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Rep. Hurd: Texas Ranchers Will Fight Wall Eminent Domain

There are 1,000 ranchers along the 825 miles of border in Rep. Will Hurd’s Texas district, and he warned Friday they won’t take it lightly if the government tries to take their land to build a wall to stop people from entering the country illegally.

“There will be 1,000 landowners impacted, and guess what, they’re going to sue,” the Republican lawmaker told ABC’s “The View.” “In Texas, we believe in a little thing like private property rights.”

Hurd also disagrees with President Donald Trump’s declaration that the border situation constitutes a national emergency, but he does think there are many issues, including drugs and people entering the United States.

But the matter of illegal immigration has been a problem for decades, said Hurd, and he does not think it is necessary to declare an emergency. Further, he said a wall is just one tool of many that are needed to solve the issue.

“I’ve been very clear. Building a 30 foot high, concrete from sea to shining sea is the most and least expensive way to do border security,” said Hurd.

However, better technology is needed, he said.

“My district is larger than 26 states, roughly. It takes 10-and-a-half hours to drive across it,” said Hurd. “In some parts of the border, Border Patrol response time is measured in hours to days. If there’s a threat, they’re gone.”

The funding bill that has been approved also includes technology improvements such as fiber optics that will allow rural communities to receive broadband internet, which will be an improvement for many, he added.

'Deer' Disease Spreads to 24 States, May Affect Humans

An infectious disease that kills deer and similar animals has been confirmed in 24 states, and experts are unsure if humans are affected, USA Today reports.

Chronic wasting disease was first observed in the 1960s in Colorado, and now has been confirmed in two dozen U.S. states and two Canadian provinces, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CWD is a prion disease primarily found in wild deer, elk, moose and reindeer. An abnormal protein forms in the animal’s brain cells, which cause them to burst and become “spongy.”

The CDC has found “no strong evidence for the occurrence of CWD in people,” and said that “it is not known if people can get infected with CWD prions.”

“It is probable that human cases of chronic wasting disease associated with consumption with contaminated meat will be documented in the years ahead,” said Michael Osterholm, the director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. “It’s possible the number of human cases will be substantial, and will not be isolated events.”

The CDC recommends that hunters take several precautions to avoid any potential risks from CWD. Do not shoot, touch, or eat meat from an animal that is acting strangely, looks ill, or has been found dead, check state wildlife and health guidelines and have any game meat tested for CWD before eating.

Army Calls Base Housing Hazards 'Unconscionable,' Plagued by Toxic Mold

Deeply troubled by military housing conditions exposed by Reuters reporting, the U.S. Army’s top leadership vowed Friday to renegotiate its housing contracts with private real estate firms, test tens of thousands of homes for toxins and hold its own commanders responsible for protecting Army base residents from dangerous homes.

In an interview, the Secretary of the Army Mark Esper said Reuters reports and a chorus of concerns from military families had opened his eyes to the need for urgent overhauls of the Army’s privatized housing system, which accommodates more than 86,000 families.

The secretary’s conclusion: Private real estate firms tasked with managing and maintaining the housing stock have been failing the families they serve, and the Army itself neglected its duties.

“You’ve brought to light a big issue that demands our attention,” Esper said Friday morning at the Pentagon. “It is frankly unconscionable that our soldiers and their families would be living in these types of conditions when we ask so much of them day in and day out.”

The Reuters reporting described rampant mold and pest infestations, childhood lead poisoning, and service families often powerless to challenge private landlords in business with their military employers. Many families said they feared retaliation if they spoke out. The news agency described hazards across Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps base housing communities.

The reports have already spurred a raft of reforms and investigations, and on Wednesday, U.S. senators pledged more action to come during Senate Armed Services Committee hearings.

Two days after those hearings, the Army outlined to Reuters its immediate and longer-term plan of reform.

“Our instinct is this is bigger even than what’s been reported, and we want to get to the bottom of it, get to the bottom of it fast,” said General Mark Milley, the Army’s Chief of Staff.

To do so, the Army said it will conduct an extensive survey of its family housing across the country to define the scope of potentially hazardous conditions. Reports in the past, provided by the private industry companies themselves, painted a “false picture,” Milley said.

Army leaders singled out mold infestations as the leading cause of health concerns. On Thursday, the Army ordered its private partner at Maryland’s Fort Meade, Corvias Group, to conduct air quality testing in the nearly 2,800 homes it operates there, and report back within 60 days. The Army expects Corvias to cover the costs, up to $500 per home. The directive came after Army leaders visited Meade, hearing first-hand about pervasive mold and maintenance lapses.

An earlier Reuters report described Meade families suffering from mold-related illnesses, ceilings collapsing in children’s bedrooms, and maintenance neglect leaving families unprotected from hazards.

In addition, the Army said it will begin renegotiating the 50-year housing contracts it has with its seven private housing partners, including Corvias. As Reuters reported, Corvias stands to earn more than $1 billion in fees and other compensation from six of the 13 military bases where it operates. Its fees continued flowing even as maintenance lapses plagued service families.

When unsafe conditions persist, the Army will seek to reduce or withhold fees from its private partners. And, it is examining ways to give service families more avenues to stop rent payments if problems are not quickly addressed, Milley said.

The re-negotiation process could begin as early as next week, when Army Secretary Esper will start holding regular meetings with the CEOs of its private housing partners.

Another problem the Army acknowledged: Military commands across the country, many times relying on the word of private partners, allowed housing hazards to fester. Now, Milley said, Army commanders will be tasked with greater oversight.

The Military Housing Privatization Initiative, the largest-ever corporate takeover of federal housing, began in the late 1990s in an effort to rebuild an aging military housing stock by enlisting private developers and property managers.

“Just because someone said it’s privatized,” Milley said, “doesn’t wash our hands of the responsibility to take care of our soldiers and their families.”

Esper added: “We are acting now. More to follow.”

Bernie Sanders Congratulates NY for Amazon Pullout

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., praised New Yorkers for standing up against Amazon.

His comments came after Amazon announced on Thursday it will not move forward with plans to build a headquarters in New York after opposition from politicians.

In a statement to Business Insider, Sanders said: “The people of New York and America are increasingly concerned about the power of large multinational corporations and the billions in corporate welfare they receive. Our job is to end the race to the bottom where taxpayers in one city or state are forced to bid against each other for desperately needed jobs. This is what the rigged economy is all about,”

And he added: “I congratulate New Yorkers for standing up to the power of Amazon.”

The Insider noted Sanders has been a vocal critic of Amazon’s treatment of its workers.

Meanwhile Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y. blamed “left wing progressive politicians” for driving Amazon out of New York and called it “absolutely disgraceful.”

Chicago Police: 2 Suspects Under Arrest in Jussie Smollett Attack

Two men characterized by police as “persons of interest” in the attack against “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett are now considered suspects and have been arrested on “probable cause that they may have committed a crime,” a Chicago police spokesman said Friday.

The men have not been charged with a crime, and spokesman Anthony Guglielmi did not say what charges they might face. The two men — whom police have identified only as Nigerian brothers — were picked up at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Wednesday and taken into custody after returning from Nigeria after police learned that at least one of the men worked on “Empire,” according to Guglielmi. He said he did not know what the man’s job was on the television drama.

He confirmed that a search warrant was executed at the Chicago apartment where the men lived but did not have any information about what exactly what police found.

Guglielmi’s comments followed a furious 24 hours that included local media reports that the attack was a hoax. Police say those reports are unconfirmed. Producers of the television drama also disputed media reports that Smollett’s character, Jamal Lyon, was being written off the show, calling the idea “patently ridiculous.”

Guglielmi reiterated Friday that there was “no evidence to say that this is a hoax” and that Smollett “continues to be treated by police as a victim, not a suspect.”

Smollett, who is black and openly gay, told ABC News in an interview that aired Thursday that the men police took into custody on Wednesday were the ones who hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him, beat him, threw an undetermined chemical substance and looped a rope around his neck before running off. Smollett has said he was attacked while out getting food at a Subway restaurant in downtown Chicago.

Guglielmi said police have not found any surveillance video showing the attack itself, though they continue to look for such evidence. He says police also are contacting various retail stores in the hopes of determining who bought the length of rope that was around Smolllett’s neck.

The singer and actor said that the attackers yelled “this is MAGA country,” referencing President Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan. Smollett told ABC News that earlier reports from some outlets that his attackers were wearing “MAGA” hats were inaccurate.

“I didn’t need to add anything like that,” he said. “I don’t need some MAGA hat as the cherry on top of some racist sundae.”

Smollett said he didn’t want to call police at first, but that his friend and creative director Frank Gatson called on his behalf. Smollett said he didn’t remove the rope from around his neck before police arrived “because I wanted them to see.”

He also said he didn’t initially want to give police his cellphone because the device contained private content and phone numbers.

Smollett later gave detectives heavily redacted phone records that police have said are insufficient for a criminal investigation .

FCC Chair Ajit Pai: FCC Taking Action on Robocallers

The FCC is going after robocalls and demanding wireless carriers adopt caller authentication procedures to alleviate the growing number of nuisance phone calls American consumers are receiving, agency Chairman Ajit Pai said Friday.

“I get those calls myself,” Pai told Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.” “I don’t answer the phone if I don’t have the number programmed in my phone. We’re going after the scammers.”

The “biggest fines in the FCC’s history” have been put on robocalls, said Pai, and the FCC is demanding caller ID authentication “to make sure the phone call won’t be placed on your phone unless it’s from a person who can legitimately call you.”

Part of the issue is with technology that allows callers to easily spoof telephone numbers so that it appears calls are coming from legitimate numbers, said Pai.

“The technology is developed to the point it’s easy to spoof a phone number calling from abroad,” said Pai. “You can make it look like you have the same area code and first three numbers of somebody living in a small town in Iowa. That’s why we’re empowering phone companies to crack down and demand they adopt caller ID authentication.”

He said the move is the FCC’s “top consumer protection priority” and the law is clear on the issue, even if it does add regulations to companies.  

Pai said he’s posted responses of 14 major phone companies on the FCC’s website, and for the most part, the companies are stepping up to the challenge and making plans to meet his deadline.