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Originally Published: 6/27/2015

Same-Sex Marriage:  As expected, the Supreme Court ruled - 5 to 4, naturally - that “the Constitution requires that same-sex couples be allowed to marry no matter where they live and that states may no longer reserve the right only for heterosexual couples.” (Washington Post) Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion, stating that the Constitution gives gays and lesbians the right to “equal dignity in the eyes of the law.” However, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the minority, said that the Constitution “has nothing to say on the subject.” (NY Times)

 

ACA:  The Supreme Court decided in favor of the Affordable Care Act, ruling that “federal subsidies that help nearly 6.4 million people” are legal. It was a 6 to 3 decision with Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissenting. (CNBC) I don’t know why anyone is surprised. Chief Justice John Roberts has never failed to vote in favor of big corporations and health insurance companies are really raking in the money from ACA as are the huge hospital corporations. If you doubt me, please note that, after the decision was released, health industry stocks immediately shot through the roof. “Hospital stocks in particular stand to benefit because the ruling means fewer uninsured patients coming to the emergency room.” (Washington Post) Don’t forget the Republican governors who refused to put up their own Exchanges and whose residents would be the ones to lose their subsidies. They would revolt against Republicans if they lost their insurance. Rumor has it that House Speaker John Boehner (R, OH) was “popping corks” because he didn’t want this thing hanging around his neck. And all these interests were conveyed to the Supreme Court justices.

 

Excessive Force:  In another 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court ruled that a police officer’s word alone is not enough to decide if excessive force was appropriate when used on individuals in pre-trial detention. (Kingsley v. Hendrickson, et al.)

 

3 Strikes:  The Supremes struck down part of a 1984 federal law that mandates a sentencing term of 15 years to life for firearms possession by people with either 3 convictions of “serious drug offenses” or “violent felonies.” But what those are has always been a question. A “residual clause” in the definition of a violent felony allows prosecutors to enhance sentences for any crime that involves “conduct that presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another” even if the crime doesn’t actually involve violence. The Supremes ruled that this language is too vague. The decision was 8 to 1 on the issue of reversing the additional time for the petitioner, with Justice Samuel Alito being the sole dissenter. As to the vagueness of the law, Justice Alito was joined by Justices Anthony Kennedy and Clarence Thomas. (ABC)

 

Los Angeles:  The Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling that a Los Angeles ordinance that “lets police view hotel guest registries without a warrant violates the privacy rights of business owners, taking away what the city called a vital tool to fight prostitution and other crimes.” It was another 5 to 4 decision. The Supremes ruled that the ordinance “infringed upon hotel operators’ rights under the U.S. Constitution’s Fourth Amendment protections against unlawful searches and seizures.” Sure. Get a warrant. “More than 100 other jurisdictions across the United States have similar laws that could be affected by the court’s ruling.” (Reuters)

 

Housing Discrimination:  In another 5 to 4 decision the Supremes “delivered an unexpected reprieve to civil rights groups” by ruling that housing discrimination need not be intentional in order to be illegal. (USA Today)

 

Bernie Madoff:  The Supremes left in place a lower court ruling that prevents victims of Madoff’s Ponzi scheme “from recouping more than $4 billion from customers who withdrew money before the enterprise collapsed.” (Reuters)

 

Netherlands:  3 judges at the Hague “declared the Dutch government’s climate policy illegal and ordered it to cut its emissions by at least 25% within 5 years.” This was the first climate change liability suit brought under human rights and tort law. “Judge Hans Hoffhuis said that the threat posed by global warming was severe and acknowledged by the Dutch government in international treaties.” He wrote: “The state should not hide behind the argument that the solution to the global climate problem does not depend solely on Dutch efforts. Any reduction of emissions contributes to the prevention of dangerous climate change and as a developed country the Netherlands should take the lead in this.” (Guardian

 

Alabama:  Governor Robert Bentley (R) quietly ordered the removal of the confederate flag from the state capitol grounds. (Al.com)

 

California:  Remember the “Sodomite Suppression Act” that Attorney General Kamala Harris didn’t want to prepare for the collection of voter signatures? (TWW, California, 3/28/15) Well, Judge Raymond Cadei ruled that the aptly-named “shoot the gays” ballot initiative was “patently unconstitutional” and for the attorney general to “prepare the measure” would be “inappropriate, waste public resources, generate unnecessary divisions among the public, and tend to mislead the electorate.” (Guardian)

 

Delaware:  Governor Jack Markell (D) signed a bill into law that decriminalizes possession and private use of small amounts of marijuana. Individuals can possess up to an ounce and use it privately without facing criminal charges but police can still confiscate the stash. And the fine for use of marijuana in a public place has been reduced to $100. The law goes into effect in 6 months. (Al Jazeera)

 

Tennessee:  U.S. District Judge Kevin Sharp temporarily blocked a law that requires abortion clinics to be licensed as ambulatory surgical centers. The law was to go into effect on July 1st but the state health department didn’t make the applications available until June 16th. (Reuters)

 

Fast Track:  As expected, the Senate passed the Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) bill as the House passed it. The vote was 60 to 38. President Obama now has a free hand to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) as he sees fit. The Senate then passed, again, the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Act since it had failed in the House. (TWW, TPA, 6/20/15) What I haven’t found yet is whether funding for that training is still coming from Medicare. That bill now goes back to the House for passage. (Washington Post) This means that when the TPP is completed, it’ll go to Congress for an up or down vote. No filibuster. No special rules. Minimum time for debate. Just pass it all or vote it down. And it only needs 51 votes to pass. You still can lobby your congress critters to vote “no.” And, just to make this particularly bad news, let me remind you that the TPA is good for 6 years. This means that the Trans-Atlantic Trade in Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA) will, just like TPP, come to Congress for an up or down vote. I wonder who’ll be president then.

 

Homegrown Terrorism:  According to research by New America, a Washington research center, since the 9/11 attacks there have been 7 attacks in the U.S. by Islamic extremists resulting in 26 deaths, but there have been 19 attacks by “people espousing racial hatred, hostility to government, and theories such as those of the ‘sovereign citizen’ movement,” resulting in 48 deaths. (NY Times)

 

NRA:  The National Rifle Association makes so much money that they have a vested interest in keeping gun regulations lax. According to a 2012 article in Business Insider, “Since 2005, the gun industry and its corporate allies have given between $20 million and $52.6 million to it through the NRA Ring of Freedom sponsor program. Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc., Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabala’s, Sturm Rugar & Co., and Smith & Wesson. The NRA also made $20.9 million - about 10% of its revenue - from selling advertising to industry companies marketing products in its many publications in 2010, according to the IRS From 990. Additionally, some companies donate portions of sales directly to the NRA. Crimson Trace, which makes laser sights, donates 10% of each sale to the NRA. Taurus buys an NRA membership for everyone who buys one of their guns. Sturm Rugar gives $1 to the NRA for each gun sold, which amounts to millions. The NRA’s revenues are intrinsically linked to the success of the gun business.” [Emphasis added.] So, with all that money is it any wonder they “invest” in politicians? Pope Francis even came out and said that gun manufacturers and anyone who invests in the weapons industries are hypocrites if they call themselves Christian. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

 

Gun Rights:  A 3-judge panel of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver ruled that the U.S. Postal Service regulation banning firearms on postal property is constitutional, overturning a lower court decision. (Reuters)

 

Slower Internet Speeds:  AT&T, Time Warner, and Verizon “are slowing data from popular websites to thousands of U.S. businesses and residential customers in dozens of cities across the country.” A study conducted by Internet activists Battle For The Net, “looked at the results from 300,000 Internet users and found significant degradations on the networks of the 5 largest Internet Service Providers (ISPs) representing 75% of all wireline households across the U.S.” If you remember, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) introduced Net Neutrality (TWW, Net Neutrality, 2/28/15), “the principle that all data is equal online” and which keeps ISPs from charging for faster speeds. Yet, the findings of this study are the “ISPs are not providing content to users at the speeds they’re paying for.” (Guardian)

 

Park Fees:  Fees for getting into national parks are going up. These are the first increases since 2006. Guess you can blame it on all the budget cuts. Fees are doubling and in some instances tripling and include the “crown jewels” in the park system - Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon. (Washington Post)

 

Obamacare:  There’s a new survey that was released by the National Health Interview Survey, “a long-running federal survey considered to be a gold standard by researchers.” It found that the number of “poor Americans who were uninsured declined substantially in 2014” due to the Affordable Care Act (ACA). “The survey also registered a sharp decline in the share of black Americans who were uninsured, which fell by nearly a third to 13.5% from 18.9% in 2013. That was the largest annual change for any racial or ethnic group since the survey began in 1997.” (NY Times)

 

Marijuana Research:  The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) determined that the review of a research proposal by the Public Health Service (PHS) in order to do marijuana research “is no longer necessary.” Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority, a pro-legalization group, said: “The president has often said that drug policy should be dictated by unimpeded science instead of ideology, and its great to see the Obama administration finally starting to take some real action to back that up.” (Washington Post)

 

Pizza:  The editors of Eat This, Not That!, a book on swapping bad food for better food, researched every pizza pie in America and determined the absolute worst for your health and waistline. The winner is Sbarro’s Stuffed Sausage and Pepperoni Pizza. (MSN

 

Greenhouse Gases:  Do you still know people who don’t believe that human activity is causing global warming? If so, point them to this amazing graph by NASA. (Bloomberg) It shows the “observed” changes in global temperature, adds “natural factors” - orbital changes, solar, and volcanic - and then adds human factors - land use, the Ozone, aerosols, and greenhouse gases. Not hard to figure out what’s going on here. “Around the world there are 28 or so research groups in more than a dozen countries who have written 61 climate models. Each takes a slightly different approach to the elements of the climate system, such as ice, oceans, or atmospheric chemistry.” This model is called “ModelE2,” and was created by NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies. It contains “something on the order of 500,000 lines of code and is run on a supercomputer at the NASA Center for Climate Simulation in Greenbelt, Maryland.” 

 

6th Extinction:  I’ve told you about this before. (TWW, The 6th Extinction, 8/16/08; Climate Assessment, 1/19/13) In fact, I pointed you to this amazing video. (PBS) 5 times at least three-quarters of life on earth has been eradicated by asteroids, volcanoes, glaciers, etc. Now we’re looking at the 6th extinction and this one is caused by - us! A study published in the journal Science Advances, shows that biologists have found that Earth is losing mammal species 20 to 100 times the rate of the past. Extinctions are happening so fast they could rival the event that killed the dinosaurs in as little as 250 years. Given the timing, the unprecedented speed of the losses, and decades of research on the effects of pollution, hunting, and habitat loss, they assert that human activity is responsible. They list as culprits: materialism, consumption, pollution, fossil fuels, and carbon footprints.

 

Fracking:  Remember the new fracking rules imposed by the Department of Interior on public lands? (TWW, Fracking, 3/21/15) They were set to go into effect this week but a “request” by 4 states - Colorado, Wyoming, North Dakota, and Utah - and “several energy industry groups” - like the Independent Petroleum Association of America - went to court. They opposed the rule that requires companies to “provide data on chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, and to take steps to prevent leakage from oil and gas wells on federally owned land.” U.S. District Judge Scott Skavdahl “granted a stay to the new rules” until July 22nd. I don’t know what happens then, but apparently there will be more hearings. (Guardian)

 

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