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World News

    The Czech coalition government led by populist Prime Minister Andrej Babis is facing a parliamentary no-confidence vote over European Union subsidies that were paid to his former business empire. Five opposition parties requested the vote, after a preliminary EU report concluded the subsidies amounted to a conflict of interest because he still formally controls the businesses. Babis' centrist ANO (YES) movement is in a minority government with the leftist Social Democrats with support from the Communist Party. They have enough votes for Babis to survive Wednesday's vote. But the move by the opposition was boosted by recent massive street protests demanding the resignation of Babis. Babis denies wrongdoing. Prosecutors are also looking into whether to indict Babis over alleged fraud involving EU funds in a separate case.
  • Iraq's prime minister is denying allegations that drones which targeted Saudi oil pipelines last month could have taken off from Iraq, rather than Yemen. The attack — claimed by Yemen's Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who are at war with Saudi Arabia — was part of a series of incidents that escalated tensions in the Persian Gulf amid a crisis between Washington and Tehran. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi told reporters in Baghdad late on Tuesday that American officials contacted the Iraqis recently, alleging the drones may have taken off from Iraq. He said Iraqi military and intelligence haven't confirmed such claims. The May 14 attack on a Saudi pipeline forced a brief shutdown but caused no casualties. Iraq hosts more than 5,000 U.S. troops, and is also home to powerful Iranian-backed militias.
  • Eleven men, most of them from Syria, have gone on trial in southwestern Germany over the gang rape of an 18-year-old woman last October. The trial in the case, which added to tensions in Germany over migration, opened Wednesday at Freiburg state court and is scheduled to last until December. The news agency dpa reported the defendants are between 18 and 30. Eight come from Syria; the others include an Algerian, a Syrian and a German. Prosecutors say the woman was offered an Ecstasy tablet in a disco and her drink was spiked with an unknown substance, leaving her unable to fend off the assailants. She reported that several men later raped her outside the disco.
  • Dutch police say they have made Europe's biggest ever seizure of methamphetamine after discovering 2.5 tons of the drug stashed behind a wall in a building in the port city of Rotterdam. Police said in a statement Wednesday that the drugs, which were found last week and have since been destroyed, had a street value of hundreds of millions of euros, and that this 'quantity has never before been discovered in Europe.' Further investigations led detectives to a warehouse in the central city of Utrecht where they discovered 17,500 liters (4,623 gallons) of chemicals that could be used for washing cocaine and producing synthetic drugs. Police spokesman Thomas Aling said no suspects have been arrested, but investigations are continuing.
  • The outgoing head of an organization that represents airports in 45 European countries says the body's new sustainability strategy aims to make airports carbon neutral by 2050. Airport Council International Europe President Michael Kerkloh told a meeting of 300 aviation officials that Wednesday's launch of the strategy aligns European airports with the Paris climate accords by putting climate change at the heart of business decisions. That's 'an absolute must' for all industries, he said. Kerkloh said 140 airports operated by 40 members of his organization have individually committed to the achieving net zero carbon emissions and that three Swedish airports have already done so. The goal does not include aircraft emissions.
  • A swath of western and central Europe is sweating under blazing temperatures, with authorities in one German region imposing temporary speed limits on some stretches of the autobahn as a precaution against heat damage. Authorities have warned that temperatures could top 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some parts of the continent over the coming days. The transport ministry in Germany's eastern Saxony-Anhalt state said Wednesday it has imposed speed limits of 100 kph or 120 kph (62 mph or 75 mph) on several short stretches of highway until further notice. Those stretches usually have no speed limit. On Tuesday evening, German railway operator Deutsche Bahn called rescue services to Duesseldorf Airport station as a precaution because two trains' air conditioning systems weren't working properly, but neither had to be evacuated.
  • Australia's three largest media organizations joined forces on Wednesday to demand legal reforms that would prevent journalists from risking imprisonment for doing their jobs. The demands came after unprecedented raids against media organizations by police searching for leaked documents that some say were deeply embarrassing to the government. News Corp. Australia, Australian Broadcasting Corp. and Nine Entertainment made their demands after raids by federal police on consecutive days earlier this month at ABC's Sydney headquarters and a News Corp. reporter's Canberra home in search of secret government documents. The rival organizations want journalists to be exempt from national security laws passed since 2012 that 'would put them in jail for doing their jobs.' They also want a right to contest warrants such as those executed in Sydney and Canberra. Both the ABC and New Corp. this week lodged court challenges to both those warrants in a bid to have documents returned. The organizations have called for greater legal protections for public sector whistleblowers as well as reforms to freedom of information and defamation laws. ABC Managing Director David Anderson, News Corp. Australia Executive Chairman Michael Miller and Nine Chief Executive Hugh Marks addressed the National Press Club on Wednesday as part of a campaign to gain public support for reform. 'Clearly, we are at a crossroads. We can be a society that is secret and afraid to confront sometimes uncomfortable truths or we can protect those who courageously promote transparency, stand up to intimidation and shed light on those truths to the benefit of all citizens,' Anderson said. Miller described the police raids that have united media organizations in their demand for change as 'intimidation, not investigation.' 'But there is a deeper problem — the culture of secrecy,' Miller said. 'Too many people who frame policy, write laws, control information and conduct court hearings have stopped believing that the public's right to know comes first.' Marks said 'bad legislation on several fronts and probably overzealous officials ... in the judiciary, in the bureaucracy and our security services have steadily eroded the freedoms under which we, the media, can operate.' 'Put simply, it's more risky, it's more expensive to do journalism that makes a real difference in this country than it ever has been before,' Marks said. The demands come a week before Parliament resumes for the first time since the conservative government was elected for a third term on May 18. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has not criticized the police raids, but has said he is open to suggestions for improvements to Australia's laws. Denis Muller, from the Melbourne University Center for Advancing Journalism, said the three organizations had identified 'real flaws' in the laws and said their united front would put pressure on the government. 'The government is going to be kicking and screaming every inch of the way with this because they will be getting very severe pushback from the bureaucracy, from the Federal Police, from the intelligence services,' he said. Australia is the outlier among its Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partners the United States, Britain, Canada and New Zealand in not having oversight to balance press freedom with national security. 'We're the only ones without any sort of formal protection of freedom of the press and we are the ones that have basically enacted the most oppressive national security regime,' Muller said. Experts say Australia went from having no counterterrorism laws before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S. to having more than any other country in the world, with more than 60 new pieces of legislation and amendments. There had been no counterbalancing laws to uphold human rights or press freedom. Australia doesn't have enshrined rights like the U.S. First Amendment guarantee of free speech. Yet the World Press Freedom Index rates Australia at 21, higher than the United States at 41. Former army lawyer David McBride will appear in a Canberra court on Thursday on charges relating to the leaking of classified documents about Australian Special Air Service involvement in Afghanistan to ABC journalists. The leak was related to the police raid on the ABC. The ABC reported in 2017 on growing unease in the Australian Defense Force leadership about the culture of special forces, and that Australian troops had killed unarmed men and children. McBride told reporters two weeks ago that his prosecution was not about protecting national security but concealing 'a national shame.' The police raid on the home of Annika Smethurst, the political editor of Sydney's The Sunday Telegraph newspaper, focused on a 2018 story detailing an alleged government proposal to spy on Australian citizens, which cannot currently be done legally. No arrests were made as a result of either raid.
  • Three left-wing parties in Denmark are backing the center-left Social Democrats to form a one-party minority government. The deal would make the Social Democrats' leader, 41-year-old Mette Frederiksen, the country's youngest prime minister after the left-leaning party won the June 5 election. The Social Democrats won by embracing restrictive immigration policies, a pragmatic tactic that involved returning to the party's anti-migrant roots after two decades of relatively more liberal policies. Denmark's largest party had been in the opposition for the past four years. Despite differences over welfare and immigration, the left-leaning parties want to back Frederiksen, who is expected to form a government in the next few days. Minority Cabinets are common in Denmark. Frederiksen admitted it would be a 'tough and difficult task.' 'These are four very different parties, and no doubt parties with major disagreements on several political issues,' she said late Tuesday after 21 days of talks with the Social People's Party, the Red Green Unity List and the centrist Social Liberals. Frederiksen said the deal identified several goals, including promoting integration in Denmark and reversing the previous government's decision not to accept any refugees under a U.N. quota system. The U.N. refugee agency has made deals with countries, including Denmark, to take in refugees. Since 1989, Denmark has accepted about 500 such refugees every year. The government also wants to fight plastic pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 70% ahead of 2030, a goal praised by Greenpeace. The four Danish parties also agreed to drop plans to put rejected asylum-seekers and foreigners convicted of crimes on a tiny island that formerly housed facilities for researching contagious animal diseases. They also would reverse some austerity measures in health care and education. Inger Stoejberg, the outgoing immigration minister known for being a hardliner, criticized the Social Democrats for striking a deal that compromised their self-declared tough immigration stance. They had promised 'a strict immigration policy' but 'one can't trust' them, she said. The June 5 elections for Denmark's 179-seat Folketing, or Parliament, dealt a blow to the populist, anti-immigration Danish People's Party, which had been supporting Denmark's center-right prime minister, who resigned. Former Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen failed to keep a majority in parliament after his allies saw their vote share plunge to 8.7% in the June election from 21.1% in 2015.
  • The far-right extremist suspected in the killing of a politician from German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party has told authorities that he acted alone, but investigators are still probing whether anyone else was involved, Germany's top prosecutor said Wednesday. Walter Luebcke, who led the Kassel regional administration in central Germany, was fatally shot in the head at his home on June 2. A 45-year-old German man with a string of convictions for violent anti-migrant crime, Stephan Ernst, was later arrested as the alleged killer. The suspect 'made a confession' Tuesday, chief federal prosecutor Peter Frank told reporters after appearing before parliament's home affairs committee. 'He said that he prepared and carried out alone the crime, the killing of Mr. Luebcke.' But Frank said investigators would not take the suspect's statement as the last word on the case. 'Despite the accused's statement that he acted alone, a matter for our investigations will be whether there might have been supporters, helpers, accessories or other perpetrators, and our investigations will also continue to address whether this crime, this killing, was the work of a terrorist organization, or whether the accused is a member of a right-wing terrorist organization,' Frank added. Interior Minister Horst Seehofer, Germany's top security official, underlined the point. 'The effort to clear up this political killing is not concluded with this (confession),' he said. Luebcke was known for supporting the welcoming refugee policy that Merkel adopted during an immigration influx in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and persecution sought shelter in Germany. The suspect was known to police as a far-right extremist with convictions for violent crimes dating from the late 1980s to 2009, German media have reported. They include a 1993 pipe bomb attack on a refugee shelter in Hesse state, where Kassel is located. However, the head of Germany's domestic intelligence service has said that he hadn't been on the agency's radar for the past decade. The slaying has evoked memories of the National Socialist Underground, a neo-Nazi group that killed 10 people in Germany — mostly immigrants — between 2000 and 2007. Authorities only connected the killings to far-right activity in 2011, when two of the group's three core members died after a botched bank robbery. Last week, police said they were investigating a series of threats sent to officials and institutions days after Ernst's arrest. It was unclear whether they were linked to Luebcke's killing.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron sees himself as a global climate crusader but even a watchdog that he created says his government is lagging on its promises to the planet. The High Council for the Climate issued its first report Tuesday night on the French government's climate policy, saying measures are 'too weak' and 'insufficient' to meet Macron's own goals of slashing emissions by 2050. The government promised action within six months. Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said climate policies should be 'amplified, given the urgency to fight against climate destabilization, whose effects we are already feeling' — referring to a heat wave currently hitting France and other European countries. The report came the same day as a landmark court ruling holding the French state responsible for failing to rein in health-damaging pollution.
  • A head injury, stroke or brain tumor could cause dementia. But did you know your prescribed medication could put you at risk, too? >> Read more trending news Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom recently conduced a study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, to explore the link between a certain class of drugs and the memory loss condition.  To do so, they used QResearch, a large database of anonymized health records, to examine nearly 285,000 adults in the U.K., aged 55 and older, between 2004 and 2016.  The team then reviewed each subject’s prescription records to determine their exposure to anticholinergics, which can include antidepressants, bladder antimuscarinics, antipsychotics and antiepileptic drugs.  >> Related: Common painkillers triple side effects of dementia, study says  After analyzing the results, they found those on anticholinergic medications had almost a 50% increased chance of developing dementia, compared to those who didn’t have prescriptions for anticholinergic drugs. The risk was only associated with 1,095 daily doses within a 10-year period, which is equivalent to an older adult taking a strong anticholinergic medication daily for at least three years. “The study is important because it strengthens a growing body of evidence showing that strong anticholinergic drugs have long term associations with dementia risk,” coauthor Carol Coupland told CNN. “It also highlights which types of anticholinergic drugs have the strongest associations. This is important information for physicians to know when considering whether to prescribe these drugs.” Although the authors said “no firm conclusions can be drawn about whether these anticholinergic drugs cause dementia,” they hope their findings can help professionals better understand the disease. They also advised patients to not stop taking their medications until consulting with their doctor. >> Related: Rate of dementia deaths in US has more than doubled, CDC says As for antihistamines, skeletal muscle relaxants, gastrointestinal antispasmodics, antiarrhythmics, or antimuscarinic bronchodilators, the scientists noted there were no significant dementia risks associated with them.
  • Scientists at the University of St. Andrews taught three young gray seals to sing, literally. >> Read more trending news Seals, which generally bark, and other marine mammals are known for some of the sounds they make. Whales sing, dolphins click, penguins peep and walruses bellow. Researchers, though, were able to train the three young seals to bark out the notes to the opening bars of the theme from “Star Wars” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” The research is published in the journal Current Biology. It’s not just that teaching a seal to sing is an interesting project, St. Andrews scientists said they wanted to learn more about how seals communicate with each other, according to Smithsonian magazine. Knowing how seals communicate in the wild could become important in the future to conservation efforts.  
  • Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths. That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to gird themselves for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions. “There’s so little we can do. We have air purifiers and masks — otherwise we’re just like ‘Please don’t burn,’” said Sarah Rochelle Montoya of San Francisco, who fled her home with her husband and children last fall to escape thick smoke enveloping the city from a disastrous fire roughly 150 miles away. Other sources of air pollution are in decline in the U.S. as coal-fired power plants close and fewer older cars roll down highways. But those air quality gains are being erased in some areas by the ill effects of massive clouds of smoke that can spread hundreds and even thousands of miles on cross-country winds, according to researchers. With the 2019 fire season already heating up with fires from southern California to Canada, authorities are scrambling to better protect the public before smoke again blankets cities and towns. Officials in Seattle recently announced plans to retrofit five public buildings as smoke-free shelters.
  • First lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that her director of communications, Stephanie Grisham, has been named as the new White House press secretary. >> Read more trending news  'I can think of no better person to serve the Administration & our country,' Trump said in a statement posted on Twitter. The first lady said Grisham will also serve as White House director of communications, a position that's been vacant since former Fox News executive Bill Shine left the role in March. Grisham will replace the current press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. President Donald Trump announced two weeks ago that Sanders, plans to step down at the end of June. '(Grisham) will be an incredible asset to the President and the country,' Sanders said in a statement posted on Twitter. 'I’m sad to leave the WH, but so happy our team will be in such great hands. Stephanie will do a phenomenal job.' Axios reported President Trump wanted Grisham in the position and that he's said he likes and trusts her. The news site noted she's one of the few officials who has been with President Trump since his campaign. She will continue to serve as the first lady's spokeswoman as well, CNN reported. Grisham will become the fourth woman to serve as White House press secretary. Before serving as the first lady's spokeswoman, Grisham worked under Trump's first press secretary, Sean Spicer, The Washington Post reported. She also previously worked on Republican Mitt Romney's 2012 presidential campaign, according to the newspaper. “During the campaign, she developed a good relationship with the president, and that’s carried through,” Sanders said of Grisham in an interview late last year, according to the Post. “She has developed a great amount of trust from both the president and the first lady, which is a pretty high commodity here. There aren’t a lot of people who have a lot of regular interaction with both of them.”
  • The Forsyth County, Georgia sheriff's office has released body camera footage of the moments deputies rescued an abandoned newborn found in a plastic shopping bag. >> Read more trending news  Neighbors heard a baby crying and discovered 'Baby India' tied up in the bag earlier this month, WSB-TV reported.  The new video shows deputies tearing open the bag to find the newborn with her umbilical cord still attached. The video shows officers frantically wrapping the crying baby in a jacket. She has since been taken into the custody of the Division of Family and Children services' care and is in good health.  Deputies hope releasing the body camera footage will generate more leads and help find the infant's mother. WARNING: Graphic video below. Police are asking anyone with information to call the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office at 770-888-7308. Callers can remain anonymous. 

Washington Insider

  • On the eve of the first major gathering of Democratic Party candidates in the 2020 race for President, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) drew over a thousand interested Democrats to a town hall gathering at Florida International University on Monday, pressing the case for the federal government to do more to help working Americans find economic security in the future. 'I don't want a government that works for big corporations, I want one that works for families,' Warren said to applause, making the case for a higher minimum wage for workers, major ethics reforms for government officials, voting reforms, major tax changes, and more. 'Let's start with a wealth tax in America,' said Sanders, as she called for 'big structural change in this country,' rattling off a number of her policy ideas, getting big cheers for new limits on lobbying, action on climate change, and better wages for all workers. “A full time minimum wage job in America will not get a momma and a baby out of poverty,” Warren said.  “That is wrong, and that is why I am in this fight.” Of the ten Democrats on the debate stage Wednesday night, Warren is by far the strongest candidate in the first group, as she has been gaining momentum in recent weeks in a variety of polls. The four other top Democrats in the race will be on stage together on Thursday - Biden, Buttigieg, Harris and Sanders. Along with Warren, two other Democrats attracted press attention in south Florida before the Wednesday debate, as Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington State talked about his signature issue of climate change, and ex-Rep. Beto O'Rourke of Texas rallied with teachers in Miami. 'It's a great opportunity for me to listen to you, to have the chance to introduce myself,' said O'Rourke, who is one of the better known names on the first night of the Democratic debate. The first debate night in Miami features three Democratic Senators (Booker, Klobuchar, Warren), two House members (Gabbard, Ryan), two former House members (Delaney, O'Rourke), one current mayor (DeBlasio), one former mayor and Cabinet member (Castro), and one Governor (Inslee). While some like Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) arrived in Florida on Tuesday afternoon - getting unsolicited advice along the way from fellow passengers on her flight to Miami - Inslee was for a second day hammering away at his main issue of climate change. 'Today we're announcing a new freedom in America, and that's freedom from fossil fuels,' Inslee said at an event in the Everglades. Inslee followed up his Everglades visit with a Tuesday evening event where he took shots at Big Oil. For most of the Democrats over the next two nights, there is a simple game plan.  'Our goal,' a memo to reporters from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) said, 'Introduce Cory to Democrats tuning in for the first time,' noting that when you do the math, each candidate is only going to get between seven and eleven minutes of total speaking time. 'I can’t wait to share with you my vision for a more just and fair nation,' Booker said. Meanwhile, Warren was making plans for an impromptu visit on Wednesday to a facility south of Miami, where immigrant children detained by border authorities are being held. “I'm going to Homestead,” Warren said to cheers after being urged to focus on the issue by an activist at a town hall meeting in Miami. “If you can come, come and join us,” Warren urged the crowd, as her campaign set a 10:45 am visit on Wednesday, which seems all but certain to draw extra news media attention, just hours before the first night of the Democratic debates. While Warren was on the move, her colleague Sen. Booker was doing more mundane things at the same time back in Washington, D.C. - helping people put their suitcases in the overhead bin on his flight to Miami.
  • Pressing ahead with work on government funding bills for 2020, Democrats in the House approved a package of five measures worth $383.3 billion on Tuesday, funding an array of programs from the Justice Department to NASA, military construction projects and the VA, while also including a series of policy riders designed to rein in efforts by the Trump Administration to expand offshore oil and gas exploration. 'Offshore drilling anywhere near Florida represents an existential threat to our economy that we cannot risk taking,' said Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL), as all but one Republican from the Sunshine State supported an amendment to block new oil and gas leasing off Florida, especially in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. 'I saw the tar balls wash up on Florida beaches,' said Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), and he invoked the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico when he was Governor of Florida in 2010. 'I hope to never see that again.' But it wasn't only Florida lawmakers of both parties making the case against expanded drilling, as the bill also added amendments to block seismic blasting to check for oil and gas deposits in offshore waters along the entire Atlantic coast, along with a full moratorium on new oil and gas exploration on the Eastern seaboard, plus a plan to block any new oil and gas leasing off the Pacific Coast of the United States. 'The Central Coast has endured the devastating impacts of oil spills,' said California Democrat Salud Carbajal. 'I'll do everything in my power to make sure our community doesn't go through that again.' Supporters of expanded offshore oil and gas exploration accused opponents of using 'fear tactics.' 'I believe the ones who don’t want to see the areas mentioned in this amendment opened up for offshore leasing really just don’t want fossil fuel development,' said Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-SC). But Duncan's home state colleague - from the Atlantic coast - had a much different view. 'Far too much is at stake in our State,' said Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC), who argued for plans to squelch new offshore exploration. 'South Carolina’s tourism economy is worth $22.6 billion a year, and two-thirds of that comes from the coast.' 'This is an issue that has been supported by Republican Governor (Henry) McMaster, who has made it clear that he opposes offshore drilling,' Cunningham added. The approval of the underlying 'minibus' funding package means that nine of the twelve yearly funding bills have made it through the House of Representatives; one more could be voted on this week before lawmakers leave for a scheduled break. Those spending bills are supposed to be done by October 1 - but the House only has 25 scheduled work days between the July Fourth break and the end of the fiscal year. The Senate has one more week of work scheduled than the House - but there is little reason to think that Congress will finish its on time - by September 30 - for the first time since 1996. 'The current funding process is designed to fail. It doesn’t work. It hasn’t worked. It will never work,' said Sen. David Perdue (R-GA), who has been pressing for a full overhaul of the budget process.  'Since the Budget Act of 1974 was put in place, Congress has only funded the federal government on time four times, and the last time was 23 years ago,' Perdue added. The three funding bills not yet voted on by the House include the spending measure for Congress and the Legislative Branch, a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security, and a measure funding federal financial agencies. The Senate has yet to bring any of the 2020 funding bills to the floor for action.
  • In a flurry of motions by prosecutors and lawyers for indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), government attorneys submitted to a federal judge a number of examples of how Hunter allegedly used money contributed to his campaign to instead pay for romantic outings with a series of women who were not his wife. 'Shortly after he arrived in Washington, Hunter began to use funds contributed to the Duncan D. Hunter for Congress Campaign to carry out a series of intimate relationships,' a new document filed on Monday detailed for a federal judge. 'At trial, the evidence will demonstrate that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue these romances wholly unrelated to either his congressional campaigns or his official duties as a member of Congress,' prosecutors said in a 'statement of facts.' Stating there was a 'voluminous nature' of evidence against Hunter, the document set out an image of a Congressman who had affairs with lobbyists and Congressional staffers, paying for their meals, trips, and nights on the town with campaign funds. 'In March 2010, for example, the couple took a weekend “double date” road trip to Virginia Beach with their friends, one of whom was also a congressman. Hunter spent $905 in campaign funds to pay for the hotel bar tab and room he shared with (Individual-14) that weekend,' the documents related. The documents listed evidence about Hunter's relationships with: + Individual 14 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 15 - a staffer who worked in the office of a member of the House leadership,  + Individual 16 - a staffer in his Congressional office,  + Individual 17 - a lobbyist,  + Individual 18 - a lobbyist. The court submission sometimes left little to the imagination, as it noted Hunter engaging in 'intimate personal activities' with these individuals, which was not related to his campaign or duties as a lawmaker. The release of the information by prosecutors came as lawyers for Rep. Hunter asked the judge in the case to exclude a number of pieces of evidence, as Hunter has alleged he is the victim of a political persecution. 'The investigation of Congressman Hunter by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of California began shortly after his public endorsement of candidate Trump,' Hunter's lawyers wrote in one of a series of evidence challenges, alleging that two prosecutors involved in the case were supporters of Hillary Clinton. 'Any explanation the Government gives now for initiating the investigation of Congressman Hunter should be viewed with total skepticism through the lens of their attempts to cover up the partisan political activities of the prosecutors that initiated the investigation,' lawyers for Hunter added.
  • Flanked by several progressive Democrats from the U.S. House, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) unveiled plans on Monday to zero out well over $1 trillion in college student loan debt held by Americans, part of a broader call by some lawmakers to make tuition much more affordable for students at public colleges and universities. 'If you can bail out Wall Street, you can bail out the middle class of this country,' Sanders said at a news conference outside the U.S. Capitol. 'We have a generation of people who are drowning in debt,' said Sanders, as he urged older Americans to realize that times have dramatically changed since they were able to use Pell Grants or a part time job to help pay their college tuition. 'It was literally easier for me to become the youngest woman in American history elected to Congress than it is to pay off my student loan debt,' said Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). There were different pieces of legislation released today on the issue - one from Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is titled the 'Student Debt Cancellation Act of 2019' - and focuses just on the issue of erasing student debt. Omar's bill would also prevent the loan forgiveness from being considered taxable income for an individual, and does not allow any refunds of payments already made. 'Corporations and the wealthiest Americans have repeatedly gotten tax breaks and bailouts,' said Omar. 'It’s time for a bailout for the 45 million Americans who are shackled with student debt.' The immediate reaction among Republicans and conservatives was skeptical - to say the least. 'Universities will be able to increase tuition at will if they know the gov’t is just going to forgive the debt anyway,' tweeted Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R-OH). The plan from Sanders and others would apply to all with student loan debt - no matter their current income levels. His bill would also aim to drastically reduce the cost of tuition at public colleges and universities - with a total cost estimate of $2.2 trillion. 'The estimated $2.2 trillion cost of the bill would be paid for by a tax on Wall Street speculation,' Sanders said in a release about the legislation. The plan would institute a transaction tax of 0.5 percent on stock trades, as well as a 0.1 percent fee on bonds, and a .0005 percent fee on derivatives.
  • The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously ruled on Monday that a government ban on the registration of what federal officials believe are 'immoral or scandalous' trademarks violates the First Amendment, saying it was not right that free speech would protect 'good morals,' but not trademarks which 'denigrate those concepts.' 'The registration of such marks serves only to further coarsen our popular culture,' Justice Elena Kagan wrote for the Court. 'But we are not legislators and cannot substitute a new statute for the one now in force.' The case involved artist and entrepreneur Erik Brunetti, who wanted a trademark for his clothing like 'FUCT' - which he says is pronounced not as a word, but with the individual letters, F-U-C-T.  'But you might read it differently and, if so, you would hardly be alone,' Kagan wrote for the Court, as patent and trademark officials refused to approve Brunetti's request, labeling it a 'total vulgar.' This ruling overturned those decisions. While agreeing with the basics of the decision, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a concurring opinion that while the decision protects free speech, the results might offend many people. 'The Court’s decision today will beget unfortunate results,' Sotomayor wrote in a concurrence with Justice Stephen Breyer. “Everyone can think of a small number of words (including the apparent homonym of Brunetti’s mark) that would, however, plainly qualify,” Sotomayor added. The decision could have implications past trademarks, as states routinely reject vanity license plate applications because of certain words which would be used. You can read the full ruling here.