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Smollett charged, migrants separated, and a 'domestic terrorist': The Morning Rundown

Here are today's top headlines from NBC News.
Image: Actor and activist Jussie Smollett visits Build Series to discuss the TV show 'Empire' and his work for charitable causes at Build Studio
Actor and activist Jussie Smollett visits Build Series to discuss the TV show 'Empire' and his work for charitable causes at Build Studio on Nov. 14, 2018 in New York City.Gary Gershoff / WireImage file

Good morning, NBC News readers.

Jussie Smollett is charged for allegedly making up his hate-crime attack, a new report says migrant families are still being separated at the border, and prosecutors reveal a Coast Guard lieutenant’s secret life as an alleged "domestic terrorist."

Here's everything we're watching today.

'I am dreaming of a way to kill almost every last person on the earth'

Christopher Paul Hasson was a Coast Guard lieutenant working in Washington, D.C. But he was also a white nationalist who wanted to commit mass murder, according to federal prosecutors.

Hasson intended "to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country" and compiled a list of prominent politicians and journalists, according to a detention memo. He was arrested on drug and gun charges.

The Coast Guard flagged him after he viewed extremist websites while at work. A search of his Maryland home found 15 firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition, the court documents say.

Families are being separated at the border eight months after Trump ended the policy, report says

Following international outrage, President Donald Trump formally ended the policy of separating children from their families at the southern border in June.

But eight months later, this practice is still happening — albeit not at the same scale but often under troubling circumstances — according to a new report.

"Family separations are still very much happening in the southern border, they’re still being torn apart by the U.S. government," says Efrén Olivares, director of racial and economic justice at the Texas Civil Rights Project.

A family near the border fence at Playas de Tijuana, Mexico.Guillermo Arias / AFP - Getty Images file

Smollett charged with allegedly making up hate-crime attack in Chicago

Jussie Smollett attracted a wave of sympathetic messages from celebrities and human rights activists when he reported two men had hurled racial and homophobic slurs at him and wrapped a rope around his neck last month.

At the time, police investigated the reported incident as a "possible hate crime." After weeks of claims and counterclaims, the "Empire" star was charged with allegedly making the whole thing up. He has been arrested and is in custody, officials in Chicago said Thursday.

Smollett was charged with felony disorderly conduct. His attorneys said he "enjoys the presumption of innocence" and that they will mount an "aggressive defense."

'It's about time'

The Southern Baptist Convention is reeling from revelations it failed to protect worshippers from ministers, deacons and volunteers guilty of sexual abuse over a 20-year period.

Henry Snow was 17 when he says he was molested. He welcomes plans unveiled this week to tackle the crisis that shook the largest evangelical denomination in the U.S.

"It’s about time. It’s great news to hear," he said. "It is a disease in our country and around the world that adults are preying on kids with no reckoning around it."

Henry Snow's senior yearbook photo.Courtesy Henry Snow

Woman who joined ISIS and wants to return to U.S. isn't welcome, Trump says

What to do with Westerners who moved to the Islamic State has become a pressing issue now the extremists' caliphate in Iraq and Syria has crumbled.

Alabama woman Hoda Muthana now says she regrets aligning herself with ISIS and wants to come home.

However, Trump said Wednesday he told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to let Muthana back into the country, provoking a debate about her citizenship and rights.

Muthana, 24, has an infant son.Ivor Prickett / Redux Pictures


THINK about it

Whether she's a perky female assistant on your phone, or a woman’s voice in a little box on the table, virtual assistants enforce cultural signals that undermine hard-won women's rights, cultural historian Lynn Stuart Parramore says in an opinion piece. We should boycott big tech's female bot brigade, Parramore argues, and tell companies to come up with artificial intelligence that isn’t Stone Age stupid.

Science + Tech = MACH

Because we can't seem to go anywhere without littering, there are hundreds of thousands of bits of space junk orbiting our planet. A new satellite named RemoveDebris has test-fired a harpoon designed to clean up this cosmic detritus. Watch it in action here.

Quote of the day

"In demonizing the free press as the enemy, simply for performing its role of asking difficult questions and bringing uncomfortable information to light, President Trump is retreating from a distinctly American principle."

— New York Times publisher A.G. Sulzberger responds to Trump calling his paper "a true ENEMY OF THE PEOPLE."

One fun thing

A Japanese spacecraft is set to fire a bullet into an asteroid, because ... why not? Actually, it's to capture a bit of debris that eventually will be returned to Earth.

The surface of the asteroid, Ryugu, captured by one of the spacecraft's rovers. HANDOUT / AFP - Getty Images

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Thanks, Alexander Smith