Liberals’ worst nightmare: a second supreme court pick for Trump

A future conservative nominee could affect issues ranging from womens reproductive health to LGBT rights

When, merely weeks after taking office, Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch to the supreme court, the freshly minted US president made good on a central promise of his campaign: to replace the late justice Antonin Scalia with a bona fide conservative.

That moment portended what is shaping up to be among the most indelible of Trump’s triumphs- the reshaping of the federal judiciary with the appointment of dozens of judges with an ideological bent toward the administration’s agenda.

Republicans are working with Trump to make a record-breaking number of appointments to federal tribunals. These new, largely young, white men will be in a position to rule on legislation that could change America for years.

But the most contentious appointment would be a second nomination to the highest court in the land. The supreme court has over decades delivered landmark decisions on issues from abortion to affirmative action and same-sex matrimony. The possibilities for Trump to install another justice on the nine-seat bench, some legal expert argue, could have profound repercussions on issues ranging from women’s reproductive health to LGBT rights.

With speculation mount over the possible retirement of supreme court justice Anthony Kennedy, Trump could have a lasting impact on reshaping America’s most important court.

” If President Trump fills another vacancy on the court it will have an enormous effect ,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of Berkeley School of Law at the University of California.

” It will create the most conservative court since the mid-1 930 s ,” he added.” It would entail a majority to overrule Roe v Wade and to allow states to prohibit abortions, to eliminate all manner of affirmative action, to eliminate constitutional limits on illegal police conduct .”

The president himself underscored the power of future vacancies earlier this year, where reference is tweeted that Republican” must ALWAYS hold the Supreme court !”.

Donald J. Trump (@ realDonaldTrump)

THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL NEVER BE REPEALED! As much as Democrat would like to see this happen, and despite the words yesterday of former Supreme Court Justice Stevens, NO WAY. We need more Republicans in 2018 and must ALWAYS hold the Supreme court!

March 28, 2018

While it is not unusual for presidents to appoint supreme court justices with similar ideological tilts, Trump’s comments all but reinforced that he is unlikely to nominate a consensus pick if the opportunity. In November, the president updated his shortlist of nominees for a hypothetical vacancy, adding to a roster of proven judicial conservatives.

While the likelihood of a pending vacancy is far from corroborated, judicial watchers have set their sights on Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a progressive icon who turned 85 this year, and Kennedy, a critical sway election who has been the subject of retirement rumors for the second straight year.

Ruth
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the oldest sitting magistrate at age 85, was appointed by Bill Clinton in 1993. Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/ AP

Any vacancy prior to 2020 would almost certainly be filled by Trump, and a rules change adopted by Republican during the Gorsuch nomination oppose enabled the Senate to confirm supreme court justices with a simple majority vote.

Under the current balance of the court, Kennedy and the chief justice, John Roberts, though conservative appointees, have at times sided with the bench’s liberal justices.

Kennedy was the architect of several major decisions on LGBT rights, most notably the supreme court’s milestone ruling in 2015 establishing same-sex wedding as the law of the land. He is being closely watched as the likely choosing vote on the court’s highly expected decision considering a example of a baker in the state of Colorado who refused to provide a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.

Camilla Taylor, the director of constitutional litigation at Lambda Legal, their own nationals civil rights group focused on LGBT issues, said Kennedy’s previous decisions in the LGBT community’s favor” helped bring our relationships and our families out of the shadows and recognized the full human beings and citizenship of our community on the court “.

Taylor voiced concern thata second Trump supreme court nominee would present” an immediate and unambiguous threat to the LGBT community .”

” Another conservative Trump justice would jeopardize our right to marry who we love, and also our fundamental equality under the law including protections from discrimination in housing, public accommodations, employment and education .”

Some nonetheless argue that if the supposition around Kennedy’s departure proved true, it would not fundamentally alter the supreme court.

Brian Fitzpatrick, a professor of statute at Vanderbilt University, said Republican pledges to overrule Roe v Wade, the supreme court’s 1973 ruling that decriminalize abortion in the US, are more designed to energize conservative voters than they are grounded in reality.

” Even if we have a more conservative replacement for Kennedy, the conservatives are not going to overrule the human rights of an abortion, they’re not going to overrule lesbian wedding ,” Fitzpatrick said.

” The reality is the big cases where he goes with the liberals are cases that I doubt the conservatives have the belly to reverse, even if they had the votes next year.

” That would be too dramatic a change in national societies ,” he added.” It would cause all kinds of turmoil and backlash in the political system. People like Chief Justice Roberts, he’s a very institutionally minded person. He’s not going to risk the supreme court’s credibility and consistently by operating it like a weathervane .”

If Trump were to oversee a supreme court vacancy, a prevailing topic remains as to whether Democrat in the Senate would force a similar blockade of the seat as Republican did under former chairperson Obama – should they retake the Senate in November’s elections

Democratic wounds have yet to mend over the repudiation of Republican to grant Merrick Garland, Obama’s nominee to replace Scalia in 2016, a hearing or a election.

The Republican opposition went despite the fact that Garland held a reputation as a widely respected centrist judge on the US appeals court.

Progressives now believe Democrat should devote any future Trump nominee what has become known in Washington as” the Garland treatment “.

Prominent Democrat have signaled reservations about resorting to the same tactics, which they argue would risk further eroding institutional norms. But Senator Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts, suggested an overtly partisan pick by Trump would not receive much of an audience with Democrats.

” The topic is who you put up ,” Warren said in an interview with Pod Save America, a political podcast hosted by former Obama aides.

” The people that George W Bush would put in wouldn’t be exactly the same as the people that Barack Obama would put in. But they’d be along the same road .”

Warren noted that the climate had changed, even as she conceded it was counterproductive to follow in McConnell’s footsteps and state from the outset that Democrats would block any Trump nominee regardless of background.

” I think that’s wrong ,” she said.” But I do think you send a Neil Gorsuch to us, and the answer is no. We do hearings, we do it substantively, but the answer would be no .”

McConnell, for his part, has said any supreme court vacancy this term would be dealt with expeditiously and before the midterm elections.

” It would be a top priority ,” he told NPR last week.

” If we get a vacancy on the supreme court this year, we’ll dealing with this problem .”

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Our laws make slaves of nature. Its not just humans who need rights | Mari Margil

For decades our laws have been a licence to destroy the environment. Now, from the Amazon to Australia, the tide is turning, says the campaigner Mari Margil

The Amazon rainforest is often called the earth’s lungs, and generates 20% of the world’s oxygen. Yet in the past half-century nearly a fifth of it has been cut down. The felling and burning of millions of trees is releasing massive amounts of carbon, in turn depleting the Amazon’s capacity to be one of the world’s largest carbon sinks– the natural systems that suck up and store carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.

Recently, 25 infants brought a lawsuit to objective the deforestation and its devastating impacts on the environment and their own wellbeing. The case induced its route to Colombia’s supreme court, which issued its decision last month. While deforestation is hardly a new issue in this region, the court’s response to the lawsuit surely was. Commenting that environmental degradation- not only in the Amazon but worldwide- is so significant that it threatens” human existence”, the court declared the Colombian Amazon a” subject of rights “.

In 1972 the law professor Christopher Stone published a seminal article, Should Trees Have Standing ?~ ATAGEND, that explored the possibility of recognising the legal rights of nature. He described how women and slaves have all along been been treated as rightless in statute, and suggested that just as they had eventually attained rights, so trees and other nonhuman living thing should also do so.

illegal
The poisoned scenery left left by an illegal goldmine in the Amazon forest. Photo: Mario Tama/ Getty Images

Today, environmental laws govern the human use and demolition of nature. They legalise fracking, drilling, and even dynamiting the tops off mountains to mine coal. The repercussions are proving catastrophic: the die-off crisis of the world’s coral reefs, accelerating species extinction, climate change. Finally, though, this is changing. In 2006 the first statute recognising the legal rights of nature was enacted in the borough of Tamaqua, Pennsylvania, in the United States. The community sought to prevent dredging sludge laden with PCBs( polychlorinated biphenyl ) being dumped in an deserted coalmine. The organisation I work for, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, helped the council draft the law, transforming nature from being rightless to possessing rights to exist and flourish. It was the first such law in the world. Communities across more than 10 US countries have now followed suit, including New Hampshire, Colorado and Pittsburgh.

After the decision to grant legal rights to nature in Pennsylvania, representatives of my organisation satisfied Ecuador’s constituent assembly in 2008, which was elected to draft a new constitution. We discussed the rights of nature, and why communities all over the world find themselves unable to protect nature under statutes that authorise its exploitation. The assembly’s chairperson, Alberto Acosta, told us:” Nature is a slave .”

However, that year Ecuador enshrined the rights of nature- or Pachamama ( Mother Earth)- in its constitution, the first country to do so. Since then Bolivia has put in place a Law of Mother Earth. Tribunals in India and Colombia have similarly ruled that ecosystems possess rights. In Mexico, Pakistan, Australia and other countries, rights-of-nature frameworks are being proposed and enacted.

Colombia’s supreme court was asked to consider the climate-change impacts of Amazon deforestation in the lawsuit that led to its groundbreaking ruling. Similarly, in Nepal the US-based Center for Economic and Social Development is working to advance rights to safeguard against climate change. The Himalayas- known as the world’s third pole- are experiencing warming faster than any other mountain range on earth. With the melting of ice and snowfall, a Sherpa told us,” the mountains are turning black “. But now a constitutional amendment has been developed that would, if adopted, recognise the rights of the Himalayas to a climate system free from global-warming pollution. It would for the first time offer a platform for Nepal to hold major climate polluters accountable for transgressing the rights of the mountains.

Law today divides the world into two categories: people, capable of having rights; and property, unable to possess rights. While “were not receiving” universally agreed upon definition of” legal person”, it is generally understood to mean an entity capable of bearing rights and duties. The problem that the rights-of-nature movement is now encountering is that this definition is predictably problematic when it comes to rivers, woods or nature more broadly.

In 2017, for example, the country high court in Uttarakhand, India, ruled that in order to protect the Ganges and Yamuna rivers, they should be considered legal persons with” all corresponding rights, duties and liabilities of a living person “. In a subsequent appeal to India’s supreme court, the nation government asked whether, if the rivers inundate, leading to the death of every human being, a lawsuit could be filed for damages. Could the Uttarakhand chief secretary of state, named by the court as one of several officials in loco parentis , be liable on the river’s behalf? In this case, the supreme court decided not.

Can we hold a river accountable for flooding, or a woodland for burning? Of course not. Yet existing legal systems force us to think of nature in terms of human concerns rather than what concerns nature. With the past three years the warmest in recorded history, and as we face what has been called the sixth great extinction, lawmakers and judges appear increasingly to agree that it is time to secure the highest form of legal protection for nature, through the recognition of rights.

To make progress in this area, “were supposed to” break free from legal strictures that were never intended to apply to nature, such as legal personhood, and establish a new structure that addresses what nature wants. Perhaps we can call this framework legal naturehood. A recent symposium at Tulane Law School, in New Orleans , brought together academics, lawyers and activists to develop a set of guidelines for recognising and enforcing legal rights of nature, known as the rights-of-nature principles.

These define the basic rights that nature requires, including rights to existence, regeneration and restoration. Further, they call for monetary damages derived from violations of these rights to be used solely to protect and restore nature to its pre-damaged country. In addition, they outline a means for nature to defend its own rights- like children unable to speak for themselves in court- by being the named” real party in interest” in administrative and court proceedings. The principles build on laws and judicial decisions that have begun to accumulate in this new region of law, laying the groundwork for what legal naturehood could look like.

As daily headlines tell us how we are tearing holes in the very fabric of life on globe, it is time to make a fundamental shift in how we govern ourselves towards nature- before, as Colombia’s supreme court wrote, it’s too late.

* Mari Margil is associate director of the US-based Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

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Alfie Evans could be flown to Rome if latest appeal succeeds

Parents will seek to remove toddler from hospital, saying he has been breathing unassisted

Alfie Evans, the seriously ill toddler whose life supporting machine was switched off on Monday, could instantly be flown to a children’s hospital in Rome for therapy if a last-ditch appeal succeeds, a solicitor involved in the case has said.

The child’s parents were granted an emergency hearing before a high court judge on Tuesday afternoon after they said the 23 -month-old boy had been inhaling unassisted since his life support was removed.

His father afterwards said that water and oxygen had been restored.

Tom Evans and Kate James will ask that an order preventing Alfie’s removal from Alder Hey hospital in Liverpool be lifted. Roger Kiska, a solicitor for the group Christian Concern, said medical transportation was available to take Alfie to Italy, where he has been offered therapy, if they win the appeal.

” We are asking to lift all orders preventing Alfie from leaving Alder Hey and allow him to go to Italy. There’s medical transportation ready at any moment to take him ,” he said.

” Everything is in place. We have no doubt that he would survive the trip. He would have full treatment, oxygen and everything, right to Italy. It’s in his best interests to get treatment at a hospital abroad .”

Life supporting was withdrawn from Alfie, who has a rare degenerative brain disease, on Monday after an appeal to the high court was turned down.

The boy, who has been at the centre of a protracted legal battle, is in a semi-vegetative nation. Judges have agreed with doctors that further treatment would be futile and there is no hope of him getting better.

Evans and James, who are both in their early 20 s and from Liverpool, insist their son is not in pain or suffering, but they have lost cases in the high court, court of appeal, supreme court and European court of human rights.

Alfie’s father told reporters outside Alder Hey on Tuesday morning that his son had inhaled without assistance after life support was withdrawn. Evans said it became obvious he was breathing within a few minutes, although doctors re-intervened after he asked them to help.

” They say Alfie’s suffering ,” Evans told.” Well look at him now. He’s not even on a ventilator and he’s not suffering .”

The high court corroborated on Tuesday afternoon that a magistrate would consider further issues in Alfie’s case in a hastily arranged hearing in Manchester, expected to begin in the next few hours.

A spokesman for Christian Concern, which has been helping Alfie’s mothers, confirmed its lawyers were on their route to Manchester for the hearing.

Kiska subsequently said Alfie’s mothers’ latest legal endeavor followed their son’s” miraculous survival” overnight.

The solicitor told Alfie survived for about six hours after his life support was withdrawn, but physicians were then” forced morally to set him back on water and oxygen “.

” Clearly, the hospital and court believed that by removing life-supporting therapy, he would pass away within minutes, but that provide proof false ,” he said.

Evans was asked what intervention doctors had made.” They left him for six hours without food, water and oxygen ,” he said.

” I felt blessed when they confirmed they were going to give him his water and his oxygen. He’s now on oxygen. It’s not changing his breathing, but it’s oxygenating his body.

” He is still working, he’s doing as good as he can. But we do need him to be supported … In the next hour, it’s going to be hard, but we will need him to be supported in the next hour or two.

” Because he’s been doing it for nine hours totally unexpected, the doctors are gobsmacked, and I do believe he will need some kind of life subsistence in the next couple of hours, and I think he ought to be respected and given that .”

The toddler has been seriously ill since having a seizure in December 2016.

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Customs union U-turn by May could provoke Brexiter cabinet revolt

Treasury committee chair Nicky Morgan calls for pacify and tells sabre-rattling is unhelpful

Theresa May could face a cabinet uprising on a customs union as peers prepare to inflict more defeats on the governmental forces over the EU withdrawal bill in a key week for the future of the UK’s relations with Europe.

Amid Brexiter threats of a leadership challenge, the former cabinet minister Nicky Morgan, who chairs the Treasury committee, told party rebels should be careful what they wished for.

” This sabre-rattling is not coming from the section of the party that I represent. It is coming from the pro-Brexit segment of the party and is deeply unhelpful ,” she told.

Government hopes of avoiding a hard border in Ireland either through technological innovation or regulatory alignment have been put off after they were rejected during preliminary negotiations in Brussels.

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Brexit phrasebook: what is the customs union?

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EU members( plus Turkey, Andorra, Monaco and San Marino) trade without customs duties, taxes or tariffs between themselves, and charge the same tariffs on importations from outside the EU. Customs union members cannot negotiate their own trade bargains outside the EU, which is why leaving it- while hopefully negotiating a bespoke arranging- has been one of the government’s Brexit goals. See our full Brexit phrasebook .

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That has led to speculation that May is preparing to concede on a customs union, which has been a red line since the prime minister’s conference speech in October 2016.

Reports over the weekend suggested a “wargaming” exercising into the consequences of a concession showed that not even resulting Brexiters such as Michael Gove, the environment secretary, or Boris Johnson, the foreign secretary, would resign.

But a source close to Gove reiterated his opponent:” Michael believes regarding the referendum result means taking back control of trade policy. He fully supports the prime minister’s position that this entails leaving the customs union .”

The
Nicky Morgan said hysteria and leadership supposition were not in Britain’s interest. Photograph: David Mirzoeff/ PA

Although the loss of other pledges in negotiations have been reluctantly accepted, such as the promise to reclaim control over fishing quotas from March 2019, accepting continued membership of a customs union would be of a different and much larger scale.

Downing Street sources dismissed the idea.” The stance remains very clear: we don’t think staying in a customs union is the right thing to do and it isn’t government policy to do so ,” a spokesperson said.

Any customs union makes it effectively impossible to negotiate free trade deals with other countries- one of the government’s key ambitions and a central justification for leaving the EU.

But a meaningful vote on remaining in the customs union is likely over the next several months. At least 10 Tory backbenchers have signed an amendment to the trade and customs bill supporting continued membership.

Morgan is one of the 12 select committee chairs who are backing that policy in a potentially difficult debate in the Commons on Thursday on customs union membership. She said it would be an opportunity for a calm debate about current realities of leaving the customs union based on the evidence that select committees were hearing as they investigated its potential impact.

” If every time we debate these issues or pass suggested amendment all we end up with is this hysteria and leadership speculation, that is not in Britain’s interest ,” she said.

” The majority of the party would not entertain a leadership contest at the moment and those who want to … should think very carefully if they actually want to intervene in the negotiations in the way a leadership tournament would .”

In the House of Lords, the government is braced for more defeats as peers begin a second week of elections on the EU withdrawal bill on Monday. Last week, 24 Tory peers backed the customs union amendment.

The most difficult vote on Monday is likely to be on the EU charter of fundamental rights. The government virtually lost a vote in the Commons on a similar amendment, which seeks to incorporate the charter into the legislation. It is one of the few major aspects of EU law that has been left out.

The government argues that the rights it protects are already covered by UK law, but it also says the charter offer improved protection than is needed. Campaigners fear that means the government will seek to dilute the rights.

Peter Goldsmith, who as Tony Blair’s us attorney general was involved in drafting the charter, said it was only be exempted from the withdrawal bill because of an ideologically driven hatred of the EU.

The government is vulnerable on such issues, with Tory rebels such as the former attorney general Dominic Grieve merely falling their opposition when the bill passed its earlier stages after ministers pledged to publish a review for the human rights conferred by the charter and set about their view.

The published review eventually amounted to an extended criticism of the EU charter.

In remarks that indicate Grieve may yet result a rebellion in the Commons, he said it would be unacceptable for rights to be left unprotected while waiting for the government to come forward with new legislation to make up for the loss of EU law.

” I want to see how the governmental forces reacts ,” he told.” I understand that in the longer term we need a new system, but it’s a mistake not to leave the protections intact for now .”

The equalities and human rights commission insists the charter is essential to safeguard individual rights effectively and adapt to changing circumstances. The charter includes a general right to non-discrimination, protection of a child’s best interests and the right to human dignity , none of which are properly protected by existing UK law.

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Poland violated EU laws by logging in Biaowiea forest, court rules

Judge dismisses claims by Polish government that logging was necessary to protect ancient forest from outbreak of bark beetles

The EU’s highest court has ruled that Poland’s logging of the ancient Bialowieza forest is illegal, potentially opening the door to multi-million euro fines.

At least 10, 000 trees have been felled in Bialowieza, one of Europe’s last parcels of primeval woodland, since the former Polish environment minister, Jan Szyzko tripled logging limits there in 2016.

Government claims that the forest was bringing protected from a spruce beetle outbreak were rejected by European court of justice magistrates, who said that Poland’s own forest management plans showed that logging posed a greater threat to Bialowieza’s integrity.

A minimum fine of EUR4. 3m, potentially rising to EUR1 00,000 a day, could now be levied against Poland if the tree fells continue.

James Thornton, the chief executive of the green statute firm ClientEarth, told:” This is a huge victory for all defenders of Bialowieza forest. Hundreds of people were heavily engaged in saving this unique, ancient woodland from unthinkable demolition .”

More to follow .

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Google loses landmark ‘right to be forgotten’ case

Businessman wins legal action to force removal of search results about past conviction

A businessman has won his legal action to remove search results about war criminals conviction in a landmark” right to be forgotten” occurrence that could have wide-ranging repercussions.

The ruling was make use of Mr Justice Warby in London on Friday. The magistrate repudiated a similar claim brought by a second industrialist who was jailed for a more serious offence.

The claimant who lost, referred to only as NT1 for legal reasons, was convicted of conspiracy to account falsely in the late 1990 s; the claimant who won, known as NT2, was convicted more than 10 years ago of conspiracy to intercept communications. NT1 was jailed for four years, while NT2 was jailed for six months.

Granting an appeal in the case of NT1, the judge added:” It is quite likely that there will be more claims of this kind, and the fact that NT2 has succeeded is likely to reinforce that .”

Both men demanded that Google remove search results mentioning the cases for which they were convicted. These include links to web pages published by a national newspaper and other media. Google refused their request and the men took the company to the high court.

The decision in NT2′ s favour could have implications for other convicted crooks and those who want embarrassing narratives about them erased from the web. Warby ruled out any injuries payment, however.

Explaining his decision, the judge said NT1 continued to mislead the public, whereas NT2 had shown repentance. He also took into account the submission that NT2′ s conviction did not fear actions taken by him in relation to” consumers, clients or investors”, but rather in relation to the intrusion of privacy of third parties.

” There is not[ a] plausible suggestion … that there is a risk that this wrongdoing will be repeated by the claimant. The datum is of scant if any apparent relevance to any record-keeping activities that he seems likely to engage in ,” the magistrate added.

He said his key conclusion in its relationship with NT2′ s claim was that” the crime and punishment information has become out of date, irrelevant and of no sufficient legitimate interest to users of Google search to justify its continued availability “.

In the case of NT1, however, the judge was scathing about the claimant’s stance since leaving prison.” He has not accepted his remorse, has misled the public and this court, and depicts no compunction over any of these matters ,” he said.

” He remains in business, and the information serves the purpose of minimising the risk that he will continue to misinform, as he has in the past. Delisting would not erase the information from the record wholly, but it would make it much harder to find .”

In 2014 the European court of justice( ECJ) ruled that “irrelevant” and outdated data should be erased on request. Since then, Google has received requests to remove at the least 2.4 m connections from search results. Search engine firms can repudiate applications if they believe the public interest in accessing the information outweighs a right to privacy.

At a high court hearing in February, Hugh Tomlinson QC, representing NT1, told the high court that the visibility of the articles on the search engine caused” distress and upset” to his client.

Tomlinson, who is also chairman of the press regulation campaign group Hacked Off, told the court the businessman was not a public figure and now made a living from commercial lending and funding a property developer.

” Before anyone gratifies a new person these days they Google them ,” Tomlinson told. He added that many people engaged in misdeeds when they were young and if the misdeeds were constantly brought to the attention of others then they would permanently have a negative effect.

NT1′ s sentence was now expend, Tomlinson continued, and the law was designed to allow for the rehabilitation of wrongdoers so they could go on to lead normal lives.

But Antony White QC, representing Google, argued the ECJ’s” right to be forgotten” ruling was ” not a right to rewrite history or … tailor your past if that’s what this claimant would like to use it for “.

White said the business malpractice that gave rise to NT1′ s sentence was ” serious and sustained “.

NT2, in a separate hearing, also argued that his conviction was legally spent and he therefore had a right to be forgotten. Google defied taking down search results linking to articles including reports on his financial affairs, his conviction and interviews given by him several years later containing his account of the circumstances surrounding his conviction.

A Google spokesperson said:” We work hard to comply with the right to be forgotten, but we take great care not to remove search results that are in the public interest and will defend the public’s right to access lawful info. We are pleased that the court recognised our efforts in this area, and we will respect the judgments they have built in this case .”

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Facebooks tracking of non-users ruled illegal again

Another blow for Facebook in Europe: Magistrates in Belgium have once again ruled the company transgressed privacy statutes by deploying technology such as cookies and social plug-ins to track internet users across the web.

Facebook utilizes data it collects in this way to sell targeted ad.

The social media giant failed to make it sufficiently clear how people’s digital activity was being used, the court ruled.

Facebook faces fines of up to EUR1 00 million (~$ 124 million ), at a rate of EUR2 50,000 per day, if it fails to comply with the court ruling to stop tracking Belgians’ web browsing habits. It must also destroy any illegally obtained data, the court said.

Facebook expressed disappointment at the judgement and said it will appeal.

“The cookies and pixels we use are industry standard technologies and enable hundreds of thousands of businesses to grow their businesses and reach customers across the EU, ” said Facebook’s VP of public policy for EMEA, Richard Allan, in a statement. “We require any business that uses our technologies to provide clear notice to end-users, and we give people the right to opt-out of having data collected on sites and apps off Facebook being used for ads.”

The privacy lawsuit dates back to 2015 when the Belgium privacy watchdog brought a civil suit against Facebook for its near invisible tracking of non-users via social plug-ins and the like. This followed an investigation by the agency that culminated in a highly critical report touching on many areas of Facebook’s data handling practices.

The same year, after failing to obtain adequate responses to its concerns, the Belgian Privacy Commission decided to take Facebook to tribunal over one of them: How it deploys tracking cookies and social plug-ins on third-party websites to track the internet activity of users and non-users.

Following its usual playbook for European privacy challenges, Facebook first tried to argue the Belgian DPA had no jurisdiction over its European business, which is headquartered in Ireland. But local magistrates disagreed.

Subsequently, Belgian courts have twice ruled that Facebook’s use of cookies contravenes European privacy laws. If Facebook keeps appealing, the occurrence could end up going all the way to Europe’s supreme court, the CJEU.

The crux of the questions here is the permeating background surveillance of internet activity for digital ad targeting intents which is enabled by a vast network of embedded and at times entirely invisible tracking technologies — and, specifically in this lawsuit, whether Facebook and the network of partner companies feeding data into its ad targeting systems have obtained adequate permission from their users to be so surveilled when they’re not actually use Facebook.

“Facebook collects information about us all when we surf the Internet, ” explains the Belgian privacy watchdog, referring to findings from its earlier investigation of Facebook’s use of tracking technologies.To this end, Facebook utilizes various technologies, such as the famous’ cookies’ or the’ social plug-ins’( for example, the’ Like’ or’ Share’ buttons) or the’ pixels’ that are invisible to the naked eye. It uses them on its website but also and especially on the websites of third parties. Thus, the survey reveals that even if you have never entered the Facebook domain, Facebook is still able to follow your browsing behaviour without you knowing it, let alone, without you wanting it, thanks to these invisible pixels that Facebook has placed on more than 10,000 other sites.”

Facebook asserts its use of cookie tracking is transparent and argues the technology benefits Facebook users by letting it show them more relevant content.( Presumably, it would argue non-Facebook users “benefit” from being indicated ads targeted at their interests .) “Over recent years we have worked hard to help people is how we use cookies to maintain Facebook secure and show them relevant content. We’ve constructed squads of people who focus on the protection of privacy — from engineers to designers — and tools that give people choice and control, ” told Allan in his response statement to the court ruling.

But given that some of these trackers are literally invisible, coupled with the at times dubious quality of “consents” being gathered — say, for example, if there’s merely a pre-ticked opt-in at the lower end of a lengthy and opaque set of T& Cs that actively discourage the user from reading and understanding what data supplied by theirs is being gathered and why — there are some serious questions over the sustainability of this type of “pervasive background surveillance” adtech in the face of successful legal challenges and growing consumer antipathy of ads that stalk them around the internet( which has in turn fueled growth of ad-blocking technologies ).

Facebook will face a similar complaint in a suit in Austria, filed by privacy campaigner and lawyer Max Schrems, for example. In January Schrems prevailed against Facebook’s attempts to stall the lawsuit after Europe’s top tribunal threw out the company’s claim that his campaigning activities cancelled out his individual consumer rights.( Though the CJEU’s decision did not allow Schrems to seek a class action style lawsuit against Facebook as he had originally hoped .)

Europe also has a major update to its data protection laws coming in May, “ve called the” GDPR, which beefs up the enforcement of privacy rights by introducing a new system of penalties for data protection violations that they are able scale as high as 4 percent of a company’s global turnover.

Essentially, GDPR means that ignoring the European Union’s fundamental right to privacy — by relying on the fact that few customers have historically bothered to take companies to tribunal over legal violations they may not even realize are occur — is going to get a lot more risky in just a few months’ time.( On that front, Schrems has crowdfunded a not-for-profit to pursue strategic privacy litigation once GDPR is in place — so start stockpiling the popcorn .)

It’s also worth noting that GDPR strengthens the EU’s consent requirements for processing personal data — so it’s certainly not going to be easier for Facebook to obtain consents for this type of background tracking under the new framework.( The still being formulated ePrivacy Regulation is also relevant to cookie permission, and aims to streamline the rules across the EU .)

And indeed, such tracking will necessarily become far more visible to web users, who may then be a lot less inclined to agree to being ad-stalked almost everywhere they go online chiefly for Facebook’s fiscal benefit.

The rise of tools offering tracker blocking offers another route for irate consumers to thwart online mass surveillance by ad targeting giants.

“We are preparing for the new General Data Protection Regulation with our result regulator the Irish Data Protection Commissioner. We’ll comply with this new law, just as we’ve complied with existing data protection statute in Europe, ” added Facebook’s Allan.

It’s still not fully clear how Facebook will comply with GDPR — though it’s announced a new global privacy situates hub is coming. It’s also running a series of data protection workshops in Europe this year, aimed at small and medium businesses — presumably to try to ensure its advertisers don’t find themselves shut out of GDPR Compliance City and on the hook for major privacy legal liabilities themselves, come May 25.

Of course Facebook’s ad business not only relies on people’s web browsing habits to fuel its targeting systems, it relies on advertisers liberally pumping dollars in. Which is another reason consumer trust is so vital. Yet Facebook is facing myriad challenges on that front these days.

In a statement on its website, the Belgium Privacy Commission said it was pleased with the ruling.

“We are of course very satisfied that the court has fully followed our position. For the moment, Facebook is conducting a major advertising campaign where it shares its attachment to privacy. We hope he will put this commitment into practice, ” it told.

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Rodrigo Duterte to pull Philippines out of international criminal court

President accuses ICC of crusade against him after it opened inquiry into his war on drugs

Rodrigo Duterte is to withdraw the Philippines from the international criminal court after it opened a crimes against humanity investigation into his brutal war on drugs.

In a lengthy statement, the Philippines chairman accused the ICC and the UN of a crusade against him, denouncing what he described as” baseless, unprecedented and outrageous assaults on my person “.

” I therefore declare and forthwith give notice, as president of the republic of the Philippines, that the Philippines is withdrawing its ratification of the Rome statute[ the treaty that established the ICC] effective immediately ,” said Duterte.

The ICC announced last month it was investigating allegations that Duterte had committed crimes against humanity in his war on drugs, which has killed an estimated 8,000 people since he took office in May 2016.

Duterte initially said he welcomed the chance to defend his name. But on Wednesday he said the ICC had shown a” brazen ignorance of the law” and claimed that the Rome statute was fraudulently implemented in the Philippines to begin with and therefore not” effective or enforceable “.

Philippine legislators satisfied the proclamation with scorn and rage. Congressman Antonio Tino said the move was ” utterly self-serving and driven by sheer panic at the prospect of a trial before the ICC for criminal offences against humanity related to his murderous war on narcotics “. Tino added:” Saving his own scalp has taken precedence over the long-term commitment made by the Philippines state to human rights .”

Kabataan party representative Sarah Elago said it showed that” Duterte intends to impose his fascist and tyrannical propensities even against international critics “.

” Only the guilty become too eager to run away from prosecution ,” Elago added.” If indeed he wants to prove his innocence, what better platform than a court ?”

Relations between the Philippines and the international community have become increasingly antagonistic in recent weeks. Last week, the department of justice included a UN special rapporteur on a listing of people declared to be communist terrorists. In response, the UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, told Duterte” needs to submit himself to some sort of psychiatric examination “.

In his statement on Monday, Duterte told Hussein’s comments were clear evidence of” international bias” and that the ICC was ” being utilised as a political tool against the Philippines “.

He also described the ICC’s inquiry- which involves looking into a 77 -page report submitted to it last year that allegedly documents Duterte’s crimes against humanity going back to 1988 when he was mayor of Davao- as” unduly and maliciously generated “.

When the Philippines ratified the Rome statute in 2011- nine years after it came into force- it was seen as a big step forward for human rights in Asia. The country’s withdrawal will be seen as a jolt for international accountability of the states of the region. The ICC, based in The Hague, is the world’s only permanent international tribunal that looks into war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Duterte has stimulated his contempt for the ICC well-known in the past, calling it “bullshit”, ” hypocritical” and “useless”, but in his statement on Wednesday, he went further, accusing the court of violating its own due process and depriving him of the interests of innocence until proven guilty.

Should the ICC’s preliminary investigations find evidence of crimes against humanity, the Philippines’ sudden withdrawal from the statute would not protect Duterte from being put on trial. A country’s withdrawal from the ICC takes effect a year after the UN has received the application and article 127 of the Rome statute specifies that” withdrawal shall not affect any cooperation with the court in connection with criminal investigations “.

James Gomez, Amnesty International’s south-east Asia director, described Duterte’s move as misguided and deeply regrettable.” Powerful people in the Philippines are more interested in covering up their own potential accountability for killings than they are in ensuring justice for the many victims of the country’s brutal war on medications ‘,” Gomez said.

There are 139 countries signed up to the Rome statute, but with some powerful exceptions. The US signed the treaty in 2000 but never ratified it, citing fears over sovereignty, similarly with Russia. Israel signed it for a short period but also never ratified it into law.

Should the UN accept Duterte’s withdrawal, it would build the Philippines only the second country to withdraw from the Rome statute, following Burundi in 2017. South Africa attempted to leave in 2016, but its withdrawal was revoked by the UN.

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Jeff Sessions says US prosecutors will not pursue small-time marijuana cases

Law enforcement lacks resources to take on routine cases and will focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, attorney general says

Federal attorneys will not take over small-time marijuana suits, despite the Trump justice department’s decision to lift an Obama-era policy that discouraged authorities from cracking down on the trade in countries where the drug is legal, Jeff Sessions, the us attorney general, said on Saturday.

Federal law enforcement lacks the resources to take over” routine lawsuits” and will continue to focus on gangs and larger conspiracies, Sessions told students after a speech at Georgetown law school.

In January, the Trump administration hurled the burgeoning marijuana legalization motion into uncertainty by reversing the largely hands-off approach of the Obama administration, saying federal prosecutors should instead handle marijuana suits however they see fit.

The Obama-era policy permitted the trade to flourish, with eight countries decriminalize marijuana for recreational use.

The reversal under Trump added to embarrassment about whether it’s OK to grow, buy or use marijuana in states where it is legal, since long-standing federal statute prohibits it. And it caused concern that prosecutors would feel empowered to jail someones for marijuana possession.

” I am not going to tell Colorado or California or someone else that possession of marijuana is legal under United States statute ,” Sessions said. But, he added, federal prosecutors” haven’t been working small marijuana instances before, they are not going to be working them now “.

Of particular interest are problems that federal authorities have tried for years to tackle, such as illegal marijuana-growing operations on national parklands and gangs that peddle marijuana along with most harmful drugs.

Some law enforcement officers in legal nations argue the legal trade has caused unintended problems like black-market marijuana growing and dealing by people who don’t even try to conform to the legal framework.

It remains to be seen whether prosecutors will seek to punish state-sanctioned industries. Some have indicated they have no plans to do so.

” Those are the kinds of things each one of those US attorneys will decide how to handle ,” Sessions said.

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‘Attacks and killings’: human rights activists at growing risk, study claims

Research proves 34% rise in attacks against campaigners defending land, surrounding and labour rights in the face of corporate activity

Human rights defenders who challenge big corporations are being killed, assaulted, harassed and squelched in growing numbers, researchers have claimed.

A survey by the Business and Human Rights Resource Center recorded a 34% global rise in attacks against human rights activists last year, including 120 alleged murders and hundreds of other cases involving menaces, assaults and intimidation. The number of incidents were found to have risen sharply, with 388 attacks recorded in 2017 compared with 290 the previous year.

The research focused on attacks against activists involved in protests against corporate activities. Victims included unionists, protests, whistleblowers and indigenous communities.

Land rights defenders and activists linked to the mining, agribusiness and renewable energy sectors were found to be in greatest hazard. The researchers also highlighted an increased risk to lawyers, and to members of human rights and environmental civil society organisations working for corporate accountability.

In 42% of harassment instances, judicial intimidation was used in an attempt to suppress protests against record-keeping activities. This included arbitrary detention, criminalisation and aggressive lawsuits.

The Business and Human Rights Center found that companies involved in mining, agriculture, energy and construction- particularly those headquartered in the UK, US, China, Canada and France- were the most likely to use legal means in an attempt to prevent human rights protests.

” Our research highlights that companies do play a significant role in assaults on human rights defenders- the first time that this data has were consistently collected ,” said Ana Zbona from the Business and Human Rights Resource Center.

The researchers found that human rights defenders creating concerns about business operations are often criminalised on fabricated charges. Documented suits include activists accused of being involved in assassinations in Guatemala, arson attacks in Chile, and fraud and tax evasion in Turkmenistan, Russia and Azerbaijan.

” Judicial harassment deters communities, workers and activists from speaking out against corporate abuse. Legal harassment often forms part of a broader campaign which are able to include physical attacks and killings ,” said Zbona.

” Impunity from the nation and the declining strength of unions has a big role to play, as well as a growing competition for natural resources that is only gaining pace .”

Although assaults occurred in every region across the world, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala and the Philippines- which collectively accounted for 212 of all incidents- were identified as the countries where attacks were most probable.

Last week, the International Council on Mining and Metals acknowledged that attacks on human rights defenders were on the increase and called on relevant government authorities to take action.

” Defenders continue to face harassment and dread for their safety when they speak out ,” members of the council said in a statement.” This is deeply concerning for companies that are committed to human rights, openness and transparency. While we may not always agree with postures taken by human rights defenders, ICMM recognises freedom of expression and assembly as fundamental human rights .”

Last month, a report by Frontline Defenders said that in 2017 there was a” well resourced and coordinated strategy of libel, criminalisation and violence deployed to intimidate, marginalise and stillnes human rights defenders “.

The group received reports on the murder of 312 rights defenders in 27 countries.

” In 2017 the alarming rise in attacks is just a continuation of what has become a very open and very aggressive attack on civil society and anyone who advocates against or challenges corporate power ,” said Katie Redford, director of EarthRights International, a civil society group that provides legal assistance to human and environmental rights activists.

Case studies

On 24 January 2018, Quintin Salgado, a labour activist and leader of the Los Mineros employees union, was attacked and killed by unknown assailants. Salgado had been working with striking miners at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico, owned by Canadian mining company Torex Gold. Employees have been striking since November 2017 in an effort to secure better working conditions and the right to freedom of association. Salgado, a former worker at the mine, was the third person involved in the ten-strikes to be killed. In a statement following the murder, Torex Gold said:” The Company has no way of knowing who was behind the killed. It is our understanding that Mr Salgado was well known to authorities and that the investigation continues. It is genuinely sad that Los Mineros and their supporting unions have chosen to exploit these human tragedies to further their political agendas .”

On 9 January, Ronald David Barillas, a member of the Xinca indigenous parliament, was killed in Santa Rosa, Guatemala. Barillas, a vocal critic of the sugar agroindustry, had opposed the Escobal mining project, owned by Canadian firm Tahoe Resources. In a statement, the mining company said:” As an open, transparent and statute biding company, we will cooperate with authorities as requested. We are committed to the search for truth, strengthening the rule of law, and the fight against impunity in Guatemala … We recognise human rights activists are particularly vulnerable to violence and persecution. We denounce any tries by others to threaten, frighten, or attack each member of community activism groups or human rights organization .”

Attorneys in Cambodia are seeking criminal charges and pre-trial detention for three prominent human rights defenders, Moeun Tola, Pa Nguon Teang and Buddhist monk Venerable But Buntenh. If convicted, they face up to three years in prison.

Last month, palm oil company Socfinand its Cameroonian subsidiary Socapalm began defamation proceedings in Paris against two NGOs, Sherpa and ReAct, and French media outlets Mediapart, L’Obs and Le Point, over reporting of protests by farmers living near plantations run by the two companies. Socfin is part-owned by French conglomerate Bollore, one of the world’s largest companies. Sherpa claims that, collectively, Socfin and Bollore have launched more than 20 libel suits against 40 journalists, NGOs and media organisations since 2009.