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Pennsylvania's highest court is upholding Philadelphia's tax on soda and other sweetened drinks, rejecting a challenge by merchants and the beverage industry.

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday the 1.5-cent-per-ounce levy is aimed at distributors and dealer-level transactions and does not illegally duplicate another existing tax.

Both dissenting justices say the tax does duplicate taxes already in place on retail sales of soda in the city.

The beverage tax raised nearly $79 million in 2017, over its first 12 months in place. If fully passed on to consumers, the soda tax represents an increase of $1.44 on a six-pack of 16-ounce bottles.

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, a Democrat, hailed the ruling.


A proposal for a high-voltage power line carrying wind energy across the Midwest received a jolt of new life Tuesday as the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that state regulators had wrongly rejected it.

The ruling is a major victory in the quest by Clean Line Energy Partners to build one of the nation's longest electric transmission lines. The $2.3 billion project would carry power harnessed from the wind-whipped plains of western Kansas on a 780-mile (1,255 kilometer) trek across Missouri and Illinois before hooking into an electric grid in Indiana that serves the eastern U.S.

"The project has been on standby while we awaited the Missouri Supreme Court decision," Clean Line President Michael Skelly said. "Now with this decision, we can get back after it."

Missouri had been the lone state blocking the project. But during Missouri's protracted regulatory and legal battle, an Illinois appeals court in March also overturned that state's approval.

Skelly said the Houston-based renewable energy firm still has a clear path toward winning Illinois approval by first acquiring ownership of some utility property and then reapplying.

Attorney Paul Agathan, who represents more than 1,000 members of the Missouri Landowners Alliance, said his clients would continue fighting the power line before state regulators and county commissioners, who still would eventually have to sign off on permits for the power line to cross roads.



A convicted serial rapist should be allowed to be released into the community under supervision, the Minnesota state Court of Appeals ruled Monday, saying the state did not prove by clear and convincing evidence that Thomas Duvall should remain in treatment.

Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Piper said Monday that she will appeal the provisional discharge of Duvall, in a case that once set off a political firestorm as lawmakers were considering changes to the state's treatment program for sex offenders.

"I have grave concerns about this decision," Piper said in a statement. "Three experts have previously testified that Thomas Duvall is not ready for life in the community and that he presents far too great a risk to public safety. I share that view and will exhaust every possible avenue of appeal."

Duvall, 62, has spent the last 30 years locked up for the violent rapes of teenage girls in the 1970s and 1980s. In 1987, he bound a Brooklyn Park girl with an electrical cord and raped her repeatedly over several hours while hitting her with a hammer. He was civilly committed as a psychopathic personality in 1991 and sent to the Minnesota Sex Offender Program.

Duvall has been in treatment since 2001 and was diagnosed as a sexual sadist. He has been in the final stages of the program since 2010, living outside the security perimeter at the facility in St. Peter, going on regular supervised community outings, volunteering at a thrift store, attending community support groups and preparing for transition into the community.



A Georgia police officer charged with voluntary manslaughter in a fatal shooting is scheduled to appear in court.

A pretrial hearing is scheduled Tuesday morning for Zechariah Presley in Camden County Magistrate Court. Presley worked as a police officer in the small city of Kingsland when he was charged in the June 20 shooting of 33-year-old Tony Green.

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation has said Green was fleeing when Presley shot him following a brief altercation. The bureau said Presley had been following Green's vehicle when Green got out and ran on foot, but it has not said what prompted the pursuit.

Kingsland city officials fired 27-year-old Presley from his police job following his arrest a week after the shooting. The city is located near the Georgia-Florida state line.


India's highest court on Tuesday asked the federal government to consider enacting a law to deal with an increase in lynchings and mob violence fueled mostly by rumors that the victims either belonged to members of child kidnapping gangs or were beef eaters and cow slaughterers.

The Supreme Court said that "horrendous acts of mobocracy" cannot be allowed to become a new norm, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

"Citizens cannot take law into their hands and cannot become law unto themselves," said Chief Justice Dipak Misra and two other judges, A.M. Khanwilkar and D.Y. Chandrachud, who heard a petition related to deadly mob violence. They said the menace needs to be "curbed with iron hands," the news agency reported.

The judges asked the legislature to consider a law that specifically deals with lynchings and cow vigilante groups and provides punishment to offenders.

India has seen a series of mob attacks on minority groups since the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party won national elections in 2014. The victims have been accused of either smuggling cows for slaughter or carrying beef. Last month, two Muslims were lynched in eastern Jharkhand state on charges of cattle theft. In such mob attacks, at least 20 people have been killed by cow vigilante groups mostly believed to be tied to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's ruling party.

Most of the attacks waged by so-called cow vigilantes from Hindu groups have targeted Muslims. Cows are considered sacred by many members of India's Hindu majority, and slaughtering cows or eating beef is illegal or restricted across much of the country.

However, most of the mob attacks this year have been fueled mainly by rumors ignited by messages circulated through social media that child-lifting gangs were active in villages and towns. At least 25 people have been lynched and dozens wounded in the attacks. The victims were non-locals, mostly targeted because they looked different or didn't speak the local language.


President Donald Trump’s selection of Judge Brett Kavanaugh as a new Supreme Court nominee last Monday culminates a three-decade project unparalleled in American history to install a reliable conservative majority on the nation’s highest tribunal, one that could shape the direction of the law for years to come.

“They’ve been pushing back for 30 years, and, obviously, the announcement is a big step in the right direction,” said Curt Levey, president of the Committee for Justice, a conservative activist group that’s been working toward this goal full time since 2005. “It’ll be the first time we can really say we have a conservative court, really the first time since the 1930s.”

This presumes that Trump can push Kavanaugh through a closely divided Senate heading into a midterm election season, hardly a given. More so than any nomination in a dozen years, Trump’s choice of a successor for Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, the influential swing vote retiring at the end of the month, holds the potential of changing the balance of power rather than simply replacing a like-minded justice with a younger version.

But if the president succeeds in confirming his selection, the new justice is expected to join Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel A. Alito Jr. and Neil M. Gorsuch in forming a much more consistently conservative majority than before.

That has not happened by accident. A network of activists and organizations has worked assiduously since the 1980s to reach this point, determined to avoid the disappointment they felt after Republican appointees like Earl Warren, William J. Brennan Jr., David H. Souter, Sandra Day O’Connor and Kennedy proved more moderate or liberal once they joined the court.


In a case that has attracted national attention, Massachusetts' highest court ruled Monday that judges in the state have the authority to order people to remain drug free as a condition of probation and under some circumstances order a defendant jailed for violating the drug-free requirement.

The Supreme Judicial Court ruled unanimously that such a requirement does not violate the constitutional rights of people with substance use disorder or unfairly penalize them because of a medical condition beyond their control.

The court ruled in the case of Julie Eldred, who was jailed in 2016 after she tested positive for the powerful opioid fentanyl days into her probation on larceny charges. Eldred, who has severe substance use disorder, spent more than a week in jail after relapsing until her lawyer could find a bed for her at a treatment facility.

Eldred's lawyer argued before the high court in October that her client's substance use disorder made her powerless to control her desire to use drugs, and that jailing her effectively criminalized relapse - which often happens in the recovery process.

But the justices said the defendant's claims were based partly on untested science.

"Nor do we agree with the defendant that the requirement of remaining drug free is an outdated moral judgment about an individual's addiction," wrote Associate Justice Barbara Lenk. "The judge here did not abuse her discretion by imposing the special condition of probation requiring the defendant to remain drug free."

The court called the actions of two district court judges and the state probation department "exemplary." The justices noted that Eldred had admitted to police that she had stolen to support her drug habit.

Most addiction specialists - including groups such as the National Institute on Drug Abuse and American Society of Addiction Medicine - view substance use disorder as a brain disease that interferes with a person's ability to control his or her desire to use drugs.

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