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June 12, 2019

Using Snapchat's new gender-switch filter, Ethan became Esther ... and essentially launched his own version of To Catch a Predator.

Ethan, a 20-year-old college student from the San Francisco area, wanted to help law enforcement find possible sexual predators on Tinder. Police said Ethan created an account using his filtered photo, claiming to be a 19-year-old girl named Esther. In May, he started chatting with Robert Davies, 40, an officer with the San Mateo Police Department, CBS News reports. They talked on Tinder, then Kik Messenger, and finally Snapchat, and Ethan told Davies that Esther pretended to be 19 in order to use Tinder but was actually 16 years old.

Police said after discussing Esther's age and acknowledging she was a minor, Davies continued to talk about "engaging in sexual activity." Davies gave Ethan enough information for him to figure out his identity, police said, and he tipped off the authorities to what was happening. Last week, Davies was arrested and booked on charges of contacting a minor to commit a felony. Davies is now on paid administrative leave from the San Mateo Police Department, and in a statement, Chief Susan Manheimer said if the alleged conduct is true, it "is in no way a reflection of all that we stand for as a department, and is an affront to the tenets of our department and our profession as a whole." Catherine Garcia

2:59 p.m.

The NBA is really going all in on legalized sports betting.

The league, in conjunction with the NBA Players' Association and United Kingdom-based Highlight Games Limited, announced on Wednesday that it will create a virtual sports-gambling game called NBA Last 90, because people apparently want to spend their money betting on games that are not real. The league will reportedly splice together clips from its archives of old games to create the final 90 seconds of a simulated matchup between two NBA teams.

It'd work like this, Bloomberg reports: Fans will watch 90 seconds of clips between two two teams from previous matchups between the squads. The clips will then be strung together as if it were a new game, and those watching can put money down on who will "win." A random number generator, like those used in slot machines, will determine the outcomes of the simulations, ESPN reports.

The NBA has heartily embraced legalized sports betting, Bloomberg reports, and has even been lobbying statehouses across the countries. As for the virtual aspect, it's new to the U.S. sports betting landscape, but is reportedly popular in Europe, which is what stoked the NBA's interest in the first place. Tim O'Donnell

2:51 p.m.

Former White House communications director Hope Hicks has reportedly been refusing to answer many questions from lawmakers at a closed-door hearing, and top Democrats aren't happy.

"I'm watching obstruction of justice in action," Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said on Wednesday, USA Today reports. "...You have to ask the question, 'what are they trying to hide from the American people?'"

Lieu on his Twitter page said that a Department of Justice lawyer accompanying Hicks to the testimony has repeatedly objected to questions about her time in the White House, apparently including one about where her office was located. The White House had previously directed Hicks not to testify about her White House tenure. Lieu added that he did get Hicks to answer one question about whether it was sunny or cloudy on her first day working in the White House. "You'll need to wait for the transcript to see her answer," he wrote.

Similar to Lieu, when asked on Tuesday about news that the White House had directed Hicks not to answer questions about her time in Trump administration, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) simply told CNN, "obstruction of justice."

Hicks during the testimony also would not answer a question about whether she told the truth to Special Counsel Robert Mueller, with a White House lawyer instructing her to also dodge questions about her time after leaving the White House, Politico reports. "She is making a choice to follow along with all the claims of absolute immunity,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Politico. "Basically, she can say her name." Brendan Morrow

2:30 p.m.

Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) doesn't usually criticize other 2020 candidates. He made an exception for Joe Biden.

At a Tuesday fundraiser, the former vice president mentioned how, during his Senate stint in the 1970s, he preserved "civility" with then-senators James Eastland and Herman Talmadge. Biden didn't mention that the two Democrats were segregationists, but lauded how he never considered them "the enemy" and still "got things done."

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was the first to call out Biden, tweeting out a picture of his multiracial family and what Eastland would've thought of them.

Booker replied next with a statement, saying he was disappointed Biden "hasn't issued an immediate apology" for his words.

Booker is one of just three black candidates in the 24-person Democratic field, running alongside Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Miramar, Florida Mayor Wayne Messam. Biden hasn't yet responded to his fellow candidates' criticisms. Kathryn Krawczyk

2:27 p.m.

Sudan's ruling military council on Wednesday said that it is once again ready to continue talks with the country's opposition alliance.

Sudan has been mired in a struggle to transition to democracy after the military ousted longtime autocratic President Omar al-Bashir in April after 16 weeks of protests.

The negotiations between the military council and the civilian opposition collapsed following a violent dispersal of a protest camp in Khartoum earlier in June. Protesters said more than 100 people were killed, while authorities said the number of deaths was 61. The opposition alliance has said it refuses to engage with the military council until the initiation of an international inquiry into the violence, but the council is nevertheless trying to persuade them to meet without any preconditions.

"The solution must be satisfactory for all the Sudanese people," Lieutenant General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan said in his statement directed at the opposition. "We pledge to you and pledge to the people that we will not accept any solution that excludes any faction of the Sudanese people." Burhan also reiterated the council's stance that they did not order the dispersal. Instead, the say that a campaign against criminals using an area near the camp "strayed from its course," Reuters reports. Read more at Reuters. Tim O'Donnell

2:05 p.m.

Not one but two original animated films from Pixar will be hitting theaters within four months of one another next year.

Pixar on Wednesday announced its new animated film Soul from Up and Inside Out director Pete Docter. An official description for the film per The Hollywood Reporter reads, "Ever wonder where your passion, your dreams and your interests come from? What is it that makes you...YOU? In 2020, Pixar Animation Studios takes you on a journey from the streets of New York City to the cosmic realms to discover the answers to life's most important questions."

The animation studio also revealed the film's official logo on its Twitter account exactly one year ahead of the film's release. Disney had previously slated an untitled Pixar film for June 2019.

In recent years, Pixar has faced some criticism for its reliance on sequels over original properties. Since 2010, the studio has produced seven sequels, the most recent of which, Toy Story 4, hits theaters this weekend. Prior to 2010, Pixar had only produced a single sequel: Toy Story 2.

But the studio has still been producing plenty of original properties in recent years like Coco, and they'll follow up the latest Toy Story with two non-sequels next year. Before Soul will be Onward, which hits theaters in March; it takes place in a suburban fantasy world and follows two elf brothers, voiced by Tom Holland and Chris Pratt. Pixar hasn't announced any movies after Soul, but producer Mark Nielsen recently told The Hollywood Reporter that following Toy Story 4, the studio's slate is currently "all original films."

Brendan Morrow

1:22 p.m.

YouTube is reportedly weighing some significant changes in response to criticism that the platform is not safe for children.

The company's executives are discussing the possibility of moving all children's content from the main YouTube platform onto YouTube Kids, its separate app for children, in order "to better protect young viewers from objectionable videos," The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.

This isn't the only potentially massive policy shift being discussed, as the report also says that some employees at YouTube are pushing for auto-play to be turned off of children's videos, with this being a way to prevent kids from being shown inappropriate content after watching age-appropriate content. A spokesperson for YouTube didn't deny this reporting but told the Journal that "we consider lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that — ideas." But the report notes that these changes if implemented would be "among the biggest ever for the platform," especially considering how massively popular children's videos are on YouTube. The Journal notes, however, that these potential changes are "not considered imminent."

YouTube Kids was launched in 2015 as a separate service focused on content for kids, although it has come under fire for instances in which inappropriate content made their way onto the app. Bloomberg recently reported that YouTube has tested the idea of hand-picking each video that appears on YouTube Kids in order to better filter out inappropriate content. But the company reportedly found during internal testing that "kids between seven and 12 grew bored of the limited library and went to surf regular YouTube." This Bloomberg report also includes the detail that "four people at Google privately admitted that they don't let their kids watch YouTube unsupervised and said the sentiment was widespread at the company." Brendan Morrow

12:56 p.m.

Author and essayist Ta-Nehisi Coates has a brief history lesson for Congress.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday told reporters he didn't support reparations for descendants of former slaves, saying that "none of us currently living" are responsible for it. So in a Wednesday hearing in front of a House panel on the reparations bill HR 40, Coates provided some examples of slavery's repercussions that "extended well into the lifetime" of McConnell.

When slavery was outlawed in the U.S. more than 150 years ago, "this country could have extended its hallowed principles — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — to all, regardless of color," Coates said Wednesday. But instead, "black people were subjected to a relentless campaign of terror" well into the mid-1900s, Coates continued. This included "the electrocution of George Stinney," a 14-year-old boy convicted in 10 minutes of murdering two white girls and exonerated 70 years after his execution, and "the blinding of Isaac Woodard," a World War II veteran beaten by police just hours after being honorably discharged.

Coates' full testimony is published at The Atlantic.

Kathryn Krawczyk

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