Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The week in impeachment inquiry news, explained

The news for President Donald Trump this week on the impeachment inquiry was grim. Most significantly, a witness gave testimony to House committees that proved devastating to one of the White House’s key arguments — confirming that Trump personally seemed to link withholding military aid for Ukraine with his demand that Ukraine investigate his political opponents. That witness, Bill Taylor, was one of what’s rapidly becoming a parade of government officials who are testifying to the inquiry despite the White House’s order not to. That’s emblematic of a broader trend of Trump’s weakness and ineffectiveness in responding to the scandal. Republicans...

A whistleblower has filed a complaint about a Trump phone call...

An internal Trump administration whistleblower has filed a complaint about a troubling “promise” made during a conversation between President Trump and a foreign leader, per the Washington Post’s Greg Miller, Ellen Nakashima, and Shane Harris. The complaint was passed on to the inspector general for the intelligence community, who determined it was credible and a matter of “urgent concern” — a legal standard that normally requires congressional oversight committees be notified. But Trump’s acting director of national intelligence has stepped in to block key congressional committee chairs from receiving the details of the whistleblower complaint — which some legal analysts...

Scarlett Johansson defends her desire to play any person, any race,...

Scarlett Johansson is an accomplished actress, with a Tony Award and major box office successes to her name, from Lost in Translation to Avengers: Endgame. But her track record is dicier when it comes to some of the roles she’s chosen to play. Despite facing criticism in the past for accepting a role as a transgender man and starring as a Japanese woman in 2017’s Ghost in the Shell amid cries of whitewashing, Johansson has pushed back against those who would challenge her commitment to supporting diversity and inclusion in Hollywood, by suggesting she should be allowed to play...

Gun laws were loosened in Texas the day after the state’s...

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott defended new gun laws that ease restrictions on gun owners in that state Sunday, hours after the laws went into effect and hours after a gunman shot at least 21 people, killing seven, in and around Odessa, Texas. The new laws loosen restrictions on gun ownership and use in schools, foster homes, apartment buildings, and houses of worship. Proponents of the laws argue that they will offer people the opportunity to defend themselves from threats, while critics say expanding gun access makes people less safe. Speaking at a press conference to discuss law enforcement’s response to...

The El Paso shooter told police that he was targeting Mexicans

The El Paso shooter told a detective after his arrest on Saturday that he was targeting Mexicans when he opened fire at a Walmart. The shooter, who surrendered to police, revealed this during an interrogation at El Paso police headquarters, after waiving his Miranda rights, according to a court affidavit obtained by the New York Times. The news affirms suspicions that shooter drove more than 10 hours to the store, located near the Mexican border, specifically to find and kill Latinx people. Officials believe he was the person who wrote a racist, xenophobic manifesto posted online minutes before the massacre, in...

Did Joker deserve all the discourse?

Ah, Joker. The tale of villainy, pathos, violence, and agony that nabbed a major award at its film festival debut, launched scores of thinkpieces — and raked in more than $93 million at the North American box office in its opening weekend. Until October 4, nearly all the conversations and debates around the film were happening between the small number of critics and moviegoers who saw it in Venice, Toronto, or New York prior to its theatrical release. But now it’s out, and the conversation can expand. The critics at Vox and its sister site Polygon have plenty of thoughts...

Progressive elites only remember that states exist when they’re out of...

After the 2010 Republican wave election, state legislatures were flooded with almost-identical bills that would require strict photo ID to vote, weaken unions with right-to-work laws and allow individuals to use lethal force if they felt threatened. Democrats were taken off guard — but they shouldn’t have been. A right-leaning “troika” of powerful interest groups had been working steadily for years to consolidate their power over a majority of states. Conservatives came to drive policymaking in the states through a collaboration between three powerful organizations: the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), Americans for Prosperity (AFP), and the State Policy...

An exchange at an LGBTQ forum reopens questions about Joe Biden’s...

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the leading Democratic presidential contender, defended his record on LGBTQ issues at a forum on Friday, but in doing so, once again raised questions about his comportment towards women, and — after a misstatement in which he conflated sexual and gender identities — about his understanding of issues that affect queer and gender nonconforming voters. During a forum on LGBTQ issues hosted by GLAAD, the Advocate, and the Cedar Rapids Gazette, 10 Democratic candidates discussed their records on issues affecting the LGBTQ community, including the Trump administration’s transgender military ban, conversion therapy, protections for...

Big Little Lies episode 6, “The Bad Mother,” tries to show...

It’s been difficult to say what the focus of this season of Big Little Lies has been. A lot has happened — a stroke, a proposed revenge threesome on Madeline, Renata’s bankruptcy, Jane’s issues recovering from Perry, Amabella’s panic attack, Celeste slapping Mary Louise — but everything has felt rather redundant, even inconsequential, when compared to the mystery death of last year. By accumulating a larger mass of drama, season two has found itself with more detritus, and it’s led the show to lean into its soapier, more satirical side. And that doesn’t always work as well as that...

Top cardinal admits the Catholic Church destroyed files to hide sex...

The Roman Catholic Church took pains to deliberately hide the extent of its global sex abuse crisis, going as far as destroying documents and failing to compile records that could be used to prosecute perpetrators, a top cardinal admitted this week. At an unprecedented Vatican summit designed to tackle the church’s lingering child sex abuse scandal, German Cardinal Reinhard Marx shed light on the institution’s many failures to tamp down on the problem, telling the gathering of more than 190 bishops from around the globe that “the rights of victims were effectively trampled underfoot.” The National Catholic Reporter has more:...