Facebook says it has removed more than two dozen pages and accounts after uncovering a plot to covertly influence the upcoming midterm elections. The tech giant says the accounts were involved in “coordinated inauthentic behavior.” Among the accounts were “Black Elevation,” “Mindful Being,” “Resisters,” “Aztlan Warriors.” Combined, the accounts had a total of 290,000 followers and had created 30 events since April 2017, including a Facebook event to organize a protest against the upcoming “Unite the Right” rally in Washington, D.C. Facebook said it did not have enough technical evidence to state who was behind the fake pages, but said the accounts engaged in some similar activity to pages tied to Russia before the 2016 election. The revelations come as Facebook continues to grapple with a number of controversies in the United States and abroad. The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a hearing today on social media and interference by foreign intelligence agencies. After headlines, we’ll spend the rest of the hour talking about Facebook.
A top Health and Human Services official told lawmakers at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Tuesday that he had repeatedly warned the Trump administration against separating immigrant families at the border. This is Jonathan White, commander of the Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, a branch of HHS.
Jonathan White: “During the deliberative process over the previous year, we raised a number of concerns in the ORR program about any policy which would result in family separation, due to concerns we had about the best interest of the child, as well as about whether that would be operationally supportable with the bed capacity we had.”
ORR stands for the Office of Refugee Resettlement. During the hearing, Connecticut Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal also questioned Jonathan White about the psychological impact of separating children from their parents.
Jonathan White: “Separation of children from their parents entails significant risk of harm to children.”
Sen. Richard Blumenthal: “Well, it’s traumatic for any child separated from his or her parents. Am I correct? I say that as a parent of four children.”
Jonathan White: “There’s no question. There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.”
Despite Jonathan White’s testimony, a top official with ICE—that’s the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency—tried to defend the Trump administration’s practice of separating children from their parents by comparing the child detention facilities to “summer camp.” This is Matthew Albence, head of enforcement and removal operations for ICE.
Matthew Albence: “I think the best way to describe them is to be more like a summer camp. These individuals have access to 24/7 food and water. They have educational opportunities. They have recreational opportunities, both structured as well as unstructured. There’s basketball courts. There’s exercise classes. There are soccer fields that we put in there.”
About 700 children forcibly separated from their parents at the border have still not been reunited with their parents.
In Boston, hundreds of protesters rallied outside Northeastern University to demand the university drop its $2.7 million research grant with ICE. The protesters then marched to downtown Boston and blocked Beacon Street in front of the home of Northeastern’s president, demanding the university cut all ties with ICE. Organizers say 12 people were arrested during the protest.
In more immigration news, Minnesota residents are condemning the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency after plainclothes ICE officers arrested a longtime Minnesota resident named Carlos Urrutia at a federal courthouse last Thursday. In the video, the plainclothes officers are seen ripping Carlos away from his family and arresting him while his friends and family members demand to see identification and an arrest warrant. One of his friends said his arrest was “like a kidnapping.”
President Trump lashed out at immigrants and called for strict voter ID laws during a rally in Tampa, Florida, Tuesday night.
President Donald Trump: “We believe that only American citizens should vote in American elections, which is why the time has come for voter ID, like everything else. Voter ID. You know, if you go out and you want to buy groceries, you need a picture on a card. You need ID. You go out and you want to buy anything, you need ID, and you need your picture.”
It is not true that one needs a picture ID to buy groceries. Trump supporters also berated members of the media during Tuesday night’s rally, including chanting ”CNN sucks.” Following the event, President Trump retweeted his son Eric’s tweet of a video showing Trump supporters chanting ”CNN sucks” during the rally.
In Afghanistan, at least 15 people were killed in an attack on a government building in the eastern city of Jalalabad Tuesday. Among the victims were international aid workers, including a member of the International Rescue Committee and a staffer for the United Nations International Organization for Migration. Authorities have blamed the attack on ISIS.
A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order blocking a Texas-based gun rights group from posting online blueprints to make semiautomatic assault weapons from 3D printers. The injunction comes after the attorneys general of eight states and the District of Columbia sued the Trump administration aiming to block the downloadable blueprints from going online. This is Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, one of the states that sued the administration.
Sen. Ed Markey: “These downloadable firearms are available even to those who could not pass a background check. It’s the ultimate gun loophole. Why buy them if you can print them at home instead? These firearms are also untraceable. They will not have a serial number for law enforcement to reference.”
In Yemen, international aid agencies are warning of the risk of another cholera outbreak, after U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrikes destroyed water and sanitation facilities in the besieged port city of Hodeidah. U.N. World Food Programme country director Stephen Anderson also says more than 8 million Yemenis are now experiencing extreme hunger as a result of the ongoing conflict.
Stephen Anderson: “More than anything else now, the Yemeni people now desperately need peace. With peace and stability, we can start to get people back on their feet, start to rebuild their livelihoods.”
In Spain, taxi drivers are continuing an indefinite strike to protest Wall Street-backed ride-hailing apps like Uber, which they say have pushed longtime taxi cab drivers to financial ruin. On Tuesday, hundreds of drivers erected tents along one of Madrid’s main thoroughfares to block traffic. Taxi drivers have also launched encampments to block traffic on main thoroughfares in Barcelona.
And a flotilla bound for Gaza carrying medicine and other humanitarian aid was intercepted and seized Sunday by the Israeli Navy. The Al Awda boat to Gaza was one of a three-ship “Freedom Flotilla” that set sail from Palermo, Sicily, on July 21 in efforts to break the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza. Organizers say that the Israeli military seized the boat in international waters Sunday, assaulting and tasering multiple people before detaining the 22 people on board, including international human rights activists from 16 countries. Two Israeli citizens and two journalists have been released, but the rest of the activists remain detained. The Middle East Monitor reports that Norway is asking Israel to explain the legal grounds for seizing the ship, which was flying a Norwegian flag at the time of its capture.