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Happening Today: Jeff Bezos, Matthew Whitaker, Gene Editing, Ariana Grande, Woody Allen

What to Know

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he was the target of 'extortion and blackmail' by the publisher of the National Enquirer
  • Scientists think they've achieved the first gene editing in the body, altering DNA in adults, although it's too soon to know if it will help
  • Grammys producer said the show had multiple conversations with Ariana Grande about possibly performing but the singer accused him of lying

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Jeff Bezos Says Enquirer Threatened to Publish Revealing Pics

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said he was the target of "extortion and blackmail" by the publisher of the National Enquirer, which he said threatened to publish revealing personal photos of him unless he stopped investigating how the tabloid obtained his private exchanges with his mistress. Bezos, who is also owner of The Washington Post, detailed his interactions with American Media Inc., or AMI, in an extraordinary blog post on The billionaire did not say the tabloid was seeking money — instead, he said, the Enquirer wanted him to make a public statement that the tabloid's coverage was not politically motivated. Bezos' accusations add another twist to a high-profile clash between the world's richest man and the leader of America's best-known tabloid, a strong backer of President Donald Trump. Bezos' investigators have suggested the Enquirer's coverage of his affair — which included the release of risqué texts — was driven by dirty politics. A spokesman and an attorney for AMI did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment. But the company has admitted in the past that it engaged in what's known as "catch-and-kill" practices to help Trump become president. Trump has been highly critical of Bezos and the Post's coverage of the White House.

Supreme Court Blocks Louisiana Abortion Clinic Law

The U.S. Supreme Court blocked Louisiana from enforcing a law that women's groups said would leave only a single doctor legally allowed to perform abortions in the state. By a 5-4 vote, the court said the restrictions must remain on hold while challengers appeal a lower court decision in favor of the law. It was the Supreme Court's first significant action on the hot-button issue of abortion since President Trump's nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, replaced Anthony Kennedy, who generally voted with the court's liberals to uphold abortion rights, NBC News reported. The vote was not a ruling on the legal merits of the Louisiana restriction, but the decision to keep the law on hold signals that a majority of the justices have doubts about its constitutionality.

After Day of Drama, Matthew Whitaker Prepares to Face Congress

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker is testifying before Congress for the first time, with Democrats eager to press him on his interactions with President Trump and his oversight of the special counsel's Russia investigation. Whitaker's highly anticipated testimony was in limbo for much of the day Thursday after the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee approved a tentative subpoena to ensure that he appeared and answered questions. Whitaker responded by saying he wouldn't come unless the committee dropped its subpoena threat, which he derided as an act of "political theater." The stalemate broke in the evening after Rep. Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee chairman, said the panel wouldn't issue a subpoena if Whitaker voluntarily appeared for the hearing. Whitaker is likely in his final days as the country's chief law enforcement officer as the Senate prepares to vote soon on William Barr, Trump's pick for attorney general.

Tests Suggest Scientists Achieved 1st Gene Editing in the Body

Scientists think they have achieved the first gene editing inside the body, altering DNA in adults to try to treat a disease, although it's too soon to know if this will help. Preliminary results suggest two men with a rare disorder now have a corrective gene at very low levels, which may not be enough to make the therapy a success. Still, it's a scientific milestone toward one day doctoring DNA to treat many diseases caused by faulty genes. "This is a first step," said Dr. Joseph Muenzer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, who helped test the treatment. "It's just not potent enough." He gave the results at a conference in Orlando, Florida, and has consulted for the therapy's maker, California-based Sangamo Therapeutics. Researchers are working on a stronger version of the treatment. Gene editing is intended as a more precise way to do gene therapy, to disable a bad gene or supply a good one that's missing.

Grammys, Ariana Grande Trade Words About Axed Performance

Grammys producer Ken Ehrlich said the show had multiple conversations with Ariana Grande about possibly performing but the singer "felt it was too late for her to pull something together," but Grande accused Ehrlich of lying. Grande fired back on Twitter, saying "I’ve kept my mouth shut but now you're lying about me." Ehrlich said Grande isn't performing at the Grammys and the Recording Academy wanted her to perform after having "conversations over the past month or so." "As it turned out when we finally got the point where we thought maybe it would work, she felt it was too late for her to pull something together for sure," Ehrlich said. But Grande wrote on Twitter that she "can pull together a performance over night and you know that, Ken." Variety reported this week that Grande had a disagreement with Grammy producers on which songs she would perform, so she pulled out. A representative for the singer didn't return an email seeking comment.

Woody Allen Sues Amazon for Ending Movie Deal

Filmmaker Woody Allen is suing Amazon for at least $68 million, saying the company ended a four-picture movie deal last year after old accusations against him resurfaced in the press. The lawsuit, says Amazon knew about a "25-year-old" allegation before signing with Allen in 2017, but still used it as an excuse to back out of the deal. Amazon did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Allen's daughter, Dylan Farrow, has said that Allen molested her in an attic in 1992 when she was 7-years-old, which Allen has denied. Farrow talked about the allegations in a TV interview for the first time in 2018. The lawsuit doesn't mention Farrow by name. According to the complaint, Allen finished a film that Amazon never released.

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