Headlines: March 13, 2019
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More details have emerged in the college admissions scandal that led to the charging and arrest of about 50 people on Tuesday. A college prep consultant named William Singer is at the heart of a scheme to use large bribes from parents made to athletic coaches and others who have admissions oversight at elite colleges. Singer ran a business called Edge College & Career Network, also known as The Key, in Newport Beach, California. In addition to facilitating bribes Singer helped students to cheat on standardized tests like the SAT. Andrew Lelling, US Attorney for the District court of Massachusetts described the charges on Tuesday against dozens of parents including well-known actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin. Mr. Singer, the educational consultant at the heart of the charges, had turned into a federal informant and secretly recorded conversations with his clients to help prosecutors. The investigation is ongoing and more charges may be coming.
In the wake of the Ethiopia Airlines crash last weekend, most countries around the world including the European Union have decided to ground their Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft which is the type of plane that crashed in Addis Ababa and also crashed last year in Indonesia. Chief among those nations refusing to ground its planes is the US where Boeing holds political influence in government (Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan worked for Boeing for over 30 years). On Tuesday President Donald Trump tweeted, “Airplanes are becoming far too complex to fly. Pilots are no longer needed, but rather computer scientists from MIT.” But soon after he posted the tweet, according to the New York Times, “Boeing’s chief executive, Dennis A. Muilenburg, called from Chicago and expressed to Mr. Trump his confidence in the safety of the 737 Max 8 jets, according to two people briefed on the conversation.”
Reports show that there were 11 complaints logged by Federal Aviation authorities from professional pilots between April through December of 2018. According to a USA Today report, “The captain of a November 2018 flight called part of the aircraft’s flight manual “inadequate and almost criminally insufficient.” Meanwhile Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and her staff flew on a Boeing 737 Max 8 plane operated by Southwest Airlines on Tuesday in a bid to illustrate the plane’s safety.
President Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort was sentenced on Wednesday for the second time in 2 weeks in another set of charges stemming from the Special Counsel’s investigation into election wrongdoing. Judge Amy Berman Jackson sentenced Manafort to an additional 3.5 years in prison on top of the 47 months he was sentenced to last week. Many critics denounced that 47-month sentence for being far too light. During her sentencing hearing Judge Berman said of Manafort, “It is hard to overstate the number of lies and the amount of fraud and the amount of money involved.., A significant portion of his career has been spent gaming the system.”
Meanwhile New York’s Attorney General Letitia James is proposing a bill to close a Constitutional loophole preventing people from being charged with the same crime twice, specifically for those who have been pardoned by the President on federal convictions. Ms. James would like her state to file charges along similar lines as federal investigators against those people the President might pardon.
California Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to sign an executive order on Wednesday ordering a moratorium on the death penalty in his state. The order means that California’s 737 death row inmates will not be executed while Newsom is Governor. California joins Colorado, Oregon, and Pennsylvania in halting the death penalty, giving momentum to a national movement against the practice. There are more death row inmates in California than any other state currently and the last time a prisoner was executed was in 2006. Governor Newsom has been a long-time critic of the death penalty.
The Indian Child Welfare Act is being tested, 40 years after it was passed. A federal judge in Texas had ruled the law unconstitutional because it requires Native American adoptive parents to be given preference in cases involving Native American children in foster care and adoption proceedings. Hundreds of tribes and nearly 2-dozen states have joined together with the federal agency charged with upholding the law, to defend it in front of the judge. On Wednesday arguments will be heard in front of the panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The case centers around a child who is eligible for membership in the Navajo and Cherokee tribes but who is being fostered by a white couple in Texas after the child’s biological parents apparently voluntarily gave up their parental rights.
The Pentagon on Tuesday signed a memo putting into effect President Trump’s ban on transgender troops in the US military. The memo will go into effect on April 12th after which most people who are transgender will be banned from serving. There will be waivers issued on a case-by-case basis. On Tuesday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued a stern rebuke against the memo saying, “The President’s revival of his bigoted, disgusting ban on transgender servicemembers is a stunning attack on the patriots who keep us safe and on the most fundamental ideals of our nation.”
House Democrats on Tuesday revived the DREAM Act, a bill that would offer young immigrants a path toward permanent residency and US citizenship. The bill would also preserve the Temporary Protected Status program, protecting several communities from facing deportation. California Representative Lucille Roybal-Allard introduced the bill, which has a troubled history, saying, “I have seen the pain and fear the Trump administration has had on Dreamers and their families.” The bill is likely to face stiff opposition in the Republican-controlled Senate, even if it passes in the House.