January 13, 2019

Last year, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to come up with military options to strike Iran, current and former U.S. officials told The Wall Street Journal.

The request came in September after three mortars were fired at the diplomatic quarter in Baghdad where the U.S. Embassy is located; the shells were reportedly launched by a group with ties to Iran. There was minimal damage and no one was hurt, but the incident set National Security Adviser John Bolton off and several meetings were held to discuss a response. This worried officials at the Pentagon and State Department, who felt this was an intense reaction. "People were shocked," a former official told the Journal. "It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran."

Officials said the Pentagon went along with the request, but it's unclear if the proposals were ever sent to the White House or if President Trump even knew Bolton, who shared with other administration officials his desire to see regime change in Iran, asked for strike options. Catherine Garcia

December 21, 2018

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has major reservations about Defense Secretary James Mattis stepping down.

On Thursday night, McConnell released a statement saying he believes it's "essential that the United States maintain and strengthen the post-World War II alliances that have been carefully built by leaders in both parties. We must also maintain a clear-eyed understanding of our friends and foes, and recognize that nations like Russia are among the latter."

McConnell is "sorry to learn that Secretary Mattis, who shares those clear principles, will soon depart the administration," he continued. "But I am particularly distressed that he is resigning due to sharp differences with the president on these and other key aspects of America's global leadership." In his resignation letter, Mattis made it clear that he does not share President Trump's views on Russia and China and how to treat allies, telling him he has "the right to have a Secretary of Defense whose views are better aligned with yours" and that's why he is going to "step down from my position." Catherine Garcia

December 14, 2018

Johnson & Johnson had evidence for decades that its baby powder contained asbestos but did not disclose these findings with the Food and Drug Administration, a Reuters investigation discovered.

This investigation comes as the company is being sued by thousands of plaintiffs who say the talc in its products causes cancer. According to the report, Johnson & Johnson told the FDA in 1976 that asbestos was not "detected in any sample" of talc, but they didn't mention three tests that did find asbestos in its talc. In one of the tests, the amount of asbestos was reported to be "rather high." One professor looked at a sample of Shower to Shower powder and wrote that there was "incontrovertible asbestos."

Johnson & Johnson disputed the findings of this report, saying that "thousands of independent tests prove our talc does not contain asbestos or cause cancer" and that these findings were outliers. A New Jersey judge in June said that "providing the FDA favorable results showing no asbestos and withholding or failing to provide unfavorable results, which show asbestos, is a form of a misrepresentation by omission." Following the publication of this piece, Johnson & Johnson stock dropped 10.8 percent, and CNBC reports it's on pace for its worst day since 2002. Read the full investigation at Reuters. Brendan Morrow

December 9, 2018

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner continued to privately advise Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, The New York Times reported Saturday.

The story says Kushner "has offered the crown prince advice about how to weather the storm" caused by the killing, for which the CIA has reportedly concluded with "medium-to-high confidence" MBS is responsible. Kushner also counseled MBS to "resolve his conflicts around the [Mideast] region and avoid further embarrassments," the Times report says.

This close relationship "constitutes the foundation of the Trump policy not just toward Saudi Arabia but toward the" entire Middle East, Martin Indyk, a former Middle East envoy and current Council on Foreign Relations fellow, told the Times. Indyk attributed decisions including the Trump administration's continued support for the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen to the Kushner-MBS "bromance."

While National Security Council staff are supposed to sit in on all communications with foreign leaders, Kushner and MBS reportedly have informal, one-on-one chat and text conversations. The White House declined to comment on this apparent breach of protocol. Bonnie Kristian

December 1, 2018

President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen "remained in close and regular contact with White House-based staff and legal counsel," his lawyers said in a court filing late Friday, while preparing what he now says was a false statement to Congress about the president's real estate endeavors in Russia during his campaign.

The filing sought a reduced sentence for Cohen, who pleaded guilty Thursday to lying to the Senate Intelligence Committee about a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Cohen crafted that statement, his lawyers wrote, to maintain Trump team messaging which "portray[ed] contact with Russian representatives" as "having effectively terminated before the Iowa caucuses of February 1, 2016."

"Seeking to stay in line with this message," Friday's filing says, Cohen wrote the comments to Congress he now labels false. He also continued outreach to Russian contacts after January of 2016 "and kept [Trump] apprised of these communications," the filing continues. "[Cohen] and [Trump] also discussed possible travel to Russia in the summer of 2016, and Michael took steps to clear dates for such travel."

Trump has sought to dismiss, deny, or downplay Cohen's claims and the Mueller investigation more broadly.

The portions of the filing arguing for lenient sentencing highlight Cohen's cooperation with Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation in spite of Trump's vocal critique of the probe. Cohen's attorneys are pushing to keep him out of prison. Sentencing is set for Dec. 12. Bonnie Kristian

November 30, 2018

Another day, another data breach putting millions of people's personal information at risk.

Marriott International said Friday that it had discovered a data breach of the online system used to make reservations at its Starwood hotels; Starwood is a Marriott subsidiary that includes chains like Westin and Sheraton. "Unauthorized access" to the database was discovered going back to 2014, and the system includes information on up to 500 million guests.

Information that could have been exposed includes guests' names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, passport numbers, dates of birth, genders, arrival and departure information, reservation dates, and even credit card information.

Marriott says it has reported the breach to law enforcement and opened a call center to take questions from concerned customers. "Marriott deeply regrets this incident happened," the company added.

If the 500 million number is right, this would be one of the largest data breaches in history, per NBC News. In addition to the extraordinary size and scale of the breach, The Verge points out that it's unusual for a company like Marriott to not uncover something like this for four years. But data breaches are not uncommon in the hotel industry. In 2017, Hilton Hotels was fined after two breaches on 363,000 accounts, per BBC News, and Trump Hotels were also hacked that year via a third party reservation system for the third time. Industry research published in Hospitality Tech in 2017 found that 74 percent of hotels don't have breach protection, with the trade magazine observing that, despite it being "a favorite for hackers," the hotel industry is "woefully unprepared" for breaches. Brendan Morrow

November 17, 2018

About 500 Georgians have been told to evacuate their homes after a train carrying propane derailed in their small town.

"Several" railroad cars tipped off the tracks in Byromville, Georgia, which is 55 miles south of Macon, CSX Railroad tells The Associated Press. Some of the cars contained pressurized propane, prompting the county's sheriff to order anyone within half a mile of the incident to evacuate.

That radius contains "practically the whole town" of Byromville, town fire chief Brett Walls tells local CBS affiliate WMAZ. Walls put the number of derailed cars anywhere from 15 to 30, and said the propane that spilled from them was odorless. No injuries have been reported.

Check out the station's footage of the incident below. Kathryn Krawczyk

November 3, 2018

A group of elementary school teachers in Middleton, Idaho, have found themselves in hot water after one set dressed up as President Trump's border wall and another donned cartoonishly stereotypical "Mexican" costumes, including sombreros, ponchos, and fake mustaches.

Asked about the costume in conversation with host Chris Cuomo, CNN's Don Lemon was briefly struck speechless. "I don't know what to say. It's a sign of the times," he finally answered.

Cuomo pressed Lemon to explain "why is the wall crossing a line." Watch him make his case below. Bonnie Kristian

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