A Shout Out to a Mensch of a Santa

Rick Rosenthal looks the part. He has a white beard. He wears red suits all the time. His job for the last seven years has been that of a surrogate Santa Claus. And he’s an Orthodox Jew. Here’s his story of giving back to kids.

https://wp.me/p7hv2i-92W

(JTA) — Just like any other Santa Claus, Santa Rick will spend much of the next couple of weeks sitting children on his knee, asking whether they’ve been good and listening to their Christmas wishes.

If it’s a Saturday, he may have slept overnight in the building. And he’ll only accept payment after nightfall.

For Santa Rick’s last name is Rosenthal, and he’s an Orthodox Jew who does not drive or handle money on Shabbat. But that doesn’t stop him from doing his job.

“I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t help a child,” said Rosenthal, 66, who lives in Atlanta and attends Young Israel of Toco Hills. “If you look at the world as children do, that’s a better feeling. I’m a better person and a better Jew because I’m Santa.”

Rosenthal — a full-time, professional Santa — sees no contradiction between serving as the symbol of Christmas and living as an observant Jew. To him, Santa is a nonreligious spiritual figure who provides trust, reassurance and comfort to the young and old.

He says that anyone who is inclined to criticize him for working as a Santa should consider ways they help non-Jews observe holidays — like working a shift on Christmas when Christians take the day off.

“As a Jew, we are to be a light unto the world,” Rosenthal said, paraphrasing a famous Jewish aphorism from the Bible. “That’s one of our jobs. If we can help make people’s lives better, we should do that. It’s a mitzvah. If we can ease tensions between Jews and non-Jews, we can do that….”

A Gift to Me from a Good Friend

Happy Holidays, everyone!

It’s almost December at the White House, and Donald Trump orders his aides to put up a nativity scene on the lawn. They all grovel before him and begin their task.

After working for a few hours to set one up, the aides step back to look at their work.

“It looks pretty good,” says the first one.

“Yeah, but I’m not sure the boss will like it,” says the second….

https://wp.me/p1vpbG-2ik

Voters: ‘Don’t Take the Bait’

Remember to get out and vote. Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. Here in Pennsylvania, the polls open at 7 am and close at 8 pm.

Nel's New Day

Dictator Donald Trump (DDT) came up with a new diversion today. He doesn’t want people to notice that the Republicans plan to get rid of pre-existing conditions on health plans and eviscerate Social Security and Medicare. He doesn’t want people to notice that the national debt is ballooning and the deficit is rapidly increasing because he is giving money to the wealthy and big business that he had promised to use for help to the other 80 percent. And he certainly doesn’t want people to know—right before the midterm elections—that they will suffer from his new policies. His strategy is to tell them that he is taking care of the non-existent immigration problem.

Today he told today that he plans to sign an executive order to overturn an amendment to the U.S. Constitution to strip people in the United States of their citizenship. The Fourteenth Amendment that specifically stated that almost…

View original post 1,058 more words

Traveling While Muslim: The Case of the Exploding Chocolate

This is an excerpt from and a commentary on a Politico article dated August 11, 2018, by this same name.

end racism now image from facebook

End Racism NOW.

He’s a Muslim.

He’s an American citizen.

He has a passport. And a Global Entry Card

He travels. A lot. He estimates that he goes abroad six to eight times a year.

And he regularly is pulled aside by Customs and Border Patrol. He estimated that he gets pulled over for additional screening at least half of the time.

This time it was at Dulles International Airport. Not once. Not twice. But four times.

The second agent ripped up his kids’ chocolate present to check and make sure it didn’t explode.

The third agent confiscated his Global Entry Card because he was “noncompliant” and he “mocked us for checking your chocolate for explosives.”  

The fourth agent then came forward.  This conversation was their interchange:

“I’m the supervisor on duty. So you think because you have Global Entry you’re exempt from screening?”

“What? No. I said I’ve been screened and cleared three times so far. But despite that, your officer took my Global Entry card and said I’m being non-compliant. And he said that I’ve broken the law. But he refuses to give me any example of non-compliance or cite what law I’ve broken. Please explain this to me.”

The supervisor turned to the confiscating officer and asked, “Why’d you stop him?”

“Well, he was laughing at us.” (It’s true, I did chuckle in disbelief. Guilty as charged.)

“But did he refuse orders?”

“No, I mean, he harassed us.”

I didn’t yell at this point, but I raised my voice. “This is ridiculous. You have the power. You’re detaining me. You have my property. But somehow I’m harassing you? What? Do you hear yourself?”

I turned back to the supervisor. “I’m asking for about the 10th time now. How was I non-compliant and what law did I break?”

“Well those are his words—not mine,” the supervisor said. Now we were getting somewhere.

“Great, so you won’t even stand by your own officer’s words. Meanwhile, you have my Global Entry card. I’m still detained. Why am I still here, then?”

At that point, the fourth agent asked a question. “What do you do for a living?

So he told them. “I’m a civil rights lawyer with expertise on racial and religious discrimination and profiling.”

And then he asked again.

“I’m asking for the last time. What law have I broken? How was I non-compliant?”

Rather than answer, he [the fourth agent] responded, “Well, I think everything checks out. You can go.”

Who is this man? His name is Qasim Rashid (@MuslimIQ), He’s “an attorney, author and national spokesperson for the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community USA. He’s [also] a Truman national security fellow.”

As the article states, and I agree, why should someone have to be a lawyer to be treated equally under the law? Why should an immigrant seeking asylum who has little knowledge of the English language be subject to intimidation and removal of their children from their care?  Why should any person of color, because of their name or what they wear (e.g., a hijab), or what they look like be profiled, pulled aside, and intimidated when they travel?

And how do we let people know their rights when interacting with law enforcement?  According to Mr. Rashid, you should check out the ACLU’s booklet entitled KNOW YOUR
RIGHTS WHEN ENCOUNTERING LAW ENFORCEMENT.

And Speak Out.  Just like with the #MeToo movement that has more and more women speaking out on their experiences with sexual harassment and sexual assault, individuals who have been profiled because of their race, religion, or national origin should also speak up about their experiences.  Then people will, like the #MeToo women, begin to see and push back against the maltreatment, harassment, and discrimination of people of color by those in power.

Resisting the “Zero Tolerance” Immigration Detention Program

People throughout the United States gathered in communities and cities around the country to protest the separation and detention of asylum-seeking families. The largest one was held in Washington, DC.  The one I attended was on the other side of the country at one of the Federal Detention Centers where adults, but not their children, have been sent to.  This detention center is located just south of the Seattle-Tacoma (SeaTac) International Airport.  Thousands of people came out to protest the US Department of Justice’s “Zero Tolerance” policy of separating children from their parents when the parents attempt to cross our borders seeking asylum.

People were passionate and peaceful. The following shows our thoughts in pictures and words.  I posted some of these pictures on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.  My thoughts were attached to those pictures. The rest I believe speak for themselves.  Here’s my photo gallery of the day.

Heading to the Rally

Due to the expected crowds and lack of parking near the Federal Detention Center, we parked at the north end of Seattle at the University of Washington. This is the northern terminus of the Seattle Light Rail line.  Angle Lake is the southern terminus of the the rail line and is located about 2 blocks from the detention center.

picture of My selfie of my twin sister and myself on the Seattle Light Rail heading to the #BringFamiliesTogetherMarch at Angle Lake south of SeaTac, WA. We are sitting on the train. My sister in the white hat is on the left and I'm on the right wearing a fushia-colored hat.

Selfie of my twin sister and myself on the Seattle Light Rail heading to the #BringFamiliesTogetherMarch at Angle Lake south of SeaTac, WA.

The Crowds

The light rail train we were on had standing room only when we arrived.

picture of the Federal Detention Center with cars driving down street and people walking towards the rally in front of the building
The Federal Detention Center at Angle Lake just south of SeaTac, WA. This ominous structure with the slit-like windows was what loomed over us as we stepped off the train.

There were police everywhere but the road was open. People kept coming; the crowd continued to grow. Several times the speakers asked people to “slowly move forward and south” so that more people could enter the area. By the time we left we could see why…

20180630_123114 crowd

The police closed the road at the Federal Detention Center due to the 1000’s of people who came out to say #enddetentionnow, #bringfamiliestogether, #FreedomForImmigrants and #EndFamilySeparation at one of several #FamiliesBelongTogetherMarch in the Seattle area. – at Federal Detention Center (from my Twitter feed).

The Police Presence

They were everywhere. At the train station. Standing on the street. In their cars. On the rooftops. All in uniform.  I didn’t “see” any in the crowd within the rally site, but I did assume they were there in civilian clothing.

It was a bit overwhelming.  My thoughts about the police presence were expressed with this photo:

picture of a federal agent surveilling the crowd attendees.

Is this what we have come to here in the US?! Asylum is a human right. SHAME! #enddetentionnow #KeepFamilesTogether – at Federal Detention Center (as posted on my twitter feed).

Only about a 1,000 people had been expected to show up for the rally. Yet, we came in droves.  According to Sgt. Cindy Sampson, spokesperson for the King County Sheriff’s Office, police estimated that there were around 10,000 demonstrators.  She told the Seattle Times that we we showed up for a highly emotional, but peaceful, demonstration full of strollers, grandmothers and a small contingent from the Puget Sound John Brown Gun Club.”  [This Gun Club, according to the Seattle Times, is an “anti-racist, anti-fascist organization, standing in opposition to organized white supremacists and attacks on people from vulnerable communities”]

What We Had to Say

According to NPR, between May and June 19, 2018, a estimated total 2,342 immigrant children have been separated from their parents. These children are scattered across 17 states. And their parents have been scattered elsewhere.  One of these separated families is known to be detained at the Federal Detention Center in SeaTac where we demonstrated. According to the New York Times, Jelsin Padilla is being held in New York City. His mom, Yolany Padilla, is being detained at the Federal Detention Center in Washington State.  She hasn’t seen her son in over a month.

Ms. Padilla is one of over 200 immigrants —174 are women — detained as of June 19 in Washington state.  We came by the thousands to say “no more; this incarceration and separation of families must end and end now!

Here’s the postcard letter I wrote to Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) calling upon him to use his powers in the Senate to end these torturous incarcerations and separations of families:

Text of letter to Senator Bob Casey (D-PA)

Letter to Senator Bob Casey calling for the permanent ending of the detention of children and their family members. This postcard letter was written onsite at the Federal Detention Center and will be hand-delivered to Senator Casey’s office by an organization called #FreedomForFamilies.

Many, many others wrote similar messages:

And so that you can see what else was said, the following pictures and social ,media postings will give you a flavor of our outrage.

My Social Media Postings Calling on the US Government to End this “Zero Tolerance” Policy

Instagram Posts

Pictures of the Federal Detention Center at SeaTac with a sign saying, "In the name of humanity, Stop Terrorizing Immigrant Children. RefuseFascism.org"

tostivasey Stop Terrorizing Immigrant Children. #keepfamiliestogether #enddetentionnow #bringfamiliestogether #endfacism

Picture of a girl sitting in a stroller with her mother and sister holding signs that say, "Families belong together."

tostivasey This little girl and her mother and sister say it all, “Keep Family Together.” Separating immigrant kids from their parents and other family members is a criminal act. #enddetentionnow #keepfamiliestogether❤

picture of a heart-shaped sign decoration with babies' and toddlers' shoes

tostivasey #WhereAreTheBabies?! The shoes of the babies need to be put on their feet by their mothers and fathers and their sisters and brothers. Babies are innocent kids and should NEVER be used as pawns. #enddetentionnow #bringfamiliestogether

Picture collage of the Federal Detention Center, a list of numbers to call Congress (202-224-3121), HHS (202-690-7000), DOJ (202-353-1555), DHS (202-282-8995), and the White House (202-456-1111), and two signs saying, "Separating children from families really is nothing less than government-sanctioned child abuse!" and "Where are the children?"

tostivasey Separating Children from their families is nothing less than #ChildAbuse and #torture. Call your representatives, Senators, @jeffsessions212, #DHS, & @realdonaldtrump. Ask them #wherearethebabies And Tell them to #enddetentionnow #bringfamiliestogether.

Tweets

Joanne Tosti-Vasey added,

@tostivasey “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free.” No more separation and detention. !

Large sign with an impression of the New Colossus (aka the Statue of Liberty) with the following words that are engraved at the base of the statue: "Remember?! 'Give my your tired, your poor, you huddled masses yearning to be free. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed t me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door.' Emma Lazaras 'New Colossus' What is happening to our country??!"

Quote from New Colossus (aka the Statue of Liberty) with the words that are engraved at the base of the statue. My previous blog on Lady Liberty is about immigration as well.

Signage Expressing Our Outrage at this Maltreatment of Our Fellow Human Beings

Messages without Words

Why We March

Why Now?

What Should Be Done to End this Outrage

 

NOW IT’S Your turn! If you are in the Seattle Area, here’s some additional actions you can take this week:

Families Belong Together Activities in Seattle on ending Zero Tolerance Policy

If you’re elsewhere in the country, do as the sign says above and call

  • The White House (202-456-1111);
  • The Executive Branch departments that are causing this crisis
    • Health and Human Services (202-690-7000);
    • Department of Justice (202-353-1555);
    • Department of Homeland Security (202-282-8995); and
  • Your federal legislators (202-224-3121)

Tell them

  1. Families Belong Together
  2. Stop Separating Familes
  3. End Family Detention
  4. Stop Torturing Children
  5. End this fascist behavior. We are better than this (or should be).
  6. Get rid of the “Zero Tolerance” Policy

 

WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

The conservative, right-wing, anti-labor General Assembly in Pennsylvania is once again attempting to take away local control over their local labor ordinances. They want to preempt all labor protections that local municipalities have enacted since 2015.  This includes paid sick leave as well as all local anti-discrimination ordinances that go beyond protections provided in state law.  This would include protections for LGBTQIA people, marital and familial status in general (other than familial status protections in housing).  The current bill being debated is HB 861, also known as the “Preemption of Local Labor Protections.” This morning, the Women’s Law Project testified before the House Labor and Industry Committee.  Below is there blog summarizing this testimony.

The bill was not voted on today.  So you have two chances in the House to stop this bill. First, contact members of the House Labor and Industry Committee and ask them to vote no during the committee vote. Second, you can also contact your Representative to raise your voice in opposition to this bill.  You can find your legislator here.

So take a couple of minutes, read the WLP blog on this issue, and then make your calls/emails. Thank you!

 

via WLP Testified in Opposition to HB 861, Preemption of Local Labor Protections — WLP Blog

Today, WLP Staff Attorney Amal M. Bass testified in opposition to House Bill 861(preemption of local laws protecting workers) before the Pennsylvania House Labor & Industry Committee. The Women’s Law Project strongly opposes HB 861, which is sponsored by Rep. Seth Groves of York County.

You can read Amal’s testimony in full here.

What is Preemption?

Preemption bills like HB 861 prohibit local governments from passing local ordinances to meet the needs and reflect the values of their own communities.

HB861 Would be Retroactive

HB 861 is even worse than a typical state preemption bill because it includes a retroactivity clause designed to strip away local protections that have already been implemented, including protections for LGBTQ workers and paid sick days ordinances that provide protections for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence.

HB 861 Would Nullify a Broad Range of Workplace Protections

The way it is written, HB 861 could apply to almost any local government’s attempt to protect its own workers.

HB 861 Targets Paid Sick Days in Philadelphia & Pittsburgh   

HB 861 would retroactively strip hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania workers of their right to paid sick days.

The Women’s Law Project testified in support of Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance, which City Council passed and the Mayor signed on February 12, 2015 after a thorough, multi-year process that drew upon the recommendations of a Task Force representing many perspectives on the issue, including employers.  The local law that resulted from this process provides forty hours of earned paid sick time in a calendar year for workers of employers with ten or more employees, and it provides unpaid sick time to workers of smaller employers.

Philadelphia’s paid sick days ordinance also provides paid leave to employees whose absence is related to domestic violence, sexual assault, or stalking. This ordinance is vital for the health and well-being of women and their families in Philadelphia and the surrounding counties, giving paid sick leave to more than 200,000 workers.

In 2015, Pittsburgh joined Philadelphia in recognizing these benefits when it used its home rule authority and its authority to pass public health laws to pass a modest earned paid sick leave ordinance. The Women’s Law Project and attorneys from the Partnership for Working Families filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Pittsburgh’s paid sick days law on behalf of fifty-one organizations committed to women’s health and safety.

However, the Pennsylvania Restaurant and Lodging Association has challenged this local law, halting its implementation, in a lawsuit currently before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

This is typical in that special-interest groups often seek to block and stall protections from workers so that they may profit from the lack of protections. That doesn’t mean lawmakers representing hard-working constituents should allow them to succeed.

HB 861 is a Direct Attack on LBGTQ Pennsylvanians

House Bill 861 also affects discrimination laws. More than forty municipalities in Pennsylvania have local ordinances prohibiting discrimination on the basis of many protected characteristics, including sexual orientation, which our employment laws at the state and federal levels, Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act, do not explicitly cover.

HB 861 is equipped with a retroactive provision that could strip protections for LGBTQ workers passed places such as Ambler Borough, Bridgeport Borough, Carlisle, Dickson City, Mount Lebanon, Kennett Square Borough, Narberth Borough, Phoenixville, Royersford, Stroudsburg, and Wilkes-Barre. All of these municipalities passed anti-discrimination laws after 2015, and therefore could trigger HB 861’s retroactive preemption. The bill could also prohibit every municipality in the state from altering or adding to their antidiscrimination provisions in the future.

Local Governments Pass Laws Protecting Workers Because the State Fails to Do So

Pennsylvania is a patchwork of worker protections in part due to the failure of the Pennsylvania Legislature to pass meaningful worker protections, despite overwhelming evidence of the need to do so. HB 861 would undo and prohibit progress at the local level, taking rights away from the citizens of Pennsylvania without filling the void with statewide legislation.

Absurdly, an argument sometimes made for preemption is that Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is confusing. If Pennsylvania’s patchwork of protections is a problem, it should be solved by ensuring all Pennsylvania workers are treated fairly with state-level protections, not state-level efforts to nullify local protections.

The Women’s Law Project is a public interest law center in Pennsylvania devoted to advancing the rights of women and girls.

Sign up for WLP’s Action Alerts here. Follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook

We are a non-profit organization. Please consider supporting equal rights for women and girls by making a one-time donation or scheduling a monthly contribution.

Redistricting Reform May Be Stalled in PA: Let’s Get it Moving

Despite a majority of PA House members cosponsoring or supporting a bill for an independent state and redistricting amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution in the PA General Assembly, the effort to pass a state constitutional amendment is being stalled by one person – Representative Daryl Metcalfe (R-Butler County).

On April 11, 2018, Rep. Metcalfe, chair of the House State Government Committee called for a voting meeting of all committee members that was scheduled and held with no notice as to what the meeting was about.  On April 12, he held a half-hour meeting where he gutted and substituted language to HB 722 to eliminate the proposed non-partisan, independent redistricting commission with language that would entrench control of redistricting with the party in majority control of the PA General Assembly.  Essentially this amended bill gives the party in control 2/3 of the votes on redistricting to the party in power. Fair Districts PA described what happened:

“So rather than an independent commission, or rather than the five-person commission currently in place, which has two from each party and the fifth chosen by the state Supreme Court, [Metcalfe’s] amendment would allow the majority leaders of both houses to select a person, which would give two from each party, and then both houses would vote for a third person from that house. Which in effect would give the majority party four members of a six-person commission composed entirely of Legislators.

What we’ve seen is the incredible unaccountable government that results from that kind of gerrymandering, and this was a demonstration. So – at 10:30 this morning, the members of this committee were given a bill which they then voted on and passed by 11:00. They had not read the bill, they had not discussed the bill, they had not invited the prime sponsors of the original bill to explain their bill or to answer questions. There was no debate. There was no transparency. There was just this blatant attempt to bypass the public interest in an independent commission.”

However, the PA Senate has done a bit better.  The Senate State Government Committee has passed an amended version of SB 22 that creates a semi-independent redistricting commission. The original bill only allowed the two controlling parties in the General Assembly to strike up to six names from the pool of commission applicants before the Department of State Secretary selects at random those qualified to serve on the independent redistricting commission.

The selection process in the amended bill allows the majority and minority leaders to select their party representatives (4 for each party) and the Governor would then select the remaining three members who have been registered as either third party or independent voters.  The final list would then be subject to approval by a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly. Once approved, this Commission would then create a map by majority vote with at least one person from each of the three pools voting for the selected plan. If this commission is not able to reach a majority decision, they would then create three maps open for public comment with a final selection vote among these three maps made by a 2/3 vote of the General Assembly.

SB 22 is expected to pass the full Senate this coming week; it will then be sent to the House for consideration.

BUT…

If it is referred back to House State Government Committee, then the effort to reform redistricting in PA is essentially dead for several years since Daryl Metcalfe will not allow a vote on any form of independent redistricting within his committee.

And we only have four weeks left to meet the constitutionally mandated process deadline to amend the PA Constitution in time for the next round of redistricting after the 2020 Census.

SO…

 

Fair-Districts-Equal-Fair-Elections courtesy FairDistrictsPA

Fair Districts = Fair Elections. Graphics courtesy of Fair Districts PA

 

Here’s what YOU can do!

 

  1. Ask your state Senator to vote for SB 22 as amended. You can find your PA Senator’s phone contact information here; and
  2. Lobby PA Speaker of the House Mike Turzai (R- Allegheny County) to not assign a single redistricting bill to the State Government Committee.  That includes both SB 22 and HB 2402. HB 2402 is the reincarnated rewrite of the original HB 722 that Metcalfe gutted in April. Alternative House committees could be either the House Local Government Committee OR the House Rules Committee; and
  3. Ask your state representative to support and vote for both HB 2402 (in my opinion the better bill since it makes the redistricting commission entirely independent) and SB 22 if it passes the Senate without further amendment. You can find your state representative’s phone contact information here

Here’s a press release from the Centre County chapter of Fair Districts PA explaining in more detail what has happened and what we expect to happen throughout June:

Press Release-Redistricting Reform from CC FairDistrictsPA 5-30-2018

Fair Districts PA also has an online letter-writing campaign that you can use. However, it’s best if you also make the phone calls as suggested in the above to do list.

Trust in our elections will improve if we have fair redistricting.  Do your part! Make the phone calls and write your letters asap.  Let’s get this done!

 

 

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

The federal judiciary is much more than just the US Supreme Court.  There is also the Federal District Courts as well as the nine appellate courts. Thousands of cases are heard at these two lower levels of federal courts every year whereas only about 100 cases are heard by the US Supreme Court.  In some cases, as noted in Nel’s New Day blog, democracy and concern for the welfare of people still reign. Here is a sampling of these cases.

cropped-statue-of-liberty.jpg

Rights’ Relief from Courts – Sometimes

via https://nelsnewday.wordpress.com/2018/05/28/rights-relief-from-courts-sometimes/

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims only one-by-one. Federal labor law does not countenance such isolation of employees. Trying to arbitrate such claims individually would be too expensive to be worth it, and “the risks of employer retaliation would likely dissuade most workers from seeking redress alone.”

Federal labor law permits employees to work together in improving their conditions and fight low wages, harassment, and discrimination, but the court states that companies can use arbitration clauses, forced on employees if they want the job, to ban joining together in legal actions. Employees must now fight individually against violations of minimum-wage laws, refusal to pay overtime, and requirements to work off the clock. Few private attorneys will take cases for so little money.

The day after this Supreme Court ruling, the National Labor Relations Board delivered an opposing position, that employees have the right to organize, bargain collectively and “engage in other concerted activities for the purpose of collective bargaining or other mutual aid or protection.” According to the Board’s interpretation of Section 8, an employment agreement requiring employees to resolve disputes by arbitration or on an individual basis is an unfair labor practice. The question now will be what opinions supersede others.

In a Supreme Court’s decision that states can legally bet on college and professional sports, Justice Samuel Alito said that each state has the right to act on its own if Congress does not regulate sports gambling. Next year, the Supreme Court will hear a case on when federal law trumps state law.

After churches in Morris County (New Jersey) received almost $5 million for repairs, the state Supreme Court ruled that the state constitution forbids using public money for religious purposes. A year ago, the Supreme Court allowed taxpayer monies to be used for repair of a church’s playground in Missouri, but the ruling did not address houses of worship. The case may go to the Supreme Court.

A federal court in California ruled Friday against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos in deciding that the agency violated privacy laws by using the Social Security Administration to analyze loan forgiveness for students defrauded by Corinthian Colleges. The court ordered debt collection from defrauded students to stop after DeVos stated that only part of federal loans would be forgiven. DeVos is supporting other for-profit colleges. She appointed the dean of DeVry to head a team to investigate these schools, including DeVry. She has also frozen protections for students and reduced loan forgiveness relief for students defrauded by these schools.

Gavin Grimm, a transgender student, fought for years to use the bathroom in high school, and a federal judge ruled the school officials of Gloucester County (VA) violated his constitutional rights for stopping him from using the bathroom matching his gender identity after the 4th Circuit Court sent the case back to the lower court.

Judge Orlando Garcia, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, ruled that the state must comply with the federal National Voter Registration Act (“NVRA”) (or “motor voter” law) and the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Construction on the final 18 miles of the Bayou Bridge pipeline in St. James (LA), located in an area called Cancer Alley, has been halted after a judge ruled that state regulators violated guidelines in issuing a coastal use permit. Town residents would have no way to evacuate after an explosion or other pipeline failure emergency, a fact not considered in the state’s permit. The company building the pipeline faces a legal challenge for its U.S. Army Corp of Engineers permit through the Atchafalaya Basin, a National Heritage Area and massive river swamp. The 5th Circuit Court began to hear this case the beginning of May, but pipeline builders are already cutting down old growth cypress trees.

DDT cannot block people from his Twitter account, according to a federal judge who wrote:

“The President presents the @realDonaldTrump account as being a presidential account as opposed to a personal account and, more importantly, uses the account to take actions that can be taken only by the President as President.”

DDT can mute people’s accounts so that he doesn’t have to look at their comments.

Another DDT sign came down when a New York State judge ruled that the name “Trump Place” can be removed from a high-rise condo. The bad news is that the condo cannot change its name, and the sign will stay until two-thirds majority of the condo association agrees to remove the signs. DDT’s name has already been removed from three Manhattan buildings and hotels in New York, Toronto, and Panama.

A New York appeals court refused to allow DDT to stay a defamation case by Summer Zervos regarding her claim that DDT sexually assaulted her. At this time, DDT can be deposed in the case, and lawyers can proceed with pretrial discovery, including demands for documents. In addition, Stormy Daniels’ lawyer, Michael Avenatti, said he’s vetting two more women on their claims that DDT gave them large hush-money payments. Zervos will subpoena documents from the Trump Organization about DDT’s alleged mistreatment of women, recordings from the archives of the president’s former reality show, and surveillance footage from the hotel in which Zervos says she was attacked.

The third federal judge has ruled against DDT over cuts to the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program. The judge wrote that ending grants two years early was “arbitrary” and “capricious.” The 73 organizations receiving grants will have to follow DHS’ new requirements to focus on abstinence programs for continued funding while the eight suing organizations will not.

White supremacist Jacob Scott Goodwin has been found guilty of malicious wounding, nine months after he battered a young black man in a Charlottesville (VA) garage before his victim, 20-year-old DeAndre Harris was attacked by other white supremacists who broke his arm and injured his spine. Other attackers are awaiting trial. At the same event, another white supremacist deliberately drove into a crowd, killed Heather Heyer, and injured more than another dozen people. Two days after Goodwin’s guilt was established, white supremacist Alex Michael Ramos was found guilty of “malicious wounding” in the same attack. Both men face 20 years in prison. Two other men face trials for the assault.

Muslim-American Yonas Fikre is suing the government for putting him on its no-fly list to blackmail him into being an FBI informant to provide information about his place of worship, Portland’s largest Sunni mosque. His lawyer, Brandon Mayfield, has asked a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court to continue the suit that had been dismissed after the government removed Fikre’s name from the list stopping him from returning to his home in the U.S. Judges were irritated by the DOJ sudden offer to stop the appeal by promising that Fikre won’t be put back on the list for the same reasons as in 2010. They asked why the DOJ does not think that Fikre deserves declaratory relief after his marriage was destroyed and his business was disrupted. Mayfield has been awarded a $2 million settlement after the FBI wrongly arrested him as a suspect in the 2004 Madrid train bombings and subjected him to the same unconstitutional actions as the government did to Fikre.

Ben Carson, HUD Secretary, is the next cabinet member to be sued. A rule requiring communities to examine and address barriers to racial integration established in 2015 mandated assessment of local segregation patterns, barriers to fair housing, and planning to correct the problems. Carson called desegregation efforts “failed socialist experiments” and suspended the rule. The lawsuit asserts that Carson did not provide for public notice or comment opportunity. Carson said that the process was too burdensome. In addition, the lawsuit claims that HUD violated its duty to guarantee that federal funds promote fair housing—for example, giving millions in HUD grants to white suburbs in Westchester County that refuses affordable housing.

The next branch to be covered is the legislature.

Nel's New Day

Democracy from people often comes from court decisions. After Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) suspended democratic action by blocking any discussion for President Obama’s nominee for a Supreme Court Justice, SCOTUS moved away from people’s rights with Neil Gorsuch’s nomination by Dictator Donald Trump (DDT). Fortunately, the Supreme Court makes fewer than 100 decisions per year while courts across the nation can rule on constitutional rights in thousands of cases.

Recently, five Supreme Court justices removed rights from workers when five justices determined that employees must settle disputes through individual arbitration behind closed doors rather than through class action in open court. The decision worsens an earlier ruling allowing corporations to avoid class-action lawsuits from consumers. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg read part of her dissent from the bench:

“The court today holds enforceable these arm-twisted, take-it-or-leave-it contracts — including the provisions requiring employees to litigate wage and hours claims…

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