A federal judge in West Virginia sentenced former Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship to a year in prison on Wednesday for conspiring to commit mine safety violations at his company's Upper Big Branch mine during a period leading up to the explosion there that left 29 miners dead in 2010.

The mountaintop estate where Blankenship once hosted visitors. Read MoJo's chronicle of Blankenship's rise and fall in West Virginia. Stacy Kranitz

Blankenship was convicted of the misdemeanor charge in December, but the conviction was explicitly not linked to the Upper Big Branch disaster itself and Blankenship's attorney worked hard to ensure the accident was hardly mentioned during the trial. And that verdict was a disappointment to prosecutors; he was found not guilty of the more serious felony charges of making false statements to federal regulators in the aftermath of the blast in order to boost Massey's stock price. (Had he been convicted on all counts, he would have faced up to 30 years in prison.) The conspiracy conviction rested on evidence of Blankenship's domineering management style, which emphasized profits over the federal mine safety laws designed to avert underground explosions:

[T]he attention to detail that made Blankenship such an effective bean counter may also be his undoing. He constantly monitored every inch of his operation and wrote memos instructing subordinates to move coal at all costs. "I could Krushchev you," he warned in a handwritten memo to one Massey official whose facilities Blankenship thought were underperforming. He called another mine manager "literally crazy" and "ridiculous" for devoting too many of his miners to safety projects. Despite repeated citations by the MSHA, Blankenship instructed Massey executives to postpone safety improvements: "We'll worry about ventilation or other issues at an appropriate time. Now is not the time." And this is only what investigators gleaned from the documents they could find: Hughie Stover, Blankenship's bodyguard and personal driver—and the head of security at Upper Big Branch—ordered a subordinate to destroy thousands of pages of documents, while the government's investigation was ongoing. (Stover was sentenced to three years in prison in 2012 for lying to federal investigators and attempting to destroy evidence.)

Before he stepped down as Massey's CEO in 2010, Blankenship had built the company into one of the largest coal producers in the United States and become a polarizing figure in his home state, where he bankrolled the rise of the Republican Party, pushed climate denial, and crushed unions. For more on Blankenship, read my piece from the magazine on his rise and fall.

Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump ignited a firestorm last week when he said that he wants to outlaw abortion and punish women who obtain abortions anyway. He soon clarified his comment, suggesting that women who get abortions should not be penalized. But most recently, he doubled down on his initial statement.

Here's the chronology: During an interview with MSNBC's Chris Matthews last Wednesday, Trump said that abortion should be banned and that "there has to be some form of punishment" for women who obtain abortions once they are outlawed. Faced with immediate criticism from both anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups, his campaign issued a statement saying that Trump believed that only the abortion provider, not the woman, should be held legally responsible.

But a few days later, on Saturday, Trump essentially reaffirmed his initial comments. His answer to Matthews' question was "excellent," Trump told talk radio host Joe Pags, in an interview flagged on Tuesday by the liberal website Right Wing Watch. Here's the exchange:

TRUMP: A lot of people thought my answer was excellent, by the way. There were a lot of people who thought that was a very good answer. It was a hypothetical question. I didn't see any big deal and then all of a sudden there was somewhat of a storm. And you know, it's interesting, this morning I'm hearing two hosts on television that were critical and they said, "We really thought his first answer was very good." Because you can't win. "We thought it was good, what was wrong with his first answer?" And I heard a pastor, who is a fantastic pastor, saying, "Well, you know, if you think about it, his first answer was right"…

PAGS: Well, your answer was consistent with conservatism but Chris Matthews has an agenda, so I'm not even wondering about the question because I thought it was loaded and stupid and hypothetical.

TRUMP: It was disgraceful.

PAGS: Why go on the show? Why go?

TRUMP: I heard people defending it today. Now they defend it. Now they say, "It was really right." The whole thing is just so—look, the press is extremely unfair.

Trump, though, was not done with this subject. The next day, he had yet another position on abortion. He appeared on CBS's Face the Nation and stated that the current law on abortion should not be changed. Once again, his campaign had to renovate his message. It quickly walked back this statement, asserting that Trump meant the law will remain the same "until he is President."

RIP #ASSLaw. RIP #ASSoL.

Last week, George Mason University announced that it was renaming its law school in honor of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. Henceforth, students would attend the Antonin Scalia School of Law or, as the internet quickly (and gleefully) pointed out, ASSLaw—or ASSoL

It didn't take long for the school to tweak the name. According to the Wall Street Journal, "Antonin Scalia School of Law at George Mason University" will be the official name, but the school's website and promotional materials will refer to the Antonin Scalia Law School. Take that, snarky acronym-mongers!

The decision to rename the school came after it received two major donations: an anonymous donor, who requested the name change to commemorate Scalia, gave $20 million, and the Charles Koch Foundation gave $10 million.

Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson announced his resignation on Tuesday amid mounting public anger over evidence that he and his wife owned a secretive offshore company called Wintris that managed millions of dollars of investments in three Icelandic banks that collapsed during the 2008 financial crisis.

Calls to step down were sparked by this weekend's so-called "Panama Papers" leak, a massive trove of documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonesca that exposed a number of international leaders and their closest confidantes as participating in complex offshore banking arrangements. High-profile leaders linked to the leak include Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

But Gunnlaugsson is the first leader ousted in the international fallout. The public outcry in Iceland is particularly intense due to lasting memories of the 2008 financial crisis, which paralyzed the country's economy, and sent shock waves around the world. And as our own Kevin Drum noted, Iceland was "ground zero for the European banking crisis."

Gunnlaugsson had initially insisted on staying in office. When questioned about his ties to Wintris on Monday, the visibly shaken prime minister was unable to properly respond and ended the interview. "You are asking me nonsense," he is heard telling the reporters conducting the interview.

In the days following the leak, mass demonstrations calling for Gunnlaugsson to step down were held outside Parliament. Some people were seen hurling yogurt at the building in protest:

The passage of a $15-an-hour minimum wage in New York and California may have come as a shock to the Council of State Chambers, the umbrella group for America's notoriously anti-worker state chambers of commerce. But in a recent video briefing by LuntzGlobal, a Republican polling firm, the group got an even bigger shock: 80 percent of C-suite business executives surveyed by Luntz supported raising the minimum wage.

"A few helpful hints" for those who "want to give folks more benefits or more leave or more income."

That's not all: 73 percent of those execs supported more paid sick leave for workers—and 82 percent supported mandatory, paid paternity leave. Among state chamber members, support for mandatory paid paternity leave was even higher, at 89 percent.

During the call, a recording of which was obtained by the Center for Media and Democracy, Luntz Managing Director David Merritt attributed the findings to "empathy."

"What do these results have in common?" he asked. "Well, quite frankly, they are all empathetic. If you ask about them in isolation, of course we want to take care of people who are caring for a loved one. Of course we want to give folks more benefits or more leave or more income."

But the people who actually run state chambers of commerce don't feel this way—at least not always. So Merritt went on to give "a few helpful hints on how to actually, um, combat these [feelings of empathy] in your state." Check it out:

Last Thursday, New York passed a historic bill to mandate guaranteed paid family leave for nearly everyone who holds a job in the Empire State. The new policy—which follows in the footsteps of only four other states with similar programs—is by far the most generous paid family leave plan in the country, guaranteeing 12 weeks paid time off for both men and women, including for part-time and full-time employees.

By comparison, California and New Jersey guarantee only six weeks of paid time off. In Rhode Island, workers are guaranteed only four weeks of partial pay. (Washington approved a program in 2007 but it hasn't gone into effect yet.)

New York's new law, as Rebecca Traister in New York Magazine describes it, is truly revolutionary. At the moment, federal law only guarantees US workers job protection for up to 12 weeks, but fails to provide even a single hour of paid time off for parents who face the challenges of caring for a newborn child or a sick family member. Both Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders support changing the federal law to include such a paid leave mandate—but the issue faces a largely uphill battle due to Republican concerns of its potential damage to small businesses. Republicans also question how to fund such a federal program.

In New York, the program will go into effect starting in 2018 and will be paid for by paycheck deductions at 70 cents per week per every employee. That deduction will eventually go up to $1.40. The program comes as a major victory for Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who fought for its passage on Thursday well into the final hours of announcing the state's annual budget, which also included a minimum wage hike to $15.

The benefit to men of the specifically outlined extension is also crucial, because it levels the playing field in the work-life balance debate and frees it from being an exclusively woman's issue.

"No parent wants to not be able to be with their child enough to invest in them and watch them grow and have them recognize you—and need you and love you," Anne-Marie Salughter said in a September interview with the Wharton School of Business. "That's not a gender issue. That's a parent issue."

In the past year, tech giants such as Facebook and Apple have gotten ahead of the debate by offering robust parental leave programs that put the federal impasse to shame. Just last month, Etsy joined the progressive movement by offering all new parents up to six months of paid leave.

With New York the latest state to ensure paid leave for its employees—and far more generously than its predecessors—and the growing number of high-profile companies competing to best one another with the same, perhaps federal law will begin to slowly transform as well.

Not to be outdone by its perennial rival on the west, New York announced on Thursday it had reached a deal to raise the minimum wage in New York City to $15 by 2018. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo hailed the agreement as the "best plan the state has produced in decades."

"We're leaders in economic justice," he said in an announcement outlining the state's budget.

But unlike California, where lawmakers approved a measure to hike its statewide minimum to $15, the Empire State failed to reach an agreement on a statewide minimum. Instead a hike will go into effect regionally: Areas outside of New York City, including New York's wealthier suburbs in Westchester and Long Island, will have six years to implement the wage boost. The minimum wage in northern regions that are generally less affluent will only go up to $12.50 by 2021.

The agreement also includes a provision to review the hike's economic impact with studies that will start in 2019. Based on those studies, the state will determine whether to raise the minimum wage to $15 in the state's northern counties or suspend it.

While the move to raise the minimum wage to $15 has received increased momentum in cities across the country, New York's cautious approach is likely welcomed by economists who remain unsure of its impact. On both ends of the political spectrum, there is much debate over how the boost could either be an economic boon for residents or force business owners to cut jobs and lead to economic distress.

For a closer look at how New York is reacting to Thursday's announcement, jump here.

Tech-Shuttle Giant Given the Boot in San Francisco

Teamsters block a Bauer's IT shuttle in San Francisco.

Citing a history of disregard for traffic laws and acrimonious labor disputes, San Francisco's Municipal Transportation Agency has declined to grant tech shuttle operator Bauer's IT a permit to use public bus stops under the city's controversial Commuter Shuttle Program. Bauer's IT is one of San Francisco's largest tech bus operators, accounting for 10 percent of the city's commuter shuttle pickups. Bauer's IT clients include major Bay Area tech companies such as Twitter, Yelp, Salesforce, and Cisco.

Does this mean the Twitterati will be tweeting from BART like the rest of us? Not exactly.

According to a "notice of permit denial" sent from the SFMTA to Bauer's yesterday, the company repeatedly broke the law by sending large buses down "weight-restricted streets" and stopping at locations not designated for private buses. It also failed to inform the city of ongoing labor disputes with the International Brotherhood of the Teamsters, whose complaints of illegal union busting practices at the company are being heard by the National Labor Relations Board. The Commuter Shuttle Program requires participating companies to maintain "labor harmony."

In 2013, tech shuttles, a.k.a. "Google buses," became potent symbols of inequality and gentrification in the Bay Area after it emerged that the posh private vehicles were illegally using public bus stops to pick up workers. The following year, the city launched a pilot program that allowed the companies to use the stops legally for a nominal fee. That program becomes permanent next month, but requires participating companies to reapply for permits. Bauer's IT could not be reached for comment.

"The SFMTA is enforcing what the City and County of San Francisco is famous for: Recognizing employees' right to be represented and right to and fair wages and benefits," said Rome Aloise, the director of Teamsters Joint Council 7, which represents drivers in Northern California. "Bauer's seems to be just disregarding all of that."

Does this mean the Twitterati will be tweeting from BART like the rest of us? Not exactly. Bauer's IT has 15 days to file an appeal, and can then continue to use its stops until the city makes a final decision.

Skirmishes between protesters, police, and Turkish security personnel broke out in the streets of downtown Washington, DC, shortly before Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was set to give a speech at the Brookings Institution. 

Erdoğan traveled to the Washington metro area to open a cultural center in Lanham, Maryland, attend the Nuclear Security Summit, and to meet with Vice President Joe Biden. His speech on Thursday, however, was overshadowed by what happened in the streets beforehand.

Rachel Maddow posed an interesting question to Sen. Bernie Sanders during their interview on Wednesday: Would he like to see the Republican Party just disappear? Sanders' answer was also an interesting one. He didn't take the bait; instead, he offered an alternative theory—the GOP would disappear if corporate media simply told the truth about the party's agenda.

Sanders didn't mean that as hyperbole. By his estimate, the Republican Party would drop to single-digit support if it weren't for negligence by the press:

I think if we had a media in this country that was really prepared to look at what the Republicans actually stood for rather than quoting every absurd remark of Donald Trump, talking about Republican Party, talking about hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks for the top two tenths of 1 percent, cuts to Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid, a party which with few exceptions doesn't even acknowledge the reality of climate change, let alone do anything about it, a party which is not prepared to stand with women in the fight for pay equity, a party that is not prepared to do anything about a broken criminal justice system or a corrupt campaign finance system, I think, to be honest with you—and I just don't, you know, say this rhetorically, this is a fringe party. It is a fringe party. Maybe they get 5, 10 percent of the vote.

"The Republican Party today now is a joke," he continued, "maintained by a media which really does not force them to discuss their issues."

Sanders was returning to one of his driving issues over the years—a fervent belief that corporate-owned media was steering democracy off a cliff. In 1979, he wrote an essay arguing that TV networks were "using the well-tested Hitlerian principle that people should be treated as morons and bombarded over and over again with the same simple phrases and ideas" to prevent them from thinking critically about the world around them. He hit those same themes (albeit more diplomatically) in his book, Outsider in the House, arguing that TV news coverage was dumbing down America by inundating viewers with superficial coverage of O.J. Simpson instead of "corporate disinvestment in the United States." Not surprisingly, when Maddow asked Sanders in an interview last fall what his dream job might be, he quickly blurted out, "president of CNN."

A corporate media that obsesses over the issues Sanders obsesses over would certainly have some impact on the political landscape. But Sanders' dismissal of the Republican base seems to miss a far more obvious takeaway. People vote for Republicans not because they've been brainwashed, but because they actually like what Republicans like Trump are proposing.