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Agreeable Supreme Court term ends with conservative wins

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WASHINGTON (AP) — An unusually agreeable Supreme Court term ended with conservative-driven decisions on voting rights and charitable-donor disclosures that offered a glimpse of what the coming years of the right’s dominance could look like for the nation’s highest court.

The court began its summer recess with an already consequential list of cases to be argued beginning in the fall. That includes high-profile cases on abortion and guns, topics that seem more likely to sharpen divisions rather than blur them.

But the term the justices concluded Thursday was unusual in several ways, with arguments conducted entirely by telephone because of the coronavirus pandemic and a new justice, Amy Coney Barrett, coming on board a month into the court’s new year.

Her ascent to the bench, the third high court appointee of former President Donald Trump, made it obvious more conservative outcomes could be expected from the court. The court now has six appointees of Republican presidents and a diminished liberal bloc of three justices after the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in September. Barrett replaced Ginsburg a month later.

Concerned about any further weakening of the left side of the court, some progressives mounted an aggressive, public campaign to persuade 82-year-old Justice Stephen Breyer to retire and allow a Senate with a thin Democratic majority to confirm a younger liberal chosen by President Joe Biden. Breyer has been mum about his plans.

But ideological divisions were not often on display through much of the year. Unusual alliances of justices formed to decide one case and a different lineup would emerge in the next.

Many of the court’s biggest cases were decided on narrower grounds with broad majorities, including a Philadelphia dispute in which the court ruled unanimously for a Catholic social service agency that objects to working with married same-sex couples who want to be foster parents.

The justices also preserved the Affordable Care Act against its third major Republican-led challenge and vindicated a high school cheerleader whose raised middle finger and run of curse words on a social media post led to her suspension from the school’s squad.

The court ruled unanimously that the NCAA can’t prevent colleges from trying to lure student athletes with enhanced allowances for computers and travel, a step in a larger fight over compensation for college athletes. In a multibillion dollar fight between tech giants, the court said Google did nothing wrong when it copied Oracle code to develop the Android operating system.

Breyer, known for his pragmatic approach to cases, was the author of the code copyright, health care and cheerleading cases in an unusually prominent turn for a justice who is known for trying to bridge the court’s ideological divide.

Breyer’s approach seemed to fit well with the aims of Chief Justice John Roberts, who has repeatedly defended the court against complaints that it is just another partisan branch of government.

Roberts spent the year trying “to prevent anything really huge from happening,” said Drexel University law professor Lisa Tucker, who studies the Supreme Court and describes herself as a progressive.

“I think we saw some sidestepping and some near-misses,” said Tucker, who described it as a term where there were “no big disasters” for liberals.

Scott Keller, who was for several years Texas’ top Supreme Court lawyer, put it differently. “I think the big takeaway from this term is the Roberts court is not swinging for the fences. You could see that in many decisions. The chief justice is trying to get consensus and one method of getting consensus is having narrower rulings,” Keller said.

The chief justice is also leading a court with three relatively new justices: Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh and Barrett.

Barrett replaced the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, joining the court a little more than a month after the death of the liberal icon and just ahead of the presidential election.

In her Senate confirmation hearings, Barrett was impassive in the face of Democratic questioning suggesting that she would be a rubber stamp for Trump, voting his way in any eventual election dispute and casting a crucial vote to strike down “Obamacare,” as the ACA is familiarly known. That was not the case.

One area where Barrett made her presence felt, and Roberts was outflanked by his more conservative colleagues, concerned restrictions on religious gatherings put in place because of the pandemic.

On the eve of Thanksgiving, Barrett provided the fifth vote to overturn restrictions, while Roberts dissented. Prior to Ginsburg’s death, he had joined a four-justice liberal bloc to reject similar pleas.

But the pandemic-caused restriction on worship was the only area in which Barrett’s key role was apparent. Otherwise, she wrote largely unglamorous assignments typical of the court’s most junior justice, joining once in an all-woman dissent with Justices Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in a Clean Air Act case.

She also teamed with Roberts and Kavanaugh to stake out narrower positions when the other three conservative justices, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas, pushed for broader rulings, including in the Philadelphia foster-care case.

It’s unclear at this point, whether that daylight among the conservatives will persist.

But Aziz Huq, a University of Chicago law professor, said the changed makeup of the court is affecting the cases that come to it. Because of the more conservative lineup, “litigants are changing their strategy and bring more aggressive cases,” Huq said.

Mississippi’s appeal to revive its 15-week ban on most abortions is one such example, Huq said. Before Ginsburg’s death, the court had rejected similar appeals.

The new term that begins on the first Monday in October “will be an even bigger test of this consensus approach that many are identifying from this past term,” said Elizabeth Wydra, president of the liberal Constitutional Accountability Center.

The new term, said conservative commentator Carrie Severino, “is going to be great to see.”



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US Navy officer ‘bribed by cash and prostitutes’

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A ship in the US Navy 7th fleet, from which dozens of officers were bribed

A US Navy Commander has pleaded guilty to receiving $250,000 in cash and prostitution services from a foreign defence contractor in exchange for state secrets.

Information Commander Stephen Shedd provided to the firm helped it defraud the navy of $35m (£26.1m).

The plea is the latest in the ‘Fat Leonard’ case, considered one of the worst corruption scandals faced by the navy.

Dozens of officials have been ensnared.

Shedd is one of nine members of the Japan-based 7th US fleet indicted by a federal grand jury in March 2017 for their role in the scandal, and the third officer to plead guilty.

According to the Justice Department, Shedd and the other officers received “sex parties with prostitutes and luxurious dinner and travel” in exchange for military secrets and “substantial influence” for the Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) company, a Singapore-based firm founded by a Malaysian national, Leonard Glenn Francis.

The scandal became widely known as the “Fat Leonard” scheme due to Francis’s then-corpulent figure. He was arrested in California after being lured there by US officials in 2013. He has since pleaded guilty to bribery and conspiracy charges and has remained in prison or home detention.

According to prosecutors, information Shedd and others provided helped GDMA to win and maintain contracts and overbill the Navy by $35m for services such as providing tugboats, security and waste removal to ships at port.

As part of a plea deal, Shedd admitted that he and the other defendants gave Francis schedules of naval movements and other information, and lobbied on behalf of GDMA to other naval officials.

The defendant knew these efforts would result in the service paying GDMA’s claims, the Justice Department said.

A total of 34 naval officials, defence contractors and GDMA employees, including Francis, have been charged with crimes related to the scheme. Of these, 28 have pleaded guilty, including two other 7th fleet officers.

Shedd is scheduled to be sentenced on 21 July in a California federal court, while the trial of the remaining six 7th fleet officers is due to begin on 28 February.

“Fat Leonard” himself is expected to testify in the February trial of the officers.



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Jimmy Kimmel Hits Donald Trump Jr. With The 2024 Campaign Ad Of His Nightmares

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Reuters

Porn star Stormy Daniels testifies ex-lawyer Michael Avenatti ‘lied to me’

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Adult film actress Stormy Daniels told jurors at her former lawyer Michael Avenatti’s criminal fraud trial on Thursday that he “stole from me and lied to me” by diverting proceeds from a book she wrote. Testifying as a prosecution witness, Daniels said in Manhattan federal court that Avenatti – whom she had retained to help her escape a non-disclosure agreement with then-U.S. President Donald Trump – told her he would “never take a penny” from the 2018 memoir, titled “Full Disclosure.” But Avenatti embezzled nearly $300,000 of proceeds intended for Daniels, prosecutors have said, in part by forging her signature on instructions to the publisher about where to send the funds.



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Fox News’ Tomi Lahren told officers at a policing conference that prominent police killings could have been avoided if people ‘would just comply’

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Tomi Lahren in Pasadena, California.Colin Young-Wolff/Invision/AP

  • Tomi Lahren was among several who spoke at a police training conference in Atlantic City in October.

  • Lahren described Black Lives Matter as “thugs, felons, and criminals” and as a “terrorist organization.”

  • She went on to say police shootings could be avoided if people “would just comply with police.”

Fox News personality Tomi Lahren told police officers that significant numbers of police brutality cases could have been avoided “if people would just comply with police, would follow orders, and not resist arrest.”

The Washington Post reported that Lahren, a political commentator for the Fox Nation shows “Final Thoughts” and “No Interruption,” made the comments in October at the Street Cop Training Conference in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

More than 1,000 police officers from departments across New Jersey and other states attended the conference, The Post reported. During her speech, Lahren described Black Lives Matter as “thugs, felons, and criminals” and a “terrorist organization.”

“If I’m wrong, please point it out,” Lahren said, according to a sound clip of her remarks shared by The Post. “But all these major headline incidents that we’ve had in this country involving law enforcement in the last, at least, five years could have all been prevented if people would just comply with police, would follow orders, and not resist arrest.”

The audience can be heard applauding and cheering in the clip.

Her comments were consistent with previous statements she has made on her shows and social media.

The Post’s investigation found Lahren’s sentiments were typical of those made in commercial police training settings, even as calls for reform grow. The outlet spoke with 18 trainers and experts in addition to watching or attending conferences in New Jersey and Idaho, many of whom balked at police reform.

Several blamed the media for overplaying the public’s desire for reform and dismissed reformers as a small cohort, The Post found. The outlet also said many portrayed violence as an inherent part of policing.

“The curriculum is that you are a good person and reveling in violence and being an expert in violence is not morally wrong,” Michael Sierra-Arévalo, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin who attended the Street Cop Conference, told The Post. “In fact, it’s your moral duty because you’re a paladin. You are this kind of warrior.”

Calls for police reform grew during the racial justice protests in the summer of 2020 after the murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

Congress engaged in bipartisan talks about a potential police reform bill last summer, but they fell apart without reaching a deal.

Sources told NBC News that President Joe Biden plans to sign executive orders on police reform as early as this month.

Read the original article on Business Insider



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Family who died in freezing cold by US-Canada border identified

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Police used snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles to navigate the deep snow

Canadian authorities believe the deaths of four Indian nationals found steps away from the Canada-US border are connected to a human smuggling scheme.

Jagdish Patel, 39, Vaishailben Patel, 37, and their children Vihangi, 11, and Dharkmik, 3, died from exposure due to the frigid cold near Manitoba, Canada.

Temperatures dropped to -35C (-31F) on the night the Patel family attempted to cross into the US on foot.

The family was found in a field north of the border on 19 January.

Their identities were announced by Canada’s High Commission of India and later confirmed by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, RCMP superintendent Rob Hill said the Patel family first arrived in Canada on 12 January, on a flight from Toronto. From there, they made their way west to Manitoba, before travelling to Emerson – a border town – on or around 18 January. Their bodies were found the next night.

No vehicle was found near the Canada-US border in Emerson, suggesting that someone drove the Patel family to a drop-off point before they began their journey on foot.

“This is an extended period of time for a family who is unfamiliar with Canada to be travelling across the country”, Mr Hill said. It is believed that someone may have facilitated the family’s travel.

The RCMP would not comment on whether the Patels’ case was connected to a group of seven other Indian nationals also found by border agents on the evening of 19 January. Steve Shand, a 47-year-old Florida resident, has been charged with human smuggling after authorities found him driving a 15-person van along the border, on the same night the Patels were found. Mr Shand had two Indian nationals as passengers in his car, and cases of food and water in his boot.

The deaths of the Patel family have rocked the Indian community in Manitoba.

“There’s a common sense of feeling guilty, like something has gone wrong,” Ramandeep Grewal, president of the India Association of Manitoba, told the BBC.

Questions remain as to why the Patel family set out on foot in the dark, in Canada’s punishing winter weather.

Mr Grewal said he heard rumours the family walked for 11 hours. “You don’t expose yourself to that degree of cold for minutes, let alone hours,” he said.

Such questions have consumed Indian communities in Winnipeg, said Hemant Shah, an Indian ex-pat, who organised a virtual prayer for the Patel family this week.

“There are lots of Patel families here, lots of Indo-Canadians,” he said. “Everybody’s talking, making their own theories.”

While perilous border crossings have become typical to the United States’ southern border, this type of journey is less common from the north.

“I’ve never seen this in Canada,” Mr Shah said. “This is unheard of.”

The RCMP has launched an “extensive” investigation into how the Patels made their way to Canada, co-ordinating with the US and India. It is so far unknown if the Patels had family in Canada or the US.

A special team led by a senior Indian consular officer was dispatched to Manitoba to help Canadian authorities with the investigation. The Consulate General of India in Toronto has been in touch with relatives to provide support.

Last week, a US Homeland Security official said they were also investigating the Patel case, alongside a “larger human smuggling operation of which [Steve] Shand is suspected of playing a part”.

There had been three other recent incidents of human smuggling in December and January in the same location where Mr Shand was apprehended, according to court documents.

The India Association’s Mr Grewal said he hopes other families contemplating a similar journey may now reconsider.

“If there’s anybody else who’s in the same boat, who’s trying to cross… Don’t go, don’t listen to people who are telling you they can help.”



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Gallup's Mohamed Younis- Foreign Policy Interventionism A 'Low Desire' For Americans

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Gallup's Mohamed Younis- Foreign Policy Interventionism A 'Low Desire' For Americans



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Palestinian children play in the snow-covered West Bank city of Ramallah

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Palestinian children play in the snow-covered West Bank city of Ramallah



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U.S. Capitol Riot Made 1 Chilling Thing ‘Impossible To Deny’

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University of California professor Barbara Walter, an expert on civil conflicts, said the U.S. Capitol riot had “made it impossible to deny and ignore that there really was this cancer growing” of anti-democratic sentiment in America.

Walter, after CNN’s Donie O’Sullivan showed her footage of Donald Trump supporters repeating the former president’s 2020 election lies and claiming democracy in the United States was dead, said her response to such rhetoric only 10 years ago “would have been shock and disbelief.”

“I would have thought, ‘Well she’s an outlier and she’s not representative of anything larger than a fringe movement maybe,’” Walter said. “But of course, that’s not the case anymore.”

Experts on civil wars had been talking about the warning signs in the U.S. “but nobody wanted to believe it,” she said.

“Citizens do believe what they are hearing and if they hear it long enough and consistently enough and if that’s all they hear, they absolutely don’t think it’s a lie, they think it’s the truth,” she continued, referencing falsehoods spouted by Trump, right-wing politicians and conservative media, before slamming cynical leaders for “feeding them lies consistently.”

“They’re priming their supporters to believe that democracy isn’t worth defending because they don’t want democracy anymore,” she added.

Watch the video here:

This article originally appeared on HuffPost and has been updated.

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