Editors, USA TODAYPublished 3:14 a.m. ET Oct. 7, 2019
Supreme Court faces slew of issues in new term — and possibly President Trump
Sex. Immigration. Guns. Abortion. Religion. Executive power. Pirates, even. That’s the menu so far for the Supreme Court’s new term, which Monday begins an extended run through much of the 2020 election season. Before the justices adjourn next June, their influence will be felt by tens of millions of Americans, including President Trump and Congress. Democrats’ demands for documents and testimony pertaining to the president’s personal and business finances already were working their way through lower courts when Trump’s dealings with Ukraine turned the buzz in the nation’s capital to impeachment. All of those skirmishes will produce battles over congressional subpoenas and administration claims of executive privilege.
Chief Justice John Roberts is doing all in his power to help the Supreme Court not look overtly political as it moves ideologically to the right. USA TODAY
The top two teams in the American League have asserted their dominance thus far. The Houston Astros and New York Yankees, coming off 100-win regular-season campaigns, have each taken 2-0 series leads and can cap off the sweeps on Monday. Astros starting pitcher Zack Greinke takes aim at a Tampa Bay Rays lineup that was throttled by stars Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole in Games 1 and 2 of the series. Meanwhile, the Yankees travel to Minnesota with hopes of ending the Twins’ season after the Bronx Bombers put up a combined 18 runs in the first two games of the series.
‘Joker’ gets last laugh with record ticket sales
Final numbers are expected Monday for the supremely dark new movie, “Joker,” which grossed an estimated $93.5 million in ticket sales over the weekend — a record October opening — despite concerns over its violent themes and ramped-up theater security. The previous October record-holder was the Spider-Man spinoff “Venom,” which opened to $80 million last year. Internationally, “Joker” earned $140.5 million from 73 markets, resulting in a stunning $234 million global debut.
Pig out! McDonald’s McRib is coming back
McDonald’s is once again bringing back its popular McRib sandwich for a limited time. The company last week said the McRib will be available “as early as Monday, Oct. 7” in more than 10,000 U.S. restaurants. The McRib – seasoned boneless pork, barbecue sauce, onions and pickles on a hoagie-style bun – launched in 1981. It came back late last October for a limited run. To find participating restaurants, enter your ZIP code at www.mcdfinder.com.
Nobel Prize week kicks off
The Nobel Prize week begins Monday with the awards for physiology or medicine at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden. Nomination for the prize is by invitation only. The names of candidates and nominations are not revealed until 50 years later. The Physics Prize is handed out Tuesday, chemistry the following day, this year’s double-header Literature Prizes will be awarded Thursday and the Peace Prize will be announced on Friday. The economics prize – officially known as the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel – will be awarded on Oct. 14. Nobel fame this year comes with a $918,000 cash award, a gold medal and a diploma.
Contributing: Associated Press
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FILE 2018: President Donald Trump, left, talks with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as they arrive together for a family photo at a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
President Trump faced swift criticism early Monday after the White House announced its decision to move U.S. troops from northern Syria and give way for Turkey’s planned military incursion in the region.
Kurdish forces bore the brunt of the ground campaign against Islamic State militants but are considered terrorists by the Turkish government.
In December, Trump announced he was withdrawing American troops from Syria but was met with widespread condemnation for abandoning Kurdish allies to the Turkish assault.
The announcement prompted the resignation in protest of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and a coordinated campaign by then-national security adviser John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds.
As recently as January, Trump warned Ankara not to target the group, saying the U.S. would “devastate” Turkey economically if “they hurt the Kurds.”
It was not immediately clear if Trump mentioned the Kurds in his Sunday phone call with Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan.
“Allowing Turkey to move into Northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” tweeted former Iraq War veteran Democratic Rep. Ruben Gallego of Arizona. “The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or Independence to protect themselves. Pompeo has failed again.”
Turkey views the People’s Protection Units, or YPG, as an extension of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey for 35 years.
“The Kurds betrayed by the US — again,” wrote New York Times contributing writer Wajahat Ali. “Turkey has a brutal history of oppressing Kurds. Erdogan wants nothing more than to crack down on an entire group he sees as a ‘threat’ and whom he routinely refers to as ‘terrorists,’” he added. “Kurds are US allies fighting ISIS. This is a win for extremists and authoritarians. Shameful.”
Following the late Sunday announcement, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which has worked alongside U.S. troops to combat ISIS, warned against Turkey’s imminent incursion in a lengthy series of tweets.
“Based on our confidence in the #US efforts in the Security Mechanism agreement, we implemented all our commitments to remove military fortifications between Tal Abyad & SereKaniye, withdraw combat forces with heavy weapons, risking a security vacuum as a result of the agreement,” the group tweeted.
“But Erdogan’s threats are aimed to change the security mechanism into a mechanism of death, displace our people & change the stable & secure region into a zone of conflict and permanent war.”
SDF officials argued Turkey’s presence in the region would result in the return of ISIS leaders, reversing successful efforts to defeat the terrorist organization, and lead to “long-term war in the region making #Syria a permanent conflict area.”
Genteel Republicans like Mitt Romney complain about Donald Trump’s unpresidential behavior but how else does he combat the dirty left?
Only a barbarian could defy the liberal establishment as he has done.
Imagine if Romney were president, trying to be dignified and patrician. They’d eat him alive. Unless, of course, he did nothing to block their agenda, in which case he’d be left alone like all the other cowardly roll-over Republicans.
The American people chose a barbarian for president because they knew only a barbarian could drain the Washington swamp.
And, judging by the president’s unchanged approval ratings since House Democrats launched their impeachment inquiry, not to mention his record donation take off the back of it, Trump fans are with him for the long haul, no matter how boorishly he behaves.
They see him implementing his agenda against all odds. If the swamp gets in his way, Trump bulldozes over it. Supreme Court, tick. Taxes cut, tick. Regulations slashed, tick. Jobs up, tick. Military rebuilt, tick. ISIS stopped, tick. Globalism challenged, tick. Paris climate treaty scrapped, tick. Borders strengthened, tick. Wall built, half-tick.
All while the Washington establishment tries to sabotage his presidency and the liberal media reviles him.
President Trump on Sunday tweeted that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., should be impeached over their handling of the whistleblower investigation.
Trump said Pelosi was aware of “Shifty Adam Schiff” and his “massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people.” Trump pointed to Schiff’s “parody” speech in Congress. Pelosi defended the speech and called it “fair.”
Schiff read a dramatization of Trump’s July 25 call to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire’s hearing last week. Schiff, the chairman of the House Intellegence Committee, improvised parts of the transcript for effect and framed it as satire.
Trump has been under an impeachment investigation over his interaction Zelensky after it was revealed that he requested that Kiev investigate the Bidens.
Trump said his call with Zelensky was “perfect.” Zelensky said he felt no pressure.
But Democrats—led by Schiff—claim Trump withheld essential military funding from Kiev as part of quid pro quo to get dirt on a political opponent.
Trump is attempting to frame the probe as another “witch hunt” and has pointed to the Mueller investigation as an example of an earlier Democratic fishing expedition.
“Nancy Pelosi knew of all the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with highly partisan “whistleblower” & lawyer,” he tweeted. “This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly “colluded” with them, must all be immediately impeached!”
Trump has recently also called for the impeachment of Sen. Mitt Romney.
Article I, Section 5 of the Constitution allows both the House and Senate to set its own rules. No lawmaker may be “impeached.”
It states that either body may expel a member, provided there is a 2/3 vote. The House has only expelled five members in history. The Senate has expelled 15. The President has no role in the matter as the legislative branch is in control of its own members.
WASHINGTON — In a major shift in United States military policy in Syria, the White House said on Sunday that President Trump had given his endorsement for a Turkish military operation that would sweep away American-backed Kurdish forces near the border in Syria.
Turkey considers the Kurdish fighters to be a terrorist insurgency, and has long sought to end American support for the group. But the Kurdish group, known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, or S.D.F., has been the United States’ most reliable partner in fighting the Islamic State in a strategic corner of northern Syria.
Now, Mr. Trump’s decision goes against the recommendations of top officials in the Pentagon and the State Department who have sought to keep a small troop presence in northeast Syria to continue counterinsurgency operations against the Islamic State, or ISIS, and to act as a critical counterweight to Iran and Russia.
Administration officials said that Mr. Trump spoke directly with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey on the issue on Sunday. And the officials indicated that the 100 to 150 United States military personnel deployed to that area would be pulled back in advance of any Turkish operation but that they would not be completely withdrawn from Syria.
“Turkey will soon be moving forward with its long-planned operation into Northern Syria,” the White House said in a statement released just before 11 p.m. in Washington. “The United States Armed Forces will not support or be involved in the operation, and United States forces, having defeated the ISIS territorial ‘Caliphate,’ will no longer be in the immediate area.”
It was unclear how extensive the Turkish operation would be, or whether Turkish forces would clash with the American-backed Kurds, a development that could jeopardize many of the counterterrorism gains achieved by the American military in the fight against ISIS.
Last December, Mr. Trump called for a complete United States withdrawal from Syria, but ultimately reversed himself after a backlash from Pentagon, diplomatic and intelligence officials, as well as important allies in Europe and the Middle East.
Soner Cagaptay, the director of the Turkish Research Program at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and author of “Erdogan’s Empire: Turkey and the Politics of the Middle East,” said in a telephone interview that a Turkish incursion uncontested by the United States would allow Turkey to cut another swath into Kurdish-controlled territory in Syria. That would give Mr. Erdogan a ready place to send hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees and prove yet again his influence with Mr. Trump on Syria policy.
“It’s a quite a significant development,” Mr. Cagaptay said.
Many Syria experts criticized the White House decision and cautioned that American abandonment of its Kurdish allies could widen the eight-year Syrian conflict and prompt the Kurds to ally with the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad to combat the much larger and more technologically advanced Turkish army.
“Allowing Turkey to move into northern Syria is one of the most destabilizing moves we can do in the Middle East,” Representative Ruben Gallego, an Arizona Democrat and former Marine who served in the Iraq war, said on Twitter on Sunday night. “The Kurds will never trust America again. They will look for new alliances or independence to protect themselves.”
Mr. Erdogan has demanded a “safe zone” for his nation to run 20 miles deep and 300 miles along the Turkish-Syrian border east of the Euphrates. That area, he has said, would be reserved for the involuntary return of at least a million Syrian refugees now inside Turkey. Mr. Erdogan has threatened to send a wave of Syrian migrants to Europe instead if the international community does not support the initiative to send them back to Syria.
Since early August, the American and Turkish militaries have been working together on a series of confidence-building measures — including joint reconnaissance flights and ground patrols — in a 75-mile-long strip of that 300-mile border area.
American-backed Kurdish forces have pulled back several miles and destroyed fortifications in that area.
The pace of these operations has not been fast enough for Mr. Erdogan, and last week he began indicating he planned to launch an incursion across the border. He did the same thing over the summer, prompting a flurry of American diplomatic activity bolstered by the military confidence-building measures.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark Milley, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, both called their Turkish counterparts last week to try and reduce tensions. But unresolved threats from Turkey apparently resulted in the decision by Mr. Trump on Sunday.
American officials contacted late Sunday would not say how far back from the Turkish border American troops would redeploy, or whether this signals the beginning of a larger overall withdrawal of the 1,000 American troops now in northeast Syria conducting and supporting counterterrorism operations.
One official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a fluid military situation, said that American forces were pulling back from northeast Syria to “get out of the way.”
Officials described a military and political tension as the American military is pulled between two important allies in the civil war in Syria. Turkey is a major NATO ally, but the Kurdish S.D.F. forces have been a partner in the fight against ISIS.
“We are not going to support the Turks and we are not going to support the S.D.F.,” the official said. “If they go to combat, we’re going to stay out of it.”
The White House statement and its ramifications come as the Islamic State is gathering new strength, conducting guerrilla attacks across Iraq and Syria, retooling its financial networks and targeting new recruits at an allied-run tent camp, American military, counterterrorism and intelligence officers say.
Though Mr. Trump hailed a total defeat of the Islamic State this year — and asserted its territorial demise in Sunday night’s statement — defense officials in the region see things differently, acknowledging that what remains of the terrorist group is here to stay.
A recent inspector general’s report warned that a drawdown ordered by Mr. Trump this year — from 2,000 American forces in Syria to less than half of that — has meant that the American military has had to cut back support for Syrian partner forces fighting ISIS. For now, American and international forces can only try to ensure that ISIS remains contained and away from urban areas, officials say.
Although there is little concern that the Islamic State will reclaim its former physical territory, a self-declared Islamic caliphate that was once the size of Britain and controlled the lives of up to 12 million people, the terrorist group has still mobilized as many as 18,000 remaining fighters in Iraq and Syria. These sleeper cells and strike teams have carried out sniper attacks, ambushes, kidnappings and assassinations against security forces and community leaders.
Over the past several months, ISIS has made inroads into a sprawling tent camp in northeast Syria, and there is no ready plan to deal with the 70,000 people there, including thousands of family members of ISIS fighters.
American intelligence officials say the Al Hol camp, managed by Syrian Kurdish allies with little aid or security, is evolving into a hotbed of ISIS ideology and a huge breeding ground for future terrorists. The American-backed Syrian Kurdish force also holds more than 10,000 ISIS fighters, including 2,000 foreigners, in separate makeshift prisons.
The custody of all these people could be in jeopardy, American officials said Sunday night, depending on whether any Turkish incursion sets off a much larger conflict in northeast Syria.
A high school teacher in Iowa has been placed on administrative leave after he posted a threatening comment on Facebook Thursday in response to a news story about the local visit of 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg.
Waterloo West High School science teacher Matt Baish posted “don’t have my sniper rifle” next to a story about the Swedish student’s trip to Iowa City Friday, The Des Moines Register reported.
Parents emphasized to a local news station that Baish made the threatening comment about a child the same age as students he teaches. That means students can enter a classroom “where they don’t feel safe, where they don’t feel they can share their opinion, where they don’t feel respected” said one mother (see the video above). “We as parents have to stand up against that.”
Parents, teachers and students at Waterloo West High School received an email from Waterloo Community School District officials Friday about Baish being placed on administrative leave.
“We are aware of a social media situation involving one of our employees,” the statement said. “The nature of the content shared rose to the level of putting this employee on administrative leave pending an investigation. We appreciate your patience as we sort through the details and thank you for respecting the process.”
A police spokesman told the Des Moines Register that law enforcement is also investigating Baish.
Baish could not be reached for comment.
Waterloo Schools’ social media policies warn staff to “think twice before posting” and advise not to post or approve comments that include “threats of physical or bodily harm.”
Thunberg joined more than 3,000 activists at a “climate strike” Friday in Iowa City. Demonstrators demanded that the University of Iowa and the city agree to a climate accord which calls for both entities to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 — and demands the university to cease burning coal at its power plant.
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Now, he’s claiming the speaker is “every bit as guilty,” accusing her of “high crimes” and “treason.” He also called her “nervous Nancy,” a nickname he attempted briefly in June but quickly abandoned.
Nancy Pelosi knew of all of the many Shifty Adam Schiff lies and massive frauds perpetrated upon Congress and the American people, in the form of a fraudulent speech knowingly delivered as a ruthless con, and the illegal meetings with a highly partisan “Whistleblower” & lawyer…
….This makes Nervous Nancy every bit as guilty as Liddle’ Adam Schiff for High Crimes and Misdemeanors, and even Treason. I guess that means that they, along with all of those that evilly “Colluded” with them, must all be immediately Impeached!
Dear @realDonaldTrump: As a member of @SpeakerPelosi‘s leadership team, the only time I saw her nervous was … actually I’ve never seen her nervous. Speaker Pelosi has nerves of steel, wrapped around tungsten, coated in titanium.
Because Adam Schiff paraphrased the Trump-Zelensky call and because the whistleblower contacted House Intel staff in accordance with rules [refers to notes] Pelosi did treason. pic.twitter.com/Dzdzc0qxFv
Yet again, whatever he’s telling you here, the center of it all is an accusation by a whistle-blower that he’s asked Ukraine – a country desperate for aid – to investigate as a favor his political opponent. This has been CONFIRMED by Trump himself who released the transcript.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The White House says Turkey will soon invade Northern Syria, casting uncertainty on the fate of the Kurdish fighters allied with the U.S. against in a campaign against the Islamic State group.
Press secretary Stephanie Grisham says U.S. troops “will not support or be involved in the operation” and “will no longer be in the immediate area.”
Grisham says that after a call between President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey will take custody of foreign fighters captured in the U.S.-led campaign against the Islamic State group who have been held by the Kurdish forces supported by the U.S.
Kurdish forces bore the brunt of the ground campaign against Islamic State militants but are considered terrorists by the Turkish government.
In December, Trump announced he was withdrawing American troops from Syria but was met with widespread condemnation for abandoning Kurdish allies to the Turkish assault. The announcement prompted the resignation in protest of then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, and a coordinated campaign by then-national security adviser John Bolton to try to protect the Kurds.
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That’s the menu so far for the Supreme Court’s new term, which Monday begins an extended run through much of the 2020 election season. Before the justices adjourn next June, their influence will be felt by tens of millions of Americans, including President Trump and Congress.
Democrats’ demands for documents and testimony pertaining to the president’s personal and business finances already were working their way through lower courts when Trump’s dealings with Ukraine turned the buzz in the nation’s capital to impeachment.
All of those skirmishes will produce battles over congressional subpoenas and administration claims of executive privilege that could reach the high court. And if the House follows through, Chief Justice John Roberts would preside over a Senate trial.
“It is likely the court will get involved in some way, where they can’t avoid doing something that’s going to be controversial,” says David Strauss, who heads the Supreme Court and appellate clinic at the University of Chicago Law School.
It’s been only a year since Associate Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s razor-thin Senate confirmation, a triumph for conservatives that was overshadowed by decades-old allegations of sexual misconduct. Now that Kavanaugh and fellow Trump nominee Neil Gorsuch have settled in, those conservatives want to see results from a court rebuilt in Trump’s image, with a 5-4 conservative majority.
Did it help last term? Not so much: The bloc of liberal justices prevailed in as many divided cases as their conservative counterparts. Just as often, the voting patterns were mixed. Gorsuch, the Coloradan confirmed in 2017 to a seat President Barack Obama was blocked from filling, displayed an unpredictable libertarian streak. Kavanaugh sought a low profile by sticking with the majority more than others. Roberts switched sides with regularity.
Thus it was that Trump lost his effort to add a question on citizenship to the 2020 census when Roberts didn’t buy the government’s proffered rationale. Similar doubts surround the administration’s reasons for seeking to end a popular Obama-era program that gives undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children clearance to remain and work. It’s not even clear Trump wants to end the program if he wins the high court’s blessing.
The future of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program highlights the court’s November sitting. First, though, it will hear arguments Tuesday on whether gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender workers are covered by a federal civil rights law barring sex discrimination. In December, the justices are likely to tackle gun rights. Abortion will be on the docket early next year.
“This is a confident court that has not shied away from taking on the most polarizing issues,” says former U.S. solicitor general Gregory Garre. “But even for this court, that is going to be a sensitive task.”
From gays to guns
The justices will waste no time diving into a divisive issue:Gay rights.
Three cases will test whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bans job discrimination on the basis of sex, applies to gay and transgender workers. The answer will be particularly important in 28 states that do not have their own protections.
The cases pick up from where the same-sex marriage battle left off in 2015, when the court ruled 5-4 that states cannot ban gays and lesbians from getting married. But the author of that decision and others favoring gay rights, Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy, retired last year and was succeeded by Kavanaugh, whose vote will be key.
In an effort to win over at least one conservative justice, lawyers for two gay men and a transgender woman fired from their jobs claim to be following the plain text of the law. Were it not for their sex, the theory goes, they would have kept their jobs.
Employment discrimination is a “rampant problem,” Paul Smith, a frequent Supreme Court litigator who won a major gay rights case there in 2003, said recently. Another such victory, he said, “would be huge for the LGBT community.”
In November, the justices will hear a two-year-old dispute between Trump and Democrats in Congress over the fate of nearly 700,000 undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.
The program was established in 2012 without congressional approval, enabling recipients to avoid deportation and get work permits. The administration first announced its plan to wind down DACA two years ago, but it was blocked nationwide by federal judges from California to New York.
The court’s willingness to hear the case signals a potential win for the White House, but how it wins would be crucial. If the justices say Trump has the same discretion to end the program that Obama had to create it, a future president just as easily could renew it. If they agree with the Justice Department that it’s unlawful, Congress would have to step in.
“The government has no fewer than seven different reasons” for ending the program, Georgetown University Law Center professor Martin Lederman said recently. “The government only has to win one out of seven to win this case.”
The court’s date with gun rights, scheduled for December, could go by the boards if gun control advocates have their way.
The case focuses on New York City’s somewhat extreme restriction against transporting legally owned guns beyond city limits. The justices agreed in January to hear a challenge from gun rights groups, but the city and state wiped the regulation from the books in hopes of getting the case dismissed.
The problem for gun control groups is that the justices would be free to hear a different case in the near future, including one aimed at winning the right to carry guns in public nationwide. Since establishing the right to possess guns at home for self defense a decade ago, the court has refused to re-enter the debate. In the meantime, lower courts have upheld most state and local restrictions.
“If they say this case is moot, there are other cases available in line,” Paul Clement, a former U.S. solicitor general representing gun rights groups in the New York case, said recently.
Abortion and religion
After dealing with gays, guns and immigration, the justices might be pining for a lower profile. But a topic that has haunted the court since 1973 looms.
The court agreed on Friday to hear a major new abortion case from Louisiana, which wants to implement a law requiring providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. The justices struck down a similar law in Texas three years ago, but Kavanaugh has replaced Kennedy, who was the deciding vote.
More abortion cases from Indiana, Illinois and elsewhere are lurking. All deal with restrictions imposed by states, ranging from demands placed on patients or providers to flat-out bans on abortion after or even during the first trimester of pregnancy.
Last term, the court upheld an Indiana law requiring the burial or cremation of fetal remains following an abortion, but it refused to consider that state’s effort to ban abortions based on sex, race or disability.
Less likely to win the justices’ consideration are laws working their way toward the high court from Georgia, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama and elsewhere that ban most abortions. Those laws more clearly conflict with the high court’s precedents.
“It’s hard to imagine the chief justice seeing anything good from issuing an important, substantive abortion ruling,” says Neal Devins, director of the Institute of Bill of Rights Law at William & Mary Law School.
Another high court precedent could fall if the justices issue a major ruling in a Montana case testing whether state funds can be used to help pay for tuition at religious schools.
Parents of religious school students sued for access to a program providing tax credits for tuition assistance. Residents and businesses that donate to private scholarship organizations receive up to $150 in tax credits; the donations are used for scholarships for low-income families.
A district court initially ruled for the parents, but the Montana Supreme Court said it conflicted with the state constitution and invalidated the entire scholarship program.
The high court has ruled in favor of religious liberty in several cases recently. In June, it ruled 7-2 that a mammoth Latin cross on government land in Bladensburg, Maryland, does not have to be moved or altered in the name of church-state separation. The justices also have allowed public prayer at government meetings and some public funding for religious institutions.
If it rules in favor of religious school funding, the court might overrule a 1990 precedent upholding laws that apply to the general public even if they restrict religious freedom.
Additional cases on the court’s docket raise issues of racial discrimination, political corruption and, once again, the Affordable Care Act, which the justices upheld in 2012 and 2015. The latest case involves Congress’ decision to withhold promised payments to insurance companies.
But perhaps the most unusual case involves a copyright dispute over a sunken pirate ship captained 300 years ago by the legendary pirate Blackbeard.
That case, to be heard in early November, pits North Carolina against a video production company documenting the salvaging of the shipwreck Queen Anne’s Revenge, which ran aground in 1718 and was discovered in 1996. The state, which is being sued, passed a statute to convert the salvage effort to public record.
It’s name: Blackbeard’s Law.
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