Regulators ground Boeing 737 Max, Congress votes to terminate border emergency, and more…
IN THE NEWS
- Regulators in at least 40 countries halted flights of Boeing 737 Max planes after the fatal Ethiopian Airlines crash, the second involving a Boeing 737 Max in the last six months. The European Aviation Safety Agency grounded domestic 737 Max flights as a “precautionary measure” while also suspending operations by these planes in and out of the European Union. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration initially did not ground 737 Max flights, but later issued an emergency order doing so, noting similarities between the two crashes that “warrant further investigation.”
- The U.S. Senate voted 59–41 to terminate the national emergency declared by President Donald J. Trump at the U.S.–Mexico border, following a 245–182 vote by U.S. House of Representatives to do the same. U.S. Senator Mitt Romney (R-Utah) stated that he supported the measure because he was “seriously concerned” about overreach on the part of the executive branch. But President Trump declared he was “prepared to veto” the measure to keep the national emergency intact, as allowed under the National Emergencies Act.
- In a 391–242 vote, the House of Commons of the Parliament of the United Kingdom (UK) rejected Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposed “Brexit” plan to withdraw the UK from the European Union (EU). Members of Parliament also rejected a “no-deal” departure from the EU in a 312-308 vote and subsequently voted 413–202 to ask the EU to give the UK until June 30, 2019 to pass Brexit legislation.
- In an 11–6 vote, a full bench of the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit ruled that the state of Ohio is allowed to defund Planned Parenthood for performing abortions. Writing for the majority, Judge Jeffrey Sutton stated that “private organizations do not have a constitutional right to obtain government funding to support their activities,” and that the state “has no obligation to pay for a woman’s abortion.” Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) condemned the ruling, saying that it “rewards a political stunt by state lawmakers that has real consequences for Ohio women and families.”
- Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced a bill that would prevent deportation of Dreamers—immigrants brought to the United States as children—and grant them a path to citizenship under certain circumstances. Dubbed the Dream and Promise Act of 2019, the bill would shield immigrants formerly protected against deportation by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and allow those who meet the proposed Act’s requirements to claim legal residence. Under the proposed bill, Dreamers must have arrived in the United States at age 17 or younger and passed a background check, among other requirements.
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed a rule that would allow so-called E15, or gasoline containing up to 15 percent ethanol, to be sold year round. Under current EPA rules, which regulate how much ethanol can be mixed into gasoline from June to September, gasoline containing more than 10 percent ethanol may not be sold during the summer months. An industry group that represents ethanol producers praised the proposed rule, while a group representing petroleum producers criticized the rule as “anti-consumer.”
- President Donald J. Trump issued his proposed budget for 2020. The budget includes major cuts for executive agencies, proposing a 31-percent cut for the EPA and a 22-percent cut for the U.S. Department of Transportation. White House Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russ Vought stated that the bill “embodies fiscal responsibility,” but U.S. Representative Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) claimed the bill would be “dead on arrival” in the House.
- Federal prosecutors indicted dozens of people on charges of racketeering, conspiracy, and mail fraud for allegedly rigging college admissions. The criminal complaint alleges that parents paid a college counselor to arrange elite college admissions for their children, often bribing college coaches to vouch for non-athlete students during the admissions process. In addition, defendants allegedly violated federal tax law by directing their payments through a non-profit corporation—used “to conceal the nature and source of the bribe payments”—then writing off those payments as charitable contributions.
- Shareholders of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, sued Alphabet’s board of directors for allegedly covering up sexual harassment committed by senior Google executives. In doing so, the Alphabet board violated its corporate law duties to the company, according to the plaintiff shareholders. The shareholders also claimed that the Alphabet wasted corporate assets, also violating corporate law, by paying large severance packages to two Google executives who had faced “credible allegations of sexual harassment.”
WHAT WE’RE READING THIS WEEK
- In a blog post, presidential candidate and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) announced that a Warren Administration would level the economic playing field by breaking up tech giants such as Amazon, Facebook, and Google. Noting that Amazon handles half of e-commerce, while Google and Facebook serve as conduits for 70 percent of Internet traffic, Senator Warren claimed that the companies have abused their power to “squash small businesses and innovation.” To remedy the companies’ alleged abuse of power, Senator Warren proposed separating a company’s platform—for instance, Amazon Marketplace—from other parts of the company that use the platform, such as Amazon Basics.
- Drip pricing—a practice where sellers only display part of a product’s price up front before adding mandatory fees at a later stage—requires regulatory oversight, wrote David Adam Friedman of the Willamette University College of Law in a recent paper. Friedman singled out the hotel industry for their “particular fondness” for drip pricing, observing that hotels will frequently add undisclosed “resort fees” at check-in when it would be impractical for guests to reconsider staying there. He found the Canadian standard of “unattainability”—where an advertised price is impossible to attain due to added fees—“particularly compelling” in determining instances of drip pricing that deserve regulation.
- The potential for blockchain technology is “seemingly endless,” but is it inherently unregulatable? Primavera De Filippi, a faculty associate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, argued in a recent paper that Bitcoin and blockchain technology may hold the key to protecting digital intellectual property rights, but the technology defies “traditional means” of enforcement because of its decentralized nature.