By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News, including coronavirus information:
Led Zeppelin Decision
In an en banc opinion in the Led Zeppelin copyright case, the Ninth Circuit affirmed the district court's judgement after a 2016 jury trial, and overturned a 2018 ruling by three Ninth Circuit judges. At issue was whether the intro to "Stairway to Heaven" infringed the 1968 instrumental song called "Taurus" by the band Spirit. The court found for Led Zeppelin, finding that the copyright to the plaintiff's song was limited to a bare-bones version of sheet music. The decision also rejects the "inverse ratio rule," a precedent that has governed copyright cases in the Ninth Circuit for the last 43 years. The rule, not adopted in other circuits, held that the more access was shown, the less similarity was required to establish infringement, a thorn in the side of defendants. The ruling is also a significant win for the music industry, which has felt itself fighting a losing battle against frivolous copyright suits since the "Blurred Lines" trial in 2015. In overturning the rule, the appeals court noted that the idea of "access" has become diluted in the digital age, as millions of works are readily available on Netflix, YouTube, and Spotify. The court also held that the rule has the effect of establishing a lower burden of proof for infringement of popular works. The decision is available here: Led Zeppelin Opinion.pdf
Harassment Allegations Against Domingo Over 33 Years Are Found 'Credible'
An investigation commissioned by the Los Angeles Opera into sexual harassment allegations against Placido Domingo has found that the legendary tenor engaged in "inappropriate conduct" with multiple women over the three decades he held senior positions as the company, which he helped found and later led. Investigators say 10 women accused the star of engaging in inappropriate conduct between 1986 and 2019 and have deemed the allegations credible. The six-month investigation, conducted by outside lawyers, also found "no evidence that LA Opera ever ignored, failed to address, or covered up sexual harassment complaints."
New Charges Say R. Kelly Exposed Sex Partners to Herpes Knowingly
R. Kelly faces new indictment for knowingly exposing partners to herpes. Kelly, who is facing several federal charges for allegedly sexually abusing women and underage girls, is now also being prosecuted for knowingly exposing two women to the infectious venereal disease. The new allegations are part of a nine-count indictment, adding to a case against Kelly that was first announced last summer. He remains in custody in Chicago, where he faces additional charges in a trial that has since been delayed, as new allegations have surfaced involving the discovery of hidden electronics. He is scheduled to face trial in Brooklyn this July.
As Reports Emerged, Weinstein Made Desperate Appeals to Influential Friends
A new report has revealed that Weinstein attempted to court help from influential people after the sexual abuse allegations emerged in 2017, including Michael Bloomberg, Jeff Bezos, and Tim Cook. Weinstein had his sights set on a comeback instead of being fired outright by the Weinstein Company. The documents paint a desperate, last-ditch effort to portray Weinstein as a sympathetic figure, through promising to attend a counseling program for sex addicts, alluding to childhood sexual abuse to a gossip columnist, and penning a letter that he was suicidal. He aimed to win the support of nearly every powerful media executive, including the vice chairman of NBC Universal and the chief content officer of Netflix. Weinstein also sought advice from Anita Dunn, the top adviser to Joe Biden's presidential campaign and long-time Democratic strategist, after the reports were published.
In Defining #MeToo Case, 23 Years for Weinstein
Harvey Weinstein, who was convicted of rape in a landmark #MeToo trial, remained defiant as he was sentenced to 23 years in prison Wednesday. The sentencing was a seminal moment for the movement, which sparked a worldwide reckoning on sexual assault and harassment more than two years ago. Weinstein said ahead of his sentencing that he was worried about the movement's implication for men and due process.
Dark Spirits as the Lights Go Out on Broadway
Broadway theatres went dark on March 12th by order of Governor Andrew Cuomo. Performances are to resume during the week of April 13th. The announcement came as venues and performing arts organizations around New York City and the country announced closures of their own amid rising concerns about the global coronavirus pandemic. This is the first time Broadway theatres are dark for a prolonged period since the stagehand strike of 2007, when theaters shuttered for 19 days.
Opera Losses from Tickets Pose Threat
The Metropolitan Opera (the Met), the largest performing arts group within the nation, will lose tens of millions of dollars in ticket revenues. The wave of coronavirus closures threatens not simply the Met, but additionally different nonprofit cultural establishments in New York, even the largest and oldest of which aren't essentially steady. With all of these organizations depending on philanthropy, many are watching the latest downturn within the inventory market warily, wondering how it will affect their donors.
Music Festival in California is Postponed
Coachella, one of the world's biggest music festivals, has been postponed due to the coronavirus outbreak. The festival was set to take place next month in the California desert. The event's organizer Goldenvoice has now postponed it until October, at the request of local health authorities. They hope to feature most of the same acts that were originally slated for April. Stagecoach, a country music festival organized by the same company, has also been moved from April to October.
Philadelphia Museum of Art is in #MeToo Reset Mode
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of America's oldest and most esteemed museums, is in turmoil over its handling of a former manager accused of misconduct, but is trying to heal wounds and make changes. Complaints that a manager, Joshua Helmer, had made advances toward multiple female employees during his tenure and that museum officials failed to respond to the women appropriately, have led to weeks of reckoning between the institution and its staff. Helmer's quiet resignation in 2018 seems to have done little to quell staff frustration. More than 400 current and former staff members have signed a letter calling for greater accountability and structural change at the museum.
Museum Director to Lead Cultural Affairs Department
Gonzalo Casals, Director of Leslie-Lohman Museum, was named next Commissioner of Cultural Affairs for New York City. Casals was appointed a little less than five months after Tom Finkelpearl unexpectedly announced his resignation. Casals said that he plans to continue the city's CreateNYC cultural plan to work "collaboratively with the many different cultural organizations across the city to make sure they have the tools to fulfill their missions and serve New Yorkers and create a blueprint for the world of what it looks like to have equitable, inclusive, and diverse practices when we talk about cultural production."
The Sports World Grinds to a Halt Amid Concern Over the Coronavirus Pandemic
Sports leagues are ceasing competition, including all four major and active U.S. leagues. The past days of reckoning throughout sports is "unprecedented." The element of uncertainty about COVID-19 -- as well as the potential severity of it -- makes this unprecedented. The National Basketball Association (NBA) has suspended its season indefinitely after a Utah Jazz player tested positive. The National Hockey League (NHL) has suspended its regular season, and the Canadian Hockey League also said that it was suspending play in all three of its regional leagues. Major League Soccer (MLS) has suspended all games for 30 days as well the United Soccer League. Major League Baseball (MLB) has announced that it is delaying opening day by at least two weeks and canceling spring training. The NCAA canceled its March Madness basketball tournaments, FIFA has postponed the South American qualifying matches for the 2022 Qatar World Cup, the 2020 Masters golf tournament has been postponed, La Liga soccer matches have been suspended for at least two weeks, all soccer matches in England have been suspended, and the Boston Marathon has been postponed until September.
U.S. Soccer Chief is Out After Uproar Over Pay Suit
Carlos Cordeiro, who successfully spearheaded a complicated three-country bid to bring the World Cup back to North America in 2026, resigned as president of the U.S. Soccer Federation late Thursday after failing to quell a furor over arguments made in legal filing for a gender discrimination lawsuit brought by the U.S. Women's National Team.
The U.S. women's team has not lost a game at all in 14 months and is a heavy favorite to regain its Olympic title in Tokyo this summer. Yet off the field, the interests of the women's team, which last year sued U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination, and the federation continue to diverge. Two weeks ago, in court filings in California, the team set $67 million as the price for settling its lawsuit. At the time, Cordeiro said that the women had refused to even discuss a proposed multimillion-dollar settlement unless U.S. Soccer first pledged to make up the difference in payouts for the men's and women's World Cups moving forward.
27 Charged in Expansive Horse-Doping Scheme
Federal prosecutors have charged 27 racehorse trainers, veterinarians, and drug distributors in a series of indictments for doping horses, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York announced. Jason Servis, the trainer of Maximum Security, was among those charged.
Player Accuses Union of Dealing in Bad Faith
National Football League (NFL) player Russel Okung, an outspoken opponent of the NFL's proposed collective bargaining agreement (CBA), has filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board, accusing NFL Players Association (NFLPA) staff of "bad faith" in CBA negotiations, just days before the players' vote. The three-page filing accuses the NFLPA staff, including executive director DeMaurice Smith, of forcing a vote on the deal over the objections of the executive committee in violation of the NFLPA's constitution. Okung also asserts that the union's leadership tried to silence him about the "lack of transparency with the executive committee about the negotiations with NFL owners."
Women's National Basketball Association Star Helps Overturn Conviction
Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA) star Maya Moore helped to have a Missouri inmate's conviction overturned. Moore helped 39-year-old Jonathan Irons have his initial conviction overturned after he served 22 years of a 50-year sentence, following a conviction of burglary and assault against a homeowner with a gun.
Some National Basketball Association Stars and Owners Vow to Pay Lost Wages of Arena Workers
With the season suspended for at least 30 days because of the coronavirus, lower-paid workers at the NBA's arenas are getting help from their famous colleagues. Many arena workers are facing dire financial challenges with events cancelled for the near future. Fortunately, some organizations and generous players have stepped up to help arena workers feel secure during this uncertain time, with some players pledging thousands of dollars to help the people who assist in making their games possible.
Women's Battle for Visibility and Equality Is Stalled by Pandemic
Female athletes already fight for money, screen time, and other resources. Work stoppages over coronavirus concerns threaten opportunities to move forward. This was set to be a groundbreaking year for women's sports, with the U.S. women's national soccer team using its governing body, the WNBA and its players' union agreeing on a collective bargaining agreement, the Women's Tennis Association awarded record-breaking prize money, and the National Women's Hockey League increased its schedule to 24 games, as well as new sponsors and owners. However, the coronavirus has caused game-by-game cancellations.
For Many, a Cancelled Season Means the End of a Collegiate Career
Winter and Spring sports were called to an end on Thursday by the NCAA in response to the outbreak. The end was abrupt for the college athletes. For some, it meant the end of their playing careers. The NCCA on Friday suggested that spring sports athletes may get an additional year of eligibility, but that may not matter for many college athletes. For baseball players, the majority of whom are on partial scholarships, it could be too expensive to play another season. For the majority of college athletes who do not harbor professional ambitions, it may be time to get on with the working life.
Italy Mandates Mass Closures to Curb Virus
Schools have been closed, sports events cancelled, and cultural institutions shut around the world as countries try to stem the coronavirus outbreak. All forthcoming fixtures in Europe's top football contests the Champions and Europa leagues have been postponed. Italy has closed all schools and universities, cinemas and theatres.
Misinformation Surge on Coronavirus Stumps Facebook and Twitter
Facebook, Google, and Twitter said they were removing misinformation about the coronavirus as fast as they could find it. Secret labs. Magic cures. Government plots. Despite efforts by social media companies to stop it, false information about the coronavirus is proliferating around the world.
Doctored Biden Video Causes Twitter Uproar
After the White House social media director tweeted out a dubious video of Biden and President Trump retweeted it, Twitter flagged it for being dishonest. This is the first time Twitter has used the "manipulated media" label, putting its new misinformation policy to use. According to Twitter's synthetic and manipulated media policy, which was enacted on March 5th, users "may not deceptively share synthetic or manipulated media that are likely to cause harm." The content will be labeled as such and people will receive a warning before they share or like the content, the visibility of the content will be limited and there will be a link provided for clarity from resources provided by Twitter Moments.
To Doctors, It's a Crisis. To Hannity, It's a Hoax
Ove the past several weeks, top host and personalities on the conservative cable news network downplayed concerns about the virus, baselessly accusing credible news organizations of overhyping the crisis to hurt Trump politically. That's not to say some of the coverage on Fox News was not straightforward. Some personalities have taken the situation seriously from the start, but a significant part of Fox News' coverage has been aimed toward framing the response to coronavirus as unwarranted hysteria. This is particularly notable, given that their viewers skew older and are the most vulnerable to the disease. The remarks from the hosts also raise concern, given how much influence figures like Hannity wield over Trump.
Fox Business Sidelines Anchor Who Equated Virus to Impeachment
Fox Business anchor Trish Regan's show is on hiatus after she claimed that Democrats and the media were using the coronavirus to "destroy the president." The hiatus also extends to Lisa "Kennedy" Montgomery's show. The network says that the changes are related to staffing needs. Both shows are on hiatus until further notice. Fox Business will run long form programming in prime time for the foreseeable future.
As China Tries to stifle Coverage, Journalists Do Exposes
The Communist Party is trying to fill the airwaves with positive stories about its battle against the virus as Chinese reporters, buoyed by widespread calls for free speech, are resisting. The Chinese government, eager to claim victory in what China's leader, Xi Jinping, has described as a "people's war" against the virus, is leading a sweeping campaign to purge the public sphere of dissent, censoring news reports, harassing citizen journalists and shutting down news sites. However, journalists are publishing hard-hitting exposes describing government cover-ups and failures in the health care system. They are calling for press freedom and using social media to draw attention to injustice and abuse, circumventing an onslaught of propaganda orders.
Russia Trying to Incite Racial Violence, Experts Say
Russian intelligence operatives are ramping up efforts to stoke racial tensions in the U.S. ahead of the 2020 election by attempting to incite violence by white supremacist groups. Russia worked to stoke anger among black activists and voters during the 2016 election, former special counsel Robert Mueller concluded, but now they is escalating its efforts by working to influence neo-Nazi groups. Federal investigators are now probing how at least one of these groups is funded. The effort comes as public-facing propaganda efforts, like those by the state-backed news outlet RT, repeatedly highlight racial divisions in the U.S., often using these outlets to amplify stories about police violence and racism.
Markets Spiral as Globe Shudders Over Virus
The fast-spreading coronavirus and a plunge in oil prices set off a chain reaction in financial markets on last Monday, a self-perpetuating downward cycle that could inflict serious harm on the global economy. The virus-related turmoil has continued to deepen over the past few weeks, sending stock markets around the globe plummeting. The crisis deteriorated even further after the World Health Organization said that the virus spread was now a pandemic, while the U.S. government remained unable to detail any stimulus measures to combat the economic fallout.
Trump Tests Negative and Remains Symptom Free, White House Physician Says
On Saturday, the White House declared that President Trump had tested negative for the novel coronavirus. An official memo from the president's physician confirmed that he "remains symptom-free...one week after having dinner with the Brazilian delegation in Mar-a-Lago." The White House said the CDC categorized the interactions as having a low risk for transmission and did not require quarantine. His doctor said he did not need to self-quarantine. The White House also announced on Saturday that it is conducting temperature checks on anyone who has come in close contact with the president or Vice President Mike Pence.
Supreme Court Will Weigh Role of Incorrigibility in Sentencing of Young Offenders
The Supreme Court will weigh limits to juvenile life sentences. It granted certiorari to a Mississippi case that looks at the constitutional limits of sentencing juvenile offenders to life in prison without parole. At issue is whether handing down these sentences absent a finding that the defendant is incapable of rehabilitation violates the Constitution. The defendant, Brett Jones, received a life sentence without parole for murdering his grandfather with a kitchen knife during a domestic dispute. Jones, who was then 15, claimed to have acted in self-defense. Mississippi is among four states that allow juveniles to receive life without parole sentences without finding that the defendant is incapable of rehabilitation, or what the law calls "permanent incorrigibility."
Justices Revive Trump's Migrant Program
The Supreme Court said that the Trump administration can continue its practice of returning asylum-seekers to Mexico along the entire southern border while immigration authorities process their claims. The policy, known as the Migrant Protection Protocols, or "Remain in Mexico," was launched in January 2019. In a brief, unsigned order, the Court said that enforcement can continue while the Justices decide whether to hear an appeal of lower court rulings that declared the program illegal. Only Justice Sotomayor said that she would have denied permission. During the 13 months when it was fully operational, the Department of Homeland Security returned more than 60,000 immigrants to Mexico while they awaited word on their asylum applications.
U.S. Lawmakers Balk Over Secret Benchmarks Within Taliban Peace Accord
There ae two classified annexes to the Afghan peace accord with the Taliban that set the criteria for a critical element of the agreement: What constitutes enough "peace" for the U.S. to withdraw its forces? The Taliban have read the annexes, and the Trump administration insists that the secret documents must remain secret, but lawmakers are skeptical. Some lawmakers have openly expressed frustration with the lack of a mechanism for verifying compliance that was promised. At the core of the document is a timeline for what should happen over the next 18 months, what kinds of attacks are prohibited by both sides, and most importantly, how the U.S. will share information about its troop locations with the Taliban. The State Department has struggled to explain why the criteria for the terms, standards, and thresholds for the American withdrawal could be known to the adversary, but not to the American people or its allies.
Security Officials Temper Reports of Russian Meddling
Intelligence officials told lawmakers behind closed doors that Russia was not directly supporting any candidates as it tried to interfere in the presidential race, an assertion that contradicted an earlier briefing and prompted accusations from Democrats that the Trump administration was politicizing intelligence. Speaker Nancy Pelosi challenged officials, saying that their assertions differed from a classified hearing last month. The previous briefing drew angry responses from House Republicans.
Talks Underway on Stimulus Plan to Weather Virus
The White House is floating a possible payroll tax cut in conversations with lawmakers as part of a broader economic response to a coronavirus pandemic and has prompted experts to sound alarms about a possible recession. Analysts are warning that such a measure would mean little to low-wage workers and unemployed Americans and could further erode the financial footing of entitlement programs, such as Social Security. Reports surfaced that President Trump had pitched Republican lawmakers on implementing a 0% payroll tax rate at least through the end of the year -- and possibly permanently. According to the Tax Foundation, such a payroll tax policy would cost the government more than $900 billion to implement from April through December, which could pull resources away from Social Security or strain other programs or deepen federal deficits. The White House has stressed that it is working on an economic response that would support hourly workers who may not have access to paid leave, but critics have cast the proposed cut as business-friendly but not necessarily or immediately helpful to consumers.
Worst Rout for Wall Street Since 1987 Crash
The escalating coronavirus emergency sent the stock market Thursday into its worst slide since the Black Monday crash of 1987, extending a sell-off that has now wiped out most of Wall Street's big gains since President Trump took office. The S&P plummeted 9.5% for a total drop of 26.7% from its all-time high, set just last month. That puts it way over the 20% threshold for a bear market, officially ending Wall Street's unprecedented bull-market urn of nearly 11 years. The Dow Jones sank 2,352 points, or 10%. European markets fell 12% in one of their worst days ever.
Financial Toll Could Range into Billions
The Federal Reserve slashed interest rates to zero percent and announced it would purchase $700 billion in bonds and securities to stabilize financial markets and support the economy. The sudden rate cut and push to flood the Treasury bond market with liquidity comes as the coronavirus pandemic forces businesses across the U.S. and world to shutter, likely plunging the global economy into a recession.
U.S. Emergency Declared; Aid Deal is Reached
The House approved legislation early Saturday to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially, and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic. President Trump declared the outbreak a national emergency on Friday, freeing up money and resources to fight it, then threw his support behind the congressional aid package. Trump also announced a range of executive actions, including a new public-private partnership to extend coronavirus testing capabilities with drive-through locations, as Washington tries to subdue the new virus whose spread is roiling markets, shuttering institutions and disrupting the lives of everyday Americans.
Trump Unveils Google Project That is Still Incomplete
Google's life sciences sister company, Verily, appears to have rushed to unveil a website for coronavirus testing after a botched announcement from President Trump. The Project Baseline site offers information about COVID-19 and a process for people worried about their risks to schedule tests. As of Sunday night, the site appeared to be half-finished. Verily said over the weekend that the project was in the early phase of development.
U.S. Must Enhance Strategy on Cyberspace, Study Finds
The latest study into the countries with the best, and worse, cybersecurity by research organization Comparitech, has ranked the U.S. as only the 17th most cyber-secure country on the planet, dropping from its previous ranking of 5th. The U.S. dropped 12 places, "largely because other countries showed greater improvements and moved ahead." Malware infection rates are fairly high in the U.S.. In addition, many of the world's telnet attacks originate here. This dramatic drop in the cybersecurity strength appears to be a cause for concern because the U.S. is a very high-profile cyber-target.
Secretive Strike by Microsoft Takes Down Russian Botnet
Microsoft organized 35 nations to take down one of the world's largest botnets -- malware that secretly seizes control of millions of computers -- around the globe. It was an unusual disruption of an Internet criminal group because it wasn't carried out by a government, but a company. Eight years in the making, it was aimed at a criminal group called Necurs, believed to be based in Russia. The group infected 9 million computers worldwide.
House Can See Evidence of Mueller Grand Jury, an Appeals Court Rules
The House of Representatives has won access to secret grand jury material gathered in former special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation, pursuant to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The ruling may breathe new life into a House Judiciary Committee investigation into President Trump for obstruction of justice, which failed to gain steam since the White House blocked administration witnesses from appearing before Congress. The appeals panel sided with an earlier ruling from the chief judge of the D.C. District Court, who criticized the Justice Department's legal theories to keep the Mueller materials under seal. The decision was split 2-1 and highlights how the judicial branch typically stays away from interfering with other government branches' activities, but in this case asserted control over grand jury material.
Citing Pandemic, Trump Will Restrict Travel
President Trump announced a ban on travel from most of Europe to the United States for 30 days on Wednesday, marking one of the federal government's most sweeping measures yet ot contain the rapidly spreading coronavirus. The ban began Friday at midnight and he also announced a series of economic relief plans, including low-interest loans for affected small businesses and called on Congress to provide "immediate payroll tax relief."
Pentagon Revisits Contract Amazon Said Trump Blocked
The Pentagon said that it hopes to reevaluate its decision to award a $10 billion cloud-computing contract to Microsoft over Amazon. The surprising announcement is only the latest twist in a years-long saga over the lucrative contract and could signal a potential victory for Amazon, which is suing to halt or overhaul the contact after it was awarded last year. Amazon claims that the process was improperly influenced by Trump, who publicly and privately indicated that he did not want the contract to go to Amazon, which is owned by a frequent target of the president's criticism, Jeff Bezos.
Cuomo and de Blasio Take Drastic Measures as Virus Cases Rise Sharply
New York officials instituted a drastic set of measures to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, placing an indefinite ban on most gatherings of more than 500 people, leading to the shuttering of Broadway shows and sharply impacting how New Yorkers work, eat and worship. The restrictions came as the number of infections in the state tripled since Sunday, with dozens of new cases in NYC, where millions of residents typically rub shoulders with millions of visitors. Shortly after the governor spoke, Mayor de Blasio declared a state of emergency in the city, which has nearly 100 cases of the virus.
Acting Intelligence Chief is Looking into Cuts to Personnel and Missions
The acting director of national intelligence imposed a hiring freeze and ordered a review of the agency's personnel and missions in an effort that some intelligence officers viewed as politically motivated. Senior officials have denied the charge. Officials questioned why Richard Grenell, in the job temporarily, would undertake a large-scale reorganization, particularly one that previous directors had considered but put aside.
Senate Rejects DeVos Rule Limiting Debt Relief for Defrauded Students
Ten Republican senators broke with the Trump administration and joined with Democrats on a 53-42 vote to overturn Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' rewrite of the Obama-era "borrower defense" rule, which governs debt relief for students whose colleges engaged in misconduct. It now heads to the President's desk. The White House has threatened a veto of the legislation, which did not garner a veto-proof majority in either chamber. Trump has been quoted as saying he has a "neutral position" on the matter. Senators worry that this new rule may have unintended consequences in efforts to hold fraudulent colleges accountable and protect student loan borrowers. The Education Department estimates that its stricter rules will reduce loan forgiveness by hundreds of millions of dollars each year, saving taxpayers more than $11 billion over the next decade.
House Backs New Privacy Protections as It Preserves Surveillance Tools
Attorney General William Barr has announced his support of the House's renewal of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), stating that "the bill contains an array of new requirements and compliance provisions that will protect against abuse and misuse in the future while ensuring that this critical tool is available when appropriate to protect the safety of the American people. Agreement on the latest version of the House bill came at the eleventh hour, as the current iteration of the law is set to expire this month. The reauthorization of the bill would extend three expiring provisions of the USA Freedom Act that encompass roving wiretaps, "lone wolf" surveillance, and a controversial program that allows the U.S. government to request access to phone metadata. The bill also introduces new privacy protections.
Full Appeals Court to Decide if Congress Can Sue Executive Branch
The entire federal appeals court in Washington said on Friday that it would take up two cases that raised the question of whether and when Congress may sue to resolve a dispute with the president setting up a double-barreled test for establishing when the judicial branch can resolve disputes over separation of powers. The court said that it would rehear a case involving a House Judiciary committee subpoena to Donald F. McGahn II, Trump's former White House counsel, vacating a 2-1 panel ruling last month that Congress could not sue to enforce its subpoenas of executive branch officials. The second case is the one that House Democrats brought against Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, challenging the administration's use of emergency powers and other extraordinary measures to spend more taxpayer funds on Trump's border wall with Mexico than Congress had been willing to appropriate.
Religious Freedom Training by Justice Department Raises Red Flag for Lawyers
The Justice Department last week hosted training for its lawyers on religious liberty laws as part of Attorney General Barr's push to prioritize religious freedom cases, but the workshops prompted concern among some career lawyers that they were being educated on ways to blunt civil rights protections for gay and transgender people. Lawyers who worked at the Department during the past three administrations could not recall a similar week of training sessions on any topic that were open to all employees, regardless of in which section they worked. A Departent of Justice spokesman said that the trainings were in no way meant to marginalize gay, lesbian, and transgender people or to promote discrimination in any way. Vanita Gupta, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and the former head of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division, accused Barr of using the Justice Department to promote his religious beliefs.
Transgender Teenagers Brace for Flurry of Bills Set to Curb Their Rights
Lawmakers have introduced a number of measures this year, from criminalizing those who prescribe hormone therapy to transgender youth to banning transgender athletes from sports teams. Lawmakers in more than two dozen states across the country have introduced measures that would chip away at transgender rights. Republican lawmakers who support the measures said that they were trying to protect children and also keep an accurate demographic count of state residents. However, the legislative push has fueled a divisive debate across the country over parental rights and government interference.
How the Trump Campaign Took Over the G.O.P.
President Trump's campaign manager and a circle of allies have seized control of the Republican Party's voter data and fund-raising apparatus, using a network of private businesses whose operations and ownership are cloaked in secrecy, largely exempt from federal disclosure. Since 2017, businesses associated with the group have billed roughly $75 million to the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and a range of other Republican clients. Now, by commanding the party's repository of voter data and creating a powerful pipeline for small donations, the Trump campaign and key party officials have made it increasingly difficult for Republicans to mount modern, digital campaigns without the president's support.
New Data Rules Empower Patients, But Risk Privacy
In a move intended to give Americans greater control over their medical information, the Trump administration has announced broad new rules that will allow people for the first time to use apps of their choice to retrieve data, like their blood test results, directly from their health providers. The health department's technology coordinator has said the new rules will take patient privacy into account. When patients initiate the data-sharing process with apps, their providers will be able to inform them about privacy risks. Yet even federal health regulators acknowledge the privacy risks. Prominent organizations like the American Medical Association have warned that, without accompanying federal safeguards, the new rules could expose people who share their diagnoses and other intimate medical details with consumer apps to serious data abuses.
Gates Leaving Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway Boards
In a press release Friday, Microsoft announced that its 64-year-old co-founder was leaving its board to "dedicate more time to his philanthropic priorities. Gates will continue serving as technology adviser to Nadella, Microsoft's CEO, and other Microsoft leaders. Separately in an SEC filing, Berkshire Hathaway said former American Express CEO Kenneth Chenault would replace Gates, who has served on Berkshire's board since 2004. Chenault is simultaneously leaving Facebook's board of directors. Gates plans to use his free time to do more work to tackle climate change, according to the company.
In New York, Hospitals Cancel Surgeries and Ask Retired Nurses to Return
Two of the biggest hospital systems in the Northeast -- NYC's Health and Hospitals Corporation and New York Presbyterian Hospital -- plan to cancel nonemergency surgeries. NYU Langone Medical Center's Tisch Hospital turned a pediatric emergency room into a respiratory ward for adults. Northwell Health, which has a sprawling network of hospitals, is asking retired nurses to return to work. NYC's hospitals, widely considered among the best in the world, may still be moving too slowly to get ready for a coronavirus outbreak that has already overwhelmed other countries and now taking root in the New York region.
Italy Puts the Whole Country on Travel Limits Like China's
Italy is now restricting travel across the entire country, an unprecedented move by the government as it furiously tries to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Italy is the epicenter of the outbreak in Europe and the country is struggling to contain the virus. At least 450 people have died, as the number of cases has surpassed 9,000. The travel ban covers more than 60 million people and effectively bans all personal travel that isn't for essential work, or for health or family emergencies. All public gatherings, including weddings and funerals, are banned and sport events are suspended. Last week, all schools were closed until March 15th. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has now said that the order would be extended to include almost a full month, until April 3rd.
Social Safety Net in Europe Eases Quarantine's Toll
The coronavirus has spread to every country in the European Union, and concern there is at least as high has it is here. However, Europeans don't have to worry about the cost of testing and treatment. Unlike the U.S., European countries like France have health care systems that cover everyone.
Europe Locks Up and Faces Crisis as Virus Spreads
Some of the world's top experts tracking the spread of the novel coronavirus predict that in a matter of weeks, much of Europe could be facing a surge in cases similar to the one that has locked down Italy, overwhelmed its hospitals in the north and brought the country of 60 million to a standstill. Mathematical models show a sharp trajectory of infections in Spain, Germany, France and Britain. Spain declared a state of emergency Friday. Epidemiologists say that decisive action is required to change the rate of infection and "flatten the curve."
Vladimir Putin Goes Bold in a Plan to Extend His Tenure
Last Tuesday, Vladimir Putin endorsed a proposal, more brazen and simpler than obscure constitutional changes -- resetting the Constitution's term-limit clock to zero. Putin's fourth term as president of Russia is set to end in 2024. The effort to reset his term limit would allow him to run for another six-year term in 2024 and again in 2030. If he remains in power until 2036, Putin will have served as president for 32 years. As for whether he should be allowed to run again, Putin said Russia's Constitutional Court should rule on the question, and there is little doubt it would defy him.
Mexico's Women Vanish from Streets to Demand Protection and Respect
A coalition of activists urged Mexico's women to stay home last Monday, hoping that their massive absence would finally open the nation's eyes to escalating gender-based violence. The national strike comes with a growing number of femicides in Mexico and increasing hostilities toward women-led movements. Femicides across Mexico rose almost 10% in 2019, compared with 2018, according to government data. A total of 1,006 killings were officially classified as femicides, based on a variety of criteria, including whether the victim's body showed any signs of sexual violence and whether there had been a "sentimental" relationship between the victim and the killer. Activists hoped that if enough women skipped work, stayed off social media, and avoided any purchases for 24 hours, the economic damage will be enough to demand a government response. The strike was reminiscent of the "a day without a Mexican" or "a day without an immigrant" protests in California.
Slaughter by Poachers Leaves Single White Giraffe in Kenya
Kenya's only female white giraffe and her calf were killed by poachers in a major blow to conservation of the rare animals found nowhere else in the world. Their deaths left one surviving white giraffe, a lone male borne by the same slaughtered female. The killing is a blow to conservation efforts and a wakeup call for continued support.