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Vox Sentences: The Supreme Court and the Case of the Snitching Cellphone

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NBC fires the Today show's Matt Lauer; the Supreme Court hears a major search-and-seizure case; tax reform gets another step closer to reality.

Matt Lauer joins Billy Bush in the Today rejects club, yet Donald Trump still has a job

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  • Wednesday saw the downfall of not one but two powerful men in media over allegations of sexual misconduct: Today show co-anchor Matt Lauer and Minnesota Public Radio host Garrison Keillor. [Vox / Michelle Garcia]
  • Lauer, a more than 20-year veteran at NBC News, was fired after the network received a “detailed complaint from a colleague” about his behavior, NBC News chair Andrew Lack said in a statement. [NBC News / Erik Ortiz]
  • Minnesota Public Radio said on Wednesday that it was severing all business ties with Keillor, the creator and retired host of A Prairie Companion, after allegations of inappropriate behavior with someone who had worked with him. Keillor said in a statement that the story was “more interesting and more complicated” than the one his now-former bosses heard. [New York Times / Maya Salam]
  • Variety this afternoon published a report detailing allegations of sexual harassment against Lauer from multiple women. [Variety / Ramin Setoodeh and Elizabeth Wagmeister]
  • Lauer’s ouster has placed fresh scrutiny on his on-air behavior toward women, including a 2012 interview with Anne Hathaway where he suggested a paparazzo's photo up her skirt was her fault and his lopsided treatment of Hillary Clinton in a 2016 presidential candidate forum. [Vox / Anna North]
  • Lauer and Keillor are the latest in a string of high-powered media figures to be brought down by sexual harassment allegations. One notable figure still with a job: President Donald Trump. [Quartz / Elisabeth Ponsot]

“Unreasonable search and seizure” in the age of cellphones

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  • The Supreme Court heard oral arguments today on the question of whether the Fourth Amendment rights of a man named Timothy Carpenter were violated when he was convicted of a series of bank robberies, due to 127 days’ worth of location data recorded by his cellphone provider. [SCOTUSblog / Amy Howe]
  • Generally, these sorts of records aren’t considered covered by the Fourth Amendment’s ban on “unreasonable search and seizure” because they’re not collected by the government — they’re collected by a third party (in this case the cellphone company) and handed over to the government. [Gizmodo / Rhett Jones]
  • But as technology has gotten powerful enough to, say, track a person’s location at any given time, some lawyers and judges (including Justice Sonia Sotomayor) have started to question whether the third-party doctrine can trump an individual’s reasonable expectation of privacy. Most Americans, Sotomayor said Wednesday, “want to avoid the concept that government will be able to see and locate you anywhere you are at any point in time.” [Reuters / Lawrence Hurley]
  • Of course, most Americans don’t have to worry about this; law enforcement has tended to test new surveillance technology on people who are already marginalized and overpoliced. That also makes cases like Carpenter’s — an armed robber! — less sympathetic to Supreme Court justices, who are more likely to take the prosecutor’s point of view. [Vox / Dara Lind]
  • But the Supreme Court appears to understand some limits on the use of phone records. The Court has ruled that police can’t order a suspect to unlock her cellphone (though how enforceable that will be in the age of face recognition is not clear). [Motherboard / Louise Matsakis]
  • On Wednesday, the federal government argued that Carpenter’s cellphone records were the result of his voluntary decision to get a phone. But Chief Justice John Roberts — who wrote the 2014 opinion — disagreed, pointing out that a cellphone is pretty much a necessity in 2017. It’s a reflection of just how unwilling the government was to allow any nuance — and how thorny it’s going to be to draw an exception that satisfies the justices’ concerns. [Twitter / Chris Geidner]

It's tax bill debate time

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  • Let the tax overhaul debate begin: The Senate voted Wednesday along party lines, 52 to 48, to move the bill one step closer to a final vote. [NYT / Jasmine C. Lee and Rachel Shorey]
  • Here’s what happens next. [Vox / Dylan Scott and Javier Zarracina]
  • The bill still has a lot of issues. The biggest? Math. Republicans’ expansive cut to the corporate tax rate — from 35 percent down to 20 percent — means they have to find money somewhere else. The trade-off is unpopular provisions that could hurt middle-income taxpayers. [Vox / Matthew Yglesias]
  • There are still a few possible holdouts on the Senate’s current version of a tax bill. Here are the Republican senators to watch. [Vox / Andrew Prokop]
  • What about Democrats? Republicans don’t need them, and they’re acting like it. [Vox / Ella Nilsen]
  • But this isn’t just about taxes. The Senate bill would trigger dramatic changes to the federal health care system by repealing the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate and potentially slashing billions from Medicaid. [Vox / Sarah Kliff]
  • And what of the bipartisan Alexander-Murray plan that’s supposed to stabilize Obamacare markets? The Congressional Budget Office says that health care proposal will do squat to prevent millions from losing coverage if the tax bill repeals the individual mandate. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • None of these controversies has stymied Republicans so far. The party is still very, very close to sending a final version of its tax bill to President Trump’s desk by Christmas. [Vox / Tara Golshan]
  • If Trump and the Republicans stick to that timeline, the law could go into effect as early as January 1, 2018. Most Americans won’t see a huge difference in their tax returns next year — but 2019 is another story. [Vox / Ella Nilsen]


  • A big investigation from the Daily Beast suggests that American soldiers participated in a massacre of 10 civilians in Somalia this past August. [Daily Beast / Christina Goldbaum]
  • Brooke Harrington is a widely cited, influential American sociologist working at Copenhagen Business School. But Denmark has filed criminal charges against her for giving public talks about her research findings, saying that violates the terms of her visa. [Inside Higher Ed / Colleen Flaherty]
  • GiveWell has a new list of nine highly effective charities where your donation will maximize the number of lives it saves, the amount of sickness it prevents, or the amount of economic security it brings to poor families. [GiveWell / Natalie Crispin]
  • The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon is the least political show on late night. It’s also seen its ratings collapse as Stephen Colbert’s have risen. [NYT / John Koblin]
  • The Republican tax cut plan is even less popular than George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton’s tax hikes. [FiveThirtyEight / Harry Enten]


  • “I don’t have time for meetings that aren’t real.” [Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY) after a House Democratic meeting on sexual harassment, via Dave Weigel]
  • “A lobbyist for the company that owns the water system is accused of pulling a fire alarm during a controversial article at the May 7-8 town meeting, preventing an early-morning re-vote that might have resulted in the town’s takeover of the company.” [Telegram & Gazette / Brian Lee]
  • “There’s no doubt that America has culture, but it has culture in the way that Spotify has music.” [Niskanen Center / Christopher Freiman]
  • “At the Parents of Murdered Children Conference, they have certain presentations really down to give you a little punch in the gut. And one of them is that they have a whole one on this murder mystery dinners. And the way that they always do it is they say, let's just pretend that you were going to have a rape mystery dinner and you were going to show up and the rule of the game was going to be that someone's been raped, and we're all going to find the rapist. That wouldn't go over. Nobody would do it.” [Rachel Howard to This American Life / Ira Glass]
  • “The director of Sideboob also made movies titled Terrific Trucks and Terrific Trucks Save Christmas.” [Uproxx / Brian Grubb]

Watch this: Why cities are full of uncomfortable benches

That bench won’t be yours forever. [YouTube / Carlos Waters]

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