January 17, 2019

A new program in California is helping former inmates get back on their feet by pairing them up with people who have rooms to spare, NPR reports.

The Homecoming Project, run by nonprofit organization Impact Justice in Alameda County, California, gives subsidies to those who are willing to rent a room to a recently-released former inmate. The group covers the formerly incarcerated person's rent for six months and goes through a lengthy screening process to find a good home for them. Not only does the organization aim to help former inmates return to a normal life as quickly as possible rather going from prison into restricted communal living, but they also hope to fight misconceptions about ex-convicts in general, they told NPR.

"Project Homecoming says you're a person and we're going to treat you like a person and give you the footholds and the scaffolding to be able to come back home and to be a full member of society just like anybody else," said Alex Busansky, who runs Impact Justice.

Coordinator Terah Lawyer also told NPR that "most of our hosts are familiar with redemption and change and want to be a part of helping be the stepping stone for someone's second chance." There are currently only six former inmates participating in the program, but Impact Justice says it is looking to expand to 25 this year. Brendan Morrow

1:48 p.m.

Warner Bros. has just hired its very first female CEO.

BBC Studios Americas President Ann Sarnoff on Monday was announced as the new head of the studio, becoming the first woman tapped for that position since Warner Bros. was founded in 1923, Variety and The Hollywood Reporter report.

Sarnoff's hiring comes three months after Kevin Tsujihara resigned as CEO following allegations in The Hollywood Reporter that he had an affair with an actress, Charlotte Kirk, whose career he promised to help advance. At the time, Kirk denied that Tsujihara ever "promised me anything" and said she has "no claim" of inappropriate behavior on his part. Tsujihara apologized for "mistakes in my personal life" and stepped down in March after saying he had thought about how "my past actions might impact the company's future."

In a statement, WarnerMedia CEO John Stankey praised Sarnoff and said she will "lead an incredibly successful studio to its next chapter of growth." Deadline notes that although the company during its search had been "set to bring in a prominent female in that position," Sarnoff's pick came as a "complete surprise." Brendan Morrow

1:46 p.m.

Stripping a school of its Confederate namesake is complicated and costly.

For the hundreds of schools named for Robert E. Lee, choosing a new name amid nationwide protests also means replacing signs, uprooting turf fields, and reissuing sport uniforms. So to avoid some of the trouble, some schools have tried to find new namesakes who share the Confederate general's surname, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Take Lee Elementary in Oklahoma City. Administrators at first didn't even know if the school was named for Robert E. Lee, but after a bit of digging, they found it was and renamed it Adelaide Lee after a local philanthropist. Houston went for Russell Lee Elementary after a Depression era photographer, and also swapped a school named for confederate soldier Sidney Lanier to former Mayor Bob Lanier, the Journal notes.

Robert E. Lee High School in San Antonio, Texas, went a different route. Estimates found that it would cost $1.3 million to remove and replace everything with the Lee name, the Journal reports. So it rebranded as Legacy of Educational Excellence High School, stuck with its old school colors, and saved about $1 million by only swapping "things that had Robert E.," a spokesperson told the Journal. And Washington-Lee High School in Arlington, Virginia — known as W-L High School — went entirely uncontroversial and changed the L to "Liberty."

Read more at The Wall Street Journal. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:39 p.m.

President Trump on Monday implemented harsh sanctions by executive order against Iran which targeted the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and others. But while a series of U.S.-imposed, Trump-approved sanctions have angered Tehran amid rising tensions between the two countries, the president might not be the antagonist in Tehran's eyes, said Trita Parsi, the head of the National Iranian American Council during a Monday appearance on The Hill's Rising.

Instead, he argues, that National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo are the problem. Parsi said that Bolton and Pompeo are "walking around talking about regime change," which makes it difficult for Tehran to believe Trump's publicly stated desire to avoid conflict. He added that Iran is hearing directly from North Korea about Trump's willingness to make deals, but that Bolton and Pompeo wind up sabotaging negotiations.

"I suspect if Trump lets go of Bolton and potentially Pompeo, it could actually open up some space in which the Iranians would start at least beginning the first movements of diplomacy," Parsi said. But if that doesn't happen, he said, it's unlikely Tehran will come to the table. Tim O'Donnell

12:55 p.m.

The Olympics are slip-sliding back into Italy.

Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo will host the 2026 Winter Olympic games, the International Olympic Committee announced Monday. The decision means Italy will host another winter games 20 years after it held them in Turin, and comes as the IOC moves toward condensing games to fewer locations with reliable funding, The Associated Press reports.

The decision came down to Stockholm and its nearby ski resort of Are, Sweden, and the joint Milan-Cortina d'Ampezzo bid. Cortina d'Ampezzo is a ski resort that's a few hours' drive from Milan, and held the winter games in 1956 as well. Skeptics worried that Italy couldn't handle such a large-scale event given its recent economic troubles that derailed its previous Summer Olympic bids. But Italy's Undersecretary of State Giancarlo Giorgetti pointed out that Milan-Cortina are "two of the richest provinces in Europe," AP notes.

Italy isn't alone in its financial woes, seeing as nations are known to spend billions of dollars fulfilling their Olympic hosting duties. That reality has led the IOC to consider rotating between a few economically sound cities, or letting broader areas split hosting duties. Turin was originally included in Italy's 2026 bid, but dropped out amid a "political squabble among the cities' mayors," The New York Times says.

Watch Sweden get the bad news below. Kathryn Krawczyk

12:16 p.m.

There might be more to President Trump's decision to withhold a military strike against Iran last week, The Washington Post reports.

Trump said he aborted the strike after learning that an estimated 150 Iranians would die, which he deemed disproportionate to Tehran shooting down an unmanned U.S. drone. White House officials reportedly said Trump had actually been told the number of potential casualties before he called off the raid, but Trump said he was given "very odd numbers" and wanted a more accurate estimate.

Vice President Mike Pence on Sunday told CNN's Jake Tapper that Trump was receiving casualty assessments "throughout," but he backed up his boss, saying that there were more specific projections provided to the president in the later stages.

But therein lies the bigger issue, Ned Price, former President Barack Obama's special assistant on national security, told the Post's Greg Sargent. Price said that the president should have received the specific information at the outset.

"The vice president seems to acknowledge that the estimates sent to the president changed over time," Price said. He questioned whether Trump's advisers "may be orchestrating a process that not only filters but potentially manipulates information making its way to the president."

It is possible, but not typical, that Trump might not have been briefed on a casualty estimate change until late in the game. So, Sargent concludes, either Trump was given the 150 casualty estimate earlier then he said, raising doubt over his reasoning for calling off the strike, or his advisers were giving him potentially-manipulated information. Either way, Sargent argues, "more scrutiny is warranted." Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

11:59 a.m.

It's a big day for companies with names that sound suspiciously like curse words.

The Supreme Court on Monday struck down a provision in a federal law banning "scandalous" or "immoral" trademarks from being registered, NBC News reports. This came as part of a case in which a clothing brand named FUCT was denied a trademark because it sounds like, well, you know. The company's founder, Erik Brunetti, took the case to court, during which he said that actually, the name is an acronym for "FRIENDS U CAN'T TRUST" and that it's supposed to be pronounced F-U-C-T.

Thanks to the Supreme Court's 6-3 ruling, Brunetti will be able to get his trademark. Associate Justice Elena Kagan said that "the First Amendment does not allow the government to penalize views just because many people, whether rightly or wrongly, see them as offensive," per USA Today.

Chief Justice John Roberts dissented, though, arguing that the First Amendment "does not require the government to give aid and comfort to those using obscene, vulgar and profane modes of expression." Roberts, as well as Justices Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor, argued in favor of striking down the part of the law that banned "immoral" trademarks, but not the "scandalous" part, ABC News reports.

The Supreme Court did say, however, that Congress is free to write a "more carefully focused" statute banning "the registration of marks containing vulgar terms that play no real part in the expression of ideas," NPR reports.

This decision comes after the Supreme Court ruled in 2017 against the government's ability to deny disparaging trademarks, in that case to an Asian American band called the Slants, The Washington Post reports. Mentioned in the case was the Washington Redskins, which was similarly looking to retain a trademark on its "disparaging" name. Redskins owner Daniel Snyder said in a statement at the time, "I am THRILLED." Brendan Morrow

11:23 a.m.

It's back.

The Supreme Court will hear yet another case involving the Affordable Care Act, it announced Monday. This isn't a challenge to the act itself, but rather a lawsuit from health care providers and health insurers who claim ObamaCare cost them $12 billion in lost payments.

Former President Barack Obama's signature act largely took effect in 2014, but soon after, Republicans had passed a provision requiring it was budget neutral, CNN notes. That provision didn't come until insurers had already set their 2014 rates, meaning they had accounted for a higher federal reimbursement than they would now actually receive. Three small insurers tallied that loss up to $12 billion, and sued the federal government over it.

An appeals court decided against two of the carriers last June, prompting four of them to join together to bring the case to the Supreme Court. Beyond reimbursing that total, a ruling in the insurers' favor could set the agenda for similar pending cases, CNN continues. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Attorneys general in mostly blue states have filed briefs in support of the insurers.

This case will be the fifth involving ObamaCare to come up before the Supreme Court, Politico says. Another constitutional challenge to the ACA, led by Republicans, could also head to the Supreme Court soon. Kathryn Krawczyk

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