Despite all of the progress made so far on LGBT rights, on Tuesday, Louisiana voted to uphold the state’s anti-sodomy law, 67-27, despite it being ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, in their landmark 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision.
In its decision, the court ruled that laws prohibiting sodomy seek “to control a personal relationship that, whether or not entitled to formal recognition in the law, is within the liberty of persons to choose without being punished as criminals.”
Unless you live in Louisiana?
In fact, in addition to Louisiana and Texas, Idaho, Utah, Michigan, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Kansas and Oklahoma have all maintained their own anti-sodomy laws, despite their direct conflict with the Supreme Court’s decision. In three of these states — Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas — such anti-sodomy laws pertain exclusively to “homosexual conduct.”
The Louisiana bill in question, HB12, proposed to amend “crime against nature…” and was introduced in January by State House Representative Patricia Smith (D-Baton Rouge). Although it seems painfully obvious that there is no reason on Earth to maintain such a law, Smith’s proposed bill was a direct response to the targeted arrests of gay men in her district who were profiled and lured by undercover police to agree to consensual sex. At least 12 men have been arrested in this “sodomy sting” since 2011, despite the fact that prosecutors refused to bring charges in every single case.
Amazon and other e-commerce firms are cutting ties with all Minnesotans who earn money by posting links that send traffic to online merchants after lawmakers passed a tweak to state sales tax law.
Minnesota E-Fairness legislation, signed by Gov. Mark Dayton on May 23 and going into effect July 1, classifies independent bloggers and online reviewers as a physical presence of a business in the state. This means online companies who pay these people to generate new sales must collect tax not just on those sales, but on all sales in the state.
The tax on online sales is already due, but the onus has been on consumers, who often never pay the tax. The new law puts the onus on Amazon, as long as they have a single blogger posting links to its products from Minnesota.
The state has estimated the new law will generate $5 million in new revenue, but Amazon is having none of it.
The company sent an email to associates in Minnesota, saying it will close all accounts in the state to avoid the tax.
“This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Minnesota state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor Dayton,” the letter said. “We will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after June 30 nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Minnesota residents.”
The state Department of Revenue said it is working on this issue today, but was not immediately ready to comment.
Aaron Hall, an attorney in Minneapolis who has clients who will be affected and has written about the new law, said even he will lose a couple hundred dollars a month as Amazon pulls the plug on the Minnesota program.
“A lot of bloggers have been hit,” Hall said.
Amazon, which was not immediately available for further comment, is not the only company cutting off ties with Minnesota bloggers and reviewers. Commission Junction, a California-based firm that handles online marketing and advertising, has also pulled out of the state, Hall said. Commission Junction was not immediately ready to comment.
The people affected are part of a grass-roots, independent e-commerce sales force, creating accounts with these companies and posting special links to blog posts, reviews and display ads that credit them for sales. Sometimes they earn a commission, up to 6 percent, Hall said. Some people make tens of thousands of dollars a year.
Amazon has already pulled out of states like California, North Carolina, Colorado, Connecticut, Arkansas, Illinois and Rhode Island for similar reasons.
The online giant called Minnesota’s E-Fairness legislation “unconstitutional” in its lette, and called for federal lawmakers to pass the Marketplace Fairness Act to resolve the confusion of online sales tax policy from state to state.
“Congressional legislation is the only way to create a simplified, constitutional framework to resolve interstate sales tax issues and it would allow us to re-open our Associates program to Minnesota residents,” Amazon said.
Yegor Borisov, head of the Sakha Republic, a vast and sparsely populated region of eastern Siberia, has called for an urgent cull of wolves after the predators swamped populated areas in a search for food.
The local government has announced a three month “battle against wolves” to be launched on January 15.
Special task forces will be put together and the hunting season extended all year round in a bid to tackle what the local authorities have described as a “mass migration” of the creatures.
The governor has even promised a six-figure cash prize for the hunters who bring back the most skins.
The sparsely populated Sakha Republic, also known as Yakutia, has seen several dramatic confrontations between humans and the animals in recent years.
Last January a “super pack” of 400 wolves laid siege to the remote town of Verkhoyansk, forcing locals to mount patrols on snow mobiles until the government could send in extra help.
Wolves usually hunt in small groups of just six or seven, and naturalists believe only a serious failure of the usual food supply could have brought such a large pack together to tackle larger prey.
This year naturalists say a shortage of the wolves’ traditional pretty – especially blue hares – has seen vast numbers of the hungry animals migrating from their mountainous hunting grounds to central parts of the republic.
While scientists agree a food shortage is at the root of the problem, it is not clear what has impacted the small mammal population. Some naturalists have pointed to cyclical fluctuations in the population of small mammals, but others have suggested unusually harsh winters could have played a role.
There are thought to be about 3,500 wolves in the Sakha Republic, which covers an area larger than Argentina. The local government says the territory can realistically support no more than 500.
While no attacks on humans have been reported recently, the influx of predators into more populated regions has had a big impact on agriculture – especially the region’s traditional reindeer herders.
Wolves killed 313 horses and over 16,000 reindeer in 2012, according to the agriculture ministry.
This is what happens when you vote fundamentalist zealots into office.
The Kansas Senate approved new restrictions for abortion providers Tuesday, moving the state’s most-sweeping legislation on the issue this year close to final passage.
The vote was 29-11 on a measure blocking tax breaks for abortion providers and prohibiting them from furnishing materials or instructors for sex education classes in public schools. The measure also would prevent abortion patients from including abortion costs when deducting medical expenses on their state income taxes.
The bill spells out in greater detail what information doctors must provide to patients before performing abortions, including information about abortion and breast cancer. Scientists convened by the National Cancer Institute in 2003 concluded abortion did not raise the risk of breast cancer, but abortion opponents point to evidence that carrying a fetus to term can lessen the risk.
The measure also declares life begins “at fertilization” and that “unborn children” have interests “that should be protected.”
The House approved the legislation last month. Senators made technical changes, and House members must review the revisions before the measure can go to Gov. Sam Brownback. But supporters of the bill expect the House’s review to be a formality and the bill to win final legislative approval this week.
On Tuesday night, President Obama will face the nation for his first State of the Union since his re-election. The speech will be unavoidable, with all networks set to broadcast wall-to-wall coverage.
Can you remember the key moments from last year’s State of the Union? No? That’s because many of Barack Obama’s historic and noteworthy speeches weren’t State of the Union addresses.
Here are nine of President Obama’s most noteworthy oratories, as mentioned Sunday by host Melissa Harris-Perry. None of them are State of the Union addresses, but they’re ones you likely remember
Democratic Sen. John Kerry, on a smooth path to confirmation as secretary of state, is likely to face friendly questioning when he testifies before the committee that he’s served on for 28 years and led for the past four.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman will sit at the witness table Thursday when he appears before the panel, a month after President Barack Obama said he wanted him to succeed Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Clinton is stepping down.
The five-term Massachusetts senator is widely expected to win overwhelming bipartisan support from his colleagues, and that notion was reinforced by the list of people who will introduce him: Clinton, Massachusetts freshman Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Republican Sen. John McCain.
The state of Florida is gearing up for a massive python hunting contest in the Everglades starting on Saturday. But an animal rights group is calling for the state to ban decapitation as a method of killing the giant snakes.
Decapitation is one of three lethal methods the state has authorized in the Python Challenge. The contest, which has cash prizes, is attracting hunters from all over the U.S. to help the state fight an infestation of non-native Burmese pythons.
But Lori Kettler, with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, says decapitation cannot possibly be humane.
‘This is going to create a machete-wielding army of inexperienced snake hunters,” she said. “We’re quite concerned that any concern for the snakes’ pain and suffering is likely to go without notice or consequence.’
Kettler said, reptile biologists say, snakes can feel pain for up to an hour after decapitation because of their slow metabolism.
PETA has sent a letter to the state Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, but the state has not responded.
Comment: Meh, PETA can want all they want, but Florida has a serious problem with these invasive species!
A Topeka sperm donor says a state effort to force him to pay child support for a child conceived through artificial insemination by a lesbian couple is a politically motivated act that has already cost him thousands of dollars.
William Marotta, 46, said he is “a little scared about where this is going to go, primarily for financial reasons,” The Topeka Capital-Journal reported Monday.
When he donated sperm to Angela Bauer and Jennifer Schreiner in 2009, Marotta relinquished all parental rights, including financial responsibility to the child. When Bauer and Schreiner filed for state assistance this year, the state demanded the donor’s name so it could collect child support for the now 3-year-old girl. Bauer and Schreiner broke up in 2010 but co-parent their eight children, who range in age from 3 months to 25 years.
In Kansas they kill abortion doctors, and they are now trying to run Planned Parenthood out of the state. This is theocracy in action, and it’s what you get when you put tea party types in power.
Kansas asked a federal judge Friday whether it can make monthly payments to Planned Parenthood while it pursues an appeal of his order requiring the state to keep providing the group with federal funds to finance its non-abortion services.
Lawyers for the attorney general’s office raised the issue a day after Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri’s top administrator publicly accused the state of violating an Aug. 1 order from U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten of Wichita. The order blocked a provision of the state budget aimed at preventing Planned Parenthood from receiving any of the state’s share of federal family planning dollars.
President and CEO Peter Brownlie said the Planned Parenthood chapter hasn’t received any funds from the state Department of Health and Environment, despite Marten’s order. The state is appealing the decision, but Planned Parenthood contends it is still obligated to turn over the money immediately.
Marten this week rejected a request from the state to suspend his order while the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver considers whether to overturn it. The state’s filing Friday said Kansas intends to request a stay from the appeals court.
The state’s lawyers said they believe monthly payments to Planned Parenthood “will fully comply” with Marten’s order and “more than fully protect against any harm” alleged by the group from the budget provision. Also, the state wants Planned Parenthood to post bond, so that any funds it receives can be recovered and redistributed should the appeals court side with the state.
By praying out loud before every meeting to a particular religious figure they are definitely violating the First Amendment establishment clause.
At every meeting of the Indian River School Board dating back to its formation in 1969, members paused at the start to pray.
And almost always, the prayer is not a moment of silent meditation but usually is offered out loud by a member of the school board, who unfailingly will evoke the name of Jesus Christ in front of an audience of parents, students and other members of the public.
And each time, according to a ruling handed down Friday by the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, the school board was violating the U.S. Constitution.
The plaintiff in the case — who is identified only as Jane Doe because of her fears about reprisals directed against her children — said she at first felt it must have been ignorance on the part of the school board. She didn’t think they realized the hurt it caused people of other faiths, like herself and her children, when they heard such a prayer at a school board meeting.
But when the specifically Christian prayers continued, “I felt it was really being used wrongly, that there was not a very religious spirit behind the prayer,” Doe said Friday. She said she felt it was being used to isolate and perhaps intimidate.