News

More Articles

  • Death to the Kittens: Supreme Court Defends Animal Cruelty Videos as Expression of Free Speech

    Is it morally reprehensible to torture and kill animals and document it on video? Maybe so. But that wasn’t the issue the Supreme Court was considering in its latest ruling published this morning. In U.S. v. Stevens, a case that tested the constitutionality of a law banning animal-cruelty videos, justices classified it as a First Amendment question, and ruled with significant unity—8 to 1—to strike down the law, which has been on the books since 1999.Animal cruelty in most forms is illegal—just look at Michael Vick and his wardrobe of orange jumpsuits. But some forms aren’t, like hunting or bullfighting, which creates a gray area in deciding just what crosses the line. The law's defenders argued that depictions of women in stiletto heels crushing hamsters was akin to child pornography. But it was a wobbly argument. One of the more concerning aspects of child molestation is often considered the long-term effect psychological effect on the child, long after scars heal. There’s...
  • Even the Wall Street Insiders Are Skeptical of Goldman

    Goldman Sachs’s first-quarter earnings increased by 91 percent, but these better-than-expected results still were not enough to overshadow the civil suit the SEC filed against the bank on Friday for allegedly misleading investors.   Even the Wall Street analysts from insider banks such as Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse wanted to talk about the lawsuit on the Tuesday-morning earnings call, which Goldman, in an unusual move, opened to the public.   Goldman's general counsel, Greg Palm, spent the first part of the conversation laying out the case for the company's innocence.He says the bank had no economic incentive to create a portfolio of mortgage investments it knew would fail. (The bank lost more than $100 million by making the long bet against the housing market, he says). But the main thrust of his argument was that the parties involved in the Abacus deal were not some wide-eyed investors. They were savvy and familiar enough with Wall ...
  • Quote of the Day: Bill Clinton

    "Hillary's going to live to be 110. I joke with her all the time. She might have three husbands after me. You know, she's going to live forever." —Former President Bill Clinton, on whether his wife, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, would be a good pick for the Supreme Court.
  • Absurdly Premature 2012 Watch, Vol. 14: Why Romney Isn't a Hypocrite for Attacking Obama on Health Care

    As I write in this week's dead-tree magazine, one of the most surprising—and, frankly, self-defeating—aftershocks of Obamacare's passage is the way that Republicans are now roasting once-and-perhaps-future presidential candidate Mitt Romney for enacting similar reforms as governor of Massachusetts. Newt Gingrich recently called Romneycare "wrong." George Pataki has characterized it as "unconstitutional." And the Cato Institute is now implying that Romney is a hypocrite for attempting to "lead the charge against a health-care plan that is modeled on his own." The problem, of course, is that Romney's plan so closely...
  • Gates Memo: Reaction Roundup

    A hot New York Times scoop on U.S. policy has dispelled much of the warm, fuzzy feeling brought on by last week's nuclear summit in Washington. The paper reported Sunday on the existence of a memo that Defense Secretary Robert Gates wrote in January, stating that government simply doesn't have a viable long-term plan for dealing with Iran's nuclear program. One official told reporters that the memo was "a wake-up call." Gates is trying to cool off the heated response to the article, insisting that the Times missed the context of the memo: "The memo was not intended as a 'wake up call' or received as such by the President's national security team. Rather, it presented a number of questions and proposals intended to contribute to an orderly and timely decision making process."...
  • Adoption Isn't Always Easy: The New York Times With More Stories of Struggling Parents

    I first met Josephine Ruggiero 13 years ago when I was reporting a story about international adoption, "Bringing Kids All the Way Home." Ruggiero and her husband had adopted three young biological siblings from Russia in 1994 and they invited me into their home, where they talked openly about how difficult adoption can turn out to be—for parents and children alike. The couple had high hopes that their son and two daughters would adjust to family life in the U.S., but there were physical and behavioral issues from the start, including fetal-alcohol syndrome and posttraumatic stress disorder—information that was not shared by the Russian orphanage directors or their adoption agency. ...
  • Carl Levin: Another ‘Big Shoe to Drop' on Goldman

    Washington is suddenly looking very unkind to the firm that used to be known as "Government Sachs." Now the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, led by Carl Levin, Democrat of Michigan, is planning to focus hearings scheduled for next week at least in part on Goldman Sachs's role in the financial disaster. Levin's staff has uncovered new documents "that link certain actions to specific people" at Goldman, according to a senior legislative official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official would not divulge the nature of the allegation but said that Levin believes it amounts to "another big shoe to drop on Goldman." Spokespeople for Levin said they were not prepared to discuss the nature of the probe, but his committee has been conducting several weeks of hearings and one is planned for April 27 on "the role of the investment banks." "We expect to have some information tomorrow," spokesman Bryan...
  • Bill Clinton's Supreme Court Advice: Pick a Wild Card

    If you ask Bill Clinton what he thinks, President Obama should throw a curveball with his next nominee to the Supreme Court. The qualities he’d like? Someone young, energetic, and someone who’s not a jurist. That rules out virtually all of the names on the White House’s reported shortlist—led, at the moment, by Solicitor General Elena Kagan. Two other top contenders, Merrick Garland and Diane Wood, have two of Clinton’s strikes against them; both are appellate justices and are pushing 60. Speaking over the weekend with ABC’s Jake Tapper and MSNBC’s Luke Russert, Clinton quoted the late high-court justice Hugo Black, who said that people from small towns—sheriffs and county judges—would be better equipped to know “how the lofty decisions of the Supreme Court affect the ordinary lives of Americans."So who would he appoint? Clinton wouldn’t talk names. But he did firmly remove two from the list: his and his wife’s. "[Hillary] would be good at it, and at one point in her life,...
  • Europe Turns Against The Pope

    The sex-abuse scandal of the early 2000s never did much damage to the popularity of John Paul II, the pope at the time. Pope Benedict XVI can only wish he were so fortunate. Ahead of the pope's official visit to Malta last weekend, Hitler mustaches and the Maltese word for "pedophilia" were painted on billboards displaying his picture. A petition opposing a papal visit to Britain this coming September has already collected more than 10,000 signatures in that country, and the writers Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens are threatening a citizen's arrest of the 82-year-old pontiff for crimes against humanity. And in the United States, a Gallup/USA Today poll found that Benedict's approval rating among Catholics and non-Catholics hit a new low last week, plunging to 40 percent from a high of 63 percent in 2008. In contrast, John Paul II's approval rating in America never dipped below 61 percent, even as the church paid out billions in compensation to...
  • Massa’s $40,000 Ill-Timed Check

    The saga of Rep. Eric Massa keeps getting worse for the former lawmaker. The Washington Post reported Friday that Massa wrote a $40,000 check to his chief of staff from his campaign fund the day after he resigned. The move looks fairly questionable considering that Joe Racalto, his top congressional adviser, is alleged to have had previous knowledge about sexual harassment complaints by staffers and tried to handle the accusations internally rather than reporting Massa. (Racalto’s lawyer told the Post the check was for months of work on Massa’s reelection campaign.)...
  • Goldman Sachs: Has The SEC Finally Grown a Pair Under Mary Schapiro?

    It’s been a busy week for the SEC. On Wednesday, the regulatory agency took a small, but important first step toward shining light on the very dark, very unregulated world of high frequency trading. And now come charges of civil fraud levied at Goldman Sachs. Talk about a double whammy. In the old days, the SEC would’ve put its feet up and called it a week after the high-frequency trading action. But following it up two days later by charging the biggest, baddest bank in the world with $1 billion of fraud? Who does the SEC think it is? The country’s financial watch dog? Let’s hope so....
  • BREAKING: Lesbian Divorce Appealed in Texas by Attorney General

    Yesterday, Eve Conant reported on the difficulties same-sex couples face when they seek to end their partnerships. In some cases, partners who get married in one state find themselves unable to get divorced in another (most states have no residency requirements for marriage, but do for divorce). The inability to divorce creates a series of legal, financial, and childcare problems, while also preventing those in the failed partnership to move on with their lives. Conant opened the story with two women who seemed to have beaten the odds. Angelique Naylor and Sabina Daly, who were married five years ago in Massachusetts, finalized their divorce in the state of Texas last month, making them the first gay couple to be legally divorced in that state. The only thing that could overturn the divorce was an appeal by the Attorney General Greg Abbott. Today Naylor says she received her notice of appeal in the mail. The fate of Daly and Naylor's marriage now lies in the hands of the...
  • More on Elena Kagan’s Recusal Realities

    Yesterday, we took a look at Elena Kagan, currently on the shortlist of shortlisters to replace John Paul Stevens. One potential downside for Kagan, we suggested, is her current job. As solicitor general, history indicates that Kagan would have to recuse herself from any case she either argued or submitted a brief for, which some legal analysts have suggested could be as high as 70 percent of cases in her first year on the bench. We cited Thurgood Marshall, Kagan’s former boss and a former SG himself, who recused himself from 57 percent of cases in his first year, as a mold for what a Kagan appointment could look like.But history, as if often does, dives deeper. While Marshall’s example may indeed be a mark against Kagan, plenty of others took the bench with seeming conflicts and ended up being rather decent, even historic, members of the court. Stanley Reed had a stellar record as solicitor general when he was appointed to the high court in 1938. In his first year he penned a major...
  • Is the SEC Opening the Floodgates?

    The civil suit brought against Goldman Sachs by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday involved just a single transaction and a single executive, and in a conference call with reporters, SEC Enforcement Director Robert Khuzami refused to say how widespread his investigation is. But that doesn't make the case any less significant. Securities-fraud charges related to the subprime debacle have been few and far between until now (plenty of mortgage originators have been indicted, but Wall Street has remained mostly unscathed). By naming the most prestigious firm on Wall Street and a world-famous hedge fund—Paulson & Co.—known for making some of the biggest profits by shorting subprimes, the SEC has signaled that there may be a lot more indictments to come. ...
  • Goldman Sachs Sued for Fraud

    Just when Americans thought Wall Street had escaped any repercussions for helping to cause the financial crisis, the Securities and Exchange Commission shows it has a pulse! ...
  • Should Libel Laws Apply To the Web?

    London is the capital of many things--England, financial services. And slapping people with libel lawsuits. Plaintiffs from around the globe--or "libel tourists"--flock to Britain to take advantage of its pro-litigant libel laws that make suing for defamation nearly a guaranteed win. But now those laws--first laid out hundreds of years ago to protect the reputations of "respectable" English gentlemen--are on a collision course with 21st-century technology. With the proliferation of blogs and other social-networking Web sites that enable everyone to voice their opinions, a fight is brewing over online freedom of speech in Britain, with profound implications for the Internet's international free exchange of ideas. ...
  • Obama's Visitation Rights Order: A Turning Point on Gay Rights?

    The White House caught pretty much everyone off guard last night with an executive order intended to ensure visitation rights for gay couples in hospitals. The order asks Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, to allow people both to visit their partners and make medical decisions for them. Hospitals that don't comply stand to lose federal funding. Wrote Obama: ...
  • Elena Kagan's Achilles Heel: Incessant Recusal

    Solicitor General Elena Kagan remains high on the list to replace John Paul Stevens, a White House official admitted earlier in the week. An excellent legal résumé and experience arguing before the Supreme Court qualifies her over other candidates, some of whom have too little bench experience, others with too many declared positions. But it’s precisely Kagan’s strength that is also her weakness. Kagan has taken part in dozens of cases (either in oral argument or in briefs) since taking office last January. That means that over the next two to three years, Kagan would have to recuse herself from as many as half of the cases heard by the court—a number extraordinarily higher than normal for freshmen top jurists. The court's majority, then, would shift to 5-3—a tough hurdle to mount, especially for the left wing of the court, which will have lost its most consistent member. The best example of what Kagan's appointment would look like is her former boss, Thurgood Marshall, f...
  • The Hidden Costs of Extra-Value Meals

    See Golden Arches, save less? No, not because we shell out $7.99 for meals we could make at home for $3, but because of how our environment subliminally affects our behavior....
  • Money Talks—and It's Saying Palin Doesn't Want to Be President

    As my fellow Gaggler Liz White reported yesterday, Sarah Palin has raked in a cool $12 million in personal income since quitting the Juneau Statehouse last July. But the more interesting number, at least as it pertains to politics, is how much she has given out—or rather, how little. Typically, White House hopefuls form political action committees (PACs) so they can travel around the country raising money for, and donating money to, other members of their party. The point is to amass political capital and gather chits that could help them in future campaigns. But of the $400,000 Palin's SarahPac raised from individual donors in the last three months, only $9,500—or 2.4 percent—went to current Republican candidates: $2,500 for Sean Duffy in Wisconsin; $1,000 for Allen West in Florida; $1,000 for Adam Kinzinger in Illinois; $2,000 for Rand Paul in Kentucky; and $1,000 for Vaughn Ward in Idaho. In contrast, Palin spent $243,000 on consultants, $16,000 on hotels, and $14,000 to de...
  • Quote of the Day: Michael Steele

    "I work every day in this job, as I like to put it, to turn the elephant. Now, I don't know if you ever had to turn an elephant, but the end you have to start with is not necessarily the best place to start."—RNC Chairman Michael Steele, describing his attempts to make amends between the Republican Party and the black community.
  • Why America's Tax Code Is the Least Progressive in the Industrialized World

    On Tax Day, amidst all the right-wing rhetoric about how the poor are undertaxed, and liberal arguments about how the rich should pay more, we should take a second just to go over how the U.S. tax structure works. Americans fund a lot of their essential social services, public schools, for example, primarily at the state and local level. Consequently, relative to other industrialized democracies, we have a tax burden that falls more heavily at the state and local level and less at the national level. ...
  • By The Numbers: Health-Care Woes

    China's ever-widening wealth gap has been pegged as a major source of the country's domestic instability, but a new study from Beijing-based Horizon Research shows that inequality is the least of China's worries: 14.7Percentage of Chinese who cited the wealth gap as their biggest concern in 2009. 28.5Percentage who cited real-estate and housing prices. 31.5Percentage who cited layoffs and employment. 34.8Percentage who cited health-care reform and costs.
  • Obama and Biden Reach Out to Poland

    Just one week after visiting Europe to sign a treaty, it's now official that President Obama will head to Poland on Saturday for the funeral of President Lech Kaczynski and first lady Maria Kaczynska, who were killed in a plane crash a week ago. The rationale for the trip seems clear: it's just the right thing to do for a fallen head of state. But in a grander sense, the White House may have in mind one of Obama's more unverifiable campaign promises: to reintroduce the world to a more compassionate U.S. after anti-American sentiments rose over the past decade. (See Obama's other promises, and his progress, here.) Back in Washington, Joe Biden visited the Polish Embassy late Wednesday to pay his respects and to sign a condolence book for Kaczynski and the 94 other victims. Here was his inscription:
  • Quote of the Day: Robert Gibbs

    "A lot of Republicans get to church; very few of them have made it to the altar." —Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, describing Senate Democrats' efforts to reach a deal with several successive Republican counterparts on financial regulatory reform.
  • Get Ready for a Replay of Health Care

    After months of awkward bipartisan feelers over financial reform, it’s bench-clearing time at last. That’s pretty much what’s happened over the last few days, especially since Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell launched the GOP’s strategic assault on Democratic reform bills by calling them bailouts of Wall Street—eagerly parroting the line put out by GOP pollster Frank Luntz—and Banking Committee Chairman Chris Dodd responded by saying his patience is at an end. On another front, Sen. Blanche Lincoln, chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee, appeared to end her own efforts at compromise with Republican Saxby Chambliss over the regulation of derivatives; she wrote a letter (read it here) assuring progressive Democratic colleagues, Maria Cantwell, Byron Dorgan, and Dianne Feinstein (along with moderate GOP Sen. Olympia Snowe) that she was fully behind a tough bill, one that excludes most exemptions for derivatives “end users.”...
  • Sarah Palin: No Hockey Mom

    Although she lost the election, Sarah Palin has certainly come out ahead. ABC News reported Tuesday that the governor turned media star had raked in more than $12 million since July from various speaking engagements, television contracts, and her book, Going Rogue. Several hours later, California state Sen. Leland Yee revealed pages believed to be from Palin’s speech contract with the California State University’s Stanislaus Foundation (where Palin will speak at a gala this summer) that were found in a Dumpster by several students. Palin’s high cost, and her high demands, have concerned lawmakers in a state struggling with sweeping budget cuts. ...
  • In Western China Earthquake, Ghosts of Sichuan Loom

    At least 400 people are dead after six earthquakes struck this morning in western China's Yushu County, a barren and mountainous area of Qinghai province mostly populated by ethnic Tibetans. In Jiegu, the county seat, about 90 percent of houses were destroyed. The Chinese government is rushing coats, blankets, and temporary housing to the region, where nighttime temperatures reach below freezing, but transport of equipment and materials is proving difficult. Under normal circumstances in Yushu, goat tracks are more common than major highways. Now, with the road to the nearest airport badly damaged, rescuers have taken to digging through the rubble with their hands.
  • Introducing 'Race for the Robe'

    To mark this, the season of shortlisting, we at NEWSWEEK are proud to introduce a new feature on the Gaggle capturing the daily horse race to fill an emptying Supreme Court seat—based on news, and not just Beltway buzz. Can Elena Kagan, who leads the pack, withstand the vetting? Is the White House floating a dark horse to appease an interest group? We break down the names—and how they rank—each morning, here.
  • Newly Passed 'Fetal Pain' Bill in Nebraska Is a Big Deal

    The Nebraska Legislature has passed a law barring abortions after 20 weeks because of the possibility that the fetus could feel pain. The law, approved by the state legislature earlier today and expected to be signed by Gov. Dave Heineman, is a landmark in that it directly challenges one of the key tenets of Roe v. Wade: the viability standard. In Roe, the Supreme Court recognized viability—the point at which the fetus can live outside the womb—as the point at which states have the right to ban abortion (with exceptions made for the woman's life and health). That was the "compelling" point at which to allow abortion bans, Justice Harry Blackmun opined, "because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb." Therefore, he continued, "If the State is interested in protecting fetal life after viability, it may go so far as to proscribe abortion during that period, except when it is necessary to preserve the...
  • Quote of the Day: Nuclear-Security Summit

    “Just the smallest amount of plutonium—about the size of an apple—could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Terrorist networks such as Al Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it.” —President Obama at the full plenary session of the Nuclear Security Summit on Tuesday, to leaders from 47 countries.
  • Michelle Obama Makes First Solo Trip—and First Surprise Visit—on the Same Day

    En route to her first solo diplomatic mission in Mexico this week, Michelle Obama made a surprise visit today to Port-au-Prince, the Haitian capital, to survey the recovery efforts in the island country hit with a massive 7.0 earthquake in January. Along with Jill Biden, Obama took a helicopter tour of the city and met with top government officials in the capital city, where more than a million people remain homeless. ...
  • Quote of the Day: John Boehner

    "They got everything else in the entire bureaucracy that they need to control our health-care system ... with the signing of this bill. That's why repealing this bill has to be our No. 1 priority." —Rep. John Boehner during a radio interview today
  • Nuclear Summit: What Success Will Look Like

    For two days, the Washington press corps has been inundated with news of all the big names in town and the staged photo ops that are customary between visiting leaders and their host. Usually, the conversation is a cursory exchange of issues important in the relationship of both leaders. Rarely do bilateral handshakes get terribly deep.But the reason for everyone in town this week is a fairly deep topic: keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. In what is the biggest collection of world leaders since the 1945 conference that founded the United Nations, top officials from 47 countries—all with nuclear arsenals or some sort of access to fissile material—will sit around tables late Monday and Tuesday to discuss securing their stocks. On that point, there’s general agreement. Most world leaders understand the imperative of preventing terrorist groups like Al Qaeda from obtaining weapons. But there are still some rifts, like who will monitor the international effort, and...
  • The New Health-Care Fight: Abortion Coverage in State Exchanges

    While the congressional fight over health-care reform has wrapped up and legislators moved on, a new, state-level battle over abortion coverage has just begun. The fight comes courtesy of Section 1303 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (page 779 here), which reiterates states’ rights to regulate abortion coverage among their insurers. The key sentence: “A state may elect to prohibit abortion coverage in qualified health plans offered through an Exchange in such State if such State enacts a law to provide for such a prohibition.”This provision actually does not give states any rights they didn’t have before. As Nick Baumann over at Mother Jones recently, and astutely, pointed out, “states have had the right to pass laws regulating insurance, including banning abortion” for over six decades now. Five states (Idaho, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, and Oklahoma) already do so, only allowing insurers to cover abortion if the life of the mother is endangered (the Oklahoma...
  • Congress Plays Politics With Unemployment Insurance

    Congress is back from vacation and scheduled to vote Monday afternoon on extending unemployment insurance benefits for an extra four weeks, primarily for people who have been out of work for several months. ...
  • Britain's New Kingmaker

    When Prime Minister Gordon Brown agreed last year to take part in Britain's first-ever televised election debates, which begin next week, the result seemed certain. The fluent and youthful Conservative leader David Cameron, then enjoying a commanding lead in the polls, would easily outperform the dogged prime minister, usually a lackluster speaker....
  • At the Masters, Phil Mickelson's Win Takes Tiger off the Table

    When Tiger Woods scored a hole in one on the seventh hole at the Masters this Sunday, he threw his hands up in a small celebration. For an instant, the strained look he’d been wearing for most of the tournament passed, but even though that shot put him back in the running for the green jacket, he didn’t seem jubilant. His demonstration seemed, like most of Woods’s play this weekend, forced and rote.Compare that with the sheer joy on Phil Mickelson’s face when he took home the top prize later that day, and the long embrace he shared with his wife, Amy. Mickelson’s game had been off for about 11 months—about the same amount of time Amy has been treated for breast cancer. She was on the course today, watching her husband play brilliant, enthusiastic golf. A few other comparisons: Mickelson created a heartwarming photo op earlier in the week when he invited his wife’s doctor to caddie a few holes during the Houston Open; Woods had security in place at the Masters to prevent any...
  • A Coup and a Close Call In Kyrgyzstan

    The violence that gripped Bishkek, the Kyrgyz capital, last week quickly turned into a dictator's worst nightmare when the snowballing riots forced President Kurmanbek Bakiyev to flee for his life. But by week's end most pundits agreed that the biggest loser was the United States. Kyrgyzstan is home to the Manas air base, a logistical hub for U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan. Ever since Bakiyev came to power in his own 2005 coup, the U.S. has plied him with money and access to keep the runways at Manas open. That support, which came despite allegations of the regime's endemic corruption and human-rights abuses, did not endear Washington to the opposition leaders who have now seized power....