A Surprise Victory | More Babies, Please | Nutty Politicians
June 16, 2020
“It takes no compromise to give people their rights…it takes no money to respect the individual. It takes no political deal to give people freedom. It takes no survey to remove repression.”
Trump’s Judge Sides With LGBTQ Rights
(Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images)
Just last Friday the Trump administration released guidelines dictating that it is ‘not forbidden’ to discriminate against LGBT people in health care. In 2019, protections were rolled back for transgender troops in the military.
So it’s safe to assume the administration was blindsided by Monday’s Supreme Court ruling, which said the language of Title VII, Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the workplace.
The landmark 6-3 decision protecting gay and transgender workers was a stunning victory for the LGBT community, which doubted the conservative court would find the case in their favor. Trump-appointed Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the majority, which included Chief Justice John Roberts: “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Justices Brett Kavanaugh (Trump’s second appointment), Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas dissented.
Before Monday’s ruling, it was legal in over half the states to fire workers for being gay, bisexual or transgender. This decision extends workplace protections to millions of people across the nation, continuing a series of victories for gay rights even after Trump transformed the court with two conservative appointments.
Previous LGBT victories included the court’s 2015 decision that the Constitution guaranteed a right to same-sex marriage, and its 2018 decision overturning a federal law denying benefits to married same-sex couples (Roberts dissented in both). A 2003 decision struck down state laws criminalizing gay sex.
Gorsuch noted that Monday’s ruling was narrow, writing: “We do not purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms or anything else of the kind … [those] are questions for future cases, not these.” He added that other provisions in Title VII have protections for religious employers.
Baby Come Back: Iran’s Infant Shortage
- Iran’s population is aging, and its women aren’t reproducing enough to maintain population growth. The director general of the Ministry of Health’s Office of Population and Family Health said Iranian women were only having 1.7 children on average, well below the 2.2 needed to replenish the population.
- Conservatives in Iran’s government, including Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, have been urging citizens to have more children for at least a decade by limiting access to family planning services, increasing the number of infertility clinics, and telling Iranians it is safe to have children every 18 to 24 months — down from earlier advice to wait three to five years.
- Now, in order to boost birth rates, the government is ending state-provided contraceptives and vasectomies. Family planning procedures and products would still be available from pharmacies, at private hospitals, and at public hospitals for women whose lives were at risk. (Guardian)
- One thing that the USA shares with Iran: continued significant declines in birth rates: U.S. Births Continue to Fall, Fertility Rate Hits Record Low (US News)
- The challenges of giving birth in the time of Covid-19 (STAT)
- Additional trailer: from one of our more recent favorite movies we have referenced a fair bit in the past: Children of Men Trailer. Clive Owen is terrific in that movie. The first movie we saw Clive Owen in was Croupier Trailer (which is also a solid movie).
Whelan and Dealin’
- In December 2018, US citizen Paul Whelan was taken into custody in his Moscow hotel and held on espionage charges. Days later Russian officials said Whelan had been caught with a flash drive containing classified information.
- Secrecy has shrouded the case since the arrest, but the 50-year-old former Marine, who holds passports from the US, Canada, the UK and Ireland, has always maintained his innocence. He pleaded not guilty, maintaining that he was set up when he was given a flash drive by an acquaintance that he thought contained family photos.
- On Monday Whelan stood in the defendant’s cage in a Moscow courtroom holding a sign that read “Sham trial!” as the guilty verdict and his punishment — 16 years in a Russian prison — were read. US Ambassador to Russia John Sullivan condemned the verdict, saying: “This secret trial in which no evidence was produced is an egregious violation of human rights and international legal norms.”
- Sullivan has also criticized the lack of access to Whelan by embassy staff. Whelan appealed to Trump a year ago, saying the president could “keep America great” by “aggressively” protecting US citizens such as himself. The White House has remained mostly silent on the case. Whelan’s brother David said he believes Paul could possibly be released as part of a prisoner swap. (NPR)
- A great movie about a prisoner swap with Tom Hanks doing what he does best—being a fantastic actor with American values: Bridge of Spies Trailer
Additional World News
- As Israel Vows Annexation, Palestinian Leaders Embark On Risky Form Of Protest (NPR)
- North Korea threatens to send army into border zone (BBC)
- With a bit of oomph, Brexit deal feasible in July, says UK’s Johnson (Reuters)
- The lengths countries go to for a seat at UN top table (BBC)
- Victor in Syria’s War, Bashar al-Assad Faces Economic Meltdown (NYT, $)
- In Europe, Travel Returns, but Not Confidence About What Comes Next (NYT, $)
- EU to discuss greater defence cooperation in face of US-China tensions (Guardian)
- Amazon v EU: Has the online giant met its match? (BBC)
- Coronavirus: US withdraws emergency use of hydroxychloroquine (BBC)
- An Army of Volunteers Is Taking On Vaccine Disinformation Online (Wired, $)
- The Coronavirus Will Win (Atlantic, $)
- Covid-19 can damage lungs of victims beyond recognition, expert says (Guardian)
- Public-Health Experts Are Not Hypocrites (Atlantic, $)
- ‘This Is Not the Flu’: What Doctors Say About Their Fight Against Coronavirus (NYT, $)
- How Data Became One of the Most Powerful Tools to Fight an Epidemic (NYT, $)
- Fear of Transit Is Bad for Cities (Atlantic, $)
- The CDC — finally — has new guidelines for reducing Covid-19 risk post-lockdowns (Vox)
Those Who Hang The Chads
(Pool via Getty Images)
- The “Honest Elections Project” (HEP) and the “Judicial Education Project” (JEP) don’t exist to serve the public good. They’re part of a powerful dark money network — funded by wealthy rightwing stalwarts like the Koch brothers and Betsy DeVos’ family — with goals of remaking America’s federal judiciary and restricting voting rights.
- HEP appeared this year, stoking fears about voter fraud. The name is a legal alias for JEP, an organization almost entirely funded from a “dark money ATM” called DonorsTrust. JEP is joined at the hip with the Judicial Crisis Network (JCN), a group that spent millions to get Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed to the US Supreme Court, along with significant sums on critical state supreme court races.
- JEP is likewise closely aligned with Leonard Leo, one of the most powerful people in Washington behind President Trump’s unprecedented effort to put markedly conservative judges on federal benches.
- Recently, JEP’s legal name changed to The 85 Fund, a group Leo used to funnel “tens of millions” into conservative causes. Three fictitious names for the Fund were registered, including HEP and its old name, JEP. The legal maneuver allows the Fund to operate under four different names with scant public disclosure that it’s the same group.
- HEP spent $250,000 on advertisements warning against voting by mail. It sent letters with misleading data to election officials in Colorado, Florida, and Michigan, claiming that their voter rolls were bloated and threatened legal action. HEP has filed multiple lawsuits to impose voting restrictions in Nevada, Virginia, Texas, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. If successful in both voter suppression litigation and the installation of right-wing judges, this network could create a system where conservative donors can oppose voting rights, and appoint judges to back them up.
- Supreme Court Will Not Reexamine Qualified Immunity For Police (NPR)
- Supreme Court Sides With Pipeline In Appalachian Trail Fight (NPR)
The Nutty Politicians War on Science and Professors
- From the beginning of his presidency, a big part of Donald Trump’s agenda has been to undermine climate science in the federal government. At first, efforts to carry out that mission were orchestrated by political appointees. But increasingly, those efforts are largely being driven by mid level managers trying to protect their jobs and budgets, and wary of the scrutiny of senior officials.
- Before John Crusius, a research chemist at the US Geological Survey, was allowed to publish an academic paper on natural solutions to climate change in April, his employer required that the scientist’s research not be associated in any way with the federal government. The study’s publication was held up a month, and Crusius’ affiliation with the government never appeared on it.
- “There is no doubt in my mind that my paper was denied government approval because it had to do with efforts to mitigate climate change,” Crusius said, making sure he was speaking in his personal capacity due to agency requirements. An inspector general’s report at the EPA, made public in May, found that almost 400 employees surveyed in 2018 believed a manager had interfered with or suppressed the release of scientific information, but they never reported the violations.
- A separate 2018 survey by the Union of Concerned Scientists, which questioned 63,000 federal employees across 16 different agencies, identified the EPA and the Department of the Interior as having the least trustworthy leadership in matters of scientific integrity. Government experts said they’ve been surprised at the speed with which federal workers internalized Trump’s antagonism for climate science, and called the ‘new normal’ dangerous. (NYT)
Additional US News
- Trump To Sign Executive Order on Police Reform After George Floyd Killing (NPR)
- 4 Federal Prisoners Set To Be Executed This Summer (NPR)
- Trump’s Halting Walk Down Ramp Raises New Health Questions (NYT, $)
- How Much Longer Will the Border Stay Shut? (NYT, $)
- Las Vegas police officer shot in head during George Floyd protest is paralyzed from neck down (CBS)
- Latest Crop of West Point Graduates Includes First Observant Sikh Cadet (NYT, $) Welcome to The Long Gray Line! We are so glad you and many others are joining us: A Record Number of African American Women Graduated from West Point in 2020 (Vogue–maybe the first time we’ve ever linked to Vogue in Pnut). We have some questionable graduates and outright rebels: Robert E. Lee and Mike Pompeo. But the good ones outweigh the bad ones: Ulysses Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Dwight Eisenhower, Omar Bradley, & John Pershing. How is it that Robert E. Lee who killed more USA soldiers, then any WW2 Japanese general, Nazi general, or Osama bin Laden has a building named after him? Even worse, this man was the superintendent before he became a traitor and defected: The Tangled History of Confederate Generals at West Point and in the US Army: What’s in a Name? (Just Security) We think it’s only inevitable that the barracks name gets changed. And it’s crazy that only in 2020 are we still resolving the traumas of The Civil War. Additional quote: “”The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” – William Faulkner
- Fox News runs digitally altered images in coverage of Seattle’s protests, Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone (Seattle Times)
Lots of Happy Campers
- For all those formerly sheltered-in-place people who want both to be back on the road traveling while maintaining their social distancing comes the perfect solution: rent an RV.
- Tom and Mona Mesereau have logged 18,000 miles through 30 states in their 32-foot Class A recreational vehicle since selling their home in September 2018. Best of all, racking up all those miles of adventure hasn’t kept the Mesereaus from running their public relations business — right from the road.
- Tom has some words of encouragement for all the new RV travelers just now turning to these homes on wheels as a way to travel safely and maintain social distancing. “Starting out in an R.V. is a little like moving into a new house,” Tom said, listing tasks like hooking up to power and water sources. “It is somewhat daunting at first, but it gets easy quickly. After the first couple of times setting up and breaking down, your trip will just get better.”
- RV rental companies are reporting huge increases in summer bookings after the industry virtually shut down over pandemic-related restrictions. Airstream, the retro trailer brand, has seen retail sales climb 11 percent compared to 2019. And RVshare said the number of days booked via its site has more than doubled year-to-date compared to last year. (NYT)
- What We’re Learning About Online Learning (NYT, $)
- Intermittent fasting can be good for heart health WaPo, $)
- Inside Start Small, Jack Dorsey’s $1 billion philanthropy experiment (Vox)
- Where are all the robots? (TechCrunch)
- Former eBay executives charged with cyber-stalking (BBC): We love email newsletters and we know they can be used for good and bad. But we didn’t know that they could make corporate executives go batsh*t crazy: “Six former eBay executives and staff have been charged with cyber-stalking in a campaign against a couple who ran a newsletter critical of the company.”
- Making people aware of their implicit biases doesn’t usually change minds. But here’s what does work (PBS)
- Match Opts to Keep Race Filter for Dating as Other Sites Drop It (Bloomberg, $) A fascinating quote from this article: “Even so, white users overwhelmingly reject non-white people on dating sites, said Keon West, a researcher in bias and social psychology who teaches at Goldsmiths University of London. “White people are pickier than any other group of people and much likelier to pick their own group,” he said. One study of a popular online dating site found 80% of contacts initiated by white people went to people of their same race, and just 3% went to black users. Black people were 10 times more likely to contact white people than the other way around, the research published in Psychology of Popular Media Culture found.”
- Additional movie: Loving Trailer. This is easy to say in retrospect, but how can a justice rule against someone in a case Loving V. Virginia. (The court ruled unanimously for Loving). Note that the state of Virginia decided to go with the travel slogan “Virginia is for Lovers” after the court case. Sometimes the pursuit of money can quickly result in even bureaucrats and politicians to forget about bigotry or be amnesiacs to their own racist history.
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