Obama hammers GOP over Supreme Court vacancy – By Jesse Byrnes – 04/30/16 06:00 AM EDT


President Obama is pressing Senate Republicans to hold a hearing for his Supreme Court pick Merrick Garland more than a month after he nominated the judge.

“It’s now been 45 days since I nominated Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court,” Obama said in his weekly address Saturday.

“But so far, most Senate Republicans have refused to even meet with Judge Garland. Which means they’ve also refused to do their job and hold a hearing on his nomination, or an up-or-down vote.”

The president needled Republicans for having “found time to head home for recess over the next week” even as they refuse to act on the nomination.

“For over 40 years, there’s been an average of 67 days between a nomination and a hearing.  This time should be no different,” Obama said.

Senate Republicans have vowed not to take up Garland’s nomination this year, saying that the Supreme Court vacancy should be filled after the election.

Still, Democrats and outside groups maintain they have momentum in the Supreme Court fight, citing polls showing support for a hearing.

Fourteen Senate Republicans have met or will meet Garland by the end of the upcoming week. Most though have said they are unswayed.

“There is absolutely no reason for Republican Senators to deny him the basic courtesy of a hearing and a vote – the same courtesy that has been extended to others,” Obama said in his address.

“This refusal to treat a Supreme Court nomination with the seriousness it deserves is what makes people so cynical about Washington,” he added.

The state of the Republican presidential race, explained – Updated by Andrew Prokop on April 29, 2016, 8:00 a.m. ET


Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty

Is Donald Trump really going to be the Republican presidential nominee?

After his victories this week, this once-unthinkable outcome looks more likely than ever, and Republican elites are increasingly resigning themselves to it. But he hasn’t clinched it yet.

Trump has built up such a lead in the delegate count at this point that he’s all but assured to finish with more delegates than any of his rivals. By our count, he has around 990 delegates, which places him very far ahead of Ted Cruz and John Kasich:

Article continues:

“Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief”: Beyoncé, “Lemonade” and the new reality of infidelity – ESTHER PEREL FRIDAY, APR 29, 2016 04:00 PM PDT


It’s time to change the way we talk about affairs — and Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” is a powerful first step

"Grief sedated by orgasm, orgasm heightened by grief": Beyoncé, "Lemonade" and the new reality of infidelity

“Are you cheating on me?” Beyoncé asks in her visual album “Lemonade,” which premiered last weekend on HBO. She throws open a door, and water gushes forth—an apt metaphor for the flood of emotions that her question, and its implied answer, unleashes.

As a couples therapist, I’ve sat with hundreds of women, and men, in the turbulent aftermath of infidelity. For the past decade, I’ve been traveling the globe listening to tales of betrayal from every side. What struck me about Beyoncé’s album was both the universality of its themes and the unusual way in which it presented them. Whether autobiography or simply art, her multimedia treatise on unfaithful love represents a refreshing break with this country’s accepted narratives on the topic.

In the American backyard, adultery is sold with a mixture of condemnation and titillation. Magazine covers peddle smut while preaching sanctimony. While our society has become sexually open to the point of overflowing, when it comes to infidelity even the most liberal minds can remain intransigent. We may not be able to stop the fact that it happens, but we can all agree that it shouldn’t.

Another thing most Americans seem to agree on is that infidelity is among the worst things that can happen to a couple. The dialogue here is framed in terms borrowed from trauma, crime and religion: victims and perpetrators; injured parties and infidels; confession, repentance and redemption. As a European, I can testify that in other cultures, the betrayal is no less painful, but the response is more philosophical and pragmatic. Americans do not cheat any less than the supposedly lascivious French; they just feel more guilty about it, because the experience here is framed in moral terms.

Article continues:

China’s Movies Are a Hit With Investors – Updated April 29, 2016 10:16 p.m. ET


With an annual growth rate of 30%, China’s film industry is attracting a flood of new money, much of it from risky financial instruments

Moviegoers at an IMAX film in the city of Shenyang, in northeastern China’s Liaoning province in 2012. Film is one of the few boom industries in China these days.

Moviegoers at an IMAX film in the city of Shenyang, in northeastern China’s Liaoning province in 2012. Film is one of the few boom industries in China these days. — Photo: Sun hai – Imaginechina

Chinese filmmakers used to have a hard time finding financing; now investors can’t wait to get into show business.

The film sector is one of few boom industries in China, with an annual growth rate of more than 30%. As a result, movies have become a top draw for high-risk financial instruments.

The flood of cash has been a boon for actors, directors and others tied to the industry; salaries of movie stars just below the top tier doubled in the past few years to more than 10 million yuan ($1.5 million) per film, according to talent agencies and producers.

Much of the money has been attracted by the success of movies such as “The Mermaid,” a comedy about a romance between a business tycoon and a mermaid, directed by Hong Kong hit maker Stephen Chow. Before it opened in February, Hehe Pictures, a film company affiliated with state-run China Minmetals Group, set up a private-equity fund to secure the distribution rights. Together with two studios, they bet the movie would gross at least 1.5 billion yuan, say executives among the sponsors.

It was a daring bet. At the time, only two films in China had grossed more than 2 billion yuan. But it paid off: The film broke all Chinese box-office records and still is in theaters after regulators granted it an extended screening period. It has grossed nearly 3.4 billion yuan so far.

Maduro Cracks Down – By Rafael Uzcátegui and José Miguel Vivanco April 29, 2016


Venezuela’s Human Rights Crisis

Screen Shot 2016-04-30 at Apr 30, 2016 4.36

Olga Meza sat down at the table in the office of a local human rights organization in Venezuela and said she wanted justice for her 16-year-old son. She broke down in tears as she spoke of the night that members of Venezuela’s investigative police force broke into her home, beat her and other members of her family, and forced her to watch as a security agent stormed into her son’s bedroom and shot him dead.

Washington, along with a handful of Latin American capitals and several former heads of state, has criticized the administration of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro for using excessive force against antigovernment protesters, prosecuting its critics, and jailing political opposition leaders.

Maduro’s crackdown, though, is worse than even his critics realize. His broad and aggressive exercise of unchecked executive power has also been directed at residents of low-income and immigrant communities, where there was widespread support for the Bolivarian Revolution, the leftist, social movement of Hugo Chávez, who served as president from 1999 to 2013.

Article continues:

Supreme court grants FBI massive expansion of powers to hack computers – Danny Hadron Friday 29 April 2016 17.02 EDT


Intelligence committee senator said he plans to introduce bill to block expansion to ‘rule 41’ on warrants for suspects who hide their location, set for December

computer hacking

The US Congress has seven months to block a potentially massive expansion of the government’s ability to hack into suspects’ computers.

At the FBI’s request this week, the supreme court ruled that federal judges should be able to issue hacking warrants to federal law enforcement for anywhere in the US if the suspect has tried to hide their location, as criminal suspects are wont to do.

Additionally, the FBI could get authority to infiltrate any computer – regardless of the owner – if it has already been taken over by bad hackers.

The changes to so-called “rule 41” go into effect 1 December unless Congress acts to block them. The move has set up a showdown with Senator Ron Wyden, the most senior Democrat on the Senate intelligence committee, who is marshaling the opposition on Capitol Hill. He told the Guardian on Friday that he plans to introduce a bill blocking the court’s move.

The debate offers a unique window into the struggle to maintain America’s protections against unreasonable searches in the digital age.

Article continues:

Obama reveals push for ‘smart guns’ – By SARAH WHEATON 04/29/16 12:10 PM EDT Updated 04/29/16 05:21 PM EDT


The president also announces progress on plan to put mental health records into background check system.160429_smart_gun_gty_1160.jpg

An employee of German arms manufacturer Armatix poses with the company’s smart gun concept weapon at the International Weapons trade fair in Germany in 2010. | Getty

The president also announces progress on plan to put mental health records into background check system.

President Barack Obama is renewing his push to curb gun violence, outlining on Friday his plans with law enforcement and researchers to encourage the use of so-called smart gun technology and announcing that the Social Security Administration is moving forward with a plan to put its mental health records into the background check system for gun purchases.

The moves stem from President Barack Obama’s executive actions to reduce gun violence in January, in the face of ongoing congressional resistance to new gun control legislation. At that time, he asked agencies to look into ways to overcome the financial and political hurdles that have for decades stymied research into personalized weapons that can be fired only by an authorized user.

“As long as we’ve got the technology to prevent a criminal from stealing and using your smartphone, then we should be able to prevent the wrong person from pulling a trigger on a gun,” Obama wrote on Facebook Friday.

The specifics are based on a report from Departments of Justice, Homeland Security and Defense. Obama had asked them in January to consider whether they should require the technology in future acquisitions of government firearms.

The steps announced Friday are more modest than that and appeared designed to win buy-in from law enforcement. They include meetings with law enforcement officials as agencies move toward a goal of devising baseline standards for safety and reliability for smart guns that might be used by police.

Article continues:

China’s housing bubble is starting to look a lot like the US before the crash – Elena Holiday April 2016


china bubble

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

China’s property market is staging a major turnaround as property prices in tier-1 cities have heated up quickly over the past few months.

For the first quarter, residential prices in Shenzhen are up nearly 80% year-over-year, while those in Shanghai were up by roughly 65%, according to figures cited by Capital Economics analysts.

And the surge in residential property sales throughout 2016 has been driven by the loosening of some purchase restrictions at local levels and rate cuts, which have reduced mortgage costs by a significant amount.

In the short run, this is good for growth. Already China’s GDP breakdown showed an uptick in real-estate-related services in the first quarter, as the analysts at Capital Economics observed.

But not everyone’s jazzed about what’s going on.

Screen Shot 2016 04 29 at 11.18.00 AMCapital

Article continues:

Left For Dead: Myanmar’s Muslim Minority (Trailer) – Vice News Published on Apr 29, 2016


In recent years, democratic reforms have swept through Myanmar, a country that for decades was ruled by a military junta. As the reforms took hold, however, things were growing progressively worse for the Rohingya, a heavily persecuted ethnic Muslim minority concentrated in the country’s western state of Rakhine.

The 2012 gang rape and murder of a Buddhist woman by three Muslim men ignited violent riots in which hundreds were killed as Rakhine Buddhists and Rohingya attacked each other. In the following months, tens of thousands of Rohingya were rounded up and forced to live in squalid camps; Human Rights Watch deemed the attacks crimes against humanity that amounted to ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya. Thousands of Rohingya have since attempted to leave the country, fueling the region’s intricate and brutal human trafficking network.

VICE News traveled to Myanmar to investigate the violence and discrimination faced by the country’s Muslim minority.

Watch “The Struggle of the Rohingya: Escape From Myanmar” – http://bit.ly/1O1SQk2