For months, comedian Bill Cosby has come under relentless attack amid allegations that he raped dozens of women over the years after slipping them drugs. As the controversy grew, some on Capitol Hill questioned whether something should be done to strip the long-celebrated actor of a Presidential Medal of Freedom awarded him in 2002 during the Bush administration.
Today at a White House news conference, President Obama abruptly veered from an extensive defense of the Iran nuclear deal to a thinly veiled denunciation of Cosby as a serial rapist. In response to a reporter’s question of whether he would consider rescinding the medal, Obama said, “There’s no precedent for revoking a medal,” and that “we don’t have the mechanism.”
Then, after noting that he rarely publicly discusses pending civil law suits that might result in criminal charges, he made this startling pronouncement: “I’ll say this: If you give a woman -- or a man for that matter -- without his or her knowledge a drug and then have sex with that person without consent, that’s rape.”
It was a dramatic moment as the first African American president in U.S. history denounced from the White House pulpit the conduct of one of the most prominent and (once) beloved black actors and comedians of modern times.
Cosby and his lawyers for months have dismissed as fantasy claims by more than two dozen women that they had been sexually assaulted by the actor over the past several decades – frequently after having been given knock-out drugs to make them groggy or put them to sleep.
But this ‘he said-she said’ controversy came to an end earlier this month after Cosby had admitted in a deposition giving Quaaludes to women he wanted to have sex with.
The documents, dating back to 2005, stem from a civil lawsuit filed by Andrea Constand -- one of the dozens of women who have publicly accused the comedian of sexual assault. The records were made public after The Associated Press went to court to compel their release.
Following that report, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said it was an outrage that Cosby continued to hold the highest civilian honor in America. In a statement to Politico, a spokeswoman for Gillibrand said Cosby's medal must be revoked "because we need to set a clear example that sexual assault will not be tolerated in this country."
Obama apparently agrees with the senators, but just doesn’t know what he could do to take the medal back.
The U.S. is officially running short on 202 drugs, including some medical staples like epinephrine, morphine and saline solution. “The medications most vulnerable to running short have a few things in common: They are generic, high-volume, and low-margin for their makers—not the cutting-edge specialty drugs that pad pharmaceutical companies’ bottom lines,” Fortune’s Erika Fry reports. “Companies have little incentive to make the workhorse drugs we use most.” And much of the problem — “The situation is an emergency waiting to be a disaster,” one pharmacist says — can be tied to one company: Pfizer. Read the full story here.
More Americans say they are living comfortably or at least “doing okay” financially, according to the Federal Reserve’s Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2017. At the same time, four in 10 adults say that, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, they would not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. That represents an improvement from 2013, when half of all adults said they would have trouble handling such an expense, but suggests that many Americans are still close to the edge when it comes to their personal finances.
The Tax Policy Center’s Daily Deduction reports that Rep. Kevin Brady (R-TX), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee on Friday introduced The Jobs and Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act (H.R. 5861). “The bill would rename the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and target benefits to the lowest-income households. Although the House GOP leadership promised to include an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit as part of an upcoming welfare reform bill, this measure does not appear to include any EITC provisions.” The committee will mark up the bill on Wednesday.
The GOP tax cuts expanded an exemption for the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) and changed tax breaks that often triggered the tax. As a result, The Wall Street Journal’s Laura Saunders reports, “This year’s AMT is a shadow of its former self. It is expected to raise about $5 billion for 2018, down from an estimated $39 billion under prior law, according to the Tax Policy Center.” The AMT will likely hit some 200,000 tax filers for 2018, down from roughly 5 million who would have had to pay if the tax cuts hadn’t been passed. And the number of people making $500,000 or less who owe the AMT will fall to about 120,000 this year from 4 million last year, a Tax Policy Center economist tells the Journal.