Leaks, accusations and staff shuffle: Turmoil inside DHS
WASHINGTON — Leaks. Pointed accusations. A top official’s resignation. And above all, increasingly dire conditions for migrants — those who make it across the border and those who fail, as captured in the searing images of a father clutching his child, both drowned , on the banks of the Rio Grande.
Ever engulfed in turmoil under President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security has entered a new stage of dysfunction and finger-pointing as the administration continues to rearrange staff and push hardline rhetoric and policies that have failed to contain a surge in illegal border crossings, according to more than a dozen current and former administration officials, congressional aides and people familiar with the events. Many spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss internal deliberations.
The squabbling and jockeying over jobs come amid outrage over reports of children being held in squalid conditions and families dying as they try to make it to the U.S.
Over the past week alone, a scrapped immigration roundup targeting families prompted infighting and accusations of leaking. The acting leaders at both U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which manages the border, and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which handles immigration enforcement inside the country, have either stepped down or been reassigned. And questions remain about whether the president has confidence in the man he recently tapped to head the sprawling DHS, acting secretary Kevin McAleenan.
The leadership merry-go-round has spun so many times that it’s hard to keep track of who is in charge of what. And most of those leaders have not been officially nominated by Trump, let alone confirmed by the Senate.
Europe sets heat records as much of continent sizzles
BERLIN — Torrid weather gripped large parts of western and central Europe on Wednesday, setting new June temperature records in Germany and the Czech Republic and forcing drivers to slow down on some sections of the famously speedy German autobahns.
Authorities imposed speed limits on some autobahns due to concerns the high heat would cause expressway surfaces to buckle. Some French schools stayed closed as a precaution due to worrying hot weather.
German weather agency Deutscher Wetterdienst said a preliminary reading showed the mercury reached 38.6 degrees Celsius (101.5 F) in Coschen, near the Polish border. That’s a tenth of a degree higher than the previous national record for June, set in 1947 in southwestern Germany.
The Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute said the temperature reached 38.5 Celsius (101.3 F) in Doksany — a Czech Republic high for the month. New daily records were set at some 80% of local measuring stations.
And it’s about to get even hotter.
Authorities have warned that temperatures could top 40 degrees Celsius (104 F) in parts of continental Europe in the coming days as a plume of dry, hot air moves north from Africa.
NRA splits with PR firm, lobbyist and TV amid infighting
Infighting at the National Rifle Association exploded Wednesday, when the powerful association severed ties with its longtime public relations firm, suspended operations of its fiery online TV station and lost its top lobbyist.
The latest turmoil emerged just a year before the critical 2020 presidential elections when the NRA’s ability to influence the outcome could decide the fate of gun rights.
Lobbyist Chris Cox, long viewed as the likely successor to longtime CEO Wayne LaPierre, was placed on administrative leave about a week ago by the NRA, which claimed he was part of a failed attempt to extort LaPierre and push him out.
It also came within hours of the association officially severing ties with Ackerman McQueen, the Oklahoma-based public relations firm that has shaped some of the NRA’s most memorable messages in the past decades.
Cox had been the executive director of the NRA’s lobbying arm, the Institute for Legislative Action, since 2002. He was credited with leading efforts to allow a decadelong ban on “assault weapons” to expire in 2004, an achievement that allowed the gun industry to resume selling what the industry calls “modern sporting rifles” and critics claim are used too often to exact mass carnage.
Zuckerberg says company ‘evaluating’ deepfake video policy
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the company is evaluating how it should handle “deepfake” videos created with artificial intelligence and high-tech tools to yield false but realistic clips.
In an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado on Wednesday, Zuckerberg said it might make sense to treat such videos differently from other misinformation such as false news. Facebook has long held that it should not decide what is and isn’t true, leaving such calls instead to outside fact-checkers.
But Zuckerberg says it’s worth asking whether deepfakes are a “completely different category” from regular false statements. He says developing a policy on these videos is “really important” as AI technology grows more sophisticated.
Facebook, like other social media companies, does not have a specific policy against deepfakes, whose potential threat has emerged only in the last couple of years. Company executives have said in the past that it makes sense to look at them under the broader umbrella of false or misleading information. But Zuckerberg is signaling that this view might be changing, leaving open the possibility that Facebook might ban deepfakes altogether.
Doing so, of course, could get complicated. Satire, art and political dissent could be swept up in any overly broad ban, creating more headaches from Facebook.
German tourists run over, killed at Washington swimming hole
WASHOUGAL, Wash. — Two German tourists visiting family in nearby Portland, Oregon, were run over and killed by a local man as they sunbathed by a swimming hole, police in Washington state said Wednesday.
Police arrested David E. Croswell, 71, of Washougal, Washington, and held him on suspicion of vehicular homicide while driving under the influence of intoxicants and hit-and-run driving that causes death.
Killed were Rudolf Hohstadt, 61, and Regina Hohstadt, 62, of Germany. The pair had arrived in the United States a few days ago to visit the Portland metropolitan area and took a trip to the Washougal River, police said. The river in southwest Washington is about a 30-minute drive from Portland.
It wasn’t immediately clear where in Germany the Hohstadts were from.
A note on the gate at Croswell’s home Wednesday said the family would not comment and asked reporters to leave the property.