Biden sports plan angers transgender advocates, opponents
A Biden administration proposal to forbid outright bans on transgender athletes sparked outrage from conservative leaders while also angering trans rights activists who note schools could still prevent some athletes from participating on teams that align with their gender identity.
The proposed rule, which still faces a lengthy approval process, establishes that blanket bans, like those that have been approved in at least 20 states, would violate Title IX, the landmark gender-equity legislation enacted in 1972. But schools that receive federal funding could still adopt policies that limit transgender students' participation, particularly in more competitive high school and college sports.
Under the proposal, it would be much more difficult for schools to ban, for example, a transgender girl in elementary school from playing on a girls basketball team. But it would also leave room for schools to develop policies that prohibit trans athletes from playing on more competitive teams if those policies are designed to ensure fairness or prevent sports-related injuries.
Imara Jones, a trans woman who created "The Anti-Trans Hate Machine" podcast, blasted the proposal, saying President Joe Biden is attempting to "straddle the fence" on a human rights issue ahead of an election year by giving legal recourse to schools that bar some trans athletes from competition.
"The Biden Administration framed their proposal as a ban on blanket discrimination against trans athletes," Jones said. "But actually, it provides guidelines for how schools and universities can ban trans athletes legally."
Justice Thomas says he didn't have to disclose luxury trips
WASHINGTON (AP) — Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas said Friday he was not required to disclose the many trips he and his wife took that were paid for by Republican megadonor Harlan Crow.
Describing Crow and his wife, Kathy, as "among our dearest friends," Thomas said in a statement that he was advised by colleagues on the nation's highest court and others in the federal judiciary that "this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the Court, was not reportable." Thomas did not name the other justices or those in the judiciary with whom he had consulted.
The nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica reported Thursday that Thomas, who has been a justice for more than 31 years, has for more than two decades accepted luxury trips from Crow nearly every year.
Thomas, 74, and his wife, Virginia, have traveled on Crow's yacht and private jet as well as stayed at his private resort in New York's Adirondack Mountains, ProPublica reported. A 2019 trip to Indonesia the story detailed could have cost more than $500,000 had Thomas chartered the plane and yacht himself.
Supreme Court justices, like other federal judges, are required to file an annual financial disclosure report which asks them to list gifts they have received, but provides exemptions for hospitality from friends.
Attacks in Israel, West Bank kill 3 in worsening violence
JERUSALEM (AP) — Palestinian assailants carried out a pair of attacks on Friday, killing three people and wounding at least six as tensions soared after days of fighting at Jerusalem's most sensitive holy site, officials said. Earlier in the day, retaliatory Israeli airstrikes had hit Lebanon and the Gaza Strip, sparking fears of a broader conflict.
Israeli authorities said an Italian tourist was killed and five other Italian and British citizens were wounded when a car rammed into a group of tourists in Tel Aviv, Israel's commercial hub.
In a separate incident, two British-Israeli women were shot to death near a settlement in the occupied West Bank.
The spasm of violence in Israel and the West Bank heightened fears of an even more intense surge, with the rare convergence of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan, the Jewish Passover holiday and Easter currently underway.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he was calling up all reserve forces in Israel's border police, a paramilitary force usually deployed to suppress Palestinian unrest, "to confront the terror attacks."
What's next for Tennessee's expelled lawmakers?
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Republicans have expelled two Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature for their role in a protest calling for more gun control. Here's a look at what could happen next:
Republicans voted Thursday to expel two Black lawmakers who last week approached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn and participated in a chant after joining protesters calling for passage of gun-control measures.
The protests followed the March 27 shooting at the Covenant School, a private Christian school in Nashville. Six people were killed, including three 9-year-old children.
GOP leaders argued that the move against Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson was necessary to draw a line against lawmakers using protest to disrupt House proceedings.
3 new 'Star Wars' movies coming, including Rey's return
LONDON (AP) — For "Star Wars" lovers, new entertainment is a little less far, far away — Lucasfilm announced three new live-action films in the franchise Friday.
The news, which includes the return of Daisy Ridley as Rey in one of the films, was revealed at Star Wars Celebration Europe 2023 in London by Lucasfilm President Kathleen Kennedy and also on the Star Wars website. Directing the movies will be James Mangold, Dave Filoni and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. Kennedy brought the directors onstage for the announcement.
Mangold's film will return to the dawn of the Jedi. Filoni's will be about the New Republic, and "will close out the interconnected stories told in 'The Mandalorian,' 'The Book of Boba Fett,' 'Ahsoka,' and other Disney+ series," the announcement said. Obaid-Chinoy's movie will focus on the events after "The Rise of Skywalker," and feature Ridley back as Rey "as she builds a new Jedi Order."
Mangold directed "Logan" and the upcoming "Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny." Filoni helmed "The Mandalorian" and "Ahsoka," and Obaid-Chinoy directed "Ms. Marvel" and "Saving Face."
States consider banning cosmetics containing PFAS
A growing number of state legislatures are considering bans on cosmetics and other consumer products that contain a group of synthetic, potentially harmful chemicals known as PFAS.
In Vermont, the state Senate gave final approval this week to legislation that would prohibit manufacturers and suppliers from selling or distributing any cosmetics or menstrual products in the state that have perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, as well as a number of other chemicals.
The products include shampoo, makeup, deodorant, sunscreen, hair dyes and more, said state Sen. Terry Williams, a Republican, and member of the Senate Committee on Health and Welfare.
"Many known toxic chemicals are used in or found as contaminants in personal care products, including PFAS, lead and formaldehyde," Williams said in reporting the bill to Senate colleagues.
California, Colorado and Maryland passed similar restrictions on cosmetics that go into effect in 2025. Other proposals are under consideration in Washington and Oregon while bills have also been introduced in Illinois, Rhode Island and Georgia.
Uproar in suburbia as New York looks to spur development
For decades, the middle-class towns of single-family homes that ring many American cities have used zoning laws to ensure they stay much like they looked in the suburban boom after World War II.
Apartment buildings in many places are simply not allowed, an exclusion that — intentionally or not — has historically also kept out people of color.
Facing housing shortages, several states and the U.S. government have tried to break through those barriers with a mix of methods, including giving municipalities homebuilding goals or overriding certain local zoning restrictions.
In New York, one such proposal from Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul has run into howls of opposition in one of the birthplaces of the American suburb. Critics on Long Island, a sprawling expanse of communities home to 2.9 million people, are denouncing provisions that would set growth targets, drive denser development near train stations and sometimes let state officials override local zoning decisions.
"Her plan would flood YOUR neighborhood with THOUSANDS of new apartments" reads one opposition mailing. Others warn Long Island would become New York City's "sixth borough." Critics, many of them Republican officials, claim it would strip away local control.
As streamers cut costs, TV shows — and residuals — vanish
Actor Diana-Maria Riva is all too familiar with one of her shows being canceled. For a performer, it's a painful, unfortunate part of show business. But this was different.
In December, Riva was floored when she found out that "Gordita Chronicles," her recently canceled family comedy, would be removed from HBO Max's vast streaming library — one of dozens of shows that HBO last year effectively wiped from existence for U.S. viewers. Among others: "Westworld," "The Time Traveler's Wife," "Minx," "Mrs. Fletcher" and numerous animated and reality series.
For Riva, the developments were crushing. Over 10 episodes, the critically lauded series followed a plus-sized 12-year-old named Cucu as she and her Dominican family adapt to life in 1980s Miami.
"It was as if somebody had broken up with you and then came back to remind you a couple of weeks later that we've broken up," says Riva, who played Cucu's mother. "It was already heartbreaking. But then it's an added punch to just say, 'Now we're going to wipe the evidence of you ever having been here.'"
As streamers face mounting pressure to save money, several have followed HBO's lead. Erasing original shows from their libraries can help streamers get tax write-downs and, to a smaller extent, save on residual payments. But it brings criticism that they are sidelining already marginalized voices and shortchanging creatives out of already slimmer residual paychecks. These issues have increased tension between executives and writers amid union contract negotiations that started late last month and could lead to a significant work stoppage this spring.
Save the date: One year until total solar eclipse sweeps US
NEW YORK (AP) — Dust off your eclipse glasses: It's only a year until a total solar eclipse sweeps across North America.
On April 8, 2024, the moon will cast its shadow across a stretch of the U.S., Mexico and Canada, plunging millions of people into midday darkness.
It's been less than six years since a total solar eclipse cut across the U.S., from coast to coast. That was on Aug. 21, 2017.
If you miss next year's spectacle, you'll have to wait 20 years until the next one hits the U.S. But that total eclipse will only be visible in Montana and the Dakotas.