In Church-State Playground Brawl, Justices Lean Toward The Church

Dave Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom speaks after representing Trinity Lutheran Church before the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Concerned Women for America hosted a rally in support of the Missouri church on the court steps.

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A clear majority of justices at the U.S. Supreme Court seemed troubled Wednesday by a Missouri grant program that bars state money from going to religious schools for playground improvement.

Thirty-nine states have state constitutional provisions that bar taxpayer funds from going to religious schools — provisions that have been a major obstacle for the school choice movement. The Missouri case is an attempt to lower that wall separating church and state.

The Trinity Lutheran Church in Columbia, Mo., owns and operates a preschool learning center. It applied for a state grant to rubberize its playground surface, using old and discarded tires.

But because the school’s mission is avowedly religious, the state turned down the application, citing language in the state constitution which explicitly bars state funds from going directly or indirectly to any religious sect or denomination.

The church challenged the denial in court, appealing all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Safety shouldn’t hinge on whether a child is religious, or if they are playing on a playground at a religious school, or a secular, or a public institution,” school director Annette Kiehne said on the steps of the high court on Wednesday.

But James Layton, representing the state of Missouri, countered that the Supreme Court has never required states to provide direct government grants to churches.

“Almost 200 years ago, the people of the state of Missouri, adopting language” used by the Founding Fathers, “decided that we were not going to tax people in order to give money to churches,” he said.

Justices skeptical of Missouri’s case

Inside the courtroom, even some of the court’s liberals signaled that they are concerned by the grant denial. But neither side had an easy time of it.

Layton, arguing for the state, clearly had the harder task, struggling as justices pressed him about where to draw the line between those things that a church is clearly entitled to, like public safety protections, versus state aid for facilities and programs at church schools.

“We don’t want to be in a position … where we are selecting among churches,” Layton told the justices. “We don’t want to be in a position where we are making a visible, physical improvement on church property.”

Those are legitimate objectives for the state in avoiding an unconstitutional entanglement with religion, Layton argued. Providing police and fire protection is different, he said, because the state is not “taking money from the state treasury and giving it to the church.”

Justice Samuel Alito pressed the point, noting that there are federal programs that give grants to reinforce security at synagogues, mosques and churches that are at risk of terrorist attacks.

Justice Stephen Breyer wondered why it is that a religious school is entitled to police and fire protection, but may be denied money to make its playground safer. “What’s the difference?” he asked.

Justice Elena Kagan noted there is a strong constitutional principle that says when we have a program like this one, “as long as you’re using the money for playground services, you’re not disentitled from that program because you’re a religious institution doing religious things.”

Under that theory, replied lawyer Layton, wouldn’t the state have to “put new paint on the sanctuary if the old one had lead paint?” Or might the state be required “to reimburse for pews to be upholstered?”

In this case, he added, not everyone gets a grant. Only a few schools were selected for the tire scrap program.

Trinity Lutheran calls program discriminatory

Arguing on behalf of the church, lawyer David Cortman of the Alliance Defending Freedom had an easier task, mainly because he took the view that as long as the program being funded is secular and open to everyone else, religious schools can’t be excluded.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, eyebrows raised, seemed doubtful. Are you saying that “religious status can never be the basis for a governmental action or governmental … statute?”

I can’t think of any, Cortman answered. “Why would someone’s religious status matter in the first place?”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg balked at that assertion, noting that the Supreme Court said long ago “in no uncertain terms that what the Framers didn’t want was tax money … to pay for building or maintaining churches or church property.” Pointing to a landmark 1947 church-state case, she asked, “Doesn’t that fit this case?”

When Cortman argued that playgrounds are not religious in nature, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said suppose the playground is used for religious activities. Suppose there is prayer before play, for instance.

And what if the school only admitted its own religious followers, asked Justice Ginsburg. Suppose it excluded non-Lutherans or non-Christians. Would the school still be entitled to a playground resurfacing grant?

Yes, replied Cortman, because the school has “a free exercise right to religious autonomy, to decide who their members are.”

Justice Sotomayor noted that for more than a century most states, like Missouri, have barred money for religious institutions. Aren’t states “free to say we don’t want to spend money from the public fisc on houses of worship?” she asked.

Cortman replied that such provisions amount to “government coercion when … the only way you could receive a public benefit is if you do not exercise your religion.” That, he said, is a violation of the U.S. Constitution’s right to the free exercise of religion.

At the end of the day, the quest for the Supreme Court may be how narrowly or broadly it writes its opinion. As Justice Kagan put it, the church-state divide is a “fraught issue” in which “states have their own very longstanding law” and “nobody is completely sure they have it right.”

In view of that, Kagan said, “I guess there’s something attractive about having some play in the joints where states can make their own choices.”

Just how much play is the question.

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Young Women Make Economic Strides As Young Men Fall Behind In U.S.

Here’s the good news about young adults in the U.S. over the past four decades: More of them are working full time and year-round.

In 1975, close to 67 percent of adults from ages 25 to 34 were employed full time, and that share increased to 77 percent by 2016, according to a new report on young adults by the U.S. Census Bureau.

A closer look at the numbers, though, reveals a gender divide — with young women making economic strides and young men falling behind.

The percentage of young men in the U.S. workforce has not shifted much from just under 85 percent in 1975. But the share of young women working full time has jumped from just shy of one-half (49 percent) to more than two-thirds (70 percent) over the past four decades. And more of them are moving into higher income brackets: The share of young women earning $60,000 or more (in 2015 dollars) increased from around 2 percent to 13 percent.

In fact, young female workers have been driving the growth of the young workforce in the U.S. since 1975.

Their male counterparts, on the other hand, appear to be on the economic decline.

“They are falling to the bottom of the income ladder,” says Jonathan Vespa, a demographer at the Census Bureau who wrote the report.

The share of young men making less than $30,000 a year, he writes in the report, has “swelled” from 25 percent in 1975 to around 41 percent in 2016. There have also been a drop in the share of young men making $30,000 to $59,999 — from almost half (49 percent) to more than a third (35 percent).

“It is little surprise then that those still living with parents are disproportionately young men,” writes Vespa, adding that today young men are more likely to be idle — not in school and not working — than 40 years ago.

Despite these shifts, a gender gap in young men’s favor remains. While young women have seen a $6,000 jump in their median income (from $23,000 to $29,000), it is still $11,000 lower than the median income of young men.

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Venezuela Erupts In 'Mother Of All Protests' As Anti-Maduro Sentiment Seethes

A demonstrator against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s government wears a mask calling for civil disobedience during a protest in Caracas on Wednesday.

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Racked by food shortages and political unrest, Venezuela swelled with what organizers are calling the “mother of all protests” on Wednesday. Demonstrators have taken to the streets in the capital, Caracas, and other major cities across the country to rally against the government of President Nicolas Maduro, who assumed office precisely five years ago.

Throughout the day, those rallies often devolved into clashes between demonstrators and security forces — chaotic, violent scenes rent by tear gas, tossed rocks and even two reported deaths.

Citing witnesses in Caracas, Reuters reports that Carlos Moreno, a teenage student who had not planned to join the demonstration, was shot in the head after “government supporters approached an opposition gathering and fired shots.” The news service says he died in the hospital later.

Later in the day a 23-year-old woman named Paola Ramirez was also shot and killed by pro-government groups, according to The Associated Press.

They were not the first to be felled in the course of the anti-Maduro protests that have been mounting since late last month. As of last week, five protesters — including a 13-year-old boy — had died of injuries suffered in fights with riot police.

But the protesters who showed up Wednesday vowed to keep struggling against Maduro and voicing their displeasure with the state of the country.

“This is exhausting — but we won’t give up until we achieve a better country and democracy,” Luiza Mayorca, a lawyer and mother of three, told NPR’s Phil Reeves in Caracas. “Every time we do something, that’s what we feel: that the worst thing would be to stay home, let fear take over us. This government, this regime, is making life miserable, and we cannot accept it.”

Demonstrators clog a Caracas highway on Wednesday, shouting their resistance to President Nicolas Maduro. The president’s push to tighten his power has helped trigger deadly unrest in Venezuela.

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“We want to get out of all this oppression and dictatorship, all the mistreatment we have had — the hunger, the kids dying in the countryside, the poverty,” another protester, an unemployed school teacher named Libertad Diaz, told Phil.

By several media accounts, hundreds of thousands of anti-Maduro demonstrators flooded city streets to protest bread scarcity, ballooning inflation — which several estimates peg at triple digits — and what they see as an increasingly dictatorial regime.

Protesters point to a moment a few weeks ago as proof of Maduro’s ever-tightening grasp on the levers of power, when a Supreme Court loyal to the president attempted to nullify the opposition-dominated legislature. The court backpedaled and restored power to the body after the abortive attempt drew anger both in Venezuela and the international community.

Maduro’s opposition is also demanding new elections, which were indefinitely postponed last year — mere months after Maduro also canceled a recall referendum that could have ousted him from power.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who was banned from public office for 15 years, protects himself against tear gas during a rally against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

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“What will end the phase in which our country currently finds itself? Allowing free and democratic elections and respecting the constitution, to put a stop to this coup d’état that’s being staged and controlled by Maduro together with the Supreme Court,” Henrique Capriles, a leading figure of the opposition, tells the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Capriles, who Deutsche Welle calls “the opposition’s most promising candidate for the coming elections in 2018,” was banned last week from holding office for 15 years — a move Capriles says he does not recognize.

Maduro, for his part, has rejected the unrest as manufactured by forces outside Venezuela’s borders.

“The US government, the state department, have given the green light, the approval for a coup process to intervene in Venezuela,” Maduro said in a televised address Tuesday, according to The Guardian.

Demonstrators hurl flaming objects at riot police during a rally in Caracas against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday.

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In response to Wednesday’s massive protests, which had long been in the works, Al Jazeera reports Maduro ordered the Venezuelan military to march in Caracas in “defense of morality” and “in repudiation of the traitors of the country.”

“From the first reveille, from the first rooster crow, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces will be in the streets … saying, ‘Long live the Bolivarian Revolution,’ ” he announced, referring to the populist “revolution” that brought his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, to power in 1999.

The military presence did little to ease the upheaval, however — or to dissuade protesters like Diaz.

“We’re going to go on struggling,” she said Wednesday, “because the one who tires, loses.”

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Fox News Turmoil Highlights Workplace Culture's Role In Sexual Harassment

Fox News has been the focus of sexual harassment claims that resulted in the ouster of former CEO Roger Ailes and host Bill O’Reilly.

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Fox News star Bill O’Reilly has been ousted from the network after fresh allegations of sexual harassment surfaced last month, and the TV franchise again faces scrutiny over whether its culture perpetuates such behavior. Fox already ousted its CEO, Roger Ailes, over claims of sexual harassment, and TheNew York Times reported the network has already paid out $13 million to settle five claims against O’Reilly since 2002.

Fox isn’t alone; allegations of pervasive sexual harassment also recently surfaced at Uber and at Sterling Jewelers, which owns the Kay, Jared and Zales chains. Uber hired former Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate claims that its culture permitted sexual harassment. Sterling’s parent company says the allegations against it are without merit.

Experts say rooting out a culture of sexual harassment is a big challenge, but it can be done if handled correctly.

Jeff Owens, a longtime human resources manager, has dealt with a number of sexual harassment claims over his career and says much depends on how each incident is handled. For example, a health care firm he worked for in Fort Smith, Ark., two decades ago chose to settle a sexual harassment claim against one of its executives.

“The thought was, ‘This is been resolved, and we’re covering up and we’re moving on,’ ” Owens says.

But that settlement enabled the executive’s bad behavior to continue, says Owens, who now works for Tulsa Community College. Although the settlement wasn’t public, it telegraphed a strong message back to the company and its culture.

“That provided a level of arrogance to that person, because they felt like the organization was protecting them because they held a strong position or had greater value,” Owens says.

After a second complaint was filed against the same executive six months later, he was fired. Owens says that had a very different effect on the victim and, in short order, the company’s culture.

It validated both the victim’s decision to come forward, and her experience, he says. “She, in turn, feels empowered that that organization is going to protect her.”

Owens says culture flows from the top brass, and without the support of the CEO, there is no hope for change.

“As the CEO goes, so goes the culture,” he says.

Making Choate a “better place”

Human resources experts say changing a bad culture also requires education and training of the entire workforce on policies and procedures, and consistent enforcement that sometimes requires firing a powerful or popular employee.

In short, it can be a deeply painful and embarrassing experience, as Choate Rosemary Hall is finding out. Last week, the elite boarding school in Wallingford, Conn., released a devastating report detailing nearly five decades of sexual abuse at the hands of a dozen teachers.

Cheyenne Montgomery, one of the school’s victims in the 1990s, says she pushed for the report, after The Boston Globe last year published stories about allegations of sexual abuse at the school.

“I think this is going to make Choate a better place,” she says, because it will reverse decades of silence on the matter. (NPR’s policy is not to identify victims of sexual abuse unless they wish to waive that right.)

The report backs up Montgomery’s story that two teachers befriended, mentored, then sexually preyed on her, starting when she was 16. It detailed incidents over five decades, involving dozens of students and 12 teachers. For example, it detailed a 1999 rape by a teacher witnessed by other students on an overseas trip as well as, more generally, how teachers lured students into their homes or off campus to take advantage of them.

Besides that, Montgomery says, “there were lots of rumors about teachers having relationships with different students.”

In every instance, the offending teachers weren’t reported to law enforcement; many were, in fact, given recommendations to teach elsewhere.

Montgomery’s French teacher was reported at the time by another faculty member, according to Choate’s investigation, then allowed to teach for another year — a pattern Montgomery says the school demonstrated again and again.

“Pushing things under the rug and not talking about it and not acknowledging of it and really taking care of the perpetrators and not the students” was typically how it was dealt with, she says.

Montgomery says because it was a boarding school, teachers had almost parental power over students and often entered their living space. But, she says, the administration willfully chose to ignore warning signs, while abusers, she says, used their own reputations as shields.

“It seems like they have this charismatic draw, like a lot of them were really popular teachers,” she says.

Changing the culture

Criticizing the dominant culture can make a person feel, conversely, deeply unpopular, as Danna Hewick found out.

Hewick had her first job in human resources 15 years ago, working for a construction firm near Washington, D.C. It was a male-dominated business, where she says she regularly received comments like, “Oh, baby, you’re looking good,” or dismissive comments such as, “Sweetheart, just go sit over there and you don’t need to speak up.”

Hewick decided to write a corporate policy, introducing annual harassment training that defined sexual harassment and detailed the consequences of noncompliance. Because victims often are afraid to report a problem out of fear of retaliation, Hewick says it was also critical to include a reporting mechanism to allow confidential reporting.

Most executives got on board, she says. Still, she says, “it took letting go some key people that were the worst offenders that didn’t want to abide by our new policy and thought we were just joking.”

She says successfully changing that culture, over time, ushered in other changes, too.

“I think that was the start of, ‘OK, well, if this wasn’t the right way for this company to behave, what else do we need to look at?’ “

Hewick says the culture became more open and communicative, and that people were held accountable for their actions.

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China Defends Trademark Grants For Ivanka Trump Products

Ivanka Trump (center) sits with her husband Jared Kushner (right) at the April 6 dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping at President Trump’s estate in Florida. The same day China granted the president’s daughter potentially lucrative trademark rights.

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China’s foreign ministry is defending a decision to grant Ivanka Trump new trademark rights for her line of handbags, jewellery and spa services. The three new trademarks were approved April 6 while the president’s daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner, sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his wife for dinner at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, according to the Associated Press.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Lu Kang, said the government handles all trademark applications equally. He suggested some media were “hyping certain gossip to hint at something undisclosed.”

Peter Riebling, a trademark lawyer in Washington, D.C., disagrees with that statement. He says normally it takes 18 months to two years to have a trademark registration application issued. Riebling looked into all trademark applications filed in China by Ivanka Trump’s company. He says about a dozen were filed in the May-June time frame of 2016, before the U.S. presidential election.

“What’s interesting about these applications is they sailed through incredibly quickly compared to what is normal in China, under normal trademark practice,” Riebling says. He notes this time it took only about nine months for the registrations to be granted by the Chinese government. “When I look at this the first thing I think of is the Chinese government should be given a speeding ticket. … I get whiplash looking at how fast these applications went by.”

Riebling counted 182 pending or registered trademarks for her company across 23 countries, including China, Canada, Mexico, Russia, and Australia.

The 35-year-old Trump was building her own global business empire before her father ran for president. She is now an advisor to President Trump, has an office in the White House, access to classified information and holds meetings with world leaders.

She has taken steps to separate herself from her business by moving back from the day-to-day operations of her business, and naming her brother-in-law and sister-in-law as trustees.

Larry Noble, general counsel of the non-partisan Campaign Legal Center, says that’s not good enough to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest.

“She has put her business into a trust, but it’s a trust being run by her family, it’s not a a true blind trust. She’s still aware of what’s going on there and I believe she still has the ability to make certain decisions.” Noble says “At the end of the day it’s all going to come back to her.”

Noble says China trademarks at record speed send out a bad signal. “It raises questions whether there was any favoritism, would a country be less likely to challenge a trademark or refuse a trademark knowing that they’re doing this for the daughter of a president who advises the president,” he asks.

Abigail Klem, the president of Ivanka Trump company, said in a statement to NPR that the trademark applications were defensive, a move to ward off rampant piracy of the Trump brand.

“We have recently seen a surge in trademark filings by unrelated third parties trying to capitalize on the name and it is our responsibility to diligently protect our trademark.”

Riebling, the trademark lawyer, says he applauds any company that is proactive in applying for trademarks. He says it’s especially important for an organization, like Ivanka Trump’s, that’s not actually manufacturing a product.

“They’re licensing the brand name to others, so its critical, mission critical, to have the certificate of trademark registration,” he says.

Still, Riebling says he questions the speed with which China granted the trademarks, saying the timing is “very suspect.”

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Trump's Wiretap Tweets Bring Lawsuit Seeking Proof

American Oversight, a group of Democratic lawyers, is suing the Justice Department and FBI over President Trump’s tweeted allegation that he was wiretapped by then-President Barack Obama.

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A group of Democratic lawyers is suing the Justice Department and FBI over President Trump’s tweeted allegation of wiretapping ordered by then-President Barack Obama.

American Oversight is demanding records that support or disprove Trump’s March 4 tweet, “Just found out that Obama had my ‘wires tapped’ in Trump Tower.”

Austin Evers, the group’s director, told NPR, “We can get a straight, factual answer in the courts, by asking an unspinnable question: Do you have records to support the president’s tweets?”

Besides the tweet, Trump has talked about the wiretap claim, while FBI Director James Comey told the House Intelligence Committee in open session that his agency had “no information” about such alleged wiretaps. The lawsuit cites those public discussions to argue that the records are no longer classified.

American Oversight sued after the Justice Department rejected, and the FBI ignored, its Freedom of Information Act requests.

In a second case also filed Wednesday, American Oversight demands records in the evolving story of Russian interference in the presidential campaign. It seeks records on White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus’ communications with the FBI regarding Russian contacts with Trump associates and the campaign.

And it seeks Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ list of foreign contacts, which he would have filed before his Senate confirmation hearing. That was the hearing where Sessions failed to recall meetings with the Russian ambassador to the U.S. The lawsuit says the list “would address a significant question regarding the integrity of a senior government official.”

The White House did not respond to NPR’s request for comment about either lawsuit.

Organized this winter, American Oversight is a group of former Obama administration lawyers that is using FOIA to monitor the performance and conduct of Trump administration agencies. Wednesday’s lawsuits are the first, but Evers said more than 100 FOIA requests have been submitted.

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Two Decades Later, Success For Man Who Imagined Turning His Life Around

Steven Mallory stands with his family. From left: Tracey Mallory, Steven Mallory, Tina Groves, Zharia Mallory, along with his grandchildren.

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In 1995, 22-year-old Steven Mallory imagined a life completely unlike his own — one without gangs, drugs and welfare dependency. He imagined having a solid family and savings.

But in Dayton, Ohio, he had a job literally doing the city’s dirty work: cleaning up after the garbage trucks dumped their load at the county incinerator.

He had been a fast-living teenage drug dealer, making about $500 or $600 a day. Given to fancy cars and expensive suits, he had been known on the streets of West Dayton as Monte Carlos.

But on Dec. 18, 1992, his friend Antoine Gibson died, and he decided enough was enough.

“I went to his funeral and the guy that was sitting in front of me — my friend Darnell Cochran — said, ‘I can’t picture myself being in a box,’ ” Mallory said back in 1994. “But later on that night, he got killed, and I just said, I just can’t live it no more. I have too much to live for.”

So he quit the drug scene, but when the money stopped coming in, he had no money to support his three children with his ex-girlfriend Afrika Groves. Groves turned to welfare, and the government went looking for Mallory for failing to make child support payments. Mallory ended up in a counselling project, which was part of a national program called Parents’ Fair Share.

In these interviews with NPR from 1994 and 1995, Mallory had just turned his life around and detailed his struggle and perseverance in doing so.

Over 20 years later, Mallory, 44, now lives in the Northridge Estates subdivision just north of the Dayton city line. Here, there are single homes with garages and neatly mowed lawns. It’s the very vision of a middle-class suburb.

He is Dad to three grown children from his days with Groves and one teenage daughter with Tracey, his wife of 18 years. Tracey is an elementary school principal. Their teenage daughter, Zharia, will be making college visits this summer.

Steven Mallory stands outside his massage clinic.

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He’s also a grandfather of four, with a fifth one on the way.

Mallory still works with Montgomery County, but after a couple of promotions, he’s now a scale operator.

“Then, I was out in the trash,” he says. “Now, I’m at the beginning of the trash; I don’t even smell it no more.”

He’s also running his own businesses: a lawn care service and a massage clinic. He took an 18-month course and became a state-licensed masseur.

But the clinic is very much a part-time venture. Mallory says it pays the rent, but not a lot more. He has another passion; he has made four rap videos on YouTube.

One video, in which three friends sitting in a car suddenly disappear with an edit, is a reference to his own adolescence. In a four-year span, he says, he went to 17 funerals. And a lot of his friends went to jail.

Although he now has a steady income and lives in a nice house, the payoff isn’t just material.

“People treat Mr. Mallory way better than they treat Steven,” he says.

He says when he goes to the doctor now and hands over his insurance card, people help him. “I remember going to the doctor when I didn’t have any insurance, and they called me Steven, and they would say, ‘Well Steven, I can’t — this is the best I can do,’ or ‘I can’t do nothing for you.’ “

Back then, Mallory imagined a life unlike anything he had ever experienced. Since his interview back in 1994 and 1995, one question has remained: Is Mallory OK?

As it turns out, he’s much better than that.

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Listen: Lana Del Rey Shares Her 'Lust For Life' (With Help From The Weeknd)


The title track to Lana Del Rey‘s upcoming album Lust For Life is a hazy take on ’60s doo-wop and girl groups featuring the lilting falsetto of The Weeknd.

In a new video for the song, Del Rey and The Weeknd are seen sitting atop the “H” in the famed “Hollywood” sign. “Our lust life keeps us alive,” she sings. “We dance on the ‘H’ of the ‘Hollywood’ sign ’til we run out of breath. Gotta dance or we die.”

This is the second song Del Rey has released from Lust For Life. She previously shared the song “Love.” No word yet on a release date for the new album.

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We Now Know Trump's Inauguration Donors; Where The Money Went Is Another Story

President Trump waves to supporters as he walks the parade route with first lady Melania Trump after being sworn in on January 20.

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An inauguration is an expensive party to throw, and President Trump got plenty of help putting his on. Financial Election Commission disclosures released on Wednesday show that some uberwealthy donors helped Trump defray the cost: million-dollar givers included investment firm founder Charles Schwab, mining entrepreneur Christopher Cline and Bank of America. Investor and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson spent $5 million.

Those megadonors contributed to Trump’s monster inauguration haul of nearly $107 million, the FEC forms show. That sum doubles President Barack Obama’s then-record inauguration donations in 2009, which totaled around $53 million.

Though this report shows how much money Trump’s inauguration brought in, it does not detail exactly how that money was spent. Presidential inauguration committees do not have to disclose that to the FEC.

Donations to the inauguration may come after a victory, but they can still have the basic message of a campaign donation (“You are a politician I like, and I would like to support you with a few dollars.”). But then, sometimes donations can fulfill another purpose.

“It’s also a way for those who stayed away from Trump early on — didn’t give to his campaign or superPACs, didn’t help fund the convention, maybe backed another horse — to get on board with the incoming administration,” said Viveca Novak, spokesperson at the Center for Responsive Politics, in an email.

In addition, big donors to Trump’s inauguration received special inauguration-weekend treats: tickets to the swearing-in and their names printed on inauguration programs, for example, according to an inauguration brochure first published by the Center for Public Integrity.

The money also bought time with the president and vice president — those donating more than $500,000 were treated to dinner with Vice President Pence and his wife, Karen. The highest donors — those spending $1 million or more — gained access to a “Leadership Luncheon,” which was “an exclusive event with select Cabinet appointees and House and Senate leadership.”

It’s not exactly new for a presidential inauguration committee to take in corporate money. Though Obama’s 2009 inauguration didn’t accept corporate donations, his 2013 inauguration brought in money from AT&T and Microsoft, among others.

Some companies are bipartisan in their support: Boeing and Chevron, for example, both donated to Obama’s 2013 inauguration and Trump’s inauguration alike.

Those kinds of large donations, as well as the fact that the committee doesn’t have to tell the FEC how it spent the money, are part of what one expert considers a relatively loose system governing how inaugurations are financed.

“Really, there’s very limited rules on how an inaugural committee has to spend the money, much less report how they spend the money,” said Brendan Fischer, director of the federal and FEC legal program at the Campaign Legal Center.

There are also few restrictions on where any leftover money might go after an inauguration, Fischer said. As a 501(c)(4) — a type of nonprofit — an inaugural committee couldn’t, for example, donate the money to a political campaign. However, as Colby College professor and campaign finance expert Anthony Corrado told NPR, it could potentially give the funds to another 501(c)(4) — perhaps one that promotes the president’s agenda.

Trump’s committee has said that any leftover money from this year’s inauguration will be given to charity, the New York Timesreported on Wednesday.

For his part, Fischer thinks the Inauguration Day donations should have some of the strictures of campaign donations.

“There’s no reason to think that a million-dollar contribution made after Election Day would be any less corrupting or pose any less risk of influence than a million-dollar contribution made before Election Day,” he said.

While the donors were high-profile, taxpayers can end up footing a large part of the inauguration bill. An inauguration can be a massively expensive affair — ahead of this year’s, the New York Timesestimated the cost at $200 million. The Trump inauguration committee would only account for part of that; the Washington Post estimated before the event that the committee would spend somewhere around $70 million. The federal government also pays for specific parts of the festivities. For example, as the Times reported, federal money covers security, which may have cost around $100 million.

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Loud sex sounds stall pro tennis match in Florida

By Bernie Woodall| FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.

The score of a televised professional tennis match in Florida was love-15 when the apparent sounds of a woman in the throes of lovemaking interrupted it Tuesday night.

The competition, at the Sarasota Open in Florida, briefly stalled after a woman could be heard shouting, “Oh, yes!” according to a video posted on YouTube.

One of the two bemused American players, Mitchell Krueger, whacked a tennis ball far out of bounds toward the source of the racket, which the TV commentator said came from a nearby apartment.

Spectators laughed along, particularly when the sounds grew even louder as player Frances Tiafoe readied a serve.

“It can’t be that good!” Tiafoe yelled toward the noise.

A woman spectator at that point jokingly urged a young boy to place his hands over his ears, the video showed.

“Well, at least somebody is having a good night,” the TV announcer said.

Tiafoe did, too, winning the game, set and match.

(Reporting by Bernie Woodall; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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