New York (AFP) - Several of opera's biggest stars beamed in from around the world on Saturday to announce the Metropolitan Opera's latest virtual initiative amid the coronavirus outbreak.The New York opera house, which suspended live performances in March, plans a dozen pay-per-view concerts through mid-December featuring leading singers from around the world. Tickets will cost $20.The series kicks off on July 18 with German tenor Jonas Kaufmann at the Polling Abbey outside Munich performing some of opera's greatest hits including "Nessun dorma" from Puccini's "Turandot" and popular arias from...
InfoWars host Owen Shroyer lost his bid to have charges dismissed against him for his alleged role on Jan. 6.
Judge Timothy Kelly, who was appointed to the bench by Donald Trump, said there was "little or any evidence here suggesting vindictiveness" by prosecutors.
In August, Shroyer announced on-air that there was a warrant for his arrest. He was charged with knowingly entering or remaining in any restricted building or grounds and violent entry and disorderly conduct on capitol grounds.
As prosecutors noted in the criminal complaint's statements of facts, Shroyer's case is unique as he was under a non-prosecution agreement after being kicked out of a House Judiciary Committee hearing in 2019 while shouting, "Donald Trump is innocent."
Buzzfeed News legal reporter Zoe Tillman reported from the hearing, here is the thread she posted to Twitter:
Govt's sentencing memo: https://s3.documentcloud.org/documents/21179855/1-13-22-us-sentencing-memo-anthony-scirica.pdf\u00a0\u2026\n\n(Scirica's memo isn't on the public docket)— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642691524
Brain blip this morning, I'm jumping off this sentencing for a bit for the hearing in Owen Shroyer's Jan. 6 case, thanks to @emptywheel for the reminder that's happeninghttps://twitter.com/emptywheel/status/1484182004916580363\u00a0\u2026— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642691669
Kelly says Shroyer falls short of showing the govt omitted info (body cam footage from the Capitol that Shroyer claims shows him trying to deescalate, police not turning them back) because feds did provide the magistrate judge with a link to the full, publicly available video— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642692058
Kelly says there's "no doubt" in his mind that there was probable cause to green light the arrest warrant for Owen Shroyer \u2014 he's charged with illegally being in a restricted area outside the Capitol— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642692487
Kelly explains that Shroyer's vindictive prosecution argument falls short as well \u2014\u00a0regardless of whether he was engaged in 1A-protected activity at times, the govt is allowed to include his speech activity in the course of making out the elements of criminal activity— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642693061
AUSA says the govt is open to plea discussions but didn't indicate that they'd made any offer so far. Shroyer's DC Superior Court case re: the deferred prosecution agreement that was in place before Jan. 6 is basically on hold until his federal case resolves, she also explains— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642693374
Pattis says they may also challenge the prosecution on other 1A grounds, citing the case of a Peter Santilli, a conservative radio host who was charged in connection with the Bundy stand-off and later had charges dropped, see:https://www.oregonlive.com/oregon-standoff/2016/09/feds_dismiss_federal_conspirac.html\u00a0\u2026— Zoe Tillman (@Zoe Tillman) 1642693965
Basically, Pattis is good with pushing out deadlines in Shroyer's case, and also notes to the judge that he just tested positive for covid this morning so he's going to try to take it easy this week.
Next court date is March 8
— Zoe Tillman (@ZoeTillman) January 20, 2022
In the charging documents, prosecutors noted Shroyer's image appeared at the end of a promo ad hyping the event.
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