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June 10, 2019

A Customs and Border Patrol subcontractor holding travelers' personal information has suffered a data breach, CBP revealed Monday.

The leaked information included "license plate images and traveler images collected by CBP," which had been stored with the unnamed subcontractor, CBP said in a Monday press release. That subcontractor had "transferred copies" of those files to its own network, which was "subsequently compromised by a malicious cyber-attack," CBP wrote.

CBP was sure to point out that the subcontractor acted "in violation of CBP policies and without CBP's authorization or knowledge" and that none of CBP's own systems were "compromised," the press release said. None of that leaked information has appeared on the internet or dark net, it also said. Still, British technology news site The Register did report last month that CBP data stolen from the firm Perceptics was being offered for free on the dark web. The Monday statement doesn't name the subcontractor, but the press release file CBP sent to The Washington Post contained the word "Perceptics" in its title.

The breach comes as CBP continues to implement its "biometric entry-exit system," which involves using facial recognition technology to identify all people traveling in and out of the U.S., BuzzFeed News notes. The leaked database contained passport and visa photos used in making that recognition system work. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 28, 2019

Drinking tea isn't generally considered to be unhealthy. It's sometimes said to be calming or invigorating, and some even claim it has health benefits. But as one man's peculiar situation shows, health risks can come from the most unsuspecting of places.

An 84-year-old Canadian man was sent to the emergency department for an extreme case of high blood pressure, chest pain, and headache — all of which had begun just in the past week. And doctors determined that the likely cause for the suddenness of his symptoms was a homemade brew of licorice root tea that the man had been drinking daily for two weeks. The man, who has a history of hypertension and cardiovascular disease, Gizmodo reports, could have ended up in even worse condition if he'd kept drinking the tea for longer.

"Excessive amounts of some herbal products can have harmful side effects," said Jean-Pierre Falet, a neurologist at McGill University in Montreal. And licorice root, specifically, has been known to cause problems with blood pressure. The Food and Drug Administration even recommends that people over 40 limit their intake of licorice candy.

Thankfully, after the man stopped drinking his homemade tea, his symptoms faded and he was back to normal after two weeks. But his case was published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal on Monday as a reminder to doctors to be aware of the dangers of eating — or drinking — too much licorice. Read more at Gizmodo. Shivani Ishwar

May 27, 2019

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) defended a Navy SEAL accused of stabbing a teenage militant and then posing for a photo with the body, telling constituents during a town hall on Saturday that while serving in the Marines, he also took a picture next to a dead combatant.

Hunter declared that "a lot of us have done the exact same thing," The San Diego Union-Tribune reports. Prosecutors allege that the Navy SEAL, Edward Gallagher, killed the teen Islamic State fighter in Iraq in 2017, and also shot two Iraqi civilians and fired into crowds of people. He has pleaded not guilty; his lawyers claim he was just a tough platoon leader and angry SEALs lied about the incident to get back at him.

President Trump has said he is considering pardoning service members accused of war crimes, and Hunter said he thinks Gallagher should be pardoned, claiming the military justice system is "corrupt." Hunter and his wife, Margaret, are both facing corruption charges, accused of misusing campaign funds. Hunter was asked about his case during the town hall, but he refused to comment. Catherine Garcia

May 20, 2019

President Trump's trade war with China is about to go global.

Trump has spent pretty much his entire presidency trying to negotiate a trade deal with China, with both countries levying tit-for-tat tariffs all the while. And while those tariffs have mainly hurt American farmers so far, a new Morgan Stanley analysis published by Reuters suggests they could turn into a problem for the whole world.

After a brief hibernation, trade talks with China started up again earlier this month. And in the middle of those discussions, Trump upped a 10 percent tariff on $200 billion worth of Chinese exports to 25 percent, leading China to, of course, retaliate. If that pattern continues, specifically "if talks stall, no deal is agreed upon, and the U.S. imposes 25 percent tariffs on the remaining circa $300 billion of imports from China," then "we see the global economy heading towards recession," a Morgan Stanley analyst wrote in a Monday memo. The Federal Reserve Board would then have to cut interest rates down to zero, the analyst predicted.

Back in the states, the Peterson Institute for International Economics estimates Trump's current tariffs translate to an average tax hike of $550 for each American family, Politico reports. Extending that tariff to $500 billion worth of goods could lead to a $2,200 tax spike for a family of three. That effectively erases the $800 average tax cut U.S. families saw under Trump's Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. Making matters even worse, companies including Walmart are warning that ongoing tariffs will just lead to higher consumer prices. Read more about the everyday negatives of Trump's tariffs at Politico. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 14, 2019

WhatsApp is pushing an update after disclosing a vulnerability that exposed users to hackers.

The app's calling function was used by hackers to install spyware on the phones of a number of users believed to be in the dozens at least, CBS News reports. Affected users would receive a call or two from an unknown number, and even if they didn't pick it up, this was enough for the spyware to be installed, NBC News reports.

The Financial Times first reported on the story and pointed to the Israeli firm NSO Group, which previously developed software reportedly used to spy on journalist Jamal Khashoggi, as being behind the spyware. WhatsApp did not specifically identify NSO Group but said the hackers had "all the hallmarks of a private company that works with a number of governments around the world." A spokesperson for WhatsApp also told The Associated Press, "We're certainly not refuting any of the coverage you've seen."

NSO Group said in a statement its technology would not be used "in its own right to target any person or organization."

WhatsApp, which is owned by Facebook, says it shared information with law enforcement and fixed the vulnerability on Sunday, but it's still encouraging all of its more than 1.5 billion users to update to the latest version. An expert with the watchdog group Citizen Lab told NBC this was a "very scary vulnerability," especially because "there's nothing a user could have done here, short of not having the app." Brendan Morrow

May 9, 2019

There have been a lot of arguments made for preserving confederate statues. None of them are quite like this.

In response to Arlington County, Virginia's proposal to rename its Jefferson Davis Highway, local man Max Perrine has written a very questionable column for Virginia newspaper The Roanoke Times. His big concern? We've "had enough 'slave owner' bashing" and "are now going after confederate citizen memorials."

After introducing his point with a poorly worded non-question, Perrine goes on to point out that "12 of our presidents were slave owners to some degree." So do we want to "rename Washington ... 'Boss Hog City?,'" he asks. There are also dozens of other Washingtons around the country, and after weeding them out and "spending enough of our state/federal tax monies to remove all of our historic confederate citizen statues," Perrine claims "we might qualify for foreign aid." Things then get a tad wilder, as Perrine suggests "the History Altering Association" he apparently just created can "unite the Christians of the World" and "go to Egypt to start removing and relocating the pyramids and of the statues of the pharaohs."

"Folks, crap happens," Perrine finishes his column, declaring "you can't erase history." Don't believe him? "Ask a Holocaust survivor or a close relative of one," Perrine says to wrap it all up. You can find the whole column here, if you want. Kathryn Krawczyk

May 8, 2019

Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster on Wednesday criticized two groups of White House staffers: those who "try to manipulate the situation based on their own agenda" and others who purport to save America from President Trump

McMaster is now a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington, D.C., think tank, and he shared his thoughts during an event held at the organization. The retired Army lieutenant general served as Trump's second national security adviser, from February 2017 to April 2018, and he said that along with some other White House staffers, he provided bias-free policy options for Trump.

Without naming anyone specifically, he called out two other groups of people: Those who "are not there to give the president options — they're there to try to manipulate the situation based on their own agenda" — and those who "cast themselves in the role of saving the country, even the world, from the president." These advisers, whether they are working to exploit Trump or overrule the elected president, "are actually a danger to the Constitution of the United States," he said. McMaster was asked about his successor, John Bolton, but declined to offer his opinion, Politico reports. Catherine Garcia

April 22, 2019

The leader of a New Mexico militia arrested on Saturday allegedly boasted that his organization, the United Constitutional Patriots, trained to assassinate former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and George Soros, a complaint filed over the weekend states.

Larry Mitchell Hopkins, 69, was arrested on suspicion of being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition. He is described as being the "commander" of the 20-member United Constitutional Patriots, a group that has been detaining migrant families crossing the southern border.

In the complaint, an FBI agent writes that someone called the agency's public tip line in October 2017 and said there was "alleged militia extremist activity" taking place in Hopkins' Flora Vista, New Mexico, home. This person also said Hopkins "allegedly made the statement that the United Constitutional Patriots were training to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama," claiming the three public figures were supporting anti-fascist activists. Hopkins' attorney denies his client said this.

FBI agents saw 10 firearms when they visited Hopkins' house in November 2017. Hopkins showed them several other weapons, and said they belonged to his common-law wife, Fay Sanders Murphy, the affidavit says. After this visit, FBI agents found out Hopkins had prior felony convictions, including being found guilty in 2006 of criminal impersonation of a peace officer. Hopkins remains in custody, pending a preliminary hearing April 29 in Albuquerque. Catherine Garcia

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