By Chantelle A. Gyamfi Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media, and General News:
How Taylor Swift Dragged Private Equity into Her Fight Over Music Rights
In an open letter posted to social media, the pop megastar had implored her fans to intervene in a music industry dispute. The new owners of her former record company, she said, were trying to prevent her from playing her old hits at the American Music Awards. Swift asked her followers to tell Scooter Braun, the top music manager who now controlled her music catalog, how they felt. She added that she was "especially asking for help" from the Carlyle Group, which had backed Braun's deal for the label, Big Machine. The callout prompted the Carlyle Group, an investor in her catalog, to step in and encourage talks between Swift and Braun.
Now R. Kelly's "Girlfriend" Says He Abused Her Too
Over the past year, as the singer R. Kelly was accused of emotionally abusing women and having sex with underage girls, his two live-in girlfriends came out repeatedly to support him, speaking in his defense on national television and appearing in court, seated on the benches behind him. Now, one of those women is saying that she was a victim, too. In a series of posts on the subscription website Patreon, Joycelyn Savage described treatment at Kelly's hands that was strikingly similar to other accusations against him: He controlled when she ate, bathed, and used the bathroom. He decided with whom she could speak. Once, when she didn't address him as "Daddy" or "Master," she said, he choked her until she blacked out. The website Patreon has since deleted the posts published under Joycelyn Savage's name, saying that it could not verify that they were written by her.
Jay-Z Sues "Little Homie" Over Book
Two years ago, a children's alphabet book titled A B to Jay-Z was released by a small Australian online retailer. The book sold out within days, but it also drew criticism on social media as a particularly cringe-worthy example of cultural appropriation. The book, the creation of a company calling itself the Little Homie, featured likenesses of hip-hop artists in the hope of inspiring, as the retailer put it, "the next generation of hood rats." It also borrowed from famous lyrics, including one of Jay-Z's: "If you're having alphabet problems I feel bad for you son, I got 99 problems but my ABCs ain't one." The Little Homie says that it is celebrating hip-hop. Jay-Z, who has spoken out about black identity and equality, claims that it is engaging in theft.
Hip-Hop Legend Avoids Prison in Case Out of the Past
Nearly two decades ago, hip-hop legend Eric Barrier of Eric B. and Rakim was facing criminal charges arising from a traffic stop that had escalated. Eric B. had entered into a guilty plea in 2002 following a 2001 incident that began with his failing to pull his Range Rover over as directed by the police, court records show. It ended with a patrol car crashing into his vehicle to bring it to a halt. After pleading guilty to eluding arrest and aggravated assault, court records show that Barrier was to be sentenced that March. Prosecutors had agreed to recommend a 364-day jail term and probation. However, he did not appear for sentencing, purportedly because his then-attorney never advised him to do so, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He did not learn of the arrest warrant until 2019, when he was informed by law enforcement authorities in Vermont after coming back into the United States from Canada. When Barrier went to court to address the matter in October, sheriff's officers took him to the county jail, where he remained until he was freed on bail on November 12th. Barrier's current lawyer, Patrick Toscano, argued that his client should be spared jail or prison time while prosecutors argued for Barrier to serve the jail term he agreed to in 2002. The judge, James J. Guida, settled on a year's probation, with the option of a 90-day sentence if Barrier made any missteps.
StubHub Sold to Viagogo for Over $4 Billion
StubHub, founded in 2000 by Eric Baker and Jeff Fluhr, virtually created the market for the secure and trusted online sale of secondhand tickets. After a rift between the founders, Baker left StubHub and in 2006 created a rival company, Viagogo, which has become a strong presence in Europe. In 2007, eBay bought StubHub for $310 million, and Fluhr left the company. Now Baker is bringing the two together - the companies have announced that Viagogo, the smaller of the two, would acquire StubHub for $4.05 billion in a deal that would create a behemoth in the growing market for ticket resales.
Suicides by Two K-Pop Stars Prompt Soul-Searching in South Korea
The suicides by two of K-pop's most beloved stars - Sulli and Goo Hara - have left fans in South Korea soul-searching over what has gone wrong in K-pop, their country's most successful cultural export. Goo's death comes only six weeks after Sulli's death, both ladies having battled with depression, sexual harassment, and cyber bullying. Over 200,000 people have joined an online petition to the office of President Moon Jae-in asking for harsher punishment for sexual harassment since Goo's death was reported.
Two K-Pop Stars Sentenced to Prison for Rape
Two K-pop stars were sentenced to prison on Friday for raping women who were too drunk to consent to sex, and one of the men was also convicted of making videos of the assaults and sharing them with friends online. The Seoul Central District Court sentenced the singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young, who recorded and shared the videos, to six years in prison. His friend Choi Jong-hoon, a former boy band member, was sentenced to five years.
"Fearless Girl" Statue Controversy
The "Fearless Girl" statue that faces the New York Stock Exchange is at the center of a suit between the financial services firm that purchased the original, State Street Global Advisor, and a personal injury firm, Maurice Blackburn, that commissioned a copy of the "Fearless Girl" and installed it in Federation Square, a city landmark. State Street's lawyers, who are seeking unspecified damages, argued in court that the replicas were a trademark violation and diluted the company's message promoting female empowerment.
Silent Sam Statue Given to Confederate Group
Ever since protesters toppled a Confederate statue known as Silent Sam at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill last year, UNC has hidden the monument from view, stashing it in storage and refusing to disclose its location. After 15 months of hand-wringing over what to do with the statue, the university found a resolution: as part of a settlement with the North Carolina division of the Sons of Confederate Veterans -- a Confederate group that had sued over the statue's fate -- UNC handed Silent Sam over to the group and said it would fund a $2.5 million trust for its "care and preservation." Under the agreement, the group will have to keep the statue outside of any of the 14 counties with a UNC school.
The Nutcracker Gets Its First Black Marie
The ballet space is experiencing a much-needed cultural shift. First, Misty Copeland became the first female African-American principal at American Ballet Theater. Now, following in Misty's footsteps, Charlotte Nebres, a student at the School of American Ballet, is breaking a barrier herself: She is the first black Marie, the young heroine of "George Balanchine's The Nutcracker," at New York City Ballet. It's a milestone for the production, which dates to 1954. City Ballet, which takes most of its members from the School of American Ballet (SAB), its affiliate, is showing signs of change overall. Over the past seven years, 62 SAB students have become City Ballet apprentices; of those, 21 identify as nonwhite or mixed; and of those, 12 refer to themselves as black; four of those are women. That carries weight: Since the 1970s, City Ballet has largely had only one black female dancer at any given time.
Greg Young Publishing v. Zazzle - Case Update
A recent 9th Circuit decision in the Greg Young Publishing v. Zazzle talks about willfulness for copyright infringement, and finds that failure to change a company's policies can support a willfulness determination.
Read the decision here: https://cases.justia.com/federal/appellate-courts/ca9/18-55522/18-55522-2019-11-20.pdf?ts=1574283682
Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton to Buy Tiffany & Company
Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH), the world's largest luxury goods company, has agreed to buy Tiffany & Company in a $16.2 billion deal, the largest ever in the luxury sector. The acquisition will add another prominent American name to the LVMH stable of brands, which includes Dior, Givenchy, Fendi, and Dom Pérignon. The deal would help propel the French luxury company into a leadership position not only in traditional soft luxury goods like clothing and handbags, but also in what is known as the hard luxury sector, which includes watches and jewelry. The agreement with Tiffany's, known for its signature blue boxes and a prominent role in the Audrey Hepburn film "Breakfast at Tiffany's," is the second major investment in an American brand for LVMH this year since it created a new luxury house, Fenty, with Rihanna, the musician-actor-style setter.
Royal Jewels Stolen from German Museum
Thieves broke into a museum in the eastern German city of Dresden and made off with three collections of jewelry from the royal house of Saxony, made of gold and precious stones, that authorities said were of immeasurable historical and cultural value. The break-in took place in the Jewel Room, one of 10 rooms in the Royal Palace known as the Grünes Gewölbe, or Green Vault. The rooms hold a collection of 3,000 individual objects, gathered by August the Strong, an 18th-century ruler of the German state of Saxony, as well as of Poland and Lithuania. Marion Ackermann, general director of the consortium of museums known as the Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, of which the Green Vault was a part, called the brutal robbery "shocking".
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/11/25/world/europe/germany-museum-green-diamond.html?searchResultPosition=1 https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/11/25/world/europe/ap-eu-germany-treasure-stolen.html?searchResultPosition=3 https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2019/11/25/world/europe/ap-eu-europe-heists-of-the-past.html?searchResultPosition=4
German Museum Reopens After Heist
The Royal Palace museum in Dresden, Germany, has partially reopened to the public just two days after a brutal heist. All rooms except for the Green Vault have reopened, as the police continued to hunt for evidence to help track down the thieves. The police have appealed to the public for tips.
France Lags on Return of Looted African Treasures
A year ago this week, President Emmanuel Macron of France said that his country would give back 26 looted treasures to the African state of Benin. It was a bold statement by the leader of a former colonial power. In the report, two academics, Bénédicte Savoy and Felwine Sarr, recommended that objects removed in colonial times without the consent of their country of origin be permanently returned, if the country asks for them. However, 12 months later, there has been little progress made.
World Anti-Doping Agency Committee Recommends That Russia Face New Olympic Ban
A panel at the World Anti-Doping Agency has recommended that Russia face a four-year ban from global sports and new restrictions on its athletes and teams at next year's Tokyo Olympics. The proposed punishment comes after Russia received serious penalties and widespread scorn, for flagrantly circumventing rules designed to ensure fairness in sports. If the recommendation is approved by the organization's board next month, Russian athletes and teams would be barred from next year's Tokyo Olympics and from major events like soccer's World Cup and the world championships for archery, wrestling and other sports.
Inside Russia's Failed Doping Cover-Up
In the years since a whistle-blower implicated Russia in one of the most sophisticated doping schemes in sports history, the country has made repeated efforts to discredit him. Last year, Russian officials took that campaign one step further: They planted fabricated messages that they later claimed were written by the whistle-blower in a database that they had agreed to turn over to investigators from WADA. The effort appeared to have several goals, according to a report compiled by WADA's intelligence and investigations unit and obtained by The New York Times: to frame the whistle-blower as the ringleader in a scheme to extort athletes and coaches by threatening to manipulate doping samples; to provide cover for the manipulations of test results within the data set; and to help Russia avoid serious penalties from global antidoping regulators. The problem for Russia is that the investigators quickly uncovered the fabrications and the altered test results, and now Russian sports is facing its biggest crisis to date.
University Scrambling to Figure Out How to Distribute $137,000 Donated to Player
At Stephen F. Austin University in Texas, administrators plan to seek answers to a question they never thought they would have to deal with: How do you legally distribute an unexpected philanthropic windfall to the family of a student athlete? This, apparently, is what happens when a previously unknown basketball player hits a last-second shot to beat Duke during Thanksgiving week, and word quickly gets out that there is a GoFundMe campaign for the player's family, whose home and church were badly damaged when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas earlier this year. The player, Nathan Bain, became an instant superstar when he scored on a layup an instant before the buzzer sounded, and that's when the donations began to roll in. Kara Carpenter, Stephen F. Austin's assistant athletic director for compliance, said the school had started a GoFundMe account in September to help Bain raise money for his parents' home in a way that would not violate NCAA rules. It had raised about $2,000 before the game, but after his layup and an emotional postgame television interview, donations skyrocketed. As of Friday afternoon, the total had climbed to more than $137,000 with more than 3,500 people contributing. NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52 (g) allows schools to raise funds for athletes (and their families) who have been hit by extraordinary circumstances (e.g. natural disasters) as long as the schools track expenses and make sure that excess funds go to charity. The funds will be distributed to the Bains once they provide receipts for goods and services that comply with the NCAA bylaws.
National Football League Bars a Cardinal for Betting on Games
The National Football League (NFL) suspended Josh Shaw, an injured defensive back on the Arizona Cardinals, through at least the end of next season for betting on football games this year, the first such penalty in more than two decades. The league said that its investigators found no indication that Shaw used inside information or compromised any game, and his coaches and teammates were unaware that he was placing bets on NFL games. Still, the league took a hard line with Shaw, who cannot apply for reinstatement until after February 15, 2021.
Coach of the Flames Resigns Amidst Racial Slur Allegations
Bill Peters, coach of the Calgary Flames, a National Hockey League (NHL) team based in Alberta, resigned just days after he was accused of using a racial slur against a player a decade ago. The general manager of the Flames, Brad Treliving, received and accepted a resignation letter from Peters and said in a statement: "Effective immediately, Bill Peters is no longer a member of the Calgary Flames organization." The player, Akim Aliu, who was born in Nigeria, said on Twitter that when he was playing for a minor league team a decade ago, Peters, who is white, "dropped the N bomb several times toward me in the dressing room in my rookie year because he didn't like my choice of music." Aliu said that he "rebelled" against the coach for using the slur, and that Peters retaliated by advising executives to demote Aliu to a lower-level league. The NHL said in a statement that Peters's alleged behavior was "repugnant and unacceptable," and Treliving said the team had opened an investigation into Aliu's allegations.
For Deaf Fans, Bucks News Is Now Loud and Clear
Mike Budenholzer, the coach of the Milwaukee Bucks, has the Bucks trying something new after its home games this season: broadcasting Budenholzer's remarks to the world in English and in American Sign Language. Brice Christianson, a sign language interpreter, joined the Milwaukee Bucks' postgame news conferences. The Bucks, and especially Antetokounmpo, are leading the Eastern Conference and are as good as ever, but now even more of their fans are able to engage with the team and enjoy Budenholzer's recaps of the Greek Freak's nightly feats of awesome. Those who advocate greater access for people who are deaf or hard of hearing say that by live streaming Budenholzer's bilingual news conferences on social media, the Bucks and Fox Sports Wisconsin are shining a spotlight on an underserved community while highlighting the importance of meeting their needs.
"Master of Sports Statistics" Dies at 99
Seymour Siwoff, who brought statistical analysis to the sports world, chronicling feats from the epic to the arcane through seven decades as the head of the Elias Sports Bureau, died last week at his home in Manhattan at the age of 99. Siwoff had since 1952 been the president and chief executive of Elias, the official record-keeper for America's major professional sports leagues. When Siwoff took control of Elias, it was tallying basic baseball records for newspapers and wire services but under his leadership, Elias eventually became the record-keeper for Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, the Women's National Basketball Association, and Major League Soccer. It also provides national and local sports broadcasting outlets and sports websites with data and content drawing on its archives.
Black Entrepreneur Accuses Comcast of Racial Bias
Byron Allen, founder of Entertainment Studios, has fashioned himself a civil rights crusader, battling what he says is the racism in corporate America with lawsuits and incendiary rhetoric. In his $20 billion lawsuit against Comcast, the nation's largest cable company, Allen has risked alienating would-be allies like Al Sharpton and the NAACP, while drawing the Trump administration as one of his opponents. He filed the lawsuit in 2015, contending that Comcast, after discussing a deal to carry six of his company's channels, had turned it down in violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1866, the nation's oldest federal civil rights law. The Act gives "all persons" the same right "enjoyed by white citizens" to "make and enforce contracts" and "to sue." The case was thrown out three times before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled last year that the district court had "improperly dismissed" it. Comcast appealed. When the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, some black leaders were irked at the prospect that Allen's lawsuit could undo longstanding civil rights protections.
Twitter Permanently Suspends Accounts of Ilhan Omar's Potential Challenger
Twitter suspended the accounts of Danielle Stella, a Republican candidate hoping to challenge Democratic Representative Ilhan Omar of Minnesota next year, after she suggested that the congresswoman should be tried for treason and hanged. Stella's campaign account said: "If it is proven @IlhanMN passed sensitive info to Iran, she should be tried for #treason and hanged," according to screenshots of the tweet. She later added a photo of a stick figure hanging from the gallows. The tweet referred to unsupported stories that Omar was recruited as a "Qatari asset" who gave information to Qatar that was given to Iran, something that Omar denied to The Jerusalem Post. The office for the congresswoman called the stories "outlandishly absurd." The personal and campaign Twitter accounts for Stella have been permanently suspended for "repeated violations" of the platform's rules, Twitter said in a statement.
Internet Companies Prepare to Fight the 'Deepfake' Future
Researchers are creating tools to find A.I.-generated fake videos before they become impossible to detect. Google hired dozens of actors to sit at a table, stand in a hallway and walk down a street while talking into a video camera. Then the company's researchers, using a new kind of artificial intelligence software, swapped the faces of the actors. People who had been walking were suddenly at a table. The actors who had been in a hallway looked like they were on a street. Men's faces were put on women's bodies. Women's faces were put on men's bodies. In time, the researchers had created hundreds of "deepfake" videos. By creating these digitally manipulated videos, Google's scientists believe they are learning how to spot "deepfakes", which researchers and lawmakers worry could become a new, insidious method for spreading disinformation in the lead-up to the 2020 presidential election.
Google Fires Workers Active in Labor Organizing
Google fired four employees who had been active in labor organizing at the company, according to a memo that was seen by The New York Times. The memo, sent by Google's security and investigations team, told employees that the company had dismissed the employees "for clear and repeated violations of our data security policies." The dismissals are expected to exacerbate rocky relations between Google's management and a vocal contingent of workers who have protested the company's handling of sexual harassment, its treatment of contract employees, and its work with the Defense Department, federal border agencies, and the Chinese government.
U.S. Closes Wireless Collusion Investigation
The Justice Department announced that it had ended an investigation into possible coordination among AT&T, Verizon, and a standards-setting organization to make it more difficult for people to switch wireless carriers, saying that the groups had agreed to change their practices, reducing competition concerns. In its investigation, which began two years ago, the Justice Department looked into whether the two companies and a trade association, known as G.S.M.A., that sets mobile technical standards, had worked together to hinder a technology called eSIM. The technology lets people remotely switch wireless providers without having to insert a new SIM card into a device. The Justice Department dropped its investigation after the parties agreed to change how they determine standards for eSIM, said the head of antitrust, Makan Delrahim, in a letter to the trade group. The change will allow consumers to use the technology to switch carriers.
When Is a Star Not Always a Star? When It's an Online Review
While online reviews have become powerful sales tools, the ecosystem is relatively crude. Reviews can be easy to manipulate, and the operators of sites with the most reviews are not always motivated to crack down on fake ones planted to promote products. That leaves many consumers wondering what to believe.
Jeffrey Epstein, Blackmail, and a Lucrative "Hot List"?
Soon after Jeffrey Epstein died in August, a mysterious man met with two prominent lawyers. Going by a pseudonym, Patrick Kessler, he told the lawyers that he had something incendiary: a vast archive of Epstein's data, stored on encrypted servers overseas. He said he had years of the financier's communications and financial records -- as well as thousands of hours of footage from hidden cameras in the bedrooms of Epstein's properties. The videos, Kessler said, captured some of the world's richest, most powerful men in compromising sexual situations -- even in the act of rape. Kessler said he wanted to expose these men.
If he was telling the truth, his trove could answer one of the Epstein saga's most baffling questions: How did a college dropout and high school math teacher amass a purported nine-figure fortune? One persistent but unproven theory was that he ran a sprawling blackmail operation. That would explain why moguls, scientists, political leaders, and a royal stayed loyal to him, in some cases even after he first went to jail. Kessler's tale was enough to hook the two lawyers, the famed litigator David Boies and his friend John Stanley Pottinger. If Kessler was authentic, his videos would arm them with immense leverage over some very important people.
Boies and Pottinger discussed a plan to use the supposed footage in litigation or to try to reach deals with men who appeared in it, with money flowing into a charitable foundation. In the end, there would be no damning videos and no funds pouring into a new foundation. Boies and Pottinger would go from toasting Kessler as their "whistle-blower" and "informant" to torching him as a "fraudster" and a "spy." Kessler was a liar, and he wouldn't expose any sexual abuse. But he would reveal something else: The extraordinary, at times deceitful measures elite lawyers deployed in an effort to get evidence that could be used to win lucrative settlements -- and keep misconduct hidden, allowing perpetrators to abuse again.
Apple Redraws Map After Pressure from Russia
Since it grabbed Crimea from Ukraine five years ago, Russia has made no headway in getting the United States or the European Union to recognize the annexed Black Sea peninsula as Russian. Yet Russia's Parliament is now rejoicing at getting at least Apple to fall partly into line. When viewed from inside Russia, Apple apps show Crimea as part of the Russian Federation and separated from Ukraine by an international border. This means that Apple has joined Google, Yandex, and some other technology companies in redrawing Ukraine's borders to satisfy Moscow's territorial claims, at least for customers viewing their maps on devices inside Russia. Viewed on devices outside Russia though, Crimea remains part of Ukraine.
Security Forces Raid Egyptian News Site
Egyptian security forces raided the office of independent news website, Mada Masr, and briefly detained three of its staff members, including its top editor. The raid came after security officers had arrested another Mada Masr journalist, editor Shady Zalat, at his apartment in a separate incident, confiscating his and his wife's laptops and some documents, as well as Zalat's phone. Mada Masr is one of Egypt's last independent news outlets publishing critical stories after years of tightening controls on media and arrests of journalists and bloggers. Its website, which carries stories in Arabic and English, is blocked in Egypt. Last week Mada Masr published an article in which it reported that Mahmoud al-Sisi, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's eldest son and a senior intelligence official, was being reassigned to a long-term diplomatic posting in Russia. It is unclear if that article's publication is what prompted the raid.
Saudi Arabia's 'Crackdown' on Dissent
Saudi Arabia's long-running drive to muzzle dissent has escalated again in recent weeks with the arrests of several journalists, writers, and academics who had not vocally criticized the government in years. Since Prince Mohammed bin Salman became Saudi Arabia's de facto leader in 2017, the government has arrested dozens of activists, bloggers, and others perceived as political opponents, showing almost zero tolerance for dissent even in the face of international condemnations of the crackdown.
Iran's 'Crackdown' on Protests and Media
Authorities in Iran strengthened their reprisals over the recent protests that engulfed the country, arresting "six main elements" accused of rioting in Tehran and penalizing Iranian journalists overseas who publicized the mayhem. Although internet service that had been suspended in Iran after the protests erupted has been partly restored, it may be curtailed indefinitely, government officials warned. Mobile phone access to the internet remains blocked. The intensified response to the protests, reported in official Iranian media, came as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the United States government had received nearly 20,000 messages, videos, photographs, and notes from Iranians after his call last week for evidence that the protests had been violently suppressed during the internet blackout.
TikTok Blocks Teen Who Posted About China's Detention Camps
A 17-year-old from New Jersey said TikTok had suspended her account after she posted a clip talking about China's detention of Muslims. The girl starts her video off by saying: "Hi, guys. I'm going to teach you guys how to get long lashes." After a few seconds though, she asks viewers to put down their curlers and says: "Use your phone that you're using right now to search up what's happening in China, how they're getting concentration camps, throwing innocent Muslims in there." The 40-second clip has amassed more than 498,000 likes on the social platform and it has put a serious topic -- the mass detentions of minority Muslims in northwest China -- in front of an audience that might not have known about it before.
Businessman Charged in Malta Murder Case
More than two years after a car bomb killed Malta's best-known investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, prosecutors charged a wealthy Maltese businessman, Yorgen Fenech, with complicity in her murder and other crimes. Fenech's arraignment, capped a tumultuous week in which a long-stalled investigation into the murder of Galizia, suddenly picked up pace, ensnaring senior members of the government and Malta's business elite.
Supreme Court Temporarily Blocks Disclosure of Trump's Financial Records
The Supreme Court temporarily blocked an appeals court ruling that required Trump's accounting firm to turn over financial records to a House committee. The Court's brief order gave no reasons, and there were no noted dissents. The justices are likely to consider the case alongside a similar one concerning a subpoena from Manhattan prosecutors to Trump's accounting firm, Mazars USA, seeking eight years of business and personal tax returns. That case is further along at the Supreme Court, as Trump has already filed a petition seeking review, and the prosecutors have filed a brief urging the court to deny review. In both cases, Trump sued to stop Mazars from complying with subpoenas for his financial records and federal appeals courts ruled against him in each case.
Justices Request Second Look at Campaign Finances + Libel Claims
The Supreme Court returned a challenge to Alaska's limits on campaign contributions to a lower court, suggesting that the limits were too low. The Court also turned away appeals from defendants in a libel suit over climate change and from Adnan Syed, whose murder conviction was examined by the podcast "Serial." Finally, the justices refused to reconsider a ruling on how much authority Congress may delegate to the executive branch.
Justice Ginsburg Discharged from Hospital After Being Treated for Fever + Chills
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from the hospital after treatment for chills and a fever. Justice Ginsburg's symptoms abated after treatment with intravenous antibiotics and fluids. The justice had been admitted to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore after an initial evaluation at Sibley Memorial Hospital in Washington. Justice Ginsburg has had a series of health scares, including surgery for lung cancer and radiation treatment for pancreatic cancer in the last year alone. Over the years, she has also had surgery for early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2009 and treatment for colon cancer in 1999. Despite all of this, she has repeatedly vowed to stay on the Court as long as her health holds and she remains mentally sharp.
Court Says McGahn Must Testify
Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson of the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, must testify before House impeachment investigators about Trump's efforts to obstruct the Mueller inquiry. Judge Jackson's ruling held that senior presidential aides must comply with congressional subpoenas and calling the administration's arguments to the contrary "fiction." "Presidents are not kings," wrote Judge Jackson, adding that current and former White House officials owe their allegiance to the Constitution. "They do not have subjects, bound by loyalty or blood, whose destiny they are entitled to control."
Lawyer Says McGahn Ruling Will Not Lead John Bolton to Testify Soon
John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser to Trump who resisted efforts to pressure Ukraine for help against domestic political rivals, dashed any expectation that he would testify soon in the House impeachment investigation in response to a court ruling involving onetime colleague Donald F. McGahn II. Charles J. Cooper, a lawyer who represents Bolton, said that the court decision ordering McGahn to appear before Congress under subpoena did not apply to Bolton because of the nature of his job. Cooper said Bolton would therefore wait for another judge to rule in a separate case that could take weeks more to litigate.
Trump Keeps Losing in Court. But His Legal Strategy Is Winning Anyway.
Critics of Trump cheered when a federal judge ruled that former White House counsel, Donald F. McGahn II, must testify to Congress -- and scathingly labeled "fiction" the administration's arguments that top White House aides are immune from congressional subpoenas. While the outcome was the latest in a string of lower-court losses for Trump as he defends his stonewalling of lawmakers' oversight and the impeachment investigation, Trump is winning despite losing. The proceedings before Judge Jackson consumed nearly a third of the year as she took briefs, conducted oral arguments, then composed a 120-page opinion; and her ruling was merely the end of the first step. The Justice Department immediately filed an appeal and sought a stay -- virtually ensuring that the fight over McGahn will remain bogged down for the foreseeable future. Even if McGahn someday is forced to show up, a new cycle of litigation will inevitably start over whether specific information he might testify about is subject to executive privilege. Meanwhile, time is on Trump's side, as the realistic window for Congress to consider impeaching him is closing, with the 2020 election less than a year away. If the overriding goal is to keep information from coming out while his term and potential re-election hang in the balance, the Trump legal strategy is succeeding despite all the adverse rulings.
Two Aides Resigned Amid Ukraine Aid Freeze
Mark Sandy, an official at the Office of Management and Budget, testified that two of his colleagues quit after expressing concerns about Trump's decision to withhold military assistance to the Ukraine. He did not identify either official, and it was unclear how senior they were or how directly their resignations were tied to their concerns over the withholding of the aid. But Sandy's account of their departures -- after weeks of unanswered questions inside the budget office about why Trump had directed the funding frozen -- underscores the depth of the pushback inside a key White House agency about a decision many officials believed was legally questionable and potentially dangerous.
Trump Knew of Whistle-Blower Complaint When He Released Aid to Ukraine
According to two people familiar with the matter, Trump had already been briefed on the whistle-blower's complaint about his dealings with Ukraine when he unfroze military aid for the country in September. Lawyers from the White House counsel's office told Trump in late August about the complaint, explaining that they were trying to determine whether they were legally required to give it to Congress, the people said. The revelation could shed light on Trump's thinking at two critical points under scrutiny by impeachment investigators: his decision in early September to release $391 million in security assistance to Ukraine and his denial to a key ambassador around the same time that there was a "quid pro quo" with Kyiv. Trump used the phrase before it had entered the public lexicon in the Ukraine affair.
House Committee Sues Barr and Ross Over 2020 Census Documents
The House Oversight and Reform Committee sued William P. Barr, the attorney general, and Wilbur L. Ross Jr., the commerce secretary, for refusing to produce subpoenaed documents regarding the Trump administration's failed attempt to add a citizenship question to the 2020 census. The lawsuit, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, is an escalation of a months-long dispute over the panel's efforts to investigate the Trump administration's effort to alter the decennial survey to ask 2020 respondents whether they are citizens. The government abandoned that effort after the Supreme Court in June blocked the question from being added, rejecting the administration's stated reason for the effort as "contrived."
Disclosures Reveal Politics Behind Census Question
Five months after the Supreme Court blocked a proposed census citizenship question, a steady trickle of new disclosures in the case this past month has sharpened questions about whether Republican Party politics drove the effort to add the question to the head count -- and whether the Trump administration tried to conceal that in court. The disclosures, in a House of Representatives inquiry and a New York lawsuit, bolster existing evidence that a Republican political strategist, Thomas B. Hofeller, played at least an indirect role in crafting a legal rationale for adding the question to the census. They also indicate that a senior Census Bureau official and friend of Hofeller, Christa Jones, helped draft an explanation of that rationale, apparently for publication had the question been approved. The latest disclosures tend to support their claim that the administration's stated reason for adding the question -- to help enforce the Voting Rights Act -- was a pretext for a scheme to boost Republican political power when population totals from the next census are used to draw new political districts in 2021.
Naval Secretary Told to Resign
Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was asked to resign by Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper, an abrupt move aimed at ending an extraordinary dispute between Trump and his own senior military leadership over the fate of a SEAL commando in a war crimes case. In a statement, Esper said he had lost trust in the Navy secretary, Richard V. Spencer, because his private statements about the case differed from what he advocated in public. Esper added that he was "deeply troubled by this conduct."
Trump Says He Acted to Protect "Warriors"
Under fire over his insistence that a Navy SEAL convicted of misconduct not be punished, Trump sought to defend actions that have roiled the Pentagon, angered senior military leadership and led to the firing of the Navy secretary. Trump said that his refusal to allow the Navy to oust Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher from the SEALs showed he was sticking up for "warriors," and not traitors.
Navy Drops Effort to Expel from SEALs Officers Linked to Gallagher
The Navy is dropping its efforts to expel three officers from the elite SEAL commando force over their involvement in the war crimes case surrounding Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher. The new acting secretary of the Navy, Thomas B. Modly, said in a statement that he had ordered a halt to a review process for the three officers -- Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier, and Lt. Thomas MacNeil. The three will be allowed to keep the Trident pins that signify membership in the SEALs.
Giuliani Represented Venezuelan Investor in Discussion with Justice Department
Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, represented a wealthy Venezuelan businessman, Alejandro Betancourt López, in a discussion with the Justice Department about heading off charges against him in a money laundering and bribery case. Giuliani was part of a team of lawyers brought in to represent López in discussions with Justice Department officials, according to people familiar with the representation. The representation, which was first reported by The Washington Post, is another example of Giuliani pursuing business around the world with clients who have interests before the United States government, even as he continues to represent Trump. It also highlights the ways in which Giuliani mixed his private business with the Ukrainian pressure campaign that is at the heart of the congressional impeachment inquiry into Trump, and a separate investigation by prosecutors in Manhattan into whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws.
Giuliani Pursued Private Business in Ukraine While Pushing for Inquiries for Trump
According to documents obtained by The New York Times, Giuliani waged a public campaign this year to unearth damaging information in Ukraine about Trump's political rivals, he privately pursued hundreds of thousands of dollars in business from Ukrainian government officials. Giuliani has repeatedly said he has no business in Ukraine, and none of the deals were finalized. However, the documents indicate that while he was pushing Trump's agenda with Ukrainian officials eager for support from the United States, Giuliani also explored financial agreements with members of the same government.
Sondland Accused of Sexual Misconduct
Gordon Sondland, United States ambassador to the European Union, has been accused by three women of making unwanted sexual advances toward them years before his recent turn as a star witness at the impeachment proceedings against Trump. The women shared their accounts with ProPublica and Portland Monthly, which published them online in a joint investigative project between the nonprofit news organization and the Oregon magazine. The publication of the allegations came exactly one week after Sondland appeared before Congress and gave what was widely viewed as damaging testimony about Trump's dealings with Ukraine and a "quid pro quo."
Trump Restarts Taliban Talks After Visiting Afghanistan
After an unannounced trip to visit American troops in Afghanistan, Trump declared that he had reopened peace negotiations with the Taliban less than three months after scuttling talks in hopes of ending 18 years of war. During a meeting with Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, Trump said: "The Taliban wants to make a deal, and we're meeting with them," "We're going to stay until such time as we have a deal, or we have total victory, and they want to make a deal very badly."
Trump Jr. Sees Sales Bolstered by G.O.P. Allies
Donald Trump Jr. has authored his first book, Triggered, and G.O.P. allies have been ordering the book by the thousands, bolstering his sales. Some groups are harnessing the younger Trump's popularity to raise political donations while also driving his sales. The National Republican Congressional Committee bought $75,000 worth of books in November, a spokesman said, in a promotion that took in almost $200,000 in contributions. The National Republican Senatorial Committee ordered about 2,500 copies, which it said sold almost immediately. The Republican National Committee and Citizens United, a conservative activist group run by a former deputy campaign manager to Trump, are also offering the book to donors. State Republican parties are also pushing the book, framing Trump's tour as a campaign effort on his father's behalf.
Broken Promises and Debt Pile Up as Loan Forgiveness Program Goes Astray
When Congress created a student loan forgiveness program in 2007, lawmakers wanted to draw people to vital but relatively low-paid careers with a promise: After a decade, if borrowers faithfully paid their debts and pursued their work, they would have the remainder of their student loans written off. Since then, tens of thousands of graduates were led to believe by their student loan servicers that they would qualify for relief at the end of a decade, only to be shocked when their applications were rejected. The blame can be spread broadly -- to loan servicers who at best failed to inform borrowers of what was needed to qualify, to the single company in charge of the program that has been repeatedly cited for shoddy service, mismanagement, and poor record keeping, to lawmakers who wrote in a baffling list of requirements, and to the Education Department, which has failed to step in and correct the problem. Fewer than 1% of those who have applied for relief under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program have been deemed eligible. Lawsuits are proliferating, along with dashed hopes.
NATO Cuts U.S. Payment
NATO announced that it had agreed to reduce the United States' contribution to the alliance's relatively small central budget, a move aimed at ensuring a calm leaders' meeting in London. At a meeting with President Emmanuel Macron of France in Paris, the alliance's secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, said that its members had agreed to redistribute some costs. "The U.S. will pay less, Germany will pay more, so now the U.S. and Germany will pay the same," he said, with each contributing about 16% of NATO's central budget. Previously the United States paid about 22%.
United Nations Report Says Rise in Emissions is Still Alarming
The latest assessment issued by the United Nations said that greenhouse gas emissions are still rising dangerously. "The summary findings are bleak," said the annual assessment, which is produced by the United Nations Environment Program and is formally known as the Emissions Gap Report. Countries have failed to halt the rise of greenhouse gas emissions despite repeated warnings from scientists, with China and the United States, the two biggest polluters, further increasing their emissions last year.
Adults Across the U.S. Are Dying Young
A new analysis of more than a half-century of federal mortality data, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the increased death rates among people in midlife extended to all racial and ethnic groups, and to suburbs and cities. While suicides, drug overdoses and alcoholism were the leading causes, other medical conditions, including heart disease, strokes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, also contributed, the authors reported.
U.S. Resumes Fight in Syria
U.S. troops have resumed large-scale counterterrorism missions against the Islamic State in northern Syria, two months after Trump's abrupt order to withdraw American troops opened the way for a bloody Turkish cross-border offensive. American soldiers and hundreds of Syrian Kurdish fighters -- the same local allies the Trump administration abandoned to fend for themselves against the Turkish advance last month -- reunited to conduct what the Pentagon said was a large-scale mission to kill and capture ISIS fighters in Deir al-Zour province, about 120 miles south of the Turkish border.
Pompeo Warns China to Honor 'Human Rights Standards' in Hong Kong
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stopped just short of endorsing legislation that would punish violent crackdowns against pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong, a plan that could imperil trade with both the Hong Kong government and China. In wide-ranging remarks at the State Department, Pompeo took care to note that the decision on the bill would be made by Trump "before too long," and noted that the Trump administration "has been pretty clear about our expectations about how Beijing will treat people throughout their country." "We have human rights standards that we apply all across the world, and Hong Kong is no different," Pompeo told reporters.
Trump Signs Bills in Support of Hong Kong Protesters
Trump signed two bills aimed at supporting human rights and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong. Trump signed the bills, which were approved by nearly unanimous consent in the House and Senate, even as he expressed some concerns about complicating the effort to work out a trade deal with China's President Xi Jinping. Congress approved the bills following months of unrest in the semi-autonomous Chinese city. Before the signing announcement, Trump would only commit to giving the measures a "hard look."
Beijing Blusters Over U.S. Reprimand
China vented after Trump signed new human rights legislation covering the protest-wracked city of Hong Kong. It denounced the new law as illegal interference in its own affairs and vowed retaliation. However, Beijing's main agency on trade remained quiet on the legislation, even as other officials railed against it, suggesting that the government remained open to a trade deal and would let the volatile issue of Hong Kong simmer, at least for now.
Hong Kong Election Results Give Democracy Backers Big Win
Pro-democracy candidates buoyed by months of street protests in Hong Kong won a stunning victory in local elections, as record numbers voted in a vivid expression of the city's aspirations and its anger with the Chinese government. With three million voters casting ballots, pro-democracy candidates captured 389 of 452 elected seats, up from only 124 and far more than they have ever won. The government's allies held just 58 seats, a remarkable collapse from 300, was a pointed rebuke of Beijing and its allies in Hong Kong, and the turnout -- seven in 10 eligible voters -- suggested that the public continues to back the democracy movement, even as the protests grow increasingly violent. Young Hong Kongers, a major force behind the demonstrations of the past six months, played a leading role in the voting surge.
Secret Orders for China's Camps
As the government accelerated mass detentions of Muslim minorities in northwest China, a senior official issued a secret directive giving detailed orders for how the rapidly expanding indoctrination camps holding them should be managed. The directive required, amongst other things, guards to impose pervasive, round-the-clock video surveillance to prevent escapes, inmates to be kept isolated from the outside world and held to a strict scoring system that could determine when they might be released, and the facilities to be shrouded in secrecy, with even employees banned from bringing in mobile phones. While the source of the documents is unknown -- they were provided by Uighur overseas networks -- their disclosure may amount to another sign of dissent in the party over the crackdown.
American Ambassador Says Afghans Coerced Retraction of Rape Allegations
John R. Bass, the United States ambassador to Afghanistan, says an Afghan spy agency used "Soviet-style tactics" to induce the retraction of over 100 rape allegations. This comes after the country's intelligence agency released a video in which a detained human rights activist retracted allegations that 165 boys had been raped by educators at three rural schools. The activist, Mohammad Musa, was quoted in a New York Times article that also quoted four boys and local school officials who said schoolboys had been raped by educators in Logar Province in central Afghanistan. The video showed Musa appearing to be speaking under duress during his fifth day in the custody of the National Directorate of Security, an agency with a reputation for treating detainees harshly.