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Weekly News Bites #012 | NY Grand Jury votes to indict Trump, American journalist arrested, and Paltrow wins trial.
All of the top stories of the week in small bites.
It’s FRIDAY, Mar. 31 ! YAY
Some of the stories this week!
Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for his involvement in “hush money” payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels.
On Friday, The "Parents Bill of Rights Act" was recently passed by the House of Represe.”
Recent reports reveal that the federal government has been granting millions of dollars to develop AI speech-monitoring tools.
Russian President Vladimir Putin backed the Chinese yuan as the currency of choice for his nation's businesses in the global market during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow.
Biden jokes that he doesn’t believe Christians were the targets of the Nashville shooting if GOP Senator Hawley does.
An American journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, has been arrested in Russia on charges of espionage.
Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has won a legal battle against a doctor who claimed she had crashed into him while skiing in 2016.
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podcast The Quiet Out Loud, where we discuss the increase of including children in drag events. It is a long conversation between two friends trying to manage the counter the proliferation of gender ideology.
By the way, I was recently a guest on
I hope you can join us in the conversation.
If you want more in-the-moment daily news and culture breakdowns, follow me on Instagram. 😉 I publish breaking news and live updates in my stories every day.
Ok, that is enough. Time for some news bites!
➖ Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury for his involvement in “hush money” payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels. This marks the first time a former U.S. president has been criminally charged. The charges involve a $130,000 payment made by Trump’s former attorney, Michael Cohen, to buy Daniels’ silence about an alleged affair just before the 2016 election. Trump denies instructing Cohen to make the payment and denies the affair. The charge of falsifying business records has been elevated to a felony as prosecutors argue the act was done to hide another crime, a federal campaign violation. Legal experts believe the case will be difficult to prove. This landmark case could significantly impact the upcoming presidential election and future prosecutions of political opponents. Trump has called it “political persecution and election interference” and has accused the Democrats of spying on his campaign and weaponizing the justice system.
➖ On Friday, The "Parents Bill of Rights Act," recently passed by the House of Representatives, aims to provide parents with greater transparency in their child's education. The bill would require schools to disclose information about curriculum, budget, and types of books available in classrooms and libraries. Additionally, it mandates schools to obtain parental consent before using transgender pronouns and to be transparent about their transgender policies, including the participation of biological boys identifying as girls in female sports or facilities. While some Democrats oppose the bill, citing censorship and book bans, polls suggest that greater school transparency is overwhelmingly supported by parents. Though unlikely to pass in the Senate, the bill could become a major campaign issue for Republicans in the 2024 election.
➖ A bipartisan bill called the RESTRICT Act, which aims to ban TikTok and other communication products and services owned or influenced by foreign adversaries, is gaining support in Congress and from the White House. However, some are warning that the bill could have broader implications and give unelected bureaucrats enormous new powers over Americans. The bill would give the Commerce Department the authority to surveil transactions between Americans and communications technologies from countries deemed foreign adversaries, which could include not only China but also Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, or any other country added to the list in the future. The bill's scope includes mobile or gaming apps, payment apps, mobile networks, cable access points, and even video doorbell equipment or VPNs. Once the Commerce Department determines that an app or software is a threat, the president could take action without any input from Congress, which raises concerns about the regulation of American speech. Additionally, the bill doesn't define what it means to be acting in the interest of a foreign adversary, potentially leading to penalties for individuals who could face fines of up to a million dollars or 20 years in prison.
➖ Judge orders Mike Pence to testify before a grand jury about his conversations with Trump leading up to Jan. 6. Former U.S. Vice President Mike Pence must testify to a grand jury about conversations he had with former President Donald Trump leading up to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to a federal judge ruling that was confirmed by CNN and NBC. The ruling also said that Pence can still decline to answer questions related to Jan. 6, and he can appeal the ruling. Pence has previously resisted testifying before the panel but insists he has nothing to hide. He is considering a potential presidential run in 2024 and is in third place in a hypothetical GOP primary.
➖ House Speaker McCarthy attempts to revive debt ceiling talks with Biden, demanding spending cuts as a condition to raise the ceiling. President Joe Biden has called on House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to outline the spending cuts Republicans want before lawmakers leave Washington for a two-week recess. McCarthy has proposed scaling back domestic spending, clawing back unspent COVID-19 relief funds, and other changes he said would save trillions of dollars. Biden has insisted that Republicans instead raise the $31.4 trillion debt ceiling without conditions and produce a fiscal 2024 spending plan before engaging in talks about spending. The political standoff has raised concerns in the financial markets about a possible U.S. debt default that could cripple the economy.
➖ On Tuesday, an indictment was unsealed, charging Sam Bankman-Fried, the founder of FTX, with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by directing $40 million in bribes to one or more Chinese officials to unfreeze assets related to his cryptocurrency business. This new charge adds to the 12 charges previously filed against him, bringing the total number of charges to 13.
➖ Recent reports reveal that the federal government has been granting millions of dollars to develop AI speech-monitoring tools. These include an AI fact-checking tool called "course correct" that identifies individuals who may be spreading "misinformation" on social media and targets them with government-approved "facts" to promote trust in government institutions. Additionally, communication tech firms have received 500 contracts from the Department of Defense to use their tracking technology to combat "misinformation" through AI and machine learning, potentially squelching news from disfavored outlets before it can spread. These developments have raised concerns about potential violations of the First Amendment.
➖ Independent journalist Matt Taibbi recently accused the IRS of targeting him after an agent paid an unexpected visit to his home in New Jersey on the same day he testified before Congress about the weaponization of the federal government. Typically, the IRS schedules a meeting at the agent's office when they want to audit a return, but the agent left a note for Taibbi to call the agency four days later. Taibbi was later told that his 2018 and 2021 tax returns were rejected over identity theft concerns, although Taibbi claims the issue was not monetary. Republican members of Congress have demanded answers and suggested the IRS was being weaponized against political enemies. This isn't the first time the IRS has been accused of targeting political opponents. During the Obama administration, the agency admitted to wrongfully demanding unnecessary information from conservative and Tea Party groups.
➖ Treasury Sec. Yellen says bank rules might have become “too loose” after the series of bank collapses and is expected to propose new regulations. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has stated that the ability of the US government to respond to failing financial markets has been "decimated" by cutbacks made during the Trump administration. This comes as Signature and Silicon Valley Bank depositors, which catered to wealthy business people in the cryptocurrency and venture capital sectors, were reimbursed for the banks' losses well above the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation's (FDIC) standard limit of $250,000. Yellen emphasized the role of the state in the financial sector and the importance of public confidence while also acknowledging the increasing economic inequality in the US. Austerity measures in the form of cuts to social programs, coupled with the government bailing out failed banks, have caused irritation among American voters.
➖ Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed the Chinese yuan as the currency of choice for his nation's businesses in the global market during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Moscow. The two leaders signed 14 economic agreements aimed at countering the dominance of the US dollar in the global market. They called for the acceleration of the process of establishing a multipolar world order, and their alliance was not confrontational in nature and not directed against third countries. Putin specifically mentioned using the yuan for settlements between Russia and the countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. China's aim is to become more involved in global economic and political affairs and its attempts to enshrine the yuan as a worldwide currency.
➖ A new survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal and NORC at the University of Chicago has found that Americans are increasingly less concerned with traditional values such as patriotism, religious faith, community involvement, and having children. The poll also shows that Americans are sharply divided by political party over social trends, such as racial diversity in businesses and the use of gender-neutral pronouns. Money was the only value that has grown in importance over the past quarter-century, with 43% citing it as "very important," up from 31% in 1998. The survey also found that younger Americans, in particular, place low importance on these traditional values central to their parent'’ lives.
➖ Biden jokes that he doesn’t believe Christians were the targets of the Nashville shooting if GOP Senator Hawley does. President Biden responded to a reporter's request to respond to Senator Josh Hawley's remarks that Christians were targeted in a school shooting on Monday at a Nashville Christian school.
"Well," Biden replied, according to CNN White House reporter DJ Judd, "I probably don't then." Then he clarified that comment to say that he was only joking about the motivations of the trans, biological female school shooter.
"No, I'm joking," he said. "I have no idea.
Senator Josh Hawley called on the FBI and Department of Homeland Security to investigate the shooting as a hate crime against Christians. Attorney General Merrick Garland has not yet determined if the shooting was a hate crime, stating that motive must be established first. The shooting claimed the lives of three children and three adults and has sparked debate about targeting people of faith.
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➖ House GOP revives bill to reinstate Trump-era “Remain in Mexico” border policy and to revive border wall plans. The US House of Representatives Republicans are making another attempt at a border package to address immigration issues. The previous plan failed due to objections from moderate members, and internal tension between moderates and border hawks could threaten the latest effort. The package is due to go through both the House Homeland Security and Judiciary committees, and the Republican leadership is proposing to fast-track one component that would direct the Department of Homeland Security to deny entry to most undocumented migrants unless it has the capacity to detain them or place them in a program where they are returned to Mexico. Opponents have criticized the proposal, while GOP leaders are looking to focus on border security over immigration.
➖ At least 38 foreign migrants died in a fire at an immigration detention center in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua, near the US border. The fire, which started when migrants set fire to mattresses in protest of their possible deportation, claimed the lives of the migrants, all males from Central and South America. The National Institute of Migration reported that 29 more migrants were injured in the fire and are in delicate to serious condition. The cause of the fire remains unknown, and the Mexican Attorney General's Office is investigating. Ciudad Juarez is a significant crossing point for migrants entering the US, and shelters there are often full of those waiting for opportunities to cross or who have requested asylum.
➖ Putin says Russia will station nuclear missiles in Belarus, which borders Ukraine to the north, citing Britain's decision to provide Ukraine with armor-piercing rounds containing depleted uranium as the trigger for the move. Tactical nuclear weapons are intended for use on the battlefield and have a short range and a low yield compared to much more powerful nuclear warheads fitted to long-range missiles. Putin argued that by deploying its tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Russia was following the lead of the United States, noting that the US has nuclear weapons based in several European countries. The move could place nuclear weapons closer to the Russian aircraft and missiles already stationed in Belarus, upping the ante in the Ukrainian conflict.
➖ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has agreed to delay a vote on sweeping judicial reforms, which were set to reduce the power of the Supreme Court and increase the parliament's lawmaking authority, until the summer amid widespread protests and strikes. Under the proposed reforms, the parliament would have an increased role in the selection of judges and the power to override Supreme Court decisions overturning laws. The high court would also be forced to apply the law to cases rather than ruling based on its own “reasonability” test.
An explanation of the proposed reforms. Israel's democratically elected legislature, the Knesset, is considering a series of laws to limit the power of the unelected judiciary and give more power to elected representatives. The proposed changes have attracted criticism from thousands of Israelis and detractors, who claim that the reforms represent an attack on democracy. However, the reforms would make the political system more democratic by putting more power in the hands of elected representatives. Israel is still developing its democracy, and the reforms would represent a significant step forward in the democratic process. The proposed reforms would change the process of selecting judges, make legal opinions of government departments advisory rather than binding, and give the Knesset the power to override the Supreme Court's decisions on laws passed by the Knesset. However, the only controversial part of the reforms is the override clause, and the Knesset should ensure that it is used sparingly and only with a supermajority. The proposed reforms are necessary because the self-elected judiciary has become hyper-political and hostile to the government, the ultra-Orthodox, and the conservative majority.
➖ An American journalist for the Wall Street Journal, Evan Gershkovich, has been arrested in Russia on charges of espionage, accused of obtaining top-secret information about a military factory in the region. The accusations are vehemently denied by the Journal, and the US embassy has not been informed of the arrest by Russian authorities. Gershkovich has been moved to Moscow, where he will be imprisoned pending trial. Expert observers believe that the arrest is a signal of increasing aggression from Russia towards Americans and those aligned with their interests. Tensions between the two powers have escalated since Russia invaded Ukraine last year. This latest arrest could prompt further American sanctions on Russia or high-level diplomatic talks to secure Gershkovich's release.
➖ Disney CEO Bob Iger cuts former CEO Bib Chapek’s “metaverse division” in the first round of layoffs. Disney has shut down its metaverse division as part of CEO Bob Iger's effort to streamline the company. The division, also known as "next-generation storytelling," was a pet project of former CEO Bob Chapek, who envisioned a future where physical and digital worlds would be more closely connected. The metaverse division had been developing tools to help creative teams, but it remains unclear what these tools were. The move comes as part of a larger round of layoffs that began on Monday, with Disney expected to trim 7,000 jobs.
➖ Actress Gwyneth Paltrow has won a legal battle against a doctor who claimed she had crashed into him while skiing in 2016, causing him permanent damage. Dr. Terry Sanderson had sued Paltrow for $3.1m, but a jury ruled that the accident was 100% Sanderson's fault. Paltrow countersued for $1 plus legal fees. A judge had determined that Sanderson was eligible for $300,000 if he won the case. Paltrow's children were expected to testify, but their depositions were read due to scheduling conflicts. The trial became a "he-said, she-said" case, as the plaintiff and defendant had vastly different versions of events.