Morning Update: “I Just Thank My Lions.”

Get caught up: Rhino poachers were eaten, Scott Pruitt resigned, the US government will use DNA tests to reunite separated families. Your BuzzFeed News newsletter, July 6.

Scott Pruitt just resigned after months of scandals

In the end, there were just too many scandals. Yesterday, Scott Pruitt, one of President Trump’s most controversial cabinet secretaries, resigned from the Environmental Protection Agency.

Trump lauded Pruitt for getting “rid of record-breaking regulations.” However, the president said, Pruitt “felt he was a distraction.”

“Distraction” may be putting it lightly — we put together a list of all the Pruitt controversies and ethical violations. That includes spending at least $3 million on his first-class lodging, travel, and security since he became administrator. There was also that time the EPA spent $43,000 on a phone booth. And that time he allegedly used sirens to get to dinner. And got cheap housing tied to an energy lobbyist. I’ll stop there, but the full list is here.

There are more than a dozen open investigations into Pruitt by government watchdogs, the Office of Special Counsel, Congress, and the White House.

Here’s Pruitt’s legacy: Since becoming EPA chief in February 2017, Pruitt has overseen a massive rollback of environmental rules, overhauled the agency’s science advisory boards, met far more often with industry groups than with environmentalists, and de-emphasized climate change. A well as as shifting policy, these changes have resulted in low morale at the agency, and hundreds of staff departures.

Still, Pruitt’s success in advancing Trump’s deregulatory agenda was not lost on the White House. The agency has undone, or proposed to undo, dozens of Obama-era environmental and climate rules. For example, in April, the EPA announced plans to weaken rules intended to reduce pollution from cars and trucks, arguing they are too strict.

What happens now? Trump said Pruitt's deputy, Andrew Wheeler, would at least temporarily take on his role. Wheeler is a former coal lobbyist. The president called him “a very environmental person.” Here’s what you need to know about him.

The US will resort to DNA tests in an effort to reunite children and their parents

Last week, US District Court Judge Dana Sabraw gave the US government until July 26 to reunite families separated at the border under the Trump administration's “zero tolerance” policy.

Now, under pressure to meet this deadline, the federal government plans to use DNA testing to link children with their parents.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar told reporters that the typical method of verifying parents with documents such as birth certificates would take too long.

It’s difficult not to conclude that having to resort to DNA matching means the Department of Homeland Security and HHS did not plan for the obvious eventuality that separated parents and children would have to be reunited.


A navy SEAL trying to rescue the soccer team trapped in a Thai cave has died. Samarn Poonan had been laying down oxygen tanks along a potential exit route for the 12 boys and their coach in the Tham Luang cave complex when his own supply of oxygen dwindled. Poonan fell unconscious less than a mile from the entrance of the cave. His death underlines the dangers involved in rescue attempts.

Rhino poachers were eaten by lions after breaking into a wildlife reserve in South Africa. The owner of the game reserve said he's not sure how many of the suspected poachers were eaten, but the crew must have included at least three people since that's how many pairs of shoes and gloves were found. Police say a forensic team will examine the recovered human remains. The owner of the reserve added, “I just thank my lions. They saved our rhinos from another onslaught.”

Trump’s Mar-a-Lago wants to hire 40 more foreign workers. The president’s private club in Palm Beach, Florida, has asked for permission to hire temporary foreign workers as waitstaff. The request comes as the Trump administration’s policies regarding foreigners seeking to enter the country are facing sharp criticism. With the latest filing, the club has now sought to hire more than 240 foreign workers since Donald Trump launched his presidential campaign.

A Texas teen had a drink thrown in his face for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. A group of 16-year-olds said that they were verbally assaulted at a San Antonio Whataburger because one of them was wearing a MAGA cap. A man confronted one of the teens, threw a drink in his face, and walked off with the hat. The man is seen on video holding up the hat as he walks off and saying, “This is going to go great in my fucking fireplace, bitch.”

Three popular travel vloggers have died after falling over a waterfall while hiking. YouTubers Ryker Gamble and Alexey Lyakh, and Lyakh's girlfriend, Megan Scraper, reportedly died at Shannon Falls, the third-highest waterfall in British Columbia, Canada. Police told us the three victims were swimming in one of the pools at the top of the waterfall when they slipped and fell nearly 100 feet into a pool below them.

Facebook appears to have allowed a fake news operation to publish for months before Mexico’s election

Last week, we discussed Victory Lab, a digital marketing firm in Mexico that tried to hijack the election with fake news. Victory Lab’s promise is that it can make anything trend on any platform, for a fee. Over the last six months, its main clientele haven’t been brands, but politicians.

Well, we can now report that Facebook was aware of the Mexican fake news operation for months and allowed it to spread misinformation and publish political dark ads during the crucial lead-up to the country's July 1 election.

It also appears that Facebook's moderation team waited to delete Victory Lab’s pages until after the Atlantic Council, a think tank that the company partners with, could study and publish a report on them.

The pages were deleted after Mexico's window for campaigning had closed, meaning the report and Facebook's ensuing intervention happened well after any candidate in Mexico would be able to publicly talk about it.

Turn off the world and spend time with these longreads

What is it about celebrity relationships that get us so invested, so fired up? People spend valuable brainpower trying to validate their conspiracy theories about celebrity love lives, and they can get a little too deep. Zan Romanoff explored this phenomenon in a fascinating essay, where she writes: “Conspiracy theories are a simultaneous claim of deep intimacy with every detail of the facts, and also of grand mastery over them. They insist that only you (and those who believe and understand you) can see the grand, overarching plan that runs the universe.”

The world’s most famous drag queen, bar none, is RuPaul. Her lauded reality TV show, RuPaul’s Drag Race, recently concluded its 10th season — that’s no easy feat. Connor Garel wrote a thoughtful piece for us questioning RuPaul’s supremacy, arguing that the drag queen who was once a fearless provocateur is now steeped in backwards respectability politics. Here’s Garel, diving deeper: “Increasingly, Ru seems to be showcasing just how out of touch she is from the cultural tempo — from her manifesto of black respectability to her anachronistic ideas about transgender people.”

If you’re like me, you listened to Drake’s new album Scorpion the day it came out. If you’re like me, you also walked away from it feeling that…something is off about it. Hanif Abdurraqib identified that thing when he went in on Drake, writing that the record ends up with a more wary and paranoid version of the artist, and the music suffers for it. Here’s Abdurraqib: “Drake sold intimacy and accessibility for as long as he could. Then, when he seemingly stopped believing in those things in his own life, he appeared to just stop working toward anything else.”

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