Trump’s gun laws strengthen the background check registry but also limit mental health reporting
The only two significant pieces of gun control legislation President Trump has signed into law seem to pull in different directions that can’t be reconciled.
Quick background: Congress’s most significant response to the Parkland shooting was to strengthen the national background check registry. The bill, which Trump signed into law, puts pressure on federal agencies to contribute data to the registry.
But here’s the thing: Last year, Republicans passed a bill that bans the Social Security Administration from reporting certain people with serious mental illnesses to the same registry. In effect, it prevents tens of thousands of people from being added to the registry.
How many people are we talking about? The SSA has a list of about 75,000 people with mental illneses who were deemed by a court to be dangerous or in need of a legal guardian to handle their affairs.
Has the SSA ever reported that list? Yes. President Obama directed the SSA to share this list with the background check registry in 2016. This was a controversial move opposed by groups across the political spectrum. The NRA said it infringed on people’s rights. The ACLU said it was part of a “disturbing trend” to stigmatize people mental illness.
How long did that last? Not long. Obama’s directive came in 2016. Early last year, congressional Republicans took advantage of a rarely used tool to undo that directive before it could take effect.
Where are we now? With no new gun legislation on the horizon before the midterm elections this fall, it seems these two different directions won’t be reconciled.
Here are all the hoaxes going around about the Parkland survivors
No, Emma González did not tear up a copy of the United States Constitution. No, David Hogg did not do a Nazi salute at the end of his March for Our Lives speech.
Since becoming the faces of a nationwide movement to change gun laws, the Parkland teens have become subject to truly absurd internet hoaxes and conspiracy theories.
We took some time to debunk all of them.
And for the love of god, no, they’re not “crisis actors.”
Putin’s media czar Mikhail Lesin was murdered in the US, according to a secret report to the FBI
First, quick background: Mikhail Lesin was the founder of RT, the Kremlin-funded media network. In November 2015, he was in Washington, DC, to meet with US Justice Department officials.
On the eve of this meeting, Lesin was found dead in his hotel room — with blunt force injuries to the head, neck, and torso. A federal prosecutor concluded he died due to drunken falls “after days of excessive consumption of alcohol.” His death was ruled an "accident."
The case was closed.
Here’s what’s new: BuzzFeed News can reveal that the FBI is in possession of an intelligence report that asserts that Lesin was beaten to death by hired thugs.
The intelligence report was prepared for the FBI by Christopher Steele, the author of the famous Trump dossier. We spoke to four sources who have read all or parts of Steele’s report.
According to our sources, Steele’s report says Lesin was bludgeoned to death by enforcers working for an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Steele also wrote that the thugs had been instructed to beat Lesin, not kill him, but they went too far.
Read the rest of the explosive story on Steele’s report to the FBI.
Quick catch up
Everything is on sale: Fewer people are shopping at H&M. The clothing retailer couldn't sell some of its inventory over the holiday season, so now it's offering clothes at a steep discount. Expect clothes to be extra cheap at H&M until the company sheds all that excess inventory.
Seth Rich: Aaron Rich, the brother of murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich, has filed a lawsuit against media outlets and conspiracy peddlers for spreading false claims about the siblings.
E-cigarettes: Doctors are suing the Food and Drug Administration, claiming the agency’s decision to delay regulating e-cigarettes leaves teens and young adults vulnerable to tobacco addiction. The FDA said it would delay regulation of e-cigarettes until 2022. Major health groups say that decision is unlawful, and could turn more teens into regular smokers.
Cambridge Analytica: Christopher Wylie, the Cambridge Analytica whistleblower, says “senior employees” with data company Planatir were given access to the firm’s controversial data Facebook data set. Palantir — cofounded by billionaire Facebook board member and Trump supporter Peter Thiel — has denied allegations it ever worked with Cambridge Analytica's data.
A friendly reminder that Instagram uses all your Facebook data
An interesting thing about this Facebook data-harvesting scandal: Instagram has largely been spared the panic. Few people are talking about #DeleteInstagram.
Now, you’re smart, you read this newsletter, so you knew this, but a recent survey found that 60% (!!) of people did not know that Facebook owns Instagram.
In a helpful breakdown, Katie Notopoulos explains how Instagram uses all your Facebook data. Facebook and Instagram use the same advertising data tool. “Simply put, Instagram advertising is Facebook advertising.”
And no, your fake Instagram account can’t save you.
[King George from Hamilton voice] Good luck!
A teen found an Instagram account that follows only guys named “Paul Williams” and it turned into a whole thing
Paul Williams was just sitting in class when he got a notification that he had a new Instagram follower. He was bored, so he decided to check out the account, see who else they follow — you know, the usual.
That’s when he noticed that his new follower follows only people with his exact name, Paul Williams.
Like pages upon pages of Paul Williamses.
Anyway, in true internet fashion, it took virtually no time for all the conspiracies to emerge.