1. Bowser quietly signs legislation allowing terminally ill patients to end their lives, By Fenit Nirappil, The Washington Post, December 21, 2016, Pg. A1.

Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) quietly approved legislation making the District the seventh jurisdiction to allow terminally ill patients to legally end their lives, but it is unclear if Congress will intervene in an issue that has been debated in statehouses across the country.

The mayor signed the legislation Monday, clearing it to be sent to Capitol Hill for a 30-day review period. Some local opponents of the law have vowed to press the GOP-controlled Congress to use its rarely invoked power to void District laws.

The earliest the law would take effect would be next October.

The legislation, sponsored by Council member Mary Cheh (D-Ward 3) is modeled after the nation’s first physician-assisted suicide law, enacted in Oregon. It will allow doctors to prescribe fatal medication to patients with less than six months to live. Patients must make two requests over a period of two weeks and ingest the drugs themselves.

Bowser has not publicly commented on the legislation, and refused through a spokesman to explain why she signed it. It was one of the most emotionally charged issues of the year in D.C., drawing hundreds of supporters and opponents to Council chambers and bringing some lawmakers to tears as they shared personal stories that influenced their votes.


2. Medicaid Funding to End for Planned Parenthood in Texas, State Says, By Christopher Mele, The New York Times, December 21, 2016, Pg. A19.

In a critical step in a longstanding fight, Texas formally said on Tuesday that it was ending Medicaid funding of Planned Parenthood, a move the group said could affect 11,000 patients.

The office of inspector general for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission issued a final notice terminating Planned Parenthood’s enrollment in the state-funded health care system for the poor. If it is not stopped, the termination will be effective in 30 days.

Planned Parenthood officials said on Tuesday night that they would continue to provide birth control, cancer screenings, H.I.V. tests and other care to Medicaid patients and seek an injunction in federal court to stop the state. The group sued the state in 2015 after a preliminary notice was filed, but the court case has lingered pending further action by the state.

At stake is about $4 million a year in Medicaid funding. The formal notice is the latest salvo in a legal and political fight that dates back years but intensified 15 months ago when the state issued a preliminary notice to end Medicaid funding for the group’s 34 health care centers.

The termination notice, signed by the inspector general, Stuart W. Bowen Jr., cited violations that found Planned Parenthood was unqualified to provide medical services “in a professionally competent, safe, legal and ethical manner.”

The notice cited “extensive undercover video” obtained from a Planned Parenthood center in April 2015.

Planned Parenthood has 15 days to file an administrative appeal. A spokeswoman said the group was evaluating whether to pursue an appeal in addition to seeking relief in federal court.


3. N.C. ‘bathroom bill’ repeal effort leaves conservatives feeling betrayed, By Bradford Richardson, The Washington Times, December 21, 2016, Pg. A1.

North Carolina Republicans have a deal for the city of Charlotte: We’ll pull our bathroom law if you pull yours.

Lawmakers are prepared to repeal HB2, the legislation regulating intimate public facilities on the basis of biological sex, after the Charlotte City Council on Monday got rid of its ordinance requiring that access to restrooms and locker rooms be determined based on a person’s gender identity.

“The City Council has taken care of their side of the equation, and we need to take care of ours,” Republican Sen. Jeff Tarte told The Charlotte Observer.

But the anticipated deal is leaving some conservatives, who worked to re-elect Republican supermajorities in both chambers, feeling betrayed by their representatives.

The attempted compromise stems form a promise outgoing Gov. Pat McCrory and leading Republican lawmakers made several months ago to consider repealing HB2 if the Charlotte City Council got rid of the ordinance that prompted the state law in the first place — a deal that was rejected at the time.

Mr. McCrory, who lost the gubernatorial race to Attorney General Roy Cooper by about 10,000 votes, said Charlotte’s sudden about-face reveals the political nature of the controversy over HB2.


4. Pope Francis Names New Female Director of Vatican Museums: Barbara Jatta will be Vatican’s most prominent woman administrator, By Francis X. Rocca, The Wall Street Journal, December 21, 2016, Pg. A11.

The Vatican Museums, one of the world’s pre-eminent art collections, announced Tuesday that Barbara Jatta, an Italian art historian and longtime Vatican official, will become its new director, making her the first woman to hold one of the most prestigious jobs in the art world.

The appointment by Pope Francis, which is effective Jan. 1, will also make Ms. Jatta the most prominent female administrator at the Vatican. The pope has spoken about expanding the roles of women in the Catholic Church, but most high Vatican offices are reserved for cardinals and bishops, who must be men.

Ms. Jatta, 54, will oversee an institution that is one of the Holy See’s major sources of funds, with about €300 million ($311 million) in gross revenues a year and at least €40 million in profits. The financial importance of the Vatican Museums has only grown in recent years, as the Holy See seeks to close a budget shortfall that amounted to €26 million in 2014.

A native of Rome, Ms. Jatta has worked at the Vatican since 1996, until this year within the Vatican Library, where she oversaw the library’s collection of rare prints. She previously taught at the University of Naples.

She will succeed Antonio Paolucci, who has served in the job since 2007 and has been at the forefront of the Museums’ efforts to modernize and cope with an increasing number of visitors—a problem for many cultural attractions in Italy.


5. Pope grants freedom to jailed prelate in leaks scandal, By Nicole Winfield, The Associated Press, December 20, 2016, 3:53 PM.

Pope Francis on Tuesday freed a Vatican monsignor convicted of leaking confidential documents to journalists, granting him a Christmas-time clemency and ending an embarrassing episode for the Holy See.

Francis granted “conditional freedom” to Spanish Monsignor Lucio Vallejo Balda after he served half of his 18-month sentence, the Vatican said late Tuesday. Fired from his job as a high-ranking Vatican financial official, Vallejo now falls under the authority of his local bishop in Astorga, Spain.

The two journalists, Emiliano Fittipaldi and Gianluigi Nuzzi, wrote blockbuster books last year based on Vatican documents exposing the greed of bishops and cardinals angling for big apartments, the extraordinarily high costs of getting a saint made and the loss to the Holy See of millions of euros in rental income because of undervalued real estate.

The documentation had been compiled by a pontifical commission that Francis had asked to gather information about the Vatican’s finances to make them more transparent and efficient.

Vallejo, the No. 2 of the commission, admitted in court that he gave Nuzzi 85 passwords to password-protected documents. He denied that the journalists threatened him, and put the blame of feeling pressured on Francesca Chaouqui, the communications expert who was also a member of the commission and was convicted alongside him of conspiracy.

She was got a 10-month suspended sentence.

Publishing confidential information is a crime in the Vatican, punishable by up to eight years in prison.


6. Faith and Sacrifice: Martin Scorsese’s latest film “Silence” offers a clear window into the souls and minds of the faithful., By Grazie Pozo Christie, U.S. News, December 20, 2016, 12:00 PM.

Martin Scorsese, never afraid of a challenge, takes up the human struggle of faith and fidelity in his upcoming movie about missionaries and martyrs: “Silence.” He himself describes it as an attempt to tell the story of the Christian faith and “the difficulty, the crisis, of believing.” I would describe it as a bracing plunge into the minds and souls of those whose faith is an intimate, personal love – the kind that demands and deserves heroic integrity.

The director presents a vivid story of Christian evangelization and martyrdom. And he does this to a rapidly secularizing culture that finds it increasingly difficult to understand the demands and rewards of faith. If religions, as secularists believe, are anodyne myths, isn’t it silliness to make yourself uncomfortable fulfilling religious obligations, and foolishness to suffer professionally or socially because you won’t act in a way that contradicts the truths you live by? Isn’t it the height of insanity to die rather than renounce your allegiance?

To those who would really like to understand, “Silence” offers a clear window into the souls and minds of the faithful.

This is a complicated story of bravery, failure and success that, though glorious, may be beyond the limited human understanding of most of us. It is a beautiful reminder to those who live in the comfortable moral universe of relativism that men, women and even children make sacrifices every day in faithfulness to the ennobling truth through which they see the world. And these sacrifices are not made to a set of dry dogmas or rules, but to a friend with a tender, compassionate gaze – a gaze that even Judas could not evade without breaking his heart.


7. Martin Scorsese: ‘Cinema Is Gone’, By The Associated Press, December 20, 2016, 5:49 PM.

Scorsese’s latest, “Silence,” may be the film that most purely fuses the twin passions of his life: God and cinema. Scorsese, who briefly pursued becoming a priest before fervently dedicating himself to moviemaking, has sometimes seemed to conflate the two.

“Silence” is a solemn, religious epic about Jesuit priests (Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver) in a violently anti-Catholic 17th century Japan. Scorsese has wanted to make it for nearly 30 years. He was given the book it’s based on, Shusaku Endo’s 1966 novel, by a bishop after a screening of his famously controversial “The Last Temptation of Christ” in 1988.

“Silence” is an examination of belief and doubt and mysterious acts of faith. But making the film was such an act in itself.

“Acting it out, maybe that’s what existence is all about,” Scorsese says of his faith. “The documentary on George Harrison I made, ‘Living in the Material World,’ that says it better. He said if you want an old man in the sky with a beard, fine. I don’t mean to be relativist about it. I happen to feel more comfortable with Christianity. But what is Christianity? That’s the issue and that’s why I made this film.”

It wasn’t easy. Scorsese, 74, may be among the most revered directors in Hollywood, but “Silence” is almost the antithesis of today’s studio film. To make it Scorsese had to drum up foreign money in Cannes and ultimately made the film for about $46 million. Everyone, including himself, worked for scale.

Few today are making movies with the scope and ambition of “Silence” — a fact, he grants, that makes him feel like one of the last of a dying breed in today’s film industry.

“Cinema is gone,” Scorsese says. “The cinema I grew up with and that I’m making, it’s gone.”