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March 24, 2019

The Muslim community in Christchurch, New Zealand has reclaimed a place of worship. On Saturday, the restored Al-Noor mosque, one of the sites of the mass shootings that killed 50 people at two mosques in Christchurch on March 15, was reopened.

It remains under heavy police detail, but small groups of worshippers are now allowed in for limited periods of time, reports RNZ National. Although the mosque has been completely restored following the damage, those who enter have been asked to refrain from taking photographs. Several survivors of the shootings, carried about by a 28-year-old Australian named Brenton Tarrant who expressed racist, anti-immigrant views, were among the first people to return to the mosque.

On Saturday, nearly 40,000 people turned out for a vigil in Christchurch on Saturday evening, as the country continues to mourn the attacks. Saturday’s vigil, which included speeches, music, and moments of silence, is the latest in a string of remembrance events that have and will continue to take place around New Zealand. Tim O'Donnell

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

11:30 a.m.

Let's get one thing clear: Boaty McBoatface is the name of the mini submarine, not the boat.

You might remember the epically named vessel from when, in mid-2016, online voters were asked to choose a name for Britain's Natural Environmental Research Council's newest research submarine. Despite the watercraft in question not being a boat, voters overwhelmingly decided to name it Boaty McBoatface, but the ministry still rejected the will of the people and gave the name to an attached mini submarine instead. Now, the honorable McBoatface is living up to its ambitious name, delivering new research on warming sea waters in results published Monday.

McBoatface took its inaugural plunge in April 2017, plopping into the Southern Ocean and traveling 112 miles to measure temperature, salt content, and turbulence along the sea floor, CNet notes. It found that "winds blowing over the Southern Ocean have been getting stronger due to the hole in the ozone layer above Antarctica and increasing greenhouse gases," a press release for the study says. That leads cold deep ocean waters to mix with the warmer waters above — a "significant contributor to rising sea levels," the release continues.

McBoatface's discovery is the first of its kind, thoroughly mapping how global warming is churning waters and speeding sea level rise, CNN reports via the National Oceanography Centre. Can the David Attenborough — the name of the submarine originally elected to be named Boaty mcBoatface — say the same? Kathryn Krawczyk

11:00 a.m.

After weeks of speculation, it looks like it's official.

President Trump on Tuesday broke the news that he will indeed be meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping next week at the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, as the two look to hash out a deal between the U.S. and China amid an ongoing trade war. Washington and Beijing had previously engaged in talks, but they recently broke down; a Trump-Xi meeting in Osaka has been seen as a chance to rekindle the negotiations.

Trump has repeatedly said he hoped to meet with his Beijing counterpart, but Chinese officials had not yet confirmed whether Xi was on board, which is still the case. But Trump's tweet was enough to give a boost to U.S. stocks, The Washington Post reports, signaling a sense of relief from investors who are concerned that the promises of eye-for-an-eye protectionist trade policies being doled out by both sides could have negative long-term effects on the global economy. Tim O'Donnell

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