A Sao Paolo judge ruled this week that Uber drivers are considered employees of the ride-sharing app, and therefore must be entitled to employee benefits. In the ruling, which was decided on Tuesday but made public later, Judge Eduardo Rockenbach Pires ordered Uber to pay the driver involved in the case 80,000 reais (approximately $25,000), including traditional employee benefits such as compensation for holidays and contribution to a severance fund. It was also ordered to pay 50,000 reais ($15,800) in “moral damages.” The decision stands to threaten the San Francisco-based company’s business model, which designates its drivers as self-employed “partners” as opposed to employees, thus not entitling them to benefits. Uber said it intends to appeal the decision in a statement to Reuters, noting that by connecting drivers and users the company “creates thousands of flexible opportunities for generating income.” Sao Paolo isn’t the only city to address Uber’s business model. A London employment tribunal came to a similar conclusion in October when it ruled that Uber drivers are entitled to basic employee rights such as a minimum wage and paid holiday breaks.
—China says tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program must not reach an “irreversible and unmanageable stage.” More here
—The Trump administration said it will no longer voluntarily disclose its logs of visitors who come the White House, saying the practice caused “grave national security risks and privacy concerns” for those visiting. More here
—We’re tracking the news stories of the day below. All updates are in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -4).
Uber Drivers Are Considered Company Employees, Brazil Judge Rules
Former NFL Player Aaron Hernandez Not Guilty of Two Murders
Ex-New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was found not guilty of two counts of murder on Friday. He is already serving a life sentence for a 2013 murder. A Boston jury acquitted Hernandez of killing two men in 2012, who he’d been accused of gunning down after they spilled his drink at a nightclub. Hernandez was accused of following the men and shooting them in their car. But his defense blamed the murders on a friend with Hernandez that night, and who Hernandez was also accused of shooting in the face months later to silence him. Hernandez was acquitted on that charge, too. The jury did find the former NFL star guilty of unlawful possession of a gun, for which the judge sentenced him to an additional four to five years in prison. Hernandez is currently serving life in prison for the murder of Odin Lloyd, a semi-professional football player who was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancee.
White House to Stop Publishing Visitor Logs
The Trump administration said Friday it will no longer voluntarily disclose its logs of visitors who come the White House, saying the practice caused “grave national security risks and privacy concerns” for those visiting. The policy was enacted in 2009 by the Obama administration in response to lawsuits filed during the presidency of George W. Bush. Under Obama, lawyers removed names sensitive to national security, as well as guests of the family, but published the majority of names on a website 90 or 120 days after their visit. Since Trump took office that site has not been maintained, and it led to several lawsuits earlier this week from watchdog groups. These suits argued that the public has a right to know who visits. Under the new policy, the White House will decide whether to release the names of visitors who come to meet the president and his staff. As a general principle, the logs will remain secret until five years after Trump leaves office. Time, which first reported on the move, said the White House based its decision on “a federal court ruling that most of the logs are ‘presidential records’ and are not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.”
Trump Administration Withdraws Suit Against North Carolina's 'Bathroom Bill'
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said Friday it will drop the lawsuit it filed against North Carolina last year over the state’s “bathroom bill.” The controversial law forced transgender people to use the public restroom that corresponded with the sex listed on their birth certificate, and led national and international companies to boycott the state, even causing the National Basketball Association to relocate games. The original suit was filed by the Obama administration, which said the law discriminated against transgender people. The announcement Friday came in a filing in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. In it, the DOJ said it was abandoning the suit because last month the state repealed the law and replaced it with another. But critics call this new law just as bad, because some of its provisions outlaw local governments from passing measures to protect LGBT rights. The American Civil Liberties Union said the decision to drop the suit was a move by the Trump administration to quietly “retreat from protecting transgender individuals.”
Michigan Doctor Charged With Performing Female-Genital Mutilation
Federal authorities charged a Michigan-based doctor this week with performing female genital mutilation (FGM) on two minors, and officials warn there could be more victims not yet accounted for. “Female genital mutilation constitutes a particularly brutal form of violence against women and girls. It is also a serious federal felony in the United States,” Acting U.S. Attorney Daniel Lemisch said Thursday in a statement. “The practice has no place in modern society and those who perform FGM on minors will be held accountable under federal law.” Dr. Jumana Nagarwala, a physician at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, is accused of performing FGM out of a medical office in Livonia, northwest of Detroit, in February on two 7-year-old girls who were allegedly brought to Nagarwala for the procedure by their parents. A spokesman for the hospital said they were “shocked” by the allegations, adding “the alleged criminal activity did not occur at any Henry Ford facility.” Though the charges against Nagarwala only deal with the two minors in question, the Detroit Free Press reports officials believe there could be more victims. FGM is a common religious or cultural practice in several countries such as Somalia, Sudan, and Egypt, though its practice is barred by several international treaties and was outlawed in the U.S. in 1996. Authorities said Nagarwala told them in an interview Monday she was aware FGM is illegal in the U.S., adding she had never performed the procedure on minors and wasn’t aware of anyone in her community who had. This case against Nagarwala is said to be the first criminal prosecution brought under the 1996 law. In addition to the FGM charge, which carries a penalty of up to five years in prison, Nagarwala also faces charges of transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and making a false statement to a federal agent.
The U.S. Is Extraditing a Suspect Accused of Killing a Border Patrol Agent in 2010
The Mexican government is in the process of extraditing one of the last suspects accused of shooting and killing U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry in 2010. Mexican marines arrested Heraclio Osorio-Arellanes Wednesday in the northern state of Chihuahua. He faces nine charges in the U.S., including first-degree murder and assault on a federal officer. Osorio-Arellanes is accused of being part of a “rip crew” that stole drugs from traffickers as they moved them across the border and through the desert. In December 2010, he and six other suspects were said to have started a nighttime gun battle with Border Patrol agents in a remote canyon in southern Arizona. Terry was shot in the back and died. It was also revealed that two of the guns used by the criminals were tied to “Operation Fast and Furious,” a gun-walking scandal involving the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives that allowed weapons to be smuggled across the border so U.S. authorities could trace how they reached criminal gangs. The operation was a mess, and the government lost track of about 1,400 weapons in Mexico. The botched operation became a major scandal for the Obama administration, and Terry’s family sued. Osorio-Arellanes will be one of the last suspects involved in the case to be captured and tried. He is being taken to Mexico City, from where he will be transferred to the U.S.
China Calls for Calm Amid Rising Tensions Over North Korea
China said tensions over North Korea’s nuclear program must not reach an “irreversible and unmanageable stage” as fears grew of a possible U.S. response to what many experts believe will be Pyongyang’s sixth nuclear test on Saturday. The remarks comes as U.S. Vice President Mike Pence travels to South Korea for a pre-scheduled 10-day trip to Asia. North Korea marks the “Day of the Sun” on Saturday to commemorate the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il Sung, its founder and the grandfather of Kim Jong Un, the country’s present leader. Satellite images reportedly show North Korea is preparing to conduct another nuclear test to mark the occasion. The move is likely not only to anger its neighbors, but its main ally in China, as well as the Trump administration. This week the U.S. ordered an aircraft carrier and warships toward the Korean Peninsula, a show of force that’s also intended to reassure U.S. allies in South Korea and Japan; the two countries are likely to suffer if North Korea’s nuclear-weapons program goes beyond testing mode. But the North, in a statement, said: “This has created a dangerous situation in which a thermo-nuclear war may break out any moment.” Fears have grown since last week’s U.S. strike in Syria as well as Thursday’s use of the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan that the U.S. might resort to a military response if North Korea tested its nuclear device. U.S. officials have downplayed those concerns, however.
'Mother of All Bombs' Killed 36 ISIS Fighters, No Civilians, Afghan Defense Ministry Says
The Afghan Defense Ministry said Friday the U.S. military’s use Thursday of the “mother of all bombs” against ISIS in Nangarhar province killed 36 militants and destroyed their base. No civilians were affected, the ministry said, an assertion supported by General John Nicholson, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, who said Friday U.S. forces at the site had seen “no evidence of civilian casualties nor have there been reports.” The U.S. has previously estimated that 700 ISIS militants remain in Afghanistan. As I wrote yesterday, the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast (MOAB), which has a yield of 11 tons, targeted the 300-mile-long network of tunnels and caves used by ISIS in Achin district, Nangarhar province, which is on the border with Pakistan. The attack, which was coordinated with the Afghan government, has prompted some local criticism. Former President Hamid Karzai called it “an inhuman and most brutal misuse of our country.”