Assault charge dropped against 10-year-old boy who injured classmate in dodgeball-like game

A Michigan prosecutor dismissed an assault charge against a 10-year-old boy who injured a classmate with a ball during a game students were playing at recess.

Cameishi Triplett Lindley said in a Facebook fundraising post last week that her son, Bryce, was suspended from Eriksson Elementary School in Canton Township, Michigan, and then charged with aggravated assault over the April 29 incident.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym L. Worthy said in a statement Wednesday that although the charge is “certainly sustainable,” the case is being dismissed.

“I have no doubt that both families involved love their children and want the best for them. But I do think that there is a better way to go forward at this time,” she said in a statement.

“It is my earnest hope that both sides will come back to the table to work out a solution that benefits both of these children.”

Eriksson Elementary School in Canton, Michigan.Google Maps

The incident happened when students were playing a game called tips, according to Lindley’s Facebook post. Tips is similar to dodgeball. but instead of throwing the ball at each other, children toss the ball into the air and then jump up and catch it.

Lindley said the ball thrown by her son hit another boy and allegedly resulted in the boy, who is 9 years old, suffering a concussion. According to a police report obtained by WXYZ in Detroit, the boy was hit in the face with the ball.

The injured boy’s mother, who did not want to be identified, told the outlet that her son has a medical condition that makes head injuries dangerous. She said her son suffered a black eye and had a bruise on his nose from being hit.

Prosecutors said that the incident between Lindley’s son and the other boy happened after the students had stopped playing the game. Lindley’s son allegedly “took the ball and intentionally threw it with force” at the other boy, Worthy said in a statement Wednesday.

The charge against Lindley’s son was dismissed one day before he was due in court.

The injured boy’s mother told WXYZ that her son had been hit with a ball twice before the April incident. Lindley told the outlet she was unaware of those incidents.

A spokesperson for Plymouth-Canton Community Schools told NBC News on Tuesday that the April incident between the two students was handled “in accordance with the applicable district policies and the Student Code of Conduct,” and that the district did not contact authorities.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson Compares Baltimore To A Cancer Patient

HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring a housing development in Baltimore.

Julio Cortez/AP


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HUD Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring a housing development in Baltimore.

Julio Cortez/AP

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson made a visit to Baltimore on Wednesday and renewed his defense of President Trump’s disparaging comments about the city, and reiterated his own critique of the city where he lived for more than three decades.

“There are good things in Baltimore. There are bad things in Baltimore,” Carson told reporters near a recently renovated affordable housing development. “But there are problems and we can’t sweep them under the rug.”

Carson, who built a career as a widely-respected pediatric neurosurgeon at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, went on to liken the city’s social and economic woes to someone afflicted with cancer.

“You can dress them up and put a nice suit on him and you can try to ignore it, but that cancer is going to have a devastating effect. You have to be willing to address that issue if you’re ever going to solve it,” Carson said.

Baltimore and Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., whose majority African American district encompasses much of the city, have been the targets of a series of controversial Trump tweets that began over the weekend.

In comments widely condemned as racist, Trump referred to Cummings, who is black, as “a brutal bully,” said the city was “a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess.” He also tweeted “no human being would want to live there.”

At the White House on Tuesday, Trump accused Baltimore officials of being corrupt and stealing billions of dollars.

“What Elijah Cummings should do is, he should take his oversight committee, bring them down to Baltimore…and really study the billions and billions of dollars that’s been stolen,” Trump said. Cummings is chairman of the House oversight committee.

Carson, who is also black, on Wednesday reaffirmed his support for some of the president’s remarks about Baltimore. He said that while he was a practicing physician in Baltimore, he was often caught in a “dilemma,” over whether to send some children back to their homes in poor neighborhoods in East or West Baltimore.

“Where there were rats and roaches and mice and ticks, where there was just unabated lead problems that were having devastating effects on the mental development of young people,” Carson said. “That was a problem for me and it stayed on my mind a lot.”

On Monday, Carson told Fox News anchor Tucker Carlson that he would sometimes order additional tests to allow patients to spend a few more days in the hospital before going home.

Carson’s Wednesday press conference was originally scheduled for an open field across from the Hollins House, a high-rise building with 130 units and the site of a multi-million-dollar renovation that began under the Obama administration.

Morning Star Baptist Church member Gregory Evans speaks to reporters about why asked HUD officials to move their press conference from the church’s property. “There was no permission granted.”

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Morning Star Baptist Church member Gregory Evans speaks to reporters about why asked HUD officials to move their press conference from the church’s property. “There was no permission granted.”

Brakkton Booker/NPR

But the event had to be hurriedly moved to an alleyway because a member of Morning Star Baptist Church, Gregory Evans, objected to the event being held on church’s property.

“You have not asked for any permission to be here,” Evans told a Carson handler.

Carson addressed the matter during his remarks saying it was important to work together and called it “madness” that a church would boot him off its property “when we’re talking about helping people.”

Evans said no one informed the church that HUD would be holding a press conference on its property and said he did not believe that the Trump administration was doing enough to help people in his community.

“You can look across the street from the church and see the dilapidated housing. You can see the houses on both sides of the church are falling down,” Evans said. “You don’t need me to point that out.”

Carson did not unveil any new housing policy at the event, but he did tout the benefits of a Trump-backed opportunity zones program that offers tax incentives to attract investment to distressed neighborhoods.

Trump said he would visit Baltimore himself “at the right time.” Carson said he has spoken with the president over the last few days and said Trump was “very willing to work with the people here in Baltimore, including with Elijah Cummings.”

Carson added: “You know, the president’s emphasis is on the people.”

Jeffrey Epsteins sex-trafficking trial tentatively scheduled for next year

The pursuit of justice for women who have accused millionaire Jeffrey Epstein of sexually abusing them will have to wait at least another year.

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Attorneys for Epstein cast aside their client’s right to a speedy trial on Wednesday after federal prosecutors said they plan to submit a staggering one million pages in discovery in the sex-trafficking case.

During a hearing in Manhattan federal court, Judge Richard Berman tentatively planned for a trial in the summer or fall of 2020, and a prosecutor said the proceedings are expected to last four to six weeks.

“Thirteen months sounds like the amount of time that we would ordinarily need to prepare a case of this magnitude and scope,” Epstein’s attorney Martin Weinberg said in court. “We need time to review a million pages of discovery.”

PHOTO: Financier Jeffrey Epstein looks on near Judge Richard Berman during a status hearing in his sex trafficking case, in this court sketch in New York, July 31, 2019Jane Rosenburg/Reuters

Financier Jeffrey Epstein looks on near Judge Richard Berman during a status hearing in his sex trafficking case, in this court sketch in New York, July 31, 2019

During the hearing, there was no mention of a July 23 incident at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Lower Manhattan in which sources told ABC News that Epstein was found unresponsive in his cell with marks on his neck that appeared to be self-inflicted.

The incident came five days after Berman denied a request from Epstein’s attorney that he be released on bail, pending his trial.

Since the episode, 66-year-old Epstein has been on suicide watch at the federal lockup.

Epstein has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexually exploiting and abusing dozens of minor girls at his Upper East Side mansion and his home in Palm Beach, Florida. He faces up to 45 years in prison if convicted.

Following Wednesday’s hearing, Gloria Allred, a lawyer who represents several women accusing Epstein of assault, said she believes there are other women who have been assaulted by Epstein who have yet to come forward “because they are in fear.”

PHOTO: An undated handout photo made available by New York State Division of Criminal Justice showing Jeffrey Epstein, issued 25 July 2019.New York State Division of Criminal Justice/EPA-EFE/REX

An undated handout photo made available by New York State Division of Criminal Justice showing Jeffrey Epstein, issued 25 July 2019.

“Any victim who has not come forward … should come forward at this time,” Allred said. “It is not too late to help in the process of seeking justice.”

Berman ordered prosecutors to make their evidence available to the defense by Oct. 31.

Epstein — a hedge fund manager who at one time socialized with former President Bill Clinton, Great Britain’s Prince Andrew, and President Donald Trump — was arrested on July 6 for alleged sex trafficking of minor girls in Florida and New York. Some of the charges date back to the early 2000s.

A team of law enforcement officers from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the New York Police Department (NYPD) took Epstein into custody at the Teterboro Airport in Bergen County, New Jersey, after he returned to the United States by private jet from France, sources told ABC News.

Federal prosecutor Alison Moe told Berman on Wednesday that the discovery will include “materials from devices” seized from Epstein’s Manhattan home.

In 2008, Epstein pleaded guilty to soliciting prostitution in a secret plea deal with federal prosecutors in Palm Beach, Florida, to avoid more serious federal sex trafficking charges. He received a 13-month jail sentence but was allowed out for work release 12 hours a day, six days a week.

The plea deal, now under review by the Justice Department’s Office of Professional Responsibility, also gave Epstein and any alleged co-conspirators immunity from further federal prosecution in the Southern District of Florida.

Weinberg suggested on Wednesday that he plans to challenge the conspiracy count Epstein is facing — saying in court that the “government’s allegations are inextricably intertwined and constitutionally barred” by the non-prosecution agreement (NPA) prosecutors reached with Epstein in 2008.

“There are double jeopardy issues both connected to the conspiracy count, which looks to be an overlap with one of the charges that was expressly within the immunity provision of the NPA,” Weinberg told Berman.

U.S. sanctions Iran’s foreign minister amid escalating tensions

July 31 at 5:50 PM

The Trump administration imposed sanctions on Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif on Wednesday in a dramatic step bound to further escalate tensions with Tehran.

A senior administration official said Zarif had acted more as a “propaganda minister” than a diplomat, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Zarif was “complicit” in Iran’s support of terrorists, torture and other malign activity around the world.

Zarif mocked the designation in a tweet tinged with sarcasm.

“The US’ reason for designating me is that I am Iran’s ‘primary spokesperson around the world,’ ” he tweeted. “Is the truth really that painful? It has no effect on me or my family, as I have no property or interests outside of Iran. Thank you for considering me such a huge threat to your agenda.”

A Treasury Department statement said Zarif was sanctioned because he “acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly” Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, who was sanctioned in late June. At that time, Mnuchin said measures would also be taken against Zarif, but they were delayed after State Department officials argued that would close the door to diplomacy.

Trump has frequently expressed a desire to talk with Iranian leaders, even as his administration deepens a maximum pressure campaign that has devastated the Iranian economy.

An administration official said Trump remains ready to speak with Iranian leaders — just not Zarif.

Asked whether sanctioning Iran’s chief diplomat would limit U.S. ability to negotiate with Iran, if negotiations ever take place, a senior administration official said, “If we do have an official contact with Iran, we would want to have contact with someone who is a significant decision-maker.”

Zarif “would not be the president’s selected point of contact,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under rules set by the administration.

Pompeo said the United States seeks a diplomatic solution that addresses Tehran’s “destructive behavior.”

“Foreign Minister Zarif and the Foreign Ministry he runs take their direction from the Supreme Leader and his office,” Pompeo said in a statement issued from Bangkok, where he is traveling. “Foreign Minister Zarif is a key enabler of Ayatollah Khamenei’s policies throughout the region and around the world. The designation of Javad Zarif today reflects this reality.”

While Trump has continued to say he is open to negotiations without preconditions, both Pompeo and national security adviser John Bolton have indicated that the list of conditions is long. Pompeo, in a statement issued Wednesday by the State Department, said the administration “continues to seek a diplomatic solution,” but that “the only path forward is a comprehensive deal that addresses the full range of [Iranian] threats.”

Until then,” it said, “our campaign of diplomatic isolation and maximum economic pressure will continue.”

When Zarif visited New York earlier this month on official U.N. business, Pompeo complained about all the interviews he granted to American journalists. Pompeo said that out of fairness, he should be allowed to address Iranian citizens directly on state television.

Mnuchin tried to highlight the dichotomy of Zarif’s ability to harness free speech platforms to spread his views while denying it to ordinary Iranians.

“At the same time, the Iranian regime denies Iranian citizens access to social media, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif spreads the regime’s propaganda and disinformation around the world through these mediums,” he said.

The sanctions freeze all U.S. assets and prohibit any U.S. person or entity from dealings with Zarif, and threatens sanctions against those in other countries that deal with him.

The sanctions also prohibit travel to the United States, which is already banned for Iranian officials. Under international agreement, the United States must admit those traveling to the United Nations in their official capacity. Zarif visited the United Nations in July, although the State Department limited him to U.N. headquarters and the Iranian diplomatic mission in New York.

Zarif, who speaks fluent English and has a ready smile and generally calm demeanor, “has the veneer, the masquerade if you will, of being the sincere and reasonable interlocutor for the regime,” the administration official said. “Our point today is he is no such thing.”

While serving as the “international face of this regime,” the official said, Zarif has been “heading propaganda and disinformation campaigns” while “defending the regime’s persecution of the Iranian people … as well as suppression of free speech,” and support for the imprisonment of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian for 18 months, from 2014 to 2016.

Tensions between Washington and Iran have been growing since the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 international nuclear deal last year and began its “maximum pressure” campaign. Initially, Tehran appeared to be exercising a policy of “maximum patience,” hoping it could outlast Trump’s time in office. But Iran became more aggressive as the United States tightened sanctions that have devastated the economy. It has been gradually breaching the nuclear agreement, shot down a U.S. drone in the Strait of Hormuz and challenged oil tankers traversing the waterway.

The sanctions announcement came on the eve of a Thursday U.S. deadline to renew, or let lapse, waivers that allow Europe, China and Russia to continue nuclear nonproliferation projects with Iran under the nuclear deal. Following the U.S. withdrawal, Trump reimposed sanctions on Iranian oil exports and earlier this year declined to renew waivers that exempted several Iranian customers from that ban.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said the move against Zarif will undercut Iran’s efforts to get out from under the sanctions.

“Zarif’s recent strategy, as exemplified by tweets since April and his two trips to NYC has been to try to lure President Trump into premature diplomacy and watering down sanctions. But this high-level designation shows that trying to cleave apart the administration is not going to be an easy task,” he said.

Zarif was appointed foreign minister by President Hassan Rouhani in 2013, and subsequently led negotiations that led to the 2015 nuclear deal. In February, he resigned from his post. Although he gave no reason, media reports said he was angered at not being informed of a visit to Tehran by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Rouhani rejected his resignation, and he continued in his post.

From 2002 to 2007, Zarif served as Iran’s permanent representative to the United Nations, as well as in other senior diplomatic posts. Zarif, 60, first left Iran as a teenager to attend a college preparatory school in San Francisco. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from San Francisco State University, and a second masters and a doctorate in international law and policy from the University of Denver.

5 key takeaways from 1st night of the Democratic debate

The first night of the second Democratic primary debate in Detroit was billed as a battle between moderates sounding the alarm over progressive policies they say will make it harder to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, and on that front that billing was right.

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Senators Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., the two highest-polling candidates at center stage tonight, both forcefully defended their policy agendas from frequent attacks from candidates like former Maryland Rep. John Delaney, Montana Go. Steve Bullock and Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan. A major point of contention between the candidates was an issue that continues to take center stage during the Democratic primary: health care.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates take the stage at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre, July 30, 2019, in Detroit.Scott Olson/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidates take the stage at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate at the Fox Theatre, July 30, 2019, in Detroit.

Tuesday night was also seen as the last best chance for the moderate candidates, many of whom are mired towards the bottom of the pack in terms of polling and fundraising, to get their message out to a national audience before the Democratic National Committee imposes stricter rules to qualify for the debates in September and October.

Beyond the policy discussions, candidates also took aim at President Donald Trump and congressional Republicans, all hoping to earn the chance to deny him a second term in the Oval Office.

Here are five takeaways from night one of the second Democratic primary debate.

Warren, Sanders defend the progressive agenda

Much was made about Warren and Sanders, two of the most visible leaders of the modern progressive movement, taking center stage on Tuesday night, and sure enough a consistent theme Tuesday night was their defense of that movement’s agenda.

Amid frequent attacks on their policy prescriptions and visions Sanders and Warren remained steadfast in the face of criticism that their ideas are unrealistic or impractical.

PHOTO: Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren shake hands before the start of the first night of the second 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019. Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Senator Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren shake hands before the start of the first night of the second 2020 Democratic presidential debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019.

“You can’t just spring a plan on the world and expect it to succeed,” Hickenlooper said during a back-and-forth with Sanders on health care.

“I get a little bit tired of Democrats afraid of big ideas,” Sanders said later responding to an attack from Delaney on “Medicare for All.”

“I don’t understand why anybody goes to all the trouble of running for the President of the United States to talk about what we really can’t do and shouldn’t fight for,” Warren, who frequently clashed with more moderate candidates, said in another response to the former Maryland congressman who said her and Sanders’ agenda is anti-private sector.

Despite the constant contrasting, neither Sanders nor Warren or anyone on the debate stage Tuesday said the name of the candidate currently leading the pack in polling: former Vice President Joe Biden.

Health care takes center stage once again

Democrats made health care a centerpiece of their successful campaign to re-take the U.S. House in 2018, and once again the issue continues to dominate the debating heading into 2020.

Roughly the first 30 minutes of Tuesday night’s debate were dominated by one subject: health care. More specifically it was about one policy, Medicare for All, which remains a dividing line among the Democratic contenders.

Sanders and Warren both vociferously defended Medicare for All from attacks from multiple candidates, including from both a clearly aggressive Delaney and an eager Tim Ryan.

“I wrote the damn bill!” Sanders said when Ryan challenged him on the specifics of what would be covered in his Medicare for All plan.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (C) speaks while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) listen at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate, July 30, 2019, in Detroit.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) (C) speaks while Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg (L) listen at the beginning of the Democratic Presidential Debate, July 30, 2019, in Detroit.

O’Rourke, Buttigieg and others tried to make the pitch that America will eventually transition towards a Medicare for All system by offering a public option to compete against private health insurance.

The former Texas congressman also pledged that middle-class taxes will not be increased under his healthcare plan, a point of contention and disagreement among those pitching Medicare for All.

Moderates try to make their mark, maybe for the last time

Tuesday was also billed as the last best chance for candidates mired towards the bottom of the polls to break out before the DNC imposes stricter debate rules for the fall.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful former Rep. John Delaney participates in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019. Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful former Rep. John Delaney participates in the first round of the second Democratic primary debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019.

That urgency was evident for candidates like Bullock, Delaney and Hickenlooper, who each repeatedly tried to pitch a broader and more succinct argument for why they’re the best candidate to unite the party and defeat Trump.

“I’m running for president to beat Donald Trump, win back the places we lost, and make sure that Americans know that where Washington’s left them behind in the economy and political system, I’ll be there,” Bullock, who was appearing on the debate stage for the first time, said in his closing statement.

“I have actually got a track record as a small business owner, as a mayor and as a governor,” Hickenlooper argued.

The effects of their performance won’t be fully known for a few days or weeks, but many of these candidates may have to face the reality that this was their last chance to stand toe-to-toe on a national stage with their fellow Democratic contenders and make their pitch.

Candidates address Trump, recent racial controversies head on

Not surprisingly many candidates took time on the debate stage to directly call out President Trump in concise and stark terms.

“The racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we’re having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this president is bringing up in this country, then I’m afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days,” said author Marianne Williamson, who had a few standout moments Tuesday evening.

“We need to call out white supremacy for what it is, domestic terrorism. And it poses a threat to the United States of America,” Warren said in response to a question from CNN’s Don Lemon about President Trump running a re-election strategy based on “racial division.”

Both Williamson and O’Rourke brought up the idea of reparations for the descendants of slaves.

“The legacy of slavery and segregation and Jim Crow and suppression is alive and well in every aspect of the economy and in the country,” the former Texas Congressman said, also pledging to enact a bill to study reparations authored by Texas Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

O’Rourke tries to regain his footing, Buttigieg takes aim at Trump, GOP

O’Rourke faced lofty expectations when he got in the race back in March after his electrifying run for the U.S. Senate in 2018, and thus far has struggled to deliver. Prior to Tuesday, he made it clear that this debate was an opportunity to regain his footing and boost himself back into the discussion as a legitimate contender for the nomination.

PHOTO: Democratic presidential hopeful former Rep. Beto ORourke delivers his closing statement during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019.Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

Democratic presidential hopeful former Rep. Beto O’Rourke delivers his closing statement during the first round of the second Democratic primary debate in Detroit, July 30, 2019.

On Tuesday the candidate was prepared for a question on decriminalizing crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border, a topic that tripped him up during last month’s debate. The candidate also brought the focus to his home state of Texas, which will be critical to his chances of clinching enough delegates to capture the Democratic nomination.

“Bernie [Sanders] was talking about battleground states in which we compete. There’s a new battleground state, Texas, and it has 38 electoral college votes,” O’Rourke said to applause and agreement from the crowd his fellow candidates.

Buttigieg, who has arguably been on an opposite trajectory from O’Rourke, leading the pack in fundraising in the second quarter, unleashed sharp attacks on Trump and Republicans in Congress.

“if you are watching this at home and you are a Republican member of congress, consider the fact that when the sun sets on your career, and they are writing your story of all the good and bad things you did in your life, the thing you will be remembered for is whether in this moment with this president you found the courage to stand up to him, or you continue to put party over country,” Buttigieg said in one of the night’s most memorable moments.

PHOTO: South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit. Paul Sancya/AP

South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg participates in the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates, July 30, 2019, at the Fox Theatre in Detroit.

O’Rourke and Buttigieg are both running as aspirational candidates of generational change, and the competition for voters looking for just that type of candidate likely won’t get any easier after Tuesday’s debate.

In Michigan, the unknown 2020 candidates seem like the grounded ones

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan — Minutes before the Democratic debate was set to start Tuesday evening, families and young people were criss-crossing red-brick streets vying to grab a seat among the maze of breweries that line this Western Michigan town.

For most people who aren’t either political junkies or in the news business, there are more important things to do on a warm, balmy Michigan summer evening than watch a debate between primary candidates who won’t be competing for their attention in this state until the weather turns cold.

Peter Meijer isn’t most normal people, though. The Army veteran is a Republican candidate for the 3rd Congressional District currently held by Rep. Justin Amash, the former Republican who left the party earlier this month.

Meijer not only had a professional interest in watching to see what direction the Democrats were heading, he had a personal one. His in-laws, Nani and Tet, immigrants from Brazil, were watching their first presidential debate as American citizens, something both earned in the past 12 months.

IMG_3982.jpg

Michigan third congressional district Republican candidate Peter Meijer with his in-laws, Nani and Tet watching their first debate as U.S. citizens.

(Salena Zito/Washington Examiner)

For Meijer, watching it with them was fulfilling, but he felt the debate itself was confounding, “The Democratic debate was tedious and underwhelming. The candidates polling at 0% were the only ones that bothered to anchor policy ideas in something resembling reality,” he said of some of the stand-out moments for Rep. Tim Ryan of Ohio, former Rep. John Delaney of Maryland, and author Marianne Williamson.

“Most of the candidates were dead set on back-pedaling from the more extreme positions they took in the first debate,” he said of the complete lack of mention in the debate on things like free healthcare for illegal immigrants that was the cornerstone of the last debate.

While the political class fawned over Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on social media and TV, the more casual middle-of-the-road voters were re-looking at Ryan, Williamson, and Delaney during the debate.

The ideological gulf between the tribes that make up the Democratic Party erupted within moments of the debate and quickly became a dog-chasing-tail swirl as the leftists defended their single-payer healthcare plan while candidates like Ryan scoffed at the idea that union members should be forced to give up their private plans.

Williamson, for her part, lit up the stage largely on her outsider quirks and entertaining quips.

“There is no better example of how extreme some of these candidates have gone than the fact that Williamson comes off as the sensible one,” Meijer said of her quixotic quest for the presidency.

Trump administration announces plan to lower drug prices

On the heels of Tuesday night’s Democratic debate where presidential hopefuls pitched plans to lower health care costs, the Trump administration moved to fulfill one of the president’s own pledges: lowering pharmaceutical drug costs.

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on Wednesday unveiled a new plan that could lower prescription drug costs. The plan includes a proposal to import FDA-approved drugs from other countries like Canada.

“For the first time in HHS’s history, we are open to importation: We want to see proposals from states, distributors, and pharmacies that can help accomplish our shared goal of safe prescription drugs at lower prices,” HHS Secretary Alex Azar said Wednesday on a call with reporters.

According to HHS, the dual-pronged plan would establish a rule that would allow various entities, like states and pharmacists, to create proposals for the FDA. The FDA would then look at how “they would import certain drugs from Canada that are versions of FDA-approved drugs that are manufactured consistent with the FDA approval,” according to HHS.

The second part of the plan would have the FDA create recommendations for drug manufacturers that sell FDA-approved drugs in foreign countries but want to import those drugs to the U.S.

“To use this pathway, the manufacturer or entity authorized by the manufacturer would establish with the FDA that the foreign version is the same as the U.S. version and appropriately label the drug for sale in the U.S.,” HHS said.

HHS noted in its announcement that this part of the proposal could also potentially lower the price of medications for insulin and cancer, among others.

Azar also called on Congress to continue working on ways to lower drug costs.

PHOTO: Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services speaks during an event where President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to Advance Kidney Health at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Alex Azar, US Secretary of Health and Human Services speaks during an event where President Donald Trump signed an Executive Order to Advance Kidney Health at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, DC.

“We’ve been very pleased to see Congress take significant interest on the issue of high drug prices and out-of-pocket costs,” he said. “Action from Congress would help secure lasting improvement on many of the areas for action that the President laid out in his drug-pricing blueprint last year,” a plan he and President Donald Trump laid out in May 2018 to lower health care costs.

Republicans were quick to support the announcement. Senate Health Committee Chairman Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., said in a statement that he welcomes the move to potentially reduce prices.

“This is the first administration to take concrete steps to allow importation of prescription drugs to reduce their cost and I welcome it,” he said. “The key for me is whether this plan preserves the Food and Drug Administration’s gold standard for safety and effectiveness. Millions of Americans every day buy prescription drugs relying on the FDA’s guarantee of quality.”

But there was also pushback after the announcement. PhRMA president and CEO Stephen Ubl warned against importing drugs from Canada that “could have originated from anywhere in the world and may not have undergone stringent review by the FDA.” He also argued that “importation schemes could worsen the opioid crisis and jeopardize public safety.”

“The administration’s importation scheme is far too dangerous for American patients. There is no way to guarantee the safety of drugs that come into the country from outside the United States’ gold-standard supply chain,” he said.

Pompeo arrives in Asia amid North Korea missile tests, denuclearization doubts

Less than a day after North Korea test fired a new barrage of ballistic missiles, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has arrived in Asia for a major summit.

While he says he remains “very hopeful” about the future of U.S.-North Korean nuclear talks, there are growing doubts about whether or not the two sides will ever meet to hammer out the details of “denuclearization.”

One month ago, during President Donald Trump’s historic visit to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea, Kim Jong Un agreed to working-level negotiations in a matter of weeks, Pompeo told reporters on the plane Tuesday.

After weeks of waiting and preparing, those meetings have not taken place, with Pompeo saying he didn’t “have anything” on when they would. He added it’s “taken a little bit longer than” expected.

PHOTO:Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives to board his plane for travel to Thailand, and then on to Australia and the Federated States of Micronesia, from Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 30, 2019.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

PHOTO:Secretary of State Mike Pompeo arrives to board his plane for travel to Thailand, and then on to Australia and the Federated States of Micronesia, from Joint Base Andrews, Md., July 30, 2019.

Pompeo is in Bangkok, Thailand, for a summit held by ASEAN, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. He’s accompanied by his chief negotiator, Special Representative for North Korea Stephen Biegun, but he told reporters he doesn’t anticipate meeting any North Koreans during his two full days on the ground there.

Since Trump and Kim’s second summit ended without an agreement, talks have been largely at a stand still, with both sides demanding the other take the first step. North Korea believes the U.S. has done nothing to live up to its side of the Singapore summit agreement, while the Trump administration says it will not lift any sanctions until North Korea takes steps to dismantle its nuclear weapons program.

While Trump and Kim’s DMZ meeting sparked a flicker of hope, with the promise of working-level meetings, those haven’t materialized, and there’s concern they may never. After months of ignoring him, North Korea only agreed to meet Biegun earlier this year to lay the groundwork for the second summit in Hanoi, Vietnam.

After visiting Pyongyang last October, Pompeo said North Korea agreed to allow inspectors to visit its nuclear test site to verify it had been dismantled, but those inspectors still haven’t been given entry to the country.

PHOTO: President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019.Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

President Donald Trump meets with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at the demilitarized zone separating the two Koreas, in Panmunjom, South Korea, June 30, 2019.

As the U.S. pushes for working-level talks, North Korea did grant a meeting at the DMZ last year, according to a senior administration official, but only for the White House to hand off photographs from Trump’s historic crossing into North Korea and meeting with Kim.

When a National Security Council official asked the North Korean team when talks will resume, they replied it will happen very soon.

Last year, the ASEAN summit was key to getting nuclear talks back on track after a contentious first meeting in Pyongyang. In the first talks after the Singapore summit, Pompeo was snubbed by Kim, and after he left, North Korea accused him of making robber- or gangster-like demands.

But at ASEAN, his envoy, U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim, hand-delivered a letter to North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho from Trump for Kim, and a new talk of negotiations were scheduled for later that August.

This year, however, Ri will not be attending the summit. The senior administration official said Tuesday that North Korea was sending a lower-level adviser the U.S. may meet, but it’s unclear if Pompeo or his team would meet them.

“We’ll see if they are there, and if they are there, I am confident we’ll meet,” Pompeo said Tuesday.

PHOTO: This May 9, 2019 picture released from North Koreas official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 10, 2019 shows rocket launchers firing during the strike drill in on the western front of North Korea.Kcna via Kns/AFP/Getty Images, FILE

This May 9, 2019 picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 10, 2019 shows rocket launchers firing during the strike drill in on the western front of North Korea.

In the meantime, North Korea has test fired two rounds of ballistic missiles, first last Thursday and then again Wednesday.

While the tests are a violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, Trump and Pompeo have dismissed them as minor provocations or attempts by Pyongyang to strengthen their hand in negotiations.

“North Korea has engaged in activity before we were having diplomatic conversations far worse than this,” Pompeo told Fox News last Thursday. “Lots of countries posture before they come to the table.”

But the tests, in particular of a new kind of ballistic missile last Thursday, also allow North Korea to enhance their military capability that threatens Americans in the region and U.S. allies South Korea and Japan.

Kim “is avoiding provoking the U.S. to keep the dialogue door open by engaging in gray zone provocations to strengthen its missiles and protest upcoming U.S.-ROK drills,” according to Duyeon Kim, a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security, using an acronym for South Korea’s official name, the Republic of Korea.

The U.S. and South Korea are expected to begin military drills next week, which North Korea has repeatedly warned Seoul against doing. North Korea has continually blasted the exercises as “war games” for an invasion — a line that Trump has parroted in explaining his decision to cancel several high-profile exercises.

“The present South Korean ‘government’ orchestrated a ‘handshake of peace’ in public, and behind the scene, holds joint military exercises against the fellow countrymen in collusion with outsiders… Such double-dealing deeds go to clearly prove that the confrontational maniacs remain unchanged in their black-hearted intention to stifle the DPRK by force,” a North Korean state media commentary said of South Korea Wednesday.

Navy fighter jet crashes near Death Valley, search and rescue underway for pilot

A U.S. Navy single seater F/A-18E fighter jet has crashed in Death Valley, California, according to the Navy. There are reports that visitors at the park have suffered minor injuries, a spokesperson for Death Valley National Park said.

“At approximately 10 a.m. PST, a F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, California, crashed east of Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California,” said Joint Strike Fighter Wing public affairs officer. Lt. Cmdr. Lydia Bock.

“Search and rescue personnel are on scene and the status of the pilot is currently unknown. The cause of the crash is currently under investigation.”

Flanders said the status of the pilot was unknown and that a search and rescue helicopter from China Lake, located in Ridgecrest, was en route to the crash area.

PHOTO: In this Feb. 28, 2017, file photo, an FA/18E Super Hornet from NAS Lemoore flies through the area nicknamed Star Wars Canyon in Death Valley National Park, Calif.Ben Margot/AP, FILE

In this Feb. 28, 2017, file photo, an FA/18E Super Hornet from NAS Lemoore flies through the area nicknamed Star Wars Canyon in Death Valley National Park, Calif.

Patrick Taylor, a spokesperson for Death Valley National Park, said the park received a report around 10 a.m. PT from the Panamint Springs Resort that a military plane had crashed on the west side of Death Valley near Father Crowley Overlook in an area known as Star Wars Canyon.

The area has been used for military training flights since the 1930s, Taylor said, and regularly attracts tourists who want to get a glimpse of military pilots in action weaving through the narrow canyon in maneuvers reminiscent of the Star Wars movie. There are reports of visitors at the site with minor injuries due to the crash.

The Father Crowley Overlook has been temporarily closed. Emergency responders from the park, military, and Inyo County have been dispatched to the scene.

This is a breaking story. Please check back from updates.

Critics slam CNN Democratic debate for ignoring Mueller, mock network’s ‘over-the-top’ coverage

The first installment of CNN’s two-night Democratic primary debate was slammed by critics before it even began. Then it concluded without a single mention of CNN’s longstanding narrative that blew up during former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s testimony.

Mueller’s testimony before two House committees last week was largely considered a “disaster” for Democrats and opponents of President Trump who hoped he would provide a path to impeachment. However, Mueller was oddly never mentioned throughout CNN’s debate and Russia was essentially an afterthought at the first gathering of 2020 hopefuls since the testimony.

CNN DOES ‘DISSERVICE TO VOTERS’ BY NAMING DON LEMON DEBATE MODERATOR, CRITIC SAYS

“CNN flounders now, they’ve no idea what the best anti-Trump message is, given the total meltdown of the Russia narrative, post-Mueller,” a CNN employee told Fox News on the condition of anonymity. “My internal read is honestly that they’re in despair. They so believed in a Mueller smoking gun. I think they’re slowly realizing that Trump wins again, and they almost can’t fathom that outcome.”

Conservative strategist Chris Barron told Fox News that CNN’s decision not to ask about the Mueller probe “speaks volumes about how little political currency Mueller or the Russia hoax has even among Democratic partisans” at this point.

“It is fascinating that Mueller, who Democrats have spent two years making the centerpiece of their efforts to undermine the President, was conspicuously missing from last night’s debate,” Barron said.

THIS IS CNN? PRIMETIME SHOWS FILLED WITH LIBERAL OPINION, NOT STRAIGHT NEWS AS NETWORK CLAIMS

Moderators Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper failed to ask about Robert Mueller’s recent testimony during the first round CNN’s Democratic primary debate. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

Moderators Dana Bash, Don Lemon and Jake Tapper failed to ask about Robert Mueller’s recent testimony during the first round CNN’s Democratic primary debate. (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP) (Photo credit should read BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images)

While Mueller was ignored by CNN’s moderators, the words racist or racism were uttered 15 times, the word “border” was mentioned 29 times, climate change was discussed 28 times and health care-related phrases were spoken 112 times.

CNN’s pro-Trump contributor Steve Cortes took notice and criticized his own network on Twitter.

“After two years of breathless media coverage of Russia and its supposed influence on 2016, not a single word last night in #DemDebate about Mueller. Even those radicals on stage realize Americans care about jobs, immigration, healthcare… rather than a few Russian media trolls,” Cortes tweeted.

Cornell Law School professor and media critic William A. Jacobson thinks that campaign consultants who prepped the candidates “obviously told their candidates to stay away from collusion and impeachment because they are losing electoral issues,” but that doesn’t explain why CNN’s moderators didn’t ask about it.

CNN MIRED IN A CREDIBILITY CRISIS AS RATINGS CONTINUE TO COLLAPSE, EXPERTS SAY

“After almost three years of non-stop Russia-collusion conspiracy theories by CNN and other liberal media, and threats by Democrats to impeach Trump by several of the Democratic presidential candidates, those topics were ignored during the CNN Democratic first debate,” Jacobson said. “That is a sign of how badly the Mueller Report and testimony hurt Democrats.”

CNN’s decision to bypass Mueller inquiries was hardly the only thing that critics took issue with during the debate.

CNN was criticized earlier this month when it announced that far-left opinion host Don Lemon would moderate alongside journalists Dana Bash and Jake Tapper, as debate moderators are typically straight-news anchors. Lemon offers his personal anti-Trump views on a nightly basis, so allowing him to grill 2020 hopefuls on a debate stage raised eyebrows across the media landscape.

The criticism of Lemon didn’t end when the debate began. “Don taking more partisan shots at Trump than the literal Democrats on the stage,” Fox News contributor Guy Benson tweeted.

Social media strategist Caleb Hull called it a “joke” when Lemon asked a candidate about Trump’s bigotry.

Daily Caller media critic-turned-White House correspondent Amber Athey thought CNN could have done a better job.

“The moderators were too strict on time limits, so even though the debate was policy-focused, it felt very surface-level. I also think good moderators would have exploited the tension between Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, and instead the way the questions were framed allowed them to team up against the moderates,” Athey told Fox News. “In today’s Democratic Party, it’s pretty obvious who is going to win that fight.”

CNN was also widely lampooned for dedicating an hour of primetime coverage to an elaborate, NBA-lottery style event to determine which night specific candidates would take the stage.

CNN’S WIDELY MOCKED DEMOCRATIC DEBATE LIVE DRAW FINISHES BEHIND FOX NEWS, MSNBC

The liberal network’s debate draw was even criticized by the New York Times, as the paper’s chief television critic James Poniewozik asked, “Is it any surprise that CNN, the home of saturation coverage and interminable countdown clocks, would try to wring more airtime out of the debates?”

The highly-publicized stunt ended up drawing fewer viewers than regular programming on Fox News and MSNBC.

Once the big day arrived, CNN was ridiculed again. This time for the network’s “over-the-top” coverage of its own event.

“This is like the Olympics for them, but the sport is Trump name-calling,” political satirist Tim Young told Fox News. “They have 2 nights of piles of people calling him racist, misogynist… I can only imagine the anchors are welling up with tears of joy.”

Mediaite, a media industry watchdog site, published a roundup of insiders who “brutally mocked” CNN’s elaborate, “dramatic movie-trailer-style” intro to the debate. The article featured an assortment of media personalities on both sides of the aisle poking fun at CNN.

The Daily Beast’s top editor said, “If you want to stick your face into sharp objects, this CNN debate intro is here for you,” while a reporter from “The Week” noted that the “montage from CNN was the single dumbest thing I have ever seen.”

CNN’S ‘OVER-THE-TOP’ DEBATE COVERAGE LAMPOONED: ‘THIS IS LIKE THE OLYMPICS FOR THEM’

NewsBusters managing editor Curtis Houck told Fox News that the event is an example of why CNN’s reputation has diminished since President Trump took office.

Critics mocked CNN’s over-the-top Democratic debate coverage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Critics mocked CNN’s over-the-top Democratic debate coverage. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

“CNN’s over-the-top coverage has shown how unserious they are about fostering sober, substantive coverage of what could very well be the most important election of our lifetimes,” Houck said. “CNN has brought everything that people across the political spectrum have come to despise… countdown clocks, massive panels, ‘College Gameday’-like sets, snarky chyrons, self-righteous ‘Reliable Sources’ newsletters about their supposed greatness, and refusing to look inward about why their ratings are so pitiful to name a few.”

For the first of two debates, CNN averaged just under 8.5 million viewers, according to early Nielsen data. That’s far better than the ratings-challenged network usually fares, but also well below the combined 18.1 million viewers who tuned in to NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo for the first round of Democratic debates in June.