Should cats be allowed on airplanes?

At the Bogota airport, as passengers were placing their carry-ons, laptops and purses in bins inching their way on the conveyer belt for inspection, one item stood out: it was a cat, and its owner was putting it into a cabin-ready case.

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/cats-on-planes-allergies/index.html

Fofana uncertain Walker has worked out how to stop Mbappe ahead of England vs France

Youssouf Fofana has said Kylian Mbappe is feeling “very calm and very determined” ahead of France’s World Cup clash with England — and believes Kyle Walker deserves “credit” if the Manchester City …

https://theathletic.com/3983188/2022/12/08/france-england-mbappe-world-cup/

How a ‘super-Earth’ turned into a scorching ‘hell planet’ with a lava ocean

The exoplanet 55 Cancri e goes by several names, but the rocky world located 40 light-years from Earth is most known for its reputation as a “hell planet.”

https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/08/world/hell-exoplanet-55-cancri-e-scn/index.html

House GOP’s help-wanted sign: One border funding chief

Border funding will be one of House Republicans’ biggest causes next year. There’s just one hiccup: They’re struggling to find someone to lead the charge.

The House GOP is still searching for a senior lawmaker willing to head the politically combustible panel that oversees funding for the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies for the next Congress, according to multiple people familiar with the discussions.

While the perch has major perks, including sway over high-profile border and immigration issues, Republican lawmakers say interested colleagues are hesitating given the history of gridlock in the job — particularly in a bitterly divided chamber with a slim GOP majority. The current senior Republican on the homeland security spending panel, Tennessee Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, has served two terms and could still do one more but said in a Thursday interview that he’s eyeing the top spot on other panels.

And Rep. John Carter (R-Texas), who previously led the committee, said: “I don’t know who wants it.”

“It’s a good committee — you get frustrated, but you at least get a chance to try,” Carter added. He led the border spending panel as the Trump administration made immigration into even more of a political flashpoint, forcing a shutdown over the then-president’s insistence on funding for a border wall.

That helped cement the reputation of the House’s top spot for homeland security spending as the toughest job among the multiple powerful “cardinals” who shape agency budgets on the Appropriations Committee. The job comes with a tremendous amount of pressure back home, especially for Republicans: “People expect you to be able to fix it. They forget that this is a body where you have to have 218 votes,” Carter said. “It becomes a very difficult place to be.”

One House GOP aide, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the open position, joked that the homeland security spot was the appropriations panel’s “redheaded stepchild.”

Clinching a top role on the House Appropriations Committee — which distributes over $1 trillion in federal spending each year — is typically one of the Capitol’s most sought-after positions. That’s particularly true under divided government, when little beyond funding bills have a strong chance to reach a president’s desk. Leading the committee’s defense or transportation efforts, for instance, could mean handing out millions of dollars to military bases or bridge projects back home, often with a subcommittee chair’s name branded on them for years to come.

It’s a far different story with the homeland security spending panel, however. Its leaders are rarely able to get their bill out of committee, let alone passed on the House floor.

As the panel wrangles touchy issues that range from border patrol staffing to detention beds to enforcement agents, any success will require negotiating with the opposing party on immigration — the very idea of which has become tougher since the Trump era.

“It’s the hardest one. Neither side seems to be able to get a bill together,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.). “It creates a lot of political problems for you at home.”

GOP leaders have some time before they, along with incoming Appropriations Chair Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), will need to name the dozen subcommittee leaders known as “cardinals,” a deliberate comparison to the might of the Catholic Church.

Republicans and Democrats alike are eagerly awaiting the selection of those leaders, which will partially depend on whether Kevin McCarthy’s leadership team grants waivers to allow more senior members to remain in top positions despite conference term-limit rules. Those waivers have been used in the past, though some GOP lawmakers and aides privately say it’s uncertain how widespread they will be next year.

For his part, Fleischmann has made clear to GOP leaders he wants either the Energy and Water or the Labor and Health and Human Services panel: “Those decisions will be made higher than me but I’ve made clear for months that I want one of the other two.”

If he is moved from the homeland security panel, the next Republican in line would have been Rep. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.) — but the six-term member lost his primary this year. Some Republicans believe another appropriator, former sheriff Rep. John Rutherford (R-Fla.), might be interested in the gig.

There’s at least one more shakeup coming on the roster of appropriations cardinals: Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) also lost her primary this year, giving up her potential role as top Republican on the panel that sets legislative branch spending.

Whoever does take over the homeland security panel will work with Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas), a vocal critic of President Joe Biden’s migration policy who has long advocated for more support for border patrol and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as stricter rules at the border. The pair would still likely face challenges getting agreement on such contentious issues, but some Republicans believe that if there’s any Democrat they could reach a deal with on border money, it would be the centrist Cuellar.

Still, immigration isn’t the only headache waiting for a panel that oversees everything from the Secret Service to the Coast Guard.

“From its outset, we knew it would be a difficult assignment because we were trying to merge 22 different agencies under one roof,” said Rep. Hal Rogers (R-Ky.), who was the first lawmaker to oversee the panel back in 2003. “It’s a tough assignment.”

Nicholas Wu contributed to this report.

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/12/08/house-republicans-homeland-security-spending-panel-00072778

‘Political issues’ may delay extradition of suspect in US tourist’s death in Mexico

The family of Shanquella Robinson, the North Carolina woman who died mysteriously at a Mexican resort, say they’re still waiting for word of an arrest in her murder.

https://nypost.com/2022/12/08/political-issues-may-delay-extradition-of-suspect-in-us-tourist-death/

ABC condemned for handling of Robach-Holmes scandal: ‘Busybody meddling’ in consensual affair

A Washington Post opinion column bashed ABC News as “busybodies” who “meddled” in T.J. Holmes and Amy Robach’s “consensual” extramarital affair, after the network took the co-anchors off the air this week.

The “GMA 3″co-anchors drew unwanted attention to the network after they were caught in a cheating scandal. Photos and videos of the couple canoodling made media headlines this week and became tabloid fodder, prompting the network to take action this week by taking the co-hosts off the air. 

ABC News’ President Kim Godwin informed staffers on Monday morning that the “distraction” had become too significant and they will remain sidelined until the network figures out the next step. However, columnist Helaine Olen argued that the way ABC handled this was “a master class in the wrong way to go about managing a workplace romance.”

“No one needs the c-suite to weigh in on consensual behavior between equals that takes place outside the workplace — no matter how attention-getting it is,” she continued.

T.J. HOLMES, AMY ROBACH ‘UNSEEMLY’ AFFAIR ‘A GROSS VIOLATION OF CORE DISNEY VALUES,’ FORMER ABC NEWS EXEC SAYS

While ABC’s parent company Disney brands itself as a wholesome, family-friendly company, Olen didn’t see the co-workers’ extramarital relationship as a workplace problem.

“Given the natural human inclination to gossip about celebrities and co-workers, that distraction may be real — and yet it’s unclear precisely how the romantic upgrade in Holmes and Robach’s relationship is otherwise a problem,” she said.

Olen argued the anchors shouldn’t have been punished because “work place romances are incredibly common.”

The columnist went on to cite surveys showing how prevalent workplace romances are, with 10-30 percent of these romances allegedly resulting in long-term or married relationships. Even the fact that the two were already married wasn’t that unusual, she argued. “And, yes, while we are on the subject, a 2017 Harris Poll found almost one-quarter of workplace relationships involved adultery,” Olen wrote.

ABC’S T.J. HOLMES, AMY ROBACH ‘LIKELY ASPHYXIATED AT DISNEY’ AS EXTRAMARITAL AFFAIR MAKES NATIONAL NEWS

Olen pointed out that shows could survive a cheating scandal, noting “Morning Joe” co-anchors Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough’s relationship was rumored to have started when each of them were married to other people. The co-hosts married each other in 2018.

“So why not tell co-workers to MYOB [mind your own business] and let everyone get back to work?” the columnist asked.

She slammed ABC once more for “meddling” in the pair’s lives.

“But even under present circumstances, no one should encourage ABC to take two anchors off the air for falling in love and lust. The relationship between Holmes and Robach might have caused their spouses great pain, but that’s not, as awful as it is, a workplace issue. In an age when social media increasingly merges our public and personal lives, corporate HQ needs to resist this sort of busybody meddling. We all deserve a zone of privacy — even canoodling co-anchors,” she concluded.

Fox News’ Brian Flood contributed to this report.

https://www.foxnews.com/media/abc-condemned-handling-robach-holmes-scandal-busybody-meddling-consensual-affair

US citizen Anne Sacoolas handed suspended sentence for causing death of British teenager Harry Dunn

American citizen Anne Sacoolas was sentenced to eight months imprisonment, suspended for 12 months, at the Old Bailey in London for causing the death of British teenager Harry Dunn in a fatal traffic collision in August 2019, meaning she will not have to go to jail.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/08/uk/anne-sacoolas-sentencing-harry-dunn-death-intl-gbr/index.html

Video: CNN reporter explains why Viktor Bout is of ‘extraordinary’ value to Moscow

Russia has released WNBA player Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap for Viktor Bout, nicknamed the “Merchant of Death” by his accuser. He was serving a 25-year prison sentence in the United States on charges of conspiring to kill Americans. He has maintained his innocence.

https://www.cnn.com/videos/world/2022/12/08/viktor-bout-prisoner-exchange-brittney-griner-paton-walsh-nr-intl-ldn-vpx.cnn

Meta and FTC face off in court over virtual reality deal

When Joe Biden and the Democrats swept into office in 2020, they promised to take on the growing power of Big Tech. Two years later, efforts to rein in Silicon Valley have come up short and the tech titans look as strong as ever.

But the Biden administration’s fight against Mark Zuckerberg is just getting going.

In a California courtroom Thursday, a three-week trial kicks off in the Federal Trade Commission’s lawsuit to block Meta’s roughly $300 million purchase of Within, the maker of a virtual reality fitness app.

The case is the first to challenge a consumer tech deal from the FTC under Chair Lina Khan — the influential antitrust thinker who Biden nominated to one of the most powerful corporate watchdog jobs in the federal government. What unfolds over the next three weeks will be a key test of her authority to pursue alleged anticompetitive conduct using aggressive, largely untested legal theories.

Meta has promised to become a leader in the metaverse — hence the name change from Facebook — and wants to buy Within, maker of the fitness app Supernatural, to expand its virtual reality offerings. The FTC argues that the deal will illegally boost Meta’s market power in the nascent virtual reality industry, and that the company is once again looking to buy out the competition rather than compete on the merits.

In a California courtroom Thursday, the FTC will focus on a so-called potential competition theory, meaning Facebook would have attempted to offer its own VR fitness app, but for the acquisition. The agency sued in July to block the deal.

The FTC in a separate case is attempting to unwind Meta’s 2012 and 2014 purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp, and the agency said it is challenging the company’s strategy of buying existing companies, rather than competing. That case was filed during the Trump administration.

Among the witnesses expected to take the stand are Zuckerberg — Meta’s founder and CEO — and Andrew Bosworth, the company’s chief technology officer, who has helped spearhead virtual reality operations. Within founder Chris Milk is also expected to testify.

While the FTC says Facebook is using the deal to build a virtual reality empire, the lawsuit is focused on the company’s alleged intent to monopolize the market for virtual reality fitness apps, a category that excludes Pelotons, workout videos and other at-home exercise options.

Facebook spokesperson Chris Sgro said “we are confident the evidence will show that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers and the VR space, which is experiencing vibrant competition.” An FTC spokesperson declined to comment.

Meta plans to argue that it never actually planned to enter the market on its own. And it is challenging the commission’s decision to go after such a narrow market, arguing that the FTC is ignoring a wider variety of fitness products and services in which it would be harder to prove a monopoly.

Other witnesses from companies including Apple, Google parent Alphabet, Lululemon Athletica, Equinox Media, which makes the connected bicycle used by fitness company SoulCycle, Nike, Peloton, Sony and ByteDance are also expected to testify.

In a court filing laying out its case ahead of the trial, the FTC said Meta “had the intentions to enter — and thus was a reasonably probable entrant into — the VR Dedicated Fitness App market.” It had also hired Within’s head of product, and the Supernatural maker was operating “with the specter of Meta’s potential entry in mind.”

In a similar filing from Meta, the company responded “that these ideas never proceeded beyond the discussion stage, never received approval from any senior manager, and were all discarded as impractical for various reasons.”

The FTC also says Meta intended to build out a different game, Beat Saber, an interactive VR music game in which users also physically move around, into a game specifically focused on fitness. The FTC initially said Meta competed with Within prior to the deal because of the fitness aspects of Beat Saber, but dropped those claims in October.

U.S. District Judge Edward Davila is presiding over the case in San Jose, Calif. The current court proceeding is just to pause the deal while the FTC continues its challenge in its in-house administrative court. If the FTC loses round one, it can still bring its case in the administrative court to permanently block the deal.

If the FTC succeeds, beyond blocking the Within deal, it could also seek a ruling making it more onerous for Meta, and Zuckerberg, to buy companies in the future.

Facebook said in court filings that if the FTC wins in federal court it will most likely drop the deal.

The seven-day federal court trial will be spread out over the next three weeks and is currently set to wrap on Dec. 20.

https://www.politico.com/news/2022/12/08/meta-and-ftc-face-off-in-court-00073007

Lana Del Rey announces new album to debut next year

If your day needs a Rey of sunshine, here’s some good news for you: Lana Del Rey has announced a new album.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/07/entertainment/lana-del-rey-new-album/index.html