“Serial Bomber” Attacks Austin

A fourth device exploded in Austin, Texas on Sunday after having been triggered by a tripwire. This device was placed on the side of a residential road making it the first time it was not placed on a resident’s doorstep. All four bombs have similarities, which led Austin Police Chief Brian Manley to state, “We are clearly dealing with what we expect to be a serial bomber at this point.” At first, the attacks seemed to be racially motivated (the victims of the first three attacks are African American and Hispanic), but Sunday’s victims are white and experts are saying that the “latest victims were not specifically targeted”. There have been two fatalities so far, and four people have been seriously injured.

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A Landslide Re-Election for Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin was re-elected yesterday by a landslide. Putin was first elected in 2000 and served until 2008. From 2008 to 2012, Putin served as prime minister due to term limits. He ran again in 2012 and has served ever since. In this election, Putin ran against minor candidates since his biggest opponent was banned from the election. There are many reports that ballot stuffing and forced voting occurred. Putin has made Russia a big opponent to the West during his time as president. He will now serve until 2024. At that time, he will be 71 and required by law to step down.

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Facebook Data Improperly Used by Trump-Linked Firm

Facebook has admitted that Cambridge Analytica, a data analysis firm linked to President Trump’s campaign, improperly used user data in an attempt to influence American voters.  University of Cambridge professor Aleksandr Kogan received permission from Facebook to obtain data from users that downloaded his personality test app called “thisisyourdigitallife.”  He then provided data from more than 50 million profiles to Cambridge Analytica, a move which violated Facebook’s rules.  Cambridge Analytica CEO Alexander Nix was also caught stating, “we have a long history of working behind the scenes,” while being secretly filmed by a British reporter.

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UMBC Wins in Biggest Upset Ever in NCAA Tournament

The University of Maryland- Baltimore County basketball team defeated Virginia on Friday, a feat which marks the biggest upset ever in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.  UMBC was seeded 16th in the South region and was slated to play the number one overall seed in the tournament, Virginia, when the bracket was unveiled last week.  Very few predicted they would win, and they were a 20.5 point underdog to the Cavaliers going into the game.  However, UMBC went out to an early lead and won 74-54, busting millions of brackets.  In doing so, UMBC became the first ever 16 seed to defeat a 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

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Obama and Netflix In Talks to Create Shows

It appears that 44 may be getting his own show. Former President Barack Obama and Michelle are currently in “advanced” talks regarding the creation of a series of shows produced by the former president. Early reports suggest that the show would be more centered around storytelling, rather than a show dedicated to combating President Trump or conservatives. Executives from Apple and Amazon have also expressed their interest in courting Obama’s talents. Widely considered as one of the most charismatic political figures in modern history, Obama having his own show would entertain many.

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Students Suspended for Participating in National Walkout Day

On Wednesday, March 14, 2018, students from about 3,000 schools across the nation participated in National Walkout Day in memory of the 17 victims killed in the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. Rosa Rodriguez, 15, a sophomore at Sayreville War Memorial High School, NJ, received a suspension after participating in the walkout. About 12 other students from her school also participated, but she walked out of one of the exits alone and her image has become a symbol of student expression under disciplinary threat. Many of her supporters attempted to send her flowers, which were turned away at the school because of policy; the flowers were eventually delivered to her home on Saturday.

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The Departed

Over Spring Break, news of four individuals leaving the Trump Administration swirled. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired after long running disputes with the President on foreign affairs. The National Security Advisor, General H.R. McMaster, will be removed for similar reasons. Both members exercised and advocated for a more internationalist approach to foreign policy that sharply contrasted the President’s more nationalistic and protectionist views. The FBI Deputy Director, Andrew McCabe, was fired on Friday following a tumultuous relationship between the FBI and the White House. Lastly, the personal assistant to the President, John McEntee, was fired after he lost his security clearance during a Secret Service investigation into his finances. Though many of these positions are incredibly important, the White House has been noted for its unusually high staff turnover compared to other administrations.

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Mismanagement Scandal in Veterans' Affairs

The watchdog for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs recently released a report of management failures at the VA hospital in D.C. that has prompted the VA Secretary David Shulkin to announce a reorganization of senior leadership in VA hospitals around the country. The report noted several cases that have put patients at risk, like “lack of medical supplies, unsterile conditions, and canceled surgeries after patients were already under anesthesia.” The Department of Veterans’ Affairs have gotten heat in other instances in the past few years for patients dying on the waitlist and for Mr. Shulkin’s use of taxpayer dollars to go on a European vacation with his wife last summer. Shulkin has said he was not aware of the management issues, but is determined to take action.

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Trump Accepts Meeting With Kim Jong Un

South Korean officials delivered a message to President Trump in the Oval Office on Thursday stating that North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un wants a meeting. The president announced to reporters in the White House briefing room a few hours after this news broke that South Korea was going to make a “major announcement” later that night. Shortly after the president’s warning, South Korean national security advisor Chung Eui-yong announced that Kim Jong Un is committed to denuclearization and that President Trump agreed to meet with the North Korean leader by May. The president confirmed this announcement by tweeting Thursday night, “Meeting being planned!”

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Travel Alert for Playa del Carmen

The U.S. Embassy issued an alert prohibiting government employees from traveling to Playa del Carmen, Mexico Wednesday night. The embassy stated it had received intel about a potential security threat to the area. The U.S. Consular Agency in Playa del Carmen is closed indefinitely. This alert comes after the ferry explosion in late February that injured 25 people. Undetonated devices were found on another ferry, and that incident is still under investigation. The State Department has already issued travel advisories for five states, including Colima, Guerrero, Michoacan, Sinaloa and Tamaulipas.

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Florida Legislature Passes Gun Reform

After weeks of demonstrations, protests, and lobbying efforts following the Parkland high school shooting, the Florida State Legislature has passed controversial gun reform. If signed by Governor Rick Scott, it would allow for a number of regulatory changes such as banning bump stocks, enacting a 3-day waiting period for guns, and raising the minimum age to purchase a gun from 18 to 21. It also provides additional funding for arming select teachers and staff and expands law enforcements power to seize weapons from those deemed mentally unfit. Governor Scott has cautiously supported the bill, saying the response is moving in the right direction, but made it clear he would read over the bill carefully before signing it.

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Alexa's LOLing

A number of Amazon Alexa users have reported hearing an unprompted laugh from their  devices over the last couple of days. The laugh happens randomly, when the device is not in use or in response to a request to turn on or off lights.  This has startled many owners and led them to believe their devices are haunted.  Amazon however says these worried customers need not worry, as they are currently ironing out the issues.  As if the advanced artificial personalities of robots aren’t creepy enough…

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Michael B. Jordan’s Company Will Adopt Inclusion Riders

On Wednesday Michael B. Jordan announced that his production company, Outlier Society, will be adopting inclusion riders, which are contract addendums that require studios to hire diverse casts and crews on their projects. The term was popularized by Frances McDormand when she introduced the idea in her Oscars acceptance speech. Jordan announced the riders on an Instagram post, stating that he’s “been privileged to work with powerful women and persons of color throughout my career, and it is Outlier’s mission to continue to create for talented individuals going forward.” Endeavor Content, another production company, has already adopted the contract addendum and several Hollywood analysts are optimistic about its future.

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North Korea Open to Discuss Nuclear Situation with U.S.

On Tuesday, a senior South Korean official stated that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said he is open to discussing nuclear disarmament with the United States and imposing a moratorium on nuclear and missile tests during the proposed talks. This new revelation of willingness to discuss denuclearization follows a year of great intensity between the two powers and fears about war, which stemmed from heavy rhetoric between Kim Jong Un and Donald Trump. However, despite the potential for progress, many are still skeptical that genuine peace will be established.

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First Male Gymnast Accuses Larry Nassar of Sexual Abuse

Jacob Moore, a freshman gymnast at the University of Michigan, became the first male victim to accuse former USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar of sexual abuse. Nassar was sentenced to decades of prison time for multiple charges of sexual abuse but still faces an impending civil federal suit. Moore explained on Tuesday that he decided to come forward after being inspired by his sister and over 200 other female gymnasts who testified at Nassar’s sentencing hearing last month. While speaking with the press Moore bravely stated: "I don't want (other victims) to be scared to come out because of stigma that guys can't be sexually abused or taken advantage of."

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West Virginia Teachers' Strike Pays Off

For the past nine days, West Virginia’s teachers have participated in a statewide strike that has shut down public schools to demand better pay and health insurance relief, and on Tuesday the state House and Senate passed a bill giving all state workers, including teachers, a 5 percent pay raise. West Virginia has among the poorest paid teachers in the country, with salaries averaging about $45,000 a year. Mitch Carmichael, the president of the conservative state Senate, told the strikers that a state task force would address their health insurance woes. He also stated that revenue for the raises would come from budget cuts, but did not go into detail. With this bill passing, it appears school will be back in session.

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Apple's Glass Panes Cause Pain

Apple’s glass walls at their Apple Park campus have been causing a lot of pain for employees. Multiple employees have walked into the glass walls, causing head injuries. The San Francisco Chronicle obtained multiple transcripts of 911 calls revealing the injuries caused by the glass. Apple has tried to slow down the rate of collisions by placing stickers on the glass walls. California building officials warned Apple of the possible issue during construction, even as construction workers walked into the glass. Employees moved into their new office in January and 911 dispatch has been receiving calls since then.

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Former Trump Aid Refuses Subpoena in Russia Investigation

Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign aid, told reporters that he will not comply with a grand jury subpoena in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.  Nunberg explained that he is refusing to cooperate because he believes that investigators are trying to get him to testify against Roger Stone, someone who he calls his mentor.  “I’m not cooperating.  Arrest me,” he said.  Although he claimed that the investigation is a “witch hunt” in one interview, he also suggested that Mueller may have “something on him” in another.   Nunberg, who left the campaign in August 2015 on bad terms with Trump, says he is not doing this to protect the president, stating “Donald Trump caused this because he’s an idiot.”

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Trump, Tariffs, and Threats of Retaliation

Recently, the Trump administration, much to the discontent of businesses and congressional republicans, announced a sharp tariff on imported steel and aluminum. The administration said the tariffs would have a negligible effect on US consumers and promote American manufacturing. The administration also cited national security concerns for these tariffs, most notably the Chinese flooding the market with these metals. But many US allies, such as Canada and the EU, are not exempt from this tariff and will be negatively affected. With the threat of retaliation from many countries, business groups are arguing that the move will hurt American businesses that depend on the global trade network. Such a move, they say, could spark a trade war where no one wins.

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Much Uncertainty Hovers in Italy's Critical Election

Italy’s divisive parliamentary election has begun, a critical election which may send the country into political paralysis. The voter turnout is up to 58.5 percent compared to the 46.3 percent from the last general election held in 2013. Italy’s four-time Italian Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi, has constructed a coalition between his Forza Italia party, a center-right party, and the Northern League, a far-right party, and the neo-fascist Brothers of Italy. Matteo Renzi of the center-left Democratic Party is a contender, but it seems that no party or alliance will obtain an outright majority, which could send Italy into deadlock for months.

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