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U.S. Soccer Defends Pay Gap by Saying Male Players Have a “Higher Lever of Skill”

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  • In recently released court documents, the U.S Soccer Federation argued that male athletes for the national soccer team have a “higher level of skill” than their female counterparts.
  • The filing is a result of the women’s team suing U.S. Soccer for gender discrimination, asking for equal pay and $67 million in back pay.
  • U.S. Soccer also justified the pay difference by citing biological sex differences, arguing that male players carry “more responsibility” and suggesting men face working conditions that include “unmatched” hostility from opposing fans.
  • The women’s team, which has consistently been ranked either number 1 or 2 by the FIFA Women’s World Rankings, said the job of an elite soccer player is the same.

U.S. Soccer Says Men Have a “Higher Level of Skill”

In court documents filed on Monday, the U.S. Soccer Federation says male soccer athletes are paid more because playing as a man “requires a higher level of skill based on speed and strength” in comparison to a Women’s National Soccer player.

The document comes amid a gender discrimination lawsuit against U.S. Soccer. All 28 players on the Women’s National Team are accusing it of violating the Equal Pay Act. Specifically, they’re asking for equal pay with the men’s team and $67 million in back pay.

The two sides held talks in August to try to reach an agreement, but those talks quickly fell through. Now, this new court filing may shed light as to why. 

In the document, U.S. Soccer goes on to call differences in speed and strength between men and women “indisputable ‘science.’” It also cites a law publication that describes the scientific basis for “the average 10-12% performance gap between elite male and elite female athletes.”

“No matter how great the great Katie Ledecky gets… she will never beat Michael Phelps or his endurance counterparts in the pool,” U.S. Soccer lawyers also cite from Law and Contemporary Problems publication from Doriane Coleman. 

U.S. Soccer also argues that it did not violate the Equal Pay Act because the jobs that their male soccer players and female soccer players perform are substantially different, even though both are soccer players.

U.S. Soccer said in the documents, “facts demonstrate that the job of a [men’s national team] player carries more responsibility within U.S. Soccer than the job of a [women’s national team] player.”

It also justified that assertion by saying that the men’s team competes in multiple tournaments and can potentially bring in more than $40 million in prize money. By contrast, it said the women’s team only competes in one tournament that has the potential to bring in money—The FIFA Women’s World Cup, which only happens once every four years. As a result, it said the women’s team only generates one-tenth of the amount of money that the men’s team generates.

On top of that, U.S. soccer argued that men’s matches have higher ratings. That then means U.S Soccer can charge more for TV broadcast rights for those games.

It argues the job for the men’s team is different than the women’s because of “working conditions” and “‘surroundings’ of the job. Under that argument, it says the men’s team often travels to games in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and in those games specifically, the men’s team faces “unmatched” hostility from opposing fans.

U.S. Women’s Team Says They Deserve Equal Pay

Still, the women’s team argues they should be paid the same because they hold the same position as that of their male counterparts: elite soccer player.

In other court documents, that insistence has come to head as lawyers for U.S. Soccer speak to players from the women’s team.

“Do you think it requires more skill to play for the US Men’s National Team than the US Women’s National Team?” a U.S. Soccer lawyer asked co-captain Alex Morgan.

“No,” Morgan told the lawyer. “It’s a different skill.”

“Do you think that the team could be competitive against the senior men’s national team?” a U.S. Soccer lawyer asked in a different exchange with co-captain Carli Lloyd.

“I’m not sure,” Lloyd said. “Shall we fight it out to see who wins and then we get paid more?”

In response to the court filing, on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the women’s team condemned U.S. Soccer’s reasoning as “ridiculous,” saying it “belongs in the Paleolithic Era.”

“It sounds as if it has been made by a caveman,” spokesperson Molly Levinson said. “Literally everyone in the world understands that an argument that male players ‘have more responsibility’ is just plain, simple sexism and illustrates the very gender discrimination that caused us to file this lawsuit to begin with.”

Since 2003, the women’s team has consistently been ranked either number 1 or 2 by the FIFA Women’s World Rankings. The women’s team also won the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and won again last year. 

By comparison, the men’s team ranks 22nd in the world right now. It also failed to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup and has not placed in the top ten countries, except for once in 2002 when it placed eighth. 

At the women’s final in France last year,  after they won, the stadium erupted into chants of “Equal pay!” 

Regarding viewership, in 2015, their FIFA Women’s World Cup finals match became the most-watched soccer match in American TV history.

With those achievements, the team has argued its success has translated into substantial revenue generation and profits for U.S. Soccer.

On the note of working conditions, a major argument from the women’s team is that they have to play on turf much more often than the men’s team. According to their lawsuit, playing on turf can lead to serious and even career-threatening injuries.

“The job skills and effort and responsibilities are the same,” lawyers for the women’s team said on Monday. “It is all equal work requiring equal pay under the [Equal Pay Act]. Arguing that the WNT did not win its two World Cups ‘against the most elite male soccer players in the world’ is not a defense under the EPA; it is a tone deaf admission of blatant gender-based discrimination.”

A jury will decide the outcome of this lawsuit at a trial scheduled to begin later this year in May.

See what others are saying: (CBS Sports) (ESPN) (The Wall Street Journal)

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Trump Signs Order Allowing Former Troops to Be Called Upon for Coronavirus Fight

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  • President Trump signed an executive order that allows for former troops to be brought back to active duty to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This is not an immediate order to call former service members back, but it is typically used when the military is in need of specific skill sets, like persons with high demand medical capabilities. 
  • Officials are still reviewing who might be activated.
  • The order comes just days after the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s response efforts. Over 14,000 have expressed interest as of Friday. 

Trump Signs Executive Order

President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that allows the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Gaurd and reserve back to active duty to help those already battling the county’s coronavirus outbreaks.

During his press conference Friday night, Trump said the decision allows the federal government “to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees.”

“We have a lot of people, retirees, great military people — they’re coming back in,” Trump added.

What This Means

The executive order released by the White House states that anyone recalled can remain on active duty for up to 24 months straight. It provides the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to order as many as 1 million individuals at one time, however, it is not an order to do so. 

According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, the order applies to units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members who are normally in an inactive status.

Hoffman said that decisions about who may be activated are still being reviewed, but he added, “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.” 

As of now, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense, and nearly 11,000 of those members “have medical capabilities.”

“This is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed,” Hoffman said. 

He also stressed that the departments would consult with state officials before using any National Gaurd Reserve Component units under the executive order.

Earlier this week, the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s pandemic response efforts. The Army said the initial response has been positive, with at least 14,6000 people expressing interest as of Friday.

See what others are saying: (Politico) (CNN) (Fox News)

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FDA Authorizes Portable Test Kit That Can Detect COVID-19 in 5 Minutes

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  • The FDA has approved the use of a new coronavirus test kit that can give positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in 13, leaps faster than the hours and sometimes days laboratory tests normally take. 
  • The tests are run on a lightweight and small portable device that can be used in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even outside hospital walls.
  • Abbott, the medical device company that makes the kits, plans to send out 50,000 tests a day starting next week.

New Test Approved

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization to the medical device company Abbott for a new coronavirus test kit that gives results within minutes.

Abbott announced the news in a Friday press release, saying it plans to start delivering 50,000 tests a day beginning next week. The tests run on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable device about the size of a small toaster than weights only 6.6 pounds.

Its portability means it can be used directly in an emergency room or urgent care clinic and even, “outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots.”

The company called it “the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus(COVID-19), delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”

Second Rapid Test to Be Approved by FDA 

The approval from federal health officials means that regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and are confident that its benefits outweigh any risk, like false positives or negatives. 

The FDA’s approval marks the seconds time it has green-lit a fast working test that could accelerate testing across the country.  Last week, it approved a 45-minute rapid point of care test by the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid. However, that test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not doctors’ officers or urgent care clinics.  

Still, those turnaround times are leaps faster than the hours to days it takes most laboratory tests to bring results. 

Medical Shortages Still Cause Concern 

The approval of the Abbott test comes as cities across the nation battle with numbers of potential patients that surpass available tests and resources. Even with insufficient testing, the United States became the country with the largest number of reported cases of coronavirus on Thursday, exceeding China and Italy. By Friday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 cases. 

Many fear that shortages of other critical medical equipment, like masks and swabs, could stifle the new rapid test’s impact. That’s because the kit requires a swab sample collected from patients, and many health care facilities are running desperately low on the tools needed to safely collect those samples.

The Center for Disease Control issued guidance Tuesday that allows some patients to collect their own nasal swabs in health care facilities, in an effort to reduce the amount of protective equipment needed for health care workers. 

On the opposite end, however, others note that fast and efficient testing can help medical professionals determine how much protective equipment they actually need to wear when interacting with a patient, as well as what kind of care to provide. Since this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it could even potentially help diagnose patients with mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus and help stop them from unknowingly spreading it. 

Experts also say drastically increasing testing capacity can help get the economy back on track sooner. With increased testing, measures like keeping everyone at home could be replaced with more targeted identification and isolation of those infected. 

See what others are saying: (The Hill) (CNBC) (CNN

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EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis

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  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
  • The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
  • Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.   
  • The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”

Temporary Policy 

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws. 

The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.

“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.  

Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being. 

“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.

The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards. 

“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.

The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated. 

Criticism of New Policy

Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax. 

Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.” 

Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.

Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.

“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”

Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country. 

“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.

Defense of Policy

The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations. 

“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”

Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.

“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”

“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”

See what others are saying: (New York Times) (The Guardian) (CNN)

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