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April 20, 2017
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The family of Aaron Hernandez, the former tight end for the New England Patriots and convicted murderer found hanging in his Massachusetts prison cell on Wednesday, is releasing his brain to Boston University's Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center for a study on brain trauma.

Attorney Jose Baez said Hernandez's brain is being donated to advance the study of CTE, a degenerative brain disease linked to people who sustain repeated concussions and head trauma that can only be diagnosed after death. CTE can cause everything from memory loss to disorientation, and several football players, including Frank Gifford, Junior Seau, and Mike Webster, have been found to have it.

In 2015, Hernandez, 27, was convicted of first-degree murder in the shooting death of Odin Lloyd, his fiancee's sister's boyfriend, and sentenced to life in prison. He was found early Wednesday morning hanging from a bed sheet attached to a window in his cell, and the chief state medical examiner has ruled his death a suicide. Catherine Garcia

1:56 p.m. ET

North Korean government officials have been reaching out to Republican analysts in Washington to try to get a better read on what is going on in President Trump's head, The Washington Post reports. "My own guess is that they are somewhat puzzled as to the direction in which the U.S. is going, so they're trying to open up channels to take the pulse in Washington," former State Department official Evans Revere told the Post. "They haven't seen the U.S. act like this before."

Bruce Klingner, a North Korea expert who is now with the Heritage Foundation, said that Pyongyang reached out to him but he declined their invitation. Still, Klingner observed the country is "on a new binge of reaching out to American scholars and ex-officials."

At a recent meeting at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy in Switzerland, North Koreans attendees additionally "displayed an 'encyclopedic' knowledge of Trump's tweets, to the extent that they were able to quote them back to the Americans present." But as anyone who has tried to parse Trump's tweets and actions knows, just following the president on Twitter doesn't necessarily give any insight into what he might say or do next.

Reflecting North Korean officials' confusion are the questions they're bringing to Americans: "Why, for instance, are Trump's top officials, notably Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, directly contradicting the president so often?" The Washington Post writes as one example. Read the full report at the Post. Jeva Lange

12:35 p.m. ET

The FBI arrested assistant basketball coaches at four NCAA Division I universities — Arizona, Oklahoma State, Southern California, and Auburn — overnight on charges of taking cash bribes "to deliver star athletes to a financial adviser or an agent," NBC News reports. Six other people were also charged, including a senior executive at Adidas, managers, and financial advisers.

One of the coaches, Chuck Person of Auburn University, played for 13 years in the NBA. Person stands accused of accepting approximately $50,000 "in return for his agreeing to direct certain of the school's players to [a particular] adviser when they entered the NBA," The New York Times reports. The adviser, who is unnamed in the complaint, is reportedly cooperating with the government.

Lamont Evans of Oklahoma State, Emanuel Richardson of Arizona, and Tony Bland of USC are also accused of accepting money to funnel certain players to specific agents. "Many … coaches have enormous influence over the student-athletes who play for them, in particular with respect to guiding those student-athletes through the process of selecting agents and other advisers when they prepare to leave college and enter the NBA," the complaint said, as reported by ESPN. "The investigation has revealed several instances in which coaches have exercised that influence by steering players and their families to retain particular advisers, not because of the merits of those advisers, but because the coaches were being bribed by the advisers to do so."

Additionally, Adidas' head of global sports marketing, James Gatto, stands accused of paying $100,000 to a family to send their son to what details indicate was the University of Louisville. The indictment "says contemporary news accounts described [the player's] college decision, announced this past June, as a surprise" and that "this summer, Louisville signed a 10-year, $160 million apparel contract with Adidas," the Times writes. Jeva Lange

11:49 a.m. ET
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The GOP plans to raise the lowest individual tax rate from 10 percent to 12 percent while dropping the tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 39.6 percent to 35 percent, Axios reports, based on conversations with five senior Republicans.

The White House intends to sell the plan as a "tax cut" for the middle class by doubling the standard deduction, which will leave many people paying no taxes: "The standard deduction would almost double to $12,000 for a single filer and $24,000 for married couples, meaning Trump can accurately argue that many more low-income earners would pay no tax under his plan," Axios writes. The seven tax brackets would be collapsed down to three.

"We have a tax plan that is totally finalized," Trump boasted Sunday. "I think it'll be terrific. I think it's going to go through." While Trump will introduce the proposal in Indiana on Wednesday, he is expected to leave details intentionally vague so congressional tax-writing committees have the flexibility to negotiate and maneuver. Read the full scoop at Axios. Jeva Lange

11:18 a.m. ET
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A federal appeals court has overturned the 2015 corruption charges of former New York state Senate Majority Leader Dean G. Skelos (R), 67, and his son, Adam Skelos, 33, due to the Supreme Court shrinking the scope of what constitutes as corruption last year, The New York Times reports.

According to the case laid out by prosecutors in 2015, the elder Skelos used his position to direct consulting payments to his son, ultimately amounting to roughly $300,000. Dean Skelos was sentenced to five years in prison in May 2016, and Adam was sentenced to more than six years.

Since the Skeloses' conviction, though, the Supreme Court "made it harder to prosecute public officials for corruption" when they overturned the conviction of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell in June 2016, The New York Times writes. "We identify charging error in light of McDonnell v. United States, which was decided after this case was tried," determined a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in Manhattan. "Because we cannot conclude that the charging error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt, we are obliged to vacate the convictions."

The United States attorney's office is expected to retry the Skeloses. Jeva Lange

10:17 a.m. ET
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Americans' views on President Trump's tax reform proposals are split along predictably partisan lines, a new Washington Post/ABC News poll reports Tuesday, albeit with some noteworthy details.

A mere 7 percent of Democrats back Trump's plan compared to 60 percent of Republicans — a strong majority, but not an indicator of enthusiasm as dramatic as Democrats' distaste — and 29 percent of independents. In aggregate, just 28 percent of Americans support the plan. Another 44 percent oppose it, while 28 percent told pollsters they have no opinion, perhaps due to ongoing uncertainty as to what, exactly, the plan will change.

One point on which Americans can agree, however, is that middle and lower income earners deserve a tax break. Tax cuts for businesses receive greater support (45 percent) than those for the wealthy (33 percent), and corporate tax cuts are viewed most favorably, another survey published Monday noted, if they are cast as an opportunity for economic growth. Most of the Post/ABC poll respondents (51 percent) believe Trump's plan will cut income taxes for the rich, while a third say it will favor the middle class or treat both groups equally. Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
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The Department of Homeland Security has announced its intention to expand the sort of information it collects on immigrants, with "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results" subject to be added to immigration files as soon as Oct. 18, BuzzFeed News reports. The new policy would apply to both green card holders and naturalized citizens.

The changes "will not only allow DHS to collect information about an immigrant's Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook accounts, but it also mentions all 'search results,'" Gizmodo writes. "It's not immediately clear if that means the agency will have access to things such as Google search histories nor is it clear how that would be obtained."

An additional consequence of the new policy is that everyone who interacts with immigrants on social media would also presumably be subject to having those conservations under surveillance, Gizmodo reports. What's more, social media surveillance has historically not proven to be a promising mode of vetting: "In cases of benefit denial, the denial was based on information found outside of social media," presidential transition documents by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services report.

The Brennan Center's co-director of liberty and national security, Faiza Patel, raised another concern to BuzzFeed News: "The question is, do we really want the government monitoring political views?" Patel said. "Social media may not be able to predict violence but it can certainly tell you a lot about a person's political and religious views." Read the full report at BuzzFeed News. Jeva Lange

9:57 a.m. ET
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By the time you read to the end of this post, another person in America will have been arrested on charges of marijuana possession. In fact, on average, U.S. law enforcement arrest one person for pot possession every single minute of every single day.

In 2016, that pace amounted to about 587,700 arrests for marijuana possession nationwide, The Washington Post reported Tuesday based on aggregate crime data released by the FBI Monday. That figure is larger than the combined total of arrests for all crimes the FBI places in the violent crimes category, including murder, non-negligent manslaughter, rape, robbery, some cases of arson, and aggravated assault.

That comparison becomes all the more remarkable in light of the fact that polling shows about six in 10 Americans support legalizing recreational pot use, and public opinion has been steadily trending toward legalization for years. That support rate is 71 percent among millennials, now the largest generation in the United States, and even a majority of Republican millennials (63 percent) support legalization. Bonnie Kristian

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