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Weekly News Bites #014 | Pentagon document leak, Calvary Chapel San Jose orders to pay $1.2m, and DeSantis signs six week abortion ban.
All of the top stories of the week in small bites.
It’s FRIDAY, April 14 ! YAY
Some of the stories this week!
The Florida legislature is set to pass an expansion to the Parental Rights in Education measure, also known as the "Don’t Say Gay" law.
Pentagon documents about the war in Ukraine leaked online in one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. history.
Calvary Chapel San Jose in California has been ordered to pay $1.2 million for violating mask and social distancing mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott has requested an investigation into the murder conviction of US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry.
China simulates sealing off Taiwan upon President Ing-Wen Tsai’s return from her visit to the U.S.
Duling ruling on abortion pill mifepristone.
Florida's Republican Governor, Ron DeSantis, has signed a bill into law that bans most abortions after six weeks.
Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohburger Bryan Kohberger is being investigated by police in Pennsylvania for possible involvement in other unsolved murders.
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➖ Vice President Kamala Harris visited Nashville to meet with state lawmakers and gun control advocates after three legislators were expelled for disrupting proceedings at a gun control rally outside the state Capitol. However, she did not meet with survivors of the mass shooting victims that prompted the political drama, which took place at the Covenant School. The White House has also ignored the grieving families of the victims and has not invited the two hero cops who stopped the massacre from worsening by charging in to take the shooter down. The FBI has also refused to release the shooter's manifesto publicly.
➖ The Florida legislature is set to pass an expansion to the Parental Rights in Education measure, also known as the "Don’t Say Gay" law, which restricts discussing sexual orientation and gender identity in public school classrooms. The proposed legislation would extend the law’s restrictions through the eighth grade, add provisions that prevent school districts from requiring transgender students to be addressed in accordance with their gender identity, and include additional restrictions for lessons about “human sexuality” through high school. The proposed bill would also encourage teachers to promote the benefits of heterosexual marriage in reproductive health courses and allow individuals nationwide to challenge school library books considered inappropriate for young readers. The state's LGBTQ community has voiced concerns that the proposed legislation will worsen social stigma and discrimination against LGBTQ people in Florida, particularly youth and that children who identify as part of the community will not feel welcomed in schools. A number of Florida LGBTQ rights groups are set to join a coordinated student-led walkout at more than 300 high schools and colleges across the state later this month in protest of a slate of anti-LGBTQ bills moving through the legislature this year.
➖ Tennessee legislature votes to reinstate the ousted legislators for participating in the capitol gun control protest. Justin Jones, a Democrat, has been reinstated to the Tennessee legislature after being expelled for participating in a gun control protest on the House floor. He accused the GOP-led legislature of racism and weaponizing their power against political opponents. At the same time, House Speaker Sexton maintained that Jones' violation of decorum rules was the reason for his expulsion, not his race. Another Democrat, Justin Pearson, was also expelled and recently reinstated. The Left views the expulsion as racially motivated, while the Right sees it as a necessary consequence of the lawmakers' participation in the Capitol riot.
➖ Fox News will host the first Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee later this year, as announced by Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel during an appearance on “Fox & Friends.” The debate will also be live-streamed on Rumble, a video platform popular with the political right. The decision to give Fox News the first primary debate is unsurprising, as the network hosted the first GOP presidential primary debate in 2015. Only a few candidates have jumped into the 2024 Republican presidential contest, including former President Trump, former U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. Sen. Tim Scott launched an exploratory committee for a 2024 bid; others are expected to enter the race in the coming months. The debate won’t be the last time the RNC shows up in Milwaukee, as Republicans are set to hold their 2024 nominating convention there next year.
➖ Pentagon documents about the war in Ukraine leaked online in one of the biggest security breaches in U.S. history. The leaked documents were posted on a Discord channel called "Thug Shaker Central" earlier this year before spreading to other channels, triggering international concern, and leading to an investigation by the Justice Department. Some documents were shared widely on social media, resulting in a significant breach of American intelligence.
The leaked materials included photographs of files revealing sensitive information from the US espionage community. These reports confirmed US involvement in Russian intelligence operations. They contained information about the Ukraine war, and potential vulnerabilities in Ukraine's air defense capabilities, and previously undisclosed details about China, Iran, and other nations. Among these details were revelations of a failed attempt by Russia's Wagner group to negotiate an arms deal with NATO member Turkey and advanced US satellite systems.
On Thursday, the FBI arrested a 21-year-old Massachusetts Air National Guardsman, Jack Douglas Teixeira, for leaking dozens of sensitive US intelligence documents to an online community focused on video games and guns. The FBI, Pentagon, and others worked together to identify the source of the leak of more than 60 documents. Teixeira was a Cyber Transport Systems Journeyman responsible for maintaining hardware for military communication networks, including cabling and hubs. He had access to intelligence materials through his work.
➖ Texas court rules to suspend the FDA’s approval of abortion pill, mifepristone. Two federal judges issued conflicting rulings over the weekend on the fate of Mifepristone, a common abortion pill, resulting in uncertainty about its availability. The drug is one of two used for medically induced abortions and is likely to remain available for the time being.
In the first ruling, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump-appointed judge from Texas, found that the Food and Drug Administration had overlooked safety concerns when approving the drug approximately twenty years ago and that mailing abortion-inducing drugs is prohibited by the Comstock Act of 1873.
Shortly after, Judge Thomas Rice, an Obama-appointed judge from Washington State, issued a separate ruling requiring Mifepristone to stay available, arguing that it was unusual for the judiciary to interfere in regulatory decisions made by the executive branch. The case is expected to be heard by the Supreme Court.
Mifepristone is authorized for use up to ten weeks into pregnancy. Surveys indicate that drug-induced abortions, rather than surgical procedures, account for more than half of all abortions performed in the US annually.
➖ Newly released documents suggest that the Biden Administration granted special access to the FBI for access to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago documents despite denying involvement in the investigation. America First Legal claims that the White House and DOJ coordinated to obtain Trump’s records, potentially creating a pretext for the law enforcement raid.
➖ National Public Radio (NPR) and British broadcaster BBC have both objected to Twitter’s “government-funded media” label, which they say inaccurately represents their public media governance structures. Twitter owner Elon Musk has responded to the complaints by saying that the company is trying to be accurate and will change the label to “publicly funded.” In protest, NPR has said it will no longer post content to its 52 official Twitter feeds. In addition, PBS has also stopped tweeting after it was given the “government-funded” label. Critics of public broadcasters, including Musk, claim they are biased towards Democrats and liberal ideas.
➖ The FBI was revealed to have used undercover agents in Catholic churches and considered outreach to Catholic parishes to combat domestic terrorism. The FBI also considers certain online slang terms such as “based” and “red pilled” as signs of racially or ethnically motivated violent extremism or involuntary celibate violent extremism.
➖ Calvary Chapel San Jose in California has been ordered to pay $1.2 million for violating mask and social distancing mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge, Evette D. Pennypacker, rejected the church's constitutional claims, and the ruling is the latest in the county's relentless effort to enforce restrictions against the church, including using surveillance techniques such as geo-tracking through tracking phone location data and stakeouts at church gatherings. The church intends to appeal the decision to California's Sixth District Court of Appeal.
➖ The Environmental Protection Agency has proposed new regulations that would limit tailpipe emissions, encouraging the production and purchase of electric vehicles (EVs). The policy aims to make two-thirds of all new vehicles sold in the United States electric powered by 2032, up from less than 6% last year. However, automakers are still struggling to make EVs profitable, and there are concerns that not enough people will buy them due to high prices and a lack of charging stations. The government has offered tax credits for certain EV purchases and committed to building 500,000 charging stations by 2030, but experts say more are needed. China currently produces 80% of the world’s lithium-ion batteries.
➖ Former collegiate swimmer Riley Gaines was physically assaulted and barricaded in a room at San Francisco State University (SFSU) after a talk against transgender participation in women’s sports. Gaines was speaking at a campus Turning Point USA and Leadership Institute event. While Gaines spoke, a group of pro-trans protesters outside the room became increasingly loud. Eventually, it became chaotic, leading to Gaines being escorted out of the room and down a hallway by police and barricaded in a separate room. Gaines is a spokeswoman for the Independent Women's Forum and became a national figure when she objected to trans swimmer Lia Thomas participating in women’s sports.
Gaines is threatening to sue SFSU for allowing violent protestors to go unpunished after she was verbally and physically assaulted by pro-trans activists. SFSU's Vice President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, Jamillah Moore, released a statement supporting the pro-trans protestors. Gaines believes that her platform is gaining support and aims to hold the university accountable for labeling her platform as hateful. She argues that allowing biological males to compete in women's sports is harmful to women's safety and privacy.
➖ Texas Governor Greg Abbott has requested an investigation into the murder conviction of US Army Sergeant Daniel Perry for killing a Black Lives Matter protester, with the intention to pardon him. Perry claimed he acted in self-defense, and his supporters argue that the case should never have been prosecuted. However, critics of the ruling claim that Perry provoked the confrontation by driving his car into the protest and that the local prosecutor was lax in enforcing other laws. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles will need to approve Abbott's proposed pardon, and Perry faces a maximum sentence of life in prison until then.
➖ Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, has seen a drop in stock value of nearly $5 billion since its partnership with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney. The promotion of Mulvaney's "365 Days of Girlhood" and the sale of packs of Bud Light cans featuring Mulvaney dressed as Audrey Hepburn has been met with significant backlash on social media, leading to boycotts and a decline in stock value. Anheuser-Busch defended the partnership and emphasized its commitment to working with diverse influencers. However, industry experts and political commentators have criticized the company's strategy as alienating its customer base.
Major brands, such as Bud Light, Crest, and Nike, have partnered with controversial cultural figures to increase their Corporate Equality Index (CEI) score, established by the Human Rights Campaign to evaluate companies based on metrics such as same-sex partner benefits, transgender surgeries coverage, and "inclusive" marketing strategies. Critics argue that the CEI score is an "extortion racket" and that companies face potential backlash if they don't promote LGBTQ celebrities and themes in their marketing. Anheuser-Busch, the company that makes Budweiser, was one of the first corporations to embrace the CEI score and partnered with transgender personality Dylan Mulvaney to appeal to women and younger buyers. The partnership sparked controversy, and Bud Light's social media accounts went silent for a week.
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➖ Russia formally charges Wall Street Journal journalist Evan Gershkovich with espionage. Democratic and Republican leaders in the US Senate have called for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was jailed in Russia last week on charges of espionage. Gershkovich has pleaded not guilty, while the Journal denied the charges against him. A Moscow court is scheduled to hear an appeal from Gershkovich's lawyers on April 18. Gershkovich is the first American journalist to be arrested by Moscow since the Cold War. The US State Department is pressing for “fair and transparent treatment” for American citizens detained overseas.
➖ China simulates sealing off Taiwan upon President Ing-Wen Tsai’s return from her visit to the U.S. China conducted military drills simulating precision strikes against Taiwan over the weekend, with Taiwan's defense ministry reporting multiple air force sorties and monitoring China's missile forces. The drills come as China claims Taiwan as its own territory and began three days of military exercises around the island on Saturday after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a brief visit to the United States. As of Sunday midday, Taiwan's defense ministry had spotted 58 Chinese aircraft and nine ships around Taiwan. The United States is monitoring China's drills and is "comfortable and confident" it has sufficient resources and capabilities regionally to ensure peace and stability.
➖ The Dalai Lama has apologized after a video circulated on social media showing him asking a young boy to "suck my tongue" and giving him a peck on the lips. The statement on the Dalai Lama's Twitter account said he often teases people innocently and playfully, regretting the incident that may have caused hurt to the boy and his family.
➖ French President Macron renews the call for a more sovereign Europe that is less dependent on the U.S. French President Emmanuel Macron believes that Europe should maintain its strategic autonomy regarding the US and China and reduce its dependence on the US dollar to avoid becoming "vassals." Macron's concept of strategic autonomy aims to ensure that Europe has its own say on security, defense, and foreign policy issues. He proposed boosting the development of European alternatives in the energy and military sectors. Macron believes that Europe's dependence on the US dollar may hurt them in the future, and the bloc should avoid being caught up in a conflict between the US and China. Macron's doctrine of strategic autonomy may be aimed more at the US than China or Russia.
➖ Duling ruling on abortion pill mifepristone. A federal judge in Texas has suspended the FDA's approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, citing insufficient testing. In contrast, a federal judge in Washington blocked the FDA from removing its approval of the drug in 17 Democratic-led states and Washington, D.C. Mifepristone is still available, with the Texas judge having stayed his order for one week to allow the FDA time to seek intervention from an appeals court. The White House has vowed to appeal the decision, and the matter is expected to be hashed out in the US Supreme Court. Pro-life and pro-choice groups have split in their responses to the rulings.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will ask the Supreme Court to pause a ruling that would reverse changes to access the abortion pill, mifepristone. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) violated federal standards when it approved mifepristone 23 years ago. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that mifepristone may remain on the market but allowed portions of the Texas judge’s ruling to stand that would roll back a series of actions the FDA has taken since 2016 that eased access. Attorney General Merrick Garland will ask the Supreme Court to pause each remaining portion, which go into effect early Saturday morning. DOJ's request will be placed on the court’s shadow docket, which the high court typically acts on in a matter of days, often without explanation or a public vote count.
➖ The Biden administration has asked the US Supreme Court to prevent lower courts from limiting the abortion pill, mifepristone, following mounting abortion bans and restrictions from Republican-led states. The New Orleans-based 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals recently declined the administration’s request to block restrictions ordered by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Texas. The restrictions will restore curbs on the medication, lifted since 2016 as the FDA expanded access, including requiring three in-person doctor visits and limiting use to the first seven weeks of pregnancy, down from 10. Mifepristone is used in more than half of all US abortions.
➖ Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill into law that bans most abortions after six weeks, with exceptions in cases of rape, incest, and when the mother's life or health are at serious risk. The law is expected to drastically curtail abortion access in the state and across the U.S. South. The signing of the bill is risky for DeSantis, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The fate of the ban depends on the outcome of a court challenge to the state's 15-week abortion ban.
➖ Idaho murders suspect Bryan Kohburger Bryan Kohberger is being investigated by police in Pennsylvania for possible involvement in other unsolved murders. In addition to the four counts of first-degree murder and one of felony burglary, he has been charged with killing four University of Idaho students in Moscow. The investigation was reported by NewsNation, and confirmed by trial attorney Mark Geragos. Retired FBI agent Jennifer Coffindaffer provided details of what the police would be looking for, including whether the target was a young, attractive female if a knife was used, and if the perpetrator arrived and departed in a vehicle. The probable cause affidavit for Kohberger's arrest shows that he had been near the Moscow house "on at least 12 occasions prior" to the murders, and DNA linked to him was found on a knife sheath near the scene.
➖ The Super Mario Bros. Movie has broken records with a global opening weekend box office revenue of $375.6 million, making it the highest-grossing animated film opening of all time. The film’s five-day domestic haul is $204.6 million, including $146.4 million for the three-day weekend, while the overseas tally is $171 million from 70 markets. The movie also broke records for having the biggest five-day launch in history, making it the best-ever opening for Illumination, home of Despicable Me and Minions. Despite mixed reviews, the film was given an A CinemaScore and appealed to family and general audiences, with 60% of ticket buyers aged 18-34.
➖ Millie Bobby Brown, the 19-year-old Stranger Things star, has announced her engagement to Jake Bongiovi, son of rock star Jon Bon Jovi, sparking a huge online reaction. The couple has reportedly been together for three years. Brown's announcement post on Instagram attracted thousands of congratulatory messages from celebrities and fans alike, though some questioned her age. After news of the engagement spread, fans began comparing their teenage lives to celebrities'. The hashtag #Shes19 started trending, and some Twitter users dug up their old banal tweets from when they were 19.