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June 14, 2018
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The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops started their biannual meeting Wednesday in Fort Lauderdale, and the dominant topic was immigration policy. The current USCCB president, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Houston, began by condemning "two very troubling recent developments": Attorney General Jeff Sessions' decision to severely restrict asylum claims for victims of domestic and gang violence, and splitting apart families. "At its core, asylum is an instrument to preserve the right to life," DiNardo said. Pulling young children from their parents can cause "irreparable harm and trauma," he added, and "separating babies from their mothers ... is immoral."

The bishops discussed several ways to address President Trump's "zero tolerance" policy, including sending a delegate of bishops to inspect detention facilities "as a sign of our pastoral concern and protest against this hardening of the American heart," as Newark's Cardinal Joseph Tobin said, or directly lobbying conservative lawmakers.

Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, a canon lawyer, suggested "canonical penalties" for Catholics "who are involved" in the separation of families. Canonical penalties, which can range from denying sacraments to excommunication, "are there in place to heal," Weisenburger said. "And therefore, for the salvation of these people's souls, maybe it's time for us to look at canonical penalties." Bishop John Stowe of Lexington, Kentucky, suggested pastoral outreach for border agents struggling with their consciences.

As they were meeting, CNN reported that immigration agents had pulled away a baby who was breastfeeding and handcuffed the Honduran mother when she protested, but the bishops had their own stories, too. Bishop Joseph Tyson of Yakima, Washington, told about an undocumented immigrant in his diocese who faces deportation after being pulled over for speeding while driving his wife to the hospital when she was in labor with their premature child. "If you want to save the unborn, you have to walk through the doors of the undocumented," he said. Peter Weber

9:29 p.m. ET
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It's a quiet ending for a show that created shockwaves throughout its 27 years.

The Jerry Springer Show — which within the past few months aired programs with such titles as "Catfished by a Little Person," "Stop Pimpin My Twin Sister," and "Cold-Hearted Convicts" — has stopped filming new episodes, it was unceremoniously announced this week. Since its debut in September 1991, The Jerry Springer Show has produced 4,000 episodes. The talk show is syndicated, and NBC Universal that the CW and other networks will continue to air reruns.

Producers are dangling a carrot to fans, saying that "there is a possibility" that original episodes could be ordered in the future. While the show is known for its outrageous guests, gratuitous violence, and overall crassness, it's not making as big of an impact in a world dominated by reality TV shows. Springer "was lapped not only by other programs, but by real life," television historian David Bianculli told The Associated Press. Catherine Garcia

8:37 p.m. ET
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On Thursday morning, the White House is expected to announce its proposal to merge the Departments of Labor and Education, a person with knowledge of the matter told The Wall Street Journal Wednesday.

Over the last month, the White House has gone through a review of the different cabinet agencies, looking for ways to make the federal government smaller. The merger would likely need to be approved by Congress, and isn't the only change being eyed by the White House; there's also been discussion of renaming the Department of Health and Human Services to something closer to its previous moniker, the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, The Journal reports.

The Education Department is already one of the smaller government agencies, with 3,900 employees, while the Labor Department has 15,000 employees. Catherine Garcia

8:00 p.m. ET
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Ivanka Trump tweeted on Wednesday evening how thrilled she is that her dad, President Trump, signed an executive order that stops the separation of children from their parents at the border.

Nowhere in her tweet did Trump note that it was a self-made crisis, as her father's administration was behind the policy. "Thank you @POTUS for taking critical action ending family separation at our border," she said. "Congress must now act + find a lasting solution that is consistent with our shared values; the same values that so many come here seeking as they endeavor to create a better life for their families."

Before Wednesday, Ivanka Trump never publicly commented on the policy or news that infants and toddlers were in "tender age" facilities, although the president said after signing the executive order that his daughter and first lady Melania Trump both pressed him to do something about the forced separations. On Sunday, the first lady's office said she "hates to see children separated from their families," and wanted Democrats and Republicans to unite for comprehensive immigration reform. A White House official told The Washington Post that over the last few days, Melania Trump, an immigrant from Slovenia, "became even more vocal about her thoughts and opinions on the topic." Catherine Garcia

7:15 p.m. ET
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After actor Peter Fonda tweeted about her 12-year-old son, Barron, on Wednesday morning, first lady Melania Trump had her office contact the Secret Service.

In response to the administration's policy of taking children away from their parents at the border, Fonda tweeted, "WE SHOULD RIP BARRON TRUMP FROM HIS MOTHER'S ARMS AND PUT HIM IN A CAGE WITH PEDOPHILES AND SEE IF MOTHER WILL STAND UP AGAINST THE GIANT ASSHOLE SHE IS MARRIED TO." Fonda later deleted the tweet, and "sincerely apologized" for tweeting "something highly inappropriate and vulgar about the president and his family in response to the devastating images I was seeing on television."

Stephanie Grisham, the first lady's communications director told The Hill that the tweet was "sick and irresponsible." Catherine Garcia

6:45 p.m. ET
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Burger King has apologized for an ad that ran on VK, the Russian equivalent of Facebook, promising 3 million rubles ($47,000) and a lifetime supply of Whoppers for any woman impregnated by a soccer player competing in the World Cup.

Burger King's Russian division is known for dreadful campaigns, The Guardian reports; in one advertisement for a buy one burger get one free deal, the company used the image of a 16-year-old rape victim. After pulling the World Cup ads, Burger King apologized on VK, calling the campaign "too offensive." Catherine Garcia

5:36 p.m. ET

President Trump patted himself on the back for trash-talking Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) in front of House Republicans, but not everyone enjoyed the show.

Trump claimed that GOP leaders loved it when he joked about Sanford's recent election loss. "I want to congratulate Mark on a great race," Trump reportedly said in the meeting, calling Sanford a "nasty guy." Most accounts say that lawmakers were simply silent, and Fox News reports that some audience members booed the "low blow," but Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) made his disapproval publicly known.

Amash called it a "classless cheap shot," and set the record straight that no House members applauded, despite Trump's claims. Summer Meza

5:33 p.m. ET
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Russia thinks the U.S. may trigger another space race.

But it won't be like the brainy battles of yesteryear. It'll be more like an intergalactic arms race that could be worse than the current nuclear one, The Associated Press reported Wednesday.

President Trump directed the Pentagon to add a Space Force to the military Monday, declaring that this new branch of the military would preserve "American dominance in space." The first few goals include a mission to Mars and a system for space traffic management, Trump said.

But to the Russian Foreign Ministry, that sounds like the U.S. might deploy weapons over Earth, a spokeswoman told AP. That could spark consequences "no less harmful than the nuclear arms race," the spokeswoman said.

Russia and China did draft a treaty to preserve space as neutral territory, but the U.S. opted out. Regardless of a treaty, U.S. intelligence cautioned in February that the two countries are developing weapons that could be used to shoot down American satellites. Officials under past presidents have suggested defensive measures in space as well.

Looks like this star war could be heating up. Kathryn Krawczyk

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