(NEW YORK) — Federal regulators have weakened rules meant to support independent local media.
Now, one company can own newspapers and broadcast stations in one market, undoing a ban in place since 1975. Thursday's decision by the Federal Communications Commission also makes it easier for one company to own two broadcast TV stations in one market and coordinate operations with stations owned by others.
Although the changes won't affect AT&T's pending bid for Time Warner and its cable channels, they come as cable and phone companies have grown into industry giants through acquisitions. The newspaper and broadcasting industries say they need the changes to deal with growing competition from the web and cable companies.
The Republican-dominated FCC approved the changes in a 3-2 vote along party lines. The two Democratic commissioners and other critics say that dumping these rules, by encouraging consolidation, hurts media diversity. Free Press, a group that opposes media mergers, said Thursday that it will challenge the rule changes in court.
"This act will pave the way for massive broadcast conglomerates to increasingly provide local viewers with nationalized cookie-cutter news and corporate propaganda that's produced elsewhere," said Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat.
The FCC previously granted exceptions for companies such as News Corp. to own both a newspaper and a radio or TV station in the same market. Scrapping the rule would let more companies do so without needing to make the case for an exception.
The FCC is also loosening restrictions on one company owning two TV stations in the same market. TV station owner Sinclair is expected to benefit from these changes. It has a pending deal for rival Tribune Media that regulators still must clear. They both own TV stations that air local news and programming from the major networks, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, around the country.
The Sinclair deal has drawn criticism from an unusual coalition: consumer advocacy groups that generally oppose media consolidation, conservative media companies that are rivals to the right-leaning Sinclair and cable and satellite TV companies that worry that a beefed-up Sinclair will be able to get even higher fees from them.
The rule changes, however, would not apply to AT&T and Time Warner because the FCC is not reviewing that and neither company owns a TV or radio station or a local paper. The Justice Department is still reviewing that $85 billion deal. Its widely expected approval has run into hurdles.
The FCC has already taken steps favorable to broadcasters and Sinclair. It scrapped a rule that required TV and radio broadcasters to maintain a local studio and withdrew a technical measure that hindered media consolidation. Sinclair would reach 72 percent of American households if the Tribune Media deal goes through.
The FCC also voted Thursday to allow a new broadcasting standard known as "next-gen TV," which Sinclair and the broadcasting lobby has pushed for. It will allow for better-quality video and improved reception, let broadcasters beam TV programming directly to phones and, they hope, make money from advertising targeted to consumers based on data about them, like Facebook and Google do.
The two Democratic commissioners dissented, saying the agency's approach will mean higher costs for consumers if they have to buy new TV sets to get the signals, just as they had to buy digital TVs or converters when analog transmissions ceased in the past decade. The government offered $40 coupons for converter boxes to help defray costs during that transition. According to the Democrats, there are no provisions for similar subsidies this time.
The agency also voted Thursday on party lines to pursue new limits on Lifeline, a program that makes internet service cheaper for the poor and serves about 12 million people. The FCC also made it easier for phone companies like AT&T and Verizon to ditch their old copper networks as they upgrade to newer technologies. Democrats say these measures will make it more difficult for poor people to go online and harm rural customers who depend on their landlines.
In a largely non-controversial move, the agency also made clear that carriers can block calls coming from obvious spammers who are faking what number shows up for consumers on their caller IDs.
(CHICAGO) — One by one, the men told the same story: A Chicago police officer would demand money from them. And if they didn't pay, they would find themselves in handcuffs with drugs stuffed in their pockets.
A Cook County judge on Thursday threw out the felony drug convictions of 15 black men who all say they were locked up for no other reason except that they refused to pay Ronald Watts.
It was the largest mass exoneration in memory in Chicago. And even in a city where it has become almost routine for police misconduct to lead to overturned convictions, the courthouse had never seen anything like the order issued in front of more than a dozen men whose lives were changed forever by the former sergeant.
The men described how it was common for blacks in the city's poorest communities to be shaken down.
"Everyone knew if you're not going to pay Watts, you were going to jail. That's just the way it was going," said Leonard Gipson, 36, who had two convictions tossed out.
The practice, they recalled, was all the more chilling because the officer was so open about it.
"Watts always told me, 'If you're not going to pay me, I'm going to get you.' And every time I ran into him, he put drugs on me," he said. "I went to prison and did 24 months for Watts, and I came back home and he put another case on me."
He and others said there was nothing anyone could do about it. They watched Watts and his crew continue to extort drug dealers and residents, a practice that lasted for years, despite complaints to the police department and statements made during court hearings.
Finally, in 2013, Watts and another officer pleaded guilty to stealing money from an FBI informant, but Watts' sentence of 22 months was shorter than those being handed out to the men he framed.
Thirteen of the 15 men were out of custody before Thursday's hearing, with the other two still behind bars on unrelated charges. Their sentences ranged from nearly a decade to probation. Some said the only reason they were out of custody is that they agreed to plead guilty in exchange for shorter sentences than the drugs planted on them might have produced.
"I had to, I had a baby due," said 33-year-old Marcus Watts, who pleaded guilty to drug charges in exchange for a six-month sentence and a second set of drug charges in exchange for a seven-month sentence. "The way I looked at it was if they put the cuffs on you, you already lost."
Prosecutors asked the judge to act after the conviction integrity unit of the Cook County State's Attorney's Office reviewed the cases.
"In all good conscience we could not let these convictions stand," said Mark Rotert, who heads the unit.
The office's agreement to throw out the sentences was part of a larger effort to regain public trust, he said.
In the last two years, the city has seen an officer charged in the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald. Jason Van Dyke is the first Chicago officer in decades to be charged with first-degree murder in an on-duty killing.
Just this week, prosecutors announced they would not retry two men who have long maintained their innocence. One man spent 29 years in prison for a double murder he insists he did not commit. The other spent 27 years in prison in another double murder case involving an officer who has had several convictions overturned amid allegations that he beat suspects and coerced witnesses.
In the cases involving Watts, both prosecutors and defense attorneys suggested that Thursday's order may be just the beginning.
The University of Chicago's Exoneration Project is examining another 12 to 24 cases, but the problem is much larger because Watts was involved in about 1,000 cases and perhaps 500 convictions over eight years, said Joshua Tepfer, a defense attorney with the project.
State's attorney spokesman Robert Foley said prosecutors are investigating dozens of other cases and identified a pattern suggesting "corrupt activity" involving Watts and "members of his crew."
Chicago has paid more than a half billion dollars to settle police misconduct cases in a little more than a decade.
Tepfer would not discuss what the men might do next, but it is almost a certainty that at least some of them will sue the city and the police department. And Tepfer offered a hint about what those lawsuits might contend.
"These convictions stick with you," he said. "You can't get back the time you served. It affects your ability to get jobs, housing. You get thrown off of public aid with a felony conviction."
At least four Republican senators are talking privately about opposing the current version of the tax reform bill, which the House voted to pass early Thursday, on the grounds that it would balloon the national deficit too much.
Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford are among the four — enough to stop a bill that can only spare two Republican defections — who have concerns about a tax reform bill that was estimated to hike the deficit by $1.5 trillion over 10 years. The other two senators have not publicly confirmed their concerns.
In an interview with TIME on Tuesday, two days before the House voted to pass its version of the tax reform bill, Flake said that he believes the bill is larded with temporary gimmicks that will ultimately add even more than that to the deficit.
"I've been concerned for a long time on our debt and deficit — that's what animates me," Flake told TIME. "There are a couple other people who are concerned as well. We can do tax reform in ways that will grow the economy but we can’t just ignore the debt and deficit."
Their concerns show the tricky needle that Republicans will have to thread to get the tax reform bill through the upper chamber using reconciliation, a parliamentary procedure that allows them to avoid a Democratic filibuster but imposes restrictions on how the bill is written.
On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journalreported that Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin would be voting against it, saying it unduly favors corporations over small businesses. Maine Sen. Susan Collins has also raised concerns about a provision in the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act's individual insurance mandate.
But the deficit hawks' criticisms could be the hardest to address, since the Republican leaders are already struggling to find ways to pay for tax cuts in the bill.
Flake pointed in particular to the provision known as "full expensing" that allows companies to write off their assets when paying taxes, costing the government potential tax revenue. The tax reform plan is set to sunset the provision after five years — but the Arizona Republican isn't convinced.
"Right now, in order to fit that in the budget window to keep us in reconciliation, we phase that out after five years. Nobody thinks it will be phased out after five years," he said. "That’s the problem here. You phase it out after five years, it fits in this, but we know after five years they’re just going to do it again."
In addition, the tax reform bill slashes the corporate tax rate from 35% to 20%, curtails the state and local tax (SALT) deduction, and, under the Senate plan, does away with the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. Though Republicans have touted the tax reform bill as a boon for the middle class, new numbers from Congress' Joint Committee on Taxation show that taxes for those earning under $75,000 a year would increase by 2027.
Despite the bill's troubles in the Senate, you can't fault House Republicans for feeling festive about the bill's passing. For the first time in a decade, Republicans control both houses of Congress and the White House — and yet they have failed so far to achieve any meaningful legislative victories; their losses, meanwhile, namely two unsuccessful attempts to repeal Obamacare, have been painful and public. Achieving tax reform would amount to a triumph that could stabilize the rocky G.O.P. ahead of the 2018 midterm elections next November.
It is also important to President Donald Trump, who is hungry for a win. Trump traveled to Capitol Hill on Thursday morning ahead of the House vote to encourage Republican lawmakers to vote for the package.
"He had confidence that the Senate would be able to reach an agreement," said someone who was in the room during the meeting. "There was a lot of laughter — the President was in a very jovial mood."
Why are Democrats fighting massive tax cuts for the middle class and business (jobs)? The reason: Obstruction and Delay!
A number of Senate Republicans agree with him — that the points of tension can be ironed out efficiently.
"I think we can address those concerns," Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said. "And the deficit impact? Cutting taxes is not going to add the deficit in any appreciable way. You’re never going to convince me for deficit reasons not to cut taxes. If there’s a gimmick, fix the gimmick."
The Senate hopes to have a tax reform bill on the floor after Thanksgiving; Trump has made it clear that he wants to sign a piece of legislation into law by Christmas. The growing concern in the Senate suggests this might be complicated — something hoped for by the 13 House Republicans who trudged away from the chamber floor after casting their ballots against the bill on Thursday.
"If this is going to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next ten years, it’s not fair to our children and grandchildren," Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina told TIME outside the House chamber after the end of the vote. "If this was a Democratic bill we wouldn’t even be voting for it. That’s how hypocritical this place has become."
Michelle McFadyen was driving to the store with her husband when the couple strayed into the path of a shooting rampage in their small Northern California town.
The gunman, identified by authorities as Kevin Neal, killed Michelle McFadyen and wounded her husband, Troy, people he randomly picked to shoot after killing his wife and two neighbors. He killed another man at random and wounded at least eight others, including a 6-year-old child shot in the chest at the town's school.
Neal swerved his vehicle to try and ram the McFadyen's car head-on, Troy's nephew, Eric McFadyen said Thursday. After running them off the road, Neal parked his vehicle, walked toward them and fired into their car, he said.
"They started running for their lives and that's when he killed Michelle, and shot my uncle in the legs," Eric McFadyen said.
Neal walked up to his uncle "to finish him" but his uncle pleaded with him and told him to save his bullets because he would bleed to death. Michelle McFadyen was already dead, he said.
"For whatever reason the guy turned around and that's when they think he went to the school and started shooting at kids," Eric McFadyen said.
Shortly after, Eric's father got a call from Troy.
"He just kept saying, 'They shot Michelle, she is dead. She is right at my feet, they shot me. I need you here brother, I need you here,'" Eric McFadyen said.
Michelle was a child protective officer and had worked with troubled kids. He's a pile driver who has worked construction all his life. The couple had been together for at least 15 years, Eric McFadyen said.
"She was his rock," he said.
Troy has gone through at least two surgeries and doctors were able to save one of his legs, but he has a long recovery ahead and is still re-living Tuesday's horror, said Eric, who has set up a GoFundMe page to help him.
"My father says he goes through times where he is crying his eyes out, and then angry, and then crying his eyes out and he keeps repeating, 'please don't shoot my sweetie,'" Eric said.
If you have ever watched the John Hughes Christmas classic, Home Alone, and wondered how the family could leave poor little Kevin home alone to defend the house from burglars while celebrating the saddest Christmas ever, a Reddit thread may have the answer.
In the film, eight-year old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) was sent to his attic bedroom for being naughty. At first watch (or even fifth) it appears that the McCallister family wakes up late for the airport, rushes out the door to catch their plane to Paris, and in the hubbub somehow everyone, including his own parents, don't realize that Kevin has been left behind. However, a clip of the film popped up on the Movie Details thread on Reddit, and is leading some fans to speculate that the true culprit behind the blunder was Kevin’s own father.
In the clip, the family is eating pizza and when some soda is spilled, Mr. McCallister helps clean up. However, he doesn’t just clean up the pizza and plates and napkins, but manages to throw Kevin’s plane ticket into the trash, too. It’s a shocking blunder, not just because a plane ticket ended up in the trash, but also because of the fact that they were eating pizza over their airplane tickets (who thought that was a good idea?) and because Mr. McCallister, who is successful enough to be able to afford to fly his entire extended family to Paris for Christmas, can’t manage to keep plane tickets in order.
Some viewers are going so far as to suggest that chucking the plane ticket in the bin wasn’t a mistake though, and that Mr. McCallister threw it away to punish Kevin. “What if Peter hated Kevin just as much as Frank did, only he was better at hiding it?” wrote one suspicious mind on Reddit. Watch the clip and decide for yourself: innocent mistake or ingenious punishment? Either way, it’s poor travel planning.
Even if this isn't a revelation for superfans of the classic, it's the perfect excuse to go down the rabbit hole again this holiday season.
"The President believes that these allegations are very troubling and should be taken seriously," White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters, discussing a political firestorm on which President Donald Trump has largely stayed silent. "He thinks that the people of Alabama should make the decision on who their next senator should be."
Multiple women have accused Moore of pursuing them sexually when they were teenagers and he was in his 30s, allegations Moore has denied. Numerous Republican senators have called on Moore to drop out of the race against Democrat Doug Jones, but the White House wouldn't go that far. Sanders did say "the President supported the decision by the [Republican National Committee] to withdraw resources from this race," but she reiterated that Alabama voters need to make their own choice on Moore.
Sanders was similarly circumspect when asked about about a new accusation that Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken kissed and groped a woman without her consent more than a decade ago. Franken, while saying he doesn't remember the incident the way accuser Leeann Tweeden does, nevertheless apologized and spent Thursday doing damage control.
Trump infamously faced his own sexual harassment scandal during the 2016 presidential election, as multiple women accused him and a tape surfaced of him bragging about groping women without their consent. Trump has repeatedly denied all accusations. But Sanders said Trump's reaction to his own accusers — calling them liars and threatening to sue them — isn't inconsistent with saying that Moore's accusers should be "taken seriously."
"I think the President has certainly a lot more insight into what he personally did or didn’t do," Sanders said.
(WASHINGTON) — Minister Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam, on Thursday called on President Donald Trump to repent for America's sins and chastised Americans who are upset with Trump's image, saying "he's your reflection."
Farrakhan, in a wide-ranging, two-hour speech at the Watergate Hotel, touched on issues as varied as North Korea, race relations and relations between Muslims in the Middle East in what he called an address to Trump.
"Mr. President, you won't make America great again, not in our time," said Farrakhan, 84, referring to the president's "Make America Great Again" campaign slogan. "She became great killing Native Americans. She became great enslaving us, bringing us from Africa into America to work the cotton fields. You're not going to get that opportunity back anymore."
The Nation of Islam, formed in Detroit in the 1930s, in part aims to free blacks from "servitude" to Western civilization — white society.
Farrakhan called on Trump to "repent for all of the evils that America has done to us, to the peoples of the world."
During the presidential campaign, Farrakhan sent mixed signals about Trump, indicating he saw some reflection of his worldview in the candidate's rhetoric, including the Republican's talk of a "global power structure" that has rigged the economy. Farrakhan has long promoted conspiracy theories, blaming Israel and Jews for the Sept. 11 attacks, and accusing Jews of controlling the American government.
Trump has called some Mexican immigrants rapists, advocated policies that put Muslims under general suspicion and has been criticized for being slow to condemn white supremacists.
Farrakhan on Thursday called Trump "transparent" and "real," and said "he is what he is."
Some "wanted him to put on a suit and act dignified, like the thieves and robbers who dress in suits and tell lies," he added.
"He's telling lies all right, and you're angry because he's your reflection," Farrakhan said. "He's an anomaly. You can't make him what you desire him to be so you can say, 'That's my president.' He wasn't made that way."
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) delivered the following statement Thursday after he was accused of sexual harassment by fellow performer Leeann Tweeden on a 2006 USO Tour.
The first thing I want to do is apologize: to Leeann, to everyone else who was part of that tour, to everyone who has worked for me, to everyone I represent, and to everyone who counts on me to be an ally and supporter and champion of women. There's more I want to say, but the first and most important thing_and if it's the only thing you care to hear, that's fine_is: I'm sorry.
I respect women. I don't respect men who don't. And the fact that my own actions have given people a good reason to doubt that makes me feel ashamed.
But I want to say something else, too. Over the last few months, all of us_including and especially men who respect women_have been forced to take a good, hard look at our own actions and think (perhaps, shamefully, for the first time) about how those actions have affected women.
For instance, that picture. I don't know what was in my head when I took that picture, and it doesn't matter. There's no excuse. I look at it now and I feel disgusted with myself. It isn't funny. It's completely inappropriate. It's obvious how Leeann would feel violated by that picture. And, what's more, I can see how millions of other women would feel violated by it_women who have had similar experiences in their own lives, women who fear having those experiences, women who look up to me, women who have counted on me.
Coming from the world of comedy, I've told and written a lot of jokes that I once thought were funny but later came to realize were just plain offensive. But the intentions behind my actions aren't the point at all. It's the impact these jokes had on others that matters. And I'm sorry it's taken me so long to come to terms with that.
While I don't remember the rehearsal for the skit as Leeann does, I understand why we need to listen to and believe women's experiences.
I am asking that an ethics investigation be undertaken, and I will gladly cooperate.
And the truth is, what people think of me in light of this is far less important than what people think of women who continue to come forward to tell their stories. They deserve to be heard, and believed. And they deserve to know that I am their ally and supporter. I have let them down and am committed to making it up to them.
“I felt like, either way, no matter what, my life was on the line,” Yuers told TIME on Thursday. “There’s a lot of kids in the classroom. They need to see their teacher do something. You want to protect the kids.”
As the events unfolded on Tuesday, Yuers rushed his students into his classroom, locked the door – then drew on his training as an Air Force military police officer to keep his students safe.
He barricaded the door with a metal computer charging cart and told his fourth and fifth graders to get down on the floor. He prepared himself mentally to use the cart as a shield – and then as a weapon to ram the gunman, if it came to that.
“I was trying to be able to react and think in a crisis,” said Yuers, a teacher since 1988. “It was a long shot in my mind.”
Five people were killed and 10 others wounded. One student was shot through the window of the school as he huddled for safety, but there were no fatalities. Neal was shot and killed by law enforcement.
"I really, truly believe we would have had a horrific bloodbath at that school if that school hadn't taken the action that it did," Tehama County Assistant Sheriff Phil Johnston said at a news conference.
Yuers said he and the other teachers are trained to handle lockdowns and drills for fires and earthquakes. They’re told to lock the doors and get the students on the floor, but they’re not necessarily taught to barricade the door or take any other action that might put their own lives at risk.
After the gunfire stopped, Yuers tried to console the students in the classroom who were crying, shocked and scared.
“I said, ‘Hey, this might be the worst day of your life, but you lived through it,’ ” he recalled. “You just try to talk to them from the heart.”
Yuers said he hopes his students will be able to recover from the trauma. “They’re going to be stronger people,” he said. “We’re closer now because of this experience.”
Yuers also thought about his 4-year-old daughter, who starts kindergarten soon.
(BIRMINGHAM, Ala.) — Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore says Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is trying "to steal this election" by calling for him to step down amid allegations of sexual misconduct decades ago.
A defiant Moore appeared at a news conference on Thursday to reiterate that he would be staying in the Alabama race.
This is an effort by Mitch McConnell and his cronies to steal this election from the people of Alabama and they will not stand for it! #ALSEN