Category Archives: Civil Rights

Liberal Justices Grill Attorney in Supreme Court Case on Criminalizing Homelessness

“Where are they supposed to sleep? Are they supposed to kill themselves not sleeping?” asked Justice Sonia Sotomayor of unhoused people who have been barred from sleeping outside in Grants Pass, Oregon.

By Julia Conley. Published 4-21-2024 by Common Dreams

Grants Pass homeless encampment. Screenshot: 5NEWS

As housing rights advocates and people who have been unhoused themselves rallied outside the U.S. Supreme Court Monday to demand an end to the criminalization of homelessness, the court’s three liberal justices demanded to know how the city of Grants Pass, Oregon can penalize residents who take part in an act necessary for human survival—sleeping—just because they are forced to do so outside.

After an attorney representing Grants Pass, Thomas Evangelis, described sleeping in public as a form of “conduct,” Justice Elena Kagan disputed the claim and reminded Evangelis that he was presenting a legal argument in favor of policing “a biological necessity.”

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AI chatbots refuse to produce ‘controversial’ output − why that’s a free speech problem

AI chatbots restrict their output according to vague and broad policies. Image: CAPACOA/CC

By Jordi Calvet-Bademunt and Jacob Mchangama, Vanderbilt University. Published 4-18-2024 by The Conversation

Google recently made headlines globally because its chatbot Gemini generated images of people of color instead of white people in historical settings that featured white people. Adobe Firefly’s image creation tool saw similar issues. This led some commentators to complain that AI had gone “woke.” Others suggested these issues resulted from faulty efforts to fight AI bias and better serve a global audience.

The discussions over AI’s political leanings and efforts to fight bias are important. Still, the conversation on AI ignores another crucial issue: What is the AI industry’s approach to free speech, and does it embrace international free speech standards?

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Youth Lead Global Strike Demanding ‘Climate Justice Now’

“We are many people and youths who want to express our frustration over what decision-makers are doing right now: They don’t care about our future and aren’t doing anything to stop the climate crisis,” one young activist said.

By Olivia Rosane. Published 4-19-2024 by Common Dreams

Climate strikers march in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 19, 2024. (Photo: Albin Haglund via Greta Thunberg/X)

Ahead of Earth Day, young people around the world are participating in a global strike on Friday to demand “climate justice now.”

In Sweden, Greta Thunberg joined hundreds of other demonstrators for a march in Stockholm; in Kenya, participants demanded that their government join the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty; and in the U.S., youth activists are kicking off more than 200 Earth Day protests directed at pressing President Joe Biden to declare a climate emergency.

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‘The Opposite of Leadership’: US Vetoes Palestine’s UN Membership

Palestine’s permanent observer at the United Nations said the resolution’s failure “will not break our will, and it will not defeat our determination.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 4-18-2024 by Common Dreams

Robert A. Wood, deputy permanent representative of the United States to the United Nations, vetoes Palestine’s U.N. membership during the Security Council meeting on April 18, 2024. (Photo: Manuel Elías/United Nations)

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration on Thursday used the country’s veto power at the United Nations Security Council to block Palestine’s bid to become a full member of the U.N.

While 12 nations voted in favor of Palestinian membership and two abstained, the United States is one of five countries—along with China, France, Russia, and the United Kingdom—who have veto authority at the Security Council.

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Amid Spying Fight, House Passes Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act

“As FANFSA and the 702 reauthorization move to the Senate, lawmakers in that chamber need to take a stand for the rights of people in the United States,” said one advocate.

By Jessica Corbett. Published 4-17-2024 by Common Dreams

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act on April 17, 2024. Image: PickPik

While applauding the U.S. House of Representatives’ bipartisan passage of a bill to ensure that “law enforcement and intelligence agencies can’t do an end-run around the Constitution by buying information from data brokers” on Wednesday, privacy advocates highlighted that Congress is trying to extend and expand a long-abused government spying program.

The House voted 219-199 for Fourth Amendment Is Not For Sale Act (FANFSA), which won support from 96 Democrats and 123 Republicans, including the lead sponsor, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-Ohio). Named for the constitutional amendment that protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, H.R. 4639 would close what campaigners call the data broker loophole.

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‘Ed Scare’ Deepens​ as 4,000+ Books Banned in First Half of School Year

“The bans we’re seeing are broad, harsh, and pernicious—and they’re undermining the education of millions of students across the country,” said one lead author of a new PEN America report.

By Brett Wilkins Published 4-16-2024 by Common Dreams

Photo: nataliesap/flickr/CC

U.S. school districts banned more books during the first half of the current academic year than during the entire last scholastic year, a report published Tuesday revealed.

PEN America recorded 4,349 book bans across 52 school districts in 23 states during the fall 2023 semester, more than double the 1,841 titles that were prohibited during the spring term and more than the 3,362 volumes reported banned nationwide during the entire previous academic year.

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20 Years Later, Abu Ghraib Torture Victims Get Their Day in Court

“Meanwhile, the U.S. government STILL hasn’t provided compensation or other redress to people tortured by U.S. troops in Iraq,” said one observer. “These three men are the lucky few.”

By Brett Wilkins Published 4-15-2024 by Common Dreams

U.S. Army Sgt. Michael Smith uses a dog to torture a terrified Iraqi detainee at Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
 (Photo: U.S. Army)

Two decades after they were tortured by U.S. military contractors at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad, three Iraqi victims are finally getting their day in court Monday as a federal court in Virginia takes up a case they brought during the George W. Bush administration.

The case being heard in the U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Al Shimari v. CACI, was first filed in 2008 under the Alien Tort Statute—which allows non-U.S. citizens to sue for human rights abuses committed abroad—by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of three Iraqis. The men suffered torture directed and perpetrated by employees of CACI, a Virginia-based professional services and information technology firm hired in 2003 by the Bush administration as translators and interrogators in Iraq during the illegal U.S.-led invasion and occupation.

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Starbucks seeks Supreme Court protection from being ordered to rehire baristas who say they were fired for union-promoting activities

By Michael Z. Green, Texas A&M University Published 4-11-2024 by The Conversation

Starbucks workers rally and march in Seattle. Photo: Elliot Stoller/flickr/CC

What factors must a court consider when the National Labor Relations Board requests an order requiring an employer to rehire terminated workers before the completion of unfair labor practice proceedings?

That’s the central question that the Supreme Court will consider on April 23, 2024, during oral arguments in the Starbucks Corp. v. McKinney case. The global coffee shop chain is challenging the NLRB, the federal agency responsible for enforcing U.S. workers’ rights to organize, saying that the agency used the more labor-friendly of two available standards when it asked a federal court to order the company to reinstate workers at a Memphis, Tennessee, store who lost their jobs in 2022 amid a nationwide unionizing campaign.

The Conversation U.S. asked Texas A&M law professor Michael Z. Green to explain what’s behind this case and how the court’s eventual decision, expected by the end of June, could affect the right to organize unions in the United States.

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Google Slammed for ‘Playing Games With California’s Democracy’ by Blocking News

“This is an extraordinarily inappropriate time for Google to experiment with which voters might or might not see news about elected officials and candidates for office.”

By Jessica Corbett. Published 4-13-2024 by Common Dreams

Google_headquarters. Photo: Anthony Quintano/flickr/CC

California reporters and union leaders are calling out Google for blocking news content for some users amid consideration of a landmark proposal that would make tech giants pay media outlets for links they share—which some experts warn won’t solve the journalism industry’s financial problems.

To prepare for potential passage of the California Journalism Preservation Act (CJPA), Google is “beginning a short-term test for a small percentage of California users,” Jaffer Zaidi, the tech giant’s VP for global news partnerships, explained in a Friday blog post.

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House Dems, GOP Team Up to Expand Warrantless Spying on Americans

“The House has voted to allow the intelligence agencies to violate the civil rights and liberties of Americans for years to come,” said the ACLU’s senior policy counsel.

By Jake Johnson. Published 4-12-2024 by Common Dreams

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson speaking with attendees at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s 2023 Annual Leadership Summit at the Venetian Convention & Expo Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.. Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/CC

The U.S. House on Friday passed legislation to expand a major mass spying authority after voting down a bipartisan push to attach a search warrant requirement to the heavily abused surveillance law.

The bill to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) for two years passed by a vote of 273-147, with 59 Democrats and 88 Republicans voting no. More Democrats voted for the bill than Republicans.

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