Iowa’s ‘Fetal Heartbeat’ Law Deemed Unconstitutional

An Iowa judge ruled Tuesday that the “fetal heartbeat” law, the most restrictive ban on abortion in the United States, violated the state’s constitution. The law prohibits abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, often as early as six weeks. It was passed by Iowa’s Republican-controlled legislature in May 2018. Many women do not even realize they are pregnant that early in the gestation cycle. The ruling judge, District Court Judge Michael Huppert, posted his finding online: “It is undisputed that such cardiac activity is detectable well in advance of the fetus becoming viable.” Most fetuses are potentially viable outside the womb at 24 weeks, which is traditionally held as the soonest cut-off date for legal abortion. Those supporting the law vow to take the case to Iowa’s appellate court with an eye on challenging Roe v. Wade before the conservative-majority U.S. Supreme Court. “The extreme law should have been overturned, because it restricted the freedom of Iowa women and girls to care for their bodies, and it forced motherhood on them,” Iowa’s top Democrat, State Senator Janet Petersen, told the Des Moines Register. “The governor and legislative Republicans should stop attacking women’s health care.”


Director Bryan Singer Hit With Fresh Allegations of Sexual Misconduct With Underage Boys

Director Bryan Singer has been accused of sexual misconduct with four additional young men and boys—including a 13-year-old—who have spoken about their experiences with the filmmaker in an investigation by The Atlantic. Singer, whose Bohemian Rhapsody was nominated for the Best Picture Academy Award this week, has previously been accused of sexual assault against young men. The claims in the Atlantic article focus on alleged misconduct with underage boys, including the 13-year-old, a 17-year-old, a 15-year-old, and another who says he was 17 or 18 at the time. According to the Atlantic, some of the accusers say they were raped, while others claim the director seduced them while he knew they were underage. Singer’s lawyer, Andrew B. Brettler, told The Atlantic that Singer denies any allegation that he had sex with underage boys. One accuser, Victor Valdovinos, alleges that when he was 13 years old, Singer recruited him to be an extra on his film Apt Pupil and assaulted him on the set after he was told to dress only in a towel for a shower scene. Singer was fired from Bohemian Rhapsody in December 2017 due to “a pattern of unreliable behavior on the set” and was replaced by director Dexter Fletcher. In October, he posted a statement on Instagram, seemingly aware of an upcoming investigation into him, and said that it was based on “false allegations.” He also said the report “has been conveniently timed” to coincide with the release of Bohemian Rhapsody.


Poll: Only 7% of Voters Back Wall Funding to End Shutdown

Only 7 percent of American voters surveyed support giving Donald Trump funding for his Mexico border wall to end the U.S. government shutdown, according to a new poll. The results of poll, carried out for Politico and Morning Consult, reveal a series of damning numbers for the president, including those that show his disapproval rating at an all-time-high. Fifty-seven percent said they disapprove of Trump’s job performance, while 54 percent of voters blame Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill for the government shutdown. While 43 percent of voters support the border wall, just 7 percent of voters said that they support dedicating funding to a border wall if it was the only way to end the government shutdown. And further bad news for the White House: The poll also shows that a majority of the respondents, 57 percent, believe it’s likely that Russia “has compromising information“ on Trump.

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Alec Baldwin Pleads Guilty to Harassment Over Parking Brawl

Actor Alec Baldwin pleaded guilty Wednesday to a second-degree harassment violation for fighting with a man who took his parking spot in downtown Manhattan last November, Fox News’ Tamara Gitt reported. As The Daily Beast previously reported, the scuffle allegedly began after Baldwin had asked a man to hold his parking spot in the West Village while he moved his car. When Baldwin arrived at the spot and found that another man had taken it, he allegedly began arguing and fighting with the driver at a parking meter. He was originally charged with both harassment and misdemeanor attempted assault. Gitt notes that Baldwin’s lawyer was quick to emphasize that his client pleaded to such a low-level offense that it’s considered a violation, not a crime. Baldwin will now reportedly participate in an anger-management program and pay a $120 fine. This isn’t the first time Baldwin’s had a brush with the law: In 1995, he allegedly assaulted a photographer; in 2014, he was arrested for biking the wrong way down a street and was reportedly “belligerent” toward arresting officers.


‘Black Israelite’ From Brooklyn Takes Credit for Sparking Covington Students’ Showdown With Nathan Phillips

A religious zealot from Brooklyn claims he sparked the contentious face-off Friday between a group of Catholic high-school students and activists at the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C., the New York Post reports. The man, who calls himself “Chief Ephraim Israel,” was caught on video berating both the Covington Catholic High School students from Kentucky and the Native American activists for more than an hour before student Nick Sandmann stared down activist Nathan Phillips in an exchange that quickly went viral. “They started doing their chants, so I was cutting into them,” said Israel, 36, claiming the students were making a futile attempt to keep him quiet. “I called them dogs. They sounded like dogs,” he told the Post. He told the Post his “words of God” had “ripped” the “souls” from the students before Phillips came along and tried to “de-escalate the situation.”


Fed to Probe Deutsche Bank Over Suspicious Danske Billions

The Federal Reserve is investigating Deutsche Bank’s involvement in billions of dollars of suspicious transactions from Denmark’s leading lender, Bloomberg News reports. The U.S. central bank is examining whether Deutsche Bank in New York properly scrutinized the transfer of billions of dollars that it carried out on behalf of Danske Bank’s Estonia branch, the report says. Danske has already admitted that much of some $230 billion that flowed through the Estonian outpost may have been laundered from clients across the former Soviet Union. Correspondent banks such as Deutsche were used to move money abroad. “There are no probes,” Deutsche Bank told Bloomberg News, but a spokesman said it has “received several requests for information from regulators and law-enforcement agencies around the world. It is not surprising at all that the investigating authorities and banks themselves have an interest in the Danske case and the lessons to be learned from it.” In 2017, the Fed was among regulators that fined Deutsche Bank nearly $700 million for allowing money laundering from Russia. A Department of Justice investigation is continuing.


Florida Man Arrested After Yelling Racial Slurs and Wielding Gun at Black Teens on Video

A white Florida man was caught on video yelling racial slurs and waving a loaded gun at black teenagers marching at a “Bikes Up, Guns Down” event on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day in Miami. Mark Bartlett, 51, was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon after police used video footage to identify him. He may also be charged with hate crimes under Florida’s laws regarding racially motivated incidents. “I am outraged at the reported acts depicted in the videos taken during this incident,” Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle told reporters Tuesday, the Miami Herald reports. “I have assigned my chief of our Hate Crimes Unit to immediately investigate and handle this case.” Video of the incident published on the Dream Defenders Twitter feed shows Bartlett yelling, “Get out of here you piece of shit,” to black teenagers on bicycles. Bartlett, who is free after posting bail, asked his arresting officer, “Why am I being arrested when those kids are free to ride around? I did pull out my gun. But I never pointed it at them.” Warning: Racial slurs are in the YouTube video.


Coordinated IRS Sickout Could Delay Tax Refunds

Internal Revenue Service union leaders said Tuesday that they expect worker absences to surge as part of a coordinated protest that could hamper the government’s ability to process tax refunds on time. Hundreds of IRS employees have received permission to skip work during the partial government shutdown due to financial hardship. The Trump administration last week ordered at least 30,000 IRS workers back to their offices, where they have been working to process refunds without pay. But IRS employees across the country—some in coordinated protest, others out of financial necessity—won’t be coming into work, according to Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, and several local union officials, The Washington Post reports.

The move signals the potential for civil servants to take action that could slow or cripple government functions as the shutdown’s political stalemate continues. “They are definitely angry that they’re not getting paid...” said Reardon, whose union represents 150,000 employees at 33 federal agencies and departments. “... These employees live paycheck to paycheck, and they can’t scrape up the dollars to get to work or pay for child care.”


Democratic Mayor Pete Buttigieg Joins 2020 Presidential Race

Pete Buttigieg, the Democratic mayor of South Bend, Indiana, is forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 presidential bid, the Associated Press reports. Buttigieg, 37, says in an announcement video: “The reality is there’s no going back, and there’s no such thing as ‘again’ in the real world. We can’t look for greatness in the past.” The local politician gained a national profile when he unsuccessfully ran for Democratic National Committee chairman in 2017, saying the party needed a new start. His message for 2020 seems similar, saying that Democrats need to look to a new generation of leaders to unseat President Donald Trump. If the long-shot candidate were to win the Democratic nomination, he would become the first openly gay presidential nominee from a major political party.