As sentencing approaches following a warehouse fire that killed 36, artists on the fringes struggle to find spaces to live and workArtists and musicians in Oakland faced a horrific task when they awoke on 3 December 2016: figuring out if their friends were dead or alive.The fire at the Ghost Ship warehouse party that killed 36 people led to an agonizing weekend of futile searches, crowdsourced spreadsheets of missing people, and a rapidly rising body count. It felt like rock bottom for some – until the eviction threats began days later. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/aug/09/oakland-ghost-ship-fire-sentencing-evictions-deaths

In Roy v. City of Monroe, (WD LA, Aug. 1 2018), a Louisiana federal district court granted defendant’s motion for reconsideration and dismissed on qualified immunity grounds the damage portion of a claim by a street preacher against a police officer.  At issue was a claim that issuance of a citation and summons to the preacher for disturbing the peace violated his First Amendment rights. The court said in part:Sergeant Booth issued a citation to Roy for disturbing the peace based upon Falcon’s complaint to him, in which she said Roy followed her across the street, called her names, and scared her. Falcon’s complaints were corroborated by Falcon appearing scared and by her direct identification of Roy. Sergeant Booth did not issue a citation to Roy for preaching in a public forum. Viewed from the standpoint of an objectively reasonable police officer, Booth had probable cause, and is entitled to qualified immunity.Plaintiff’s claims for injunctive and declaratory relief and attorneys’ fees were set for trial.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/qualified-immunity-for-issuing-citation.html

Some warn that the radical overhaul of Puerto Rico’s prison system – which was badly affected by Maria – may have dire consequences for inmates’ civil rightsWhen Maria pounded the concrete walls and rusted iron gates of the Bayamón correctional complex last September, inmates here watched in fear through the reinforced windows and metal bars.“We went without running water for weeks, without electricity for weeks,” says inmate Joseph Villalobos, who sat in the open courtyard of Bayamón’s minimum security wing in the heart of the complex’s sprawling mass of structures. “It was hard.” Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/07/puerto-rico-prisons-inmates

In Youkhanna v. City of Sterling Heights, (ED MI, Aug. 1, 2018), a Michigan federal district court dismissed a lawsuit challenging a consent decree approved by the Sterling Heights City Council growing out of a dispute over zoning approval for a mosque. (See prior posting.) The consent decree settled two related lawsuits– one by the Islamic Center and one by the Department of Justice– that alleged violations of RLUIPA and of the Islamic Center’s free exercise rights.  An overcrowded and contentious City Council meeting preceded approval of the consent decree.  Rejecting the challenge to approval of the consent decree the court said in part:The crux of Plaintiffs’ Complaint is that the approval of the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the Council purportedly failed to abide by the City’s Zoning Code by neglecting to consider the discretionary standards set forth in § 25.02. Plaintiffs’ further assert that the Consent Judgment should be invalidated because the City did not comply with the notice requirements under the MZEA [Michigan Zoning Enabling Act]. Both of Plaintiffs’ arguments are without merit.The court also rejected claims that the Michigan Open Meetings Act had been violated and that defendants’ 1st, 4th and 14th Amendment rights had been infringed. The court said in part:Plaintiffs claim their speech was impermissibly chilled when they and other audience members were limited to a two-minute speaking time, prevented from speaking critically of the Islamic faith, and removed from the meeting for being disruptive. However, … [w]hen the government designates a limited public forum for speech, as is the case of a city council meeting, it may apply restrictions to the time, place, and manner of speech so long as those restrictions “are content neutral, are narrowly tailored to serve a significant government interest, and leave open ample alternative channels of communication.”The court had previously denied a preliminary injunction in the challenge.  Detroit News reports that defendants will appeal yesterday’s ruling.Meanwhile, according to AINA, another mosque controversy is on the horizon in Sterling Heights as a group of Pakistanis are moving ahead with plans to convert a former Lutheran church there into a mosque.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/08/challenge-to-settlement-in-mosque.html

Unchecked flaws in algorithms, and even the technology itself, should put a brake on the escalating use of big data”Any sufficiently advanced technology,” wrote the sci-fi eminence grise Arthur C Clarke, “is indistinguishable from magic.” This quotation, endlessly recycled by tech boosters, is possibly the most pernicious utterance Clarke ever made because it encourages hypnotised wonderment and disables our critical faculties. For if something is “magic” then by definition it is inexplicable. There’s no point in asking questions about it; just accept it for what it is, lie back and suspend disbelief.Currently, the technology that most attracts magical thinking is artificial intelligence (AI). Enthusiasts portray it as the most important thing since the invention of the wheel. Pessimists view it as an existential threat to humanity: the first “superintelligent” machine we build will be the beginning of the end for humankind; the only question thereafter will be whether smart machines will keep us as pets. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/aug/05/magical-thinking-about-machine-learning-will-not-bring-artificial-intelligence-any-closer

In Archdiocese of Washington v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, (DC Cir., July 31, 2018), the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, in 44-pages of opinions, rejected challenges to the WMATA’s guidelines which preclude the sale of advertising space on public buses for issue-oriented advertising, including political, religious and advocacy ads.  The ban includes ads

Intelligence analysts warn that Russian worker believed to have had full access to secret data is unlikely to be an isolated caseRevelations that a suspected Russian mole worked at the US embassy in Moscow for a decade could just be the tip of the iceberg.This week the Guardian learned that a female Russian national, hired by the secret service, was dismissed after being caught holding regular and unauthorised meetings with the Russian intelligence agency the FSB. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/03/suspected-russian-spy-us-embassy-moscow-analysis

In Walker v. Indian River Transport Co., (11th Cir., July 27, 2018), the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the dismissal of Title VII claims brought by a Jehovah’s Witness truck driver who resigned his job alleging a failure to accommodate his need to regularly attend Sunday church services. The milk route to which Bobby Walker, Jr. was assigned required flexibility that included Sunday availability.  The court concluded that Walker’s employer, Indian River Transport, offered Walker a reasonable accommodation by offering him other local routes, even though they paid less than the milk route.  The court also rejected Walker’s retaliation claim.  Land Line reports on the decision.

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/11th-circuit-jehovahs-witness-truck.html

T.D. 9836, published in the July 30 Federal Register, sets out revised IRS rules for reporting and substantiation of cash and non-cash charitable contributions.  They implement provisions of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004 and the Pension Protection Act of 2006. [Thanks to Steven H. Sholk for the lead.]

Source: http://religionclause.blogspot.com/2018/07/new-irs-rules-on-substantiation-of.html

Sales slowed to 1,959.9 tonnes between January and June as consumers spurn commodityGlobal demand for gold fell to its lowest level since 2009 in the first half of this year as an improving US economy drove investors to riskier assets and consumers bought less gold jewellery, particularly in India where an inauspicious period for Hindus led to fewer weddings.Central bank purchases also slowed, although demand for gold used in electronics such as smartphones, games consoles and vehicles hit a three-year high. Continue reading…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/business/2018/aug/02/gold-demand-slumps-to-lowest-level-since-2009