Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment is a wake-up call for women voters | Cecile Richards

The pandemic and its collateral economic crisis have illustrated like never before that women are the backbone of America. Before Covid-19, women made up more than half the workforce, nearly two-thirds of minimum-wage workers, and the majority of caregivers. One in three jobs held by women has been designated as essential. Right now, millions of women are pulling off an impossible balancing act: working while trying to keep their families safe and healthy during a terrifying time. Others have lost jobs, have had their wages or hours cut, and more than 800,000 women have left the workforce. This crisis is disproportionately burdening women, especially women of color. They need immediate relief, but instead of solving this crisis, Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have focused on one thing: pushing through a supreme court nominee who wants to take away healthcare for millions and strip away rights women have had for decades. And they’re doing it against the will of the majority of Americans, who believe that voters should decide who makes the next appointment to the court.When Trump announced Amy Coney Barrett as his pick, Republicans rushed to portray her as a worthy successor to justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a lifelong champion of women’s rights and democracy. They pointed to Barrett’s “woman” credentials: namely, that she’s a mother of seven. Women across the country, however, know what’s at stake. On the campaign trail, then-candidate Trump promised to appoint justices who would overturn Roe v Wade. Throughout her confirmation hearings, Barrett refused to say whether she would uphold access to safe abortion, birth control, or fertility treatment. When it comes to the future of reproductive rights, her silence speaks volumes.It’s not only Roe v Wade that’s on the line under a Barrett court. Paid leave, affordable childcare, equal pay, voting rights, racial justice, and LGBTQ+ equality are in jeopardy. And with arguments on the Affordable Care Act slated for 10 November, Barrett may have the chance to repeal critical health care protections in the middle of a pandemic. At a time when we’ve just passed the grim threshold of 8 million Americans infected with Covid-19 and more than 225,000 dead, making it harder to get healthcare is the last thing we should be doing.Barrett’s nomination is part of a broader effort by the extreme right to allow minority views to rule over the will of the majority of Americans – in this case, womenIt’s outrageous that an impeached president who lost the popular vote can install a supreme court justice who would gut the Affordable Care Act despite majority support for the law – a law that made it so that women can no longer be charged more for health coverage because of our gender, or denied insurance because of a pre-existing condition such as breast cancer. It’s equally outrageous to see Republican senators prioritizing this bad-faith confirmation process despite their failure to pass a desperately-needed coronavirus relief bill. But none of this is surprising. Barrett’s nomination is part of a broader effort by the extreme right to allow minority views to rule over the will of the majority of Americans – in this case, women.Women have been the majority of voters in every national election since 1964, and we represent the majority of mail-in ballots and early votes heading into November. Over the last four years, we have shown our political force by marching for women’s rights and Black lives, volunteering for causes, and donating to campaigns. We are a supermajority, and we should have the undivided attention of every elected official in this country. But we don’t, and that’s because deliberate efforts to undermine our democracy have created a system that’s less and less responsive to the needs of the people, especially women.Make no mistake: the tidal wave of female voters and the record number of women elected to Congress in 2018 have been possible not thanks to our political system, but despite it. Supreme court decisions to allow unlimited corporate money in elections, gut the Voting Rights Act, and refuse to address partisan gerrymandering all make it harder for women, especially women of color, to run for office, let alone vote. Barrett, who has proudly touted herself as an “originalist” in the mold of Antonin Scalia, will cement a court that’s even more hostile to our democracy.If Joe Biden wins this November, he should prioritize reforms that will make our democracy fairer and more accountable to the will of the people, including women. That starts with depoliticizing the court, strengthening voting rights, and reducing the influence of money in politics.A single supreme court justice confirmed by a group of Senators acting against our wishes shouldn’t have this much power. We, the people – and we, the supermajority of women – should determine the direction of the country. And the best way to do that is for those of us who believe in reproductive freedom, affordable health care, LGBTQ+ rights, and voting rights to show up in droves for this election. We should vote like our lives depend on it, because they do.Cecile Richards is the co-founder of Supermajority and the former head of Planned Parenthood Legendary Watergate reporter Bob Woodward will discuss the Trump presidency at a Guardian Live online event on Tuesday 27 October, 7pm GMT. Book tickets here

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Amy Coney Barrett confirmed to supreme court in major victory for US conservatives

The US Senate has confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court, delivering Donald Trump a huge but partisan victory just eight days before the election and locking in rightwing domination of the nation’s highest court for years to come. The vote was a formality, with senators divided almost entirely along party lines, voting 52 to 48 with just one Republican breaking ranks. But it still marked a seismic moment for Trump, for the supreme court and for American democracy. For the president, it meant his legacy on judicial appointees is secure whatever the outcome of next week’s election. Trump will have placed three conservative justices on the court, albeit in highly contentious circumstances. For the supreme court, it sealed an unassailable six to three balance between conservatives and liberal justices. The oldest of those conservatives, Clarence Thomas, is 72 and still has potentially many years to serve within his lifetime appointment. Mitch McConnell, the Republican majority leader, underlined the political importance of the moment when he said on Sunday: “A lot of what we’ve done over the last four years will be undone sooner or later by the next election. They won’t be able to do much about this for a long time to come.” For US democracy, the confirmation gives the conservative justices the upper hand on such hot-button issues as abortion, same-sex marriage and the climate crisis – areas where public opinion is firmly in favor of progressive change. Following the vote, a swearing-in ceremony was held at the White House. Trump introduced Barrett saying that her addition to the court carried forward “the cause of freedom”. In her speech, Barrett said she would conduct her new job “independently of both branches [of government] and of my own preferences”. She thanked the senate for “the confidence you have placed in me”, ignoring the inconvenient truth that half the political composition of the chamber had turned its back on her. The sole rebel from party ranks was the Republican senator Susan Collins who voted against Barrett’s confirmation. Earlier in the day Collins said she had based her decision not on the judge’s qualifications but on a sense of fairness, though Collins’s tough re-election fight in Maine no doubt focused her attention. The confirmation will leave a residue of bitter partisan rancor given the Republican rush to push Barrett through days before the election – the closest confirmation to a presidential election in US history – having refused four years ago to countenance Barack Obama’s pick for the supreme court on grounds that the people should decide. Chuck Schumer, the top Democrat in the Senate cast Barrett’s confirmation as one of the “darkest days in the 231-year history” of the Senate in his party’s closing arguments. Addressing his Republican peers, he said: “You may get Amy Coney Barrett on to the supreme court but you will never, never get your credibility back.” Joe Biden also protested the confirmation. During a campaign stop in Pennsylvania, he tweeted: “More than 60 million Americans have already voted. They deserve to have their voices heard on who replaced justice Ginsburg.” McConnell was dismissive of Democratic laments, deriding them as a 50-year-old tactic. “What they want is activist judges, a small panel of lawyers with elite education to reason backwards from outcomes and enlighten all the rest of us,” he said shortly before the Senate vote was called. Barrett, 48, becomes only the fifth woman to sit on the supreme court. Trump moved quickly to nominate her to succeed the liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on 18 September at age 87.

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Wisconsin can't count mail-in ballots received after election day, supreme court rules

The US supreme court has sided with Republicans to prevent Wisconsin from counting mail-in ballots that are received after election day. In a 5-3 ruling, the justices on Monday refused to reinstate a lower court order that called for mailed ballots to be counted if they are received up to six days after the 3 November election. A federal appeals court had already put that order on hold. The ruling awards a victory for Republicans in their crusade against expanding voting rights and access. It also came just moments before the Republican-controlled Senate voted to confirm Amy Coney Barrett, a victory for the right that locks in a conservative majority on the nation’s highest court for years to come. The three liberal justices dissented. John Roberts, the chief justice, last week joined the liberals to preserve a Pennsylvania state court order extending the absentee ballot deadline but voted the other way in the Wisconsin case, which has moved through federal courts. “Different bodies of law and different precedents govern these two situations and require, in these particular circumstances, that we allow the modification of election rules in Pennsylvania but not Wisconsin,” Roberts wrote. “As the Covid pandemic rages, the court has failed to adequately protect the nation’s voters,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in a dissent that noted the state allowed the six-day extension for primary voting in April and that roughly 80,000 ballots were received after the day of the primary election. Democrats argued that the flood of absentee ballots and other challenges posed by the coronavirus pandemic makes it necessary to extend the period in which ballots can be counted. Wisconsin, a swing state, is also one of the nation’s hotspots for Covid-19, with hospitals treating a record high number of patients with the disease. The supreme court allowed a similar extension to go into effect for Wisconsin’s April election, a decision that led to nearly 80,000 additional votes getting counted in the contest (Trump carried the state in 2016 by just under 23,000 votes). Republicans opposed the extension, saying that voters have plenty of opportunities to cast their ballots by the close of polls on election day and that the rules should not be changed so close to the election. The justices often say nothing, or very little, about the reasons for their votes in these emergency cases, but on Monday, four justices wrote opinions totaling 35 pages to lay out their competing rationales. Justice Neil Gorsuch acknowledged the complications the pandemic adds to voting, but defended the court’s action. “No one doubts that conducting a national election amid a pandemic poses serious challenges. But none of that means individual judges may improvise with their own election rules in place of those the people’s representatives have adopted,” Gorsuch wrote. Justice Brett Kavanaugh, meanwhile, echoed Trump in writing that states should announce results on election night. States “want to be able to definitively announce the results of the election on election night, or as soon as possible thereafter”, he wrote. “Moreover, particularly in a presidential election, counting all the votes quickly can help the state promptly resolve any disputes, address any need for recounts, and begin the process of canvassing and certifying the election results in an expeditious manner.” He also wrote states had an interest in avoiding “the chaos and suspicions of impropriety that can ensue if thousands of absentee ballots flow in after election day.” That comment earned a sharp rebuke from Kagan, who noted that the bigger threat to election “integrity” was valid votes going uncounted. “nothing could be more ‘suspicio[us]’ or “improp[er]’ than refusing to tally votes once the clock strikes 12 on election night. To suggest otherwise, especially in these fractious times, is to disserve the electoral process,” she wrote. Kavanaugh cited Vermont as an example of a state that “decided not to make changes to their ordinary election rules” due to the pandemic, even though, in fact, the state authorized the secretary of state to automatically mail a ballot to all registered voters this year, in order to make it easier for everyone to vote absentee. In a significant footnote, Kavanaugh also wrote that state courts do not have a “blank check” to step in on state laws governing federal elections, endorsing conservative justices’ rationale in deciding the election in 2000 between George W Bush and Al Gore. Two decades ago, in Bush v Gore, the supreme court decided – effectively – that Bush would be the US president after settling a recount dispute in the swing state of Florida. Back then, three conservative justices – William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas – said that the Florida supreme court “impermissibly distorted” the state’s election code by ordering a recount of a close election, during which voting machines were found to have issues correctly counting the votes. In Monday’s ruling, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch – both Trump appointees – endorsed that view expressed in the Bush v Gore case, a move that could foretell how the court, which now has a 6-3 conservative majority, would rule if the results of the presidential election are contested. Justices Thomas, Samuel Alito, Gorsuch, and Kavanaugh recently voted to block a deadline extension to count ballots in Pennsylvania. However, with only eight justice on the court at the time, and the conservative justice John Roberts siding with liberals – at tied court ultimately upheld the deadline extension. But Pennsylvania Republicans, sensing an ally in Barrett, have asked for a re-do. In making their case, they are arguing that the state supreme court overstepped by ordering officials to count mail-in ballots that are sent by election day but arrive up to three days later. Agencies contributed to this report

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Amy Coney Barrett is a constitutional ‘originalist’ – but what does it mean?

The confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett as a supreme court justice marks the advent of a bedrock conservative majority on the court that analysts expect to influence American life for a generation. Barrett’s arrival on the court will make it easier for the conservative bloc to get to a five-vote majority on future cases involving everything from environmental regulations to voting rights. But, as the latest conservative judge to declare herself a constitutional “originalist” during confirmation hearings, Barrett could also influence what kinds of arguments hold sway on the court for years to come – and what cases the court hears in the first place. It has been rare over the course of American history for a particular brand of judicial philosophy to gain such prominence that it catches the public eye. A torrent of judicial appointments by Donald Trump over the last four years, however, including three supreme court nominees espousing “originalism”, has pushed the term into the political discourse. Barrett defined the term for the Senate. “So in English, that means that I interpret the constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it,” she said. “So that meaning doesn’t change over time. And it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.” Aziz Huq, a professor of law at the University of Chicago, said that there is a thriving academic debate about the merits of originalism that is only “loosely connected” with the current political discourse, in which the term is often used on the right as a philosophical fig leaf for a conservative political agenda. “The political discourse of originalism is closely aligned with the policy preferences of the Republican party that has promoted judges who happen to take this perspective,” Huq said. “It purports to be something that is moving outside politics, but it is – in its origins, and in the way that it has been applied in the courts – it is tightly linked to a particular partisan political orientation.” Elected officials and other who have noticed that 86% of Trump’s judicial appointees are white and 75% are men have begun to hear something else in the term: a nostalgic appeal to the exclusive hold on power by white men at the time the constitution was written – a sense reinforced by the president’s repeated personal refusal to disavow white supremacy. “Are you an originalist?” the Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot, who is a lawyer but not a judge, was asked by a reporter this month. Lightfoot chuckled. “You ask a gay, black woman if she is an originalist?” Lightfoot said. “No, ma’am, I am not. Since the constitution didn’t consider me a person in any way, shape or form, because I’m a woman, because I’m black, because I’m gay – I’m not an originalist.” But other legal analysts say that the search for an “original public meaning” of the constitution, including later amendments ruling out discrimination and expanding the right to vote, is an appropriate avenue of legal reasoning that is increasingly employed on the left as well as the right. In making the case that Trump was guilty of “high crimes and misdemeanors” and “bribery”, the House impeachment managers led by congressman Adam Schiff relied on originalist arguments about how those terms were understood by the founders, analysts point out. Liberal supreme court justices have even recently used originalist analysis to advance arguments about gun control, emoluments, faithless electors and the delegation by Congress of policymaking authority to executive branch agencies. “The goal of originalism is really just to argue that the constitutional rule that’s embodied in the constitution should be understood in the way that it was understood by those who adopted it in the first place, and that courts ought to be constrained by that understanding when it’s possible to determine what that understanding is,” said Keith Whittington, a professor of politics at Princeton University specializing in constitutional theory. “That doesn’t require government policy to look like anything that it might have looked like in an earlier age, it certainly doesn’t require going back to particular practices that were true in earlier periods.” But originalist reasoning does harken to a time when the conception of the federal government’s role was much narrower, Huq said, making it a particularly useful tool for dismantling public health protections and other regulations. That conservative project could accelerate with Barrett on the bench, Huq said. “What I would expect to see is that, under an originalist guise, we will start to see the court aggressively trying limit the scope of the regulatory state, the helping hand of the state – and to prevent it from stepping in to prevent the harms that arise from climate change, from pollution, workplace safety issues – the list is long.” Originalism as applied by the court also has a tragic blind spot, failing to grapple with structural violence directed at minorities under the law, Huq said. “The court has almost nothing to say about the vast domains of government activity in which race plays a major role, but isn’t stated on the face of the law,” he said. “Criminal justice is saturated with racial animus and saturated with racial bias, but the laws are not written with race in the text of the law, therefore the court has nothing to say. There are almost no cases in the supreme court about racial bias in criminal justice, and this is why.”

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'Power grab': how Republican hardball gave us Amy Coney Barrett

The almost certain confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett to the supreme court on Monday represents a “power grab” by Republicans facing possible wipeout at the ballot box, activists and analysts say. Republicans on the Senate judiciary committee shrugged off a Democratic boycott on Thursday to advance Barrett’s nomination to the full Senate, which will vote little more than a week before the presidential election. If confirmed, Barrett could be sworn in as a justice almost immediately. To critics, the rushed process represents one of the most naked power plays yet by a party which, confronting dismal opinion polls, is weaponizing unelected judges to compensate for setbacks in elections. Even as they contemplate the loss of political power, Republicans are poised to cement judicial power for generations. “This is like the last gasp by the Republican party to try to lock in their minority rule,” said Christopher Kang, co-founder and chief counsel of the progressive group Demand Justice. “They’re potentially just days away from not only losing the White House but also the Senate, maybe even resoundingly, and so they’re trying to do everything they can to consolidate on the supreme court a Trump supermajority for decades to come.” Under Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republicans have built a reputation for ruthless bare knuckle tactics Democrats struggle to combat. They blocked swaths of Barack Obama’s legislative agenda and in 2016 refused to grant a hearing to his supreme court nominee Merrick Garland, arguing that it was an election year so the voters should decide. In 2018, when the conservative nominee Brett Kavanaugh faced credible allegations of sexual assault, Republicans ignored fierce protests and rammed his appointment through. And when liberal justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg died last month, Donald Trump moved like lightning to replace her with Barrett, 48, a lifetime appointment who would tilt America’s highest court to a 6-3 conservative majority. It was another example of Republican hardball – audacious, shameless and devastatingly effective. Comedian Bill Maher told viewers of his HBO show: “If you haven’t gotten it yet, this kind of completely bald-faced premeditated hypocrisy should make it clear. There’s no catching them in an inconsistency. They don’t care because it’s all and only about power. The only rule Republicans play by is: the people who win make the rules. Power talks, losers walk.” Democrats cried foul, pointing out that the Senate has never confirmed a supreme court nominee so close to a presidential election. They were whistling in the wind. During committee hearings Barrett swerved most of their questions, refusing to commit herself on abortion, the transfer or power or the climate crisis. Kang said: “The process was so rushed and she was far more evasive and refused to answer more questions than any other nominee. That was a little bit jarring, if not surprising, but it shows how little respect Republicans have not only for the Senate but the supreme court itself. The Republican party is very blatantly just treating the supreme court as another political branch of government.” Demand Justice has called for Democrats to fight back by expanding the court, noting that its size has been changed seven times before. Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential nominee, has said he will appoint a bipartisan commission to examine such proposals. Kang predicted: “Republicans’ attempt to assert their raw political partisan power grab to get a sixth seat on the court, when they already have five, could end up backfiring spectacularly on them and they could be on the losing side of a 7-6 supreme court before they know it.” All 12 Republicans on the judiciary committee voted in favour of Barrett. Ted Cruz of Texas hailed perhaps the “single most important accomplishment” of Trump’s presidency. Democrats displayed posters at their desks, of Americans who benefited from Obama’s Affordable Care Act which they warn Barrett could help strike down. Democrats have also warned that if Trump follows through on his threat to dispute the outcome of the 3 November election, it might go before Barrett and other members of the supreme court for a final ruling, just like the 2000 election between George W Bush and Al Gore. Laurence Tribe, a constitutional law professor at Harvard University, described Barrett’s probable confirmation as a “‘power grab’ in every relevant sense of the term, especially in light of President Trump’s open concession that he appointed judge Coney Barrett in part to ensure her ability to vote in his favour should his re-election as president end up turning on a case the supreme court would need to resolve in order to give him an electoral college victory in the face of a national popular defeat.” Trump has appointed more than 200 federal judges, likely to be his most lasting legacy whether he serves one term or two. Critics suggest the courts represent the last bulwark of Republican minority rule and the Barrett episode is starkly indicative of a party that has lost its ideological and ethical moorings and now treats power as an end in itself. Kurt Bardella, a senior adviser to the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump group, said Republicans have betrayed their claims to be the party of fiscal responsibility, pro-life principles, small government and congressional oversight. “When a party diverges from itself on so many issues so many times,” he said, “it tells you they don’t actually have any moral convictions or principles that guide them. Only the pursuit of power.”

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Joe Biden plans special commission to suggest supreme court reforms

Joe Biden has confirmed he would appoint a special commission to study the US court system over 180 days, if he is elected next month, to provide reform recommendations relating to the supreme court and beyond.In response to questions about the US supreme court during an interview for this Sunday’s 60 Minutes news magazine, the former vice-president and Democratic presidential nominee told CBS TV managing editor Norah O’Donnell that the court system is “getting out of whack” and that “there’s a number of alternatives that go well beyond ‘packing’”, ie increasing the number of seats on the nine-justice supreme court bench.“The last thing we need to do is turn the supreme court into just a political football, [that means] whoever has the most votes gets whatever they want,” Biden said in the interview, which airs just nine days ahead of the 2020 presidential election.“Presidents come and go. Supreme court justices stay for generations,” he added.In keeping with the show’s election tradition, both candidates will be featured in separate interviews to spell out their plans for the country. The previews come following reports that Donald Trump abruptly ended what was intended to be an hour-long interview at the White House after 45 minutes, before chastising correspondent Stahl for her professionalism and lack of mask.Meanwhile, the US president has been talking about doing his own pre-emptive defense.I will soon be giving a first in television history full, unedited preview of the vicious attempted “takeout” interview of me by Lesley Stahl of @60Minutes. Watch her constant interruptions & anger. Compare my full, flowing and “magnificently brilliant” answers to their “Q’s”.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 22, 2020 Biden vowed that if he prevails in November’s election he will “put together a bipartisan commission of constitutional scholars – Democrats, Republicans, liberal, conservative” over “180 days come back to me with recommendations” on the US court system.“It’s the way in which it’s being handled and it’s not about court packing,” Biden argued, adding “there’s a number of other things that our constitutional scholars have debated and I’ve looked to see what recommendations that commission might make.”While the Democrat kept the focus on the recovery from a pandemic and recession, Trump, meanwhile, vaguely looked forward to one goal: “To get back to normal”.“Get back to where we were, to have the economy rage and be great with jobs and everybody be happy,” he said. “And that’s where we’re going, and that’s where we’re heading.”The president then took aim at China, calling them “an adversary,” “a competitor” and a “foe” before slamming the country for giving rise to the Covid-19 outbreak.Interviews with their running mates, Republican vice-president Mike Pence and California Senator Kamala Harris, will also air during the broadcast.

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Revealed: ex-members of Amy Coney Barrett faith group tell of trauma and sexual abuse

Amy Coney Barrett Revealed: ex-members of Amy Coney Barrett faith group tell of trauma and sexual abuse People of Praise hire lawyers to investigate historical sexual abuse allegations as former members speak of ‘emotional torment’

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Breonna Taylor: grand juror speaks out, saying homicide charges weren't offered

A grand juror in the Breonna Taylor case has spoken out, challenging statements made by the Kentucky attorney general and saying that the jury was not offered homicide charges to consider against officers involved in Taylor’s killing. The anonymous grand juror’s comments on Tuesday came after a Louisville judge cleared the way for the the panel’s members to talk publicly about the secretive proceedings. The juror filed suit to speak publicly after Daniel Cameron, the Kentucky attorney general, announced last month that no officers would be directly charged in the March shooting death of Taylor during a botched narcotics raid. The grand jury charged one officer with endangering her neighbors.In a written statement, the grand juror, who was not identified, said that only wanton endangerment charges were offered to them to consider against one officer. The grand jury asked questions about bringing other charges against the officers, “and the grand jury was told there would be none because the prosecutors didn’t feel they could make them stick”, the grand juror said.Cameron had opposed allowing grand jurors to speak about the proceedings, but said Tuesday that he would not appeal the judge’s ruling. Grand juries are typically secret meetings, though earlier this month the audio recordings of the proceedings in the Taylor case were released publicly.Cameron announced the results of the grand jury investigation in a widely viewed news conference on 23 September. At that announcement, he said prosecutors “walked the grand jury through every homicide offense”.He also said “the grand jury agreed” that the officers who shot Taylor were justified in returning fire after they were shot at by Kenneth Walker, Taylor’s boyfriend. Walker’s lone gunshot struck one of the officers in the leg.The anonymous grand juror challenged Cameron’s comments, saying the panel “didn’t agree that certain actions were justified”, and grand jurors “did not have homicide charges explained to them”.“The grand jury never heard anything about those laws. Self defense or justification was never explained either,” the statement continued.The grand juror’s attorney, Kevin Glowgower, said his client’s chief complaint was the way in which the results were “portrayed to the public as to who made what decisions and who agreed with what decisions”.The grand juror had no further plans to speak about the proceedings on Tuesday beyond the statement, Glowgower said.Cameron has acknowledged his prosecutors did not introduce any homicide charges against two officers who shot Taylor, and said it was because they were justified in returning fire after Walker shot at them.

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US justice department expected to sue Google over accusation of illegal monopoly

The US justice department filed a lawsuit against Google on Tuesday, accusing the tech company of abusing its position to maintain an illegal monopoly over search and search advertising.“Two decades ago, Google became the darling of Silicon Valley as a scrappy startup with an innovative way to search the emerging internet. That Google is long gone,” the suit alleged.Today Google is a “monopoly gatekeeper for the internet” that has used “pernicious” anticompetitive tactics to maintain and extend its monopolies.The antitrust suit is the most significant legal challenge to a major tech company in decades and comes as US authorities are increasingly critical of the business practices of the major tech companies.The long awaited case, filed in Washington DC, alleges that Google unfairly acts as a gatekeeper to the web through a series of business agreements that effectively lock out competition.Justice officials have also challenged an arrangement in which Google’s search application is preloaded, and can’t be deleted, on mobile phones running its Android operating system. The company pays billions each year to “secure default status for its general search engine and, in many cases, to specifically prohibit Google’s counterparties from dealing with Google’s competitors,” the suit states, in a move that has “foreclosed competition for internet search.”Google’s alleged anticompetitive practices are “especially pernicious because they deny rivals scale to compete effectively,” and thwart potential innovation, the suit alleged.In a statement Google called the suit “deeply flawed.” “People use Google because they choose to – not because they’re forced to or because they can’t find alternatives,” the company said.Today’s lawsuit by the Department of Justice is deeply flawed. People use Google because they choose to -- not because they're forced to or because they can't find alternatives. We will have a full statement this morning.— Google Public Policy (@googlepubpolicy) October 20, 2020 Google dominates online search in the US, accounting for about 80% of search queries.The suit marks a stunning reversal for Silicon Valley which has largely avoided clashes with Washington even as European regulators have levied huge fines against Google and others.European regulators have fined Google a total of $9bn for anticompetitive practices. In 2018 Donald Trump attacked the EU decisions. “I told you so! The European Union just slapped a Five Billion Dollar fine on one of our great companies, Google,” Trump tweeted. “They truly have taken advantage of the US, but not for long!”Since then the mood has changed with both Trump and other conservatives joining liberals including senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in attacking the dominance of tech firms including Amazon, Google, Facebook and others.The case comes after a hard-hitting House subcommittee report concluded Big Tech wielded “too much power” and was censoring political speech, spreading fake news and “killing” the engines of the American economy.The charges mark the first time since the famous Microsoft lawsuit of 1998 that the US government has accused a company of operating a monopoly under the Sherman Act, a law that dates back to 1890 encouraging competition between enterprises.In the suit the government lawyers point out that Google was among those who argued Microsoft’s practices were anticompetitive, “and yet, now, Google deploys the same playbook to sustain its own monopolies”.But the justice department said Google’s parent company Alphabet had learned one thing from the Microsoft case. “Referring to a notorious line from the Microsoft case, Google’s chief economist wrote: ‘We should be careful about what we say in both public and private. ‘Cutting off the air supply’ and similar phrases should be avoided.’”Google’s employees have also “received specific instructions on what language to use (and not use) in emails,” the suit claimed. Google employees were instructed to avoid using terms such as “crush,” “kill,” “hurt,” or “block” competition, and to avoid observing that Google has “market power” in any market.Google has $120bn in cash and deep political ties in Washington. The case will take years before any decision is reached and will likely set off a cascade of other legal actions. Attorneys general across the US are already investigating the company and the justice department is conducting a separate investigation into Google’s ad-tech practices.

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US supreme court to decide on Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

The US supreme court on Monday agreed to decide the legality of one of Donald Trump’s hardline immigration policies that has forced tens of thousands to wait in Mexico rather than entering the US, while their asylum claims are processed.More than 60,000 asylum seekers were returned under the “Remain in Mexico” program. In late February, the US justice department estimated that 25,000 were still waiting in Mexico for hearings in US court. Those hearings were suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic.Migrants, many of them children, have faced violence and homelessness while awaiting court dates. Human rights groups have documented cases of kidnappings, rapes and assaults.Immigration advocacy groups and 11 individual asylum seekers who fled violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras and were returned to Mexico after entering the US filed suit to challenge the legality of the policy.In a statement on Monday, Judy Rabinovitz, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, which is challenging the policy, called the policy “illegal and depraved”.“The courts have repeatedly ruled against it, and the supreme court should as well,” she said.As is typical, the court did not comment in announcing it would hear the case. Because the court’s calendar is full through the end of the year, the justices will not hear the case until 2021. If Joe Biden were to win the presidential election on 3 November and rescind the policy, the case would become largely moot.The case concerns a Trump administration appeal against a 2019 lower-court ruling that found the policy probably violated federal immigration law. The program, officially called Migrant Protection Protocols, remains in effect because the supreme court in March put the lower court’s decision to block the policy on hold.Trump has said “Remain in Mexico”, which took effect in January 2019, has reduced the flow of migrants from Central America. Restricting both illegal and legal immigration has been a central theme of Trump’s presidency. He has sought to reduce asylum claims through a series of policy and rule changes.The policy represented a fundamental change to previous US practice. The Trump administration has said allowing thousands of asylum seekers across the border would swamp the US immigration system and damage relations with Mexico.A federal judge blocked the program nationwide, saying forcing asylum applicants to wait in Mexico was contrary to the text of the Immigration and Nationality Act and violated treaty-based obligations to not send refugees back to dangerous countries.In February, the San Francisco-based ninth US circuit court of appeals partially upheld that ruling. The supreme court then put the injunction on hold.

Continue Reading US supreme court to decide on Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' asylum policy

Women march against Trump and Republicans in major US cities

Protest Organizer: presidency will begin and end with women marching March held at Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s college, Cornell

Continue Reading Women march against Trump and Republicans in major US cities