Weekly News Bites | SCOTUS hears arguments on student debt forgiveness. Brain dead women as surrogates? And, Alex Murdaugh is guilty.
Nibbles of news while you nibble on your toast
It’s FRIDAY, Mar. 3! YAY!
So much to cover this week! Lots of politics!
Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan.
TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app, has revealed plans to introduce a new parental block feature.
The Commerce Department shared some new data showing inflation is not improving.
A philosopher at the University of Oslo recently proposed the idea of using brain-dead women as surrogates.
FBI director Christopher Wray says the Wuhan lab leak theory is currently the most plausible explanation.
Former attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the 2021 murders of his wife and son in South Carolina.
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Ok, that is enough. Time for some news bites!
Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday and was questioned by Republican members on various issues such as abortion, fentanyl, and protests at the homes of Supreme Court justices. The Republicans accused the Biden Justice Department of political bias. One example is the lack of charges against those involved in the protests at the homes of conservative Supreme Court justices. Republicans also accused the DOJ of unfairly targeting peaceful pro-life demonstrators. Meanwhile, a new report has revealed that the FBI initially resisted the DOJ's demands to raid former President Trump's home in August.
This week the United States Supreme Court heard arguments regarding President Biden's student loan forgiveness plan worth $400 billion. GOP-led states have challenged the plan, arguing that Biden violated the separation of powers by bypassing Congress' power of the purse. Biden, on the other hand, claims that his executive order does not require Congress' approval. This case will be significant in determining the limits of presidential powers. The Biden administration cites the HEROES Act, which enables the Secretary of Education to waive the terms of federal student loans in connection with a national emergency, such as Covid. Conservative justices have expressed doubt about Biden's ability to bypass Congress' power of the purse.
Govt. watchdog says the U.S. helped lay the groundwork for the quick fall of Afghanistan. The U.S. failed to create a sustainable security force in Afghanistan, leading to the swift fall of the country to the Taliban when U.S. troops left in August 2021, according to a report by the government’s watchdog for Afghanistan reconstruction. The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces quickly fell apart because the U.S. had no political will or dedicated resources to develop another nation's army, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko concluded in his final report. The report also blamed bad planning and limited oversight on billions of dollars in weapons and equipment given to Afghan forces. The chaotic and deadly pullout, with both U.S. forces and Afghans killed in a suicide bombing attack outside the gates of the Kabul airport, has led to two ongoing investigations by House Republicans.
Last year, Governor DeSantis decided to revoke Disney World's special tax and governance status, which was granted to them in 1967 to save them from high taxes and fees. This was because Disney opposed a Florida law prohibiting liberal sex education from being taught in elementary schools. Additionally, leaked footage of CEO Bob Iger revealed that Disney acknowledges the need to listen more to its consumers in the future.
In the recent runoff election for Chicago's mayoral position, incumbent Lori Lightfoot was unable to secure re-election. This is surprising because Lightfoot had won in all 50 of the city's wards during her previous election four years ago. Lightfoot has faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for her inability to address the increasing crime rates in the city. It was the first time in 40 years that the city didn’t elect a sitting mayor who sought re-election.
Before the Capitol surveillance footage from January 6th is given to Tucker Carlson, it will first undergo a security review. The decision to allow Tucker Carlson to view the Capitol surveillance footage from January 6th has sparked controversy from both sides of the political spectrum. Some on the Left believe that it's an attempt to diminish the event's severity, while others on the Right accuse Democrats of withholding the footage for their own political gain. Some call for the footage to be made available to the public, while others worry that handing it over poses a security risk.
Twelve states with Democratic leadership are suing the FDA over regulations on the abortion pill, Mifepristone. The states argue that the regulations burden them excessively, while the Left says the regulations infringe on women's reproductive rights. The Right, however, sees the suit as an attempt to bypass Republican states' abortion bans. Additionally, there is another suit from GOP-led states alleging that the drug was wrongly approved for distribution.
Walgreens has stated that it will not dispense abortion pills through the mail in states where it risks breaking the law, following a letter from 20 Republican attorneys general. The US Food and Drug Administration allowed retail pharmacies to dispense mifepristone pills, including by mail, provided they are certified under special safety rules for the drug. A Walgreens spokesperson stated that the pharmacy would only dispense in jurisdictions where it was legal and planned to become a certified pharmacy. The decision highlights the increasing attention paid to medication abortion, which makes up over half of US abortions.
A group of US Senators has proposed a new piece of legislation, the “Railway Safety Act of 2023”, aimed at preventing rail disasters like the recent derailment in East Palestine, Ohio. The bill would require new safety procedures for trains carrying hazardous materials and impose new safety requirements on railroad companies, as well as stiffer penalties for violations of the law. The bill has bipartisan support and would also raise the maximum fines imposed by the Department of Transportation to 1% of a railroad’s annual profits, which could amount to tens of millions of dollars. The Trump administration has been blamed for the derailment, but fact-checkers have found this claim to be false.
Nishad Singh, a co-founder of FTX, has admitted to committing fraud and has agreed to work with federal prosecutors in their case against his former boss, Sam Bankman-Fried. This makes Singh the third person in Bankman-Fried's group to cooperate with prosecutors.
TikTok, the Chinese-owned social media app, has revealed plans to introduce a new parental block feature. The feature aims to assist parents and guardians in preventing younger audiences from accessing inappropriate content on the app. Additionally, TikTok has decided to set a default daily limit of 1 hour on accounts that belong to users under the age of 18. These measures are part of TikTok's effort to promote safer and more responsible use of the app among young users.
Lilly to cut some list prices by 70%. In an effort to reduce the out-of-pocket costs for medications, Eli Lilly has announced that it will be decreasing the list prices for its frequently prescribed insulin products by 70%, capping them at $35.
The Commerce Department shared some new data showing inflation is not improving. The personal consumption expenditures price index increased by 5.4% compared to last year, which is higher than what experts predicted. This means the Fed might raise interest rates to control inflation which caused stocks to plunge on Friday. Even though unemployment is at all-time low and jobless claims are almost record lows, the Fed might still raise rates to slow down the economy and help with inflation. Home sales have declined for the past 11 months and hit a 12-year low. According to a recent poll, people in the Republican primary voters care about inflation and rising prices the most.
Dr. Anna Smajdor, a philosopher at the University of Oslo, recently proposed the idea of using brain-dead women as surrogates, suggesting that it could provide an alternative means of gestation for prospective parents who wish to have children but cannot. Her idea, however, has been widely criticized, with many questioning the ethical implications of using a woman's body in this way. Dr. Smajdor also suggests that Whole Body Gestational Donation (WBGD) could replace natural pregnancy, which would lead to the death of embryos and permissible late-term abortions. Meanwhile, alternative methods of gestation, such as artificial wombs and outsourcing pregnancy, are also being considered, raising concerns about the future of motherhood and the sanctity of life. There is also the potential for womb transplants for men, which poses various questions about the effects on the unborn child and the potential complications and health risks.
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The WSJ reports that the U.S. Department of Energy released a new intelligence report saying that COVID-19 probably leaked from a lab in Wuhan, China. The report is classified, but some officials got a chance to read it. The Energy Department oversees a network of national labs, so they have some expertise in biological research. Earlier, an FBI investigation also thought the virus might have come from a lab. Four intelligence agencies believe the virus spread from animals to humans, but they're not sure either. Almost everyone agrees that COVID-19 was not made to be a bioweapon. Some leaked emails have shown that Dr. Anthony Fauci and Francis Collins tried to stop people from talking about the lab leak theory at the start of the pandemic.
According to a recent statement from the White House, there is currently no agreement or shared understanding regarding the exact source of Covid. FBI director Christopher Wray said this week that COVID-19 originated from a laboratory incident in Wuhan and is currently the most plausible explanation. This marks the first public acknowledgment of the FBI's classified assessment on the matter, following the Department of Energy's confirmation of the lab leak theory. However, the White House continues to reject this assessment.
During his visit to Beijing, Belarusian dictator Lukashenko meets with President Xi of China, a close ally of Russian President Putin. Lukashenko commends China's involvement in the Ukrainian conflict and aims to strengthen ties between the two countries. Belarus also seeks financial assistance from China to navigate the Western-imposed sanctions.
US to announce new military aid package for Ukraine. The United States is set to announce a new military aid package for Ukraine worth about $400 million, which will mainly consist of ammunition, armored vehicle-launched bridges, and more Guided Multiple Launch Rockets (GMLRS) for HIMARS launchers. The announcement will come as President Joe Biden, and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are scheduled to meet at the White House, where Ukraine's aid is expected to be a major topic of discussion. The funding for the equipment will come from the Presidential Drawdown Authority, which allows the president to transfer articles and services from U.S. stocks without congressional approval during an emergency. Additionally, the possibility of imposing new sanctions on China if it supports Russia in the conflict with Ukraine may also be discussed.
The worst train accident since the 1960s occurred in Greece, resulting in at least 57 fatalities and dozens of injuries after a head-on collision between a passenger and freight train. A station master has been taken into custody in connection with the incident, and the majority of those killed were between the ages of 20 and 30.
Days prior to his arrest, Bryan Kohberger, a suspect in a murder case in Idaho, was terminated from his position as a teaching assistant due to allegations of discriminatory behavior towards female students, including differential treatment and grading based on their gender, as well as displaying a sexist attitude towards women.
Former attorney Alex Murdaugh was sentenced to two consecutive life terms for the 2021 murders of his wife and son in South Carolina. Murdaugh, who had previously admitted to frequently deceiving his partners and family during his drug addiction, stated he was innocent during the sentencing. The judge acknowledged the role of Murdaugh's drug habit in the tragedy, and the jury deliberated for less than three hours before reaching the verdict. The state's attorneys argued that Murdaugh killed his wife and son to cover up his financial crimes.
The prosecution argued that the defendant, Alex, lied to police about his whereabouts at the time of the murder, but he claimed that he did so out of paranoia due to his opioid addiction. The defense maintained that Alex is innocent and was at his mother's home at the time of the murders. They argue that whoever killed the victims may have targeted Paul over a boat crash incident. Multiple witnesses testified that the crime scene was not properly secured, and unexplained hair and DNA were found at the scene.
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During a recent SNL skit, actor Woody Harrelson made some bold statements about the political establishment and Big Pharma. He suggested that the largest drug companies in the world have a lot of power and use it to control the media and politicians. Harrelson's words sparked some controversy and got people talking.
A settlement of $29 million has been awarded to Vanessa Bryant following a lawsuit against LA County for the dissemination of photos taken at the crash site of Kobe Bryant. LA County employees shared the photos among themselves and even during leisure activities such as playing video games and attending an awards banquet.