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Supreme Court to rule on NCAA limits on paid college athletes

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to rule whether the NCAA violated federal antitrust laws by limiting what college athletes could be paid.

In May, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, San Francisco, ruled that the NCAA was not free to limit the compensation and benefits of educating soccer and basketball players. -ball of division I.

The court rejected the NCAA’s argument that athlete compensation alienated sports fans. “A cap on certain education benefits would preserve consumer demand for college athletics just as well as the contested rules,” Chief Justice Sidney R. Thomas wrote for a three-judge panel unanimously .

“These benefits are easily distinguished from the salaries of professionals,” he wrote, as they are education related and could be provided in kind rather than cash. “The case provides sufficient support,” Justice Thomas added, “that the provision of education-related benefits does not and will not repel college sports fans.”

Urging the Supreme Court to hear an appeal, NCAA lawyers wrote that “the ruling will turn student-athletes into professionals, eliminating the pro-competitive distinction between college and professional sports.”

“Consumers will likely come to view NCAA athletics as just another form of minor league sports,” the brief said.

Lawyers for the athletes rejected what they called “the rhetoric that falls in the air” and said the pay in question was modest, including only “perks such as computers, scientific equipment, instruments. music, graduate scholarships, private tuition, study abroad, university awards and internships. . “

While the appeal court’s decision “is of great importance to the student-athletes whose work and sacrifice drives the multi-billion dollar industry of Division football and basketball. I of the NCAA, ”the brief said, does not allow direct payments to players.

“Nor does it require, according to the brief, a school to provide these kinds of educational benefits or to prevent an individual conference from restricting those benefits if it so chooses.” In short, it just allows schools and individual conferences to compete against each other. “

The NCAA – which has about 1,100 member schools, most far removed from the bright lights and money of high-profile competition – welcomed the Supreme Court’s agreement to hear the case.

“The NCAA and its members continue to believe that college campuses should be able to improve the student-athlete experience without facing endless litigation over these changes,” said Donald M. Remy, chief legal officer of the association, in a press release.

The association has been under siege in recent years, with state after state considering proposals to allow student-athletes to enjoy their fame. Members are expected to vote on new rules on the subject – known as name, picture, and likeness – in 2021, even as NCAA officials continue to ask Congress for relief that is yet to come. came.

The Supreme Court will likely hear the arguments in the new case, National Collegiate Athletic Association v. Alston, No. 20-512, in the spring, with a decision expected by July.

The principal plaintiff in the case is Shawne Alston, a former running back at the University of West Virginia. His lawyers said he and the other plaintiffs had been exploited.

“The NCAA and its member conferences and schools receive billions of dollars each year through the hard work, sweat and sometimes broken bodies of student-athletes,” their memory reads.

“Coaches, assistant coaches and athletic directors take millions of dollars in salaries,” the brief said. “Yet the schools have agreed among themselves to limit what student-athletes can receive for their work by generating this extraordinary income. The agreements between these schools represent a classic horizontal restriction on trade – an agreement between competitors to limit how much they will have to spend to compete for talent and workforce. “

Alan Blinder contribution to reporting from Atlanta.

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New Trump rule would reduce health benefits in air pollution decisions

WASHINGTON – The Trump administration is expected to announce a final rule on Wednesday to weaken the federal authority to issue clean air and climate change rules by recalculating the costs of pollution to human health and safety – and the benefits of control this pollution.

The new rule is the latest in a wave of final Trump-era policies from the Environmental Protection Agency, as those appointed by President Trump seek to conclude four years of roll back or weaken over 100 environmental rules and policies.

But the cost-benefit rule, which changes the way the EPA modifies economic analyzes of Clean Air Act regulations to limit future air pollution controls, is unlikely to survive the new Biden administration, which could quickly reverse Rule.

“A Biden administration could just come in and come up with a different rule,” said Steven J. Milloy, who serves as an informal environmental policy advisor to members of the Trump administration and is the author of the book “Scare Pollution: Why and How to Fix “In the end, these final Trump rules won’t really matter, other than they’ll have some political rhetorical value to people like me.”

Had Mr. Trump won the presidential election, the rule could have had a profound effect on the legal power of the federal government to weaken existing rules on air pollution, while limiting its power to put in place rigorous air pollution controls. pollution in the future.

The Trump administration appears poised to welcome the rule as if it will have a lasting impact. Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator, is expected to present it at a virtual event hosted by the Heritage Foundation, a conservative research organization, which touted Mr Wheeler’s speech as a “major political announcement.”

The rule would change the way the EPA calculates the economic costs and benefits of the new clean air and climate change rules by reducing the value of certain public health benefits of those rules. This in turn could have helped him defend such setbacks in court and cement Trump’s legacy of industry-friendly pollution control.

Mr Wheeler formally proposed the rule change in June, after years of complaints from fossil fuel companies that the economic formulas the federal government used to justify pollution controls unfairly hurt them. Under the Obama administration, the EPA drafted a rule to limit toxic mercury pollution from power plants, estimating it would cost the electric utility industry $ 9.6 billion a year. But a first analysis found that reducing mercury would save just $ 6 million a year in health costs.

To justify this glaring imbalance, the Obama administration found an additional $ 80 billion in health “co-benefits” from the accidental reduction in soot and nitrous oxide that would occur as side effects of blood control. mercury.

In May, the Trump administration completed a rollback of Obama’s mercury rule that excluded these co-benefits.

The new rule would expand this measure by eliminating or reducing the focus on co-benefits in all new Clean Air Act regulations.

In his June announcement of the proposed rule, Wheeler said the EPA would continue to calculate the economic value of these co-benefits. But he said those calculations would no longer be used to defend the rules. “The co-benefits would not be used to justify the rule,” he said at the time, noting specifically that the change would mean regulations like the Obama-era mercury rule would no longer be defensible.

“The way the Obama administration used co-benefits to calculate the mercury rule and other rules – they were playing a shell game,” he said.

Historically, the economic costs of regulating pollutants such as mercury or greenhouse gases that warm the planet often outweigh the direct benefits. But these rules also tend to reduce emissions of another deadly pollutant: fine industrial soot, also known as particulate matter.

By reducing emissions of tiny particles that are harmful to the lungs, called PM 2.5, clean air rules that are primarily aimed at controlling different pollutants can save thousands of lives by lowering asthma rates. and lung disease. And, in April, Harvard researchers published the first nation-wide study linking long-term exposure to PM 2.5 and death rates from Covid-19.

Political experts have said that the new Trump rule, if in place for four years, could help the agency defend the rollback of Obama-era rules on greenhouse pollution from global warming, by ruling out the public health benefits of PM 2.5 which would also come with rules.

As it stands, however, the Biden administration is on the verge of reinstating those climate rules – although the legal process to do so could take over a year. Experts said it would likely take around six months to reverse the new cost-benefit rule, so that it would no longer be in place as the Biden administration reinstated the Obama-era rules on mercury and greenhouse gases that warm the climate.

“It’s like breaking all the calculators on your way out the door,” said Jack Lienke, director of regulatory policy at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law. “People who come in can buy new calculators. It’s just an obstacle and it takes time. It’s just another annoyance to deal with for the incoming administration. “

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A new rule would allow us to use more methods for executions

The Department of Justice created new regulations allowing the use of more methods for federal executions, including firing squad and electrocution.

The new rule, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, comes as the administration rushes to execute five more prisoners before President Trump’s term expires. It’s part of a series of movements and rule-making processes before he leaves office.

Unlike some of the last minute decisions, the practical effect of the rule remains uncertain. The Justice Department has not indicated that it plans to execute detainees in a manner other than lethal injection, which has been the only method of execution used by the federal government for decades. Although lethal injection is increasingly the subject of assault, the Supreme Court has already rejected recent challenges brought by federally sentenced inmates. And President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who can overturn the rule, has signaled his opposition to the federal death penalty.

Last week, the Justice Department announced it planned to execute three more inmates in the Federal Death Ward. If the administration does so, along with two other executions already scheduled, it will have killed 13 prisoners since July, marking one of the deadliest periods in the history of the federal death penalty since at least 1927, according to the officials. Federal Office data. prisons.

The rule, previously reported by ProPublica, states that the federal government may carry out executions by lethal injection “or in any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed or which has been appointed by a court. in accordance with »the law governing the execution of the death penalty. It will go into effect 30 days after its scheduled publication Friday, before some of the executions are scheduled.

All states that apply the death penalty allow execution by lethal injection, in accordance with the rule. Some also allow other means. For example, Alabama allows the prisoner to choose death from electrocution or hypoxia with nitrogen (a lethal dose of gas) instead of a lethal injection. A law signed by the governor of Utah in 2015 states that a firing squad must be used to execute an inmate if lethal injection substances are not available on the scheduled date.

States have previously struggled to obtain drugs to suit their lethal injection protocols. Several years ago, reports of high-profile botched executions involving prisoners panting or writhing in pain prompted a new review of the death penalty. After a court case in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama ordered his attorney general to review the application of the death penalty in the United States.

Federal executions since the Trump administration ended a nearly two-decade hiatus on the practice have been exclusively by lethal injection. The government’s protocol uses a single chemical, pentobarbital, for which the Supreme Court paved the way in June.

The rule recently finalized by the Trump administration concerns how the federal government must comply with state execution protocols. Federal law on the death penalty requires executions to be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed”.

When it filed an early version of the rule released in August, the Justice Department noted that a state may one day require executions to be carried out by means other than lethal injection. The proposed rule provided that it would prevent prisoners from challenging their executions, as federal regulations did not expressly allow execution by means other than lethal injection.

Agencies are generally expected to allow at least 60 days for public comment. The Trump administration has only given 30 days for the proposed rule.

Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, noted that Mr Biden could reverse the rule, but said it represented a “symbolic” and “deeply practical” step for the department to complete its five scheduled executions.

“It’s a pretty horrible way to get out,” he says. “It’s basically the attorney general stepping up, you know, sort of to get as many federal prisoners as possible executed before his term ends.

He also underlined the recent legal obstacles that the Ministry of Justice has faced in litigation relating to the death penalty. Before the execution of federal inmate Orlando Cordia Hall last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the department’s lethal injection protocol could violate federal law. on food, drugs and cosmetics. This law requires a prescription for the executive drug, pentobarbital. But the court has always refused to issue an injunction in the case.

In its efforts to revive the death penalty under the Trump administration, the Justice Department refused to use the three-drug cocktail it had once used and instead introduced a protocol using a single drug, pentobarbital.

Justice ministry announcements for the five planned executions indicate that four prisoners would be executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indonesia. The department did not specify how a prisoner, Dustin John Higgs, convicted of kidnapping was executed. and murder three women. An official from the Ministry of Justice who spoke on condition of anonymity also did not comment on his method of execution.

Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, which represented the first man to be executed by the Trump administration, called the rule a “grand arrogation of power.” She criticized the department’s decision to remove some judicial review. The rule removed the requirement for a government lawyer to submit to the court, among other things, the date and place of execution, part of a provision the ministry deemed unnecessary.

Ms Friedman also said that, more troubling than the rule, was the administration’s intention to execute prisoners so soon before a new administration that expressed its opposition to capital punishment.

The Justice Department official defended the decision, saying the regulations were aimed at bringing federal sentences in line with the law.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, expected that the new rule would most likely result in fewer and less complicated court challenges to executions, but that it would quickly become irrelevant. under an administration that does not seek to execute detainees.

“This tells us more about the administration’s willingness to kill prisoners than any real correctional need,” he said.

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A new rule would allow us to use more methods for executions

The Department of Justice created new regulations allowing the use of more methods for federal executions, including firing squad and electrocution.

The new rule, which is expected to be published in the Federal Register on Friday, comes as the administration rushes to execute five more prisoners before President Trump’s term expires. It’s part of a series of movements and rule-making processes before he leaves office.

Unlike some of the last minute decisions, the practical effect of the rule remains uncertain. The Justice Department has not indicated that it plans to execute detainees in any way other than lethal injection, which is the only method used by the federal government since 1963. Although lethal injection does The subject of increasing assault, the Supreme Court has already dismissed the challenges facing federally sentenced inmates and President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr., who can overturn the rule, has signaled his opposition to the federal death penalty.

Last week, the Justice Department announced it planned to execute three more inmates in the Federal Death Ward. If the administration does so, along with two other executions already scheduled, it will have killed 13 prisoners since July, marking one of the deadliest periods in the history of the federal death penalty since at least 1927, according to the officials. Federal Office data. prisons.

The rule, previously reported by ProPublica, states that the federal government may carry out executions by lethal injection “or in any other manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence was imposed or which has been appointed by a court. in accordance with »the law governing the execution of the death penalty. It will go into effect 30 days after its scheduled publication Friday, before some of the executions are scheduled.

All states that apply the death penalty allow execution by lethal injection, in accordance with the rule. Some also allow other means. For example, Alabama allows the prisoner to choose death from electrocution or hypoxia with nitrogen (a lethal dose of gas) instead of a lethal injection. A law signed by the governor of Utah in 2015 states that a firing squad must be used to execute an inmate if lethal injection substances are not available on the scheduled date.

States have previously struggled to obtain drugs to suit their lethal injection protocols. Several years ago, reports of high-profile botched executions involving prisoners panting or writhing in pain prompted a new review of the death penalty. After a court case in Oklahoma, President Barack Obama ordered his attorney general to review the application of the death penalty in the United States.

Federal executions since the Trump administration ended a nearly two-decade hiatus on the practice have been exclusively by lethal injection. The government’s protocol uses a single chemical, pentobarbital, for which the Supreme Court paved the way in June.

The rule recently finalized by the Trump administration concerns how the federal government must comply with state execution protocols. Federal law on the death penalty requires executions to be carried out “in the manner prescribed by the law of the state in which the sentence is imposed”.

When it filed an early version of the rule released in August, the Justice Department noted that a state may one day require executions to be carried out by means other than lethal injection. The proposed rule said it sought to prevent prisoners from challenging their executions because federal regulations did not allow execution by means other than lethal injection.

Agencies are generally expected to allow at least 60 days for public comment. The Trump administration has only given 30 days for the proposed rule.

Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas, noted that Mr Biden could reverse the rule, but said it represented a “symbolic” and “deeply practical” step for the department to complete its five scheduled executions.

“It’s a pretty horrible way to get out,” he says. “It’s basically the attorney general stepping up, you know, sort of to get as many federal prisoners as possible executed before his term ends.

He also underlined the recent legal obstacles that the Ministry of Justice has faced in litigation relating to the death penalty. Before the execution of federal inmate Orlando Cordia Hall last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled that the department’s lethal injection protocol could violate federal law. on food, drugs and cosmetics. This law requires a prescription for the executive drug, pentobarbital. But the court has always refused to issue an injunction in the case.

In its efforts to revive the death penalty under the Trump administration, the Justice Department refused to use the three-drug cocktail it had once used and instead introduced a protocol using a single drug, pentobarbital.

Justice ministry announcements for the five planned executions indicate that four prisoners would be executed by lethal injection at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indonesia. The department did not specify how a prisoner, Dustin John Higgs, convicted of kidnapping was executed. and murder three women. An official from the Ministry of Justice who spoke on condition of anonymity also did not comment on his method of execution.

Ruth Friedman, director of the Federal Capital Habeas Project, which represented the first man to be executed by the Trump administration, called the rule a “grand arrogation of power.” She criticized the department’s decision to remove some judicial review. The rule removed the requirement for a government lawyer to submit to the court, among other things, the date and place of execution, a provision the ministry deemed unnecessary.

Ms Friedman also said that, more troubling than the rule, was the administration’s intention to execute prisoners so soon before a new administration that expressed its opposition to capital punishment.

The Justice Department official defended the decision, saying the regulations were aimed at bringing federal sentences in line with the law.

Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, expected that the new rule would most likely result in fewer and less complicated court challenges to executions, but that it would quickly become irrelevant. under an administration that does not seek to execute detainees.

“This tells us more about the administration’s willingness to kill prisoners than any real correctional need,” he said.

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Can America restore the rule of law without suing Trump?

The Department of Justice had now been transformed under Barr. There didn’t seem to be any issues with Trump that the agency wouldn’t at least try to resolve. He launched a counter-investigation into the FBI investigation into Trump’s campaign, attempted to block the distribution of a memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton that was not flattering to Trump, and intervened in a libel lawsuit brought by author and columnist E. Jean Carroll, who accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s, claiming that Trump’s insulting comments about her fell within his official duties as president. (Trump has denied Carroll’s allegations.)

Trump, meanwhile, continued to test the limits of his seemingly limitless authority. He expelled five inspectors general charged with overseeing the conduct of the executive branch, commuted Stone’s prison sentence, and openly challenged the authority of the other two branches of government in an effort to fuel his political base. Rather than appoint Chad F. Wolf, who oversaw the administration’s ‘law and order’ response to racial justice protests in Portland, Ore., To serve as secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Trump appointed him director acting to avoid the Senate confirmation process. Even after the Government Accountability Office and a federal judge ruled that Wolf was most likely holding his post illegally – and many of his actions therefore could have been illegal – Trump left him in place. He also ignored an order from a federal judge requiring him to restore the Obama-era DACA program that allowed hundreds of thousands of immigrants to stay in the United States.

Even as Trump boldly wielded his power, the potential threats that awaited him if he lost the election proliferated and intensified. Not only was the Manhattan DA investigation progressing, but a watchdog had accused Trump’s re-election campaign of illegally funneling $ 170 million in funds to unidentified recipients through companies controlled by the recently dismissed director of the United Nations. campaign, Brad Parscale, and other officials. (The Trump campaign has denied any wrongdoing.) Outside of office, Trump would almost certainly face financial problems. The presidency had been good for business, bringing tens of millions of dollars in foreign projects to the Trump organization, providing a constant stream of clients seeking favors at Trump’s hotel in Washington, and allowing Trump and his children to charge hundreds of dollars to the government. official visits ”of its properties. But his golf courses were losing millions of dollars each year and he had personal debt of $ 421 million, most of which matured over the next four years.

And so, in the final weeks of his tenure, Trump stepped into a new realm of potential crime, directing the full weight of the government executive toward his re-election efforts. He turned the White House into a stage prop for the Republican National Convention, pardoning a former prisoner and participating in a naturalization ceremony as part of the festivities. In October, days after leaving Walter Reed Hospital with Covid-19, Trump held a campaign rally on the South Lawn. Even that wasn’t enough to move his poll numbers. Still lagging behind in the final days of the campaign, Trump criticized some of his staunchest allies in the administration for not using their power aggressively on his behalf, even calling Barr for not stopping. his political rivals, including Biden, and trying to get Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to go public with Hillary Clinton emails dating back more than four years.

In 1939, in the face of widespread claims that employees of the Works Progress Administration were forced to work on Democratic Party campaigns, Congress passed a law known as the Hatch Act to prevent federal officials from exploiting their authority. for partisan purposes. Most presidential administrations have since taken care to separate their public and political operations, so as not to break the law. Civil violations of the law are handled by an independent agency known as the Office of Special Counsel. President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro has been censored for discussing the 2016 election in a television interview. He issued a public apology, explaining that the error was inadvertent.

Presidents and vice-presidents are exempt from the civil provisions of the statute. Because they are effectively still at work, some of the prohibitions – such as the one prohibiting engaging in political activities while on duty – would be difficult to enforce. Dozens of Trump administration employees, including at least nine high-level appointees, have been investigated for violations of the Hatch Law. Kellyanne Conway broke the law more than 60 times, prompting the Office of the Special Advisor to recommend that Trump remove her from her post as a senior White House official. (“Blah, blah, blah,” Conway said at the time. “Let me know when jail time starts.”)

But the Hatch Act also contains criminal provisions from which the president is not exempt; one is the prohibition on using official authority to influence a federal election. “This is the very heart of the Hatch Act,” Kathleen Clark, professor of legal and government ethics at Washington University in St. Louis, law school told me. “Public power is for the public good, not for the private good.” Trump’s blatant violations of this ban were widely noted at the time of the Republican convention. Neither Trump nor his senior executives seemed so worried about it. “No one outside the ring road really cares,” said Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

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Trump appointee rescinds rule protecting government news outlets from federal tampering

WASHINGTON – The head of the U.S. Agency for World Media on Monday overturned a rule that protects government-funded news outlets, including Voice of America, from federal tampering.

The official, Michael Pack, defended the move as a way to improve management, but critics have expressed fears that it could turn news outlets under his jurisdiction into a pro-Trump public relations branch.

Mr Pack said the arrangement, known as a firewall, made his agency “difficult to manage.” He added that the news organizations he oversees – which include Voice of America, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Middle East broadcast networks, Radio Free Asia and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting – “are not commercial information companies ”. He said the firewall rule, which prevented him from overseeing the editorial staff of these media, “threatened constitutional values.”

Mr Pack’s action, announced on Monday evening, raised concern among some lawmakers and former Voice of America officials, who warned the move could undermine the integrity and authority of the organs press releases funded by the United States. The media Mr. Pack oversees provides news to more than 350 million people around the world every week, many in censored companies that have no other access to unbiased information.

David B. Ensor, director of Voice of America from 2011 to 2015, said, “This is terrible news. The firewall distinguishes Voice of America from authoritarian radio and broadcast organizations. “

A lawmaker said the law behind the firewall regulations was still in effect.

“While Mr. Pack can huff and puff,” said Rep. Eliot L. Engel, the New York Democrat who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, “he cannot bring down that wall.”

Voice of America acting director Elez Biberaj said Mr Pack’s decision “would not allow government officials to tamper with or distort VOA content,” adding that he was “fully committed to protecting the journalistic integrity of VOA ”.

The concept of a firewall to protect the editorial independence of US-funded news organizations has its origins in the Voice of America charter signed in 1976 by President Gerald Ford. In 1994, lawmakers strengthened the editorial independence of these media outlets after the adoption of the International Broadcasting Law.

In June, days before Mr. Pack took over the management of the U.S. Agency for World Media, his bipartisan board of directors codified editorial protections into federal regulations, which stipulate that a firewall separating political and editorial sides of the agency is “essential to guarantee the credibility and therefore the effectiveness of journalism” of these media.

“The firewall makes it clear that decisions about who writes what is left to journalists and not politicians,” said David Kligerman, who drafted the June regulations and was subsequently suspended from his role as legal advisor at the agency by Mr. Pack. “When you watch the state sponsored broadcast of undemocratic regimes like Russia or China, they don’t have such protections.”

Mr Pack’s attempts to control the editorial operations of the news organizations he oversees have drawn a rare bipartisan reprimand from his leadership.

In one of Mr Pack’s first moves after taking office, he fired the heads of the four news outlets and an internet technology association under his supervision. It also replaced the bipartisan council that oversees organizations with allies in the Trump administration.

Earlier this month, five employees Mr Pack suspended sued him and his key associates, claiming they had broken the law by repeatedly violating the firewall rule. The trial detailed incidents in which Mr. Pack or his associates attempted to exercise control over journalists critical of his tenure. One example was an aide’s attempt to investigate White House Voice of America bureau chief Steve Herman after signing a letter in August saying Mr. Pack risked “crippling the media.”

“Michael Pack turns VOA into a propaganda machine,” said Bricio Segovia, former White House correspondent for the point of sale’s Spanish-language television service, “and he’s not even trying to hide it anymore.”