With most theaters closed since March, intrepid fans are finding ways to keep moviegoing alive, minus the “going.”The simplest way is a Netflix watch party. The streaming service supplies a link to start your chosen movie simultaneously on multiple computers and a chat function. (Note: When theaters are open again, let’s remember not to chat.)“It’s not really a temporary replacement for going to a theater — getting snacks and being able to (sit) with your friends — but we can watch at the same time and share reactions,” said Lucy Johnson, 16, of Minneapolis, who has had several movie parties w...
At issue in the case—Federal Election Commission (FEC) v. Ted Cruz for Senate—is the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as the McCain-Feingold Act, and a $260,000 loan Cruz made to his Senate reelection campaign just ahead of the 2018 election.
A provision of the campaign finance law puts a $250,000 limit on how much a campaign can raise post-election to pay a candidate back.
According to legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, Cruz's campaign "took this case to the Supreme Court by having Cruz intentionally lend and seek repayment of $260,000—just $10,000 over the limit—seemingly for the purposes of arguing that the limit violates the First Amendment."
But the $250,000 limit, argue Daniel I. Weiner and John J. Martin of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law—one of the groups that filed a brief in support of the law—"is a straightforward anti-corruption measure."
In a blog post last week, they explained:
The Supreme Court has held that candidates have the right to spend as much of their own money as they want to get elected—wealthy self-funders often tout their lack of reliance on donors as proof that they are incorruptible (an argument the court itself has echoed). But fundraising after an election to recoup personal funds turns this argument on its head: Instead of being independent from donors, a winning candidate—now an elected official—is raising money that will go directly into the official's own pocket. The corruption risk is obvious.
Sam Horan of the Campaign Legal Center—which also filed an amicus brief in support of the law—similarly wrote Tuesday that "using post-election contributions to repay a candidate's personal loans effectively allows private parties and special interests to send funds into a candidate's pocket after the campaign has come to an end."
"Any minimal burden generated by the limit," added Horan, "is justified by the important anti-corruption purposes it serves—the same purposes that underlie restrictions on gifts to officeholders in place across all levels of government."
The arguments in the FEC case come just ahead of the 12th anniversary of the high court's Citizens United ruling, which opened the floodgates to unlimited political spending in elections. The 2010 decision, Public Citizen executive vice president Lisa Gilbert said last month, made "a mockery" of campaign finance laws.
Citizens United "chipped away at" the McCain-Feingold Act, as did a 2008 ruling in which the Supreme Court "struck down the so-called millionaire's amendment that aimed to level the playing field when wealthy candidates financed their own campaigns," as CNN noted. "That provision had relaxed contribution limits for opponents of self-funded candidates in an attempt to close the funding gap."
Should the right-leaning court side with Cruz in his case, the impact on campaign finance could be felt broadly.
"Ultimately," according to CLC's Horan, "the statute challenged in Cruz is a matter of common sense: The corruption risk inherent in post-election payments effectively made to candidates themselves is obvious and acute. In crafting the limit, Congress addressed this risk without unduly burdening speech. The Supreme Court should uphold Congress' work."
But regardless of how the decision falls, there remains a question of "how much longer Congress will continue ceding the development of campaign finance law to the judiciary, whose preoccupations in this area tend not to be shared by the broader public," wrote the Brennan Center's Weiner and Martin.
The pair point to "much-needed" reforms related to campaign finance that are included in the House-passed Freedom to Vote: John R. Lewis Act—Democrats' election bill set to come before the Senate later Wednesday.
Changes included in that law, they wrote, would counter "the court's incremental deconstruction of federal campaign finance law, whose consequences include the proliferation of 'dark money' from undisclosed sources, loopholes that permit foreign spending on U.S. campaigns, and rampant spending to evade remaining candidate contribution limits."
"By addressing these issues," said Weiner and Martin, "Congress can respond to the real concerns Americans have about the role of money in politics and the broader health of our democracy."
Beaming and waving her arms in the air, teenage pilot Zara Rutherford was euphoric Thursday after completing a solo, round-the-world flying odyssey with the dream of getting into the record books.
"It was very difficult but very rewarding," confessed the 19-year-old Belgian-British sensation who can claim to being the youngest woman to have circumnavigated the globe alone in a cockpit.
She touched down at an airfield outside the Belgian town of Kortrijk, welcomed by a crowd of journalists, well-wishers and family just over five months after she set off on 18 August, 2021.
"It's very strange being back here," she told a media conference, adding that, after an epic journey with stops in nearly 30 countries, she was looking forward to putting her feet up for a while in just one place.
"I'd like to do nothing next week," she laughed. "It was harder than I imagined."
Rutherford -- whose both parents are pilots and her father flew for Britain's air force -- field questions in English, French and Dutch.
She explained that Russia's vast, frozen expanse of Siberia was the "scariest" leg of her journey: a place of overwhelming distance between habitations, and where the temperature fell below minus 30 degrees Celsius (-22 degrees Fahrenheit).
"I'd be going hundreds and hundreds of kilometres without seeing anything human -- I mean no electricity cables, no roads, no people -- and I thought 'if the engine stopped now I'd have a really big problem'," she said.
Navigating the world in a tiny, 325-kilogram (717-pound) Shark UL single-propellor plane, loaned to her under a sponsorship deal, meant she had to skirt around clouds and could not fly at night.
The restrictions meant many times she had to divert or make hasty landings -- including taking to ground quickly early this month, just a short distance from Dubai, to avoid getting caught in the first thunderstorm that city had seen in two years.
There was also a long three-week stretch for most of November in a Russian eastern coastal town called Ayan where she could not take off because of the weather, relying on kind locals who were "very willing to help with anything I might need".
She did not escape the Covid pandemic and related restrictions, either.
China barred her from its airspace because of virus curbs, "which meant I had to do a huge detour to avoid North Korea -- and that took six hours over water," she said. "That was a pretty nerve-wracking experience."
She was subjected to PCR tests "all the time" to get clearance, and "Asia was extremely strict, so I had to make sure that I had to stay in hotels".
But the 52,000-kilometer (32,000-mile) trip, tracked on her website and caught on cameras she took with her, also brought its share of unique experiences.
They included flying around the Statue of Liberty and seeing a SpaceX launch in California, soaring above Saudi Arabia's "diverse" landscape, stopping in Colombia, seeing an isolated house on its Icelandic island, and powering along "beautiful" Bulgarian valleys.
'Do something crazy'
"I've been through some stuff," Rutherford said, adding: "So many countries, so many kilometers, but every single one was amazing."
"It will be very strange to not have to fly every single day anymore -- or try to fly every single day," she said.
"I'm just happy to finally be in the same spot for, you know, a few months hopefully."
Rutherford is not the youngest to have flown around the world solo. That title goes to an 18-year-old Briton, Travis Ludlow, who completed his feat in July last year.
But, once confirmed by Guinness World Records, she assumes the title of the youngest woman to do so, displacing a US pilot of Afghan origin, Shaesta Waiz, who circumnavigated the planet in 2017, aged 29.
More than that, though, she said her feat is a tribute to seizing hold of dreams and making them happen, saying she had to get past her initial fears that her goal would be "too expensive, too dangerous, too complicated".
In sum, she said, "I want to encourage people to do something crazy with their lives -- to go for it".
© 2022 AFP
InfoWars Jan. 6 case could reveal a lot about the case against Ali Alexander and militia members: expert
InfoWars' Owen Shroyer appeared at his hearing Thursday before United States District Judge Tim Kelly in a case that legal analyst Marcy Wheeler said could be an indication of what to expect for event organizer Ali Alexander's case and that of some militia members. Shroyer's lawyer filed a motion to dismiss, which was quickly denied.
"There is no doubt in my mind that probable cause for an arrest existed here," Judge Kelly said.
Shroyer is using the defense that he was on the East steps, which were permitted by Alexander for the event. There was no permit to break into the building. The DOJ doesn't have photos of those men entering the Capitol. Shroyer was on stage with InfoWars leader Alex Jones and Alexander in some of the photos. So the charge of trespassing isn't going to work if they can't prove he was inside the building.
This is significant bc Ali Alexander has been telling the same fairy tale about why he was inciting a riot on the East steps (to both Jan 6 Committee and in lawsuits). And Alex Jones plans to tell the same fairy tale.— emptywheel (@emptywheel) 1642691603
Shroyer can also claim that because he works for InfoWars he is a journalist, which goes a long way to protecting him. Where he does run into trouble is that he was charged with another crime after he attended a House Judiciary Committee hearing and started yelling at Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY). He signed a Prosecution Agreement (DPA) which specifically prohibited him from the Capitol grounds.
Judge Kelly told Shroyer that he and others marched over the caution tape and an "area closed sign" and were told the phrase: "hole you guys breached over there." The bodycam of the officers also shows that one specifically told the men to go somewhere else. There was a sign they walked over that said "area closed" and photos reflect it, as Wheeler pointed out.
Here's the bodycam showing that Shroyer and Alex Jones and Ali Alexander WALKED OVER an "Area Closed" sign.pic.twitter.com/nlgfou1OTH— emptywheel (@emptywheel) 1642692461
The judge continued to hear motions, and they closed the hearing with Shroyer's lawyer, Norman Pattis, revealing that he has COVID. So the ruling will come in 45 days.