The Supreme Court will decide its first set of LGBT rights cases following Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement. Kennedy was the architect of the high court’s gay rights jurisprudence.
The justices announced Monday that they will hear three cases asking whether a federal anti-bias law covers gay, lesbian, and transgender workers.
All three disputes involve gay or transgender employees who say they were terminated due to unlawful sex-stereotyping.
The Court’s decision to hear the Title VII disputes marks the first time in the modern period that the justices will hear a LGBT rights case without retired Justice Anthony Kennedy, who shaped the nation’s gay rights jurisprudence. Beginning in 1996, Kennedy wrote decisions striking down state laws barring local governments from recognizing gays as a protected class, state bans on sodomy, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act.
Kennedy’s work reached its apex in 2015 when he wrote the majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, establishing same-sex marriage across the country.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act bans employment discrimination based on sex. Between 1979 and 2018 eight federal appeals courts have rejected arguments that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination reaches gays, lesbians, or trans people.
The New York dispute involved a gay skydiving instructor called Donald Zarda who was terminated from Altitude Express Inc. after disclosing his sexual orientation to a client. The client claims that Zarda inappropriately touched her, and that Zarda promptly shared his orientation to assuage her concerns. In turn, Zarda sued the company, arguing his dismissal was motivated by animus in violation of Title VII.
Though a federal trial court dismissed Zarda’s claim, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in his favor. Zarda has since died in a BASE jumping incident.
The Michigan dispute involves a Christian funeral home director called Thomas Rost who fired a transgender employee, Aimee Stephens. Rost dismissed Stephens for failing to abide by the company dress code, which requires male employees to wear suits. Stephens identifies as a woman.
David Simon is among the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Hollywood’s four biggest talent agencies. (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images)
A Hollywood screenwriters’ union and eight of its members sued the four largest talent agencies, escalating a dispute over what are known as packaging fees.
The Writers Guild of America is demanding damages and repayment of illegal profit from the four agencies, according to a copy of the complaint filed Wednesday in state court in Los Angeles. The plaintiffs include Meredith Stiehm, creator of “Cold Case,’’ and David Simon, creator of “The Wire.’’
The writers want the agencies stop collecting fees for putting multiple clients in a project. Many have already fired their agents, alleging they and their firms enrich themselves at the expense of clients through such fees. The median pay for screenwriters has slipped in recent years, with the writers blaming the agencies’ expansion into new lines of business.
“Why in the world would my agents make $75,000 per episode on my show,’’ Stiehm said at a press conference. “Agencies don’t work on shows. They make deals at the beginning and that’s it.’’
The four companies are Creative Artists Agency, William Morris Endeavor, ICM Partners and United Talent Agency. They either declined to comment or couldn’t be reached. The guild said it plans to submit thousands of letters from writers dismissing their agents.
Stiehm recounted a story about “Cold Case,’’ which was produced by Warner Bros. and aired on CBS. Stiehm said she was unaware that her representatives, Creative Artists, were collecting packaging fees until she negotiated the budget for the show’s seventh season. CBS asked her to cut $500,000, requiring her to reduce the planned spending for music.
“It adversely affected the quality of the show, but we needed savings,’’ she said.
Stiehm later discovered that CAA was collecting $75,000 per episode. When she asked Warner Bros. if CAA would take a cut, she was told that number was fixed. She estimated that her agents collected 94 cents for every $1 in income she received from the program.
We all grew up being told in school how California is along a major fault line, and that to expect to see a major earthquake there sometime, anytime, soon. Well, scientists are being left baffled by why they have not seen any major ground-rupturing quakes in the region in 100-years.
The computer models they have run for the fault lines in the region say there is only a 0.3% chance of this happening. As a result geophysicists are wondering if something else is causing the “earthquake pause”.
Read More: Live Science
The Secure and Fair Enforcement Banking Act (SAFE) has this week been approved by The House Finance Committee and will now pass to Congress for approval. It is believed that congress will pass the bill as it has bipartisan support.
SAFE will allow Cannabis companies to gain access to loans and help them deal with larger cash transactions. Up until now this has been difficult: financial institutions face prohibition laws at a federal level doing business with cannabis companies in States where Cannabis is legalized. The bill will allow financial institutions safety from federal laws if they do business with companies in the cannabis industry.
Read More: Newsmax
Julian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks was arrested last week in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. Assange faces extradition to the US, where he faces charges for publishing classified information on his Wikileaks site. The case is linked to documents Assange received from former Army soldier Chelsea Manning in 2010.
Read More: Newsweek
Pete Buttigieg, the 37 year old gay mayor of South Bend, has launched his bid to become the democratic Presidential nominee for the 2020 elections. He is entering an already packed field, with 18 other hopefuls. If selected he would become the first openly homosexual man to fight for the Presidency.
Read More: BBC
The 850 year old Notre Dame Cathedral has been engulfed in fire, with the iconic spire totally destroyed. It remains to be seen what will be left of the structure once the blaze has been extinguished.
The Cathedral is seen as one of the most important national symbols of France surviving since the 1200s.
Although the cause is unknown at present, speculation has been pointed towards restoration work which was being carried out at the Cathedral. Last year the Roman Catholic church launched an appeal to raise money for the restoration work in a bid to save the ancient building for future generations.
Read More: BBC
Rich New Yorkers are getting hit hard with record tax bills — unquestionably among the nation’s steepest, according to tax preparers and planners.
The tab is so high that analysts see the tax shock propelling the flight of wealthy New York residents to states with lower taxes, and a much cheaper cost of living.
“Many are selling securities in order to pay their tax bill,” John Graziano, an accountant and financial planner who handles returns for numerous New York City residents. “Some have discussed moving to a so-called lower-tax state.”
And while none of his tax-choked clients have yet loaded up the moving truck, many are mulling whether purchasing a second home in Florida now makes financial sense, as the reality of local and federal laws finally take a deeper bite. Last year was the first full year of the federal tax reform, which limited state and local tax deductions, or SALT, to a $10,000 maximum.
“A self-employed New York City businessperson client who earned about $1 million in 2018 now owes the Federal government $48,000 more this year than last,” Graziano told The Post. “Those who were getting $5,000 to $10,000 back are now getting less than $5,000.”
Other preparers report similar large surges in tax bills for rich Gotham clients filing their returns this year on 2018 income. And while some middle-class residents may be ahead when their previous 2018 tax payments on salary and the like are factored, many preparers are not holding their breath.
“A lot of otherwise well-off people who were used to getting $4,000 to $5,000 back, are now scrambling to pay their tax bill,” said financial adviser Gary Schwartz of Madison Planning Group. “They’re tapping savings and/or borrowing from wherever they can.”
By contrast, taxpayers in a nationwide survey — likely underlining the stark regional differences in taxation outcomes by state — are sounding almost chirpy.
Of the 74 percent of US adults who’ve filed taxes in 2019, 2 in 5 are “happy with the outcome,” and an additional 25 percent “are neither happy nor unhappy,” according to the survey by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE). Thirty-three percent are “unhappy.”
“The results don’t seem to align with what we’ve been hearing anecdotally about people’s feelings of filing taxes under the new tax law,” said Billy Hensley, president and CEO of NEFE. “Despite a perceived unhappiness, the good news is the largest proportion of people say they’re satisfied with their tax filing outcome,” he added. “More good news is that people continue to report they are doing positive things with their refunds, like building savings and paying down debt.”
According to the NEFE survey, a mere 7 percent of filers paid more on their federal taxes this year than they typically paid in the past.
Put many New York City and State residents in the unhappy category. “Since the tax code was changed so quickly, many were caught off-guard and are complaining that their taxes are subsidizing corporations,” said Schwartz. “It’s a double whammy when you factor in the impact of the SALT cap.”
Cannes (France) (AFP) – Channing Powell, the creator of the hit horror television series “The Walking Dead”, is not someone who is easily spooked.
But Powell is scared, “terrified actually” of what big tech might be up to.
And critics were too after watching her spine-chilling new series, “The Feed”, premiere in Cannes this week.
The Amazon show is set in the near future when we can share emotions, thoughts and what we see with our eyes on a social network embedded in our brains.
If that sounds as far fetched as the post-apocalyptic zombies of “The Walking Dead”, Powell has news for you.
“Elon Musk and Facebook are already trying to develop the technology portrayed in the show,” she told AFP at the Canneseries festival in the French Riviera resort.
The Tesla boss and sometime Twitter warrior “is developing a neuro lace (computer) that covers the entire brain that you would control with thought,” Powell said.
“Facebook has been working on something similar in some place called ‘Building 8’ where it has all its secret projects.”
Both are very quiet about what precisely they are doing, said Powell.
– Chips controlled by thought –
However, “people at MIT have already created something you can attach to your ear that is controlled by thought.
“It can tell you the time and how much groceries are when you walk through the aisles of a supermarket,” she added.
“The Feed” — which will screen later this year — is based on Nick Clark Windo’s 2018 novel of the same name.
Told from inside the fabulously wealthy family who invented “The Feed” and now effectively control the world, the story doesn’t end well.
Given what we have learned about the harvesting and misuse of personal data from the Cambridge Analytica scandal, and how Google can seem to predict our needs before we search for it on our smartphone, that should not be too surprising.
“We have seen dystopian shows before but never like this,” Powell insisted, who cast British actor David Thewlis as the tech guru patriarch of the seemingly well-meaning clan.
“It was a very realistic portrayal of what happens when we let technology control us — and we are heading in that direction.
“We cannot let go of our iPhones, we need to check Instagram every hour or minute. The notion that you would put something inside your head is really frightening to me,” the 39-year-old said.
– ‘Terrifying’ –
But it is where tech companies are going, she insisted, the next logical step from Google’s smart glasses.
Powell said workers in some companies in Belgium and Sweden already have chips implanted in their bodies.
“What is happening around us right now is so scary. When somebody like Elon Musk (a radical libertarian) — who is inside this — is telling the government, ‘You need to regulate us, and stop us from doing what we are doing’, that is terrifying. Because he knows way more than we know,” she said.
Paranoia about new technology is nothing new, Powell admitted, dating back beyond the Industrial Revolution.
But what we are living through now, and with little or no regulation to hold tech companies back, is of a different order, she argued.
“Technology has brought us so much…. but there are also these negative undertones to it. Facebook is watching you and selling your information. They own Instagram and WhatsApp, and (Amazon’s) Alexa is in every room of your house. Siri can pop up on your phone when you didn’t even call her. You cannot ignore that side of it.”
Set in England, “The Feed” has British actor Guy Burnet play Thewlis’ psychologist son and Nina Toussaint-White his daughter-in-law.
Burnet told AFP that the series’ vision of the near future “was far from crazy… and it is amazing it hasn’t been done before” when you see Beijing’s plans for its social credit system.
From next year all Chinese citizens will be ranked and either punished or rewarded according to their “social credit” score.
“I think we’re not on the precipice, we may have already passed it,” the actor warned.
In “The Feed”, a handful of people control the code on which the world relies, and it is they, said Powell, who get to decide what the public need to know.
“Which is effectively where we are now” in the real world too, the writer warned.
The NYC Council announced that they just passed bills prohibiting marijuana testing being required as part of the hiring process in New York City, and banning the City from requiring marijuana testing for people on probation.
‘This bill will close one trap door that trips people up,” said the council’s Public Safety Committee chair Donovan Richards. “Too many people come out, they are trying to do better, and they get busted for marijuana and go back into jail or prison. This sets them back.”
The city conducts hundreds of such tests each year.
There are fears for the Dalai Lama after the 83-year-old Buddhist leader was rushed 300 miles to the Indian capital with a chest infection.
‘Today morning his holiness felt some discomfort and he was flown to Delhi for check-up,’ Tenzin Taklha, his personal secretary said.
‘Doctors have diagnosed him with chest infection and he is being treated for that. His condition is stable now. He will be treated for two three days here.’
The spiritual leader, who fled to India in early 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, lives in exile in the northern Indian hill town of Dharamshala.
The Dalai Lama gestures during a group hearing at the Palais des Congres, in Paris in September 2016
Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama delivers teachings during the first day of New Year or ‘Losar’ in the northern hill town of Dharamsala in 2012
Many of the up to 100,000 Tibetans living in India are worried that their fight for a genuinely autonomous homeland would end with the Dalai Lama.
He said last month that it was possible that once he dies his incarnation could be found in India, and warned that any other successor named by China would not be respected.
China, which took control of Tibet in 1950, brands the Nobel peace laureate a dangerous separatist and has said its leaders have the right to approve the Dalai Lama’s successor, as a legacy inherited from China’s emperors.
But many Tibetans – whose tradition holds that the soul of a senior Buddhist monk is reincarnated in the body of a child on his death – suspect any Chinese role as a ploy to exert influence on the community.
The official announcement for the 2019 Cannes Film Festival is 10 days away, but Paramount’s Elton John hybrid biopic-musical — starring Taron Egerton as the iconic British singer-songwriter — is poised to descend on the south of France, The Hollywood Reporter has learned. Paramount declined comment.
The film’s addition to the lineup had been widely speculated given its official release on the very Cannes-friendly date of May 24 (the fest is set to run May 14-25). Its screening — and any potential parties — will likely be among the hottest tickets at Cannes, which is also set to feature Quentin Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.
The news comes just days after a six-minute montage of Rocketman — directed by Dexter Fletcher, who stepped in to finish Bohemian Rhapsody after Bryan Singer’s departure — drew loud applause at CinemaCon in Las Vegas. The footage spanned John’s days as a child at the Royal Academy of Music to his early career, including his first U.S. concert at the Troubadour in Los Angeles and how after he grappled with fame and addiction before transforming into a global superstar.
Democratic presidential hopeful Pete Buttigieg on Sunday again took on Vice President Mike Pence — whose stances on LGBTQ issues have faced criticism from gay rights activists — saying that if Pence has “a problem with who I am, your problem is not with me — your quarrel, sir, is with my creator.”