The power of celebrity in America cannot be overstated. When a well-known celebrity (or even a not-so-well-known one) does something like try to run over a paparazzo with an ATV or alters their personal appearance, the American people get to hear about it. The media firestorm this week over Caitlyn Jenner's new 'groove' is no exception.
And it wasn't just the Perez Hiltons of the media world ogling her Vanity Fair cover photo. "Serious" journalists like Chris Hayes at MSNBC and Neil Cavuto at Fox News found time to talk about her new physique.
But in case you have an appetite for current events that actually matter, here are 5 arguably more important things that happened this week while everyone was talking about Caitlyn Jenner:
2016 Presidential Field Grows While Candidates Continue to Flaunt Campaign Finance Regulations
This week, Jeb Bush pre-announced a future announcement, which is technically a re-annoucment that he will run for president in 2016. The Wall Street Journal reported that Jeb Bush is set to announce his 2016 campaign on June 15. His pre-annoucement announcement follows a Freudian slip from a few weeks ago when the Florida Republican accidentally said:
"I'm running for president in 2016, and the focus is gonna be about how we—if I run—how do you create high, sustained economic growth, where more people have a chance at earned success?"
Likewise, former Texas Governor Rick Perry also made his way into the presidential campaign fray. He announced his candidacy Thursday among supporters at a rally in Dallas.
As the 2016 presidential candidate roster continues to grow, the favorites in both major parties, Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton, continue to skirt the edges of campaign finance regulations. Even though Jeb Bush hasn't formally announced yet, campaign finance watchdog groups like the Campaign Legal Center contend that he is still beholden to certain non-coordination and fundraising rules during this 'testing the waters' phase. Nevertheless, his 'official' Super PAC, Right to Rise, continues to raise unlimited contributions from donors.
Even though Clinton has already announced, she too has been under fire from campaign finance hawks for last month's announcement from Correct the Record PAC. The pro-Clinton PAC announced it could communicate with the Clinton campaign since it would only do so via the Internet - a loophole known as the 'Internet exception.'
Memorial Service Held for Vice President Joe Biden's Son, Beau Biden
The memorial service for Vice President Joe Biden's son, Beau, was held Thursday at the Delaware Legislative House in Dover. The 46-year-old lawyer, Iraq war veteran, and attorney general lost a lengthy battle with brain cancer on Saturday, May 30.
Vice President Joe Biden wrote a message to the public on Beau's campaign website. It states:
It is with broken hearts that Hallie, Hunter, Ashley, Jill and I announce the passing of our husband, brother and son, Beau, after he battled brain cancer with the same integrity, courage and strength he demonstrated every day of his life. The entire Biden family is saddened beyond words. We know that Beau’s spirit will live on in all of us—especially through his brave wife, Hallie, and two remarkable children, Natalie and Hunter. Beau’s life was defined by service to others. As a young lawyer, he worked to establish the rule of law in war-torn Kosovo. A major in the Delaware National Guard, he was an Iraq War veteran and was awarded the Bronze Star. As Delaware’s Attorney General, he fought for the powerless and made it his mission to protect children from abuse.
The NSA's Mass Data Collection Powers Expired, and Then Were Reinstated
After a series of albeit highly-publicized maneuvers, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul managed to delay Congress long enough for the NSA's mass surveillance capabilities to briefly lapse earlier this week. On Tuesday, President Obama signed the USA Freedom Act after it passed the Senate 67 to 32. The bill essentially reauthorizes the practice of mass surveillance but with new contingencies.
When the Patriot Act was passed in 2001, Section 215 was ultimately interpreted to allow the government to collect the phone records of every American. The provision was criticized since the law first passed, but its full implications wouldn't be uncovered until Edward Snowden, a former cyber security consultant, divulged intimate details of the NSA's surveillance capabilities in 2013.
As it happens, more information provided by Snowden himself published in the New York Times and ProPublica on Thursday. The latest leak includes memos that were written by the Justice Department which authorized certain aspects of domestic surveillance.
In mid-2012, Justice Department lawyers wrote two secret memos permitting the spy agency to begin hunting on Internet cables, without a warrant and on American soil, for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad — including traffic that flows to suspicious Internet addresses or contains malware, the documents show.
Snowden himself also authored an op-ed in the New York Times. Here's an excerpt:
Privately, there were moments when I worried that we might have put our privileged lives at risk for nothing — that the public would react with indifference, or practiced cynicism, to the revelations.
Never have I been so grateful to have been so wrong.
Sepp Blatter Re-Elected as FIFA President, then Resigns Amid Corruption Allegations
On Friday, May 29, the four-term president of FIFA, Sepp Blatter, was re-elected to a fifth term. On Tuesday, at a press conference at FIFA’s Zurich headquarters, he announced his resignation amid allegations of bribery and corruption.
He said in a statement:
"While I have a mandate from the membership of Fifa, I do not feel that I have a mandate from the entire world of football – the fans, the players, the clubs, the people who live, breathe and love football as much as we all do at Fifa."
The news was met by FIFA's corporate sponsors with suspicious calculation, but numerous other FIFA executives are also implicated in what is quickly becoming an organization-wide affair.
Voter Turnout Tanks in New Jersey's Primary Election
This week was also primary election week in the Garden State. Out of 80 seats up for reelection, five were competitive. Turnout was just 5 percent, meaning less than 3 percent of New Jersey's 5.3 million registered voters decided the de facto winner for the general election in more than 90 percent of races.
NJ Spotlight estimated that New Jersey's 2015 primary election may mark a historic low in voter participation. Colleen O’Dea writes, "If these figures hold when all the votes are tallied, it would mark a new low for a state primary."
Only two or three races in New Jersey's 2015 general election are expected to be competitive. The odd-year election is set for November 3.
Image: Vanity Fair