A Devastating Fin-ale
September 16, 2021
The Good News
- Equal pay in sport: US Soccer offers identical contracts to men’s and women’s teams (BBC)
- Australian bandicoot brought back from brink of extinction (BBC)
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“Destiny is no matter of chance. It is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for, it is a thing to be achieved.” — William Jennings Bryan
The Too-Long Arm Of The Law
Texas attorney Jonathan Mitchell, 45, has never been an especially prominent, popular, or financially successful figure in the conservative legal world. But the onetime clerk to Justice Antonin Scalia has managed to develop an unorthodox legal approach that makes him the darling of the anti-abortion movement.
Mitchell was in high school when SCOTUS decided a 1992 case reaffirming the constitutional right to abortion established in 1973 by Roe v. Wade. After graduating from an Evangelical college in Illinois, Mitchell got his JD in 2001. In late 2010, he was appointed by then-governor Greg Abbott to be Solicitor General, Texas’ chief appellate litigator. During the next five years, Mitchell authored over a hundred briefs, argued four cases before the Supreme Court, and became known for his ability to identify legal loopholes everyone else overlooked. Mitchell helped write the 2013 Texas legislation imposing unusually strict and medically unnecessary requirements on the state’s abortion clinics, in an effort to shut them down. His approach was to try structuring the law in a way that would prevent judicial action to block it.
When SCOTUS gutted the law in 2016, Mitchell was dismayed, but hardly dissuaded. By 2021, he’d come up with a novel statute that not only bans abortions after six weeks in Texas, but removes state enforcement and hands it to ordinary citizens. The audacious legislative structure Mitchell conceived of — offering regular people power and financial incentive to sue anybody who assists a woman in getting an abortion — focuses on process rather than morality. It’s deliberately devised to make it much more difficult for courts to intervene. The tactic has drawn intense criticism from opponents, not only for restricting access to abortion but for what they say is gaming the judicial system through a legislative gimmick that won’t withstand scrutiny. One law professor contends the way to overturn a law is by having judges review it, not by creating a law “designed to evade judicial review.”
Last month, SCOTUS’ conservative majority failed to act on an emergency request to temporarily enjoin Texas’ new law until its constitutionality can be considered. Five justices suggested the court hadn’t previously encountered legislative schemes conferring on private citizens the power to veto the provision of lawful services; thus, it was procedurally stymied. Not true. In 1982, SCOTUS considered a Massachusetts law granting schools and churches the power to deny a liquor license to any establishment located within 500 feet. Eight justices found the statute allowed the unconstitutional delegation to private, nongovernmental entities of power ordinarily vested in a public governmental agency. Arguably, as with the Massachusetts liquor law, the Texas abortion law delegates quintessential governmental power to private parties. (NYT, Texas Monthly, Texas Tribune, Boston Globe)
Not A Prince Among Men
- Virginia Roberts Giuffre has been trying to serve papers on England’s Duke of York, A.K.A. Prince Andrew. She filed a sexual assault lawsuit in New York alleging she was trafficked by convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, and forced to have sex with Epstein’s friend, Prince Andrew, when she was 17.
- Giuffre’s attorney, David Bois, said documents were sent by “Royal Mail” and delivered Friday to “the last known address of the defendant”. A pre-trial hearing was held Monday in Manhattan to consider the question of whether Andrew had been officially notified of the civil proceedings. Andrew’s lawyers argued the Prince hadn’t been properly served, which was true since the High Court in London had declined Giuffre’s initial request to serve U.S. legal documents on the Prince in Britain.
- This time, Giuffre’s lawyers asked the High Court to accept the request for service pursuant to the Hague Convention, and High Court Justices agreed to do so if the parties couldn’t agree. Andrew’s lawyer described Giuffre’s lawsuit as “baseless.” (Guardian)
A Devastating Fin-ale
- The remote Faroe Islands are a self-governing archipelago, part of the Kingdom of Denmark, located halfway between Scotland and Iceland in the North Atlantic Ocean. They’re comprised of 18 rocky volcanic islands connected by road tunnels, ferries, causeways, and bridges.
- Islanders still engage in the centuries-old tradition of dolphin hunting and the sharing of meat and blubber with the local community. Environmentalists condemn the custom as cruel and unnecessary, a position graphically bolstered last Sunday when hunters in speed boats chased 1,500 dolphins into shallow waters and slaughtered them. Conservationists estimate it’s the largest hunt in Faroese history, and possibly the largest single-day hunt ever worldwide.
- The size of the hunt is also thought to be much larger than necessary to feed the archipelago’s population of around 50,000 people. Olavur Sjurdarberg, chairman of the Faroese Whalers Association, said hunters had underestimated the size of the pod at just 200 dolphins, and only realized their error when they began killing them. Sjurdarberg said most people were “in shock about what happened.” (WaPo)
Additional World News
- Report: Most nations fall far short in plans to curb warming (ABC)
- Canada: Alberta healthcare system on verge of collapse as Covid cases and anti-vax sentiments rise (Guardian)
- Chinese cities issue travel warnings after Fujian COVID-19 (Reuters)
- Queen Elizabeth sent congratulations to North Korea, palace confirms (CNN)
- France criticises deal bringing Russian mercenaries into Mali (Reuters)
- Pope Francis Criticizes Political Use of Christianity (NYT, $)
- People around the world increasingly see climate change as a personal threat, new poll finds (WaPo, $)
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Gavin A Great Time
- California Governor Gavin Newsom won Tuesday’s recall election by a stellar 30-point margin. His most visible opponent was Larry Elder, a 69-year-old Trumpism-spewing radio talk show host who led the Republican pack of potential candidates to unseat the governor.
- Elder’s views are almost too extreme for even die-hard GOP. He opposes the minimum wage and gun control, says no gender wage gap exists, racial discrimination is exaggerated, and the climate crisis is a “crock.” Elder contends that slave owners should be the ones to get reparations, although as an African-American he may well have had relatives who were slaves.
- The contentious radio host has blamed the death of George Floyd and other Black men on Barack Obama, and called the Black Lives Matter movement “bogus.” In conceding the election Tuesday night, a defiant Elder told a cheering crowd: “we may have lost the battle, but we are going to win the war.” Perhaps he was hinting at a rematch next year when Newsom is up for reelection. (NYT, Guardian)
Gymnasts Testify Against FBI
- Olympic gymnasts McKayla Maroney and Simone Biles castigated the FBI and the Justice Department in Senate testimony Wednesday for how their agents mishandled abuse allegations brought against Larry Nassar, the former USA Gymnastics team doctor now serving a decades-long prison sentence. A scathing Justice Department inspector general report released in July said allegations into Nassar were first brought to the agency in July 2015, but then violations of protocols led to months of delay.
- Maroney identified herself as the one who spoke to the FBI in the summer of 2015. On Wednesday, Maroney recounted the vivid details she provided the agent interviewing her about Nassar’s abuse, then said: “After telling my entire story of abuse to the FBI…not only did the FBI not report my abuse, but when they eventually documented the report 17 months later, they made entirely false claims about what I said.” Maroney said by burying the report “in a drawer,” the agency had “allowed a child molester to go free for more than a year and this inaction directly allowed Nassar’s abuse to continue.” (CNN)
Additional USA News
- West Virginia battles Covid surge after failing to build on early vaccine success (Guardian)
- Democrats’ House targets vanish as GOP redraws new maps (Politico)
- Boston Mayoral Election Race Narrows, With Michelle Wu in the Lead (NYT, $)
- Justice Department seeks emergency order to block Texas abortion law (CBS)
- Alex Murdaugh had Curtis Smith shoot him for insurance fraud: Police (USA Today)
- Biden to meet with Manchin, Sinema on party-line megabill (Politico)
- Slow-moving Tropical Depression Nicholas threatens Gulf Coast with flooding, including parts of Louisiana still staggering from Ida (CNN)
- 35-year-old Darko Desic had served 13 months of a three-and-a-half-year prison sentence for growing marijuana. He’d been incarcerated in a century-old prison in Grafton, 390 miles north of Sydney, Australia, and he’d had enough. So overnight on July 31, 1992, Desic used a hacksaw blade and bolt cutters to cut through his cell window bars and a perimeter fence and escape.
- For the next 29 years, Desic, an immigrant from the former Yugoslavia, remained at large. He spent the entire time at Sydney’s northern beaches in the suburb of Avalon, working for cash as a laborer and handyman and staying below the radar. He was afraid if he was caught he’d be deported, although it’s not clear where he would have been sent since his country was broken up.
- Desic was never caught. Immigration officials even gave up looking for him and in 2008 granted him residency in Australia. But he couldn’t survive the pandemic. He wasn’t sick with coronavirus, but Sydney’s COVID-19 lockdown made him jobless and homeless. So he showed up Sunday at Dee Why Police Station on Sydney’s fashionable northern beaches and turned himself in. A source told the newspaper the now 64-year-old had slept on the beach Saturday night, and the next morning said: “Stuff it, I’ll go back to prison where there’s a roof over my head.” He was denied bail, and may get to stay another seven years. (CBS)
- Asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs shaped fortunes of snakes (BBC)
- SpaceX, Blue Origin awarded NASA contracts to develop moon lander concepts for future Artemis missions (TechCrunch)
- Facebook’s own research shows Instagram is harmful to teens, report says (CNET)
- Kelly sex-trafficking trial: Jury hears more tapes of R&B star as prosecution nears end of case (USA Today)
- Scientists develop a statistical fix for archaeology’s dating problem (Phys.org)
- Google Is Getting Caught in the Global Antitrust Net (Wired)
- The era of orbital private spaceflight truly begins with today’s launch (Ars Technica)
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