How Broken The College Admissions Process Is (HBO)

The Justice Department charged 33 parents on Tuesday in a massive cheating and bribing scheme to get their kids into elite colleges. Federal investigators charged 50 people in all, indicting test administrators, athletic coaches and a number of wealthy parents from across the country, including actresses Lori Loughin from Full House and Felicity Huffman from Desperate Housewives. So far, they have not made a comment about the charges.

According to investigators the scam, dubbed Operation Varsity Blues by the FBI, revealed a wide-ranging web of bribery and fraud, including cheating on admissions exams, faking involvement in sports by photoshopping students onto the bodies of athletes and even falsifying learning disabilities.

The pressure to get into elite institutions is high, and the main gatekeepers to these competitive universities are admissions officers.

Sara Harberson, a former Associate Dean of Admissions for UPENN and former Dean of Admissions at Franklin and Marshall College told us, “What would always helps students if they were tagged and their family had a lot of financial resources. You were really looking at seven figure donations 8 figure donations. But sometimes six figures plus a connection with someone on the board was even more powerful.”

VICE News spoke to five of them to find out what it’s really like behind a process that remains closed to most people.

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I Was A Teenage Terrorist

Mohammed Khalid is one of the youngest people ever charged with aiding terrorists in the U.S. Now, he’s out of prison, and trying to prove he can be trusted. VICE News meets up with him after his release, and follows him to his first public appearance as a so-called “former.”

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You Would Be Much Happier On Permanent Daylight Saving Time

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The Fight To Fire The Cops Who Shot Stephon Clark Is Still Raging (HBO)

It’s been nearly a year since Sacramento police shot and killed Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man, in his grandmother’s backyard. Sacramento has not forgotten.

This week the Sacramento district attorney decided not to charge the officers, who shot Clark seven times, mostly in the back. The DA said Clark had drugs in his system and suggested he’d been suicidal.

That triggered five days of protests in the streets and 84 arrests Monday night. “We expected the DA not to prosecute. We didn’t expect her to convict Clark of his own murder,” one of the protesters said during Monday’s march.

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How One Washington State Senator Is Rationalizing The Measles Outbreak (HBO)

CLARK COUNTY, Washington — The United is currently home to six ongoing measles outbreaks. But with 70 confirmed cases, Clark County, Washington in particular, has gotten a lot of attention. It’s quickly become a classic example of what happens when parents hesitate to vaccinate their children. Still, the spread of a highly contagious and sometimes deadly disease hasn’t been enough to change everyone’s minds about vaccines.

Washington State Senator Lynda Wilson told VICE News during a recent interview that she believes the measles vaccine has caused more harm than the disease itself — a statement that has been debunked by multiple peer-reviewed studies, including a massive study published this week. She also said she hasn’t actively reached out to any scientists or doctors to verify her opinion on the matter. “I’m kind of busy up here, and so I’m just dealing with what I’m getting from my constituents,” she said.

The measles is a nasty disease that can lead to serious complications, including swelling of the brain and pneumonia. It also kills around 1 or two children out of every 1000 who become infected. That’s why scientists recommend the vaccine, which is both safe and effective. But right now, Clark County has an unusually low vaccination rate.

So, Senator Wilson’s view of vaccines aren’t just emblematic of the crisis — they could also have an impact on upcoming legislation. A proposed bill would eliminate one of Washington’s non-medical vaccine exemptions, the philosophical exemption, and Senator Wilson has already said she plans to vote to keep the exemption. “I don’t believe that everyone should be having to do them,” she said, in reference to vaccines.

Despite having vaccinated her own children when they were younger, Wilson doesn’t think parents should be required to do so with their own kids — at least not American parents. “The cases are coming from out of the country,” she said. “So, you know, maybe what we should do is start thinking about requiring vaccinations if you’re coming into our country. Maybe they should be vaccinated instead of requiring all of our people to be vaccinated.”

The CDC says that the current measles outbreaks are linked to travelers. But there’s little evidence to suggest that vaccinating visitors to the United States would be at all effective. That’s because the measles vaccine, called MMR, is only 93 percent protective after a single dose, so people who aren’t vaccinated can still get sick. That’s why scientists say it’s important for communities to reach a certain vaccination rate — a concept called “herd immunity.” When a high number of individuals in a community are vaccinated, that limits the spread of disease and prevents those who, for medical reasons, cannot be vaccinated from becoming sick.

“Measles continues to exist in other countries and within the United States,” a spokesperson for Clark County Public Health told VICE News. “As long as measles is present elsewhere, it’s only a plane, car, train or boat ride away from our community and will continue to be a risk for our community or any community with large unvaccinated populations.”

Senator Wilson says the current outbreak is under control. Moreover, she says the people who were infected will benefit from the disease. “We didn’t have any deaths, and we didn’t have any hospital stays. So I don’t know that it’s unacceptable,” she said. “I mean, now these people have full immunity for the rest of their lives.”

VICE News went to Washington state to see how the measles outbreak is impacting a parent, a pediatrician, and a legislator.

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Inside ISIS’s Final Fight (HBO)

In a deserted farmhouse on the Deir Ezzor frontline, a group of Arab YPG fighters and foreign volunteers — an American, a Scotsman, an Australian and a South Korean — took up position on the edge of Islamic State territory, firing wildly from the hollow windows onto ISIS fighters hiding in the orchards below.

Unseen from the house, ISIS militants crept forward into the building’s garden, launching a sudden assault on this isolated position, targeting the group with snipers, machine gun and anti-tank rocket fire before they attempted to storm it.

After years of bloody conflict across northern and eastern Syria, the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces have pushed ISIS to the brink of total defeat. The remaining ISIS fighters now wait out their days in a cluster of tiny villages nestled between the Euphrates river and the Iraqi border.

Surrounded, outnumbered, and outgunned, the jihadist group’s last diehard fighters aren’t giving up. And they’re being met by US-backed forces and foreign volunteers, many of whom have traveled thousands of miles for the final fight.

Huddling in the central stairwell for cover, deafened by the roar of rockets hitting the rooms around them, YPG fighters argued furiously over their next move.

“We’re surrounded,” shouted the Australian YPG fighter, “We’re going to have to jump from the balcony and make a run for it.”

They quickly gathered blankets, mattresses and curtains, throwing them to the ground outside to soften the fall. Escaping through the alleyway, the fighters retreated to safety in a nearby outpost as Coalition airstrikes rained down on the besieged house.

On the map, the war against the Islamic State is all but won. But here in the middle Euphrates river valley, where much of the population resents the US-backed forces as alien occupiers, these fighters are likely to face many more sudden ambushes and assaults from within this dense patchwork of orchards and villages, even after the battle for Baghuz is won.

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What Venezuelan Expats Think About The Country’s Political Crisis

More than 3.4 million people have fled Venezuela since 2014. Those who remain grapple with food and medicine shortages as President Nicolás Maduro refuses to give up his authoritarian regime and let humanitarian aid into the country.

In January, Venezuela’s opposition leader Juan Guaidó challenged Maduro and declared himself interim president, as Venezuela’s constitution allows the head of National Assembly party to do. Once unknown, the 35-year-old has now gained the support of many Venezuelans and 65 foreign countries, including the U.S., Canada and U.K. He returned to Venezuela Monday after a trip abroad to rally support from the international community.

Venezuelans expats, however, appear split on how Guaidó should use his role as interim president — and whether he should support U.S. involvement in the conflict.

“What is happening in Venezuela is affecting all the region,” Alejandra Escobar, 38, said. ”U.S. needs to take a leading role in this, not just because it’s the strategic thing to do, but because it’s a moral issue.”

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Trinidad And Tobago Is Ignoring Its Venezuelan Refugee Problem (HBO)

Cedros, on the remote southwestern tip of the island of Trinidad, is a sleepy fishing village unaccustomed to heavy traffic. Its port is little more than a narrow jetty sticking out into the water and a small customs house on shore.

But in recent months, ferries have been dropping off passengers by the dozen, most of them hauling large rolling suitcases behind them. That’s because Cedros happens to be seven miles away from the Venezuelan coast, where political turmoil and a collapsing economy is driving people out by the thousands.

“Before this situation developed, the number of [Venezuelans] entering through the port was under 100 weekly,” said Shankar Teelucksingh, the councillor for Cedros. “Today we have over 1,500. And that’s just what we can keep track of — that excludes the ones that come into the country illegally.”

Roughly 3.4 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The large majority have gone overland to Colombia, Peru, and other South American countries. But proportionally, Trinidad and Tobago has received the most: an estimated 60,000 Venezuelans now live in the island nation, which amounts to more than four percent of its population.

And yet, of all the countries bearing the brunt of the Venezuelan refugee crisis, Trinidad and Tobago has done the least to address it. Venezuelans there can apply for refugee status from the UNHCR, which entitles them to stay in the country. But the government has not otherwise made significant efforts to integrate them or provide them with legal status.

Adults are not legally allowed to work, and children are not given the right to a public education. As a result, Venezuelans in Trinidad live mostly underground. The lucky ones find local residents who are willing to help them.

After months of living in overcrowded conditions with other families, Josué Campos and his family met a local school principal named Kelly-Ann Langdon-Pascal, who let them enroll their daughter for free in her small private school. Langdon-Pascal also rented them her basement apartment for cheap.

Campos and his wife now work odd jobs cleaning houses and on construction sites. “It’s tough, because you have to live in fear,” Campos said. “You’re working and you’re wondering if immigration is coming, if the police are coming. It’s not stable.”

Still, odd jobs in Trinidad are a better deal than a stable job in Venezuela: A day’s work in Trinidad is enough to buy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Campos said. “With the minimum wage you get in Venezuela, you can’t even buy breakfast.”

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Young Republicans Have Mixed Feelings About Cohen’s Testimony (HBO)

Michael Cohen’s three days of trashing President Trump on Capitol Hill happens to coincide with one of the largest pro-Trump events on the Washington calendar — the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, just across the Potomac from D.C. at the National Harbor in Maryland.

CPAC attendees were close to Washington, but the accusations of fraud, racism and deceit against Trump from Cohen were, for the most part, far from their minds.

When CPAC speakers did mention Cohen Thursday, it was to dismiss him as a liar and a buffoon. But they didn’t do it much, preferring to rally conservatives to the Trump cause under giant signs reading What Makes America Great in that Trump campaign font.

In the halls, though, it was clear that many attendees had watched Cohen’s televised testimony Wednesday and followed the news of his allegations. Mostly they towed the GOP party line on Cohen. But not everyone did.

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Trinidad And Tobago Is Ignoring Its Venezuelan Refugee Problem (HBO)

Cedros, on the remote southwestern tip of the island of Trinidad, is a sleepy fishing village unaccustomed to heavy traffic. Its port is little more than a narrow jetty sticking out into the water and a small customs house on shore.

But in recent months, ferries have been dropping off passengers by the dozen, most of them hauling large rolling suitcases behind them. That’s because Cedros happens to be seven miles away from the Venezuelan coast, where political turmoil and a collapsing economy is driving people out by the thousands.

“Before this situation developed, the number of [Venezuelans] entering through the port was under 100 weekly,” said Shankar Teelucksingh, the councillor for Cedros. “Today we have over 1,500. And that’s just what we can keep track of — that excludes the ones that come into the country illegally.”

Roughly 3.4 million people have left Venezuela in recent years, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The large majority have gone overland to Colombia, Peru, and other South American countries. But proportionally, Trinidad and Tobago has received the most: an estimated 60,000 Venezuelans now live in the island nation, which amounts to more than four percent of its population.

And yet, of all the countries bearing the brunt of the Venezuelan refugee crisis, Trinidad and Tobago has done the least to address it. Venezuelans there can apply for refugee status from the UNHCR, which entitles them to stay in the country. But the government has not otherwise made significant efforts to integrate them or provide them with legal status.

Adults are not legally allowed to work, and children are not given the right to a public education. As a result, Venezuelans in Trinidad live mostly underground. The lucky ones find local residents who are willing to help them.

After months of living in overcrowded conditions with other families, Josué Campos and his family met a local school principal named Kelly-Ann Langdon-Pascal, who let them enroll their daughter for free in her small private school. Langdon-Pascal also rented them her basement apartment for cheap.

Campos and his wife now work odd jobs cleaning houses and on construction sites. “It’s tough, because you have to live in fear,” Campos said. “You’re working and you’re wondering if immigration is coming, if the police are coming. It’s not stable.”

Still, odd jobs in Trinidad are a better deal than a stable job in Venezuela: A day’s work in Trinidad is enough to buy food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, Campos said. “With the minimum wage you get in Venezuela, you can’t even buy breakfast.”

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