Newt Gingrich: First Step Act vote shows Trump, Democrats and Republicans can work together

Senate passage of the First Step Act criminal justice reform bill on Tuesday was an important milestone to show the American people that the Trump White House, Republicans and Democrats can work together for the good of the country.

The bill sailed to passage with an overwhelmingly bipartisan 87-12 vote in the Senate. This could never have happened without the constant, steady leadership of Jared Kushner and his team in the White House; Republicans in the House and Senate; and the army of groups advocating for criminal justice reform. These groups included Right on Crime, FreedomWorks, the American Conservative Union, #cut50 and many others.

To be sure, this bill does not solve all of the problems in our federal prison system – there is still plenty of work to do – but it will bring about some important improvements that can lead to even more reforms, lower prison costs and safer communities.

First, this bill will create a system by which federal inmates will be assessed for their risks and needs – both when they get to prison and throughout their sentences. These assessments will focus on determining the risk level that each inmate will recidivate – or commit more crimes upon his or her release.

The assessments will also ascertain behavioral, health, educational and other needs of inmates to address other potential problems. This could drastically reduce the national recidivism rate by helping more prisoners to actually rehabilitate while they are incarcerated.

Under the bill, the Second Chance Act will also be reauthorized. This law provides grants for programs for drug treatment, vocational treatment, mentoring and other re-entry and recidivism reduction initiatives.

Further, these changes will help the federal Bureau of Prisons learn what programing works best for inmates on a system-wide basis. Inmates who qualify will be incentivized to complete these programs through a number of opportunities, most notably through earned-time credits.

These credits will allow low- and minimum-risk inmates (who have not committed a disqualifying crime) to finish the remainder of their sentences in halfway houses, home confinement or supervised release.

The Bureau of Prisons and the Government Accountability Office will regularly track this system to ensure it is operating as the law intended.

Another aspect of this bill will fix well-intended but damaging decisions of the past. The so-called “three strikes” law will be changed so it applies only to serious drug felons and serious violent felons – rather than anyone charged with trafficking drugs.

The mandatory minimum sentence enhancement for a “second strike” will be lowered from 20 years to 15 years, and the “third strike” will be reduced from a mandatory minimum of a life sentence to 25 years. Importantly, the bill will make the Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 retroactive for those trapped by disproportionately high sentences related to crack cocaine.

These much-needed reforms have been debated and considered for more than a decade. They are now very close to becoming reality.

When the First Step Act clears the House as expected and President Trump signs it into law – as he has pledged to do – it will be a very important day for his administration and all Americans.

Google Maps user spots ‘UFO’ floating above Florida swamp – just outside the Bermuda Triangle

An eagle-eyed Google Maps user has reported a mysterious “UFO sighting” in the skies above a Florida swamp.

The strange object is partly blurred, and was spied in an area just outside of the notorious Bermuda Triangle.

Even when zoomed in, it’s hard to define exactly what the object is.

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It’s clearly multicolored and slightly ovular, but a stitching issue with Google Maps means you can’t see the entire shape.

It’s also impossible to judge the distance of the strange object, although it appears to be floating some way above a treeline.

The object was spotted in the Big Cypress National Preserve, which is located in southern Florida.

This area is just outside the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the North Atlantic Ocean shrouded in mystery.

The Bermuda Triangle has long been associated with mysterious aircraft and ship disappearances, paranormal activity, and even aliens.

Most claims about the Bermuda Triangle have been deemed spurious, but many still believe that the area is supernatural.

That may be why one Reddit user described the Google Maps find as a “UFO sighting”.

However, another user is probably closer to the mark, suggesting it’s simply a “butterfly” caught on camera.

A fast-moving butterfly caught in a single shot on Google Street View could easily be the explanation for this mystery.

This theory is strengthened by the fact that moving one step away on Street View completely removes the object – which is exactly what would happen if the object was a butterfly flying past.

Of course, a UFO might also avoid sticking around for too long, so we may never know.

This isn’t the first time something strange has been spotted on Google Maps.

We rounded up 10 of the most mysterious Google Maps secrets here.

And read about the curious case of Russia’s censored Jeannette Island on Google Maps, too.

There’s also a Google Maps phantom island that disappeared in 2012 that’s worth investigating.

Most controversial emotional support animal stories of 2018

Emotional support animals became headline news with the death of Kokito, a French bulldog who died in an overhead bin on a United flight in May. Since the infamous incident, several airlines began rethinking their animal travel policies — though some passengers seemed to not get the memo.

Dog poops on plane
A male customer was left “covered” in dog feces after he sat in poop left behind “everywhere” by a service animal on a flight in November.

“Actual feces and it was all over me. I sat in it and it was on the seat, on the floor, the seat in front. And I was literally in it,” Matthew Meehan told WXYZ.

Reps for Delta confirmed to Fox News that the accident happened during a “previous flight with an ill service animal.”

According to the Detroit Free Press, Meehan claimed that when he requested assistance from the cabin crew to clean up, they gave him two paper towels and a small bottle of Bombay Sapphire gin — which didn’t prove to be much of a help.

Passenger tries to smuggle “emotional support” cat on plane
One British Airways customer caused quite a commotion when she failed to smuggle her so-called “emotional support” cat onto a flight in the U.K. last October.

The Daily Record reported that an American passenger got the boot from her Oct. 24 flight from Glasgow to London before the aircraft even took off, as she attempted to conceal her feline companion in her hand luggage.

Once British Airways cabin crew discovered the furry feline, the woman was kicked off the plane, the Record reported.

Woman denied peacock as emotional support animal
United Airlines shot down one traveler’s request to bring her emotional support peacock on a flight departing Newark Liberty International Airport in January.

Live and Let Fly reported that even though the unidentified woman claimed that she had a second ticket for the peacock, the airline denied her request.

A spokesperson for United told Fox News that the traveler(s) with the peacock were told they would not be able to bring it on board.

“This animal did not meet guidelines for a number of reasons, including its weight and size. We explained this to the customers on three separate occasions before they arrived at the airport,” said United in a statement.