On Thursday, India's Supreme Court ruled that a 157-year-old law that criminalized gay sex "is irrational, arbitrary, and manifestly unconstitutional," as Chief Justice Dipak Misra said in reading the opinion. The colonial-era law, known as section 377, made certain "unnatural offenses," like "carnal intercourse against the order of nature with any man, woman, or animal," punishable by up to 10 years in jail. It technically banned all anal and oral sex, BBC News reports, but it was used primarily against same-sex couples. The Delhi high court struck the law down in 2009, but the Supreme Court reinstated it four years later. Peter Weber
Jalaluddin Haqqani, the founder of Afganistan's Haqqani militant network, has died after years of illness, the Taliban announced Tuesday. Haqqani, who had been paralyzed for a decade, was a prized CIA asset during the U.S.-backed Afghan guerrilla war against Soviet occupation in the 1980s, but he aligned himself with the Taliban and al Qaeda in the 1990s. The U.S. declared his network a terrorist organization in 2012, and his son is believed to have taken over control of the group in 2001. Haqqani "endured long illness during his later years," the Taliban said in a statement, calling him an "exemplary warrior ... and among the great distinguished Jihadi personalities of this era."
The Haqqani network, which operates primarily out of Pakistan, has been blamed for some of the deadliest violence in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led NATO campaign in the country, including a 2017 truck bomb that killed more than 150 people in Kabul. Peter Weber
On Thursday, President Trump informed Congress in a letter that he intends to freeze the salaries of 2 million federal workers in 2019, seeking to avert an automatic 2.1 percent raise. "We must maintain efforts to put our nation on a fiscally sustainable course, and federal agency budgets cannot sustain such increases," the president wrote. He cited authority used by himself and previous presidents to scrap raises "because of 'national emergency or serious economic conditions affecting the general welfare.'" Congress can override Trump's request, but his proposal and potential veto increases the likelihood of a pre-election government shutdown — the House has passed legislation with no mention of pay raises while the Senate set a 1.9 percent raise. The House and Senate already have to iron out differences on Trump's proposed border wall and cuts to social programs.
Lawmakers, mostly Democrats, and federal unions criticized the move, pointing to the deficit-busting $1.5 trillion tax cut Trump signed last December, his apparent general antipathy to the federal workforce, and his proclamations that America's economy is the best it has ever been.
"We cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal employees and I will work with my House and Senate colleagues to keep the pay increase in our appropriations measures that we vote on in September," said Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.). J. David Cox, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, noted that a third of civilian federal employees are veterans, "while many more work to support spouses or children who are actively serving." Military personnel will get a 2.6 percent raise under a spending law Trump has already signed. Peter Weber
The Labor Department said Tuesday that its employment-cost index rose 2.8 percent between June 2017 and June 2018, as did wages and salaries. That's the strongest increase for both measures of worker pay since right before the brutal recession of 2008, The Wall Street Journal reports, in another sign that "employers have raised pay to attract and retain workers" in response to the tightening labor market. At the same time, the Journal notes, inflation "is eating at some of the gains for workers." The Commerce Department said Tuesday that over the same 12-month period, prices for personal-consumption expenditures were up 2.2 percent, and core inflation rose 1.9 percent. Peter Weber
Samantha Bee accepted a Television Academy Honors award Thursday night for Full Frontal's coverage of the Time's Up and #MeToo movements. And in her acceptance speech, Bee addressed the elephant in the room: her widely criticized use of the term "feckless c--t" to refer to Ivanka Trump on Wednesday night's show. Earlier Thursday, Bee apologized to Trump for her "inappropriate and inexcusable" comment, and TBS also issued a mea culpa: "Those words should not have been aired. It was our mistake too, and we regret it." White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders suggested TBS cancel the show.
"Every week I strive to show the world as I see it, unfiltered," Bee told the audience at NeueHouse in Hollywood, according to a copy of the speech obtained by IndieWire. "Sometimes I should probably have a filter. I accept that. I take it seriously when I get it right and I do take responsibility when I get it wrong." She explained the context for her slur — the treatment of immigrant children by President Trump and previous administrations — and lamented that "we spent the day wrestling with the repercussions of one bad word, when we all should have spent the day incensed that as a nation we are wrenching children from their parents and treating people legally seeking asylum as criminals."
Bee circled back to the controversy when discussing the #MeToo pieces, applauding her writers and the women who stepped forward: "Leaders of the #MeToo movement are changing the world. And we are honored to stand with you and support you as best we can. There is power in saying what you feel without apology ... okay, and sometimes you also have to apologize." She thanked TBS: "You always have our back." The Television Academy disinvited the press Thursday afternoon from the post-awards reception, citing "today's events involving Samantha B.," and Bee and her Full Frontal crew skipped the red carpet. Peter Weber
When President Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner was finally given full Top Secret security clearance on May 1, so was his wife, Ivanka Trump, the president's eldest daughter, who also works in the White House, Axios reports, citing "a person briefed on the matter." In March, the FBI was reported to be scrutinizing a Trump hotel deal in Vancouver, Canada, that Ivanka had played a large role in setting up with a Malaysian developer; apparently the FBI has resolved those questions.
So now, Axios says, Kushner and Ivanka Trump will both "be able to sit in on high level White House meetings, and access information like foreign intelligence and the president's daily intelligence briefing." That makes sense for Kushner, who reportedly perused the daily intelligence briefing before his security clearance was downgraded in February. As for the first daughter, a lot of people — including White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, reportedly — wonder what exactly she does in the White House. Peter Weber
Former Russian spy Sergei Skripal was released from the hospital on Friday, more than two months after he and daughter Yulia were found slumped over on a park bench in Salisbury, England, after being exposed to a Novichok nerve agent. Yulia Skripal was released from the hospital on April 9 and moved to a secure location. The U.S. and European allies blamed Russia for the poison attack and expelled diplomats and presumed intelligence agents. Sergei Skripal, 66, was a Russian military intelligence officer who Russia jailed for passing on secrets to Britain, then released in a 2010 spy swap. Peter Weber
President Trump is addressing the National Rifle Association's annual conference in Dallas on Friday, the fourth year in a row he's spoken at the gun group's national meeting. His participation was announced earlier in the week, long after Vice President Mike Pence's Friday attendance was confirmed. Trump had briefly clashed with the NRA after the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, chastising Republican lawmakers for being "afraid of the NRA" and saying he would stand up to the group by backing tougher gun laws. He did not, ultimately.
"It's kind of hypocritical of him to go there after saying so many politicians bow to the NRA and are owned by them," said David Hogg, a Parkland survivor and advocate for new gun laws. "It proves that his heart and his wallet are in the same place." Some gun-rights advocates criticized Trump for signing a law that beefs up background checks. Peter Weber