Eric Holder Is On A Mission To Make You Care About Gerrymandering (HBO)

Former Attorney General Eric Holder was in South Carolina and Iowa this past week but he insists he is not running for president. He made a joke of it at an event at a Baptist church in Columbia, SC.

“I think I’m the only national Democrat who’s not running for president at this point. So you know I’m unique,” Holder said.

Instead, he’s visiting early primary states to try to inject a very dry topic of gerrymandering, which is the manipulation of political boundaries to aid one party, into the election.

For Holder, this mission has its roots in the 2010 election. That’s the one where the Democrats lost the House, lost seats in the Senate and had almost no influence in the state legislatures that went on to re-district in 2011. In 2017, former president Barack Obama and Holder launched the National Democratic Redistricting Committee to promote a “comprehensive redistricting strategy.”

The fundraising arm of the NDRC raised $2.5 million in 2018 and has donated a lot of that money to state-level candidates and state parties.

Holder said it’s paying off. Last election cycle, five states had ballot initiatives that were designed to make the redistricting process more fair.

Holder is attempting to make sure the two dozen democratic presidential hopefuls connect the dots between gerrymandered districts and their own presidential ambitions.

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Why Hong Kong Is Rising Up (HBO)

For the second time in four days, Hong Kong was brought to a standstill by mass protests over a controversial extradition bill that threatens to chip away at the city’s diminishing semi-independence from China.

The demonstrations earned protesters a brief victory: the delay of a second reading of the bill. But tensions soon boiled over, when police fired rubber bullets and teargas to clear protesters from the streets, injuring dozens and further stoking outrage between the city’s pro-Beijing government and its residents.

Wednesday night’s events follow one of the biggest public protests in Hong Kong’s history, when more than one million people, about one-seventh of the population, swarmed the city’s streets on Sunday.

Read: Hong Kong protesters tell us why this might be their “last chance” to defy Beijing

At the center of the public’s fury is a proposed law that would allow China to extradite people from Hong Kong to the mainland. The bill has come to symbolize growing fear that the region, long-viewed as a separate entity from mainland China, is losing its autonomy under Beijing’s encroaching authoritarianism. They have reason to be concerned.

When the UK handed the island back to China in 1997, Hong Kong was promised freedoms of speech, press and assembly under its Basic Law — which effectively serves as the islands constitution and differentiates it from the mainland. But in recent years, Beijing has begun to impose its will on Hong Kong, slowly eroding those freedoms in a bid to bring the region more firmly under its control.

“I reminisce about the period of British rule. I was born and brought up in Hong Kong” Wong Fung Yiu, a 63 year old retiree at Sunday’s march told VICE News. “Human rights were better back in that time, compared to what we have nowadays. I have no trust in Mainland China.”

Despite the delays, Carrie Lam, the island’s pro-Beijing Chief Executive, has vowed to push the bill through the government saying further delays would only cause more “anxiety and divisiveness in society.”

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What Joe Biden’s Flip-Flop On The Hyde Amendment Means For The Democratic Party (HBO)

Joe Biden no longer wants to be the only 2020 Democrat who supports a controversial rule to block federal funding for most abortions.

Biden said Thursday night that he doesn’t support the Hyde Amendment, a restriction added to the federal budget annually that prevents any money from going toward abortions — except in cases of rape, incest, or serious threats to the mother’s health. The U-turn comes just a day after his campaign told the New York Times Wednesday that he was still in favor of the rule.

Biden’s initial support made him the only 2020 candidate to come out in favor of Hyde, while a slew of his 2020 opponents — including the top three female candidates — almost immediately reiterated that they wanted to do away with the rule entirely.

On Wednesday, Sen. Elizabeth Warren flat-out called Biden’s original stance wrong and pointed out that Hyde most directly affected low-income women through Medicaid.

“Understand this: Women of means will still have access to abortions,” Warren said during an MSNBC town hall Wednesday night. “Who won’t will be poor women.”

Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker all doubled down this week as well and said they support repealing Hyde. Abortion groups, too, quickly came after Biden’s support for the law.

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American and German Veterans Reveal The True Horrors Of D-Day (HBO)

George Ciampa had never left the United States before being drafted into the army to fight Nazi Germany in 1944. But at 18-years-old, he was on the shores of Normandy in France, collecting the dead.

Paul Golz was a reluctant 19-year-old with the German army, sent to Normandy to try and block the Allied invasion. He was tasked with carrying ammunition for a machine gun crew.

Seventy-five years later, both men mark the living memory of one of the most significant moments of the 20th century. And as world leaders gathered in Normandy Thursday to mark the enduring legacy of D-Day, these men, both now in their 90s, recounted what it was like.

“The government didn’t want bodies lying around for other troops coming in to see,” Ciampa told VICE News from his home in Palm Springs. “We gathered them as quickly as we could.”

Before he could bury the dead, Ciampa had to survive landing at Utah Beach.

“You’re seeing guys getting hit. You’re seeing bodies,” he said. “I was scared to death, tell you the truth.”

Golz was 14 years old when he heard the German army had marched into Poland. By 19 he’d been drafted into that same army.

“I saw the American wounded,” he told VICE News from the village of Königswinter in Germany. “The German wounded, I didn’t really notice them until I heard them scream: ‘Comrade, help me.’ That’s when I understood ‘the hero’s’ death. Nobody wants to die a hero’s death. Those are all young kids who want to live.”

Ciampa and Golz represent the thinning ranks of soldiers from both sides of the war that are still alive to tell the story of the largest military invasion in history. They hope their legacy lives beyond their generation.

“I do think that we have to tell these stories,” said Golz. “These young people, who haven’t experienced it, they have to realize that because of this successful invasion, we have had 70 years of peace. They should always preserve that, preserve the democracy that we gained because of it.”

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What’s Happening To Puerto Rico Without The Delayed Disaster Aid (HBO)

Maria Cruz-Vega can sometimes hear the foundation creaking when she’s in bed at night. There are holes in her floor—and her walls—and she prays the blue-tarp roof that covers her home won’t collapse on her and her family. Nearly 30,000 households in Puerto Rico are still living like this, literally without a real roof over their heads almost two years after Hurricane Maria hit the island. So far, Cruz-Vega has only received about $3,000 from FEMA.

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Why Presidential Candidate Seth Moulton Revealed His PTSD (HBO)

You’ve probably never heard of Rep. Seth Moulton, the 20th candidate to enter the presidential race. VICE News spent 48 hours with him.

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What It’s Like To Chase A UFO (HBO)

WINDHAM, N.H. — In 2004, David Fravor, then a Lt. Commander and aviator in the U.S. Navy, saw something in the skies he’d never seen before. He wasn’t sure what it was, but he decided to follow it in his F/A-18 Super Hornet, and became convinced that the object’s maneuvering could not be explained by the existing capabilities of modern aircraft.

“It was far beyond the technology that we have,” he told VICE News.

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California Democrats Won’t Admit The Party Is In Chaos (HBO)

The California Democratic Party has been in a state of chaos since the 2016 election and has become the crucible of the anti-Trump resistance. It’s the most Democratic state in the union and is considered a bellwether for the future of liberal politics — that is to say, what happens in California will likely spread to the rest of the party. This makes the position of Party Chair one of the most important leadership roles in the state.

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Why The Breakfast Club Is A Required Stop For Presidential Candidates (HBO)

If you’re a Democrat running for president, chances are you want stop by The Breakfast Club, the syndicated morning radio show produced by New York City hip hop station Power 105.1 FM.

The three Breakfast Club hosts — Angela Yee, DJ Envy and Charlamagne Tha God — have hosted long, free-wheeling interviews with 2020 candidates Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and more. On Thursday, their guest was Elizabeth Warren.

Warren’s interview has already gone viral with a clip of Charlemagne accusing her of being “the original Rachel Dolezal.” Viral clips are the best-known result of a Breakfast Club interview, but they do the show a disservice — it’s really a loose, revealing interview that you won’t see on any Sunday morning TV politics show.

VICE News went behind the scenes with The Breakfast Club as they prepared for the Warren interview and grilled her.

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A.I. Still Needs Humans — Especially in China (HBO)

Seemingly “intelligent” devices like self-driving trucks aren’t actually all that intelligent. In order to avoid plowing into other cars or making illegal lane changes, they need a lot of help.

In China, that help is increasingly coming from rooms full of college students.

Li Zhenwei is a data labeler. His job, which didn’t even exist a few years ago, involves sitting at a computer, clicking frame-by-frame through endless hours of dashcam footage, and drawing lines over each photo to help the computer recognize lane markers.

“Every good-looking field has people working behind the scenes,” says Li. “I’d prefer to be an anonymous hero.”

Li, and many of his classmates at a local vocational school, are benefiting from the Chinese government’s push to move away from an economy based on heavy industry, and toward one focused on high tech.

Li doesn’t have a degree in computer science. So for him, this is a new opportunity to get a foot in the door of a booming tech industry.

But there’s no telling how long this boom will last.

VICE News went to Zibo, China, to find out what it’s like to work in a factory that doesn’t make physical objects, but instead pumps out data.

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What Robert Mueller’s Press Conference Means For Congress (HBO)

For the last two years, Special Counsel Robert Mueller has allowed his work to speak for him. On Wednesday, when he finally stepped to the podium to speak to the American public, he suggested that neither Congress nor Attorney General William Barr had read that work closely enough.

Mueller used his first and only press conference on the subject to highlight the passages of his book-length report that have been fiercely debated in the five weeks since its release. Namely: Charging Trump with obstruction of justice was never on the table — despite what Barr said — and now, any further action is up to Congress.

In a brief, understated appearance, Mueller gave voice to his 448-page report, emphasizing that he would have cleared Trump if the facts had allowed him to do so. He also made clear the limits of his power as a prosecutor, pointing out that the Constitution lays out another mechanism for holding presidents accountable — impeachment — without explicitly using the i-word.

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Andrew Yang Wants To Give You $1,000 A Month (HBO)

Andrew Yang is a tech entrepreneur, the founder of Venture for America, and a long shot Democratic candidate for president. While he has hundreds of policy positions, he’s focused on the challenges of automation, and is staking his presidential bid on one big idea: Universal Basic Income (UBI).

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The Brexit Mistakes That Led to Theresa May’s Resignation (HBO)

After almost three years of waiting for their country to leave the EU, British voters finally saw some action. Prime Minister Theresa May resigned as leader of the Conservative Party last week.

Her resignation has been inevitable since May failed to get Parliament to accept a deal and was forced to delay Brexit. Still, there’s no clear frontrunner to fill the power vacuum that will emerge as she steps down, and whoever takes over will inherit the problems that took May down.

One thing, however, is clear: In the next few months, her successor will clarify whether Theresa May single-handedly and spectacularly failed at her only job or whether delivering Brexit is a suicide mission for any politician.

More than a few conservative hardliners are banking on the first hypothesis — that May’s string of bad decisions were the problem. They’re pushing to see Boris Johnson, the figurehead of the 2016 leave campaign, take over and finish what he started.

Whoever ends up in the unenviable position will first have to handle the fallout from the European Parliament elections. Polls show the Conservative Party finishing in a humiliating fifth place. And with Nigel Farage and his newly-formed Brexit Party raging toward victory, the humiliations are likely to continue well after the results are in.

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Meet The Democratic Candidate Who’s Running On Climate Change (HBO)

For Washington state Governor Jay Inslee, the Democratic campaign trail is best described as a mix of serious climate policy discussion — and dad jokes. Sometimes it’s both.

“When there is increased flooding due to climate change, that’s a problem. But when it shuts down a brewery — that’s a national crisis,” Inslee told Tim Baldwin, the owner of Front Street Brewery, in Davenport, Iowa. The Brewery was damaged during a devastating flood at the end of April.

Joke aside, Inslee’s campaign strategy essentially boils down to branding himself as the climate change candidate. And for Inslee, that makes sense. He says he cares about climate change, and he’s got the receipts to prove it.

In 2007, Inslee published a book called “Apollo’s Fire,” which discussed a plan that’s similar to the Green New Deal, the current economic strategy backed by most Democrats to avoid the worst effects of climate change. Ten years later, Inslee co-founded the U.S. Climate Alliance, a coalition of American governors who want to stick to the Paris Agreement goals. As governor of Washington, Inslee failed to pass a carbon tax in 2018, but this year, he signed a green energy bill — and even a human composting bill. And now he’s released the most extensive climate plan of any of the current Democratic candidates.

VICE News spent two days on the campaign trail with Inslee as he spoke to victims of the flood in Iowa and travelled to Washington, D.C., to announce his climate-focused jobs plan at a wastewater treatment plant.

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What It Takes To Make A Hollywood Mockbuster (HBO)

On Friday Disney releases the live-action remake of its 1992 animated classic, Aladdin.

But two weeks ago, Asylum Pictures, a small, low budget studio released its own feature film – Adventures of Aladdin. That’s not a coincidence. That’s Asylum’s business model.

The business model for “mockbusters” is simple: make shoestring imitation movies that confuse viewers looking for genuine Hollywood blockbusters.

Asylum Pictures, a small, low-budget studio is in the business of making knock-off movies, or mockbusters. We go to the set of their version of “Aladdin”

“Our films tend to be… shitty, mostly. You know, not to be taken too seriously. You watch it. You have a good time. You never have to think about it again”

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Why India’s Middle Class Loves Prime Minister Modi (HBO)

After six weeks of voting, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has won polls and will return to power with an even bigger majority than he won five years ago.

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The Democrats Who Want To Overturn Roe vs. Wade (HBO)

Protests hosted by Planned Parenthood, ACLU, and other groups take place at local state houses nationwide today. This comes as Louisiana is about to pass a so-called fetal “heartbeat bill”. The difference between this bill and other recently passed laws restricting access to abortion is it was sponsored by a Democratic Senator and will be signed by a Democratic governor. Meanwhile, more progressive elements are trying to run anti-abortion politicians out of the party entirely. VICE News talks with the executive director of Democrats For Life of America.

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What It’s Like at an Alabama Clinic Still Performing Abortions (HBO)

The day after Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, a Republican, signed a bill that put her state on the path to banning almost all abortions, a 20-year-old woman from Tennessee walked into an abortion clinic with an ex-boyfriend and underwent the procedure.

“I’m a single mom of three kids,” said the woman, who asked to remain anonymous, after having an abortion. “I have nothing to offer this child. You know, like, I’m already spread thin. I have my other three to take care of.”

She was one of about 20 women who had the procedure that day at the Alabama Women’s Center. Because there, it was business as usual. The ban — which is certain to be challenged in court — won’t go into effect for several months. Meanwhile, abortion is still legal in the state.

Dalton Johnson co-founded the Alabama Women’s Center in 2001, and since then, the center has had to adapt and sue over multiple new laws and ordinances designed to shut its doors.

“It’s been one thing after another. You know, I kind of feel almost at home in the federal courthouse,” Johnson said. “It’s been admitting privileges. It’s been the zoning.”

“The anti-choice group sued the City of Huntsville for issuing my business license, and so that was a whole battle that we had to fight and pay for out of pocket. And, of course, we prevailed in that one. The building codes,” she added. “And probably some more I just can’t even think of.”

So for Johnson, the latest law isn’t much of a surprise. But that doesn’t mean it wasn’t emotionally affecting the staff at the clinic, as they answered phones and cared for patients.

“As I was leaving the house this morning, I started to feel like these butterflies in my stomach. The fear was coming over me,” said Makeda Harris, the center’s receptionist. Most days, she’s the first face a patient would see at the clinic.

Outside the clinic, protesters line up every day holding signs and imploring the women who walk inside to choose life. Many of them are regulars, and the staff knows them by name. A mother and daughter prayed outside Thursday after one woman, shielded by the bright umbrellas of the escorts who volunteer in the parking lot, walked in.

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We Went Inside The Chinese Telecom Giant That Trump Just Banned (HBO)

On Wednesday, President Trump issued a long awaited executive order aimed at a company that has been in the crosshairs of the U.S intelligence community for years: Chinese telecom giant Huawei. It’s unclear just how damaging the order will be to Huawei’s business internationally, but it stops the company from expanding its 5G networking technology into the states. The order comes as the U.S. is currently accusing Huawei of intellectual property theft, corporate espionage, and a conspiracy to violate sanctions with Iran.

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Documentary focuses on foster care system

The co-directors of the new HBO documentary “Foster” say the U.S. foster care system is “misunderstood” — and they’re hoping to change that. (May 17)

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Women in Georgia Are Battling the New Restrictive Abortion Laws (HBO)

Progressives are rallying to protest the restrictive abortion laws recently passed in Georgia and other states in the South. VICE News visits presidential hopeful Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s roundtable discussion in Atlanta.

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Migrants at the Border Feel They Have No Choice But to Enter the U.S. Illegally (HBO)

EL PASO, Texas — In the two hours before sunset on a recent afternoon, Border Patrol agents working the line between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso saw more than 100 migrants step over the Rio Grande and into the United States.

They were nearly all families traveling together from Central America seeking asylum, and they crossed in groups ranging from six people to 40. When they spotted Border Patrol vehicles, they calmly walked over to turn themselves in — the first step to requesting asylum for those who enter the country illegally.

Carlos, a migrant from Honduras who crossed the border carrying a pale and coughing toddler, said he had initially planned to cross legally through an official port of entry. But out of the tens of thousands of people waiting, the U.S. allows in only a small percentage of asylum seekers on any given day.

“The truth is that my son couldn’t wait,” said Carlos. “He is very sick.”

The number of people found crossing the border illegally has shot up dramatically since the beginning of the year. In April, according to data released last week by CBP, the number nearly hit 100,000 — the highest it’s been in 12 years.

That’s as clear an indication as possible that the Trump administration’s strategy to deter Central American asylum seekers — which includes metering at ports of entry, expanded detention, and forcing families back to Mexico to wait out their asylum cases — has failed. VICE News went to the border to find out why.

This segment originally aired May 15, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.

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Anthony Scaramucci’s Return To Credibility (HBO)

This week, the Sin City calendar included the 10th Annual Skybridge Alternatives Conference, known as SALT.

It’s your standard rich-meet-powerful confab, the kind of thing you’d find in Davos or Aspen. With one notable exception: this one is run by Anthony Scaramucci.

Skybridge is The Mooch’s investment company. At its height, say in 2017, SALT was pretty mega: former heads of state and a-list entertainers appeared on stage. But then Scaramucci’s fortunes changed in July 2017 when he took a job as President Trump’s White House Communications Director. That resulted in one of the all-time great Washington faceplants. Eleven days into the job, Scaramucci was fired, and his brand was beclowned.

The Mooch was alone. There was no SALT conference in 2018.

But a year is a long time, and the finance world has once again opened its arms to Scaramucci. SALT 2019 lacked some of the star power of previous years, but the Mooch did get some heavy-hitters: former White House chief of staff John Kelly was the keynote guest. Other panels included Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions.

Some Democrats showed up, too — former Obama advisers Valerie Jarrett and Susan Rice were here. Democratic presidential candidate Tulsi Gabbard stopped by, too.

At the center of it all was a man who many people in politics left for dead. But at SALT at least, The Mooch is very much alive.

“My issues with the president are not what he’s doing. He’s got some very very good policies actually working for average people,” Scaramucci told VICE News. “My issue with the president is how he’s doing it. It’s not what he’s doing.”​​

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The People Living In Tent Cities After Hurricane Michael Feel Abandoned By Trump (HBO)

After hurricane Michael, thousands of people were displaced and to this day, unable to return to their homes. A woman has turned her home into a tent city where people who lost it all can come and live in a safe space.

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