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March 14, 2019

There's that old showbiz adage, "The show must go on," and say what you will about Fox News host Sean Hannity, he was the consummate professional showman on his show Thursday night. While he was wrapping up a segment about how the vulgar media hates President Trump and teasing updates on the Jussie Smollett and college admissions bribery scandals, a large bug crawled up from the collar of his shirt, crossed his neck, and was heading toward his mouth when he went to commercial.

Assuming Hannity felt the bug — and how could he not have? — that's a pretty impressive show of self-control. Peter Weber

4:01 p.m.

Kids who are the victims of racially-motivated bullying may be at risk in more ways than one, a new report has found.

The report analyzed data from the California Healthy Kids Survey, a voluntary survey administered to children through their schools. The results point to a worrying link between bullying and drugs and alcohol for children in California high schools from 2013 to 2018, U.S. News reported on Thursday. The data suggests that children who were bullied for their race, ethnicity, or origin were 11 percent more likely to drink alcohol, 9 percent more likely to use marijuana, and 8 percent more likely to use opioids or other medication not as prescribed.

The study found that black and Asian students were the most targeted for bullying, with 22 percent and 20 percent of each group reporting having been bullied at least once in the 2017-2018 school year. White students were the least affected by bullying, but that figure was still at 11 percent.

Being under stress can lead to risky or unhealthy habits even in adults. So the fact that it's affecting adolescents in schools is concerning, given that the still-developing brains of teenagers are already "more likely to engage in risky behavior," explained Virginia Huynh, a professor in child and adolescent development.

Read more about the survey and its results U.S. News. Shivani Ishwar

3:55 p.m.

Count this as another victory for Democrats.

President Trump had long resisted signing off on disaster funding for Puerto Rico and several other states, recently claiming he'd only approve the bill if it included $4.5 billion in border wall money. But on Thursday, Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) said Trump had agreed with Democrats to sign the bill, no border funding necessary, NBC News reports.

Puerto Rico has yet to recover from Hurricane Maria's 2017 devastation, with things getting even worse in March when Congress and Trump failed to renew additional food stamp aid for the island. Trump later claimed Puerto Rico got $91 billion in funding and, despite that number being not quite accurate, argued the island didn't need any more money. Thursday's agreement, though, seems to mark a change of pace.

The bipartisan bill, which Shelby credited Trump for "break[ing] the gridlock" and agreeing to in a Thursday press release, gives Puerto Rico an additional $605 million for the food stamp Nutrition Assistance Program and $304 million to Community Development Block Grants. It also contains a provision forcing Trump to allow $8.9 billion in withheld aid to get to Puerto Rico, and another provision "ensuring more damaged facilities in Puerto Rico will be repaired or replaced," per a bill breakdown from Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) Billions of dollars in other aid will go toward flooding, hurricane, and wildfire damage on the mainland. Kathryn Krawczyk

3:37 p.m.

Facebook removed nearly as many fake accounts in the first quarter of 2019 as it has monthly active users, and it estimates fake accounts make up a growing percentage of the platform.

The company in its Community Standards Enforcement Report released on Thursday revealed that from January to March of this year, it removed a staggering 2.19 billion fake accounts. To put that record number in perspective, Facebook in the first quarter of this year said it had 2.3 billion monthly active users, The Washington Post reports.

The number of fake accounts deleted in this first quarter was up significantly from Q4 2018, when Facebook says it removed 1.2 billion accounts. Facebook on Thursday explained it has seen a "steep increase in the creation of abusive, fake accounts" in the past six months, especially because of "automated attacks by bad actors who attempt to create large volumes of accounts at onetime."

Facebook said that most of these accounts are deleted "within minutes of registration" and not counted as part of its number of monthly active users. But in its report, the company also said that "we estimated that 5 percent of monthly active accounts are fake," which The Associated Press reports is up from from between 3 and 4 percent in the previous report.

Facebook VP of Analytics Alex Schultz on Thursday said the "prevalence number for fake accounts includes both abusive and user-misclassified accounts," with an example of the latter being "when a person sets their pet up with a profile, instead of a Page." Overall, he said the company is "confident that the vast majority of people and activity on Facebook are genuine." Brendan Morrow

2:23 p.m.

A Chicago judge has just ordered the unsealing of Empire star Jussie Smollet's criminal case file, NBC News reports.

Judge Steven G. Watkins said on Thursday that although Smollett's lawyers had argued the court documents should remain sealed to protect Smollett's privacy, this is inconsistent with Smollett's decision to speak publicly to the media about the case after the charges against him were dropped. "These are not the actions of a person seeking to maintain his privacy or simply be let alone," CNN reports.

Watkins also said that the "court cannot credit his privacy interest as good cause to keep the case records sealed." It remains unclear when the Smollett case file will be made publicly available, as multiple media outlets had been requesting.

Smollett in January claimed he was the victim of a hate crime, telling police that two men attacked him in Chicago. After an investigation, police accused Smollett of orchestrating the attack against himself because he was dissatisfied with his salary on Empire, and he was hit with criminal charges. But in March, those charges were suddenly dropped. Numerous questions remained about what led to that stunning turn of events, but the case file was sealed. Now that they've been ordered unsealed, once the documents are released, this could help elucidate prosecutors' decision to drop the charges, The New York Times notes.

Smollett has continued to maintain his innocence, saying that he only paid the two men who attacked him for personal training but not to help orchestrate the attack. After the charges were dropped, Chicago police and then Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel blasted the decision, with Emanuel saying the situation is "making a fool of all of us." Brendan Morrow

1:59 p.m.

The gender pay gap has never been more obvious.

The U.S. women's soccer team has raised plenty of issues with their working conditions over the past few years, including paychecks that are drastically lower than their men's team counterparts. Those problems led the team to file a gender discrimination lawsuit against the U.S. Soccer Federation in March — and as Time reports in an profile of women's team co-captain Alex Morgan, it was for good reason.

Morgan's Team USA career is dotted with an Olympic gold and a World Cup victory, and she's adopted a no-politics public stance all the while — though she told Time she wouldn't accept a White House invitation from President Trump if her team won this year's World Cup. One fight Morgan is willing to plunge head-first into, though, is equality between the two U.S. soccer teams. After flying in smoking sections in the 1990s and playing so-called World Cup 2015 victory tour on rocky turf fields, Morgan and the entire team filed a suit claiming "institutionalized gender discrimination" by U.S. Soccer.

The suit comes after a 2017 collective bargaining agreement that gave women's players royalties and marketing rights. But looking at post-agreement salaries makes it clear it didn't close the gap. Women's head coach Jill Ellis, who has a World Cup under her belt, made $318,533 in the fiscal year ending in March 2018, Time reports. Jürgen Klinsmann can't count any World Cup or Olympic victories, but he made $3.35 million that same year despite being fired as the men's team coach in 2016. Read more frustrating details at Time. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:19 p.m.

In the latest example of a real news story that sounds like the premise of a Black Mirror episode, Amazon is reportedly developing a device capable of "recognizing human emotions," Bloomberg reports.

A voice-activated wrist device currently in development at the company would be able to "discern the wearer's emotional state from the sound of his or her voice," the report says. It would be equipped with microphones and paired with a smartphone app, and Bloomberg writes that internal Amazon documents suggest the technology could also "be able to advise the wearer how to interact more effectively with others."

Beta testing on this project, which is being code-named Dylan, is reportedly underway, although the report notes it's not exactly clear how far along work on it is or if this will become a commercial product. But the report cites a 2017 patent that suggests Amazon could "use knowledge of a user's emotions to recommend products or otherwise tailor responses."

This comes as Amazon is also developing a robot that's described as essentially a "mobile Alexa" with advanced cameras and that can "navigate through homes like a self-driving car" — and, if eventually combined with this Dylan technology, perhaps fully understand just how creepy you find it. Brendan Morrow

12:37 p.m.

President Trump is apparently begging to be tried for high crimes and misdemeanors.

As more and more Democrats keep joining the call for Trump's impeachment, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has ignored prodding from other House leaders and her own staff to remain a holdout on the process. Pelosi reiterated her stance in a Thursday press conference, saying "the House Democratic Caucus is not on a path to impeachment — and that's where [Trump] wants us to be."

Pelosi, along with Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), held an infrastructure meeting with Trump on Wednesday that lasted all of three minutes. That's because Trump walked out of the meeting, chalking his exit up to Pelosi's allegation that Trump "engaged in a cover up" involving his finances. But Pelosi suggested Thursday that Trump's real problem was with how ongoing court cases are putting Democrats closer to his finances, as well as Democrats' will-they, won't-they attitude on impeachment.

Also on Thursday, Pelosi said she was holding out on backing impeachment because it's "a very divisive place to go in our country," but conceded yet again that Trump may have committed "impeachable offenses." Kathryn Krawczyk

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