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Brakkton Booker

Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.

He covers a wide range of topics including issues related to federal social safety net programs and news around the mid-Atlantic region of the United States.

His reporting takes him across the country covering natural disasters, like hurricanes and flooding, as well as tracking trends in regional politics and in state governments, particularly on issues of race.

Following the 2018 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, Booker's reporting broadened to include a focus on young activists pushing for changes to federal and state gun laws, including the March For Our Lives rally and national school walkouts.

Prior to joining NPR's national desk, Booker spent five years as a producer/reporter for NPR's political unit. He spent most to the 2016 presidential campaign cycle covering the contest for the GOP nomination and was the lead producer from the Trump campaign headquarters on election night. Booker served in a similar capacity from the Louisville campaign headquarters of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in 2014. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he produced pieces and filed dispatches from the Republican and Democratic National conventions, as well as from President Obama's reelection site in Chicago.

In the summer of 2014, Booker took a break from politics to report on the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri.

Booker started his career as a show producer working on nearly all of NPR's magazine programs, including Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and former news and talk show Tell Me More, where he produced the program's signature Barbershop segment.

He earned a bachelor's degree from Howard University and was a 2015 Kiplinger Fellow. When he's not on the road, Booker enjoys discovering new brands of whiskey and working on his golf game.

Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh announced she is dealing with health challenges and will take an "indefinite leave of absence" at the same time her office is engulfed in a scandal involving the profits from her self-published children's books.

Pugh's office released a statement late Monday afternoon saying that she has been fighting pneumonia "for the past few weeks" and that her doctors advise her to "focus on her health."

Updated at 2:58 p.m. ET

The Department of Housing and Urban Development is suing social media giant Facebook for allegedly violating the Fair Housing Act.

HUD says Facebook does so by "encouraging, enabling and causing housing discrimination" when it allows companies that use their platform to improperly shield who can see certain housing ads.

Updated at 4:28 p.m. ET

Days after three separate suicides in Parkland, Fla., and Newtown, Conn., left those communities reeling, the Senate did something rare for a GOP-led chamber: It held a hearing on gun control.

Updated at 3:57 p.m. ET

After years of criticism and multiple lawsuits alleging that Facebook engaged in discrimination by allowing advertisers to select which users could see their ads, the social media giant announced it will make changes to its ad platform by the end of the year.

As countries worldwide continue to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft, aviation officials in the U.S. have been hesitant to follow suit.

The Federal Aviation Administration says there is "no basis to order the grounding of the aircraft." That's according to a statement Tuesday evening from Daniel Elwell, the acting FAA administrator.

The Democratic-led House Thursday approved another piece of legislation to broaden federal gun-control legislation. The bill gives the FBI more time to do background checks on gun purchasers. It comes a day after the chamber passed a bill extending the checks to private firearms sales.

Both measures face long odds at becoming law.

The latest bill would extend the time sellers have to wait before completing a gun sale. Like Wednesday's measure, it passed largely along party lines — 228 to 198.

Updated at 6:35 p.m. ET

The House passed what advocates call the most significant gun control measure in more than two decades on Wednesday when it approved the first of two bills aimed at broadening the federal background check system for firearms purchases.

The vote on the first bill, dubbed the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019, passed largely along party lines 240 to 190 with Democrats who control the House cheering as they carried the legislation across the finish line.

A Republican lawmaker said he plans to invite two women who have accused Virginia Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax of sexual assault to share their stories before a General Assembly panel.

Del. Rob Bell made the announcement from the floor of the House of Delegates Friday. The hearing will take place in the House Courts of Justice Committee, which Bell chairs. A date was not set.

Fairfax, a Democrat and only the second African-American to be elected to the lieutenant governor post, has vehemently denied the allegations brought forth by Meredith Watson and Vanessa Tyson.

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam has decided not to launch his "reconciliation tour" as planned on Thursday morning at Virginia Union University.

The change comes days after the student government president of the historically black university urged the embattled Democratic governor to come another time.

There will be no marching.

There will be no school walkouts.

Only a day of reflection and service and, perhaps most consequential, a time to grieve.

That is how many of the Parkland, Fla., survivors turned activists plan to spend Thursday, the first anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.

Updated at 4:20 p.m. ET

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax is a lot of things Virginia's current governor is not: young, charismatic and part of a multicultural wave sweeping through the commonwealth's Democratic Party.

He could soon be called upon to lead the state, should Gov. Ralph Northam, a fellow Democrat, reverse course and adhere to the avalanche of calls — from inside and outside Virginia — for him to resign.

Hundreds of thousands of federal employees around the country are returning to work after being furloughed for more than a month. Thousands of others in the federal workforce did work during the 35-day shutdown but didn't get paid.

The Trump administration promises that by Friday federal workers will be paid the two consecutive paychecks that were missed as a result of the government being shuttered.

Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, who has been relatively quiet since the shutdown began in December, issued a challenge to elected officials to set their egos aside to resolve the longest partial government shutdown in U.S. history.

"We can continue to hope that our leaders will recognize that this is an easy problem to solve. I mean, just take your ego out of it," Carson said.

With the partial government shutdown on the verge of becoming the longest in U.S. history, many housing advocates fear thousands of low-income Americans are at risk of being evicted. More than 1,000 government-backed housing contracts have already expired and potentially more will do so in the coming weeks.

Since the shutdown began last month, approximately 1,150 federal rental assistance contracts have not been renewed due to funding lapses at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Updated at 6:15 p.m. EST

Flanked by Democratic and Republican lawmakers, President Trump Thursday signed into the law the 2018 farm bill touting it as a "bipartisan success," even though it lacked the administration's much-sought-after changes to the food stamp program.

"We're here to celebrate a really tremendous victory for the American farmer," Trump said at the signing ceremony. "We've been working long and hard on this one."

Lawmakers unveiled the much-anticipated farm bill compromise Monday night, ending the months-long impasse over whether a critical piece of legislation that provides subsidies to farmers and helps needy Americans buy groceries could pass before the lame-duck session concludes at the end of the year.

Baltimore may soon have its fifth police commissioner in four years.

Mayor Catherine Pugh has nominated Joel Fitzgerald of the Fort Worth Police Department in Texas to be Baltimore's next top cop. The nomination starts the clock on what is roughly a two-month public interview process, and then Fitzgerald must be approved by the Baltimore City Council.

Fitzgerald has said he intends to "develop the type of rapport and relations necessary" to move Baltimore in a new direction. Pugh has said he is the person "best suited to lead the way forward."

House and Senate negotiators are reportedly close to finalizing a framework on a farm bill compromise in hopes it will pass both chambers of Congress and be on the president's desk by the end of the year.

According to a spokesperson for Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., House and Senate committee staff worked through the weekend and again on Monday "exchanging offers daily" as last details are being ironed out.

It's a political puzzle that frustrates Democrats — in two states where Donald Trump is deeply unpopular, two incumbent GOP governors have remained consistently popular.

Maryland and Massachusetts are places where Trump has his lowest approval ratings in the country — 35 percent. Yet, the Republican governors in those states have approval ratings near 70 percent.

Updated at 10:15 p.m. ET

President Trump traveled to Pittsburgh Tuesday, to pay tribute to the victims of a weekend massacre that claimed the lives of 11 worshipers at a synagogue. It also came on the same day mourners began to bury loved ones and demonstrators took to the streets to protest Trump's presence.

With a deadline looming and pressure on lawmakers escalating, a large bipartisan, bicameral conference committee gathered on Capitol Hill Wednesday for the first formal negotiations of the Farm Bill.

Many on the committee — which includes a whopping 56 conferees — reiterated that it is imperative that work on the new Farm Bill be completed this month — before the current one expires on Sept. 30.

But the biggest sticking point between the competing House and Senate bills has to do with changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, often called food stamps.

For the first time in what historians say could be centuries, hemp has been grown and harvested at Mount Vernon, George Washington's historic estate.

In the 1760s, Washington predicted that hemp could be a more profitable crop than tobacco and grew it across his farm. At the time, hemp was abundant in Virginia and elsewhere in the U.S.

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson is accusing tech behemoth Facebook of engaging in housing discrimination, according to a complaint filed on Friday.

In it, HUD says the social media giant allows landlords and home sellers access to advertising tools that limit which prospective buyers or tenants can view certain online ads based on race, religion, sex, disability and other characteristics.

Ben Carson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development, proposed on Monday new changes to an Obama-era rule aimed at combating segregation in housing policy.

Carson wants the rule to focus more on reducing the regulatory burdens of local jurisdictions and on giving them more control, while encouraging actions that bolster housing choice and increase housing supply.

Top Maryland lawmakers announced Friday they were informed by the FBI about links between a Russian oligarch and the software company that services parts of the state's voter registration systems.

Officials said there is no evidence of a breach in the system, but wanted to keep the public informed. State officials said the connections were alarming enough to ask the state's attorney general to review the contract Maryland has with the company.

When Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson was crafting his rent reform proposal for Americans living on housing assistance earlier this year, he spoke to leaders at the Charlotte Housing Authority in North Carolina about their work requirements.

The "Making Affordable Housing Work Act" would allow housing authorities more flexibility to impose work requirements on tenants, which Carson said helps promote self-sufficiency.

By a razor-thin margin, the House of Representatives passed its version of the farm bill Thursday as Republican leadership was able to round up just enough support from members of its conservative wing to clear passage.

The GOP-backed measure, which covers farm and food policy legislation, passed 213-211.

The $867 billion package renews the safety net for farmers across the country, but also includes tougher work requirements for recipients of the Supplemental Nutrition Program or SNAP, formerly known as food stamps.

Three months ago the students from South Florida established themselves as a potent force in the gun debate with the March For Our Lives rally. This summer they're hitting the road with a new mission: turn the wave of young activism they helped spark into an energized voting bloc for the November mid-term elections.

At the annual end-of-year peace march in Chicago, organized by St. Sabina Catholic Church, Grammy-winners Chance the Rapper and Jennifer Hudson, along with former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, joined the Parkland survivors to launch a bus tour called Road to Change.

Comedian Dave Chappelle was the star attraction at a campaign event in suburban Washington on Friday, where he took part in a rally for longtime friend and Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ben Jealous.

"So you know, I'm out of my element," the stand-up comic told an enthusiastic crowd at Olde Towne Inn in Largo, Md., a short drive from Washington, D.C. "You know politics has never been my thing."

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