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Week In Review

By Eric Lanter
Edited by Elissa D. Hecker

General News

Senate Votes to End Aid for Yemen

On Thursday, the United States Senate voted to end American military assistance for Saudi Arabia's war in Yemen. The vote is a rebuke of President Trump and comes as the Saudis have led a four-year war in Yemen that has led to the deaths of thousands of civilians. The Senate also voted unanimously to approve a resolution to hold Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responsible for the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The Senate's actions are "an extraordinary break" with President Trump, as Trump has refused to acknowledge the Crown Prince's role in ordering the assassination of Khashoggi, even contradicting the CIA's conclusion that the Crown Prince personally ordered the killing.


Pelosi and Dissident Democrats Reach Deal to Limit Her Speakership

Representative Nancy Pelosi has obtained the votes required for her to take the speakership in the House of Representatives, but it has come at a cost. She has agreed with dissident Democrats to limit her term as Speaker to four years, which would make her nearly 83 years old when she relinquishes the speakership, assuming that Democrats keep control of the House in the 2020 elections.The deal reflects the younger Democrats' wish to hold leadership positions within the party, be mentored, and transition out the senior House leadership.


Trump Inaugural Fund and Super PAC Scrutinized for Illegal Foreign Donations

Federal prosecutors are said to be examining President Trump's inaugural committee and a pro-Trump super PAC to determine whether foreigners illegally funneled donations with the hope of buying access and influence over American policy. The investigation is focused on Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates, with the aim of determining whether funds violated the prohibition on foreign contributions being made to federal campaigns, political action committees, or inaugural funds. The investigation is just the latest investigation into the Trump campaign and presidency as the investigation of hush money payments to silence accusations of extramarital affairs during the campaign and the investigation led by Robert S. Mueller III continue.


Federal Prosecutors Shift Focus to Trump Family Business As Michael Cohen Receives Three-Year Sentence in Hush-Money Scandal

Prosecutors filed a sentencing memorandum regarding President Trump's former lawyer, Michael Cohen, recommending a substantial prison term for his work in breaking campaign finance laws and other crimes. With Cohen being sentenced to three years in prison, prosecutors have shifted their attention to whether the Trump Organization executives played a role in facilitating the campaign finance violations. The investigation is separate from special counsel Robert S. Mueller III's investigation into whether there was collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government or obstruction of that investigation. The parent company of The National Enquirer, the publisher that allegedly bought and buried the stories regarding the hush money payments, is said to be cooperating with prosecutors.





Trump's Intervention in Huawei Case Would Be Legal but Bad Precedent

President Trump announced that he is willing to intercede in the case of a Huawei executive, detained in Canada, being extradited to the United States if it helped achieve "the largest trade deal ever made." The announcement makes clear that the White House "saw no problem intervening in the justice system to achieve what it considered economic gain." Experts agree that a president may order the government to rescind an extradition request or even drop the charges against the executive, Meng Wanzhou, but there was no known prior instance of a president injecting himself into a criminal proceeding in this way. One former under secretary of state noted that it sets a bad precedent to mix justice with trade, as it "devalues both." Those in the Justice Department have expressed concerns that Trump's intervention may interfere with the U.S.'s ability to go after foreign wrongdoers.



Playing By His Own Rules, Trump Flips the Shutdown Script

In a remarkable exchange with Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer, President Trump noted that he would "take the mantle" and shut down the government if Congress did not "accede to his request for $5 billion to build a wall on the southern border with Mexico." Pelosi and Schumer, pleased to have someone to blame for a shutdown, used the term "Trump shutdown" throughout their conversation, but Trump appeared pleased with his stance.


Trump Scrambling to Find New Chief of Staff

President Trump is searching for a new chief of staff. There was a short list of candidates for chief of staff, including Vice President Mike Pence's chief of staff, Nick Ayers, who refused the offer, and some fear the continuing staff turnover of the Trump administration. Regardless of the administration, an expert on chiefs of staff has said that it is an inherently thankless job where the chief gets "all of the blame and none of the credit for everything that happens."


Trump's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Nominee Won't Get Senate Vote This Year

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will be without a Senate-confirmed leader for the longest period since its creation in 1970. The Senate is expected to vote on a leader in early 2019, and both parties have blamed each other for the delay. Scientists have said that the Trump administration's failure to install permanent leaders in top positions has demonstrated its disinterest in science.


Trump Team Pushes Fossil Fuels at Climate Talks

At high-stakes climate talks in Poland, Trump administration officials argued that a "rapid retreat from coal, oil, and gas was unrealistic." That message resonated with officials from Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Australia and places the United States as the emerging leader to promote coal and fossil fuels despite reports that the planet is growing "dangerously warmer because of greenhouse gasses." Behind the scenes, American diplomats are working to negotiate a "rule book" that will allow the Paris agreement to become operational and reduce emissions, and protests permeated the climate talks in Poland.


While Working for Trump, Giuliani Courts Business Abroad

President Trump's personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani, has been traveling the world while his client faces investigations from all sides. Giuliani's travels have included him meeting with the king of Bahrain, a country with a record of human rights abuses, with Giuliani seeking a lucrative "security consulting contract" with Bahrain's government. His travels have brought him to Africa and South America for similar contracts with his company Giuliani Security and Safety. As he is the president's personal attorney, he is not a government employee and is not subject to government ethics rules which would prohibit outside work.


Supreme Court Will Not Hear Planned Parenthood Cases

The Supreme Court has refused to hear cases regarding Planned Parenthood clinics using Medicaid. With four votes required for the Court to hear a case, the conservatives split on the vote with Justices Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch voting to take the case and Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Kavanaugh voting not to take the case. Justice Thomas issued a dissent questioning his colleagues' motives, as not taking the case allows the lower court's decision to stand. The lower court decided that states may not terminate providers from Medicaid programs for any reason that is unrelated to the competence of the provider or the quality of the health care provided.


Wisconsin Governor Enacts Law Hamstringing His Democratic Successor

Governor Scott Walker has enacted new laws to limit the power of his successor, virtually guaranteeing a lawsuit. Former attorney general Eric Holder has called the laws "grossly partisan" and "deeply undemocratic," and it is expected that the lawsuit will make its way to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, which has a right-leaning bench. There are two court seats up for election in the next year-and-a-half, which could flip the Court to be left-leaning by the time it hears the challenge to Governor Walker's laws.


Texas Judge Strikes Down Affordable Care Act as Unconstitutional

Judge Reed O'Connor of the Federal District Court in Fort Worth has struck down the Affordable Care Act on the grounds that its mandate for people to have health insurance is unconstitutional. The case focused on the mandate's tax penalty, which the Supreme Court found constitutional as a legitimate use of Congress's taxing power, and found that the mandate was unconstitutional and could not be severed from the remainder of the Affordable Care Act. Thus, Judge O'Connor reasoned, the entire act was unconstitutional. An appeal to the Supreme Court is likely, and until the appeals are exhausted, the Affordable Care Act will remain in place, including the mandate and the requirement that people with pre-existing conditions be able to obtain coverage from insurers.


U.S. Diplomats with Mysterious Illness in Cuba Had Inner-Ear Damage

After Americans posted in the United States Embassy in Havana, Cuba began to report disturbing symptoms such as dizziness, insomnia, and nausea, many were tested and not found to have suffered any clear injuries. Some doctors and analysts had wondered whether there was any mechanism of injury at all given the absence of evidence, but doctors have now reported that the diplomats suffered inner-ear damage. The cause for the injuries remain unclear, as there has not been any evidence to establish who or what may be responsible for causing such debilitating injuries.


Pompeo Calls Iran 'Reckless' and Argues for Tougher United Nations Stance

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a rare appearance at the United Nations (UN) Security Council and argued that Iran has destabilized the Middle East in its "reckless" development of ballistic missiles systems. He blamed the Iran nuclear deal for giving Iran access to funding streams that have allowed it to go on a "proliferation spree." Pompeo received a cordial reception at the Security Council, despite just a week prior disparaging the UN as an organization and questioning its value.


Hungary Creates New Court System, Cementing Leader's Control of Judiciary

Viktor Orban, the Prime Minister of Hungary, has furthered his control over his government as Parliament has now approved the creation of a parallel court system that allows Orban's justice minister to control the hiring and promotion of judges who oversee cases relating to "public administration", including electoral law, corruption, and freedom of speech. The existing court system will be stripped of much of its power but continue to exist. Civil rights watchdogs see the move as just the latest example of eroding democracy in Hungary, which has been an example in Europe of a backsliding democracy and a model for populist figures to follow.


NASA's Intrepid Voyager 2 Probe Crosses Into Interstellar Space

A NASA probe has become only the second human-made object to enter interstellar space. The probe, Voyager 2, was launched in 1977 and was designed for a five-year mission> It has ventured more than 11 billion miles from Earth. While the probe was originally meant to study Jupiter and Saturn, it also studied Uranus and Neptune, and has now left the heliosphere and entered interstellar space.


Below, for your browsing convenience, the categories are divided into: Entertainment, Arts, Sports, and Media:


How 'Baby, It's Cold Outside' Went From Parlor Act to Problematic

The 74-year-old song "Baby, It's Cold Outside" has been in heavy radio rotation during the holiday season for decades, but the lyrics of the song are being scrutinized differently in the wake of the #MeToo movement. With the lyrics raising questions about whether the interaction between the dueling singers is consensual, many radio stations have pulled the song from their rotations.


CBS Paid Eliza Dushku $9.5 Million to Settle Harassment Claims

Eliza Dushku, an actress, received a confidential settlement from broadcaster CBS for $9.5 million in relation to her work on the prime-time show "Bull". She began working on the show in March 2017 and had a major role in three episodes, but then was written off the show. The star of the show, Michael Weatherly, was alleged to have made inappropriate remarks about Dushku's appearance, made a rape joke, and commented about a threesome with Dushku. When she confronted him about his behavior, Dushku was soon written off the show. She believed that was in retaliation for her raising concerns. Lawyers investigating CBS found that CBS mishandled Dushku's complaints and found the mishandling to be "emblematic of larger problems at CBS."


Cosby's Appeal Cites 11 'Errors' by Trial Judge

Bill Cosby's attorneys have appealed the conviction for Cosby's sexually assaulting Andrea Constand. They raised 11 issues about the trial, including the judge's finding that Cosby was a sexually violent predator with a risk of reoffending. The strongest argument raised by Cosby's attorneys was the judge's decision to allow five additional women to testify in the case, as their allegations may be construed as being "too remote in time and too dissimilar to the Constand allegations."



'Blurred Lines' Suit Against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams Ends in $5 Million Judgment

Marvin Gaye's family has been awarded a judgment of nearly $5 million against Robin Thicke and Pharrell Williams for copyright infringement. Their 2013 single "Blurred Lines" has been found to infringe on Gaye's 1977 hit "Got to Give It Up." In 2015, the estate obtained a judgment exceeding $7 million, which was reduced and then appealed. With the most recent judgment, Gaye's estate also will receive prejudgment interest on the damages and 50% of the royalties from "Blurred Lines."


Church Leaders Sue Princeton Over 'Stolen' Manuscripts

Spiritual leaders of the Eastern Orthodox Church has filed a lawsuit against Princeton University seeking to return manuscripts that are over 1,000 years old. The university received the manuscripts in 1942 as a gift from someone who had bought them at a German auction house 20 years earlier, and the leaders have alleged that the manuscripts were stolen from a monastery in northern Greece during World War I. The leaders had attempted to recover the five manuscripts in 2015 by sending a letter to the university, but the university has maintained that the manuscripts were not stolen.



Afghanistan Suspends Five Soccer Officials in Sex Abuse Scandal

Five officials in Afghanistan's soccer federation have been suspended indefinitely after allegations that officials had sexually abused female players. The attorney general's office announced that the suspensions were meant to prevent "violation of the investigative process," and the suspensions came less than a week after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani ordered an investigation into the accusations.


Top United States Olympic Committee Officials Failed to Act on Nassar Allegations, Report Says

A 233-page report authored by law firm Ropes & Gray has been released with a damning conclusion: two of the highest ranking United States Olympic officials did nothing to "investigate, report, or stop Larry Nassar" even after learning that he had been accused of sexual abuse. They knew of the allegations a full year before the allegations became public, and investigators characterized the environment of the Olympic Committee and USA Gymnastics as "an ecosystem that facilitated" Nassar's criminal acts. The report's blistering conclusions led to Alan Ashley, the chief of sport performance, to be fired. Senators have now requested an FBI investigation into whether the chief of the Olympic Committee, Scott Blackmun, who stepped down in February, lied to Congress, "harming the investigation and ability to develop policy."



Goodell: National Football League Won't Pay for Video in Domestic Investigations

National Football League (NFL) Commissioner Roger Goodell has announced that the NFL will not pay for video evidence in cases involving domestic violence, defending the way in which the NFL has handled previous investigations. He noted that the NFL has "some of the highest standards of any organization." Specific to the Kansas City running back Kareem Hunt having been shown on video shoving and kicking a woman in February, Goodell said that the Cleveland police declined to release the video to the NFL, and as a matter of policy, it does not pay for videos. Only after TMZ released the video did the NFL take action.


Former Tar Heel Players Derail New Home for 'Silent Sam' Confederate Statue

A group of former players at the University of North Carolina have used their influence to stop the "Silent Sam" Confederate statue from being displayed in a new campus history center just as the university's board of governors was considering the proposal. Critics have called the statue "an enduring tribute to white supremacy," and the athletes accused the university of using black students as "accessories" for not taking a stand against the monument.



Jailing Hundreds of Journalists Worldwide Is the 'New Normal,' Group Finds

In 2018, more than 250 journalists have been jailed worldwide, continuing the trend in recent years of jailing journalists. The advocacy group that conducted the study calls the trend "a sign that an authoritarian response to critical news coverage is 'more than a temporary spike.'" Turkey, China, and Egypt are responsible for jailing the most journalists, and 70% of those jailed are facing anti-state charges such as providing assistant to groups deemed by the authorities to be terrorist organizations.


Troubled by Lapses, Government's Voices to the World Braces for New Trump Management

The Voice of America has long been the American government's outlet for promoting its values abroad, but it has been plagued in recent months: it had 15 journalists fired for accepting bribes from a Nigerian official and fired the chief of the Mandarin-language section. It is expected that the Trump administration is going to remake the Voice of America in its own image, as many other countries have used their own official media sources to promote their agendas in deceptive ways.


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