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August 20, 2020

Lyft is hitting the brakes in California.

The company has announced it's suspending its rideshare operations in California effective at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday after a judge recently ordered it to classify its drivers as employees rather than independent contractors.

"We don't want to suspend operations," Lyft said. "We are going to keep up the fight for a benefits model that works for all drivers and our riders."

Lyft, along with its competitor Uber, have both faced scrutiny in recent years for the way they classify drivers as independent contractors, and the companies were hit with a lawsuit in California accusing them of violating the state's Assembly Bill 5 law. This law states that workers should be considered employees of a company if their performance is part of the company's "usual course" of business and is under its control and direction.

In its announcement on Thursday, Lyft argues classifying its drivers as employees and not independent contractors would lead to "reduced service" and to 80 percent of its drivers losing work. Judge Ethan Schulman ruled last week that there's an "overwhelming likelihood" the companies have been misclassifying their drivers. This decision also applied to Uber, which has similarly threatened to suspend service in California.

Update: Uber and Lyft will no longer be immediately suspending service in California after they were granted a temporary reprieve delaying the judge's order, CNN reports. Brendan Morrow

May 5, 2020

California has slapped Uber and Lyft with a lawsuit, alleging they have unlawfully misclassified workers as independent contractors, The New York Times reports.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and city attorneys in a lawsuit say Uber and Lyft are violating the state's new law, Assembly Bill 5, that says workers are considered employees if their performance is under the control and direction of the company and is part of the "usual course" of its business.

"California has ground rules with rights and protections for workers and their employers," Becerra said. "We intend to make sure that Uber or Lyft play by the rules."

Uber and Lyft have been fighting to be exempt from California's law and assert that the independent contractor classification for its drivers is correct. Uber has also said it would need to "fundamentally change our business model" if it were to reclassify its drivers as employees, who would be entitled to benefits.

In a statement, Lyft said, "We are looking forward to working with the Attorney General and mayors across the state to bring all the benefits of California's innovation economy to as many workers as possible, especially during this time when the creation of good jobs with access to affordable healthcare and other benefits is more important than ever." An Uber statement said "we will contest this action in court, while at the same time pushing to raise the standard of independent work for drivers in California, including with guaranteed minimum earnings and new benefits."

California's lawsuit is seeking civil penalties and back wages, which the Times reports could amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.

Brendan Morrow

October 7, 2019

On Sunday, President Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone and discussed a "safe zone" in northeastern Syria the two countries had agreed to create, the Turkish government said, expressing frustration with the pace of U.S. cooperation. Erdogan also said he accepted Trump's invitation to visit the White House in November. On Saturday, Erdogan said a Turkish military incursion into northeastern Syria was "imminent."

Turkey has threatened to invade the area before, hoping to resettle up to two million Syrian refugees and clear the region of the Kurdish YPG militia, which halted the Islamic State's advance then defeated ISIS with U.S. air support. The presence of U.S. troops, stationed with the allied YPG-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), has held Ankara back. On Sunday night, Trump apparently gave Erdogan the green light to invade.

Trump said the move will save America some money, but it's not clear what else he asked from Erdogan in exchange for effectively handing him northeastern Syria. The YPG is currently holding the ISIS prisoners Trump ceded to Turkey. Trump agreed to withdraw all U.S. forces from Syria in late 2018, after speaking with Erdogan, but then reversed himself after pushback from advisers and Republican allies concerned that Turkey would slaughter America's Kurdish allies.

The last time Erdogan was in Washington to visit Trump, in 2017, his bodyguards assaulted Kurdish protesters, Axios reminds us. The U.S. indicted 15 of the bodyguards but dropped the charges in March 2018 before a meeting between Erdogan and Rex Tillerson, Trump's first secretary of state. Peter Weber

August 8, 2019

With Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss jumping from HBO to Netflix, it appears it's lights out for their controversial Confederate project.

Benioff and Weiss just signed a $200 million overall deal with Netflix that "wipes Confederate off HBO's books," reports The Hollywood Reporter. Vulture's Josef Adalian further confirms with sources that the show is now dead and won't move forward without Benioff and Weiss.

HBO in 2017 announced plans for this series from the Game of Thrones duo that imagines an alternate timeline in which the southern states seceded from the Union and slavery is still legal in America, immediately sparking controversy and calls for the project to be scrapped. HBO would later say it "screwed up" in its attempt to explain the show's "complicated subject," but while the project was delayed, the network earlier this year insisted this had nothing to do with the outrage.

HBO Programming President Casey Bloys recently signaled that Confederate would probably be off if Benioff and Weiss landed a deal somewhere else, saying, "anything they have with us would likely not go forward," Deadline reports. This seems to suggest audiences will never Confederate on the screen in any form, barring the possibility that, as Vox's Emily VanDerWerff speculates, Benioff and Weiss try to sell the project somewhere else after HBO's option expires. Then again, as she writes, "why would they?"

For now, Benioff and Weiss are set to work on a new Star Wars trilogy, leaving behind the Confederate and Game of Thrones firestorms for a franchise, clearly, free of any controversy or tumult whatsoever. Brendan Morrow

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