BBC 2024-03-04 22:31:58

US Supreme Court rules Colorado cannot ban Trump from presidential ballot

The US Supreme Court has struck down efforts by individual states to disqualify Donald Trump from running for president using an anti-insurrection constitutional clause.

The unanimous ruling is specific to Colorado, but it also overrides challenges brought in other states.

Colorado had barred Mr Trump from its Republican primary, arguing he incited the 2021 Capitol riot.

The court ruled that only Congress, rather than the states, has that power.

The top court’s decision clears the way for Mr Trump to compete in the Colorado primary scheduled for Tuesday.

Mr Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination and looks likely to face a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s general election.

On Monday, the ex-president immediately claimed victory following the ruling, taking to his Truth Social media platform to claim a “big win for America”. The message was quickly followed by a fundraising email sent to supporters of his campaign.

Speaking from his estate in Mar-a-Lago, Florida soon after, he said that the decision was “very well crafted” and will “go a long way towards bringing our country together, which it needs”.

“You can’t take someone out of a race because an opponent would like it that way,” Mr Trump added.

Colorado’s Secretary of State, Jena Griswold, said that she was disappointed by the ruling and that “Colorado should be able to bar oath-breaking insurrections from our ballot”.

Additionally, the watchdog group that brought the case in Colorado, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (Crew), said in a statement that while the court “failed to meet the moment”, it is “still a win for democracy: Trump will go down in history as an insurrectionist”.

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Two other states, Maine and Illinois, had followed Colorado in kicking Mr Trump off the ballot on similar grounds.

The efforts in both states were put on hold while his challenge to the Colorado ruling was escalated to the Supreme Court.

“We conclude that states may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office,” the court’s opinion says. “But states have no power under the Constitution to enforce Sections 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the presidency.”

The nine justices ruled that only Congress can enforce the 14th Amendment’s provisions against federal officials and candidates.

Part of the Civil War-era amendment – section 3 – bars federal, state and military officials who have “engaged in insurrection or rebellion” against the US from holding office again.

Groups including Free Speech For People had argued that the attempt to delay the peaceful transfer of power on 6 January 2021 matched the definition of insurrection outlined in the amendment.

One of the court’s justices, Amy Coney Barrett, wrote separately that the fact that all nine justices agreed on the outcome of the case is “the message that Americans should take home”.

“The court has settled a politically charged issue in the volatile season of a presidential election,” Ms Barrett wrote. “Particularly in this circumstance, writings on the court should turn the national temperature down, not up.”

But the court’s three liberal justices argued that the ruling seeks to “decide novel constitutional questions to insulate this Court and [Trump] from future controversy” by announcing “that a disqualification for insurrection can occur only when Congress enacts a particular kind of legislation”.

“In doing so, the majority shuts the door on other potential means of enforcement,” they added.

Atiba Ellis, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio, told the BBC that while the court’s concerns about Mr Trump’s exclusion from the ballot are “fair”, the ruling “may have far-reaching consequences”.

“It opens the door to constitutional interpretation matters that weren’t at issue in the case. The decision throws the problem to Congress at a time when partisan deadlock will guarantee inaction on this matter,” Mr Ellis added. “The decision effectively ensures that the question of the former president’s constitutional eligibility under Section 3 will not be resolved prior to the 2024 election.”

Another legal scholar, Albany Law School’s Ray Brescia, said the court’s decision prevents a situation in which there is a “patchwork of states with different processes”.

“If the court was to allow Colorado to proceed in this way, what’s to stop some rogue prosecutor in another state from saying that a candidate from a different party is not a viable candidate because they engaged in insurrection?,” he said.

Republican voters in Colorado and 14 other states will vote on Tuesday in a marathon contest dubbed Super Tuesday.

The former president is widely expected to sweep the board and defeat his sole remaining opponent, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, in every battleground.

France makes abortion a constitutional right

France has become the first country in the world to explicitly include the right to abortion in its constitution.

Parliamentarians voted to revise the country’s 1958 constitution to enshrine women’s “guaranteed freedom” to abort.

The overwhelming 780-72 vote saw a standing ovation in the parliament in Versailles when the result was announced.

President Emmanuel Macron described the move as “French pride” that had sent a “universal message”.

However anti-abortion groups have strongly criticised the change, as has the Vatican.

Abortion has been legal in France since 1975, but polls show around 85% of the public supported amending the constitution to protect the right to end a pregnancy.

And while several other countries include reproductive rights in their constitutions – France is the first to explicitly state that an abortion will be guaranteed.

It becomes the 25th amendment to modern France’s founding document, and the first since 2008.

Following the vote, the Eiffel Tower in Paris was lit up in celebration, with the message: “My Body My Choice”.

Before the vote, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal told parliament that the right to abortion remained “in danger” and “at the mercy of decision makers”.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” he added.

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While resistance from right-wingers in parliament failed to materialise, President Macron has been accused of using the constitution for electoral ends.

Critics say the revision is not necessarily wrong in itself, but unnecessary, and accused the president of trying to use the cause to boost his left-wing credentials.

Since 1975 the law has been updated nine times – and on each occasion with the aim of extending access.

France’s constitutional council – the body that decides on the constitutionality of laws – has never raised a query.

In a 2001 ruling, the council based its approval of abortion on the notion of liberty enshrined in the 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man, which is technically part of the constitution.

So many jurists say abortion was already a constitutional right.

The constitutional change was prompted by recent developments in the US, where the right to abortion was removed by the Supreme Court in 2022. Individual states are now able to ban the procedure again, ending the right to an abortion for millions of women.

The move to enshrine abortion in the French constitution has been welcomed by many.

“This right (to abortion) has retreated in the United States. And so nothing authorised us to think that France was exempt from this risk,” said Laura Slimani, from the Fondation des Femmes rights group.

“There’s a lot of emotion, as a feminist activist, also as a woman,” she said.

But not all support it, with the Vatican repeating its opposition to abortion.

“There can be no ‘right’ to take a human life,” the Vatican institution said in a statement, echoing concerns already raised by French Catholic bishops.

It appealed to “all governments and all religious traditions to do their best so that, in this phase of history, the protection of life becomes an absolute priority”.

Children starving to death in northern Gaza – WHO

Children are dying of starvation in northern Gaza, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief says.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the agency’s visits over the weekend to the Al-Awda and Kamal Adwan hospitals were the first since early October.

In a post on social media, he spoke of “grim findings”.

A lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children and “severe levels of malnutrition”, while hospital buildings have been destroyed, he wrote.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza reported on Sunday that at least 15 children had died from malnutrition and dehydration at the Kamal Adwan hospital.

A 16th child died on Sunday at a hospital in the southern city of Rafah, the Palestinian official news agency Wafa reported on Monday.

Dr Tedros reported “severe levels of malnutrition, children dying of starvation, serious shortages of fuel, food and medical supplies, hospital buildings destroyed” in northern Gaza, where an estimated 300,000 people are living with little food or clean water.

“The lack of food resulted in the deaths of 10 children,” he posted on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The visits were the WHO’s first in months “despite our efforts to gain more regular access to the north of Gaza”, he wrote.

“The situation at Al-Awda Hospital is particularly appalling, as one of the buildings is destroyed,” he added.

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The UN warned last week that famine in Gaza was “almost inevitable”.

A senior UN aid official warned that at least 576,000 people across the Gaza Strip – one quarter of the population – faced catastrophic levels of food insecurity and one in six children under the age of two in the north were suffering from acute malnutrition.

And the regional director of the UN’s children’s agency, Unicef, said “the child deaths we feared are here, as malnutrition ravages the Gaza Strip”.

“These tragic and horrific deaths are man-made, predictable and entirely preventable,” Adele Khodr said in a statement on Sunday.

The Israeli military launched a large-scale air and ground campaign to destroy Hamas – which is proscribed as a terrorist organisation by Israel, the UK, US and others – after the group’s gunmen killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel on 7 October and took 253 back to Gaza as hostages.

More than 30,500 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in Gaza since then, according to the territory’s health ministry.

J-Lo: The rise of intimate love life revelations

With J-Lo’s new documentary The Greatest Love Story Never Told spilling the beans on her relationship with Ben Affleck, as well as the publication of love letters from George Harrison and Eric Clapton to Pattie Boyd, what happens when stars decide to over-share?

Is it okay to kiss and tell? Lately, it seems that there’s no shame in it.

The documentary The Greatest Love Story Never Told, released on 27 February, is a self-styled celebration of Jennifer Lopez’s rekindled relationship with actor-filmmaker Ben Affleck. It takes its name from a book of love letters compiled by Affleck, and makes Lopez the latest in a stream of celebrities to share intimate correspondence with the public.

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Released in November, Barbra Streisand’s autobiography My Name is Barbra, a bestseller, included a gushing letter from co-star Omar Sharif pleading with Streisand to leave her husband for him. “The thing I want most in my life is to have you with me, to go everywhere together, to hold you in my arms, to put you to sleep and to wake you up. To kiss you, talk to you, love you with all my being… And all the time you’re singing to me,” he writes to her. “He had me until the line about my singing,” she mocks.

Pattie Boyd and George Harrison married in 1966 (Credit: Getty Images)

Pattie Boyd, the ex-wife of George Harrison and, later, Eric Clapton, is also taking up the trend, with Christie’s auctioning The Pattie Boyd Collection (8-22 March 2024), a huge lot featuring unseen photographs she took of her exes and private letters she received from them.

There’s a scribbled note from Harrison in green ink: “Pattie, don’t forget I love you.” And later, a besotted Clapton tries to lure Boyd away from him with a neatly written letter addressed to “Layla”, his nickname for her, and penned on a page torn from Of Mice and Men. “For nothing more than the pleasure past, I would sacrifice my family, my god, and my own existence,” he writes. The letter becomes increasingly desperate: “Am i a poor lover, am I ugly, too weak, too strong…?”

Alongside Harrison’s timeless ballad Something (1969), Boyd would inspire Clapton’s Layla (1971), one of rock’s most iconic guitar anthems. “Like a fool, I fell in love with you,” he sings. “You turned my whole world upside down.” In 1974, when the couple finally got together, Clapton wrote Wonderful Tonight as an ode to her.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Boyd said Clapton was aware of the sale. “He’s absolutely fine with me auctioning everything,” she said. With some letters valued in excess of £10,000, it’s clear that cashing in on celebrity secrets is extremely lucrative. As far as Boyd is concerned, selling her love letters is an act of sharing: “I’ve enjoyed them for many, many years, and now it’s time for other people to see and enjoy them,” she tells Christie’s. “It’s only right that I pass them on.”

Lopez’s decision to create a body of work based on her relationship with Affleck − which spans more than two decades with a 17-year hiatus in the middle − is an unusual one, given the circumstances of their 2004 split. It was “the massive amount of scrutiny around our private life”, explains Affleck in the documentary, that led to the pair breaking up just three days before their planned wedding.

Inviting interest

Now, Lopez appears to be actively inviting public interest in the couple. The serial romantic, who captured fans’ hearts when, after three failed marriages, she finally tied the knot in 2022 with first love Affleck, is laying their relationship bare with This is Me… Now, a semi-autobiographical album and film chronicling her search for love (released 16 February), and The Greatest Love Story Never Told, a documentary about the film’s creation. “I have decided to tell my story, or tell my truth, that I’ve never shared with anybody in the world, which is the truth about my personal life,” she announces in the documentary.

In her new autobiographical musical film This Is Me… Now: A Love Story, Lopez plays a character who tries to work out why she’s been so unlucky in love (Credit: Amazon Studios)

In an early scene, Lopez is filmed holding up a black file box. “This book is a book Ben gave me on our first Christmas back together. It is every letter and every email that we wrote to each other from 20 years ago and today,” she says. On the cover, Affleck has written: “The greatest love story never told by Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck 2001-2021 and counting”.

But Lopez has chosen to tell the story after all. To provide inspiration for This is Me… Now, the book of letters was even shared with her team, who, she says, “would thumb through it”, soon dubbing its compiler “Pen Affleck”. “She would pick one and she would let us touch them and read them,” says songwriter and collaborator Faangs in the documentary. Affleck was surprised to stumble upon this scene and tells the camera: “Things that are private, I’ve always felt, are sacred and special because, in part, they’re private, so this was something of an adjustment for me.”

Particularly controversial was the decision to include a close-up of what is believed to be a copy of a 2002 letter from Affleck. It reads: “Life’s tough but you’re sweet. Thanks for the gift. Hope you like the flowers. You told me you could never have enough… I believe you. Bx.”

There’s no doubt that the “Bennifer” love story is epic, but some feel making their correspondence the basis for an artistic project risks tarnishing rather than elevating their narrative. Lopez’s producing partner Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas says in the film: “I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to reveal all this; I wasn’t sure if it was necessary.”

For Lopez, however, sharing a private letter or two serves a higher purpose. “I just want people to believe that love exists,” she says. “And if I can use my story to do that, then, as an artist, that’s what I should do.”

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What’s wrong with the second-hand clothing market?

Pre-owned clothing is a surging market with a cool reputation. Yet the economics don’t make sense, and most companies are struggling.

In the past decade, buying used fashion has become normalised and even glamorised, with celebrities getting in on the action through swaps and sales of their pre-owned designer clothing. Shoppers are paying TikTok stylists hundreds of dollars for “bundles” of thrifted clothing, and the fashion sponsor of the popular British reality show Love Island switched from a fast-fashion brand to eBay.

Sixty-seven percent of millennials in the UK shop second-hand, and according to a report commissioned by ThredUp, the online second-hand fashion retailer, two in five items in Gen Z’s closet are pre-owned. Every year since 2017, ThredUp has put out this report underlining the breakneck growth of the market. Its latest version of the report noted that by 2027, the value of the fashion resale market would double, to $3.5bn (£2.76bn).  

As large as the opportunity is, however, there’s a big problem. From local thrift shops to enormous online second-hand retailers, it’s hard to find pre-owned clothing businesses that actually turn a profit.

Supply > demand 

Online retailers have been packing up and shipping out second-hand clothes for years, focusing on growth over the bottom line, taking on large capital investments and, in some cases, going public. Despite this commitment, profits aren’t rolling in – even for the biggest players in the space.

The sheer volume of clothing that arrives at distribution centres for clothing resale companies, like ThredUp, can be overwhelming to process (Credit: Courtesy of ThredUp)

For instance, neither the American companies ThredUp nor its luxury cousin The RealReal are profitable, disappointing investors and dragging share prices below their IPOs. In 2022, fewer than two years after going public, the American peer-to-peer resale site Poshmark was acquired by a Korean tech company for $1.2bn (£950m), one-sixth of its IPO valuation. While the service is still available to American shoppers and sellers, the company no longer operates in the UK market.

The Lithuanian peer-to-peer fashion resale start-up Vinted has taken over in the UK, posting a pre-tax loss of €47.1m ($51m; £40.3m) in 2022. The British second-hand marketplace Depop posted a loss of £59m ($69m) in 2023. The bright spot is Vestiaire, which focuses on luxury resale. If its optimistic forecast is to be believed, it might be profitable by the end of the year.

This struggle affects every size, type and location of resellers. For-profit second-hand clothing sorters in the UK have been going out of business, citing high labour costs and the degrading quality of the clothing they receive. In New York City, Brooklyn residents bemoan standing in line for an hour to consign clothes at the famous store Beacon’s Closet, and getting paid just $18 (£14.20) for a full bag of old designer clothes. As early as 2016, market resellers in Ghana – one of the largest recipients of second-hand fashion from Europe – were also complaining about declining quality and profits, and it has only gotten worse since then. 

The problem is one of economics. With the rise of ultra-fast, ultra-cheap fashion brands, the volume of clothing produced and shipped globally continues to explode, and consumers are offloading more of it after just a few wears. 

According to a 2023 study, one large Swedish charity has to pay to have 70% of donated clothing incinerated because it is too low quality to sell in-store or export. Of the clothing that isexported to Ghana, 40% is trashed almost immediately.

“There’s an oversupply of clothes,” says Liz Ricketts, co-founder and executive director of The Or Foundation, a non-profit that researches Ghana’s Kantamanto market, one of the world’s largest clothing exchanges. “And it’s lowering the perceived value, and the real value, of everything.”

A significant amount of manual labour is involved in processing pre-owned clothing (Credit: Getty Images)

Hidden costs

Processing second-hand products is labour-intensive – and it’s costly for businesses. “We treat waste as if it is a free resource. Sure, you might give it away for free, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and labour and skill to try to re-commodify that thing that you gave away,” says Ricketts. “Reuse is based on the quality and the condition of the individual item, which means that it requires a human touch and a human eye to assess that.”

Second-hand clothing companies have realised the difficult economics of processing old clothes for resale. To shore up business, some are changing their models for acquiring pre-owned clothing. ThredUp is now charging consumers and brands alike to process their old clothing, whereas sending along a “Clean Out Kit” was previously free

“You’re doing effectively reverse, single-SKU fulfilment, which is incredibly difficult, incredibly expensive and incredibly inefficient,” says Dylan Carden, a US-based research analyst at the investment firm William Blair.

We treat waste as if it is a free resource. Sure, you might give it away for free, but it takes a tremendous amount of effort and labour and skill to try to re-commodify that thing that you gave away – Liz Ricketts

Rising costs can mean rising price, a jarring realisation for consumers who come to the market expecting deals and steals. In some cases, labour costs can push the price of second-hand clothing over the price of new products of similar quality. A recent investigation by The Telegraph called thrift shopping in the UK a “right rip-off”, citing the example of a used Primark sweater that was priced higher than a new one.

The dirty secret of the resale industry is that despite its reputation as an eco-friendly alternative to fast fashion, second-hand fashion is often subsidised by the sale of new clothing. For example, 80% of products on eBay, long seen as a second-hand success story, are new. The Swedish resale site Sellpy’s expansion to new markets and investment in technology was made possible by its strategic partnership with H&M – and H&M’s profits come from selling large amounts of new fast fashion.

Thomas Bauwens, an economist and assistant professor in collective action and sustainability at Rotterdam School of Management, believes that we would have to completely rethink what we consider a “good” or “healthy” economy for second-hand retail to succeed. In a 2021 article in the Journal of Resources, Conservation and Recycling, Bauwens argued that, in a growth-based economy, companies trying to implement sustainable practices such as take-back, repair, resale and recycling are “quickly outpriced and driven out of the market by cheaper, non-circular competitors”.

A climate imperative

Some experts believe the key to making the pre-owned clothing market work is by not only treating it as a for-profit business – but also as an environmental imperative.

In the US, second-hand luxury retailers. such as The RealReal are making a splash with consumers, but have not performed for investors (Credit: Getty Images)

“The resale [industry] as we know it today – not the thrift shopping from when we grew up – is in its infancy,” says Rachel Kibbe, CEO of the trade group American Circular Textiles. She believes the second-hand clothing market should receive funding for capital-intensive sorting and recycling infrastructure to reduce labour costs, the same way other climate-focused initiatives are subsidised. 

William Blair’s Carden thinks ThredUp and its ilk could benefit from government regulation that requires companies use certain technology to reduce labour costs. For instance, scannable tags on garments can pull up information and photos on each item instantly, which would slash the amount of manual labour required to sort clothing.

These kinds of changes are not only eco-friendly, but may also lead some resellers to profitability as they introduce efficiencies and scale up business models with new, state-of-the-art fulfilment centres and technology. 

Reducing the oversupply of clothing could also be key. “I don’t see a world where second-hand and upcycled and recycled products are going to be competitive if we don’t reduce the production of new clothes,” says Ricketts. Her organisation is calling for a government policy that would include a reduction of the production of new clothes by 40%.

Whether the second-hand clothing market is a bubble ready to burst, or an industry with untapped potential, experts agree the current situation is untenable. “We need infrastructure, we need labour, we need capital,” says Kibbe. “Because how else are we going to solve this thing called the climate crisis?”