June 17, 2019

The Supreme Court split in what The Washington Post called an "unusual alignment" on Monday to dismiss a challenge to a lower court's findings on a Virginia gerrymandering issue.

Virginia's House Republicans were attempting to fight a ruling that said some of Virginia's legislative districts were racially gerrymandered, but the Supreme Court ruled they had no legal standing to continue doing so in a 5-4 split.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the majority opinion, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Neil Gorsuch. Justice Samuel Alito wrote the dissenting opinion, backed up by Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Stephen Breyer and Brett Kavanaugh.

Ginsburg argued that the House Republicans don't represent all of Virginia. "One House of its bicameral legislature cannot alone continue litigation against the will of its partners in the legislative process," she wrote.

The decision could give an advantage to Virginia's Democrats, the Post reports, as they look to take control of the state legislature for the first time since 1995. Virginia's Attorney General Mark Herring has opted not to appeal the ruling. Read more at The Washington Post. Tim O'Donnell

10:11 p.m.

Law & Order: Special Victims Unit will continue its reign as the longest-running live-action prime-time television series for at least three more years.

NBC announced on Thursday it is giving three-year renewals to all of producer Dick Wolf's shows that air on the network: Law & Order: SVU, Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D., and Chicago Med. "Dick Wolf has proven time and time again that he makes shows audiences love," NBC Entertainment Chairman Paul Telegdy said in a statement, adding that the network is "delighted, excited, and proud" that the series will continue.

Starring Mariska Hargitay, Law & Order: SVU is now in its 21st season, and is the second longest-running TV series of any kind, behind The Simpsons. Catherine Garcia

9:37 p.m.

Masoumeh Ebtekar, Iran's vice president for women and family affairs, is the latest Iranian government official to contract coronavirus.

At least seven officials in the country have tested positive for the coronavirus, COVID-19. Ebtekar is the highest-ranking woman in Iran's government, and is now quarantined at home, her deputy announced on Thursday. She was photographed on Wednesday during a cabinet meeting, sitting just a few yards away from President Hassan Rouhani.

The other infected officials are Iraj Harirchim, deputy health minister; Mojtaba Zolnour, a Parliament member from Qom and head of Parliament's national security and foreign policy committee; Mahmoud Sadeghi, a member of Parliament from Tehran; Morteza Rahmanzadeh, the mayor of a Tehran district; Dr. Mohamad Reza Ghadir, head of coronavirus management in Qom; and Hadi Khosroshahi, a major cleric and former ambassador to the Vatican. Iran's official media has reported that Khosroshahi, 81, has died.

The first case of coronavirus in Iran was reported on Feb. 19 in Qom. Health Ministry officials on Thursday said there are 245 confirmed cases in the country, and at least 26 people have died from the virus. Health experts estimate there are many more COVID-19 cases in Iran, because the death rate is so high. Friday prayers have been canceled in Tehran and 22 other cities, and all schools and universities are closed until March 21. Catherine Garcia

8:23 p.m.

Federal health employees who met coronavirus evacuees at two California military bases earlier this year did not receive proper training in safety protocols until five days after their arrival, a whistleblower said.

The New York Times obtained a portion of the whistleblower's complaint, which said the workers also did not have adequate protective gear. The whistleblower is described as being a senior leader at the Department of Health and Human Services, and submitted their complaint to the Office of the Special Counsel.

The whistleblower said the workers were "improperly deployed" to March Air Reserve Base and Travis Air Force Base. They went into the quarantined areas where the evacuees were being processed, and then would walk around other areas of the base. At least one worker stayed at a nearby hotel and flew back home on a commercial flight, and only a few knew that they needed to monitor their temperature three times a day.

The whistleblower said that throughout the operation, they fielded "panicked calls" from deployed staffers who "expressed concern with the lack of HHS communication and coordination." When senior Trump administration officials later heard their concerns, the staffers were "admonished," the whistleblower said, and had their "mental health and emotional stability questioned." The staffers believe the administration is trying to "whitewash" what happened, the whistleblower continued, and won't listen to their health and safety concerns.

Travis Air Force Base is in Solano County in Northern California. On Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced the first known instance of a person in the United States testing positive for coronavirus without traveling abroad or having known exposure to someone with the virus. The patient lives in Solano County, and the CDC said it is possible they came in contact with a person who caught coronavirus abroad and came to the United States infected. Catherine Garcia

7:03 p.m.

A Syrian government airstrike Thursday in the country's Idlib province killed at least 29 Turkish soldiers, a Turkish official said.

Rahmi Dogan, the governor of Turkey's Hatay province, said additional troops were injured, while the monitoring group Syrian Observatory for Human Rights put the death toll higher, at 34. Local media reports that after the airstrike, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called an emergency meeting of his top security officials.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkey have control of some territory in Idlib, and the Syrian government, with the support of Russia, is trying to retake those areas. Turkey began sending more troops to Idlib earlier this month, in an attempt to slow down the Syrian army's advance across the province. The intense fighting has sparked Syria's latest humanitarian crisis, as hundreds of thousands of displaced people are now fleeing toward the Turkish border. Catherine Garcia

4:52 p.m.

Caity Weaver at The New York Times has laid out a fascinating "royal Instagram mystery" proposing that something fishy is afoot when it comes to the follower counts of Prince William and Kate Middleton's @KensingtonRoyal account, and Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's newer @SussexRoyal account.

"From the outset, @SussexRoyal was runaway popular," Weaver writes, adding that within a month and a half, Harry and Meghan's account amassed as many followers as @KensingtonRoyal had managed in four years. And yet "it seemed, from the outside, that no matter how many followers @SussexRoyal gained, it could never quite catch up" with William and Kate's account.

Coincidence? Or is @KensingtonRoyal "receiving follower boosts in the form of bots" to keep it ahead?

Read more at The New York Times. Jeva Lange

4:33 p.m.

The Lizzie McGuire reboot might be dead in the water, but that isn't stopping Disney+ from going forward with its other nostalgic revivals.

On Thursday, the streamer announced it will be bringing back the animated sitcom The Proud Family with its original voice cast, per Good Morning America. The show, which initially ran from 2001-2005, doesn't have a premiere date yet, although it does have a new name: The Proud Family: Louder and Prouder.

"In our minds, the show never really went away, as we still had tons of stories left to tell," producers Bruce W. Smith and Ralph Farquhar said in a joint statement. Jeva Lange

4:27 p.m.

Coronavirus fears sent U.S. markets into correction territory on Thursday, down more than 10 percent from record highs after days of losses, reports CNBC.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Thursday down almost 1,200 points, or over 4.4 percent, while the S&P 500 and Nasdaq Composite were each off 4.4 percent and 4.6 percent, respectively.

President Trump has sought to reassure investors that the coronavirus outbreak, which has affected countries around the world, is only a small worry for the stock market. He said Wednesday the market would recover, claiming the U.S. is "really prepared" for the virus and blaming Democratic presidential candidates for the dip. The Dow has lost more than 3,000 points this week.

The slip is the fastest the stock market has ever dipped into correction territory, per Deutsche Bank. The next-fastest decline occurred in 2018. The Dow and S&P 500 are on pace for their worst weekly performance since 2008, notes CNBC.

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