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Sundance Founder Pleads Guilty to Child Sex Abuse
Sterling Van Wagenen, a founder of the Sundance Film Festival, pleaded guilty in Utah County to one count of aggravated sexual abuse of a child. The case came to light after he was recorded apologizing to a man he admitted having groped more than 25 years ago. Mr. Van Wagenen, 71, was charged with molesting a young girl on two occasions between 2013 and 2015 - when she was between 7 and 9 years old. This was not the first allegation of child sexual abuse against him - Sean Escobar, who was friends with two of Mr. Van Wagenen's sons, said that Mr. Van Wagenen had touched his genitals during a sleepover at the director's house in the early 1990s. Mr. Van Wagenen eventually admitted to a Salt Lake County sheriff's detective that he had touched the boy inappropriately, but the authorities dropped the case after Mr. Escobar's parents said they did not want to press charges. Last year, Mr. Escobar reached out to Mr. Van Wagenen, who agreed to meet with him. Mr. Van Wagenen apologized for what he had done, and said that nothing like it had happened before or since. Mr. Escobar recorded the conversation on an iPhone he had hidden and then released the recording to the Truth & Transparency Foundation, an investigative website that focuses on religious reporting, thinking it might spur any other victims to come forward. Shortly afterward, the girl did.
Two months after HBO broadcast "Leaving Neverland," which detailed allegations of child molestation against Michael Jackson, Jackson's estate has said HBO's broadcast of "Leaving Neverland" violated a 1992 agreement. The 1992 agreement was made between Mr. Jackson and HBO for a concert film from Mr. Jackson's tour, in which HBO agreed that it "shall not make any disparaging remarks" about him. In response, HBO called the estate's petition a "poorly disguised and legally barred posthumous defamation claim" and stated that not only had the deal expired, the film was protected by the First Amendment. John Branca, a longtime lawyer for Jackson and one of the executors of the estate, said the estate was considering legal action against Dan Reed, the director of the film, but gave no details about the legal grounds for such a suit because technically, a dead person cannot be defamed under the law.
United States District Court Judge John Walter ruled that a Spanish museum can keep an Impressionist painting, rejecting a claim by relatives of a German Jew who was forced to sell the painting before fleeing the Nazis. The federal court held that ownership was governed by Spanish law, which allows buyers to retain works they purchased if they did not possess "actual knowledge" the works had been stolen, a position held by both the Madrid museum possessing the painting, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, and the prior owner. In the ruling Judge Walter stated that "although the 'red flags' should have raised the baron's suspicions, they fall well short of demonstrating the baron's actual knowledge, i.e. that the baron had certain knowledge that the painting was stolen, or that there was a high risk or probability that the painting was stolen".
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has ended the longest strike in the orchestra's 128-year history. The strike, which lasted almost seven weeks, ended because of the resolution of a major issue for the musicians - their pension plan. The orchestra's musicians and board agreed to a new contract that will shift the players from their defined-benefit pension to a defined-contribution plan, similar to a 401(k). The orchestra's management had said that the existing pension plan had grown too costly. The players countered that the proposed alternative, in which the orchestra would put a set amount of money into individual retirement accounts, would shift investment risk to the musicians.
The two sides compromised and the orchestra's management said that when current players switch to the new defined-contribution plan and agree to invest their retirement accounts prudently, the orchestra will guarantee that their benefits at retirement will be the same as what they would have earned under the old pension plan, which is being frozen. However, this option will not be available to future players. Those hired after July 1, 2020, will immediately move into the new plan, in which 7.5 percent of their base salary will be placed into retirement accounts.
Mayor of Wildwood, NJ Says the Town Will Still Play Racist's Song
The town of Wildwood, NJ has a daily ritual - every morning at 11am, the boardwalk's loudspeakers blast "The Star-Spangled Banner'' followed by singer Kate Smith's famous version of "God Bless America.'' While the ritual is a beloved local tradition, it has come under scrutiny after recent revelations that Smith's recording catalog featured racist songs. Smith, who died in 1986, was one of the most popular singers of her time. She recorded almost 3,000 songs during her career but was most closely associated with "God Bless America", which was written by Irving Berlin during World War I but was first performed by Smith on her radio show in 1938. Starting in 1969, the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team began playing Smith's "God Bless America," substituting it for "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games. Smith also performed the song live at many Flyers games, including the one in which the team won its first Stanley Cup in 1974. Her association with the team became so strong that the Flyers erected a statue of the singer in front of their arena in 1987. The mayor of Wildwood, Ernie Troiano Jr., says that the town does not intend to change tradition because "It is one of the most patriotic songs that was ever recorded". This vastly differs from the stance taken by the New York Yankees and Philadelphia Flyers to stop playing Smith's version of the song at their games after each team learned about the offensive songs, which were recorded in the 1930s. Mr. Troiano stated in response to the backlash "I'm not the Flyers, and I'm not the Yankees. . . .I'm the city of Wildwood."
Whitney Artists Call for Board Member to Step Down
Several artists connected to the Whitney Museum of American Art -- including more than half of those selected for the coming Biennial -- have called for the resignation of a museum board member whose company sells tear gas that activists and the art publication Hyperallergic say was used on migrants at the Mexican border. 75 artists, including Dread Scott, Barbara Kruger, Cameron Rowland, Nan Goldin, Yvonne Rainer, Hans Haacke, Andrea Fraser and Laura Poitras, whose work is owned or has been exhibited by the Whitney, have signed a letter published this month by scholars and critics who urged the museum to remove Mr. Kanders from his position as a vice chairman of the board.
Baltimore's Mayor Resigns Amid Children's Book Scandal
Catherine Pugh, the mayor of Baltimore, has resigned amid the scandal involving hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of children's books that she wrote and that the University of Maryland Medical System paid for while she was serving on its board of directors. Her resignation comes days after the Baltimore City Council proposed amending the city charter to make it possible to remove her, and after the F.B.I. raided her two homes and her office at City Hall. Pugh came under scrutiny in March, when The Baltimore Sun reported that she was one of nine members of the board of the University of Maryland Medical System who had profited personally from contracts with the hospital system.
South African "Hero" Runner Fights Hormone Testing on a Global Stage
South African runner Caster Semenya, a two-time Olympian and a celebrity in international sports, has spent years challenging proposed limits on female athletes. Semenya was only 18 when she won gold in the 800-meter race at the 2009 world track and field championships in Berlin. But she faced questions over her gender and was barred from competition and subjected to "sex tests" at the request of the International Association of Athletics Federations, track and field's world governing body. South African officials and others condemned the tests as racist and sexist, and the organization's handling of the matter was widely criticized. Last year, Semenya announced that she would challenge the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the highest court in international sports, to block a rule limiting permitted testosterone levels in female athletes, calling the rule "discriminatory, irrational, unjustifiable." The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled against her and held that female athletes who, like Semenya, have elevated levels of testosterone must take hormone suppressants to compete in certain races (more than 400 meters), arguing that the high levels of testosterone give athletes an unfair advantage.
Medical professionals have stated that since testosterone builds muscle - skeletal muscle and cardiac muscle - it may give a performance advantage even despite the fact that more than 10,000 men and boys running 400-meter races beat the best times the three female athletes who were the fastest 400-meter runners in history - and were not injecting testosterone - ever ran.
Massachusetts Gaming Commission Fines Wynn Resorts
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission levied a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts but allowed the company to keep its state casino license and open its Boston-area resort as planned after executives failed to disclose years of allegations of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn. Regulators also fined CEO Matthew Maddox $500,000 for his "clear failure" to investigate at least one misconduct complaint. Nevada regulators, after an investigation similar to Massachusetts' earlier this year, levied a $20 million fine on the company but also allowed it to retain its casino license. The Massachusetts commission in its report stated in part that the evidence "does not rise to the level" of revoking the company's license or calling for other major changes.
Video Showing Kraft at Spa Won't Be Released Before Trial
Judge Joseph Marx, a circuit court judge in Florida, broadened a previous order from another judge, who last week temporarily blocked the release of videos involving New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft and 24 other men charged with soliciting prostitution at a massage parlor in Jupiter, FL. Judge Marx's order covers videos of all 25 men in the case and surveillance videos taken last fall outside of the Orchids of Asia Day Spa, however, still photographs are not covered by the order. Judge Marx said the videos can be released once one of these conditions occurs: trial juries are sworn in each case; the cases are resolved by plea agreement; the state drops the charges; or at a time when the judge finds the fair trial rights of the men are not at risk.
Federal Judge Overturned Ex Penn-State President's Child Endangerment Conviction
Magistrate Judge Karoline Mehalchick overturned the misdemeanor child endangerment conviction of Graham Spanier, the former president of Penn State, for his actions in the Jerry Sandusky scandal, one day before Mr. Spanier was scheduled to report for a two-month prison term. Mr. Spanier is one of three university officials prosecutors sought to punish for failing to go to law enforcement after being told of Mr. Sandusky's conduct. In his appeal, Mr. Spanier argued that he was improperly charged under a 2007 law for events that occurred in 2001, when he learned of a complaint about a boy showering with Mr. Sandusky. Judge Mehalchick held that prosecutors must use a 1995 version of the law, which was in place at the time of the incident in 2001, not the 2007 law. Prosecutors have three months to retry the case.
For the first time in the history of the Kentucky Derby, the first horse to cross the finish line is not the winner. Never before had a foul voided an apparent win at the Derby. The horse, Maximum Security, was disqualified for interference and stripped of his title, making Country House the winner. Three stewards at Churchill Downs made the difficult decision to disqualify Maximum Security for interfering with other horses after a 20-minute replay of the race. By all appearances, Maximum Security had outrun the field, remaining unbeaten and giving a hard-knocking trainer from the Mid-Atlantic, Jason Servis, and his up-and-coming jockey, Luis Saez, their first Derby victories. However, Maximum Security had jumped a puddle on the rain-soaked track and slid to the outside, not only impeding the progress of a rival, War of Will, but also forcing that colt's rider, Tyler Gaffalione, to squeeze his knees and wrangle the reins just to stay aboard.
Facebook Set to Create Privacy Positions as Part of Federal Trade Commission Settlement
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is negotiating a settlement with Facebook that would create new positions at the company focused on strengthening its privacy practices. Facebook has agreed to create a privacy committee to protect its users' data, as well as an external assessor who would be appointed by the company and FTC. The proposed commitments are part of negotiations between the FTC and Facebook to settle privacy violations that stemmed from claims that Facebook violated a 2011 privacy consent decree. Facebook has announced that it expected to be fined up to $5 billion by the FTC, in what would be a record financial penalty by the United States against a technology company.
Facebook Bans Louis Farrakhan and Others it Deems to Be "Dangerous Individuals"
Facebook has banned seven of its most controversial users - including Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, and other "extremists" - claiming that they violated its ban on "dangerous individuals." Paul Nehlen, Milo Yiannopoulos, Paul Joseph Watson, and Laura Loomer, along with Jones' site, Infowars, were also banned and the bans apply to Facebook's main service and to Instagram and extend to fan pages and other related accounts. The ban also prohibits anyone else from praising or supporting those who are banned, but Facebook claims that people can speak positively about the banned individuals if what they say otherwise complies with Facebook policies. Many of the users barred by Facebook remain active on YouTube and other social platforms.
WikiLeaks Founder Sentenced to 50 Weeks and Still Faces U.S. Charges
Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks, has been sentenced by a British court to 50 weeks in prison for jumping bail when he took refuge in Ecuador's Embassy in London seven years ago. The United States is seeking Assange's extradition for prosecution, and an initial hearing on that request is pending. Officials in Sweden have left open the possibility that he could face criminal charges in that country as well. Assange was arrested on April 11th, after the Ecuadorean government withdrew its protection of him and allowed the police to take him out of the embassy in London. The same day, he appeared in court and was convicted on the charge of skipping bail. Assange faces a charge of conspiracy to hack into a Pentagon computer network; a federal indictment accuses him of helping an Army private to illegally download classified information in 2010, much of it about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, which WikiLeaks then made public. Assange, who is being held in Belmarsh Prison in East London, argued that he should not be jailed for the offense, because he was effectively imprisoned in the embassy.
Assange Appears in Court for U.S. Extradition Hearing
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange appeared via video in Westminster Magistrates Court in London from Belmarsh Prison for an initial hearing on whether he will be extradited to the United States to face prosecution in connection with one of the most serious leaks of classified material in American history. The U.S. indictment against him stems from a leak in 2010 of hundreds of thousands of classified documents, mostly related to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Assange told the judge that he did not wish to surrender himself to be prosecuted in the United States for what he called "journalism that has won many awards." His next hearing is scheduled for May 30th.
Lawyers for Jarrod W. Ramos, the man accused of fatally shooting five people in the newsroom of The Capital Gazette, have entered an insanity defense (in addition to the July not guilty plea), saying that he should not be held criminally responsible for the shooting because of a mental disorder. Ramos faces five charges of first-degree murder for the shooting at the Annapolis, Md., newsroom. The attack is considered the deadliest attack against journalists in United States history. Before the attack, authorities said Ramos sent a number of letters, including one to The Capital Gazette's lawyer that said he planned to go there "with the objective of killing every person present."
New York City Board of Elections Removed Voter Data from Public Site
After fierce criticism and claims of privacy concerns, the New York City Board of Elections has removed the voter enrollment books that it had posted online, which had included every registered voter's full name, party affiliation and home address. The books were quietly posted in February, the first time they had been available on the Board of Elections website. Michael Ryan, the board's executive director, said that the board had made the decision during a conference call, partly in response to public outrage following the media reports.
New York Times Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Cartoon, then Disciplines Editor and Cancels Cartoon Contract
The New York Times has apologized for an anti-Semitic cartoon that appeared in the newspaper's international edition depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a dachshund wearing a Star of David collar and leading a blind and skullcap-wearing U.S. President Donald Trump. A tweet from the New York Times Opinion account said that the image "was offensive, and it was an error in judgment to publish it." Following the backlash, the newspaper canceled its contract with CartoonArts International, the syndicate that provided the cartoon, and disciplined the editor (the editor has not been named) from The Times's Opinion section who decided to publish it. The New York Timesalso decided to update its bias training to include a focus on anti-Semitism, and the paper will no longer run syndicated cartoons created by artists who have no direct ties to it.
Sri Lanka Blocks Social Media Access After Easter Sunday Attacks and then its President Lifts It
The Sri Lankan government announced a block on social media - i.e. Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram - following the Easter Sunday terrorist attacks, citing the spread of misinformation and inflammatory content online as the reason for the block. Sri Lanka's defense ministry said the shutdown would extend until the government wraps up its investigation into the bomb blasts. This isn't the first time Sri Lanka has blocked social media. Last March, the government imposed a weeklong ban because of concerns that WhatsApp and other platforms were being used to fan anti-Muslim violence in the country's central region. The NetBlocks observatory said post-attack blackouts can be ineffective because a block "can add to the sense of fear and can cause panic" while also making it difficult for people to connect with their family and friends.
Then Sri Lanka's president, Maithripala Sirisena, called for the "immediate" lifting of a temporary ban on several social media networks, including Facebook and WhatsApp. It's still unclear how effective it was.
It's been a year since Trump declared a trade war on China. As the two countries engage in trade talks and attempt to come to a trade deal, it seems increasingly unlikely that China will give ground in a crucial area that could determine which country wins the technology race. The United States and China are headed toward an agreement that could end the trade war and lift tariffs on hundreds of billions of dollars of products. China is offering to strengthen its laws surrounding intellectual property, direct large purchases of American goods, and reduce barriers for foreign companies in industries like finance and agriculture. It has also proposed giving foreign cloud computing companies like Amazon, Microsoft, and Apple greater ability to operate independently in China. However, Chinese negotiators have so far refused to relax tight regulations (the "Chinese Firewall") that block multinational companies from moving data they gather on their Chinese customers' purchases, habits, and whereabouts out of the country.
Trump and Democrats Agree to a $2 trillion Infrastructure Plan
Trump and Democratic Congressional leaders agreed to work toward a $2 trillion infrastructure plan to rebuild roads and bridges, provide clean water, and extend broadband coverage. However, they have not agreed on how to pay for it. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said there was "good will in the meeting" -- a marked departure from the last White House encounter between Trump, Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, which ended with Trump walking out in a huff. Pelosi said of the meeting, "we did come to one agreement: that the agreement would be big and bold".
Judge Rules That Emoluments Suit Against Trump Can Proceed
Washington District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan ruled that a group of Democrats in Congress can proceed with a lawsuit against Trump, alleging that his businesses violate a constitutional ban against gifts from foreign governments. Judge Sullivan ruled that Democrats' claims that Trump has violated the emoluments clause of the constitution provide a valid "cause of action" against the president.
Trump Administration Files Formal Request to Strike Down All of Obamacare
The Trump administration formally declared its opposition to the entire Affordable Care Act, arguing in a federal appeals court filing that the signature Obama-era legislation was unconstitutional and should be struck down. Democrats wasted no time responding to the filing - Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, a Democrat, said: "The Trump administration chose to abandon ship in defending our national health care law and the hundreds of millions of Americans who depend on it for their medical care. Our legal coalition will vigorously defend the law and the Americans President Trump has abandoned." Oral arguments in the appeals court are expected in July, with a possible decision by the end of the year, as the 2020 presidential campaign gets going in earnest. Whichever side loses is expected to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Department of Labor Says That Workers at a Gig Company Are Contractors
The Department of Labor decided that one company's workers were contractors, not employees. Thus, the unidentified company -- whose workers, it appears, clean residences -- will not have to offer the federal minimum wage or overtime, or pay a share of Social Security taxes. While the decision officially applies only to that company, legal experts said that it was likely to affect a much larger portion of the industry. Under the Obama administration, the Labor Department issued guidance suggesting that gig workers (i.e. drivers for Uber and Lyft) were likely to be employees, a position it rescinded several months after Trump took office. David Weil, the administrator who issued the guidance under President Barack Obama, said in response, "it is outrageous for the Department of Labor to set policy in such an important area through the device of an opinion letter. . . .The Obama administration discontinued opinion letters precisely because they are a capricious tool for settling complicated regulatory questions."
William Barr Threatens Not to Testify Before House
The chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York, threatened on to subpoena Attorney General William P. Barr if Barr refused to testify, a move that could lead to a major escalation of the long-running feud between the White House and Congressional Democrats over testimony and access to documents. Barr objected to the Democrats' proposed format for questioning him, and the dispute spilled out into the open on when Democrats revealed that Barr was threatening to skip the session if they did not change their terms. Rep. Nadler said they have no intention of doing so, stating "the witness is not going to tell the committee how to conduct its hearing, period. . . .if Mr. Barr does not show up, then we will have to subpoena him, and we will have to use whatever means we can to enforce the subpoena."
Mueller Objected to Barr's View of Investigation's Findings
Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller III wrote a letter in late March to Barr, objecting to the latter's early description of the Russia investigation's conclusions that appeared to clear Trump on possible obstruction of justice. In the letter, Mueller "expressed a frustration over the lack of context" in Barr's presentation of his findings on obstruction of justice. In the investigative report, Mueller, after explaining that he had declined to make a prosecutorial judgment, citing as a factor a Justice Department view that sitting presidents cannot be indicted, detailed more than a dozen attempts to impede the inquiry. He also left open the door for charges after Trump leaves office.
Attorney General Barr defended himself against criticism of his handling of the special counsel investigation. He denied misrepresenting the investigation's conclusions despite a newly revealed letter written by Special Counsel Mueller, protesting the initial summary of its findings. Barr dismissed the letter as "a bit snitty" and the controversy over it as "mind-bendingly bizarre." Democrats have accused Barr of deceiving Congress and acting as a personal agent for Trump rather than a steward of justice. Hawaii Democrat Senator Mazie K. Hirono compared Barr to Trump's personal lawyer and the White House counselor. She stated in part: "Mr. Barr, now the American people know that you are no different from Rudy Giuliani or Kellyanne Conway or any of the other people who sacrifice their once decent reputation for the grifter and liar who sits in the Oval Office".
Pelosi Says Barr Lied to Congress - and It's a Crime
U.S. House of Representatives' Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused Attorney General Barr of lying to Congress, telling reporters, "That's a crime." Shortly after Barr refused to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, Pelosi accused him of lying to lawmakers about interactions with Mueller after the special counsel ended a 22-month investigation into Russia's efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. election to boost Trump's candidacy. Democrats say that Barr mislead Congress by testifying that he was unaware of any concern by the special counsel's team about Barr's initial characterization of the Mueller report, which led Trump to claim full exoneration. Barr failed to mention a letter he got from Mueller complaining that Barr's account did not "fully capture the context, nature and substance of this Office's work." Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler has threatened to hold Barr in contempt of Congress if he does not provide a full, unredacted copy of Mueller's report and the underlying evidence.
Rod Rosenstein, the deputy attorney general, announced his resignation in a letter to Trump after serving only two years in the position.
Rosenstein had previously signaled that he would leave after the completion of the Mueller report. A large part of his tenure was overshadowed by the investigation and Rosenstein faced harsh criticisms from the left and the right. His resignation is to be effective as of May 11, 2019.
Last week, Trump took another step towards reshaping asylum law. In a memo sent to Kevin McAleenan, the acting secretary of homeland security, and Attorney General Barr, Trump ordered new restrictions on asylum seekers at the Mexican border -- including application fees and work permit restraints -- and directed that cases in the already clogged immigration courts be settled within 180 days. The restrictions do not take effect immediately - Trump gave administration officials 90 days to draw up regulations that would carry out his order - but there was nothing in the memo indicating how the plans would be carried out in immigration courts.
Trump Sues Banks to Block Compliance With Subpoenas
Trump, along with his three oldest children, Eric, Ivanka, and Donald Jr., and his private company have filed a federal suit against Deutsche Bank and Capital One, seeking to prevent compliance with subpoenas issued by Democratic House committee leaders. The suit alleges that the subpoenas are "a broad overreach" and have been issued to "harass" Trump. The House's Intelligence and Financial Services Committees issued subpoenas to Deutsche Bank and several other financial institutions seeking a long list of documents and other materials related to Deutsche Bank's history of lending and providing accounts to Trump, his business, and his family. People with knowledge of the investigation said it related to possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.
Over two decades, Deutsche Bank lent Trump billions of dollars, and among the records it holds are internal corporate documents, descriptions of the value of Trump's assets, and portions of his personal and business tax returns - which he has fought vigorously to keep private throughout his presidency and campaign. Bank officials have said that they were eager to provide the materials to Congress and the heads of the two committees that issued the subpoena, Representatives Maxine Waters and Adam B. Schiff. The Representatives called the suit "meritless" and an attempt to obstruct Congressional oversight.
National Rifle Association's Chief Exececutive Asked to Resign, but Prevails in Power Struggle
Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association (NRA) was asked to resign but refused. At the forefront of the power struggle is Oliver L. North, the recently installed president and employee of the NRA's most influential contractor, Ackerman McQueen (McQueen). There is an ongoing legal battle between the NRA and McQueen, amid renewed threats from regulators in New York, where the NRA is chartered, to investigate the group's tax-exempt status. With contributions lagging, the NRA is also facing an increasingly well-financed gun control movement, motivated by a string of mass shootings. North asked LaPierre to resign and said that the former had also created a committee to review allegations of financial improprieties that threaten the 's status as a nonprofit organization. LaPierre responded by sending a letter to NRA's board, in which he accused North of threatening to leak damaging information about him and other NRA executives unless he stepped down. LaPierre wrote: "yesterday evening, I was forced to confront one of those defining choices -- styled, in the parlance of extortionists -- as an offer I couldn't refuse. . . .I refused it."
The Democratic-controlled House approved a bill that will prevent Trump from fulfilling his 2017 pledge to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris climate agreement by 2020 and ensure that the U.S. honors its commitments under the global accord. The measure was approved, 231-190, and now goes to the Republican-run Senate, where it is unlikely to move forward. Trump has said that he will veto the legislation if it reaches his desk.
F.B.I. Sent Investigator Posing as Assistant to Meet with Trump Aide in 2016
George Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign aide, was the target of an F.B.I. investigation into connections between the Trump campaign and Russia. The conversation took place at a London bar in September 2016. A woman - going by the fictitious name Azra Turk - had set up the meeting to discuss foreign policy issues. However, she was actually a government investigator posing as a research assistant; during the conversation, she asked Papadopoulos this question: Was the Trump campaign working with Russia? The F.B.I. sent her to London as part of the counterintelligence inquiry opened that summer to better understand the Trump campaign's links to Russia. The F.B.I.'s decision is under scrutiny as part of an investigation by Michael E. Horowitz, the Justice Department inspector general.
Trump Will Not Nominate Moore for Federal Reserve Board Seat
Stephen Moore, the second of Trump's potential picks for a seat on the Federal Reserve board, has been withdrawn as a nominee by Trump because of concerns about his views and attitudes toward women. This is the second time in recent weeks that one of Trump's picks was forced to withdraw over concerns about his views and attitudes toward women. Herman Cain, a former pizza magnate, bowed out as well, as he battled previous accusations of sexual harassment that ended his 2012 presidential campaign. It is unclear who Trump will nominate next.
Military Reports a Surge of Sexual Assaults in the Ranks
According to a survey released by the Defense Department, there has been a marked increase in sexual assaults in the military. The Department of Defense's annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military estimated that there were 20,500 instances of "unwanted sexual contact" in the 2018 fiscal year, based on a survey of men and women across the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. That was an increase of 38% from the previous survey in 2016. The current survey found that while assaults on men in the military remained flat, assaults on women recorded their biggest increase in years. Patrick M. Shanahan, the acting secretary of defense, called the survey results "unacceptable" and has proposed a list of actions, including better tracking and training, and a new program to identify repeat offenders even if their victims do not want to come forward.
Health officials fear that measles will get a foothold in the U.S. again after outbreaks across the country exceed 700 cases. The Center for Disease Control and Protection reported that, as of last week, more than 500 of the 704 cases recorded were in people who had not been vaccinated. A large portion of the outbreaks have been linked to Orthodox Jewish communities. In particular, the outbreak in New York has been concentrated in Orthodox Jewish communities in Brooklyn and Rockland County. Officials in New York City have closed seven Orthodox schools for failing to comply with vaccination orders; five have reopened after providing records showing that they were turning unvaccinated students away. The city has also issued summonses to 57 residents of Brooklyn's Williamsburg neighborhood -- where more than 80% of the city's cases have occurred -- for refusing to get themselves or their children vaccinated.
Judge Rules That Confederate Statues Are Protected by State Law
Judge Richard E. Moore of the Charlottesville Circuit Court held that the statues of the Confederate generals Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson can be viewed as both monuments to the war and as symbols of racism, but only because both sides in the case agree that they depict Confederate military leaders, which inherently makes them war memorials. The legal battle started the after the City Council of the City of Charlottesville voted to remove the Lee statue. The white nationalist rally in August 2017 was organized to oppose the City Council vote. It resulted in the death of a counter-protester and two state troopers. This drew renewed attention to the presence of dozens of Confederate monuments across the country - many of which were taken down following the protest.
"Hard Work" - and $6.5 Million Dollars - Helps Get You into Stanford
A 2017 YouTube video of Yusi Zhao - yet another student whose parents are implicated in the college admissions scandal - has resurfaced, in which she claims to have "tested into Stanford through my own hard work." The video stands in sharp contrast with recent news: that her parents paid $6.5 million to William Singer, a college consultant at the center of an international college admissions scheme, who tried to get Zhao recruited to the Stanford sailing team, providing a fake list of sailing accomplishments and making a $500,000 donation to the sailing program after she was admitted. The payment to Singer was by far the largest known in the case, and the disclosure immediately added Zhao and her family, pharmaceutical billionaires from China, to a cast of powerful figures swept up in the scandal.
Teachers, Guns, and Race Collide in Florida Ruling to Let Teachers Carry Guns in School
The Florida State House passed with a vote of 65-47 the "school guardian program", which will allow school teachers to carry firearms. This has raised many concerns over the safety of black and Latinx children. Representative Shevrin D. Jones, a Democrat who is African-American, tried unsuccessfully to pass a pair of amendments on the House floor aimed at protecting children from the possibility that an armed teacher in a chaotic situation could assume that a black student was a threat. One amendment would have required any teacher who volunteers for the so-called school guardian program to be trained in implicit bias, or stereotypes that could unconsciously affect spur-of-the-moment decisions. The other would have prohibited a teacher who shoots a student by mistake in a situation with an active shooter on campus from claiming self-defense under Florida's Stand Your Ground law. The guardian program was created after the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida that left 17 people dead and 17 wounded. Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony said in response: "Arming teachers is not the right approach to keep our children safe. . . .this program would place students, teachers and first responders at risk, when our focus should be on keeping our students safe and making schools places where they feel they belong."
The New York State Legislature passed a law last month that will require district attorneys to turn over most of their evidence to the defense within 15 days of a defendant's first court appearance. Before this overhaul, New York was one of only 10 states that let prosecutors wait until the eve of trial to hand over witness names and statements and other crucial evidence to the defense - a practice that forced many defendants to decide whether to plead guilty without knowing the strength of the case against them. Before the bill passed last month, New York was behind conservative states like North Carolina and Texas in overhauling its discovery law, and its rules were only slightly less restrictive than those in red states like Wyoming, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The law, written largely by public defenders, will fundamentally transform how trials are conducted in New York.
"Sesame Street" is Now a Legit Intersection in New York City
In honor of "Sesame Street's" 50th anniversary, Mayor Bill de Blasio has made Sesame Street a real-life street at the intersection of West 63rd Street and Broadway. The show has been headquartered in New York City since 1969 and has always been based between West 63rd and West 64th Streets. An intersection was temporarily renamed 10 years ago but this time, it's permanent.
In the weeks before North Korea fired rockets and guided weapons Trump countermanded the Treasury Department, reversing an announcement that it was tightening economic sanctions against the country because, according to his press secretary, "President Trump likes Chairman Kim and he doesn't think these sanctions will be necessary." North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-un, is now turning to a "well-worn playbook" written by his father and grandfather - testing how much the President will tolerate, and how far trust can stretch.
China's Detention of Muslims Unspoken in Trade Talks
As negotiations between the United States and China come to their final stages, human rights groups are expressing their discontent with China's detention of up to one million ethnic Uighurs and other minority Muslims in large internment camps in the country's northwest region of Xinjiang. The Trump administration has avoided rattling China by not raising the topic during the trade talks, viewing it as an impediment to securing what Trump has said could be "the biggest deal ever made." Activists are now pushing American officials to insert the crisis in Xinjiang into the trade talks or to impose sanctions to pressure China to end persecution in the region.
Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared leader of ISIS, has reappeared after five years. Al-Baghdadi was rumored to be missing or dead, and even though he is one of the most wanted men on the planet, his whereabouts remain a mystery. Al-Baghdadi appeared in a video seeking to rally his followers after ISIS lost territory in Iraq and Syria and after the Easter terrorist attack in Sri Lanka. Analysts say that the message he intended to send is very clear: ISIS is alive and well, he is still the leader, and together they will continue to execute terrorist attacks across the globe.
U.K. Police Requires Crime Victims to Hand in Phones If They Want Their Crimes Prosecuted
Crime victims and witnesses in the United Kingdom will now be asked to sign a consent form allowing the police to extract data from their electronic devices. Assistant Commissioner Nick Ephgrave, the National Police Chiefs' Council lead for criminal justice, stated that "Police have a duty to pursue all reasonable lines of enquiry. . . .those now frequently extend into the devices of victims and witnesses as well as suspects -- particularly in cases where suspects and victims know each other." This has raised both privacy concerns and concerns about the potential risk of discouraging people from reporting crimes, particularly offenses like sexual assault that are already underreported because victims fear being treated like the guilty ones.