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July 8, 2014

Prepare to get the schlitt scared out of you. Kansas City's Schlitterbahn water park will soon start operating The Verrückt, billed as the world's tallest water slide at 17 stories high.

The aptly named Verrückt (it's the German word for "crazy") stands 168 feet, 7 inches tall, and riders will have to climb up 264 steps to get to the top. After that strenuous trek, they will get strapped into a large raft and sent hurtling down the slide (which does have a net covering it) at speeds of up to 65 mph.

On Twitter Tuesday, Schlitterbahn announced that the slide will open on Thursday. Until then, (try to) enjoy the video below, which shows water park designer Jeff Henry and ride engineer John Schooley going for a test run. --Catherine Garcia

2:59 p.m.

As President Trump heads to Florida for the official launch of his 2020 campaign, a new poll shows him trailing several of his potential Democratic opponents in the key state.

Former Vice President Joe Biden leads Trump by 9 points among Florida voters in a survey released by Quinnipiac on Tuesday, with Biden scoring 50 percent to Trump's 41 percent. Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also leads Trump by six points, and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) leads him by four points.

Several other potential Democratic contenders were within the margin of error of Trump, with Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former Rep. Beto O'Rourke, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg beating Trump by one percentage point. During the 2016 election, Trump carried Florida by a slim margin of just over one percent.

In this poll, 44 percent of Florida voters said they approve of the way Trump is handling his job as president, with 51 percent disapproving. It's not all bad news for the president, though, as 62 percent of Florida voters said Congress shouldn't begin impeachment proceedings against him, and 54 percent of voters said they're better off financially today than they were in 2016.

This comes after Trump fired three pollsters following reports of poor internal polling, including one reportedly showing Biden beating Trump by seven points in Florida. Biden during an event on Monday predicted he will beat Trump in Florida, also saying he hopes to compete in traditionally-red states like Texas and South Carolina. Still, he cautioned at an event on Tuesday per CNN that "I don't believe the polls right now, guys."

Quinnipiac's poll was conducted from June 12 through June 17 by speaking to 1,279 Florida voters over the phone. The margin of error is 3.3 percentage points. Read the full results at Quinnipiac. Brendan Morrow

2:51 p.m.

President Trump has everyone confused.

On Monday night, Trump abruptly tweeted that "next week," Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents "will begin the process of removing the millions of illegal aliens who have illicitly found their way into the United States." But in the hours that followed that tweet, both Republican lawmakers and senior officials have told CNN they've never heard of this plan.

With his tweet, Trump was seemingly referring to a roundup across U.S. expected to launch in a few months. But ICE officials immediately told The Washington Post that "the operation was not imminent," and that "they were not aware that the president planned to divulge their enforcement plans on Twitter." A senior official later told CNN that this operation was tentatively planned for July.

While ICE officials could draw a few inferences from Trump's tweet, Senate Majority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.) was at a total loss.

Trump still hasn't elaborated on his Monday night threat, making it look more and more like a baseless rallying cry for his Tuesday night campaign launch. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:07 p.m.

Max Landis, the filmmaker behind movies like Netflix's Bright and son of director John Landis, has been accused of emotional and sexual abuse by eight women.

Landis is the subject of a new exposé published by The Daily Beast on Tuesday after rumors of Landis' alleged misconduct spread in 2017 and after an anonymous woman accused him of sexual assault in February.

In it, an anonymous woman referred to as Julie alleges Landis "choked me until I passed out" and would "hold me down and rape me while I said 'no' over and over." A woman referred to as Veronica alleges that Landis "pinned me" to a bed "face-down, and began touching my crotch through my leggings," also saying she later woke up "to him performing oral sex on me" after she had made clear she was not interested in sex.

Ani Baker accuses Landis of pulling her head toward his crotch while she protested and in another instance putting his hands around her throat and threatening to kill her. A woman referred to as Kerry similarly says Landis once "choked me and told me he wanted to kill me." And Dani Manning recalls Landis allegedly "[smacking] food out of my hand" and "[choking] me to the point where my eyes were blacking out."

Another woman, referred to as Lainey, says that Landis "bullied and emotionally abused" her. Several women accused Landis of alleged abusive behavior on film projects as well, including Tasha Goldthwait, who described "physical, sexual, and verbal abuse" on the set of Me Him Her, Landis' directorial debut. And a woman who dropped a 2008 sexual assault allegation against Landis confirmed she made the claim, directing The Daily Beast to a friend who says she witnessed the alleged assault.

Landis, who has reportedly written a thriller that MGM is developing with Idris Elba to star, has not responded to the allegations. Read the full article at The Daily Beast. Brendan Morrow

2:07 p.m.

Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan will not go forward with his confirmation process for the full, permanent position, President Trump tweeted on Tuesday. Army Secretary Mark Esper will step into the temporary role.

The reported reasons behind Shanahan's decision are harrowing. Reports published on Tuesday by USA Today and The Washington Post reveal a history of domestic abuse that has plagued Shanahan's family. The FBI has been investigating a violent domestic dispute between Shanahan and his then-wife, Kimberley, from 2010 during the agency's background check in preparation for what would have been Shanahan's confirmation hearing. Both Shanahan and his ex-wife claimed they had been punched by the other, USA Today reports. Kimberly was charged by authorities. Shanahan said in a statement that he "never laid a hand on my then-wife." USA Today originally reported that the FBI review would not alter the White House's plans to go ahead with the confirmation.

The Post's report highlights a different domestic violence incident from 2011, in which Shanahan's oldest son, William, who was then 17, assaulted his mother with a baseball bat after a confrontation resulting from her suspicions that William was involved in an inappropriate relationship with a 36-year-old woman. Kimberley required surgery as a result of the incident. The elder Shanahan reportedly defended his son, writing in a memo that he acted in self-defense. He told the Post, however, that he was only preparing for William's court case and that he wrote the memo without knowing the full extent of Kimberley's injuries. He said he never believed William's violent act was justified.

In his Twitter post announcing the confirmation withdrawal, Trump wrote that Shanahan was backing out to "devote more time with his family." Tim O'Donnell

1:57 p.m.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Acting Director Ken Cuccinelli reportedly wants his department to keep asylum seekers from crossing the border.

In an email to staffers sent Tuesday and obtained by BuzzFeed News, Cuccinelli wrote about how the current immigration system is being "abused" and how asylum officers need to crack down "to help stem the crisis and better secure the homeland." The message read like a stern reminder of how immigration process works, but to some Department of Homeland Security officials, it came across as a clear "threat" and downright "insane," BuzzFeed News reports.

In the message directly addressed to "asylum officers," Cuccinelli mentioned that far more migrants are allowed past an initial credible fear screening by USCIS officers than are actually granted asylum by a judge. He then implied that USCIS officers should try to curb the number of people they let past that initial screening, saying they should only make "positive credible fear determinations in cases that have a significant possibility of success." A current DHS official told BuzzFeed News the email was "insane, while former officials said it was "clearly a threat."

Cuccinelli, an immigration hardliner, was appointed to lead USCIS following previous director Francis Cissna's June 1 ouster. Trump reportedly thought Cissna wasn't taking a harsh enough approach on immigration matters. As Tal Kopan of the San Francisco Chronicle tweeted, the directive in Cuccinelli's email "is precisely the type of thing Francis Cissna would not have done, because he would have followed legal procedures to try to make changes to adjudications." Kathryn Krawczyk

12:59 p.m.

The United Nations on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into the death of Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's former president, who collapsed and died — possibly from a heart attack or stroke — on Monday inside a courtroom in Cairo.

Morsi was Egypt's first democratically elected president in 2012, but was ousted after just a year in power. Morsi, who was once a top member of the Muslim Brotherhood, was then imprisoned and reportedly held in solitary confinement after the military-backed government led by current Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi tried him and other members of the party on various charges. He reportedly suffered from diabetes and liver disease while in prison. Crispin Blunt, the former chair of the foreign affairs select committee in the United Kingdom who led an independent review of Morsi's prison conditions last year, said he was concerned the former president was not receiving treatment for those ailments.

The U.N. apparently shares Blunt's concern, and the organization wants an impartial probe to focus on whether Morsi's lack of access to medical care and his prolonged stay in solitary confinement contributed to his death. Morsi's supporters and various human rights groups have also called for an investigation. Those have been dismissed by Cairo as politically motivated, but the U.N.'s addition to the fold could force the government's hand, The Washington Post reports.

Meanwhile, Morsi was buried in a remote area of Cairo on Tuesday; his son said Egyptian authorities refused to allow a burial at the family grounds in Sharqiyah province. Tim O'Donnell

12:06 p.m.

Lenny Pozner, the father of a 6-year-old boy killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, has won a defamation lawsuit against the authors behind a book that falsely claimed the massacre did not occur.

A judge in Wisconsin on Monday issued a summary judgment against the authors of Nobody Died at Sandy Hook, which has now been pulled by its publisher, The Associated Press reports. The book reportedly claimed that Pozner's son's death certificate was fake.

The principal officer at Moon Rock Books, Dave Gahary, said per AP that "face-to-face interactions" with Pozner have convinced him that he "is telling the truth about the death of his son." Gahary also offered his "most heartfelt and sincere apology to the Pozner family.” Pozner said that although the book's author "has the right to be wrong," he "doesn't have the right to broadcast those beliefs if they defame me or harass me." Damages are to be decided at an October trial.

This win comes at the same time that a defamation lawsuit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones brought by the families of Sandy Hook victims is ongoing. Jones, who has been banned from Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, has described the shooting as a "giant hoax." He has since backed down from his claims and chalked up his past comments to having a "form of psychosis." Lawyers for the families on Monday alleged that Jones sent them files that contained child pornography, which Jones has blamed on a malware attack.

Brendan Morrow

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