By La-Vaughnda A. Taylor Edited by Elissa D. Hecker
Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, Media/Technology, General News, and COVID:
Moodsters v. Disney
The Supreme Court has refused to revive a copyright case filed against Walt Disney over Pixar's animated hit "Inside Out", denying a petition that urged the justices to weigh in on how fictional characters are protected. The Court denied certiorari to Denise Daniels, a child development specialist who sued Disney and Pixar, on accusations that the movie stole its central characters from her "Moodsters", a series of anthropomorphized emotions.
Minaj Pays Chapman in Suit
Avoiding trial, rapper Nicki Minaj makes an offer for illicitly using "Baby Can I Hold You", by Tracey Chapman, who accepts. The cost of taking another songwriter's work without permission and illicitly leaking a remade version is $450,000, the amount Minaj will be paying to satisfy her copyright infringement claims over "Sorry", a derivative of Chapman's song. Chapman filed the case back in October 2018. As a result, the two will not proceed to a trial later this year.
Sony Music Entertainment v. Cox Communications
The Eastern District of Virginia upheld the jury's $1 billion damages award for copyright infringement. The jury had awarded over $99,000 for each of the 10,017 works allegedly infringed on Cox's network. In its suit, the plaintiffs alleged copyright infringement by the defendants' subscribers. The plaintiffs sued Cox for contributory copyright infringement and vicarious copyright infringement, claiming that infringement occurred on peer-to-peer networks. The latest order considered the number of allegedly infringing works, upheld the jury's decision, and noted that Cox's post-trial brief relied on information not provided to the jury.
Dr. Fauci Envisions Open Theatres by This Fall
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the U.S., told performing arts professionals at a virtual conference last week that he believed that theatres and other venues could reopen "sometime in the fall of 2021," depending on the vaccination rollout, and suggested that audiences might still be required to wear masks for some time. Fauci sought to assure people in the industry that the end of their acute economic pain was in sight, while emphasizing that the timeline hinged on the country reaching an effective level of herd immunity, which he defined as vaccinating from 70% to 85% of the population.
L.G.B.T.Q. Representation on TV Falls for First Time in 5 Years, GLAAD Finds
An annual report found that 9.1% of characters scheduled to appear on prime-time broadcast series identified as L.G.B.T.Q. in the 2020-21 season, down from 10.2%. The number of recurring L.G.B.T.Q. characters - people who make multiple appearances in a series but are not part of the main cast - is about the same as the previous season (31 this year, compared with 30 in the prior year).
Watch Your Lyrics or Be Prepared to Return to Jail
Recent court rulings require officers to keep watch over artists' rap lyrics, which prosecutors say celebrate gangstas and violent crimes. In 2018. British rapper Digga D was sentenced to a year in prison for conspiracy to commit violent disorder, after a court case in which music videos by the masked rapper were presented as evidence. In sentencing, the judge also issued an order banning him from releasing tracks that describe gang-related violence. He must notify the police within 24 hours of releasing new music, and provide them with the lyrics. If a court finds that his words incite violence, he can be sent back to prison; parole conditions also limit what he can say publicly about his past. Introduced in 2014 and known as criminal behavior orders, the measures give judges broad powers to regulate convicted criminals' lives, such as by banning them from certain neighborhoods or by preventing them from meeting former associates. Judges have also used the orders to control some musicians' lyrics, arguing that when rappers brag about attacks on rivals, it stokes street tensions. Some are saying that this genre of hip hop, drill rap, is being targeted like how punk was in the 1970s.
Unicolors v. H&M
The years-long legal battle between H&M and pattern-making company Unicolors might land before the Supreme Court. In a petition for a writ of certiorari, Southern California-based Unicolors has sought Supreme Court intervention in the copyright case that it filed against H&M with the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California back in April 2016, in which it accused the Swedish fast fashion giant of infringing one of its geometric patterns - by way of a "remarkably similar" print - for two styles of garments, a jacket and a skirt. In a Deceember 2017 jury verdict, it was found that H&M had willfully infringed Unicolor's copyright-protected pattern and awarded it $846,720 in damages, attorney's fees, and costs. H&M appealed, arguing that Unicolors was without a valid copyright registration for the fabric pattern at the center of the case, because the copyright registration issued on February 14, 2011 for a collection of works was invalid. H&M argued that because false information was included in the application that was filed with the U.S. Copyright Office - namely, that the 31 different designs covered by the single-unit registration were first published at the same time. H&M then claimed that Unicolors actually sold some of the patterns separately to different customers, thus invalidating the company's registration and its infringement cause of action. The Ninth Circuit reversed the jury verdict.
Cuomo Outlines Plan to Revive the Arts
Declaring that New York urgently needs to revive its arts and entertainment industry if it is to recover from the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said that the State would begin taking a series of interim steps to help to bring back some cultural events in the short term and put more unemployed artists back to work. The governor said that bringing back art and culture was crucial - not just to help artists, who have suffered some of the worst unemployment in the nation, but to keep New York City a vital, exciting center, where people will want to live and work.
Kennedy Honorees Announced
The annual Kennedy Center Honorees are choreographer and actress Debbie Allen, singer-songwriter and activist Joan Baez, country singer-songwriter Garth Brooks, violinist Midori, and actor Dick Van Dyke.
Landmark Status Could Protect Mural
On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 11-0 to start the process to designate a beloved Diego Rivera mural as a landmark after the San Francisco Art Institute, which owns the $50 million painting, said that selling it would help pay off $19.7 million of debt. Designating the mural as a landmark would severely limit how the 150-year-old institution could leverage it, and public officials behind the measure say that selling it is likely to be off the table for now. Removing the mural with landmark status would require approval from the city's Historic Preservation Commission, which has broad authority.
Belichick Decides to Decline Accepting Nation's Highest Civilian Honor
President Trump had planned to give Bill Belichick the Presidential Medal of Freedom, but the coach cited the violence at the Capitol in a statement announcing that he would not receive it. Belichick said that he was flattered to be nominated for the award because of its past recipients, but he also said he has great reverence for "our nation's values," represents his family and the Patriots, and has worked with his players to combat social injustice. "Continuing those efforts while remaining true to the people, team and country that I love outweigh the benefits of any individual award," he wrote.
Tide Fans Risk More Than a Celebratory Hangover
The University of Alabama football team won its 18th national championship beating Ohio State in a 52-24 rout and just as in previous championship seasons, thousands of fans took to the streets outside the collection of restaurants and bars in Tuscaloosa, Ala., known as the Strip. However, Tuscaloosa city officials wanted any celebrations to be muted this year. Coronavirus cases and deaths in the state have gone up, while the availability of hospital beds has gone sharply down. Alabama has had a 30% rise in the total number of virus cases this week compared with two weeks ago, and an average of 67 deaths per day. The next few weeks could tell what the consequences of that celebration might be.
Gold Medalist Identified in Capitol-Invading Mob
Klete Keller, a champion swimmer who won two Olympic gold medals as a relay teammate of Michael Phelps, was identified by former teammates and coaches as a member of the crowd that surged into the U.S. Capitol during violent protests Wednesday. No video has emerged of Keller participating in any violent acts in the Capitol, but his mere presence in the building, if confirmed by authorities, may have placed him in legal jeopardy. Numerous people who entered the building now face federal charges that include unlawful entry and disorderly conduct.
Kentucky's Players and Coach Took a Knee, and the State Didn't Like It
A decision by Kentucky's men's basketball players and their coach, John Calipari, to kneel during the national anthem before a game has set off a backlash in the conservative state. The Kentucky players said they discussed their decision to kneel with Calipari before the game. The gesture was inspired in part by the mob attack on the U.S. Capitol. The players also said they had other issues in mind. It was the first time Kentucky players had knelt for the anthem this season. At previous games, the team was not on the court for the anthem. The incident has angered many in Kentucky, including fans expressing disagreement on social media, public figures, and at least one governmental body.
Appeals Panel Lets Russians Off the Hook for Doping Cover-Up
A Court of Arbitration for Sport panel substantiated much of the World Anti-Doping Agency's finding on Russia's doping cover-up, and then let the Russians off the hook. In page after page, the report amounts to one of the starkest denunciations yet of Russia's efforts to evade antidoping rules, without major penalties.
Citing Fears of Violence, YouTube Suspends Trump
YouTube said on Tuesday that it had suspended Trump's channel over concern about "ongoing potential for violence," the latest move by one of the largest technology companies to limit the president online. The Google-owned video site said it had suspended Trump's account after one of his recent videos violated its policy for inciting violence. That meant that Trump would not be able to upload new content on his channel, which had about 2.8 million subscribers, for at least 7 days. YouTube also said it was disabling all comments on his channel indefinitely.
A Web Haven for Trump Fans Faces the Void
Parler, a chosen app of Trump fans, became a test of free speech. The app has renewed a debate about who holds power over online speech after the tech giants yanked their support for it and left it fighting for survival. Parler went dark early on Monday. Users shared conspiracy theories that falsely said the election had been stolen from Trump and urged aggressive demonstrations when Congress met to certify the election of President-elect Biden. Those calls for violence came back to haunt Parler executives, when Apple and Google removed it from their app stores and Amazon said it would no longer host the site on its computing services, saying that it had not sufficiently policed posts that incited violence and crime.
Parler Sues, Claiming That Amazon Broke the Law
Parler has sued Amazon after the beleaguered conservative social media site was expelled, filing a complaint alleging that the internet giant removed it for political reasons - and in an antitrust conspiracy to benefit Twitter. However, its own allegations, including breach of contract, are belied by evidence Perler supplied alongside the suit, which was filed in the U.S. Western District Court.
After Bans, A Scramble to Link Arms
In the days since rioters stormed Capitol Hill, fringe groups like armed militias, QAnon conspiracy theorists, and far-right supporters of Trump have vowed to continue their fight in hundreds of conversations on a range of internet platforms. Some of the organizers have moved to encrypted messaging apps like Telegram and Signal, which cannot be as easily monitored as social media platforms. After many groups were banned from mainstream social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, the groups have been relegated to half a dozen apps and platforms to organize their next steps. Adding to the muddle, when Twitter and Facebook kicked Trump off their platforms last week, they made it harder for organizers to rally around a singular voice. The result is an unexpected side effect of the expulsions from mainstream social media platforms: Attempts at disruptions could be harder to predict and could stretch for days - and not just in Washington, D.C.
Twitter Sweeps for Accounts Tied to QAnon, Ousting 70,000
QAnon supporters were involved in the storming of the U.S. Congress building. Twitter has deleted accounts that "share harmful QAnon-associated content at scale." Twitter said in a blog post, "given the violent events in Washington, D.C., and increased risk of harm, we began permanently suspending thousands of accounts that were primarily dedicated to sharing QAnon content." The accounts were primarily dedicated to the propagation of this conspiracy theory across the service. In 2019, the FBI issued a warning about "conspiracy theory-driven domestic extremists" and designated QAnon a potential domestic extremist threat.
Cumulus Prohibits Claims of Election Fraud
Cumulus Media, a talk radio company with a roster of popular right-wing personalities, including Dan Bongino, Mark Levin, and Ben Shapiro, has ordered its employees at 416 stations nationwide to steer clear of endorsing misinformation about election fraud or using language that promotes violent protests. Brian Philips, an executive vice president of Cumulus, issued the directive in a stern memo after a pro-Trump mob breached the halls of Congress.
New York Post Tells Staff to Shun Top News Outlets
As the Murdoch tabloid navigates a fraught political moment, high-level editors instructed reporters not to base articles on reporting by four news outlets that Trump has falsely labeled "fake news." CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times are among the news organizations that Trump has falsely labeled. It is common practice at The New York Post and its website, nypost.com, to publish articles based entirely on other news outlets' reporting, without independent confirmation by any of its own journalists. The newspaper is not alone in following this widespread practice, and many news sites have had success by repackaging material from other news organizations. The directive at the Murdoch tabloid was unusual, in that it deemed material from certain outlets off limits.
The Federal Trade Commission Reaches Settlement with App Developer
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reached a settlement with Flo Health Inc., the developer of a widely used period and fertility-tracking app, over allegations that it improperly shared personal data with Facebook and others, including whether users were ovulating. The FTC's vote on the proposed settlement was 5-0. The proposed settlement, if it becomes final following public comment, would require Flo Health to obtain an independent review of its privacy practices and get users' consent before sharing their health information. The company must also notify consumers of the FTC charges that it shared consumers' personal information without their consent.
Media Clampdown Stifles Data on Afghan War Deaths
The Ghani administration and the Taliban are fighting a public relations battle, with the government taking more drastic measures to control the flow of information. The war in Afghanistan has long been one of competing narratives. However, the government's responses to the October 22nd strike in Takhar Province signaled a shift in tactics by President Ashraf Ghani's administration: an overt declaration of its willingness to suppress and deny information on the deaths of innocent people. It also highlighted the changing political landscapes as peace negotiations continue in Qatar and the Taliban move to take advantage of the attention they are attracting on the world stage.
Uganda Blocks Facebook Two Days Before Election
President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda blocked Facebook from operating in his country, just days after the social media company removed fake accounts linked to his government ahead of a hotly contested general election. Museveni accused Facebook of "arrogance" and said he had instructed his government to close the platform, along with other social media outlets, although Facebook was the only one he named. The ban on Facebook comes at the end of an election period that has been dogged by a crackdown on the political opposition, harassment of journalists, and nationwide protests that have led to at least 54 deaths and hundreds of arrests, according to officials. Museveni is running for a sixth term in office and facing 10 rivals.
Egypt Overturns Prison Terms in Case of TikTok 'Debauchery'
An Egyptian judge overturned an acquittal verdict of two young women who were jailed last year for posting "indecent" videos on the social media video app TikTok, ordering their pretrial detention for 15 days over fresh charges of "human trafficking," a judicial source said. A Cairo court has accused 20-year-old student Haneen Hossam and 22-year-old Mawada Eladhm of recruiting young women for "indecent jobs that violate the principles and values of the Egyptian society." Thursday's motion came just two days after an appeals court had acquitted the two women and ordered their release.
Trump, After Inciting Rampage in Capitol is First President to Face Second Senate Trial
America will be in uncharted territory when the U.S. Senate meets for the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump, a case against the outgoing president that one Democrat preparing for arguments called "shockingly evident". The House of Representatives voted to impeach Trump on charges of incitement one week after his supporters rampaged in the Capitol following a speech in which the President urged them to fight President-elect Biden's election victory. In a 232-197 vote, Trump became the first president to be impeached twice and will likely be the first to face an impeachment trial after leaving office. Ten Republicans joined the majority Democrats in supporting impeachment, while others argued that Trump's remarks were protected by the First Amendment. Senator Mitch McConnell has said that no trial could begin until the Senate was scheduled to be back in regular session on Tuesday.
Parties Debate How to Handle Trial in Senate
Senate leaders are working to agree on a dual track to try the departing president at the same time it considers the agenda of the incoming one, an exercise never tried before. Democrats, poised to take unified power in Washington for the first time in a decade, worked with Republican leaders to try to find a proposal to allow the Senate to split time between the impeachment trial of Trump and consideration of President-elect Biden's cabinet nominees and his $1.9 trillion economic recovery plan to address the coronavirus.
Biden Plan Calls for $1.9 Trillion to Buoy Economy
President-elect Biden has proposed a $1.9 trillion rescue package to combat the economic downturn and the Covid-19 crisis, outlining the type of sweeping aid that Democrats have demanded for months and signaling the shift in the federal government's pandemic response as Biden prepares to take office. The package includes more than $400 billion to combat the pandemic directly. Another $350 billion would help state and local governments bridge budget shortfalls, while the plan would also include $1,400 direct payments to individuals, more generous unemployment benefits, federally mandated paid leave for workers and large subsidies for child care costs.
A Longtime Diplomat is Nominated by Biden to be Director of the CIA
President-elect Biden has nominated William Burns as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, tapping a respected veteran American diplomat who has served in posts around the world, from the Reagan to the Obama administrations. If confirmed, Burns would become the first leader in the CIA's history whose lifelong experience comes from the State Department.
Biden to Elevate Two Homeland Security and Cybersecurity Appointments
Biden, facing the rise of domestic terrorism and a crippling cyberattack from Russia, is elevating two White House posts that all but disappeared in the Trump administration: a homeland security adviser to manage matters as varied as extremism, pandemics, and natural disasters, and the first deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology. The White House homeland security adviser will be Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall. For the complex task of bolstering cyberoffense and defense, Biden has carved out a role for Anne Neuberger, a rising official at the National Security Agency.
Trump's Conduct Spurs Push for Ethics Rules Tougher Than Shame
Congressional Democrats and a slew of groups are preparing to push for the kinds of ethics and governance changes not seen since the post-Watergate era. As House Democrats move toward punishing Trump with a history-making second impeachment, they are also pressing ahead with a parallel effort to try to ensure that Trump's four-year record of violating democratic and constitutional norms cannot be repeated. Trump's terms has revealed enormous gaps between the ideals of American democracy and the reality. In response, lawmakers and pressure groups are pushing for a wide-ranging overhaul of ethics laws, hoping to reconstruct and strengthen the guardrails that Trump plowed through.
Leading New Task Force, Yale Doctor Takes Aim at Racial Gaps in Care
Tapped by President-elect Biden to lead a new federal task force, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith, an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University, will address a terrible reality of American medicine: persistent racial and ethnic disparities in access and care. She has an expansive vision for the job, with plans to target medical resources and relief funds to vulnerable communities, but also to tackle the underlying social and economic inequalities that put them at risk. Her goals are ambitious, experts noted. Racial health disparities represent a vast, structural challenge in this country, made all the more stark by the raging pandemic. Black, Latino, and Native Americans are infected with the coronavirus and hospitalized with Covid-19 at higher rates than white Americans, and they have died of the illness at nearly three times the rate, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Nunez-Smith currently serves as one of three co-chairs on an advisory board advising the Biden transition team on management of the pandemic.
Pompeo Returns Cuba to Terror Sponsor List, Crimping Biden's Plans
The State Department designated Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism in a last-minute foreign policy stroke that will complicate the incoming Biden administration's plans to restore friendlier relations with Havana. Secretary of State Pompeo cited Cuba's hosting of 10 Colombian rebel leaders, along with a handful of American fugitives wanted for crimes committed in the 1970s, and Cuba's support for the authoritarian leader of Venezuela, Nicolás Maduro. The action, announced with just days remaining in the Trump administration, reversed a step taken in 2015 after President Obama restored diplomatic relations with Cuba, calling its decades of political and economic isolation a relic of the Cold War. The move automatically triggers U.S. sanctions against Cuba - likely to have negligible effects, given the scale of existing American penalties against Havana. However, the action could be a symbolic deterrent for businesses.
U.S. Move to Label Houthis Terrorists May Jeopardize Food Shipments to Yemen
The Trump administration's rush to declare Houthi rebels in Yemen a terrorist organization leaves humanitarian aid workers and commercial importers vulnerable to criminal penalties, risking future shipments of food, medical supplies, and other assistance to the impoverished country. Secretary of State Pompeo said officials were "planning to put in place measures" to ensure that the aid continued. Unfortunately, that failed to assure a number of lawmakers, diplomats, and aid groups, who accused the administration of pushing through the policy before Trump leaves office next week, and said that clear-cut legal protections should have been enacted in tandem with the terrorism designation to prevent another barrier to assisting one of the world's poorest areas.
New York Police Department Finds That Anti-Harassment Official Wrote Racist Rants
After two months of investigation, police officials have concluded that a high-ranking officer responsible for combating workplace harassment in the NYPD wrote dozens of virulently racist posts about Black, Jewish, and Hispanic people under a pseudonym on an online chat board favored by police officers. The officer, Deputy Inspector James F. Kobel, filed his retirement papers as the departmental inquiry was winding down. The officials said that they still planned to bring administrative charges against him as soon as this month for falsely denying that he had written the offensive messages.
Rush on the Capitol
Flood of Failures Let Mob Rampage Through Capitol
Poor planning among a constellation of government agencies and a restive crowd encouraged by Trump set the stage for the unthinkable. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington D.C. and her police chief called the Pentagon on the day of the riot, asking for additional D.C. National Guard troops to be mobilized to support what officials were realizing was inadequate protection at the Capitol. However, they were told that the request would first have to come from the Capitol Police. Yet the Capitol Police and the city's Metropolitan Police had rebuffed offers days before for more help from the National Guard beyond a relatively modest contingent to provide traffic control, so no additional troops had been placed on standby. It took over four hours for them to arrive. It was just one failure in a dizzying list that day - and during the weeks leading up to it - that resulted in the first occupation of the U.S. Capitol since British troops set the building ablaze during the War of 1812. The death and destruction this time was caused by Americans, rallying behind the inflammatory language of an American president. A full reckoning will take months or even years, and many lawmakers have called for a formal commission to investigate.
Companies Suspending Campaign Donations
Following the riot, several major health care corporations and lobbying groups are reevaluating their support for the 147 Republican lawmakers who voted against certifying the results of November's election. Some of the companies include PhRMA, the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, and the American Hospital Association. A wide array of other health care corporations and lobbying groups announced that their political action committees would pause giving more broadly and reevaluate contributions to all lawmakers - not just those who voted against election certification. These include drug manufacturers Amgen and Gilead Sciences, biotech trade group BIO, UnitedHealth Group, and the medical device manufacturer Boston Scientific.
Hundreds of Historians Join the Call for Impeachment
More than 1,000 historians and writers, including Ron Chernow and Taylor Branch, have signed an open letter calling Trump "a clear and present danger to American democracy." A number of the signatories had joined a previous letter in December 2019, calling for the president's impeachment because of "numerous and flagrant abuses of power", including "failure to protect the integrity of the impending 2020 election." Politically, the condemnation by historians may carry less weight than the president's loss of support in recent days from business groups that once supported him or his policies, but the historical expertise mattered. "Trump has defied the Constitution and broken laws, norms, practices and precedents, for which he must be held accountable now and after he leaves office. No future president should be tempted by the example of his defiance going unpunished."
The Confederate Flag Inside the Capitol a 'Jarring and Disheartening' Sight
Amid the images and videos that emerged from the rampage on the Capitol, the sight of a man casually carrying the Confederate battle flag outside the Senate floor was a piercing reminder of the persistence of white supremacism more than 150 years after the end of the Civil War. This was the first time that someone had managed to bring the flag into the building as an act of insurrection, according to historians. The photo was confirmation that those who had stormed the Capitol were "tied deeply" to white supremacism. The man who carried the flag has since been arrested.
Police Officer Who Responded to the Riot at the Capitol Dies While Off Duty
A Capitol police officer who responded to the riot died while off-duty. Officer Howard Liebengood, 51, was part of the response as the pro-Trump mob stormed the U.S. Capitol Building. Liebengood's death follows that of fellow officer Brian D. Sicknick, who died due to injuries sustained in the riot. The White House lowered the American flag to half-mast, and ordered flags lowered at all public and military facilities nationwide in honor of Liebengood and Sicknick.
Manhunt is On for Marauders at U.S. Capitol
When they stormed the Capitol on the 6th, Trump's supporters left a massive digital footprint of their rampage. As law enforcement agencies launch a search for the rioters, they are being helped by online sleuths and investigative teams poring over a trove of images and clips posted on social media by people in the act of breaking the law. With their help, by the end of the week, some of those rioters had already lost their jobs and been apprehended. As law enforcement agencies posted warrants for suspects, local news teams across the country followed the story.
G.O.P.'s '1776 Moment': How Lawmakers Fanned the Flames of the Riot
A handful of Trump's most loyal allies in the House urged their supporters to come to Washington on January 6th to make a defiant last stand to keep him in power, in the days and weeks leading up to the riot. They linked arms with the organizers of the protest and used inflammatory, bellicose language to describe the stakes. Representatives Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, first-term lawmakers who ran as outspoken defenders of Trump, referred to the day as Republicans' "1776 moment". Their comments have raised questions about the degree to which Republicans may have coordinated with protest organizers. House Democrats were pushing to invoke Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, added after the Civil War, which disqualifies people who "have engaged in insurrection or rebellion" against the U.S. from holding public office. The clause was originally enacted to limit the influence of former Confederates in the Reconstruction era. Representative Cori Bush, Democrat of Missouri, introduced a resolution with 47 co-sponsors that would initiate investigations for "removal of the members who attempted to overturn the results of the election and incited a white supremacist attempted coup."
Officials Scour Evidence for Police or Military Ties in Capitol Attacks
Thousands of armed National Guard troops were on their way to Washington to bolster security for this week's inaugural celebration as federal investigators turned their attention to the difficult question of how many military and police personnel took part in the violent attack on the Capitol. Adding to the tensions, dozens of people on a terrorist watch list were found to have been in Washington on the date of the riot for pro-Trump events that ultimately devolved into the assault. Most were suspected white supremacists. The nationwide dragnet for those responsible for the worst incursion on the home of Congress since the War of 1812 has now entered its second week and investigators are increasingly concerned that some of the attackers may have brought specialized skills to bear on the assault. So far, two off-duty police officers from a small town in Virginia and a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel form Texas are among the suspects with police or military links - a tiny fraction of the more than 100 people who have been taken into federal custody.
Military Emphasizes Loyalty to Constitution
The military's Joint Chiefs of Staff sent an unusual message (a one-page memorandum signed by the eight senior officers who serve as the Joint Chiefs) to the entire American armed forces reminding them that their job was to support and defend the Constitution, and declaring that Biden would soon be their next commander in chief. That the chiefs, led by General Mark A. Milley of the Army, found it necessary to remind their rank and file of their sworn oath to the country was extraordinary. Yet the memo came as federal law enforcement authorities were pursuing more than 150 suspects, including current or former service members, involved in the mob that stormed the Capitol last week.
Tight Security Closes off a City Designed to be Open
Increased security in the capital over the years has made public spaces less public, and the storming of the Capitol means that will probably continue. For 25 years, Washington has grown ever more conspicuously guarded, first with the bollards and concrete jersey barriers that appeared after the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, then the elaborate security protocols that swept federal properties after 9/11. There were also heightened fears of what could harm the nation's first Black president, followed by new worries that every day public spaces - plazas, parks, and farmer's markets - could be targets as much as the monuments were. Now it is a barricaded compound with its lawns patrolled by National Guard troops. The Capitol hasn't truly been open to the people for some time, certainly not in the way its designer L'Enfant envisioned, and it will be even less so now.
Pentagon to Arm National Guard Troops Deploying to Capitol for Inauguration
Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy has now authorized up to 21,000 National Guard troops from around the country to assist law enforcement with security surrounding the inauguration of President-elect Biden. That's an increase of 1,000 form the up to 20,000 previously authorized. Defense Department officials were authorized to deploy the Guard for up to 30 days for the inauguration and surrounding protests. Pentagon officials approved requests to have some Guard members armed with either long guns or handguns, particularly those Guard members assigned near the U.S. Capitol.
...and Back to General News...
Justices Revive a Restriction on Obtaining an Abortion Pill
The U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated a requirement that women visit a hospital or clinic to obtain a drug used for medication-induced abortions, lifting an order by a lower court allowing the drug to be mailed or delivered as a safety measure during the coronavirus pandemic. The justices granted a request by Trump's administration to lift a federal judge's July order that had suspended the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's rule requiring in-person visits for the duration of the pandemic.
Trump Officials Share Discredited Climate Denial Reports
The White House science office has reassigned two administration officials who posted a series of debunked scientific reports denying the existence and significance of man-made climate change, purportedly on behalf of the U.S. government. The officials, David Legates and Ryan Maue, still remain employed. Both had been assigned to the White House from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and have returned to that agency.
Brown Targets Inequality and Climate
Senator Sherrod Brown, the next chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, proposed a sweeping agenda, saying he would seek to improve housing and banking services for low-income Americans, fight global warming, and foster racial equality when Democrats control both chambers of Congress and the White House. Brown added that he wanted to investigate the relationship among stock prices, executive compensation and workers' wages, taking on a corporate business model that "treats workers as expendable." It is unclear how much of the wide-ranging agenda Brown will be able to put in place. Democrats' control of the Senate will be razor thin, and Republicans could try to scuttle any changes.
White House Pushed Policy that Forced Families Apart at Border, Documents Say
Trump and top aides in the White House aggressively pushed the get-tough policy that led migrant children to be separated from adults at the border with Mexico, according to a top Justice Department official in a new report from the department's inspector general and other internal documents. The policy was put in place after complaints by the president and others at the White House involved in carrying out his immigration agenda. The former deputy attorney general involved in the zero-tolerance policy expressed deep regret about its development and the part he had played. The report comes almost two and a half years after the Justice Department's zero-tolerance policy in summer 2018 led to the long-term separation of nearly 3,000 children, many of them very young, and created a global political firestorm.
Toyota is Fined Record $180 Million for Decade of Clean Air Act Violations
Toyota has agreed to pay a $180 million fine to the U.S. government over violations of Clean Air Act protocol that went on for a decade between 2005 and 2015. The violation was related to timely reporting of defects that interfered with some cars' tailpipe emission regulation systems.
Ex-Michigan Governor Charged with Neglect Over Flint Water Case
The Michigan Attorney General's Office last week announced criminal charges for eight former state officials, including the state's former Governor Rick Snyder, along with one current official, for their alleged roles in the Flint water crisis. Together the group face 42 counts related to the drinking water catastrophe roughly seven years ago. The crimes range from perjury to misconduct in office to involuntary manslaughter. The drinking water debacle is linked to at least 12 deaths and at least 80 people sickened with Legionnaires' disease after untreated water from the Flint River caused lead to leach from old pipes, poisoning the majority Black city's water system.
The Stunning Fall of a 'Toxic Tort' Lawyer Who Won Billions
One of the country's premier "toxic tort" lawyers is accused of misappropriating money from families of victims of the Lion Air crash that led to the grounding of Boeing's 737 Max. Two decades ago, the movie "Erin Brockovich" helped to make that attorney, Thomas Girardi, something of a folk hero, but now he is starring in his own legal drama. Lawsuits playing out simultaneously in state and federal courts in Los Angeles and Chicago have left Girardi's personal and professional life in tatters as he faces accusations of misconduct. Lawyers for Girardi, 81, have suggested in court that he is no longer mentally competent - an idea that another attorney for Lion Air families said was merely an attempt to avoid responsibility for a Ponzi scheme that finally fell apart. Girardi owes tens of millions of dollars to finance firms and hedge funds that lent money to his small Los Angeles-based law firm. At the same time, a federal judge in Chicago is holding hearings into fraud accusations against Girardi over a settlement with Boeing.
State Sues NYPD Over Tactics Used at Protests
New York State Attorney General Letitia James sued the NYPD over what are said to be widespread abuses in how officers handled the protests that erupted last summer after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. James wants a court-appointed monitor to oversee the department's policing tactics at future protests, and a court order to declare that the policies and practices the department used during the protests last May and June were unlawful. Filed in federal court in Manhattan, this marks the first time in history that the state attorney general has sued a police department. More than 2,000 demonstrators were arrested, most of them while protesting peacefully. An investigation by the attorney general's office found that police officers beat protesters with batons, rammed them with bicycles, used a dangerous containment strategy called kittling, and arrested legal observers and medics without proper justification. Mayor De Blasio expressed disappointment in James' decision to go to court to seek a monitor. He said the lawsuit would slow his administration's efforts to implement major changes - a goal he said they shared.
Mayor Says New York Will Cancel Its Trump Contracts
Mayor de Blasio said that in light of Trump's role in the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, New York City is cutting its business ties with the president's company. The Trump Organization, made up of hundreds of businesses owned by the president, has three contracts to run concessions in NYC: the Central Park Carousel, the Wollman and Lasker skating rinks, and Ferry Point Golf Course. The attractions bring the company $17 million a year. The statement said that the contracts' termination clauses are somewhat different. Termination of the carousel contract occurs after 25 days' written notice; termination of the ice rink contracts requires 30 days' notice; termination of the golf course contract is more complex "and is expected to take a number of months." In New York, Trump is the subject of ongoing investigations into fraud, a criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and a civil investigation by the NY State Attorney General's Office. A growing list of major businesses have announced plans to pause or sever their ties with Trump.
The National Rifle Association Seeks Texas Reboot as It Declares Bankruptcy
The National Rifle Association filed for bankruptcy protection as part of a restructuring plan aimed at moving the influential gun rights group to Texas. The filing comes six months after NY state's attorney general filed a lawsuit seeking to dissolve the NRA for allegedly misappropriating funds. The advocacy group said that it would restructure as a Texas nonprofit to exit from what it described as "a corrupt political and regulatory environment in NY," where it is currently registered.
U.S. Officials Fume as Mexico Clears General in Drug Trafficking Case
The relationship between the U.S. and Mexico hasn't improved as Mexico exonerated its former official, General Salvador Cienfuegos (accused of being on a drug cartel's payroll), without a trial, and accused its American allies of trying to smear him without solid evidence. Angry American officials saw it as a stunning breach of trust by Mexican officials, who they had expected would thoroughly investigate General Cienfuegos. In comments after the ruling, President Lopez Obrador questioned the integrity of U.S. investigators, saying they "did not act professionally" and had "fabricated" the allegations against the general. Just a few weeks before, relations between law enforcement officials came under immense strain when Mexico passed a law gutting the ability of U.S. drug agents to operate in Mexico. Now the new U.S. administration will face the challenge of trying to rebuild a relationship that has hit a stark low point over drug trafficking.
One Year into Pandemic, Coronavirus Deaths Pass Two Million Worldwide
With more than two million dead worldwide to Covid-19, the United Nations Secretary-General appeals for countries to work with each other to end the pandemic and save lives. He went on to note that absence of a global coordinated effort has worsened the pandemic's deadly impact.
Biden Plans Blitz for Inoculations in First Threee Months
The incoming Biden administration plans to set up federally run mass vaccination sites and to release all government-held vials, rather than hold some back for second doses. This is a sharp break with the Trump administration. The decision is part of an aggressive effort to "ensure the Americans who need it most get it as soon as possible." The vaccination plan, to be formally unveiled this week, also will include federally run vaccination sites in places like high school gyms and sports stadiums, and mobile units to reach high-risk populations. The president-elect has vowed to get "at least 100 million Covid vaccine shots into the arms of the American people" during his first 100 days in office.
Food and Drug Administration Veteran Picked for Vaccine Effort
David Kessler, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration, is president-elect Biden's choice to help lead efforts to develop and distribute Covid-19 drugs and vaccines. Kessler, who serves as co-chair of the Covid-19 task force for Biden, will be chief science officer of the pandemic response program. He replaces Moncef Slaoui, a scientist and former executive at British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline Plc.
U.S. Hastens Vaccinations as Toll Rises
The Trump administration, racing a surging Covid-19 death toll, instructed states to immediately begin vaccinating every American aged 65 and older, as well as tens of millions of adults with medical conditions that put them at higher risk of dying from coronavirus infection. The federal government will release all available doses of the vaccine instead of holding about half in reserve for second doses, adding that states should start allowing pharmacies and community health centers, which serve largely poor populations, to administer the shots. States will lose their allocations if they do not use up doses quickly. Starting in two weeks, state vaccine allocations will be based on the size of the state's population of people 65 and older, not on its general adult population. It was unclear whether that would hold past January 20th, when President-elect Biden takes office.
10% of Congress Has Been Infected at Some Time
By January, more than 50 lawmakers and 220 workers have tested positive, or were presumed so, for the illness. A congressman-elect from Louisiana, Luke Letlow, died on December 29th from the illness, days before he was due to be sworn in with a new Congress, and this past summer, a Florida member's aide died from Covid-19. Ahead of the vaccinations, both chambers of Congress recessed multiple times throughout the year, as the Capitol went largely without a widespread testing program. Efforts to test as many as 2,000 a week still fall short for a Capitol complex that includes more than 530 lawmakers and a workforce of over 20,000.
Fears that Mob Began Superspreader Event
A grim reality has begun to dawn on Capitol Hill: The riot may have started a coronavirus superspreader event, fueled by the mob that roamed through the halls of Congress and unmasked Republicans who jammed into cloistered secure rooms. Normal precautions - already haphazardly enforced - collapsed as pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol. On both sides of the Capitol, lawmakers, aides, police officers and reporters who had fled to secure locations have been warned that they might have been exposed ot the coronavirus while hiding from the mob. Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the attending physician of Congress, wrote to House lawmakers telling them to obtain a P.C.R. test as a precaution and to continue taking preventative steps against the spread of the virus.
Vaccine Rules are Loosened a Second Time to Inhibit Waste
This past week, NY state health officials responded to the outcry over discarded vaccines by again abruptly loosening guidelines as coronavirus cases continued to rise. Now, medical providers can administer the vaccine to any of their employees who interact with the public if there are extra doses in a vial and no one from "the priority population can come in before the doses expire," the new guidelines read. A pharmacy's "store clerks, cashiers, stock workers and delivery staff" could now qualify. Last week, California took a similar step. This is the second time in two days that Governor Cuomo's administration has loosened the restrictions around who can get vaccinated in New York State.