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November 14, 2017

A decade-long investigation on lead exposure rates in children in New York City found several neighborhoods with higher rates than Flint, Michigan, Reuters reported Tuesday. Reuters obtained childhood blood testing data from 2005 to 2015 and found 69 census tracts where the lead exposure was higher in New York City than Flint, where local government cost-saving measures contaminated the city's water supply.

Reuters mapped lead exposure across the census tracts, contiguous areas that ideally contain a population of about 4,000 people. In contrast to Flint, where the water crisis led to the high exposure levels, New York City's failure to eliminate lead poisoning is believed to be a result of poor regulation of existing housing laws and lead levels found in consumer products, Reuters explained:

There is little or no city enforcement of two provisions of the law, designed to make private landlords responsible for preventing poisoning.

One requires landlords to conduct annual lead paint inspections in pre-1960 housing units where small children live, fix hazards, and keep records. The other requires them to "permanently seal or remove" lead paint from spots like windows and door-frames — so-called friction surfaces, where paint often breaks down — before new tenants move in.

Reporters reviewed the past 12 years of [New York Housing and Preservation Department] violation records and found the agency hasn't cited a single landlord for failure to conduct the annual inspections. Only one was cited for failure to remediate friction surfaces between tenants, in 2010. [Reuters]

Reuters' investigation found that most children with elevated levels of lead exposure lived in Brooklyn. High levels of lead exposure were also found in well-off areas like Manhattan's Upper West Side, which had rates comparable to Flint's. Read Reuters' full report here. Kelly O'Meara Morales

1:35 p.m. ET
Frederic J. Brown/Getty Images

The 13 California siblings discovered Sunday held captive in deeply abusive conditions were permitted to keep journals, investigators have learned. In fact, authorities have found hundreds of journals in the California home where the malnourished children's parents, David and Louise Turpin, allegedly chained them to furniture, refused to let them outdoors, and gave them only one meal per day.

The journals are difficult to read because of the siblings' limited language development, but investigators expect them to provide "strong evidence of what occurred in that home" as the case proceeds to trial. "There is a good chance that being able to write may have kept them sane," James Pennebaker, a psychologist with expertise in writing as a response to trauma, told USA Today. "In an interesting way, this may have helped them come to terms with the bizarre world they lived in."

A man in Texas who purchased the Turpins' former home also shed light on their living conditions, sharing photos of the property's filthy, unlivable interior at the time of the sale. After the house became uninhabitable, the Turpins brought a double-wide trailer to their property and lived in that instead. Bonnie Kristian

12:59 p.m. ET

The Women's March returned for a second year Saturday as tens of thousands of women rallied in cities across the country, including Washington, New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, and more.

The march in Washington proceeded despite the government shutdown, which many demonstrators referenced as part of their critique of the Trump administration. Immigration policy, the #MeToo movement, health care, and the 2018 midterm elections were of central concern to many participants. One protest sign in Washington referenced President Trump's notorious Access Hollywood comments, urging demonstrators to "Grab him by the midterms."

"I'm done with men feeling like they have some sort of power over women," Amanda Kowalski, a protester in Los Angeles, told The New York Times, "and I'm definitely done with having a president who believes that he has the power to take things from them, to take things that are provided — like Planned Parenthood — from women, when they deserve the same sort of health care as anybody else."

See scenes from demonstrations in several cities below. Bonnie Kristian

12:17 p.m. ET

President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, rapidly established himself as "Mr. China" in his father-in-law's nascent administration last year, a New Yorker piece published Saturday reports. He talked repeatedly with Chinese Ambassador to the United States Cui Tiankai, conversations that happened alone or with a limited retinue of American officials, a break with past administrations' practice of marshaling a collection of experts for U.S.-China meetings.

Chinese accounts of Kushner's relationship with Cui raised alarm in the U.S. intelligence community, The New Yorker reports:

According to current and former officials briefed on U.S. intelligence about Chinese communications, Chinese officials said that Cui and Kushner, in meetings to prepare for the summit at Mar-a-Lago, discussed Kushner's business interests along with policy. Some intelligence officials became concerned that the Chinese government was seeking to use business inducements to influence Kushner's views. The intelligence wasn't conclusive, according to those briefed on the matter. "I never saw any indication that it was successful," a former senior official said, of Chinese efforts to compromise Kushner. The Chinese could have mischaracterized their discussions with Kushner. [The New Yorker]

In a statement to The New Yorker, Kushner's representative strenuously denied all wrongdoing, saying there "was never a time — never — that Mr. Kushner spoke to any foreign officials, in the campaign, transition, and in the administration, about any personal or family business. He was scrupulous in this regard." Read the full New Yorker story here. Bonnie Kristian

11:42 a.m. ET
Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

After a late night of unproductive talks, Congress reconvened Saturday morning to continue negotiations to end the government shutdown — and, naturally, to throw lots of blame across the aisle.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Friday he believes there is a "really good chance" the matter will be resolved by Monday, but many lawmakers' remarks were not so optimistic. Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) accused Senate Democrats of "holding government funding hostage," while House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said the shutdown should be blamed on President Trump's "confrontation and chaos."

Trump himself resumed his early tweeting spree to again claim that "Democrats are holding our Military hostage over their desire to have unchecked illegal immigration." Bonnie Kristian

10:11 a.m. ET
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After completing an autopsy, the coroner's office in Los Angeles concluded rock legend Tom Petty's October death resulted from an accidental drug overdose. Petty was found to have fentanyl, oxycodone, temazepam, alprazolam, citalopram, acetylfentanyl, and despropionyl fentanyl in his system when he died.

"Unfortunately Tom's body suffered from many serious ailments including emphysema, knee problems, and most significantly a fractured hip" for which he was prescribed strong painkillers, his family said in a statement Friday night.

"As a family we recognize this report may spark a further discussion on the opioid crisis and we feel that it is a healthy and necessary discussion and we hope in some way this report can save lives," the statement continued. "Many people who overdose begin with a legitimate injury or simply do not understand the potency and deadly nature of these medications." Bonnie Kristian

10:05 a.m. ET
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Federal prosecutors on Friday announced felony charges against Rene Boucher, the man accused of brutally attacking his neighbor, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), in November.

Boucher's alleged assault was primarily motivated by anger over Paul stacking a pile of trimmed branches and other brush, officials said. The stack was on Paul's land, but close to Boucher's property line, and when Boucher saw Paul making the stack, he reportedly reached a breaking point. Paul was surprised by the attack because he was wearing sound-canceling headphones, and he suffered five fractured ribs, pleural effusion, and pneumonia linked to his lung injuries.

The prosecutors said Boucher admitted to tackling Paul and maintains he was not motivated by politics. Boucher is charged with assaulting a member of Congress. He has signed a plea deal and faces up to a decade in prison with fines up to $250,000. Bonnie Kristian

8:24 a.m. ET
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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) ended Senate negotiations around 1:30 a.m. Saturday after no deal was reached by the midnight deadline to avert a government shutdown, proposing a three-week temporary spending bill to re-open the government through Feb. 8 while talks continue. Senate Democrats already rejected a similar four-week proposal, and so far they do not seem eager to support the condensed timeline.

However, Republican Sens. Jeff Flake (Ariz.) and Lindsey Graham (S.C.) told reporters on their way home for the night that they secured McConnell's agreement for a vote with "an open amendment process" on Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by the same Feb. 8 deadline. DACA, which protects from deportation immigrants illegally brought to the U.S. as children, is primary among Democrats' demands in the spending talks.

The White House, meanwhile, issued a statement early Saturday morning indicating the Trump administration will not discuss DACA until the shutdown is over. "We will not negotiate the status of unlawful immigrants while Democrats hold our lawful citizens hostage over their reckless demands," said White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, labeling congressional Democrats "obstructionist losers" and the situation a "politically manufactured Schumer Shutdown." Bonnie Kristian

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