6.30.2014

Justice Ginsburg Writes Blistering Dissent On Hobby Lobby

Justice Ginsburg Writes Blistering Dissent On Hobby Lobby

Justice Ginsburg has some problems with the Hobby Lobby 5-4 decision. Some excerpts from her dissent via Mother Jones:



  • "Religious organizations exist to foster the interests of persons subscribing to the same religious faith. Not so of for-profit corporations. Workers who sustain the operations of those corporations commonly are not drawn from one religious community."



  • "Any decision to use contraceptives made by a woman covered under Hobby Lobby’s or Conestoga’s plan will not be propelled by the Government, it will be the woman’s autonomous choice, informed by the physician she consults."



  • "It bears note in this regard that the cost of an IUD is nearly equivalent to a month’s full-time pay for workers earning the minimum wage."



  • "Approving some religious claims while deeming others unworthy of accommodation could be 'perceived as favoring one religion over another,' the very 'risk the [Constitution's] Establishment Clause was designed to preclude."









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6.26.2014

Seriously, Do Not Track: Adblock Plus blocks Facebook's new tracking efforts

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Australian Police Confiscate Pastafarian Man's Guns Because He Posed For His ID Card Wearing A Colander

I have to admit, the whole Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing is beautiful to me. The whole concept hits exactly the sweet spot of the irony bat for someone who preaches secularism in the face of a diverse population. If you somehow don't know the history of this "church", go read up on it. It's completely worth it. The point being made by so-called pastafarians is one of keeping religion out of the government and vice versa. It started with combatting a misguided attempt to inject faith into public schools, but it has evolved to mock any attempt to bring religious dogma into the public square.



The latest example comes from Australia, where a self-described pastafarian went about mocking the rules set up for firearm ID pictures by wearing a colander on his head.


Guy Albon convinced the photographer that he was a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster so that he could wear the colander- a symbol of the satirical religious movement whose members refer to themselves as Pastafarians. The 30-year-old said he exploited a law that allows headgear to be worn in photos.



‘The law stipulates you can have something on your head,’ he said. ‘You have to have your entire face uncovered and if the headgear is being worn it has to have some religious significance. I thought ‘I’ve got this one in the bag’ – it was an absolute scream.’


And he's right. After all, when you make an exemption allowing head-dress to be worn in government ID pictures so long as it represents something to do with your faith, the government then doesn't get to question that faith, assuming that government affords people the freedom of religion. Which Australia does. And which this guy used to mock the entire concept of the exemption. But, hell, it's not like the government could actually do anything about it, right? He's following the rules.


Officers came to his home, where they seized two handguns and two rifles and ordered him to see a psychiatrist. According to Mr Albon, the psychiatrist immediately declared him as sane and ‘laughed it off’.

It's the one thing they can't do: set up rules based around faith and then persecute a man for following those rules. Yes he was mocking them, yes he wasn't sincere in his religious conviction, but the reaction of the police opens up an entire can of worms that I don't think they really want opened. The government exempting head-dress for pictures in order to keep themselves out of religion is one thing, and an admirable thing, but then going after someone for mocking that process via seemingly protected speech breaks the whole system. No, probably better for the government to just stay the hell out of the faith business entirely. Otherwise, you get stories like this, where a law-abiding citizen has his legally owned firearms temporarily removed because of a judgment call on his faith.



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6.25.2014

Airbnb Guests Freak Out When Host Comes Home Drunk In The Middle Of The Night

It can be tough enough to get a good night’s sleep in an unfamiliar bed in a new place, but that experience was made infinitely tougher for one couple who claim that the host of their Airbnb Hamptons rental came home a bit early. Read: Drunk, in the middle of the night, while they were there.


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Court Says The Process For Getting Off The No Fly List Is Unconstitutional

We've had a few stories recently about legal challenges to the No Fly List in the United States. Just a couple months ago, for the first time, the US government was ordered to tell someone they were not on the No Fly List, though that person was still kept in various other terrorist watch lists/databases. Soon after that, we wrote about a new legal challenge to the No Fly List, involving some men who were basically harassed, with the FBI threatening to put them on the No Fly List if they didn't become informants.



However, in a very big ruling today, a district court judge in Oregon has basically found the process of getting off the No Fly List unconstitutional. According to the ACLU, who handled the case on behalf of 13 Americans who were on the list:
The judge ordered the government to create a new process that remedies these shortcomings, calling the current process “wholly ineffective” and a violation of the Fifth Amendment's guarantee of due process. The ruling also granted a key request in the lawsuit, ordering the government to tell the ACLU’s clients why they are on the No Fly List and give them the opportunity to challenge their inclusion on the list before the judge.

The full ruling is worth reading as it goes into significant detail and analysis, including digging into the Rahinah Ibrahim case we mentioned above. In the end, the court is pretty clear that putting someone on the No Fly List clearly deprives them of their rights:
In summary, on this record the Court concludes the DHS TRIP process presently carries with it a high risk of erroneous deprivation in light of the low evidentiary standard required for placement on the No-Fly List together with the lack of a meaningful opportunity for individuals on the No-Fly List to provide exculpatory evidence in an effort to be taken off of the List.

Of particular importance is the fact that people placed on the list are not told about it, let alone told why they've been put on the list. And when combined with the "low evidentiary standard" mentioned above, the court sees a problem:
Defendants' failure to provide any notice of the reasons for Plaintiffs' placement on the No-Fly List is especially important in light of the low evidentiary standard required to place an individual in the TSDB in the first place. When only an ex parte showing of reasonable suspicion supported by "articulable facts taken together with rational inferences" is necessary to place an individual in the TSDB, it is certainly possible, and probably likely, that "simple factual errors" with "potentially easy, ready, and persuasive explanations" could go uncorrected.

Given all that, the court has significant problems with the overall nature of the program:
As discussed herein at length, the DHS TRIP process does not provide a meaningful mechanism for travelers who have been denied boarding to correct erroneous information in the government's terrorism databases. A traveler who has not been given any indication of the information that may be in the record does not have any way to correct that information. As a result, the DHS TRIP process "entirely fail[s] to consider an important aspect" of Congress's instructions with respect to travelers denied boarding because they are on the No-Fly List.

The Court doesn't toss out the program, but orders DHS to "remedy" the situation by coming up with a new process to guarantee that people on the No Fly List have due process to get off the list. There still are reasonable questions as to how such a general list could be legal at all in the first place, but this ruling would seem to take a big step towards at least allowing a real process to be in place to get people off the list. Of course, it's fairly likely that the US government will appeal this ruling, but at least this is a small bit of good news in the meantime.



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6.19.2014

Fluid Events Center proposes offering outdoor events

CHAMPAIGN — After about 10 months of offering indoor events, the owner of the Fluid Events Center hopes to host a limited number of outdoor functions.


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6.01.2014

Two girls died looking for a toilet. This should make us angry, not embarrassed

Attacks on girls and women as they look for somewhere private to defecate are frighteningly common. Improving basic sanitation, as a global goal, would do a lot to make them safer

Two teenage girls have been gang-raped and killed after doing what half a billion women and girls are forced to do every day go outdoors to try to find somewhere discreet to go to the toilet.


A toilet, bathroom, powder room whatever you want to call it at home, at school, at work, in the shopping mall, is something many of us take for granted and cannot talk about without feeling embarrassed. But we must: because the lack of toilets is costing women their lives.


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