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Vox Sentences: Is Europe forming its own army?

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Discussing libel laws; the potential of a European army.

Let’s talk about defamation

Sleepy Eye LaFromboise beats a drum as Nathaniel Hall, a diocese member, prays to a rosary, at a protest outside the Covington Catholic Diocese on January 22, 2019 The Washington Post/Getty Images
  • The family of Covington Catholic High School student Nicholas Sandmann filed a defamation lawsuit against the Washington Post for $250 million on Tuesday. The suit claims the Post “targeted and bullied” an innocent Sandmann, who was captured in a viral January video wearing a MAGA hat and seemingly in a standoff with a Native American elder (though later accounts of the incident were more complicated). [Vox / Emily Stewart]
  • Can Sandmann even sue for defamation? According to the landmark 1964 Supreme Court Case NYT v. Sullivan, public figures face a higher standard when attempting to file defamation suits. But in 2019, social media can make anyone — including the 16-year-old Sandmann — a public figure. [Rolling Stone / Ryan Bort]
  • Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas also issued an opinion on NYT v. Sullivan Tuesday, calling for less strict standards when it comes to lawsuits against media outlets. For now, public figures like Sandmann have to prove that “actual malice” occurred against them to sue for defamation — meaning the outlet knew information was false or reckless but published it anyway. Thomas is arguing that element of the law is too stringent. [WSJ / Jess Bravin]
  • This is part of a larger conversation stirred by the Trump administration about libel laws. President Trump has long threatened to change the legal structure for defamatory content, but such a move would go beyond just media outlets. [LA Times / David G. Savage]
  • Did the Post “ignore basic journalistic standards,” as the lawsuit claims? The suit asserts that the paper (a frequent target of Trump’s ire) was biased in its coverage and was pursuing an anti-Trump agenda. The amount of money the Sandmann family is claiming is important too — it’s the price Amazon executive Jeff Bezos (also a frequent Trump target) paid to purchase the Post in 2013. [Washington Post / Paul Farhi]
  • The suit also claims the Post pursued “modern-day McCarthyism” in its coverage of the incident (though many other news outlets also covered it extensively). Likewise, Trump’s efforts to target the left have recalled a similar “red scare” theme. [Atlantic / David A. Graham]
  • Overturning NYT v. Sullivan would potentially end the modern-day notion of the First Amendment by welcoming even more defamation cases if public figures were able to control public criticism. [Slate / Mark Joseph Stern]

Mounting security uncertainties for European bloc

  • Tank Battalion 414 — a German group with some Dutch soldiers, all of whose members speak English — is an example of a potential united European military force. The continent has been contemplating military cooperation as the Trump administration leaves countries feeling increasingly vulnerable. [NYT / Katrin Bennhold]
  • Things got tense between US and European leaders last week when Vice President Mike Pence spoke at an annual security conference in Munich and encouraged European allies to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. The US has reinstated sanctions on Iran, hurting European companies; Trump’s decision to pull US troops out of Syria and Afghanistan and leave the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia has also left European nations concerned the US is only helping Russia and Iran. [NYT / Steven Erlanger and Katrin Bennhold]
  • With Brexit’s due date a little more than a month away, French President Emmanuel Macron has stirred talked of European coordination — including an army. Roadblocks are keeping Brussels from arming itself, though, including a lack of consensus among EU member countries on funding an EU defense initiative and how an army could form without the UK’s leadership. [CNBC / Jordan Stevens]
  • There are areas where Europe could coordinate better without forming a full-fledged army, such as cybersecurity, crisis response, and humanitarian aid. But a competent EU army might actually encourage the US to pull out of alliances such as NATO even more. [Axios / Dave Lawler]
  • European coordination could address weaknesses within post-Soviet governments that either are pursuing EU membership or aren’t EU members, such as Georgia. In Eastern Europe, faltering governmental structures have left these countries politically vulnerable. [Politico Europe / Thomas de Waal]


  • Thousands rallied against anti-Semitism in Strasbourg, France, on Tuesday after dozens of graves in a Jewish cemetery were vandalized with swastikas and anti-Jewish language. French President Emmanuel Macron is seeking a way to qualm rising anti-Semitism in his country. [Reuters]
  • The Constitution limits states’ ability to seize private property used to commit crimes, according to a decision by the Supreme Court on Wednesday. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote the decision, stating that “excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies.” [NYT / Adam Liptak]
  • President Trump has attempted to disrupt multiple investigations into his administration, according to a report by the Times. From potential collusion with Russia in the 2016 elections to strategic political appointments, Trump’s moves have pushed to undermine investigative efforts. [NYT / Eileen Sullivan]
  • Fentanyl, an opioid 100 times more powerful than morphine, has been prescribed to a high number of US patients, according to a new study. The Food and Drug Administration and drug manufacturers failed to monitor the use of the drug, or make changes when problems were discovered. [CNN / Wayne Drash]
  • American teens struggle more with anxiety and depression than with alcohol and other drugs, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center. More stress came from the pressure to get good grades than to drink or use drugs. [Axios / Stef W. Kight]


“In Iran, where children as young as nine can be sentenced to death, gay teenagers are publicly hanged in order to terrify and intimidate others from coming out. Iran’s horrific actions are on par with the brutality and savagery regularly demonstrated by ISIS.” [US Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell, who is expected to lead an initiative to decriminalize homosexuality]

Watch this: Why safe playgrounds aren’t great for kids

There’s a case for making playgrounds riskier. [YouTube / Christophe Haubursin]

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