If something newsworthy happens, but it doesn’t involve Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump or Russia, does it still make a sound?
You bet. Lately, though, those sounds have been muffled, buried under a pile of incriminating recordings of Trump authorizing “hush money” payments for women with whom he allegedly had relationships.
While we were all distracted by the latest shiny Cohen disclosure ― a claim that Trump knew in advance of his son’s June 2016 meeting with a Russian lawyer promising dirt on Hillary Clinton ― here are five other stories you might have missed:
Seven hundred kids are still in government detention
The Trump administration patted itself on the back for a job well done Thursday, ahead of a court-ordered midnight deadline to reunify more than 2,000 children with their parents after having forcibly separated them at the U.S.-Mexico border.
But while officials congratulated themselves for reuniting 1,400 eligible families, more than 700 children aren’t considered “eligible,” and are therefore still in government custody. These children have parents who have been deported or released, who failed a background check or who otherwise haven’t been located.
Of the 460 who have been deported, “there is a very high likelihood that those parents are not going to see their children again,” former Immigration and Customs Enforcement director John Sandweg told CBS Thursday.
“The government shouldn’t be proud of the work they’re doing on reunification,” American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters Thursday. “This is a disaster that they created.”
Betsy DeVos thinks for-profit colleges are better unregulated
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants to scrap Obama-era regulations on for-profit colleges that require them to prove they provide “gainful employment” for their graduates.
The Obama rule, which was never fully implemented, would have forced for-profit schools to publish data about their students’ post-graduation employment rates. Programs whose graduates fare poorly in the job market and that have a high degree of student loan debt could see their federal aid slashed ― potentially forcing them to close.
At its peak, the for-profit college industry received up to $32 billion a year via student grants and loans, paid by taxpayers. Critics maintain these schools lured in prospective students with the promise of high-paying jobs upon graduation, but the careers they were promised rarely arrived. Instead, students graduated saddled with debt.
Under DeVos’ proposal, instead of schools having to prove their value, the burden would fall on students to prove their schools showed “reckless disregard” in any application for debt forgiveness, according to The Hill.
Russian hackers are targeting Democrats ahead of midterms
In an unsubstantiated tweet this week, Trump claimed Russia will be “pushing very hard for the Democrats” in the 2018 midterm elections:
But early evidence points to Russian President Vladimir Putin once again engaging in information warfare to benefit the GOP, as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) confirmed this week that Russia’s GRU intelligence agency unsuccessfully tried to infiltrate her Senate computer network in August 2017.
McCaskill is facing re-election this year in a state that swung heavily for Trump in 2016. Her status as a vulnerable Democrat may have attracted Russia’s interest.
“The Russians saw 2016 as a success, and they’ll be back in 2018, unless we do far more to protect ourselves than we’re currently doing,” Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), the chief Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, the lack of leadership from the White House means that we still have no all-of-government approach to addressing this threat.”
California is on fire again
Blazes in both Northern and Southern California have forced thousands of residents from their homes. At least one firefighter has died and three have been injured fighting the Carr Fire in Northern California’s Shasta County. As of Friday afternoon, the 44,450-acre fire had destroyed 65 structures and damaged 55, with an additional 4,978 threatened.
“When it hit, people were really scrambling,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said. “There was not much of a warning.”
McLean described the inferno as “a wall of flames” that’s “taking down everything in its path.”
A second blaze, burning in central California’s Mariposa County and labeled the “Ferguson Fire,” has grown to 45,911 acres and forced closures in Yosemite National Park. Seven firefighters have been injured fighting in “very rough terrain,” according to a government incident report. One firefighter has been killed.
And to the south, the 11,500-acre Cranston Fire continues to burn about 90 miles east of Los Angeles, where it’s forced at least 3,200 people to evacuate and is threatening 2,100 homes. Authorities arrested 32-year-old Brandon McGlover of Temecula, California, on Wednesday. They believe he started the fire intentionally. McGlover pleaded not guilty to the charges Friday.
Nicaraguan violence continues
South of the border, horrific state-sponsored violence in Nicaragua shows no signs of abating.
In a rare interview granted to Fox News, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he doesn’t intend to step down or hold early elections, despite widespread protests calling for him to leave his post.
Ortega has been in power since 2007. In 2014, he pushed through “reforms” that ended term limits and permitted him to run for a third term in office. He won, and his wife, Rosario Murillo, was elected vice president.
At least 300 civilians have died and 2,000 have been injured in the violence since April ― violence meted out by paramilitary groups “operating with the active or tacit support of and in coordination with the police and other state authorities,” according to the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights.