On Wednesday, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler stuck a shiv between the ribs of network neutrality. Based on his proposed rules, "the principle that all internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead," says Edward Wyatt at The New York Times. But Wheeler didn't kill net neutrality. He said so himself.
"There are reports that the FCC is gutting the Open Internet rule," Wheeler said in a statement. "They are flat out wrong." His new proposal, he said, is to "restore the concepts of net neutrality" in a way that's consistent with the ruling of a federal appeals court in January, which struck down (for the second time) the FCC's earlier net neutrality rules. "There is no 'turnaround in policy,'" Wheeler continued. "The same rules will apply to all internet content."
So what is Wheeler proposing, and why should you care? Essentially, he would allow content providers (Netflix, Amazon, Disney, etc.) to strike preferential deals with internet service providers (Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Verizon, AT&T, etc.) for direct routes to their customers — "the digital equivalent of an uncongested carpool lane on a busy freeway," explains The Times' Wyatt. Companies that refused to pay for the special lane, or couldn't afford it, would have slower service to your house, depending on the whims of your ISP.
Technically, that's not a neutral internet. There are legitimate concerns that this rule, if enacted as envisioned, will turn the internet into a reflection of how the world works, with the rich and powerful using their clout and dollars to maintain their advantages and keep the smaller, newer players in the second tier or lower. But as long as no ISP can throttle or discriminate against traffic of any legal content, as promised, the biggest short-term impact to consumers will probably be higher fees for services that pay for the fast lane.
Net neutrality proponents are understandably skeptical of Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for the cable and telecom industries. But this weak-tea neutrality is neither fully his fault — the U.S. Court of Appeals, D.C. circuit, bears most of the blame — nor is it necessarily the death knell for an open internet. It's just the beginning of a slightly stratified one. Peter Weber
Kim Jong-Nam, the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, was killed by a highly toxic nerve agent that the United Nations has classified as a weapon of mass destruction, Malaysian police said Thursday.
Earlier this month, Kim Jong-Nam was at the Kuala Lumpur airport when he said a woman grabbed his face and sprayed him with some sort of chemical; he died from a seizure on the way to the hospital. Authorities say a preliminary analysis of swabs taken of his face and eyes shows ethyl N-2-Diisopropylaminoethyl Methylphosphonothiolate, the most potent of all nerve agents, which is lethal after just a fraction of a drop is absorbed through the skin.
Previously only seen in chemical warfare, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says exposure to the nerve agent can lead to convulsions, paralysis, and fatal respiratory failure. The police have said two attackers rubbed a liquid on Kim's face before they fled and washed their hands. Catherine Garcia
Some of Hollywood's biggest names will gather in Beverly Hills on Friday for a pro-immigrant rights rally.
Organized by the United Talent Agency, the United Voices rally "aims to express the creative community's support for freedom of speech and artistic expression, and stand against policies of exclusion and division," the company said in a statement. UTA is one of the most powerful talent agencies in Hollywood, and represents Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi, who is nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Farhadi said he won't attend Sunday's ceremony because President Trump's executive order banning travelers from seven Muslim-majority countries, including Iran, is "unjust."
Jodie Foster, Michael J. Fox, Wilmer Valderrama, and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom are slated to speak at the rally, and James Franco, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Seth Rogen, and Aisha Tyler are all set to appear. The rally is being held in lieu of UTA's annual Oscar gala, and the agency said it will also donate $250,000 to the International Rescue Committee and the ACLU. Catherine Garcia
While he would like to live in a world without any nuclear weapons, President Trump told Reuters Thursday that as it stands today, the United States has "fallen behind on nuclear weapon capacity" and he wants the U.S. arsenal to be "at the top of the pack."
"We're never going to fall behind any country even if it's a friendly country, we're never going to fall behind on nuclear power," he said. The anti-nuclear Ploughshares Fund organization says the United States has 6,800 warheads, compared to Russia's 7,000. New START, a strategic arms limitation treaty between the U.S. and Russia, requires that both countries curb their arsenals of strategic nuclear weapons to equal levels by Feb. 5, 2018, keeping them there for 10 years. Trump told Reuters this was a "one-sided deal," and he's "going to start making good deals."
To modernize its aging bombers, land-based missiles, and ballistic missile submarines, the United States is spending $1 trillion over 30 years. Daryl Kimball, executive director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association, told Reuters that both the U.S. and Russia have "far more weapons than is necessary to deter nuclear attack by the other or by another nuclear-armed country." Catherine Garcia
In addition to white people, Richard Spencer also loves the band Depeche Mode. Unfortunately for Spencer, the feelings are not mutual.
Spencer, the white nationalist and alt-right poster boy who became infamous during the presidential campaign as a supporter of Donald Trump, told a reporter at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Thursday that Depeche Mode "is the official band of the alt-right." Later, Spencer told Rolling Stone he is a "lifelong Depeche Mode fan," and his "tongue was firmly in cheek" when he made his earlier statement. "They aren't a typical rock band, in terms of lyrics and much else," he said. "Depeche Mode is a band of existential angst, pain, sadism, horror, darkness, and much more." The group doesn't do "bubblegum pop," Spencer continued, and he claimed their album Music for the Masses has a "bit of a fascist element."
Considering one of Depeche Mode's most notable songs, "People Are People," includes the lyrics, "I can't understand/What makes a man/Hate another man/Help me understand," it was no surprise a representative for the band quickly told Rolling Stone Depeche Mode "has no ties to Richard Spencer or the alt-right and does not support the alt-right movement." Catherine Garcia
After several media outlets reported on Donald Trump's advisers being in constant contact with Russian officials during the 2016 presidential campaign, the White House requested the FBI publicly denounce the stories, several U.S. officials told CNN Thursday.
The White House wanted the FBI and other agencies investigating the matter to say the Feb. 14 reports from The New York Times and CNN were false and the two sides never communicated, the officials said, but FBI Director James Comey rejected the request, made by White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, because of the ongoing investigation of ties between Trump associates and Russians known to U.S. intelligence. The White House is not supposed to directly communicate with the FBI, and such a request violates procedures that limit contact with the FBI over pending investigations. Catherine Garcia
Beyoncé will forgo her planned performance at the 2017 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival, event organizers announced Thursday. The pop star, who announced last month she is expecting twins with husband Jay Z, cited doctors' advice to "keep a less rigorous schedule in coming months" as the basis for the decision.
In lieu of leading the Coachella 2017 lineup, Beyoncé will headline the 2018 festival. Her replacement for this year has yet to be announced.
Beyoncé has not revealed her due date, but as she was already showing at her performance at the Grammys on Feb. 12, many predicted she might drop out of Coachella. She was slated to headline on both April 15 and April 22 of the two-weekend-long affair in Indio, California.
If you need to see it to believe it, read Coachella's announcement in full below. Becca Stanek
— Andru Valpy (@AimlessAndru) February 23, 2017
During this week's congressional recess, some lawmakers returned to their home districts to meet with constituents for the first time since President Trump took office last month. Many Republicans found themselves facing angry crowds during subsequent town halls, including Sen. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Sen. Tom Cotton (Ark.), and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (Utah), while House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.). Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.), and others have been criticized for failing to make themselves available to their constituencies at all.
All the hubbub has some GOP representatives declining full-stop to hold town halls. In attempting to defend those evasive lawmakers, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) on Tuesday cited the case of former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who was shot in the head at a constituent meeting in January 2011. After Giffords was shot — she survived the incident and returned to the House floor just seven months later, but resigned from Congress in 2012 — Gohmert says the House Sergeant at Arms "advised us ... that civilian attendees at congressional public events stand the most chance of being harmed or killed," arguing the meetings are a threat to public safety. Gohmert also cited the dangers of possible paid protesters from the "more violent strains of the leftist ideology ... who are preying on public town halls to wreak havoc."
One person who's not buying Gohmert's reasoning? Giffords, who on Thursday responded to his comments with a statement declaring town halls are "what the people deserve in a representative." She noted she "was shot on a Saturday morning. By Monday morning, my offices were open to the public." "To the politicians who have abandoned their civic obligations, I say this," she wrote. "Have some courage. Face your constituents. Hold town halls." Kimberly Alters