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The Supreme Court’s Muslim travel ban case proves the power of the judiciary branch in the age of Trump



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The Supreme Court on Wednesday will — finally — consider the legality of President Donald Trump’s controversial “Muslim ban” executive order from his first week in office. Needless to say, pundits from across the political spectrum are portraying the case, Trump v. Hawaii, as a referendum on all-things Trump: from the legal significance of his tweets and campaign statements to the debate over whether his executive orders should be treated as seriously as those issued by his predecessors. Some have even suggested that the case is an opportunity for the Supreme Court to atone for some of its prior mistakes, most notably its blessing of the Japanese-American internment camps during World War II.

But whether the justices ultimately side with the president or the challengers in Trump v. Hawaii, the true winners in this litigation are the federal courts — which have been instrumental in pushing the executive branch to more properly tailor what Trump calls the “travel ban” in the first place. In the midst of the increasingly ubiquitous political insanity of the past 15 months, the judiciary seems to be the one institution that has remained largely immune.

The true winners in this litigation are the federal courts — which have been instrumental in pushing the executive branch to more properly tailor the “travel ban.”

In many ways, litigation arising out of the travel ban has been the biggest test case for the courts in the Trump age. It started with a chaotic series of trial-court rulings in response to the first iteration of the ban, which was not well drafted, vetted, or implemented (recall the chaos at various international airports). By February 3, 2017, a “so-called” federal judge in Seattle had put the ban on hold over grave concerns that it was unlawful (in exceeding the president’s statutory authority) and unconstitutional (in violating the due process rights of non-citizens lawfully present within the United States).

Although the government initially asked the court of appeals to reconsider the decision, it declined to pursue that appeal and ended up abandoning the original ban in favor of a somewhat more-nuanced version issued on March 6, 2017. (Trump would later describe it as a “watered-down, politically correct version” that was “tailor[ed]” at the behest of “the lawyers.”)

This second iteration fared only a little better in the courts. It was quickly enjoined by federal judges in Maryland and Hawaii, with those injunctions upheld by the Fourth and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals. And when the case first reached the Supreme Court last June, six of the nine justices voted to leave those injunctions in place for anyone with a “bona fide relationship with the United States” while the Court considered the ban on the merits.

Once again, rather than push the justices into what was likely to be an adverse ruling on the merits, the government went back to the drawing board. And on Sept. 27, 2017, Trump issued his third iteration of the travel ban (the one the justices are now considering), which led the Court to dismiss the government’s appeal of version two on the ground that it was moot. The third version adds still more nuance, nominally includes at least two countries that aren’t Muslim-majority, and creates a series of case-specific exceptions ostensibly to address concerns of overreach.

There are still powerful statutory, constitutional and moral arguments against even this third version of the travel ban (David Cole, the ACLU’s legal director, offers a concise summary). But, unlike the first two versions, the ban is now plausibly — if superficially — defensible. To put the matter simply, it’s going to be close — and will almost certainly come down to the votes of the three justices closest to the Court’s center, Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Stephen Breyer.

All of this has led a number of conservative commentators to predict not only that the justices will in fact side with Trump, but that such a ruling will both vindicate him and seriously rebuke the lower federal courts. These partisan courts, the pundits argue, have effectively “joined the resistance,” and the justices will set them straight. The Trump administration has also made noises to this effect, with Assistant Attorney General Beth Williams arguing in a speech to the American Bar Association in March that the courts have been adopting novel legal theories and strategies to freeze the president’s policies—rulings that should cause “alarm.”

All of this has led a number of conservative commentators to predict not only that the justices will side with Trump, but that such a ruling will rebuke the lower federal courts.

Among the many problems with these arguments is the fact that they fail to account for two different— but equally important — contrary bodies of evidence. First, with respect to the travel ban itself, the only reason why there’s even a chance that the government will prevail now is because of the lessons it took away from its earlier losses in the courts. That is to say, if the third version of the travel ban is legal, it is largely, if not entirely, because earlier judicial rulings forced it to be. Judges did their job, and the government, as is its right, reacted. That’s not federal courts running amok; it’s federal courts being federal courts.

Second, while all of this is going on, lower federal courts are continuing to rule against Trump’s other immigration policies without anywhere near the same fanfare or controversy. Last Thursday, for example, the Chicago-based federal appeals court sustained a nationwide injunction against a pair of funding restrictions that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had imposed against so-called “sanctuary cities,” concluding that Sessions had no authority to tie such funding to the specifics of state or local immigration policies. As Judge Ilana Rovner (appointed to two different judgeships by President Ronald Reagan and President George H.W. Bush, respectively) wrote for the court:

Our role in this case is not to assess the optimal immigration policies for our country; that is not before us today. Rather, the issue before us strikes at one of the bedrock principles of our nation, the protection of which transcends political party affiliation and rests at the heart of our system of government—the separation of powers.

Like the Chicago ruling, the work of the federal courts during the Trump presidency to date has consistently shown fidelity to longstanding principles concerning the role of the judicial system—a role that has been put to the test by many of the novel policies expounded (often in novel ways) by the Trump administration.

That the Supreme Court is only hearing a case about the travel ban now, with the ban in its third iteration, is not proof that the federal courts have joined the resistance; it’s proof that they’ve been the one governmental institution that continues to serve the American people in the way the Founding Fathers intended.

Steve Vladeck (@steve_vladeck) is a professor of law at the University of Texas School of Law whose teaching and research focus on federal jurisdiction, constitutional law, and national security law. Steve is co-editor-in-chief of the Just Security blog (@just_security) and co-host of the National Security Law Podcast (@nslpodcast).

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Claremont killings: Alleged serial killer found guilty of two of three murders from 90s | World News



A man accused of being the Claremont serial killer in Australia has been found guilty of two of three murders of young women in the 90s.

Bradley Robert Edwards was convicted of the killings of Jane Rimmer and Ciara Glennon, but was acquitted of the murder of Sarah Spiers.

The 51-year-old former children’s athletics coach and telecommunication technician shook his head after being found guilty of the two murders.

All three women disappeared on separate nights in Claremont between January 1996 and March 1997, with the bodies of Ms Rimmer and Ms Glennon later found in bushland.

Ciara Glennon, 27, (L) and Jane Rimmer, 23, were killed in 1996 and 1997
Ciara Glennon, 27, (L) and Jane Rimmer, 23, were killed in 1996 and 1997

The body of 18-year-old Ms Spier – who was the first woman to be abducted from Claremont’s nightlife strip in January 1996 – was never found.

Edwards was charged with their murders 20 years later, along with the rape of a 17-year-old girl in a cemetery near Claremont.

He pleaded not guilty to all counts against him.

Justice Stephen Hall handed down the verdict in a Perth court on Thursday.

He said that while the three murders were similar in timing, location and nature, the circumstances in which Ms Spiers was taken and how she died is unknown.

“The propensity evidence makes it more likely that Edwards was the killer of Ms Spiers, but it cannot prove it beyond reasonable doubt,” Justice Hall said.

The trial largely relied on DNA samples taken from the victims, which were flown around the world for testing.

The body of Sarah Spiers has never been found
The body of Sarah Spiers has never been found

The verdict comes more than two months after the conclusion of a judge-alone trial which sat for 95 days over seven months, costing the Western Australian justice system $11m (£6m).

The majority of the trial was the prosecution case led by Carmel Barbagallo, who called 200 witnesses, reported.

Many of them were cross-examined by Edwards’ defence team, led by barrister Paul Yovich.

Bradley Edwards will be sentenced on 23 December
Bradley Edwards will be sentenced on 23 December

Four witnesses flew in from abroad to give evidence at the trial, including leading British DNA expert Jonathan Whitaker – who made the crucial link between traces of DNA found under Ciara Glennon’s fingernails to Edwards.

Ms Glennon, a 27-year-old lawyer, disappeared from the Claremont area in the early hours of 15 March 1997.

The court heard how Edwards struck her with an object that fractured her skull, “momentarily stunning her”.

Ms Glennon tried to fight off her attacker and severely damaged her left thumbnail in doing so, while the tip of her right ring fingernail tore off, harvesting Edwards’ DNA.

Edwards then slit Ms Glennon’s throat, causing a 20cm wound on the right side of her neck. He then left her body face down and covered with vegetation, only for it to be discovered three weeks later.

The case began with the disappearance of Ms Spiers on 27 January 1996 after she left a club in the centre of Claremont. Her disappearance attracted massive publicity and her fate remains unknown.

A few months later, in the early hours of 9 June, 23-year-old Ms Rimmer disappeared from the same part of Claremont.

Jane's sister Lee Rimmer speaking outside court
Jane’s sister Lee Rimmer speaking outside court

Her naked body was found 40km south in bush-land by a family picking wild flowers.

Edwards, who will be subject to a psychiatric report, will be sentenced on 23 December.

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The Pantanal: How wildfire devastated life in the world’s largest tropical wetland | World News



A speedboat skims across the waters of the Piquiri river in central Brazil; on board are a group of vets and animal trackers.

The river, the forest and the wetlands are shrouded in a dense fog of smoke.

Wildfires have been burning here for months.

Vets and animal trackers travel around the area on a speedboat
Vets and animal trackers travel around the area on a speedboat

They are looking for injured jaguars, a big cat known for its solitary existence and preference for remaining unseen by humans.

All the inhabitants of the Pantanal, the world’s largest tropical wetland, are in dangerously poor shape.

The country’s far-right leader, Jair Bolsonaro, prompted widespread derision on Tuesday when he used a speech to the UN to blame indigenous people in the Amazon for fires in the rainforest

While environmental advocates say he has emboldened illegal ranchers and land speculators to deforest land, he accused the media of lying about the Pantanal, without specifying any coverage he believed to be false.

In the region, the animals have been burned out of their natural habitats and their usual prey have been killed or have disappeared.

The animals attempt to make it through the destroyed charred landscape to the riverbanks for water, for food and for safety.

The largest population of jaguars in the world is here. Spotting them is incredibly difficult. Their distinctive beautiful spotted coat ensures they almost disappear with just a step into the undergrowth.

The rescue team help jaguars in the area surrounding the Piquiri river in Brazil
The rescue team help jaguars in the area surrounding the Piquiri river in Brazil

Some of the jaguars who have survived the fire storm are now badly injured and often hungry.

As we pass a burned-out wood, we spot a female jaguar.

To her side, almost completely out of sight, are her two cubs.

As she steps out of the wood we can see she is limping badly, but she has her sights on a family of otters who have just come ashore.

She stalks along the riverbank preparing to pounce, but the otters see her and flee for the safety of the water.

She is now too slow.

The fires have devastated the habit of jaguars who live in the region
The fires have devastated the habitat of jaguars who live in the region

The heads of the otters pop out of the water and they let out a cry, a warning that a predator is nearby.

The jaguar sits down and looks nonchalantly at the otters as they swim away.

She will need to do better next time.

The vets say they have been monitoring this jaguar for the last few days and are unconcerned for her.

She is hunting, she is able to walk and her cubs appear well.

The monitoring will continue but for now they are worried about another jaguar in worse shape.

The tracking and veterinarian teams are specialists in looking after big cats.

Eduarda Fernandes and her team treat and injured jaguar
Eduarda Fernandes and her team treat an injured jaguar
The team tranquilise jaguars before assessing their injuries
The team tranquilise jaguars before assessing their injuries

They go out every day looking for the animals who are now suffering because of the fires that have spread throughout the wetlands and grasslands of the Pantanal.

“We hear from fishermen who see the jaguars and tell us if they seem unwell, they take us to where they saw them last,” Eduarda Fernandes, the 20-year-old founder of the rescue task force, tells me.

“There is one jaguar we have been watching who we are worried about. That is who we are looking for,” she adds, gunning the boat’s outboard motor and powering on further down the river.

Reports are coming in from fishermen that they have seen that same injured jaguar nearby.

The team gather themselves and consider their options.

They will tranquillise the animal and assess his injuries.

Many jaguars who survived the fire storm are now badly injured
Some jaguars who survived the fire storm in the region are now badly injured
The rescue team sedates jaguar that need treatment
The rescue team sedates jaguars that need treatment

If he can be treated on site they will do so and let him be. If he is worse than expected, a helicopter will be brought into the wetlands and he will be taken to a specialist vet facility.

The team head off.

We catch up with them and find the vets surrounding the jaguar, which is awake but heavily sedated.

He is well over six feet long and powerful – panting but unable to do anything as the vets assess his injuries.

He has a few bite marks and one of his front paws is raw, swollen and sore.

Working as a team, they wash the jaguar’s injuries, spraying bite marks with a silver sealant spray.

The rescue team are helping jaguars who were harmed in the fires in the Pantanal region
The rescue team are helping jaguars who were harmed in fires ravaging the Pantanal region
The otters that live in the Pantanal region are prey for the jaguars
The otters that live in the Pantanal region are prey for the jaguars
The Pantanal region has been ravaged by fire
A rescue team is attempting to help the region’s wildlife

Ms Fernandes says it is likely that the jaguar has been in a fight with another male or injured while hunting.

“Because of the fires the jaguars are changing their territory, and there they can find other jaguars and dispute the territory, so we think that probably this jaguar had this problem because of it, the fires, that maybe [it] fought with another male or female.”

They estimate this jaguar is between four and five years old.

Beside him are the remains of a wild pig.

This is a good sign – he is able to hunt – and they determine that after medicine and antibiotics he can be left here.

They patch him up then move him farther into the blackened forest away from the river.

The bodies of caiman are seen where they died escaping the flames
The bodies of caiman are seen where they died trying to escape the flames

For the next hour they keep an eye on him as he slowly recovers from the tranquiliser and unsteadily, at first, gets to his feet.

He will recover, but so far the Pantanal has not.

Tens of thousands of square kilometres have been destroyed by fire.

A drought and soaring temperatures have left an area the size of Wales burned to the ground.

There are always dry season fires here, but nothing like this.

So far, 466 individual significant fires have been recorded within Encontro das Aguas State Park.

But the Pantanal Biome itself spans two states and more than 15,000 fires have raged here virtually without check since June.

The bodies of caimans, an indigenous alligator, lie where they died attempting to escape the flames.

Caiman are seen lined near a water supply after the fires
Caiman are seen lined near a water supply after the fires

Countless numbers of mammals, birds and insects have been wiped out.

The fact is the Pantanal is an intrinsic part of life in this part of Brazil.

Humans, animals and vegetation depend on the wetland being healthy. All co-exist.

“The Pantanal is now just trash, trash; it’s incinerated,” our guide Roberto Macedo, tells me as we make our way through the smoky waterways.

“It’s very bad, it’s bad for everything; for tourism, for animals, for fishing, for local people. This destabilises our culture and everything here.”

“Pantanal needs water (but) it’s dry for five, six months. No water and the vegetation is dry. It’s like gasoline,” he says.

The Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland
The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland

Driving through the Pantanal is certainly depressing.

The scale of the damage is difficult to comprehend.

Large ponds, a vital source of water and food, are almost dry.

Eduarda Fernandes is the 20-year-old founder of the rescue task force
Eduarda Fernandes is the 20-year-old founder of the rescue task force

Caimans, hundreds of them at a time, congregate around the dwindling water supply. Birds hop between them looking for fish.

Each day without rain, the situation gets worse.

The Pantanal will survive this drought and the fires for certain. The guides and vets here say when the rains come life will return, and the animals and the park will recover.

But the long-term concern is that these fires could happen again next year, and then the year after that.

These wetlands can survive one devastating year and maybe another, but it cannot survive such devastation indefinitely.

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Coronavirus: Madrid in lockdown as doctor warns Britons to follow the new rules or pay the price | World News



A front line doctor in Madrid has urged Britons to stay strong and obey the rules as the country faces a second wave of coronavirus.

“We only have to do this for a few more weeks, not forever,” Dr Moreno Santiago told Sky News.

“Things like wearing a mask we only need to do for a few short weeks and in that time we can control the pandemic, if not we are going to pay for this. It will be very, very, very costly.”

Live updates on coronavirus from UK and around world

HUMANES, SPAIN - SEPTEMBER 21: Municipal Police control the entrance to the town on September 21, 2020, in Humanes, Madrid, Spain. Humanes is one of seven municipalities in Madrid that has basic health areas (Alicante, Cuzco and France) in which the Community of Madrid applies limitations to control the coronavirus pandemic since September 21th. The activity in the parks and gardens that will be closed to the public is suspended. (Photo by Oscar J. Barroso / AFP7 / Getty Images)
Police expect people to follow the rules on movement

The warning comes as Spain struggles through its own new outbreaks, with data showing it is six weeks ahead of the UK.

Some 27 districts of Madrid went into new lockdown measures this week, in theory preventing inhabitants from leaving unless they have to go to work or need medical care.

We spent the day in one district and saw how few people were obeying it. Police at a checkpoint admitted they could only check every 10 or 15 cars going in or out, meaning citizens would need to self-police – and there is no enforcement on the subway in.

Inside the locked-down zones life appears reasonably normal with shops open and streets busy.

The new measures have largely targeted poorer southern districts of Madrid where many live closer together in smaller apartments. It has further exacerbated the sense of social divide and hit those already struggling the most.

Food banks are busy again with many of the users newly unemployed.

Madrid Protests

Madrid ‘not in the mood’ for a lockdown

Francisco and Carmel are both out of a job and they are running out of hope.

“We want people to help us to give us a future where we value ourselves because the way we are living has no future, this isn’t a life, even if you wanted it to be,” Carmel told us.

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Francisco was equally desperate: “To be honest I am hoping for help from my friends to find work soon because I am of a working age and can work.

“I am hoping for an opportunity because all I want is a chance to keep going ahead just like the rest of the world.”

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