TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

News Now

  • Obama rolls out overtime rule
  • Greece crisis: Latest
  • U.S. warns Iran over nuke deal
  • SCOTUS allows use of execution drug
  • SCOTUS allows independent redistricting commissions
  • SCOTUS blocks Obama’s limits on power plants
  • Same-sex marriage: States’ fallout
  • FBI opens probe into NY prison
  • Chris Christie: “Telling it” today at launch
  • NBC fires Trump / Trump: NBC “weak”

 

Obama Announces Overtime Rule (Hill, Politico, HuffPo, TRNS, me)
• President Obama on Monday announced new rules that will require businesses to pay millions of additional American workers overtime wages. The long-awaited regulation would make all salaried workers who earn less than $970 per week, roughly $50,440 per year, automatically eligible if they work more than 40 hours a week. Current cutoff is around $23,660 a year
• “In this country, a hard day’s work deserves a fair day’s pay,” Obama wrote in an op-ed for the Huffington Post. “That’s at the heart of what it means to be middle class in America.” Obama will tout the proposal during an event Thursday in La Crosse, Wisconsin. The move could raise pay for nearly 5 million workers – or could it?
• Under current rules, employees who make more than $455 a week, or $23,660 a year, and work more than 40 hours per week, are considered management and aren’t eligible for overtime. (joke) “Right now, too many Americans are working long days for less pay than they deserve,” Obama wrote. There will be a public comment period
• A white collar exemption excludes “executive, administrative and professional” employees from receiving overtime. Advocates for changing the rule say the white collar exemption allows employers to avoid paying lower wage workers overtime by classifying them as management
• Business groups, including National Retail Federation, warn that the rule will motivate employers to move their employees from salaried work to hourly work, will reduce workers’ hours and will lead to less employees’ benefits
• President Obama signed a package of trade bills into law Monday, which will give his admin fast track authority to complete trade accords and provide retraining for workers displaced by trade. He was joined by seven members of Congress, including two Republicans (Hill, TRNS)

Greece Crisis (BBC, AP, Telegraph, Hill, me)

• Speaking live on state TV late Monday night, Greek PM Alexis Tsipras appealed to Greeks to reject international creditors’ proposals in a referendum, saying this would give Greece “more powerful weapons” to take to the negotiating table. Monday, a senior Greek govt official said the country won’t make a debt repayment of roughly $1.8 billion to the IMF due today

• Greece’s finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, threatened to seek a court injunction against EU institutions, both to block the country’s expulsion from the euro and to halt asphyxiation of the banking system. “The Greek govt will make use of all our legal rights.”
• But French President Francois Hollande warned, “What is at stake is whether or not Greeks want to stay in the eurozone or want to take the risk of leaving.”
• WH spox Josh Earnest said Monday the Greek debt crisis “does not pose a major risk” to the U.S. banking system. Earnest told reporters that President Obama and Hollande on Monday discussed ways to address the crisis. Obama also discussed the crisis during a call with German Chancellor Merkel on Sunday (lot of big calls for something that’s not a major risk)
• Asian stock markets bounced back today, recouping some of the previous day’s sharp losses, but investors remained worried the crisis in Greece could spread to other financially weak countries. U.S. stocks had their worst day of the year on Monday. The Dow Jones dropped 2%, the S&P dropped 2.1%, wiping out all gains for the year

• In addition to worries about Greece, investors also grappled with renewed concerns over Puerto Rico’s ability to pay its debts after its governor said the island nation may not be able to repay all its outstanding debt in full. WH spox Josh Earnest said the Obama admin isn’t considering a federal bailout of Puerto Rico, but is committed to working with officials there (Hill)

U.S. Warns Iran Over Nuke Deal (NYT, me)
• The U.S. warned Iran on Monday: “We do see a path forward to get a comprehensive agreement that meets our bottom lines,” said a senior U.S. official – anonymous. “This path forward has to be based on the Lausanne parameters. Period.” To reinforce the message, the official turned to an aide who repeated the message in Persian
• The U.S. and its negotiating partners are no longer trying to meet the original deadline today for wrapping up a final accord. Yet American officials hope to conclude the deal so it can be submitted by 9 July to Congress, which would then begin a 30-day review period (if they leave it longer, it will run into the summer recess – more time for naysayers to trash it)
• Iran’s FM Javad Zarif spent Monday in Tehran and returned to Vienna today, but it’s not clear whether his instructions will be to strike a deal or not. Iranian news media reported that Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s atomic energy organization, who’s been ill, would be accompanying Zarif – a sign talks will intensify
• Remaining issues concern the scope of inspections, what arrangements might restrict the development of more efficient types of centrifuges after the first decade of the accord, the pace of sanctions relief and how to address suspicions that Iran has engaged in covert work on nuclear designs in previous years
• One major issue of crucial importance to the Iranians is the timing to suspend or remove economic sanctions. American officials denied Iranian newspaper reports that President Obama has recently sent a letter to Ayatollah Khamenei urging him to pursue an agreement
• The web-based system used for federal background investigations for employees and contractors has been suspended after “a vulnerability” was detected, OPM announced Monday. The decision isn’t directly related to the hacks that may have compromised more than 18 million personnel records (another one, then?) (WaPo, me)
SCOTUS Allows Use of Execution Drug (NYT, me)
• The Supreme Court ruled Monday against three Oklahoma death row inmates who had sought to bar the use of an execution drug they said risked causing excruciating pain. The 5-4 decision broke along familiar lines, with Justice Anthony Kennedy joining the court’s more conservative members to allow its use
• Two dissenting members – Justices Stephen Breyer and Ruth Bader Ginsburg – came very close to announcing that they were ready to rule the death penalty unconstitutional. Breyer wrote in a second dissent with charts and maps that there was evidence that innocent people have been executed, and that death sentences were imposed arbitrarily
• Justice Samuel Alito, writing for the majority, said the inmates had failed to identify an available and preferable method of execution and also failed to make the case that the challenged drug entailed a substantial risk of severe pain
• The drug, midazolam, played a part in three long and apparently painful executions last year. It was used in an effort to render inmates unconscious before they were injected with other drugs that cause severe pain
• In dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor said, “Petitioners contend the Oklahoma’s current protocol is a barbarous method of punishment – the chemical equivalent of being burned alive. But under the court’s new rule, it would not matter whether the state intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death or actually burned at the stake.”
• Lawyers for the inmates, with the support of pharmacology and anesthetics, said midazolam, even if properly administered, was unreliable. They pointed to three executions last year that seemed to go awry. In April 2014, Clayton Lockett regained consciousness during the execution procedure, writhing and moaning after the IV line was improperly placed
• “While most humans wish to die a painless death,” Justice Alito wrote for the majority, “many do not have that good fortune. Holding that the Eighth Amendment demands the elimination of essentially all risk of pain would effectively outlaw the death penalty altogether.”
• The Supreme Court will continue allowing residents of Arizona and Kansas to register to vote using a federal form without having to provide proof of citizenship. The justices Monday rejected an appeal from GOP officials in those states who have sought to enforce laws requiring new voters to submit a birth certificate or other papers documenting U.S. citizenship (AP)
SCOTUS Allows Independent Redistricting Commissions (NYT, me)
• The Supreme Court on Monday upheld 5-4 Arizona congressional districts drawn by an independent commission and rejected a constitutional challenge from Republican lawmakers. The outcome preserves efforts in 13 states to limit partisan influence in redistricting. Four liberal justices and Justice Anthony Kennedy in the majority – this one was a surprise
• The GOP-led legislature said the voters didn’t have the authority to strip elected lawmakers of their power to draw district lines. They pointed to the elections clause of the federal Constitution, which says: “The times, places and manner of holding elections for senators and representatives shall be prescribed in each state by the legislature thereof.”
• Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, endorsed what she called “an endeavor by Arizona voters to address the problem of partisan gerrymandering – the drawing of legislative district lines to subordinate adherents of one political party and entrench a rival party in power.”
• Ginsburg wrote that the Constitution’s reference to “legislature” encompassed the people’s legislative power when acting through ballot initiatives. “The animating principle of our Constitution is that the people themselves are the originating source of all the powers of government,” she wrote
• In dissent, Chief Justice John Roberts rejected that interpretation as contrary to every other use of the term “legislature” in the Constitution. One telling example, he said, arose from the 17th Amendment, which revised how senators are chosen. The amendment shifted the decision from state legislatures to the voting booth
• The Supreme Court said Monday it will hear for a second time the case of a white woman who was denied admission to the University of Texas’s flagship Austin campus, putting the court back into the fight over the use of race in admissions (AP)
SCOTUS Blocks Obama’s Limits on Power Plants (BBC, TRNS, me)
• The Supreme Court on Monday blocked a key govt attempt to limit pollution from the country’s power plants. In a 5-4 split – conservative/liberal – the court ruled that the EPA failed to factor in the full financial cost to industry of the changes. The govt introduced new rules to restrict emissions of toxins, including mercury, three years ago
• Industry groups and 21 Republican-led states challenged the changes and the issue now returns to the U.S. Court of Appeals. The court said the govt’s latest attempt to strengthen the Clean Air Act must include costs as well as health risks
• Justice Antonin Scalia, write for the majority, said the EPA “must consider cost – including, most importantly, cost of compliance – before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary.” The EPA said it was disappointed, but that many companies have already invested in upgrading operations so that they complied with the latest provision
• The objectors had argued that the cost of installing equipment to remove pollutants would have cost the power industry up to $9.6 billion a year. About 600 power plants are affected, most of which burn coal, with many in the South and Midwest
• The EPA had argued that the benefits would have been much greater – between $37 billion and $90 billion annually – due to the prevention of thousands of deaths, illnesses and lost days off work
• Several abortion clinics in Texas will remain open after the U.S. Supreme Court decided 5-4 to put strict new measures against them on hold for now. A federal appeals court had earlier upheld a new Texas law that would have caused many clinics to close Wednesday because they don’t meet hospital-grade standards, among other things (BBC, TRNS)

 

Same-Sex Marriage Ruling: States’ Fallout (Hill, USA Today, me)
• Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore is walking back previous remarks implying that a new court order will delay same-sex marriages in the state for 25 days. In May, a federal judge ruled that the state’s gay marriage ban was unconstitutional and stayed her opinion until the Supreme Court ruled on the issue
• However, Moore initially said that the state court’s order Monday for a hearing within 25 days would effectively table Friday’s U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage. In a later statement, Moore said the order only calls for motions or briefs “addressing the effect of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision.”
• Susan Watson, executive director of the ACLU’s Alabama branch, said that probate judges are now under an injunction to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples if they’re issuing them to heterosexual couples. Moore is “just kicking and screaming and pitching a fit and trying to slow down marriage,” she said
• In Texas, state AG Ken Paxton said clerks can refuse to issue marriage licenses to same-sex coupes on religious grounds but could face a lawsuit or fine. But county clerks in San Antonio, Dallas and Houston were issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples on Monday, as they had on Friday. So were some smaller, more rural areas
• By the end of the day Monday, a majority of Louisiana’s parishes had begun issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It had been the only state where no licenses were issued on Friday. Over the weekend, Gov Bobby Jindal (R) condemned the Supreme Court decision, but said that Louisiana would comply when instructed by a federal appellate court
FBI Opens Probe Into NY Prison (NYT, me)
• The FBI in Albany has opened a corruption inquiry focusing on employees and inmates at Clinton Correctional Facility in Dannemora, the maximum-security prison in New York State where two convicted killers escape this month, one official with knowledge of the matter said Monday
• Details of the escape raise questions about how officers who patrol the honors cellblock, where David Sweat and Richard Matt were housed, could have missed their preparations, which are believed to have gone on for weeks if not months (massive understatement)
• Night after night, officials said, the two slipped through openings they had cut in the back of their cells, climbed down five flights of piping to the tunnels beneath the prison, spent hours cutting through a brick wall and steam pipe and then returned to their cells (sounds legit)
• Prison rules require hourly bed checks by the two corrections officers assigned to the cell block. They’re supposed to use their flashlights to be able to see the inmates’ skin and detect breathing. Joyce Mitchell, a civilian employee, and Gene Palmer, an officer, have been arrested on charges they aided the inmates by smuggling contraband into the prison
• Palmer appeared in court in Plattsburgh NY on Monday. His lawyer formally waived his felony hearing and requested the matter be referred to county court. Matt was shot and killed by law enforcement a few days ago, and Sweat is in stable condition after being shot in the torso by a state trooper
• The escaped killers finally split up when Sweat, 35, decided Matt, 49, was slowing him down. The original plan was that they would kill Mitchell’s husband and drive to Mexico on the theory that Mitchell was in love with one or both of them. Mitchell didn’t show up with the getaway car and they had to head off on foot, NY Gov Andrew Cuomo (D) said Monday (AP)
Chris Christie: “Telling It” Today (Politico, me)
• Gov Chris Christie’s (R-NJ) launch rally at 11 am today at his high school gym in Livingston New Jersey will include friends who remember his years as class president – but no teleprompter, in an effort to live up to Christie’s campaign slogan: “Telling it like it is.” (goody) Christie will appear for a taped hour on Sean Hannity’s Fox TV show this evening
• Offering himself as a pragmatic, results-oriented conservative, Christie will signal his willingness to take on tough issues that others duck, notably entitlements. Another key part of Christie’s message will be his ability to win and govern in a blue state, where he did well in his reelection race with women, Hispanics and even Democrats
• The adviser said Christie welcomes the discussion about the bridge closing and subsequent investigation at this point. “To get past it, there has to be a little discussion,” the adviser said. “People can see now that everything he said was true. That doesn’t mean that the damage is undone. But people and donors are moving past it.” (was everything true? are people?)
• After the announcement speech, Christie will fly to New Hampshire for a 6 pm town hall meeting in Sandown. Wednesday, he has an event at Mary Ann’s Diner in Derry, then one in Bridgewater, then a town hall in Ashland. Thursday he moves on to Rochester, then Portsmouth. He’ll stay in New Hampshire Friday and Saturday for events

 

• Vid President Obama meets and interviews acclaimed naturalist and British broadcaster David Attenborough, on the occasion of Sir David’s 89th birthday, at the WH (BBC) – yes, it’s Obama who’s asking the questions

NBC Fires Trump / Trump: NBC “Weak” (AP, WaPo, TRNS, me)

• NBC said Monday that it’s ending its business relationship with mogul and GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump because during his presidential kickoff speech, he said Mexican immigrants are “bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime, they’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people.” He called for building a wall with Mexico – they should pay (natch)

• NBC said it would no longer air the annual Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants, which had been a joint venture between the company and Trump. Late Monday, Mexican media giant Televisa said it will no longer air the Miss Universe pageant and won’t do business with Trump on any other communication pageant

• NBC’s action comes less than a week after Univision similarly decided to ditch Trump and the pageants. Trump has also been a fixture on NBC as host of “The Apprentice” and its celebrity offshoot, and there was already a deal that he would no longer be on the show – running for president

• So, Trump said lots of things. He’s not apologizing for his statements because they “were correct.” “Whatever they want to do is OK with me.” Then in a statement by his company, he said, “NBC is weak, and like everybody else is trying to be politically correct. That is why our country is in serious trouble.” He said he’d consider suing – like he is with Univision

• And he took a shot at NBC’s decision merely to demote news anchor Brian Williams. “They will stand behind lying Brian Williams, but won’t stand behind people that tell it like it is, as unpleasant as that may be,” he said (no, they won’t – on this occasion – stand behind racist comments that can lose them viewers and advertisers)

• At a moment before 8 pm Eastern time tonight, the entire planet will get a bonus second. A “leap” second. Hopefully, it won’t mess with computers – don’t count on it. John Oliver’s come up with a funny web site – seen here in this video – spendyourleapsecondhere.com

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_____________________

Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ William McDonald, Nicholas Salazar, Anna Merod, Sydney Fried and Washington desk contributed to this report

 

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