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October 17, 2017

A Massachusetts pet supply company owner claims he was "duped" by the White House into appearing in the background of a photo of President Trump signing an executive order on health care. "I want to say strongly and clearly: I do not support this executive order," wrote Dave's Soda & Pet City owner Dave Ratner. "I had absolutely no clue he was adding all the onerous changes. I was duped, I am an idiot. I did not vote for Trump and I am not a Trump supporter."

Ratner said he was invited to the White House because of his involvement with the National Retail Federation, but that White House officials had not fully revealed what Trump would be signing:

We have long supported an effort that would give small businesses more flexibility in purchasing health insurance and we were told that a ceremony would announce that Associations could now provide members with group insurance rates (making health insurance more affordable for our employees).

It was obviously an error in judgment to believe the White House that this was the only change they would be announcing. Many of the other changes in the executive order are likely to make it harder for local residents to get affordable health care — the exact opposite of what I was hoping for when I went to Washington. [Dave Ratner, via MassLive]

Read the full letter at MassLive and check out the photo — with Ratner second from the left — below. Jeva Lange

Embed from Getty Images

September 21, 2017

The personal information of 143 million Americans might have been compromised in a massive cybersecurity breach at the credit-reporting service Equifax reported earlier this month, and in the intervening days, the company has been heavily criticized for its response to the crisis. The story, though, gets much worse: Equifax has reportedly been linking customers looking to determine if their information was compromised to a phony phishing website, Fortune reports.

The real website can be found at equifaxsecurity2017.com, but a customer service agent who signed tweets as "Tim" linked at least eight people to securityequifax2017.com.

The fake website was built by software developer Nick Sweeting, who wanted to prove how easy it was for scammers to replicate the Equifax website as a means of tricking people into handing over personal information, Fortune reports. Although Sweeting carefully labeled his website as "totally fake," it still worked — too well. "Equifax just linked customers to my fake phishing version of their website by accident," he tweeted.

Equifax has since removed all the incorrect posts and apologized for any confusion.

Sweeting added: "I just hope the employee who posted the tweet[s] doesn't get fired, they probably just Googled for the URL and ended up finding the fake one instead. The real blame lies with the people who originally decided to set the site up badly." Read the full report at Fortune and learn how to protect yourself after the breach here at The Week.

Editor's note: This article has been slightly revised to more specifically explain the nature of Sweeting's website. Jeva Lange

September 20, 2017
Screenshot / Mediaite.com

On Wednesday, Mediaite published leaked outtakes from the filming of MSNBC anchor Lawrence O'Donnell's show on Aug. 29, 2017. The resulting eight-minute-long montage isn't pretty.

In the collected clips, O'Donnell can be seen getting absolutely irate at his staff over an apparent equipment malfunction, muttering cuss words under his breath and demanding to know who's to blame. "There's insanity in the control room tonight," O'Donnell says, twitching with anger.

When it happens again, O'Donnell appears even more irritated. "You have insanity in my earpiece," O'Donnell says, noting that he can hear someone talking and other background noise in his earpiece. He drops the F-bomb.

After it happens yet again, O'Donnell absolutely loses it. "Stop the hammering," he screams. "Stop the hammering out there. Who's got a hammer? Where is it? Where's the hammer? Go up on the other floor. Somebody go up there and stop the hammering. Stop the hammering. I'll go down to the goddamned floor myself and stop it, keep the goddamned commercial break going. Call f--king [MSNBC President] Phil Griffin. I don't care who the f--k you have to call. Stop the hammering. Empty out the goddamned control room and find out where this is going on."

He proceeds to crumple up pieces of paper and throw them to the ground while swearing.

In the next outtake, O'Donnell continues to curse. He berates his staff for nearly two minutes over an apparent slip-up. "I told you why I wanted those f--king words cut. It just f--king sucks, it f--king sucks to be out here with this out of control sh-t," O'Donnell screams.

Watch the entire eight-minute spectacle over at Mediaite. Becca Stanek

September 12, 2017
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

A massive backlog of government security clearance reviews has led to "murderers" and "rapists" being able to access potentially sensitive national secrets, The Associated Press reports. With a 700,000-person review pileup, even agencies like the Defense Department have "inadvertently issue[d] interim passes to criminals," AP writes.

More than 4.3 million people have government security clearance to some degree, with 3 million people at the "confidential" level and more than a million people with "top secret" access. In addition to federal employees, many with clearance are private contractors.

The pileup stems from the fact that there is no quick and thorough way to check someone's background. Additionally, the government broke off a contract with a company that helped it do investigations back in 2014 after a security breach. Now, in an effort simply to get things done, the government has been issuing interim clearances, but those too prove to be minefields.

"I've got murderers who have access to classified information," said U.S. Defense Security Service director Dan Payne. "I have rapists. I have pedophiles. I have people involved in child porn. I have all these things at the interim clearance level and I'm pulling their clearances on a weekly basis."

The Defense Department is already exploring alternative ways to improve vetting its employees and contractors. A new system of "continuous evaluation" has led to 48 people losing their clearances, The Associated Press reports.

Vetting "is one of these processes that have been unchanged for decades," explained the Marine Corp's director of intelligence, Maj. Gen. Michael Groen. "It's screaming for a different way to do business." Read the full report here. Jeva Lange

September 1, 2017

A University of Utah Hospital nurse was roughly grabbed, threatened, and handcuffed by a police detective for refusing to allow him to take blood from a patient without a warrant. The patient was unconscious and unable to give consent, The Washington Post reports. Alarming body camera footage from Detective Jeff Payne of the Salt Lake City police apparently shows nurse Alex Wubbels calmly explaining the law to Payne and getting her supervisor on the phone to back her up.

"Sir, you're making a huge mistake because you're threatening a nurse," Wubbels' supervisor told Payne on speakerphone.

Then "Payne snapped," the Post writes. "He seized hold of the nurse, shoved her out of the building, and cuffed her hands behind her back. A bewildered Wubbels screamed 'help me' and 'you're assaulting me' as the detective forced her into an unmarked car and accused her of interfering with an investigation."

Wubbels' patient was a truck driver who was hit head-on by a fleeing suspect and severely burned in the crash. The blood sample was reportedly requested in order to check for illicit substances and protect the driver, who is not accused of committing a crime. Payne, a police phlebotomist, was instructed to arrest the nurse if she didn't let him draw the sample.

Wubbels was not charged, and she stands by protecting her patient's legal rights. "A blood draw, it just gets thrown around like it's some simple thing," she said. "But your blood is your blood. That's your property." Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange

August 31, 2017
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A Cobb County, Georgia, police lieutenant will be fired after being caught on camera telling a white woman during a traffic stop not to worry because "we only kill black people."

Atlanta's WSB-TV obtained dashcam footage from 2016 that showed the incident unfold. The woman said she was afraid to move her hands because she had seen videos of police brutality, and the officer, identified as Lt. Greg Abbott, is heard responding: "Remember, we only kill black people. We only kill black people, right?" Police Chief Mike Register told WSB the footage was taken during a DUI stop, and "no matter what context it was said, it shouldn't have been said."

Abbott's attorney, Lance LoRusso, told WSB in a statement his client's "comments must be observed in their totality to understand their context. He was attempting to de-escalate a situation involving an uncooperative passenger. In context, his comments were clearly aimed at attempting to gain compliance by using the passenger's own statements and reasoning to avoid making an arrest." Abbott, a 25-year veteran of the force, had been placed on administrative leave during an internal investigation into the matter. Catherine Garcia

August 22, 2017

A Trump-branded Scion hotel is coming to the Mississippi Delta, and details of the project are already raising some eyebrows:

At the Trump family's suggestion, the Cleveland, Mississippi, hotel is "changing course mid-construction" in order to install "a resort-caliber pool, place decorative balconies on the main building, and construct a hill for another building — a faux Southern mansion," Bloomberg reports. "The property's 17 acres will have a spa, bars, and a meeting hall styled as a cotton gin."

The romanticization of a "replica Southern plantation" sounded some alarm bells. "The Onion might as well just go out of business now," one Twitter user wrote, while another responded: "Tone. Deaf."

Attn: has reported on antebellum nostalgia, especially as it pertains to the wedding industry, and explains that "the word 'plantation' has been normalized despite its racist history" and that "a Southern plantation is a large estate that was historically used to grow crops with African slave labor before the Civil War." Liz Susong, the editor-in-chief of Catalyst Wedding Co., told Attn:, "I think a lot of the history of properties has been really white-washed."

President Trump, while no longer the head of the Trump Organization, defended monuments to the Confederacy last week. "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. "You can't change history, but you can learn from it." Jeva Lange

August 17, 2017
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A Democratic Missouri state senator who posted, then quickly deleted, a comment on her personal Facebook page saying she hoped President Trump would be assassinated is ignoring calls from her colleagues to resign.

State Sen. Maria Chappelle-Nadal told The Kansas City Star that she made her mistake after posting a statement saying: "I really hate Trump. He's causing trauma and nightmares." Several of her friends left comments, and in response to one, she wrote, "I hope Trump is assassinated!" "It was wrong of me to do that," she said. "But I am not going to shy away from the damage this president is causing." Her page is not visible to the public, and the post was first reported by a conservative St. Louis radio host.

Chappelle-Nadal said she disagrees with Trump's response to the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend, and that by saying "both sides" were to blame for the violence, Trump "made it easier for racists to be racists. As long as I have a voice, I'm going to talk about the damage [Trump] is creating in this nation." Democrats in her state are not supporting her, with Sen. Claire McCaskill releasing a statement on the comment saying: "I condemn it. It's outrageous. And she should resign." Stephen Webber, chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, said Chappelle-Nadal's words were "indefensible," and State Senate Minority Leader Gina Walsh said she "should be ashamed of herself."

Chappelle-Nadal told The Kansas City Star she has no plans to step down, since "legislators cheat on their wives or smoke marijuana and are not asked to resign. I'm not resigning over a simple mistake." The Secret Service said it is "looking into the comments." Catherine Garcia

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