Posts tagged Supreme Court
Supreme Court: Drug Corps Are Exempt From Liability Lawsuits
The US Supreme Court has ruled in a near unanimous vote that pharmaceutical corporations are exempt from being sued for fraud, mislabeling side effects and accidental death.
Despite having heard the case of a patient who developed a flesh – eating virus as a result of an adverse effect to a drug medication, the Supreme Court decided that regardless of whether or not the drug company had foreknowledge of this possibility or not, they are not responsible legally.
The case MUTUAL PHARMACEUTICAL CO., INC. v. BARTLETT began in 2004 in a New Hampshire court wherein Mutual Pharmaceutical (MP) was brought forth to pay $21 million to Karen Bartlett for having developed toxic epidermal necrolysis .
Bartlett was using the generic drug Clinoril when her skin became diseased, and literally peeled off; leaving 60% of her body open to infection.
Clinorl, a.k.a. Sulindac , is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory used for chronic conditions.
While MP was involved, Merck & Co is the originator of the drug.
However, the Supreme Court over – turned this decision; much to the delight of the pharmaceutical industry.
Michael Carome, director of the Public Citizen’s Health Research Group said : “Today’s court decision provides a disincentive for generic makers of drugs to monitor safety of their products and to make sure that they have a surveillance system in place to detect adverse events that pose a threat to patients.”
Essentially, this ruling creates a blanket of protection for the pharmaceutical industry beyond the approval of products by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
During patent lawsuits, the Obama administration supported MP along with the Generic Pharmaceutical Association (GPM).
In 2012, President Obama made his intentions for the pharmaceutical industry clear with the announcement that the pharmaceutical corporations and US government were combining forces to find new uses for already established drugs.
The focus of this collaboration will identify new uses for drugs that have already been approved by the FDA. There may be need for new human trials, putting the general public at a health risk. Engaging in experimental trials to classify specific compounds to be utilized for unintended purposes is highly dangerous.
Genetic engineering has led researchers to discover over 4,500 diseases that need pharmaceutical drugs to combat.
Posted by NextNewsNetwork
WWE Pro Wrestling champion Glenn “Kane” Jacobs is about to deliver a mental smackdown on Tennessee’s Lieutenant Governor over a debate on the internet tax AKA the “Marketplace Fairness Act”!
As many Tennessee residents are aware of, RINO Ramsey has many interests, but we the people of Tennessee is not one of them. Ramsey, along with fellow “republican conservatives”, such as Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, help to prove the only difference in party politics is the lapel pin they may be wearing.
From an earlier message sent by Matt Collins:
Lt. Governor Challenged To Debate Internet Sales Tax By Professional Wrestler
Ron Ramsey Pushes Internet Sales Tax; Grassroots Pushes Back
Knoxville, TN – Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey was challenged to a debate on the Internet Sales Tax by professional WWE wrestler and anti-tax activist Glenn Jacobs. In a blog post today Glenn Jacobs (stage name Kane) criticized the Lt. Governor for pushing the Internet sales tax and called for a debate on the topic at the Lt. Governor’s convenience. The blog post can be viewed here: http://www.tnliberty.org/?p=
“Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey claims that the Internet sales tax mandate is not a new tax. Nor, according to Ramsey, is it an unfair tax. Ramsey is wrong on both counts.” Glenn writes. “ I, therefore, invite Lt. Gov. Ramsey for a policy debate on the issue of the Marketplace Fairness Act in a public forum at his convenience.”
In recent weeks Glenn Jacobs has been appearing in various media outlets advocating against the national Internet sales tax mandate with appearances on nationally syndicated terrestrial radio, satellite radio, and local radio stations in Tennessee. Jacobs has written multiple blog posts and op-ed pieces against the national Internet sales tax mandate.
Earlier this week the TN Campaign for Liberty challenged Lt. Gov Ramsey to show he had paid the obscure TN Use Tax for his online purchases after he called the vast majority of Tennesseans “criminals” for not paying it. That release can be viewed here: http://tnreport.com/2013/05/
The national Internet sales tax mandate will likely come up for a vote in the US House of Representatives later this year. The bill is known as the “Marketplace Fairness Act” and is being opposed by the Campaign for Liberty, eBay, the Cato Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the National Taxpayers Union, Americans for Tax Reform, Americans for Prosperity, Freedomworks, the Heartland Institute, Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn, and many other conservative figures.
Glenn Jacobs lives with his family in Jefferson City, Tennessee and is a co-founder of the Tennessee Liberty Alliance www.TNLiberty.org. Mr. Jacobs is a critic of big government and a professional wrestler with the WWE.
The Associated Press | Posted: Feb 27, 2013 4:49 PM ET | Last Updated: Feb 27, 2013 5:25 PM ET
The U.S. Supreme Court’s conservative justices voiced deep skepticism Wednesday about a section of a landmark civil rights law that has helped millions of Americans exercise their right to vote.
In an ominous note for supporters of the key provision of the Voting Rights Act, Justice Anthony Kennedy both acknowledged the measure’s vital role in fighting discrimination and suggested that other important laws in U.S. history had run their course. “Times change,” Kennedy said during the fast-paced, 70-minute argument.
Kennedy’s views are likely to prevail on the closely divided court, and he tends to side with his more conservative colleagues on matters of race.
The court’s liberals and conservatives engaged in a sometimes tense back-and-forth over whether there is still a need in 2013 for the part of the voting rights law that requires states with a history of discrimination against blacks, mainly in the Deep South, to get approval before making changes in the way elections are held.
Justice Antonin Scalia called the law a “perpetuation of racial entitlement.”
Chief Justice John Roberts, a vocal skeptic of the use of race in all areas of public life, cited a variety of statistics that showed starker racial disparities in some aspects of voting in the northeastern state of Massachusetts than in the southern state of Mississippi. Then he asked the government’s top Supreme Court lawyer whether the Obama administration thinks “the citizens in the South are more racist than citizens in the North?”
The answer from Solicitor General Donald Verrilli was no.
Location of law
The question, and others like it from the conservative justices, largely echoed the doubts they first expressed four years ago in a similar case that ended without resolving the constitutionality of the latest renewal of the voting rights law, in 2006. They questioned whether there remain appreciable differences between the locations covered by the law and those that are not.
They also wondered whether there was any end in sight for a provision that intrudes on states’ rights to conduct elections and which was regarded as an emergency response to decades of state-sponsored discrimination in voting, despite the U.S Constitution’s Fifteenth Amendment guarantee of the vote for black Americans.
The provision shifted the legal burden and required governments that were covered to demonstrate that their proposed changes would not discriminate. Another part of the voting rights law, not being challenged, allows for traditional, after-the-fact claims of discrimination in voting and applies across the country.
As his administration was defending the voting rights law, U.S. President Barack Obama was across the street at the Capitol unveiling a statue of civil rights pioneer Rosa Parks, who in 1955 famously refused to give up her seat on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white man. The court will have to decide whether the conditions that gave rise to that seminal event are, like the statue, a part of history, or whether they persist in parts of the nation.
The court’s four liberal justices, including Obama appointees Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, appeared uniformly to be willing to defer to the decision by Congress that more progress needs to be made before freeing states from the special federal monitoring.
Those justices aggressively questioned Bert Rein, the lawyer representing Shelby County, Alabama, a southern state, in its challenge to the law.
Sotomayor acknowledged some parts of the South had changed, but she asserted that recent voting rights lawsuits in Alabama suggested that Shelby County, near Birmingham, has not made sufficient progress.
“Why would we vote in favour of a county whose record is the epitome of what caused the passage of this law to start with?” Sotomayor asked.
Kagan chimed in that any formula devised by Congress “would capture Alabama,” where she said certain discriminatory voting practices have persisted.
But Rein said the issue was whether the formula in place, using statistics that are at least 40 years old, remains a valid way to determine which locations have to ask for permission to make voting changes.
Protection of minorities
Debo Adegbile, a lawyer for the NAACP Legal Defence and Educational Fund, argued to the court on behalf of local Alabama elected officials and civil rights leaders. He sought to show the justices that there is a current need for the law, an effort to counter the court’s admonition four years ago that current conditions, not history alone, must justify the continuing application of the law. The NAACP is a leading civil rights organization.
In 2011, Adegbile said, a judge in Alabama cited state lawmakers’ derogatory references to African-Americans as a reason to continue to protect minority voters through the Voting Rights Act.
But Roberts challenged the lawyer. “Have there been episodes, egregious episodes of the kind you are talking about in states that are not covered?” the chief justice asked.
Absolutely, Adegbile replied.
“Well, then it doesn’t seem to help you make the point that the differential between covered and noncovered continues to be justified,” Roberts said.
The requirement currently applies to the states of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia. It also covers certain counties in California, Florida, New York, North Carolina and South Dakota, and some local jurisdictions in Michigan and New Hampshire. Coverage has been triggered by past discrimination not only against blacks, but also against American Indians, Asian-Americans, Alaska Natives and Hispanics.
Among the covered states, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, South Carolina, South Dakota and Texas are siding with Shelby County, while California, Mississippi, New York and North Carolina argue that the law should be upheld.
Nearly 250 of the 12,000 state, county and local governments covered by the law have used an escape hatch to get out from under the special oversight by demonstrating that they and smaller places within their borders no longer discriminate in voting. The 10 covered towns in New Hampshire are poised to exit as they await federal court approval for an agreement between the state and the Justice Department.
A decision is expected by late June.
By Tom Laskawy
It’s been a good week if you enjoy a little GMO schadenfreude. The FDA has reportedly bowed to public pressure to extend the comment period on its approval of genetically engineered salmon, and Illinois, Maryland, and Iowa are the latest states to buck GMOs by introducing labeling bills into state legislature.
Even the Supreme Court has an opportunity to take Monsanto down a peg. On Feb. 19, the court will hear arguments in a patent infringement case between an Indiana farmer and Monsanto (I covered it in detail here). If Monsanto prevails, it’ll move a few more paces towards agricultural monopoly; if it loses, the company will take a couple steps back. It’s encouraging that the Supreme Court chose to hear the case over the solicitor general’s urging to dismiss it, but Monsanto could have an inside man: As in other Monsanto-related cases, former Monsanto-lawyer-turned-Supreme-Court-Justice Clarence Thomas has no plans to recuse himself.
But GMOs took the biggest punch this week from academia: Tom Philpott highlights a USDA-funded study [PDF] by University of Wisconsin scientists who found that several types of GMO seeds (including Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready varieties) actually produce a lower yield than conventional seeds. Only one seed — a corn that produces its own pesticide to combat the corn borer — offers any significant yield benefit. In other words, planting most genetically modified seeds results in less harvest per acre than planting non-genetically modified seeds.
The researchers looked at 20 years of data from test plots in Wisconsin from 1990-2010, both on research plots and on plots in participating farmers’ fields. Philpott flags a key point from the study:
Then there’s the question of so-called “stacked-trait” crops — that is, say, corn engineered to contain multiple added genes — for example, Monsanto’s “Smart Stax” product, which contains both herbicide-tolerant and pesticide-expressing genes. The authors detected what they call “gene interaction” in these crops — genes inserted into them interact with each other in ways that affect yield, often negatively. If multiple genes added to a variety didn’t interact, “the [yield] effect of stacked genes would be equal to the sum of the corresponding single gene effects,” the authors write. Instead, the stacked-trait crops were all over the map. “We found strong evidence of gene interactions among transgenic traits when they are stacked,” they write. Most of those effects were negative — i.e., yield was reduced.
This matters because stacked-trait crops are a favored approach to combat the superweeds and bugs that are part and parcel of years of GMO crops. But the more you stack, the worse your yield. The scientists also found evidence of a “yield penalty” that comes simply from the act of manipulating plant genes.
In short, the more one meddles with plant genes, the worse yields get; when you change multiple genes at once, yields drop even further. This should give pause to those who see GMO seeds as the means to address more complex problems like drought tolerance, nutritional value, or plant productivity. These are traits involving dozens, if not hundreds, of genes. This study suggests genetic manipulation of food crops at such a scale is a losing game.
A few years ago, the Union of Concerned Scientists published a report with a similar conclusion, but this is one of the first rigorous attempts to establish through controlled experiments the yield benefit (or penalty) of GM seeds. The UW scientists do note that they determined that GM seeds do provide farmers with lower “yield risk”; essentially, that farmers are less likely to face catastrophic crop losses when using GMO seeds. But there are other conventional techniques that researchers have concluded can support yield, reduce environmental harm, and increase farmer income without having to pay big bucks to biotech companies.
Not that we should expect biotech companies to just roll over: With five such companies controlling nearly 60 percent of the global seed business, it may be impossible for farmers to find sufficient conventional seed. (Learn how the seed business became so consolidated in the Center for Food Safety’s new report “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.”)
But we should take what we can get. Between Supreme Court justices who may be fed up with the company’s aggressive intellectual property tactics and farmers who could get fed up with its ineffective intellectual property, Monsanto’s stumbles could mean a few sure steps forward for food growers and eaters.
Tom Laskawy is a founder and executive director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network and a contributing writer at Grist covering food and agricultural policy. His writing has also appeared in The American Prospect, Slate, The New York Times, and The New Republic. Follow him on Twitter.
By Tyler Durden
On February 3rd, 1913, one of the two most historic events in US history took place: the ratification of the 16th amendment, which established Congress’ right to impose a Federal income tax on Americans, and overturned Article I, Section 9 of the US Constitution which explicitly prohibited a general income tax. The amendment was brief and to the point, and read as follows: “The Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.” And with that, the US Federal Income Tax was born and has been with us for precisely 100 years.
The amendment itself:
The result: the first ever iteration of what would henceforth become the most hated form in US history.
Passed by Congress on July 2, 1909, and ratified February 3, 1913, the 16th amendment established Congress’s right to impose a Federal income tax.
Far-reaching in its social as well as its economic impact, the income tax amendment became part of the Constitution by a curious series of events culminating in a bit of political maneuvering that went awry.
The financial requirements of the Civil War prompted the first American income tax in 1861. At first, Congress placed a flat 3-percent tax on all incomes over $800 and later modified this principle to include a graduated tax. Congress repealed the income tax in 1872, but the concept did not disappear.
After the Civil War, the growing industrial and financial markets of the eastern United States generally prospered. But the farmers of the south and west suffered from low prices for their farm products, while they were forced to pay high prices for manufactured goods. Throughout the 1860s, 1870s, and 1880s, farmers formed such political organizations as the Grange, the Greenback Party, the National Farmers’ Alliance, and the People’s (Populist) Party. All of these groups advocated many reforms (see the Interstate Commerce Act) considered radical for the times, including a graduated income tax.
In 1894, as part of a high tariff bill, Congress enacted a 2-percent tax on income over $4,000. The tax was almost immediately struck down by a five-to-four decision of the Supreme Court, even though the Court had upheld the constitutionality of the Civil War tax as recently as 1881. Although farm organizations denounced the Court’s decision as a prime example of the alliance of government and business against the farmer, a general return of prosperity around the turn of the century softened the demand for reform. Democratic Party Platforms under the leadership of three-time Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, however, consistently included an income tax plank, and the progressive wing of the Republican Party also espoused the concept.
In 1909 progressives in Congress again attached a provision for an income tax to a tariff bill. Conservatives, hoping to kill the idea for good, proposed a constitutional amendment enacting such a tax; they believed an amendment would never receive ratification by three-fourths of the states. Much to their surprise, the amendment was ratified by one state legislature after another, and on February 25, 1913, with the certification by Secretary of State Philander C. Knox, the 16th amendment took effect. Yet in 1913, due to generous exemptions and deductions, less than 1 percent of the population paid income taxes at the rate of only 1 percent of net income.
This document settled the constitutional question of how to tax income and, by so doing, effected dramatic changes in the American way of life.
As for the other historic event of US history, ironically it, too, took place in 1913, on December 23: this was the day when the Federal Reserve was founded.
The charts below summarize what has happened next:
The Associated Press Posted: Jan 3, 2013 9:49 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 3, 2013 8:36 PM ET
Name isn’t on Iceland’s list of 1,853 female names that fit grammar and pronunciation rules
Call her the girl with no name.
A 15-year-old is suing the Icelandic state for the right to legally use the name given to her by her mother. The problem? Blaer, which means light breeze in Icelandic, is not on a list approved by the government.
“I want to keep it so bad because it’s so beautiful,” Blaer told Carol Off from CBC Radio’s As it Happens.
Like a handful of other countries, including Germany and Denmark, Iceland has official rules about what a baby can be named. In a country comfortable with a firm state role, most people don’t question the Personal Names Register, a list of 1,712 male names and 1,853 female names that fit Icelandic grammar and pronunciation rules and that officials maintain will protect children from embarrassment. Parents can take from the list or apply to a special committee that has the power to say yea or nay.
In Blaer’s case, her mother said she learned the name wasn’t on the register only after the priest who baptized the child later informed her he had mistakenly allowed it.
“I had no idea that the name wasn’t on the list, the famous list of names that you can choose from,” said Bjork Eidsdottir, adding she knew a Blaer whose name was accepted in 1973. This time, the panel turned it down on the grounds that the word Blaer takes a masculine article, despite the fact that it was used for a female character in a novel by Iceland’s revered Nobel Prize-winning author Halldor Laxness.
Blaer said she loves her name, because it comes from the famous Icelandic writer’s book. The book is about a young boy who is an accomplished pianist, she said, but forgets everything when he meets the beautiful Blaer.
Given names are even more significant in tiny Iceland than in many other countries: Everyone is listed in the phone book by their first names. Surnames are based on a parent’s given name. Even the president, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, is addressed simply as Olafur.
Blaer is identified as “Stulka” — or “girl” — on all her official documents, which has led to years of frustration as she has had to explain the whole story at the bank, renewing her passport and dealing with the country’s bureaucracy.
First legal challenge
Her mother is hoping that will change with her suit, the first time someone has challenged a names committee decision in court.
“It’s pretty scary,” said Blaer, referring to being a teenager challenging the government.
Though the law has become more relaxed in recent years — with the name Elvis permitted, inspired by the charismatic rock and roll icon whose name fits Icelandic guidelines — choices like Cara, Carolina, Cesil, and Christa have been rejected outright because the letter “c” is not part of Iceland’s 32-letter alphabet.
“They can allow Elvis, but not Blaer,” she said. “It’s ridiculous.”
“The law is pretty straightforward so in many cases it’s clearly going to be a yes or a no,” said Agusta Thorbergsdottir, the head of the committee, a panel of three people appointed by the government to a four-year term.
Other cases are more subjective.
“What one person finds beautiful, another person may find ugly,” she acknowledged. She pointed to “Satania” as one unacceptable case because it was deemed too close to “Satan.”
The board also has veto power over people who want to change their names later in life, rejecting, for instance, middle names like Zeppelin and X.
When the artist Birgir Orn Thoroddsen applied to have his name legally changed to Curver, which he had used in one form or another since age 15, he said he knew full well the committee would reject his application.
“I was inspired by Prince who changed his name to The Artist Formerly Known As Prince and Puff Daddy who changed his to P. Diddy and then Diddy with seemingly little thought or criticism,” he said. “I applied to the committee, but of course I got the `No’ that I expected.”
On his thirtieth birthday, he bought a full-page advertisement that read, “From February 1, 2006, I hereby change my name to Curver Thoroddsen. I ask the nation, my friends and colleagues to respect my decision.”
“I can understand a clause to protect children from being named something like ‘Dog poo,’ but it is strange that an adult cannot change his name to what he truly wants,” he said.
Blaer said she understands wanting to protect children from having names that may subject them to bullying, but she never hears anything negative about her name.
“Everybody thinks it’s so normal,” she said.
Thoroddsen is keeping his protest to the media. But Eidsdottir says she is prepared to take her case all the way to the country’s Supreme Court if a court doesn’t overturn the commission decision on Jan. 25.
“So many strange names have been allowed, which makes this even more frustrating because Blaer is a perfectly Icelandic name,” Eidsdottir said. “It seems like a basic human right to be able to name your child what you want, especially if it doesn’t harm your child in any way.”
Blaer said her lawyer is optimistic about the case — and he has told her he’s not frequently optimistic.
“I am optimistic,” she said. “But I don’t want to be.”
With files from CBC News
By The Canadian Press
Long-awaited decisions weigh anti-terrorism law against freedom of expression and religion
The constitutionality of Canada’s anti-terror law comes under the microscope Friday when the Supreme Court of Canada delivers a series of major rulings on the legal definition of terrorism.
The high court will rule on a handful of charter challenges brought by a convicted terrorist and two accused terrorists, key among them whether Canada’s post 9-11 anti-terror law violates the constitutional guarantees to freedom of expression, association and religion.
The long-awaited rulings could determine whether the terror legislation needs to be amended or rewritten, or is struck down for giving law enforcement too much latitude.
The ruling also will decide the fate of former Ottawa software engineer Momin Khawaja, the first person charged under the law, and two other men, awaiting extradition to the United States, where they face charges of supporting the banned Tamil Tigers terrorist group.
Khawaja is now serving life in prison with no chance of parole for 10 years, after the Ontario Court of Appeal took the unusual step of increasing his original 10-and-a-half year sentence to send a message about terrorism.
The high court will also rule on whether Khawaja’s stiffened sentence should be upheld, and whether the extradition order approved by Justice Minister Rob Nicholson against Suresh Sriskandarajah and Piratheepan Nadarajah should be overturned.
By Leslie MacKinnon, CBC News
Can doctors withdraw life-support without family’s consent?
The emotionally charged question about whether a doctor should have the authority to order life-support tubes pulled from a minimally conscious patient without the consent of the patient’s family was the subject of a Supreme Court of Canada hearing Monday.
The case is about Hassan Rasouli, who has been on a ventilator and feeding tube for the past two years at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto, after bacterial meningitis destroyed parts of his brain following surgery for a brain tumour.
Rasouli, at first in a coma, was deemed to be in a persistent vegetative state, but that diagnosis was changed to one of “minimal consciousness” after he seemed to wake up and could occasionally give a thumbs-up sign, or grasp a ball.
Nevertheless, Rasouli’s doctors at Sunnybrook didn’t change their minds that he should be taken off hydration and feeding systems and moved into palliative care.
Rasouli’s family sought an injunction to prevent removal of the tubes, and then argued successfully at two lower court levels that the doctors did not have to right to halt use of the life-preserving equipment. The doctors appealed those decisions to the highest court.
Outside the court in Ottawa Monday, Rasouli’s daughter Mozhgan said, “My father represents the value of life … I know that he wants to be alive.” She continued, “It is unfair, it is unfair — he should be treated like anyone else.”
Yet again, the Congress, courts, executive branch and the establishment media work together to protect the nation’s most powerful actors
So pervasive and reliable is the rule of elite immunity – even in the face of the most egregious crimes – that one finds extreme examples on a weekly basis. Six weeks ago, the Obama justice department forever precluded the possibility of criminal accountability for Bush torturers by refusing to bring charges in the only two remaining torture cases, ones involving the deaths of the detainee-victims by torture.
The Obama campaign is now running a new campaign ad against Mitt Romney that rails against a litany of Wall Street “criminals” and “gluttons of greed”, but as David Dayen astutely notes, those examples were all imprisoned during the Bush era because the Obama administration has prosecuted no significant Wall Street executives for the 2008 financial collapseand thus have none of their own examples to highlight:
“So the Obama campaign could not fill a list of three Wall Street criminals that the Obama Justice Department actually sent to jail. Heck, they couldn’t fill a list of one!
“This is despite Eric Holder telling students at Columbia University in February of this year that his Justice Department’s record of success on fighting financial fraud crimes ‘has been nothing less than historic.’ But not historic enough that his boss could point to, well, one Wall Street criminal behind bars as a result of DoJ’s actions.
That’s painfully telling. Nobody from Bank of America or Wells Fargo or Citigroup or JPMorgan Chase or Goldman Sachs or Bear Stearns or Morgan Stanley or Merrill Lynch or even Countrywide or Ameriquest was available to stand in as a ‘glutton of greed’ in this advertisement. Literally no major figure responsible for the financial crisis has gone to jail. So the campaign has to use two CEOs from a decade-old accounting scandal, and a garden-variety Ponzi schemer.”
And now, the US supreme court just consecrated one of the most corrupt acts of the US government over the past decade: its vesting of retroactive legal immunity in the nation’s telecom giants after they had been caught red-handed violating multiple US eavesdropping laws. Just as the Obama DOJ forever precluded any legal accountability for Bush-era torturers, the supreme court on Tuesday forever precluded any legal accountability for AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and other telecoms for their crucial participation in the illegal Bush NSA warrantless eavesdropping program (the Obama DOJ, needless to say, supported the position of the telecoms).
When the New York Times revealed on 16 December 2005 that the Bush administration was spying on the telephone calls and emails of American citizens without the warrants required by the criminal law, it exposed lawbreaking not only by government officials but also by the nation’s largest telecoms. Multiple laws were in place at the time imposing both criminal and civil liability on telecoms for enabling government spying on the communications of their customers without warrants or other legal authority, and that is exactly what these telecoms did. One former AT&T employee, Mark Klein, publicly described how AT&T had even built a separate room with no purpose but to permit the National Security Agency unfettered access to all of its customers’ communications.
By Chris McGreal in Austin
Justices to consider several cases brought by Republican-led states aimed at overturning laws on affirmative action and voting
The US supreme court resumes work on Monday, confronting a caseload that could prove every bit as contentious as the legal battle over healthcare reform.
Among the most bitterly fought cases are expected to be a number aimed at overturning longstanding civil rights laws by a clutch of Republican-run states who claim they are outdated and unjustly discriminatory against white people.
The cases have the potential to strike at the heart of more than half a century of civil rights legislation by potentially abolishing central government oversight of elections in states with a history of systematic racism and dealing a fatal blow to affirmative action in higher education.
The supreme court is also likely to take up a more recent human rights issue with equally strong political overtones – gay marriage.
Some Republican state leaders are optimistic that the time is now ripe to take on civil rights legislation because of the supreme court’s ideological tilt to the right and clear signals from the chief justice, John Roberts, that he is deeply sceptical about racially based legislation.