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Netanyahu and the Anatomy of a Constitutional Crisis – Lawfare

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Amidst a flurry of constant political maneuvering, intense legal debate and multiple Supreme Court cases, Israel has been stuck in political and constitutional deadlock for nearly a year. For the first time in its history, Israel will hold a third parliamentary election in the span of just 12 months after the previous rounds failed to produce a viable government. And also for the first time, the Israeli prime ministers office is occupied by an individual who is facing multiple graft charges involving offenses directly related to his position but refuses to resign.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insists on running for reelection, and he still maintains robust support within his political party, the Likud. Israeli politics have thus become inextricably entangled in his legal predicament.

Israels attorney general, Avichai Mandleblit, has found himself in the untenable role of both Netanyahus prosecutor and his advocate: Mandelblit personally authorized Netanyahus indictment after lengthy deliberations, but he has also represented the government at the Supreme Court in multiple cases stemming from that same indictment. Several of these cases have challenged Netanyahus competence to serve as prime minister, while others pertain to Netanyahus effort to secure parliamentary immunity from indictment.

So far, the attorney general has refused to articulate his position on key constitutional issues raised by the current situation, although he has determined that Netanyahu may stay on as caretaker prime minister until the elections. His silence contributes to the stalemate: These are uncharted waters, and there is little legal clarity about what Israels constitutional law requires in this situation.

Many questions need answering. One category relates to Netanyahus current effort to secure parliamentary immunity from indictment. Is Netanyahu eligible for parliamentary immunity from prosecution while he remains in office? Will he be granted parliamentary immunity as a practical and political matter? Would the Supreme Court uphold a decision by the Knesset, the Israeli parliament, to grant him immunity?

Another set of questions has to do with Netanyahus substantive competence to serve as prime minister under indictment. Can Netanyahu even run for reelection under indictment? Perhaps most consequentially, if Netanyahu secures the largest number of recommenders for prime minister in the Knesset after the March elections, may Israels president, Reuven Rivlin, assign him the mandate to form a governmentdespite Netanyahus failure to put together a governing coalition in two previous rounds, and notwithstanding the indictment? If Netanyahu succeeds in forming a government, can he be judicially removed?

In what follows I consider recent developments and the stakes involved in addressing some of these legal questions. For additional detailed analysis, in Hebrew, also see this opinion from the Israel Democracy Institute.

The Immunity Standoff

Like any other member of the Knesset, the prime minister is eligible to seek parliamentary immunity from criminal indictment. Despite flatly denying that he would seek immunity if indicted before the April 2019 elections, Netanyahu has unsurprisingly requested immunity to prevent his indictment from proceeding to court. Netanyahu is being charged with bribery, fraud and breach of trust for various actions he took as prime minister. I elaborated on the allegations in a previous post.

Under the Knesset Members Immunity, Rights and Duties Law of 1951 (as amended in 2005), Netanyahu may ask the Knesset to grant him functional immunity for the duration of his service on several potential grounds. Those grounds include the degree to which the acts constituting his alleged offenses were necessary for the fulfillment of his official duties; prosecutorial maleficence or discrimination; prior disciplinary action by the Knesset; and the possibility of substantial harm to the functioning of the Knesset, one of its committees, or the representation of the electorate. The last ground requires balancing between the benefits of blocking criminal proceedings and the public interest, meaning that the Knesset must consider the severity and nature of the offense in question.

Notably, the law also grants Knesset members absolute substantive immunity for any action in their capacity as a Knesset member performed while fulfilling [their] duty or in order to fulfill [their] duty. Substantive immunity is designed primarily to protect Knesset members speech and political action, and at least a portion of the graft charges against Netanyahu clearly do not meet the laws requirements. For example, it is hard to see how accepting lavish gifts in the form of champagne and cigars could be necessary for the fulfillment of Netanyahus role as prime minister. The same could be said about providing extensive regulatory benefits in return for favorable media coverage. The Knesset Committee, a subcommittee of the full parliament, has final authority to deny immunity under Article 13(c1) of the law. If the committee decides to grant immunity, however, the Knesset plenum must vote to approve its decision.

This is where things get complicated. Once the Knesset decides to dissolve itself, as it did in December 2019, its activities are restricted until a new Knesset is elected. For this reason, and because the current Knesset was elected in September before dissolving itself only three months later, the Knesset Committee has yet to be convened in its current Knesset. When it became evident that the majority of Knesset members supported convening the committee to consider Netanyahus immunity, Netanyahu launched a campaign to stall the proceedings. He appears to have concluded that he might not have a majority in favor of immunity. Netanyahus party pressured the speaker of the Knesset, Yuli Edelsteina Likud memberto invoke his authority in order to block the Knesset Committee from being convened.

It did not work. The Knessets legal adviser has concluded in a recent legal opinion that the speaker did not have authority to prevent the Knesset Committee from convening. The adviser determined that a majority of Knesset members may convene the Knesset Committee if they see fit and that, once convened, the committee is not barred from considering Netanyahus immunity even during the transitional period before the elections as long as the proceedings begin within a reasonable distance from election day, March 2.

In the meantime, the Likud party petitioned the Supreme Court to disqualify the Knessets legal adviser for conflict of interests (the advisers spouse works at the attorney generals office). The Supreme Court has rejected the Likuds request for an injunction against the publication of the opinion, thus allowing its publication, although the case is still pending. The Knessets Organizing Committee, chaired by a member of Benny Gantzs Blue and White partythe Likuds main contender for control of the governmentthen moved to convene the Knesset Committee. Nevertheless, contrary to the opinion, the Likud party and Netanyahus other supporters have continued to pressure the speaker to prevent the Knesset Committee from convening.

It is unwise to make political predictions in the current climate. But it appears that Netanyahu may not have the votes for immunity in the committee or the Knesset plenum. Reports have indicated that he is considering withdrawing his request for immunity if he concludes that he will lose.

Importantly, the indictment could advance to court even if Netanyahu is granted immunity. The Supreme Court has previously reviewedand annulleddecisions of the Knesset Committee pertaining to the immunity of other Knesset members (see, for example, Bishara v. Attorney General; HCJ 11298/03 Movement for Quality Government in Israel v. Knesset Committee). The court has framed immunity decisions as quasi-judicial decisions that are different from ordinary legislative work. Therefore, it has held, such decisions are reviewable under a lower standard of deference.

What is more, the law has changed since these cases had been decided in a way that further weakens parliamentary immunity: The default under the previous regime was that Knesset members had immunity and the attorney general had to petition the Knesset Committee to remove it. Under current law, the default is that there is no immunity, and the Knesset Committee is allowed to grant immunity upon the request of a Knesset member, with the approval of the Knesset plenum. Only two Knesset members have petitioned the committee for immunity since the law was amended, and both requests were denied. In other words, there is reason to believe that the Supreme Court might intervene should the Knesset decide to grant Netanyahu immunityafter all, there is no presumption of immunity under current law, and this is an area where the court has intervened even when there was a presumption of parliamentary immunity.

Substantive Competence

If Netanyahu does not win immunity, Israel will face a constitutional and political Pandoras box. Under current case law, Netanyahu is not legally barred from running in the upcoming elections. There are therefore two open questions: First, can he stay on as prime minister before the elections if the indictment moves forward? As mentioned previously, the attorney general has concluded that Netanyahu can remain in office as caretaker prime minister until the elections. The second question is a trickier one: What happens if Netanyahu gets the most recommendations from Knesset members in the new Knesset after the elections?

Typically, the president assigns the mandate to form a government to whoever receives the most recommendations from Knesset members, although he has discretion in making this decision under Section 7 of Basic Law: The Government:

Could the president deny Netanyahu the mandate even if he has the greatest support among Knesset members?

The Supreme Court has thus far stayed its hand on this key issue. The court has recently dismissed without prejudice a case challenging Netanyahus competence to receive the mandate to form a government after the next elections. The court ruled that the case was not ripe for adjudication because there was no certainty that Netanyahu would in fact get the mandate to form a government after the elections. The issue, it ruled, was therefore theoretical.

At the same time, the court recognized that Israel faces an unprecedented constitutional crisis and noted that the relevant constitutional questions, in principle, are justiciable. This may signal that, if Netanyahu is assigned the mandate to form a government after the elections, the court will eventually decide whether he can serve as prime minister. The court also underlined that the president, in assigning the mandate to form a government, is allowed to factor Netanyahus criminal indictment into this decisionrejecting Netanyahu's argument that the indictment should play no role. Of course, given the seven-day clock set by the Basic Law, the court has set itself up to have to produce one of the most consequential decisions in its history in less than one week.

The courts avoidance in dismissing the case is understandable given that it is caught between a rock and a hard place. The stakes of disqualifying Netanyahuthe longest serving prime minister in Israels history, who has solidified his control over the state in the course of his 11-year reign and still enjoys substantial popular and political supportare monumental. It could result in massive political blowback against the court, which has been under sustained political attacks notwithstanding the Netanyahu saga. Therefore, the court likely prefers to have Netanyahus fate decided in the political arena. If he loses the election, the court will be spared the potentially devastating consequences of deciding the competence issue. The question is what happens in the very plausible scenario that Netanyahu wins greater support in the Knesset than his main opponent, Gantz. Disqualifying him then would be even more difficult if he secures a majority on the heels of an electoral victory.

On the merits, there are conflicting considerations at play. On the one hand, effective judicial impeachment of a sitting prime minister would be unprecedented, even though Netanyahu would technically only be a caretaker prime minister until a new government is formed. As I explained previously, there is no precedent for judicial removal of a prime minister who faces criminal charges: Previous prime ministers resigned when faced with indictments. The text of the applicable constitutional normBasic Law: The Governmentrequires automatic removal only after the prime minister is convicted and the conviction becomes final, which could take years. This is different from the arrangement that applies to other officials such as ministers and mayors, which courts have previously relied on to require their removal following indictment. As I noted before,

[T]here are ample grounds for questioning the application of [precedents] to the situation of a prime minister facing criminal charges. [Previous cases] were decided based on administrative law principles that apply to the prime minister as chief executive and to city councils as administrative authorities. The question of whether a prime minister can be removed in circumstances other than those explicitly provided for in the Basic Law implicates additional complex constitutional issues. It is one thing to hold that a city councils failure to remove a mayor who is accused of criminal wrongdoing is unreasonable as a matter of administrative law. It is a completely different thing for the Supreme Court to challenge the failure of the national legislature, the Knesset, to act, should it fail to remove the prime minister . The stakes here are particularly high because the removal of the prime minister means the resignation of the entire government.

Furthermore, the provisions of the Basic Law governing the prime ministers removal due to criminal wrongdoing seem to set the bar for removal higher than the constitutional and statutory provisions that address ministers, deputy ministers and mayors. This might serve as an additional basis for distinguishing the existing precedents in the case of the prime minister. Articles 23(b) and 27 of the Basic Law provide that a government minister or deputy minister convicted of an offense with moral turpitude would automatically be removed from office once the verdict is rendered. Unlike the prime minister, they cannot remain in office until the verdict becomes final. Article 20 of the Tenure Statute provides that a mayor would be automatically suspended if convicted with moral turpitude until the verdict becomes final. No such provision exists in the Basic Law with regard to the prime minister, which indicates that the Knesset intended to bestow a more robust constitutional protection from removal upon the prime minister.

Moreover, judicial interference in this unique context creates problems for democratic legitimacy. If the court rules that Netanyahu is incompetent to serve as prime minister due to the criminal charges against him, it would essentially recognize the unelected attorney generals power to remove a prime minister by indictment.

On the other hand, judicial approval of Netanyahus competence would send the message that pervasive corruption can be tolerated, even when it directly involves alleged abuse of the office of prime minister. Such a ruling could lead to a situation in which a prime minister faces a criminal trial while overseeing and working closely with the very institutions that participate in his prosecution. It would uphold a reality that creates a serious conflict between the prime ministers self-interest and the best interests of Israel.

It would also be in tension with previous case law that required the dismissal or resignation of officials who faced serious indictments without waiting for them to be convicted, even though the Basic Law required removal only after conviction. Under existing case law, statutory removal requirements do not exhaust the circumstances in which an elected officials tenure could be terminated due to alleged criminal wrongdoing. In fact, under existing law, Netanyahu was forced to resign from the four ministerial positions he had held in addition to being prime minister. The absurdity should be evident: How can it be that Netanyahu is legally barred from serving as an ordinary minister, but not as prime minister?

Finally, Israels parliamentary system means that barring Netanyahu from receiving the mandate to form a governmentbe it by decision of the president or as a result of a subsequent Supreme Court rulingwould not necessarily abrogate the will of those who voted for the Likud party. The prime minister is not elected directly but is the member of the Knesset who succeeds in building a majority coalition. And even then, the president has discretion in granting the mandate to form a government, so a different Likud member may be able to form a government.

Focusing on the presidents decision would arguably circumvent the problemdiscussed in the excerpt aboveof overriding the Knessets decision not to remove a prime minister already serving with its confidence. The presidents exercise of his discretion in allocating the mandate to form a government could serve as a hook for judicial review. As the Supreme Court just made clear, it would be lawful for the president to consider Netanyahus indictment (and possibly his previous failures to form a government) in assigning the mandate even if Netanyahu pulls together a majority coalition after the elections.

For these reasons, while the courts wait-and-see approach may be prudent, it is also problematic. There is an argument to be made that if the court is to disqualify Netanyahu at some point, it is better to do so before the elections. First, the public has a right to know whether the head of the party they might be voting for, who personifies and tightly controls that party, is even eligible to continue as prime minister. Another round of elections that ends in deadlock because of questions and litigation about the eligibility of Netanyahu to serve as prime minister would further undermine an already fragile and nearly dysfunctional Israeli democracy.

Second, Netanyahu is currently a caretaker prime ministerthat is, prime minister by default due to the political deadlock. He does not enjoy the confidence of the Knesset, having twice tried and failed to assemble a coalition capable of receiving that confidence. From a constitutional perspective, disqualifying a prime minister in the current situation is different from disqualifying a prime minister who heads a coalition that has the support of the majority of the Knesset and thus enjoys political and public legitimacy. It would not abrogate the will of the voters, expressed through their elected officials, to the same degree as disqualifying a prime minister who enjoys the confidence of the Knesset.

But the courts decision to stay away from the matter for now means that this ship has sailed. If Netanyahu manages to secure a majority after the March elections, his political fate will come down to the outcome of the immunity vote and the presidents decisionand the likely review of these decisions by the Supreme Court. There is no telling what the political repercussions of such a constitutional showdown would be.

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Netanyahu and the Anatomy of a Constitutional Crisis - Lawfare

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

‘Uncut Gems’ | Anatomy of a Scene – The New York Times

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Hello, this is Josh Safdie. And this is Benny Safdie. Were the directors of Uncut Gems. Were jumping in here after a good stretch of Howards life. But he was just abandoned and ditched at a practice facility, so hes a little concerned about his gem. And hes here back with his family, his domicile, basically, his pack. And were meeting him in the middle of a status exchange with another Long Island family. What greater setting to be than in a school play, a mandatory attendance thing. And youre here with people who I think identify setting more than anything. O.K. What are you going to do for Passover? Is your sister coming? Uh, yeah. What are doing? Who do you got? Watching for LeBron. I got six different people playing six different games. Hey, were all making salt. Hey! Who tapped me? Who was that? I call this the head turning scene because theres so many head turns back and forth, back and forth, between each person, like perspective switches. Whats going on in Howards life. And this here, the narrative here, these two gentlemen are a reminder of the bigger threat in Howards life, the money that he owes, and figuring out a way to get into it. Overt narrative plotting is always something we feel so self-conscious about, so having it come through a Where you going? Daddys got to game in jest with his kid. The way he bonds with everybody is through jest, and the classic tap shoulder gag actually leads him to the reminder of the things that are lurking behind him. And it was on this scene, I remember the AD was trying to have everybody be quiet, and we got very upset, because we wanted everybody to be talking. In this scenario, everybody needed to be loud, because it needed to reflect a real auditorium. And of course, it causes problems later on with editing, but the whole point is to get the performances to be real. This action sequence, as well call it, we shot at the end of a 14, 15-hour day. And I kind of like that pressure, because I believe that violence is sloppy. It is unchoreographed. It is matter-of-fact. And that little sequence in the hallway we just saw was that. And here This too. This as well. One take, remember? And his daughter thats probably one of the most embarrassing things that can happen to you. Your psychotic, maniacal, loving weird dad is running through I actually love watching certain parts of the movie when you know it was the last thing you filmed on a day. Something that always that scene in the hallway is one of those. This sequence, this exterior sequence here, Darius spent a day or two lighting, I think a day of pre-lighting. And Eric Bogosian, who plays Arno, his brother-in-law, this is his introduction to his character, and to meet him in slow motion where you cant hear him, I find it to be even more menacing. And Eric actually said because he had done that drive a bunch of times. The first time he pulled up, and he saw Sandler run out of that school wearing loafers, running on that grass, getting tackled by these guys, he says, O.K., this is a different kind of movie. I remember when we did that scene, it was a very complicated choreography with a big cart, and a camera. And you kind of feel the pressure of everybody saying, oh, I wonder how theyre going to do this with non-actors, all this stuff. And on the first take, everybody just nailed it. It was very exciting.

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'Uncut Gems' | Anatomy of a Scene - The New York Times

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Its So Hard to Say Good-bye to Alex Karev – Vulture

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Alex is without a doubt the Greys character who has grown the most, making Justin Chamberss unceremonious exit from the series a particularly devastating blow. Photo: Kelsey McNeal/ABC

When Greys Anatomy premiered in late March of 2005, George W. Bush was president, Taylor Swift had not yet crawled from the primordial goo of Big Machine Records, and Hitch was in theaters. The series is still on the air in 2020, and remains an unparalleled viewing experience precisely because of how extensively viewers have sat with its characters. Devotions grow stronger with time. So, too, do devastations, in particular the shows most recent: longtime cast member Justin Chamberss unceremonious exit as Alex Karev.

News of Chamberss exit came on January 10 and sent viewers into a tailspin. Aside from Meredith Grey (Ellen Pompeo) herself, Alex is the only remaining member of the shows original intern class. The last time we saw him was in the shows 350th episode, supporting Meredith by reading aloud letters written by characters who left the show in years past. The scene was a tearjerker when it aired, but now it plays with a painfully irony. In the following episode, when Alexs wife, Jo (Camilla Luddington), brought home a baby from a fire station, Alexs reaction was left as a cliffhanger. Now, troublingly, Deadline and TVLine report that the 350th episode will likely be Chamberss last, meaning it looks like whatever resolution we get to that cliffhanger will happen offscreen when the show returns on January 23.

As it stands, Chamberss exit serves as a reminder: Attachments to characters can get awfully tricky when theyre intrinsically tied to opaque, behind-the-scenes drama. And for Greys, which has never been a show without mess, onscreen or off, its one more blow for a show thats become known for its sloppy good-byes.

It can be hard to emotionally invest in a show when it has the same turnover rate as the average media company. Viewers mourn every loss most involving viscerally realized characters who were in their lives more continually than most art ever is. Most series with similar longevity to Greys are procedurals or daytime soaps, but while Greys has heaping elements of both, it is at its core a character drama. And when youre watching for the characters, what happens to them at the end of the day really matters.

When Alex was introduced in the Greys pilot, he was a trashy nightmare of a man: sexist, cocky, and sneering, a foil to the more earnest surgical interns who took center stage. Over 15 years, though, Alex became an empathetic best friend and husband, a tried and true leader, and a literal savior of babies. He is without a doubt the Greys character who has grown the most. Redemption of the asshole is a classic arc, seen on everything from The O.C. to Game of Thrones, but most shows attempting the trope do so in one season, maybe five. But that sort of character development takes on a different weight over 15 years, allowing a character to grow more like people actually do in real life:with baby steps forward and massive slides back. When you spend that kind of time with a character, no amount of healthy perspective on their fictionality can keep them from seeming like an old friend.

But the revolving door of the shows cast repeatedly and often clunkily reminds us that these characters are not friends. Theyre cogs within an industry, their fates dictated by the unknown whims of the producers, studios, and actors who bring them to life by real people with real needs and wants and conflicts that can, and should, take precedence over those of fictional characters. The average viewer, though, cant expect to be privy to every goings-on in a workplace far separated from their own lives. For them, these Hollywood dramas create a disjointed viewing experience especially in a show that immerses you so fully and so emotionally in the long haul.

It doesnt help that the cast turnover on Greys is storied, to say the least. Preston Burke (Isaiah Washington) was the first major character to leave the show, following an incident where Washington used a homophobic slur against co-star T.R. Knight, who played George OMalley. In June 2007, ABC announced it wouldnt renew Washingtons contract; at the end of the season Burke left fiance Cristina Yang (Sandra Oh) at the altar. Knight himself departed soon after. George all but disappeared from season five, even before throwing himself in front of a bus offscreen and dying at the end of it. His was the first major character death in the show, establishing the kind of fictional wounds Greys would inflict, heal, and reopen for years to come.

At the beginning of season six the show introduced six new characters, only to kill off two of them in a mass shooting in the finale, a brutal layoff if there ever was one. That season also saw the hasty exit of Katherine Heigl, whose feud with the show is the stuff of legend. Somehow her character didnt die, despite having an aggressive form of cancer, but more onscreen killings were to come in later seasons via Mark Sloan (Eric Dane), Lexie Grey (Chyler Leigh), and Derek McDreamy Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey). The latter was most shocking Derek was the male lead, and the show continuing without him felt like an impossibility, especially to longtime fans. And yet the series saw a ratings resurgence after his death. The reason is simple: Audiences had already put in over a decade with Meredith. They cared about her, and now she was a widow. Just as they had to adjust to his absence, they had to know how she would, too.

The exits werent over, though: Callie Torres (Sara Ramirez) flew into the sunset with a milquetoast love interest in season 12. In season 14, producers let go Jessica Capshaw and Sarah Drew, who played Arizona Robbins and April Kepner, respectively. They cited creative reasons, and fans signed petitions.

The shows most artful exit was Ohs. When she decided to leave behind Cristina Yang in season ten, the show gave her a whole farewell arc full of bittersweet tears and a shiny new hospital in Zurich. It was a good-bye that honored what the character had meant to the show for a decade. With Cristina gone, though, there was a void. Meredith didnt have a best friend anymore. Into that void stepped Alex Karev. He became Merediths person the moniker Greys gives to the kind of best friend who is truly ride or die. As he and Meredith struggled together and leaned on each other, Alex became as integral to the soul of the show as Cristina was before him. Now it seems audiences might not get a good-bye for Alex Karev. He might just disappear, the reasons behind his exit still unclear to the general public. For the writers, it presents an unenviable creative task. For audiences, its a painful dive into the uncanny valley a character who felt so real now just gone.

At its best, Greys is a remarkable viewing experience. Its narrative maximalism, able to tell challenging stories about heartbreak and revival through the sheer volume of what its characters have been through. Theyve been beaten, drowned, had brain tumors and C-sections in the woods, and everyone they love has left or died. Seeing them come back from these things is a reminder that we all can. That approach has an edge to it, though. Tip a narrative about survival too far in one direction and it becomes one about nihilism.

Greys has always risen from its own ashes, and it may just well surprise us again. At this point it will probably outlive us all. But the disappearance of Alex Karev is more than just another casualty for the pile. His departure is one more nail in the coffin of the found family that made this shows heart beat in the first place.

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Its So Hard to Say Good-bye to Alex Karev - Vulture

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

When Does ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ Season 16 Return? Everything to Know About Midseason Premiere – Newsweek

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Mark your calendars: Grey's Anatomy will be back with new Season 16 episodes in one week.

The award-winning series is slated to pick up right where it left off when it returns to ABC on January 23. However, the show will no longer air at 8 p.m. ET, but rather return to its original 9 p.m. time slot for the 2020 season. For the last eight years, Grey's Anatomy has aired at 8 p.m. ET, with fellow Shonda Rhimes-created series like Scandal and How to Get Away With Murder taking up the late Thursday night time slots. Now, the Shondaland spinoff Station 19 will air on Thursdays at 8 p.m. ET and Grey's Anatomy will follow.

The time changes make sense, especially since there are more Grey's Anatomy and Station 19 crossover expected when the series' return, starting with the first midseason episodes.

When fans last saw the medical staff at Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital and Station 19 firefighters and emergency crews were scrambling to help of a few of their colleagues following a horrific car crash at Joe's Bar. The winter premiere episode of Grey's Anatomy, titled "Help Me Through the Night," will see the doctors working to save their friends' lives, according to the show's synopsis.

The incident will take a toll on some of the doctors, particularly Miranda Bailey (Chandra Wilson), who will be experiencing bouts of grief following her loss. Meanwhile, doctors Owen Hunt (Kevin McKidd) and Teddy (Kim Raver) will reach a breakthrough in their relationship as Amelia (Caterina Scorsone) faces some roadblocks in her own romance with Link (James Christopher Carmack) sparked by her pregnancy revelation.

Although trauma seems to be on the agenda for many of the Seattle doctors on the winter premiere, fans should expect things to heat up as Season 16 continues. Now that the show is returning to a later time slot, showrunner Krista Vernoff claimed it will revive the sex appeal the show was known for during earlier seasons when characters like Mark "McSteamy" Sloan (Eric Dane) and Derek "McDreamy" Shepherd (Patrick Dempsey) existed.

"There are different rules for a 9 p.m. show than there are for an 8 p.m. show, and we hope to take advantage of those rules," Vernoff said during an interview with Deadline in November. "Grey's was definitely allowed to be a sexier show when it was on at nine o'clock. So we are excited by the change back to our original [Thursday] time slot."

There will also be a major cast change when the show returns. Fan favorite and longtime cast member Justin Chambers, who played Dr. Alex Karev, will not be back for the remainder of the season, according to a recent Deadline report. Grey's Anatomy debuted on ABC in March 2005, and Chambers appeared on the show from the very beginning.

"There's no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that's defined so much of my life for the past 15 years," Chambers said in a statement. "For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time."

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When Does 'Grey's Anatomy' Season 16 Return? Everything to Know About Midseason Premiere - Newsweek

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Anatomy of a Nightwing/Batgirl Cover – Talking to Meghan Hetrick About Her Crimes Of Passion – Bleeding Cool News

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

Im a big fan of comics illustrator Meghan Hetrick and I support her work on Patreon. I got the chance to talk to her about her upcoming Cover Alpha Comics variant cover for DC Comics Valentines Day-timed Crimes Of Passion anthology, a cover featuring Barbara Gordon and Dick Grayson coincidentally tunning alongside the news that a certain proposal is back in continuity. You can see work in progress images below.

Bleeding Cool: We see three mockup ideas for this cover (below). The standard approach is to present your favourite idea, the one you can live with and a third one that is so wrong that it persuades the client to choose one of the others. But invariably its the third one that gets chosen, psychically, as if they somehow know. Can you relate to that, and how did it apply to this cover?

Meghan Hetrick: So, while I know that is the norm, I dont ever submit any cover ideas (or commissions in general) that I wouldnt be happy working on. I spend a lot of time with these things, and its a miserable experience working on something you dont want to work on.

Also, my approach for this cover was different. I did Sweet, Sensual, and Sexy basically, I worked my way up the mood meter. Its my first time working with Cover Alpha, and also my first time working DC in years (for cover work), so I wasnt sure exactly where the lines were in regards to what was acceptable.

Bleeding Cool: Dick Grayson and Barbara Gordon is a pairing that has been a) popular with certain fans and b) a pairing often denied them. How much does the denial fuel that desire, do you think, and are DC superhero comics just an exercise in literary BDSM?

I think that the idea of you want what you cant have is fairly universal, and if youre a smart marketer, you know how to play that. Ethical? Likely not. But marketing isnt usually all too concerned about ethics.

As for the second half of the question, being that Im not part of the BDSM community, I dont feel like Im the best person to answer that in any sort of meaningful way. I do think that comics as a whole, not just DC, owe a lot to the BDSM and kink community, in many more positive ways than not.

Bleeding Cool: Batgirl was only introduced as a love interest for Dick Grayson as a reaction to gay panic in comics and especially the Batman comics after the publication of Seduction Of The Innocent by Dr. Frederick Wertham, which condemned Batman and Robin as lovers. Should Dick/Barbara fans, in a weird way, be grateful to Wertham?

This is a very, very loaded question, and a concept that while I am familiar with it, Im woefully out of practice on (my senior thesis was actually about Seduction of the Innocent, but that was almost 20 years ago now). I do believe that anyone who is even remotely interested in how media and culture can collide, the backlash surrounding it, and the implications and fallout of said backlash (the pendulum swing), really owes it to themselves to pick up a copy of Seduction of the Innocent, read it, and form their own opinion.

Just get an e-reader version of it though, because an actual copy is stupid expensive.

Bleeding Cool: When do you know when to stop? Looking at your process for this cover, layers over layers over layers, is there an end game that says this is where the cover ends or is it always this is where the deadline says it must end? How much further could you go? And is there anything you lose from your initial sketches in the process to where you end up?

So, what Im guessing youre referring to (because Im not sure what files youre mentioning), are the WIP saves I did throughout the process. Its actually not a lot of layers there, just a whole lot of different stages of rendering, haha. As to the meat of your question though, its a combination of both this is where the cover ends and this is where the deadline says it ends. My rule of thumb is that if I get to a point where anything else I add just kinda doesnt serve a purpose, then its done. There are always, ALWAYS tweaks that can be made, which can eat up a *huge* amount of time, but that falls into the category of getting precious with a piece, which is a defining trait of folks just starting to draw. I think when you get to the fuck it, Im done stage, while satisfying your clients needs, and can just live with cashing that check, thats when you can probably start calling yourself a Pro, hahah.

With this piece, like I said, there are spots where I could tweak, but they dont really add anything else to it. I wanted a softly lit, human touch on this one, especially with as much as was done digitally, so leaving those mistakes in there actually gives it a bit of life, and makes it not look so clinical. I do feel that sometimes a lot of the energy of a piece can be lost in inks, if you try and just make everything too perfect. Art made by human hands needs to have imperfections, IMO.

Bleeding Cool: You talked on your Patreon about moving from drawing interior comic book pages to just covers and illustrations and gallery shows- more in the career mode of Frank Frazetta or Gerald Brom. What steps are you making in that direction, and what other more contemporary creators can you see following a similar path?

I love telling stories, so Ill always have a love for interior work, Im just not sure if Im a good fit for superheroes, or the mainstream publication format. As Im getting older, Im realizing I have a much more European approach to my ideas and art in general, which is both a good and bad thing, haha.

As for the steps Im taking, Im currently teaching myself how to oil paint, and Im having a fucking blast doing so. They dont lend themselves too well to the monthly format with comics thats so common here in the US, just because of the nature of the medium they take FOREVER to dry, and when I get, on average, about a week to turn a cover around, that doesnt work all that splendidly, LOL. My current slate of commissioned paintings consists of a huge range of licensed properties, and its fun to take characters that are typically seen as essentially throwaway art, and render them in a manner that folks dont really expect to see nowadays. Comics *are* art, and one of the hardest to actually get a handle on. I would love to do my best to elevate the artform. Im not sure if Im necessarily the right person for the job, but dammit, Im going to try. I also have my own projects and characters Ill be fiddling around with, especially once I get more comfortable with the medium, and these will be what I use to start pushing my way towards gallery work.

As for contemporary creators, I can rattle off a few (and I will), but Im not entirely certain theyd be interested. Three folks already doing it are Joe Jusko (of course), Scott Hampton, and Esad Ribic. All three have been major, major influences on me, too. You also have the old guard of Heavy Metal and 2000 AD artists, who dont get anywhere near enough recognition. Folks Id love to see dip their toes into that realm are Cary Nord, Fiona Staples, Becky Cloonan. Mahmoud Asrar has also been painting lately as well, and its gorgeous. Simple truth is that there are more creators I can see following that similar path than I could feasibly name, but its breaking that barrier and getting accepted as real artists, while were still alive, and not 100+ years after were dead (see: all the Brandywine School artists).

Bleeding Cool: How much do you try and create in a vacuum and how much fan reaction do you allow to filter into your work? Can reader reaction to your images that may have not been intended ever taint them for you? Or can you be detatched from it?

At the risk of kicking the internet hornets nest, anymore, I think the only way you can maintain some semblance of sanity as a creator is to disregard almost all comments regarding your work (not ignore, disregard). Now, if you see a pattern emerging with the same thing being said repeatedly, at that point maaaaybe you should investigate into whats being said, and see if it has any merit. So, I do tend to create quite a bit in a vacuum, with very little fan reaction having influence on my work. I will absolutely listen to constructive criticism though the key word there being constructive. If someone just spouts off this sucks or the equivalent thereof, without any reasoning behind it besides that it doesnt fit their personal taste, well, opinions are like assholes and whatnot.

That being said, fan support is awesome, and I wouldnt be where I am today without fans whove supported my art over the years. I think one of the hardest things about being a creator is finding that balance between being true to yourself, and what you want to do, since that creates the best art, and not giving into the trends for a quick buck if you can. Its the internet, theres a fandom and a market for everything, you just need to find your people. My breaks (because there were two) into comics came not from me riding trends, but just by being myself, and thats something Ive done my best to try and stay true to.

And, because it hasnt come up in the questions here, I just wanted to take a second and thank Cover Alpha and DC for the opportunity to work on this cover. All parties involved have been awesome to work with, and it made this a truly fun experience especially revisiting two characters I love drawing, haha. Also, thank you for the thoughtful questions, and your support.

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Anatomy of a Nightwing/Batgirl Cover - Talking to Meghan Hetrick About Her Crimes Of Passion - Bleeding Cool News

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

Anatomy of the GAO Trump Smear – Newsmax

Posted: January 18, 2020 at 12:46 pm

The anti-Trump chorus is breathlessly declaring that the January 16 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report asserts Trump broke the law regarding Ukraine aid.

That is not what the report states and that is not what happened.

The GAO serves a vital oversight function for the Federal Government. Annually, GAO reports on waste, fraud, and mismanagement identify billions of dollars in potential savings. The Agency studiously avoids politics by outlining procedural and legal compliance issues.

GAO Report B-331564 is different, as it is incomplete on facts while overstating the Trump Administrations noncompliance with a controversial law.

The report never admits that the Ukraine Aid in question was, in fact, released on September 11, prior to the deadline of September 30, 2019.

This omission is fundamental to the entire Ukraine matter and undermines GAOs credibility.

The GAO report centers on the Impoundment Control Act (ICA). This was passed as part of Congress reining-in President Richard Nixon. Nixon had impounded funds for many programs and agencies to counter Congressional spending sprees. His actions continued a long-standing practice, going back to Thomas Jefferson, of presidents exercising fiscal discipline to thwart Congressional overspending.

The Congress took advantage of Nixons ebbing power by pushing through the ICA and other legislation to open the spending flood gates. Discretionary spending has ballooned out of control ever since.

Presidents, Republican and Democrat, have attempted to restore the balance in budgeting and spending policy. The GAOs Ukraine report cites numerous court cases where Clinton and other presidents have sought court assistance to set limits and clarify processes.

All funds were released prior to the Congressional deadline. The delay in releasing Ukraine funds never crossed these legal lines.

In fact, the delays fully complied with the law authorizing the funds (PL 115-232), as it explicitly stated that, In order to obligate more than fifty percent of the amount appropriated, DOD was also required to certify to Congress that Ukraine had taken substantial actions on defense institutional reforms.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) issued numerous apportionment schedules with footnotes explaining the delay in releasing the funds was to allow for an interagency process to determine best use of such funds. Each memo consistently stated that, this brief pause in obligations will not preclude DODs timely execution of the final policy direction.

One part of the foreign military financing (FMF) earmarked for Ukraine was delayed only six days.

The GAO Ukraine report, clearly states that:

The President may temporarily withhold funds from obligationbut not beyond the end of the fiscal year in which the President transmits the special messageby proposing a deferral. 2 U.S.C. 684

At no point in the Ukraine Report does the GAO find that OMB or the president triggered a deferral or impoundment. Therefore, there was no violation of the Impoundment Control Act (ICA).

However, the GAO pours through countless memos from the OMB, as well as OMB responses to GAO questions. Unfortunately, OMBs responses dug avoidable holes into which the Trump Administration fell by raising needless challenges to the ICA.

OMB engaged in a battle it did not need to fight. This triggered GAO having to recount the ICA battles from other Administrations and pointing out the flaws in OMBs arguments. OMB responded by not responding. As the GAO-OMB dialogue dissipated, political rhetoric seeped-in.

The GAO stepped over their line by asserting there may be potential impoundments where none exist. You either impound or you dont. There is no potential. The GAO ascribes policy reasons for the delay of funds without providing any evidence.

Finally, to carve out its own place in the Impeachment, the GAO violated decades of its own professional code of conduct by declaring, We consider a reluctance to provide a fulsome response to have constitutional significance.

Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a dedicated Never-Trumper, requested the GAO Ukraine report on October 30, 2019. He kept demanding GAO provide a report sooner versus later in a letter dated December 23, 2019. The GAO admits that its report is a work in progress and states it is waiting on additional information from the State Department and OMB.

Unfortunately, Thomas Armstrong, GAO General Counsel, was willing to risk the agencys reputation as the gold standard of oversight, by prematurely releasing an incomplete and flawed report, immediately relegating it to just another politically charged smear.

Scot Faulkner is the best-selling author of: "Naked Emperors: The Failure of the Republican Revolution." He also served as the first chief administrative officer of the U.S. House, and was director of personnel for the Reagan campaign and went on to serve in the presidential transition team and on the White House staff. During the Reagan administration, he held executive positions at the FAA, the GSA, and the Peace Corps. Read more of Scot Faulker, Go Here Now.

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Anatomy of the GAO Trump Smear - Newsmax

Recommendation and review posted by G. Smith

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