Posts tagged with "The New York Times"

Trump tells former aides to defy subpoenas from January 6 House panel

October 11, 2021

Former President Donald Trump has instructed his former aides not to comply with subpoenas from the special congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot—raising the prospect of the panel issuing criminal referrals for some of his closest advisers as early as Friday, October 8, The New York Times reports.

In a letter reviewed by the Times. Trump’s lawyer asked that witnesses not provide testimony or documents related to their “official” duties, and instead to invoke any immunities they might have “to the fullest extent permitted by law.”

The House committee has ordered four former Trump administration officials — Mark Meadows, the White House chief of staff; Dan Scavino Jr., a deputy chief of staff; Stephen K. Bannon, an adviser; and Kash Patel, a Pentagon chief of staff — to sit for depositions and furnish documents and other materials relevant to its investigation. They all faced a Thursday, October 7, deadline to respond.

Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi—and the chairman of the select committee—has threatened criminal referrals for witnesses who do not comply with the subpoenas, and said the panel expected witnesses “to cooperate fully with our probe.”

The move amounted to a declaration of war by Trump on the investigation, and raised legal questions about how far the committee could go in compelling information from a former president and his advisers, the Times said.

The committee is demanding that Meadows and Patel submit to questioning on Thursday, October 14; and Bannon and Scavino, the following day.

While President Biden already has said that extending Trump’s “executive privilege” is unlikely, it remains unclear whether his Administration will see fit to offer the privilege to those who have been subpoenaed.

The Justice Department and the White House already have waived executive privilege for a previous batch of witnesses who were asked to testify before the Senate Judiciary and House Oversight committees, which were investigating both the January 6 attack and the Trump Administration’s efforts to subvert the results of the presidential election. The Justice Department argued that privilege was conferred to protect the institution of the presidency—not to provide immunity for wrongdoing.

Taylor Budowich, a spokesperson for Trump, said that the records request by the select committee was “outrageously broad” and that it lacked “both legal precedent and legislative merit.

The instructions from Trump were reported earlier by The Guardian.

Research contact: @nytimes

Born again: Why scientists are cloning black-footed ferrets

October 7, 2021

In February, a group of scientists announced a major breakthrough in conservation: They had cloned a black-footed ferret, an endangered species native to the American West, reports Vox.

Elizabeth Ann, the clone, was delivered via C-section on December 10, 2020; and, as of this writing, is still thriving thanks to the work of the Sausolito, California-based nonprofit Revive & Restore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and other partners. She is the first successful clone of an endangered species, and the culmination of years of cutting-edge work attempting to use cloning to rescue vulnerable populations.

The black-footed ferret is often the center of stories like this. Conservation specialist Kimberly Fraser told Vox that the rescue of the ferret some 40 years ago is “the greatest American story we have in conservation.”

Before September 26, 1981, the ferret—a 19- to 24-inch-long, 1.4- to 2.5-pound predator that mostly targets prairie dogs in America’s Western plains—was not just considered endangered; it was considered extinct.

Soon afterward, scientists found a small colony of 18 ferrets near a farm in Wyoming. They’ve been a conservation priority ever since.

Now, there’s a concerted effort by the Black-Footed Ferret Conservation Center in Wellington, Colorado—run by the federal Fish and Wildlife Service and supported by the government and some private partners—to reintroduce the species to the wild.

But, back in Sausolito, Elizabeth Ann will live out her days at the conservation center, soon to be joined by sisters and potential mates, The New York Times reports.

Researchers will monitor their health and watch them grow and scamper in the artificial burrows inside their cages. When the clones reach sexual maturity, they will breed, and then their offspring will be bred back with the wild black-footed ferrets.

It seems that the scientists have “ferreted out” a solution for a species that soon no longer will be endangered.

Research contact: @voxdotcom

Biden: Curbing filibuster to raise debt limit is ‘a real possibility’

October 7, 2021

President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, October 5, that Democrats are considering a change to Senate filibuster rules to bypass a Republican blockade over raising the debt limit, which has set the United States on a collision course with a government default, The New York Times reports.

“Oh, I think that’s a real possibility,” Biden said when asked if Democrats were considering the last-resort route, which would involve making an exception to allow for a debt ceiling bill to pass with a simple majority instead of the usual 60 votes needed.

Senate Democrats discussed carving out the exception at their weekly lunch on Tuesday. No conclusions were reached, but notably, according to participants, the two strongest opponents of filibuster changes—Senator Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—did not speak up in protest. They also did not speak up in support.

However, on Wednesday morning, Manchin indicated that he would not support modifying the filibuster in order to deal with the debt ceiling.

The move, once nearly unimaginable in a chamber steeped in decorum, has come under discussion as the Biden Administration and congressional Democrats have explored ways to head off a government default without Republican support.

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen has warned lawmakers of “catastrophic” consequences, including a recession and financial crisis, if Congress does not act before October 18, when the government is projected to be unable to pay its bills.

On Wednesday, the Senate was scheduled to vote on whether to take up legislation to raise the debt ceiling until December 2022. But with ten Republican senators needed to join Democrats in support, the vote is expected to fail.

Some Democrats have expressed hope that if curbing the filibuster is the only avenue left, the party could muster 50 votes for the rule change.

Biden’s remarks on Tuesday evening, made as he returned to the White House after a trip to Michigan to sell a bipartisan infrastructure package and expansive social spending bill, reflected the president’s increasingly confrontational approach to a divided chamber that has presented him with one legislative obstacle after another as he tries to pass his domestic agenda.

“As soon as this week, your savings and your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt,” Mr. Biden said during remarks at the White House on Monday, October 4—cautioning that a failed vote on Wednesday could rattle financial markets, sending stock prices lower and interest rates higher. “A meteor is headed for our economy,” he said.

The president has also bristled at the ultimatum put forth by Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, who has said Democrats must use reconciliation—a more complicated process that could take a week or more to come together—if they want to overcome Republican opposition to raising the debt limit.

Research contact: @nytimes

Judge upholds New York City’s vaccine mandate for educators

September 30, 2021

A vaccine mandate for more than 150,000 teachers, custodians, school aides, cafeteria workers and other school staff in New York City can proceed as planned, a federal appeals panel ruled on Monday evening, September 27—a decision that reverses the temporary block put on it over the past weekend, reports U.S. News.

Unions representing the city’s teachers and principals had been urging Mayor Bill deBlasio to delay the vaccine requirement as concerns mounted that the country’s largest public school system could find itself with a shortage of 10,000 teachers and staff overnight.

While more than 90% of teachers and 97% of principals are already vaccinated, the mandate was expected to cause staffing shortages in a handful of schools where a significant portion of school staff remain unvaccinated—especially in and around Staten Island.

A judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit granted an injunction on a temporary basis this past weekend and referred the case to a three-judge panel to review on an expedited timeline. Their decision wasn’t expected until Wednesday.

The New York Times first reported the panel’s decision to support the mandate.

It’s not the first time the vaccine requirement has been challenged. Indeed, a state Supreme Court judge batted down a separate lawsuit filed by a group of smaller unions representing school employees—ruling last week that state and federal courts have historically upheld vaccination requirements.

The challenges to the city’s vaccine mandate are just the latest legal skirmish over COVID-19 safety protocols playing out in states and school districts across the country. And they come at a time when the Biden Administration is leaning on vaccines as a way to allow schools to stay open while the highly contagious Delta variant causes transmission and hospitalization rates to spike, including among school-age children.

The latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children’s Hospital Association show that nearly 29% of the cases recorded in the week leading up to September 2 were contracted by children. And after declining in early summer, cases in children have been increasing exponentially, with over half a million cases added in the last two weeks.

Research contact: @usnews

Republicans block government funding, refusing to lift debt limit

September 29, 2021

Senate Republicans have blocked a spending bill needed to avert a government shutdown this week and a federal debt default next month—moving the nation closer to the brink of fiscal crisis as they refused to allow Democrats to lift the limit on federal borrowing, The New York Times reports.

With a Thursday, September 30, deadline looming to fund the government—and the country moving closer to a catastrophic debt-limit breach— the stalemate in the Senate represents another bid by Republicans to undercut President Biden and top Democrats at a critical moment.

Republicans who had voted to raise the debt cap by trillions when their party controlled Washington argued on Monday, September 27, that Democrats must shoulder the entire political burden for doing so now, given that they control the White House and both houses of Congress.

The GOP was calculated to portray Democrats as ineffectual and overreaching at a time when they are already toiling to iron out deep party divisions over a $3.5 trillion social safety net and climate change bill, and to pave the way for a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure measure whose fate is linked to it.

The package that was blocked on Monday, which also included emergency aid to support the resettlement of Afghan refugees and disaster recovery, would keep all government agencies funded through December 3 and increase the debt ceiling through the end of 2022. But the bill fell far short of the 60 votes needed to move forward in the Senate on Monday.

The vote was 48 to 50 to advance the measure. Senator Chuck Schumer of New York, the majority leader, was among those voting “no,” a procedural maneuver to allow the bill to be reconsidered at some point. But there were no immediate details about next steps.

The resulting cloud of fiscal uncertainty marked yet another challenge for President Joe Biden and Democratic leaders, who are facing a daunting set of tasks as they press to keep the government funded, scrounge together the votes for the infrastructure bill—also slated for a vote on Thursday—and resolve their disputes over the broader budget plan.

Without passage of the legislation, Biden’s agenda and his party’s fortunes would be in peril, a prospect that Republicans appeared to relish, The Times said.

“We will not provide Republican votes for raising the debt limit,” said Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the minority leader, repeating a warning he has issued for months. He added, “Bipartisanship is not a light switch—a light switch that Democrats get to flip on when they need to borrow money and switch off when they want to spend money.”

“This isn’t your typical Washington fracas,” Schumer said, adding, “it’s one of the most reckless, one of the most irresponsible votes I have seen taken place in the Senate.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Truth will out: Trump’s lawsuit against niece could be huge mistake that makes all his NDAs ‘worthless’

September 24, 2021

Former President Donald Trump’s latest lawsuit may blow up in his face, Trump biographer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist David Cay Johnston explained on MSNBC on Wednesday, September 22, Raw Story reports.

NBC News confirms Donald Trump sued The New York Times, as well as his own niece, Mary Trump, over a 2018 report that shattered him as a self-made billionaire,” anchor Joy Reid stated.

“Legal experts also say Trump should be careful what he’s wishing for — he’s staking the claim on a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) that may not hold up under scrutiny,” Reid noted. “And that scrutiny is sure to entail multiple depositions under oath, which he might want to avoid.”

For analysis, Reid interviewed Johnston, who is the author of the 2016 book,  The Making of Donald Trump;  and the 2018 book,  It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What the Trump Administration is Doing to America.

“I feel like this is a giant tell by Trump that he’s really, really angry that he was exposed for the brokeness that really engulfs him,” Reid said. “Your thoughts?”

“Well, this is another gambit by Donald to stay in front of his dwindling supporters,” Johnston replied. “They haven’t dwindled much, but they are starting to dwindle.”

“He needs to raise money, he’s become America’s beggar-in-chief,” he continued. “And there is no case here against The Times—and my law school students are going to examine this case, I assure you, in the spring semester.”

Johnston described the two problems Trump created with his lawsuit.

“One is discovery and being questioned under oath, but the second one is the courts have held basically that Mary Trump can’t be stopped by the non-disclosure agreement,” he explained.

“She may suffer civil penalties if Donald Trump wants to sue her over it, but we could end up with a court decision that says all your NDAs are worthless.”

“That would be interesting,” Reid replied.

Research contact: @RawStory

Who are the hosts of ‘Jeopardy!’ through the end of the year? Mayim Bialik and Ken Jennings

September 20, 2021

The game show “Jeopardy!” announced on Thursday, September 16, that sitcom star Mayim Bialik would split hosting duties with Ken Jennings through the end of the year, The New York Times reports.

It was the latest twist in the game show’s drawn-out struggle to find a replacement for Alex Trebek, the popular longtime host whose death last November started a fraught succession battle.

“Jeopardy!” began by cycling through a series of guest hosts, to gauge their performance and audience response. Then it announced that the job would go to Mike Richards, who had been its executive producer. However, after a reporter unearthed a series of offensive and sexist comments that Richards had made on a podcast, he stepped down as host, and shortly thereafter that left the program entirely.

Bialik, who had initially been tapped alongside Richards to host a series of prime-time “Jeopardy!” specials, was enlisted to begin hosting weeknight programs as well. On Thursday, the program announced that she would share hosting duties with Jennings through the end of 2021.

“Everyone on the staff is supralunar,” the @Jeopardy account tweeted on Thursday.

Bialik will host episodes starting Monday, September 20, which will air through Nov. 5. After that, she and Jennings will split hosting duties as their schedules allow, according to Sony Pictures Entertainment, which produces the show.

Jennings, who holds the record for the show’s longest winning streak as a contestant, had been considered a strong contender to take over as the show’s permanent host during the guest host tryouts, but past insensitive tweets of his came to light, which he then apologized for.

According to the Times, “Jeopardy!” had tried to settle its future over the summer when it named Richards, 46, as host, despite lack of name recognition among viewers and the fact that, as the show’s executive producer, he had overseen elements of the succession planning.

But after a report in The Ringer revealed degrading comments he had made on a podcast several years ago—including a 2013 episode during which Richards called his female co-host a “booth slut” because she once worked as a model at a consumer show in Las Vegas, and referred to stereotypes about Jews—he stepped down as host. Old lawsuits also resurfaced from Richards’s previous job running “The Price Is Right” that included accusations of sexist behavior.

Sony initially said he would remain as executive producer of “Jeopardy!” but soon afterward announced he would leave the show entirely.Before his resignation, Richards taped a week’s worth of “Jeopardy!” episodes in a single day of filming, which are currently airing. Bialik’s episodes will follow.

A spokesperson for Sony said the network had no update on its timetable for naming a new host, or whether it would be by the end of the year.

Research contact: @nytimes

House Democrats outline tax increases for wealthy businesses and individuals

Sseptember 14, 2021

Senior House Democrats are coalescing around a draft proposal that could raise as much as $2.9 trillion to pay for most of President Joe Biden’s sweeping expansion of the social safety net by increasing taxes on the wealthiest corporations and individuals, The New York Times reports.

The preliminary proposal, which circulated on and off Capitol Hill on Sunday, September 12, would raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5 percent for the richest businesses and impose an additional surtax on individuals who make more than $5 million.

The plan could be a critical step for advancing the $3.5 trillion package, which is expected to include federally funded paid family leave, address climate change and expand public education.

But the revenue provisions outlined in a document obtained by The New York Times and reported earlier by The Washington Post fall short of fully financing the entire package Democrats are cobbling together, despite promises by Biden and Democratic leaders that it would be fully paid for in order to assuage concerns from moderates in their caucus.

Still, White House spokesperson Andrew Bates was cheerful about its prospects— commenting that the outline “makes significant progress toward ensuring our economy rewards work and not just wealth by cutting taxes for middle-class families, reforming the tax code to prevent the offshoring of American jobs and making sure the wealthiest Americans and big corporations pay their fair share.”

Specifically, the proposal would raise the corporate tax rate to 26.5% from 21% for businesses that report more than $5 million in income. The corporate tax rate would be lowered to 18% for small businesses that make less than $400,000; and would remain at 2% for all other businesses. The president originally had proposed raising the corporate tax rate to 28%, a larger increase that both corporations and moderate Democrats have resisted.

To help raise what the draft’s authors estimate could be $900 billion in taxes on corporations, Democrats suggest additional changes to the tax code that are intended to bolster a global push to set minimum taxes for corporate income and crack down on multinational companies shifting profits to tax havens, a process that the administration is championing abroad.

According to the Times, House Democrats also are considering an increase to the top marginal income tax rate to 39.6% from 37% for households that report taxable income over $450,000 and for unmarried individuals who report more than $400,000. For people who make more than $5 million, the proposal would impose a 3% surtax, which is expected to raise $127 billion.

It also increases the top tax rate for capital gains—the proceeds from selling an asset like a boat or stocks to 25% from 20%. Biden essentially had proposed doubling that tax rate. The proposal also would provide $80 billion over the next ten years for the Internal Revenue Service to beef up tax enforcement, a provision that budget scorekeepers estimate would raise $200 billion.

And while Bates, the White House spokesperson, said that the draft outline adhered to Biden’s pledge to avoid raising taxes on Americans who make less than $400,000, the document suggests increasing the tax rate for tobacco products and imposing a tax on other products that use nicotine, such as e-cigarettes. That provision is expected to raise $96 billion.

The document also outlines the possible inclusion of drug pricing provisions and changes in tax rules to “treat cryptocurrency the same as other financial instruments.”

The full House tax-writing committee still needs to release and advance text of the legislation, and it is unclear if a sufficient number of Democrats will embrace the package in the House and the Senate. In order to protect the economic package from a Republican filibuster and pass it with a simple majority, Democrats can spare only three votes in the House and must remain united in the Senate.

Research contact: @nytimes

How SCOTUS quietly undercut Roe v. Wade

September 6, 2021

In an extraordinary use of the so-called shadow docket, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to block a law effectively banning abortion, The New York Times reports.

According to the American Bar Association, the “shadow docket” is a mechanism that defies the court’s “normal procedural regularity.” Instead, it is a method by which the court can hand down decisions quickly—without hearing oral arguments, receiving amici curiae filings, or having to write out lengthy philosophical tracts explaining the jurisprudence underpinning their decision.

At 1 a.m. Eastern time on Wednesday, September 1,without a single word, the Supreme Court let the State of Texas effectively ban abortion—for the first time in nearly 50 years, the Times notes.

But it was not the first time the court had used the shadow docket so aggressively. It was not even the first time in the past week: Indeed, on Thursday, August 27, the court blocked an extension of the federal emergency ban on evictions—gutting a 1944 law that gave the CDC the authority to implement such measures to curb disease, and endangering the eight million American households that are behind on rent – and which may now, without federal eviction protection, face homelessness.

As the night of September 1 became day, and became night again, abortion providers across Texas turned away patients seeking what was, according to the court’s own precedent, a constitutional right, still the justices said nothing. When they broke their silence 23 hours later, refusing to block a law that unambiguously violates Roe v. Wade, the five-justice majority took only 400 words to describe its reasoning.

Because the shadow docket involves so little deliberation and transparency, the court historically hasn’t used it to enable major policy changes or to reverse precedents, and the rulings themselves haven’t been treated as precedents. But that restraint is a norm, not a requirement, and the court has increasingly been breaking it: using the shadow docket more often, on more consequential matters, and with more precedential weight. Last year, it issued several orders on the shadow docket concerning coronavirus restrictions and went on to cite some of them in rulings on the regular docket.

“That’s really not typical, nor is it supposed to be typical,” said Melissa Murray, a professor of law at New York University and an expert on reproductive rights.

I think it’s a reasonable question, whatever one thinks of the answers the court is reaching in these cases, whether we actually think it’s healthy for so many major questions affecting so many people to be resolved in this highly compressed, circumscribed, truncated review process,” said Stephen I. Vladeck, a professor at the University of Texas School of Law and an expert on federal courts.

The court’s increasingly assertive use of the shadow docket has angered some of its members, like Justice Elena Kagan, who wrote in her dissent from the order on Texas’ law, “The majority’s decision is emblematic of too much of this court’s shadow-docket decision making—which every day becomes more unreasoned, inconsistent and impossible to defend.”

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., the only conservative who dissented, criticized the process less forcefully, writing that the structure of the new abortion law was “not only unusual, but unprecedented,” and that while Texas’ legal arguments “may be correct,” the questions involved were too weighty to resolve in such a rushed way.

 Texas’ law, called S.B. 8, prohibits abortion once cardiac activity is detectable in the embryo — around six weeks’ gestation, before many people know they are pregnant. (Pregnancies are dated from the last menstrual period, so “six weeks” generally means four or less after fertilization, and two or less after a missed period.) Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the 1992 case that affirmed Roe, protects a right to abortion until the fetus can survive outside the uterus, around 23 weeks’ gestation.

What distinguishes the Texas law from bans that courts have blocked everywhere else is that, instead of making abortion a crime prosecutable by the government, it lets any citizen sue anyone whom he or she accuses of “aiding or abetting” an abortion after the cutoff point—phrasing that includes not only abortion providers but also anyone who, for instance, pays for a procedure or drives a patient to a clinic. Successful plaintiffs will get $10,000 and reimbursement of their legal fees. Defendants who prevail will not be reimbursed.

“It is quite striking and quite galling that the Supreme Court would allow a state to essentially destroy Roe under cover of night with no decision,” Leah Litman, a professor of law at the University of Michigan, said Wednesday afternoon, before the court had spoken. “I think it’s pretty cowardly, I think it’s an affront to the rule of law, and it is quite troubling about what it suggests about the enforcement of our constitutional rights going forward.”

If by outsourcing enforcement to citizens, a state can enact a law that would otherwise be blocked as unconstitutional, “there’s nothing that stops other states from enacting similar laws to undermine other constitutional rights,” Professor Litman said. “Religious liberty, Second Amendment protections, property rights, right to bodily autonomy — there’s just no limitation.”

Research contact: @nytimes

Women’s Viagra-like sex serum coming to Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Saks, and Nordstrom

September 3, 2021

After years of scientific research, Worcester, Massachusetts-based Vella Bioscience has introduced  what it describes as “a revolutionary pleasure serum that promises to increase the frequency, intensity, and satisfaction of a woman’s orgasm,” reports Forbes.

Developed by a medical team—including Dr. Harin Padma-Nathan, the lead principal investigator for Viagra and Cialis—Vella works locally to relax the smooth muscle tissue and increase blood flow to enhance sexual arousal and orgasm in women.

And Forbes says, while Dr. Padma-Nathan is quick to say Vella is not Viagra for women, but from a layman’s—or more accurately, a laywoman’s—perspective, it sounds a lot like it.

“Viagra for men is very different. Viagra is a prescription medication that works systemically to treat erectile dysfunction,” he explains. “Vella is applied locally and doesn’t treat sexual dysfunction. Rather it works to enhance sexual pleasure from the potential that is already there.”

Unlike menthol-based drugstore topicals, which can irritate, or lubricants that only lubricate, Vella delivers a carefully regulated dose of cannabidiol (CBD) through a nano-encapsulated serum that penetrates the delicate tissue in a way the topical application of oil can’t.

Rather than taking a pharmaceutical approach, as a comparable Viagra for women would, Vella aims at the rapidly growing sexual wellness market.

“We wanted to give half the world’s population—women—equity in sexual fulfillment in a manner that is safe and effective,” Dr. Padma-Nathan continues. “We are focused on augmenting a woman’s normal function or recuperating a lot of that function if lost, as in post-menopausal women. And in our studies we found two out of three women overall will respond.”

The idea has been quick to catch on: With women now demanding equal time in the pleasure department, established retailers are scrambling to find ways to serve her. Bloomingdale’s, for example, has opened a “Sexual Wellness” shop online, offering “body-positive, female-led” brands as the “ultimate in self-love essentials,” with an emphasis sex toys.

Vella’s packaging is designed to look like prestige beauty and sit alongside a woman’s beauty products and on a retailer’s beauty counter.

Priced at $65 for 16 carefully regulated doses, it is pricey but its research-based technology justifies the price tag. However, it is also available in a single-use packet for $8; and, this holiday season, the company is releasing a gift-boxed skew for $30 with five applications.

In May it was introduced on the company’s direct-to-consumer website and quickly gained interest from retailers. Bergdorf Goodman’s trend-spotter and creative director Linda Fargo was one of the first to bring it into the store.

Also taking the in-store plunge is multi-brand luxury beauty retailer Cos Bar. It is now carried in five of its 19 stores, though it is planning to add two more locations soon. Cos Bar was founded in 1976 and is renowned for leading with beauty innovations.

Other luxury retailers, including Neiman Marcus, Saks, and Nordstrom, offer Vella online, but not yet in-store.

Research contact: @Forbes