Category - Liberties

Indiana’s Pence to sign bill allowing businesses to reject gay customers

CNN, By Eric Bradner, March 25

Washington – Indiana Gov. Mike Pence is set to sign into law a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of “religious freedom.”

The move comes as Pence considers a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination — and just a year after Pence and socially conservative lawmakers lost their first policy battle against gay Hoosiers. In 2014 they had sought to amend Indiana’s constitution to ban same-sex marriages — but were beaten back by a highly-organized coalition of Democrats, traditionally right-leaning business organizations and fiscally focused supporters of Pence’s predecessor, former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels.

This year, though, the Republican-dominated state House and Senate both approved the “religious freedom” bill, and Pence plans to sign it into law in a private ceremony Thursday, his spokeswoman confirmed Wednesday afternoon.

CBS: Salesforce CEO Says Company Is ‘Canceling All Programs’ In Indiana Over LGBT Discrimination Fears
WISH: San Francisco mayor bans publicly-funded travel to Ind. over new law
Think Progress: When ‘Religious Liberty’ Was Used To Justify Racism Instead Of Homophobia
Reuters: Angie’s List halts expansion of Indianapolis headquarters over new state law that targets gays

It’s illegal to prevent workers from talking about wages. T-Mobile did it anyway.

A judge has thrown out large sections of T-Mobile’s employee handbook for having a chilling effect on union organizing.

Washington Post, By Lydia DePillis, March 19

Carolina Figueroa works at a T-Mobile call center in Albuquerque, N.M., in the bilingual retention section, trying to talk Spanish-speaking customers out of canceling their accounts. She likes her job, and the pay is decent — $18.50 an hour after eight years working there, plus health coverage, which covers the bills for her and her young daughter.

There’s only one problem: the employee handbook, which covers some 40,000 employees across the country. As long as she’s worked there, workers at the call center have been discouraged from discussing wages and working conditions, through provisions that bar things like disclosure of employee information, making disparaging statements about the company and pursuing wage complaints through anyone other than human resources. Employees can be disciplined or fired for violating any of the rules.
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Florida employee ‘punished for using phrase climate change’

In a complaint against the state, worker says he was accused of violating policy and instructed to get a mental health evaluation after mentioning climate change

The Guardian, By Katherine Krueger, March 19

New York – An employee of Florida’s environmental protection department was forced to take a leave of absence and seek a mental health evaluation for violating governor Rick Scott’s unwritten ban on using the phrases “climate change” or “global warming” under any circumstance, according to a complaint filed against the state.

Longtime employee Barton Bibler reportedly included an explicit mention of climate change in his official notes from a Florida Coastal Managers Forum meeting in late February, during which climate change, rising sea levels and the possible environmental impact of the Keystone XL Pipeline were discussed.

On 9 March, Bibler received a formal reprimand for “misrepresenting that ‘the official meeting agenda included climate change’”, according to a statement from Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (Peer), a nationwide non-profit that champions public employees’ rights and providers resources and guidance to whistleblowers using its network of members across the country.

Bibler was instructed to stay away from the office for two days and told he could return to work only after a mental health evaluation from his doctor verified his “fitness for duty”, the complaint said. In the letter to Florida’s inspector general, Candie Fuller, the state’s Peer director calls for a full investigation to the matter.

Racist, homophobic texts by San Francisco police trigger case reviews

Los Angeles Times, By Joseph Serna & Lee Romney, March 17

A slew of racist and homophobic text messages exchanged between San Francisco police in a fellow officer’s corruption case has forced prosecutors and defense attorneys to review an estimated 1,000 criminal convictions for potential bias, officials announced Tuesday.

The messages were revealed in a motion by the U.S. attorney’s office opposing bail for Ian Furminger, a former San Francisco police officer who was recently sentenced to 41 months in prison on various corruption-related charges and was scheduled to surrender next month pending an appeal.

The texts, sent between 2011 and 2012, allegedly involved four other officers and denigrated minorities and gays.

“In order to ensure our criminal justice system is fair and equitable, my office is conducting an immediate assessment of every prosecution within the past ten years where these officers were involved,” said San Francisco Dist. Atty. George Gascon in a statement.

Public defender Jeff Adachi on Tuesday estimated that could amount to at least 1,000 cases among the five officers. Officials identified more than 120 in just the last two years, he said.

China’s Tensions With Dalai Lama Spill Into the Afterlife

New York Times, By Chris Buckley, March 11

Hong Kong — Chinese Communist Party leaders are afraid that the Dalai Lama will not have an afterlife. Worried enough that this week, officials repeatedly warned that he must reincarnate, and on their terms.

Tensions over what will happen when the 14th Dalai Lama, who is 79, dies, and particularly over who decides who will succeed him as the most prominent leader in Tibetan Buddhism, have ignited at the annual gathering of China’s legislators in Beijing.

Officials have amplified their argument that the Communist government is the proper guardian of the Dalai Lama’s succession through an intricate process of reincarnation that has involved lamas, or senior monks, visiting a sacred lake and divining dreams.

Party functionaries were incensed by the exiled Dalai Lama’s recent speculation that he might end his spiritual lineage and not reincarnate. That would confound the Chinese government’s plans to engineer a succession that would produce a putative 15th Dalai Lama who accepts China’s presence and policies in Tibet. Their anger welled up on Wednesday, as it had a day earlier.

Zhu Weiqun, a Communist Party official who has long dealt with Tibetan issues, told reporters in Beijing on Wednesday that the Dalai Lama had, essentially, no say over whether he was reincarnated. That was ultimately for the Chinese government to decide, he said, according to a transcript of his comments on the website of People’s Daily, the party’s main newspaper.

“Decision-making power over the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, and over the end or survival of this lineage, resides in the central government of China,” said Mr. Zhu, formerly a deputy head of the United Front Department of the Communist Party, which oversees dealings with religious and other nonparty groups. He now leads the ethnic and religious affairs committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, an advisory body that meets at the same time as the Legislature, or National People’s Congress.

Not Guilty: Flood Wall Street Protesters Vindicated By Manhattan Court

Judge rules NYPD violated demonstrators’ First Amendment rights

Common Dreams, By Sarah Lazare, March 6

In a ruling on Thursday hailed as a vindication, a Manhattan court has determined ten climate activists “not guilty” on charges related to a thousands-strong climate protest that “flooded Wall Street” in New York City’s financial district in September of last year.

Over 100 people—including one dressed as a polar bear—were arrested at the civil disobedience, which took direct aim at the role of capitalism in driving global warming and overall planetary destruction. Timed to coincide with a United Nations summit of heads of state and corporate leaders, the direct action followed the People’s Climate March, which featured over 400,000 participants and was led by communities from the front-lines of the climate crisis.

[…]

According to a statement from protesters, New York City Criminal Court Judge Robert Mandelbaum ruled that the dispersal order issued by the New York Police Department constituted an unlawful violation of demonstrators’ First Amendment rights.

Going beyond the “not guilty” ruling, however, Mandelbaum also took judicial notice of the fact that climate change is real, human-made, and requires drastic action. Defense Attorney Martin Stolar said that this acknowledgment is “unprecedented and has significance for future litigation involving climate change.”

Google warns of US government ‘hacking any facility’ in the world

Google says increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise ‘monumental’ legal concerns that should be decided by Congress

The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, February 18

New York – Google is boldly opposing an attempt by the US Justice Department to expand federal powers to search and seize digital data, warning that the changes would open the door to US “government hacking of any facility” in the world.

In a strongly worded submission to the Washington committee that is considering the proposed changes, Google says that increasing the FBI’s powers set out in search warrants would raise “monumental and highly complex constitutional, legal and geopolitical concerns that should be left to Congress to decide”.

The search giant warns that under updated proposals, FBI agents would be able to carry out covert raids on servers no matter where they were situated, giving the US government unfettered global access to vast amounts of private information.

Huh.

UN: Growing number of attacks against schoolgirls worldwide

UN report finds girls face difficulty getting an education in more than 70 countries.

AP, February 9

Girls in at least 70 countries have faced threats, violent attacks and other abuse for trying to go to school over the past five years, the U.N. human rights office said Monday.

A report by the Geneva-based body noted that, despite some progress, girls still face difficulty getting an education in many countries around the world.

“Attacks against girls accessing education persist and, alarmingly, appear in some countries to be occurring with increasing regularity,” the authors found.
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Supreme Court rules Canadians have right to doctor-assisted suicide

The Globe and Mail, By Sean Fine, February 6/7

Canadian adults in grievous, unending pain have a right to end their life with a doctor’s help, the Supreme Court ruled on Friday.

The unanimous ruling, by establishing that the “sanctity of life” also includes the “passage into death,” extends constitutional rights into a new realm. The courts have used the 1982 Charter of Rights to establish gay marriage and to strike down a federal abortion law. The new ruling will change the way some Canadians are permitted to die.

In a brief, powerful opening paragraph, the court explained why it was creating a new constitutional right to autonomy over one’s death in some circumstances: Those who are severely and irremediably suffering, whether physically or psychologically, “may be condemned to a life of severe and intolerable suffering” by the government’s absolute ban on assisted dying. “A person facing this prospect has two options: she can take her own life prematurely, often by violent or dangerous means, or she can suffer until she dies from natural causes. The choice is cruel.”
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Thailand junta squelches forum on media censorship

Bangkok press freedom event canceled, raising fears about future of free expression in Thailand.

Al Jazeera, January 29

Thailand’s junta has effectively forced a German foundation to cancel a forum discussing new restrictions on the media, scheduled to be held Friday in Bangkok, raising concerns among journalists and right advocates about the junta’s efforts to curtail press freedom and political dissent in what has long been a relatively open society in the region.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, a foundation that has headquarters in headquartered in Bonn and Berlin, Germany, that promotes social democracy worldwide, said it would comply with a request from the junta — also known as the National Council for Peace and Order (NCPO) — to cancel the forum, which was to feature a panel discussion and a presentation about a study on media freedom in Thailand.

“We received a call from the government asking us to postpone the event indefinitely because of the sensitive nature of the topic and the political climate within the country,” Thatsanavanh Banchong, the foundation’s media and civic education officer, told the Bangkok Post.

The Whistle In The Wind

political-correctness-quotes-3.jpg

Poor Jon Chait.

He had the audacity to question whether the right of free speech comes with a responsibility on the part of both the speaker and the listener, and got hammered for it. In other words, he took on “political correctness” and in what may be one of the grandest moments of self-reinforcing demonstration, got spanked by the very movement he sought to critique. Read More

France begins jailing people for ironic comments

Electronic Intifada, By Ali Abunimah, January 19

It may sound like an ironic joke, but it isn’t. Less than a week after the massive rallies in defense of “free expression,” following the murders of the Charlie Hebdo cartoonists, French authorities have jailed a youth for irony.

The arrest is part of a harsh crackdown on free speech in the country that has prompted criticism from national and international human rights organizations.

A 16-year-old high school student was taken into police custody on Thursday and indicted for “defending terrorism,” national broadcaster France 3 reports.

His alleged crime? He posted on Facebook a cartoon “representing a person holding the magazine Charlie Hebdo, being hit by bullets, and accompanied by an ‘ironic’ comment,” France 3 states.

Oklahoma to stage first execution since botched procedure 9 months ago

Lethal injection of convicted murderer will use controversial drug cocktail; Florida also set for execution Thursday.

AP, January 15

After a nearly nine-month delay prompted by a botched lethal injection last spring, Oklahoma plans to execute a death row inmate Thursday with the same controversial three-drug method Florida intends to use around an hour earlier.

Oklahoma prison officials ordered new medical equipment, more extensive training for staff and renovated the execution chamber inside the Oklahoma State Penitentiary to prevent the kind of problems that arose during the execution of Clayton Lockett in April. Lockett writhed on the gurney, moaned and tried to lift his head after he’d been declared unconscious, prompting prison officials to try to halt his execution before he died.

Attorneys for the state say a failed intravenous line and a lack of training led to the problems with Lockett’s injection, not the drugs.

Both Oklahoma and Florida plan to start the executions with the sedative midazolam, which has been challenged in court as ineffective in rendering a person properly unconscious before the second and third drugs are administered, creating a risk of unconstitutional pain and suffering.

Egypt acquits 26 men accused of debauchery in Cairo bathhouse

Associated Press, By Maggie Michael, January 12

Cairo — An Egyptian court on Monday acquitted 26 men arrested in a televised raid last month by police looking for gays at a Cairo public bathhouse, a ruling that set off deafening cheers and jubilation inside the courtroom as some of the defendants uncovered their faces and cried with relief.

The trial, which had caused an uproar among activists and rights groups, captured public attention after a pro-government TV network aired scenes of half-naked men being pulled from the bathhouse by police.

Same-sex relations are not explicitly prohibited in Egyptian law but homosexuality is a social taboo in the conservative, Muslim-majority country. Same-sex marriage is unheard of. Only in recent years have movies and fiction included gay characters.

[…]

The courtroom erupted into a frenzy after the word “acquittal” was heard from the judge and women ululated. Scott Long, an American researcher who had followed the case said he was both “shocked and delighted.”

“I hope this is a sign that these raids will come to an end,” Long told The Associated Press amid the cheering. “Finally there was a judge who listened to the evidence.”

Thousands protest in Moscow after opposition leader’s guilty verdict

Mashable, By Brian Ries & Christopher Miller, December 31

A massive crowd of protesters gathered in Moscow’s Manezhka Square on Tuesday following the guilty verdict of anti-corruption crusader Alexei Navalny.

Navalny, a leading foe of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was found guilty of fraud and given a suspended sentence of three and a half years on Tuesday, while his brother was sent straight to prison.

“The government isn’t just trying to jail its political opponents — we’re used to it; we’re aware that they’re doing it — but this time they’re destroying and torturing the families of the people who oppose them,” he said, calling for people to attend the protest on Tuesday evening.

Hours after the ruling, Navalny himself appeared alongside protesters at Moscow’s Manezhka Square in defiance of a house arrest order — and was quickly detained by Russian authorities for breaking the terms. He was taken away in a bus and escorted back to his home.

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