a poll in April pegged it at 17 percent support, 72 percent opposition — it would face legal challenges, and California's legislature would almost certainly have to approve it, as would Congress. Both approvals are seen as unlikely. The plan would create four new U.S. senators and dilute California's Electoral College power. "Initial analyses suggest that Northern California and California would remain reliably Democratic, while Southern California would be a swing state," The Mercury News reports. Peter Weber

10:33 a.m. ET

Immigrant children being held in juvenile detention centers in Virginia say they were physically and verbally abused for years, an investigation by The Associated Press found on Thursday.

Children as young as 14 have filed claims against the Shenandoah Valley Juvenile Center in Staunton, Virginia, alleging that they were abused after being taken to the facility for crossing the border illegally as unaccompanied minors. Officials accused them of being involved in gangs like MS-13, but AP reports that the children were detained in high-security and often brutal conditions without ever being convicted of any crime. The center has held around 30 children at a time, between ages 12 and 17, since 2007.

The lawsuit alleges that the children were often beaten while handcuffed, left naked in concrete cells in solitary confinement for days, and were shackled to chairs with cloth bags over their heads. A child-development specialist who worked in the facility said the kids would often be bruised and even suffer broken bones, and developed severe psychological problems as a result of the abuse. Shenandoah officials denied all allegations of abuse or misconduct.

A 15-year-old from Mexico said he was handcuffed and put in a chair for punishment. "They took off all of my clothes and put me into a restraint chair, where they attached my hands and feet to the chair," he said. "They also put a strap across my chest. They left me naked and attached to that chair for two and a half days, including at night." He and other detainees recalled attempting suicide at several points during their time in Shenandoah. Read more at The Associated Press. Summer Meza

10:14 a.m. ET

In a deep-red congressional district like Texas' 31st, Democrats would need a miracle to beat longtime Republican incumbents. The first ad from Air Force veteran and Purple Heart recipient MJ Hegar seems up to the challenge.

Hegar is running as a Democrat against incumbent GOP Rep. John Carter this fall, and she uses her life story to break the mold of a traditional campaign ad. The video is deeply personal, chronicling Hegar's childhood dreams of being a pilot, her harrowing three tours in Afghanistan, her fight against discrimination once she left the military, and all the doors she had to break down on the way. She even name-checks Carter — who apparently turned down a meeting with her during her anti-discrimination fight because she wasn't a donor.

It's an inspiring story, and Hegar's qualifications likely have Democrats thrilled. But the district, which covers northern Austin and its suburbs, is strongly Republican; the GOP has a 10-point advantage there, per The Cook Political Report. Still, the day Hegar's ad dropped, Cook shifted Texas' 31st District from "solid Republican" to "likely Republican" — and cracked the door a little bit wider for Hegar. Kathryn Krawczyk

10:05 a.m. ET

MSNBC's Chris Hayes insisted that Rep. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) cite his sources on Thursday when the lawmaker doubled-down on his unproven allegation that terrorists and cartel members are "posing as families … trying to cross our borders."

The tense exchange began after Hayes told Marshall, "we've interviewed mothers from Guatemala and Honduras whose sons have been killed by drug cartels who have fled 1,000 miles north risking everything. Are they a national security threat?" Marshall replied by citing a statistic also used frequently by the administration: That immigrants falsely posing as family members have tripled at the border (Marshall claims it's "quadrupled" in speaking with Hayes).

The data being cited, though, "reflects a period of less than two years, making it difficult to draw a meaningful historical comparison," writes The New York Times. "And the instances of fraud make up less than 1 percent of families apprehended at the border." That's part of why Hayes later interrupts to say: "You keep using the word 'posing' … you keep implying that these people are making up stories, that 5-year-olds have been coached, that they've been taken by traffickers. What I'm asking you is to present evidence that that is happening in any systemic way."

Watch the entire exchange, and Marshall's response, below. Jeva Lange

9:13 a.m. ET

Koko, the western lowland gorilla who was taught sign language by Dr. Francine Patterson in the early 1970s, died this week in her sleep at the age of 46, the Gorilla Foundation said Thursday.

Koko famously appeared on the 1978 cover of National Geographic in a photo she took of herself in a mirror. Koko "revealed the depth and strength of a gorilla's emotional life," NPR writes, mourning her adopted kitten, Ball, when it was hit by a car in 1984. "Cat, cry, have-sorry, Koko-love," Koko had signed to Patterson in response to the question "What happened to Ball?" She reportedly knew some 1,000 signs, and 2,000 words of spoken English, the New York Post reports.

The Gorilla Foundation wrote that Koko's "impact has been profound and what she has taught us about the emotional capacity of gorillas and their cognitive abilities will continue to shape the world." Learn more about Koko in the documentary below. Jeva Lange

8:48 a.m. ET
Amos Ben Gershom/Getty Images

The wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Sara Netanyahu, has been charged with fraud and breach of public trust as part of a food-ordering scandal, The Jerusalem Post reports. The charges stem from a scheme that ran between September 2010 and March 2013, in which Sara Netanyahu and then-Prime Minister's Office Deputy Director-General Ezra Seidoff allegedly lied about employing a cook in order to "circumvent and exploit regulations that stated, 'in a case where a cook is not employed in the [prime minister's] official residence, it is permitted to order prepared food as needed,'" the Post writes. Netanyahu is accused of having ordered more than $100,000 worth of meals while falsely claiming cooks were not on the staff.

There is some historical weight to the charges against Sara Netanyahu; former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin resigned in 1977 when his wife, Leah, was discovered to hold a U.S. dollar bank account, which at the time was illegal.

Benjamin Netanyahu is also under investigation into allegations of corruption. He is expected to face an indictment by early 2019, The Jerusalem Post reports. Jeva Lange

8:17 a.m. ET

President Trump got his Time cover, but it probably isn't what he was hoping for.

Trump loves being on the cover of Time so much that he has a fake cover of himself hanging in at least four of his golf courses. The magazine's latest cover, though, is a striking condemnation of his recently revoked policy of separating children from their parents: "Welcome to America" is the only text on the cover other than Time itself.

Take a look at the powerful cover below, and see how New York City's tabloids tackled the same topic here. Jeva Lange

8:00 a.m. ET

President Trump's supporters have a new chant, and it goes something like SPACE FORCE! SPACE FORCE! While certainly a marked improvement over "lock her up," even the Air Force and Defense secretaries have opposed the creation of the sixth branch of the armed forces, pointing out that space-related military missions already have a home under the Air Force's umbrella.

Still, it does have a pretty cool ring, which Trump himself tested out by repeating "Space Force" thoughtfully back to the crowd. Watch the Space Force enthusiasm below. Jeva Lange

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