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The Supreme Court refused Tuesday to consider a fast-track review of a lawsuit that threatens the Obama-era health care law, making it highly unlikely that the justices would decide the case before the 2020 election.

The court denied a request by 20 mainly Democratic states and the Democratic-led House of Representatives to decide quickly on a lower-court ruling that declared part of the statute unconstitutional and cast a cloud over the rest.

Defenders of the Affordable Care Act argued that the issues raised by the case are too important to let the litigation drag on for months or years in lower courts, and that the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans erred when it struck down the health law's now toothless requirement that Americans have health insurance.

The justices did not comment on their order. They will consider the appeal on their normal timetable and could decide in the coming months whether to take up the case.


A court in eastern Germany indicated Tuesday that it will likely reject a Jewish man’s bid to force the removal of an ugly remnant of centuries of anti-Semitism from a church where Martin Luther once preached.

The Naumburg court's senate said, at a hearing, that “it will maybe reject the appeal,” court spokesman Henning Haberland told reporters.

“The senate could not follow the plaintiff's opinion that the defamatory sculpture can be seen as an expression of disregard in its current presentation,” Haberland said.

The verdict will be announced on February 4.

The so-called “Judensau,” or “Jew pig,” sculpture on the Town Church in Wittenberg dates back to around 1300. It is perhaps the best-known of more than 20 such anti-Semitic relics from the Middle Ages that still adorn churches across Germany and elsewhere in Europe.

Located 4 meters (13 feet) above the ground on a corner of the church, it depicts Jews suckling on the teats of a sow, while a rabbi lifts the animal’s tail. In 1570, after the Protestant Reformation, an inscription referring to an anti-Jewish tract by Luther was added.

Judaism considers pigs impure and no one disputes that the sculpture is deliberately offensive. But there is strong disagreement about what to do with the relief.


The Supreme Court will consider allowing the Trump administration to enforce rules that allow more employers to deny insurance coverage for contraceptives to women.

The justices agreed Friday to yet another case stemming from President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul, this time about cost-free birth control. The court probably will hear arguments in April.

The high court will review an appeals court ruling that blocked the Trump administration rules because it did not follow proper procedures. The new policy on contraception, issued by the Department of Health and Human Services, would allow more categories of employers, including publicly traded companies, to opt out of providing no-cost birth control to women by claiming religious objections.

The policy also would allow some employers, though not publicly traded companies, to raise moral objections to covering contraceptives.

Employers also would be able to cover some birth control methods, and not others. Some employers have objected to covering modern, long-acting implantable contraceptives, such as IUDs, which are more expensive and considered highly effective in preventing pregnancies.

The share of female employees paying their own money for birth control pills has plunged to under 4 percent, from 21 percent, since contraception became a covered preventive health benefit under the Obama-era health law, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Even though the Trump rules remain blocked, a ruling by a federal judge in Texas in June already allows most people who object to covering contraception to avoid doing so.

The issue in all the cases is the method originally adopted by the Obama administration to allow religiously affiliated organizations to opt out of paying for contraception while making sure that women under their plans would not be left with the bill.

Some groups complained that the opt-out process violated their religious beliefs and wanted to be relieved of even signaling their religious objection.

The Trump administration issued new rules in 2018. New Jersey and Pennsylvania challenged them in federal court, and the appeals court in Philadelphia decided the rules should be blocked nationwide. The states said the administration rules would result in fewer women receiving cost-free birth control through employer health plans and said states would have to spend more money in their programs that provide contraceptives to women who want them.

The justices said they will hear the administration’s appeal together with one filed by the Little Sisters of the Poor, an order of Roman Catholic nuns. The Little Sisters have argued that the Trump rules would protect them from having to provide some birth control, although Obama administration lawyers had argued that they probably were exempt from the rules.


Tucked in a windowless room of Chicago’s immigration court, one of the nation’s largest legal advocacy groups for immigrants runs a free help desk.

Their pace is dizzying. Most days, there’s a line outside the door, with some cases taking years to resolve. Attorneys have no printer and make copies by hand. They rarely take breaks, even to use the bathroom.

A visit to the operation — one of five nationwide — illustrates the growing burden on attorneys in the immigration courts system, where there’s no right to appointed counsel, no electronic filing, a crushing backlog and ever-shifting Trump administration policies that have created unparalleled turmoil.

“Attorneys are spending so much time on work that is effectively meaningless,” said Ashley Huebner with the Chicago-based National Immigrant Justice Center, which staffs the legal help desk. “It’s unnecessary, bureaucratic red tape gone crazy.”

Notices to appear in court list times or dates when courts aren’t in session. Immigrants who don’t get copies of their asylum paperwork at the border must file formal Freedom of Information Act requests, which can take time and money. And the Trump administration has all but shut down interactions between government and immigration attorneys outside court, even for mundane matters like finding out when there’s a hearing.

The legal help desk is inside the main immigration court in a downtown high-rise. The National Immigrant Justice Center began a privately funded version of the program in 2013, which was expanded in 2016 with federal funding. Currently, the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review administers similar desks in four other cities: Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Antonio.




Bangladesh’s High Court has asked authorities to shut down 231 factories surrounding the highly polluted main river in the nation’s capital, lawyers and activists said Tuesday.

Manzil Murshid, who filed a petition with the court seeking its intervention, said the factories are mainly small dyeing, tanning and rubber plants operating without approval from the Department of Environment. Such factories often are able to operate with the backing of influential politicians or by bribing government officials.

The court’s decision Monday on the factories near the River Buriganga was hailed by environment activists despite some previous court orders that were not carried out by government authorities, Murshid said.

Murshid represents Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, a domestic advocacy group.

He said the decision came after the environment department submitted a report on 231 factories that operate illegally and contribute highly to the pollution. The court also asked the officials to prepare “a complete list of illegal factories or factories without effluent treatment plants” operating in and around Dhaka within three months.

“This is a good decision. The court has asked the authorities to disconnect water, electricity and other utility services for factories that are polluting the Buriganga,” he told The Associated Press on Tuesday.

Amatul Karim, who represented the Department of Environment in the case, said the court’s order came after a thorough examination of the history of the factories, the level of pollution of the river and overall damage to the environment.


A federal appeals court on Friday dismissed a lawsuit by 21 young people who claimed the U.S. government’s climate policies and reliance on fossil fuels harms them, jeopardizes their future and violates their constitutional rights, potentially dealing a fatal blow to a long-running case that activists saw as an important front in the war against environmental degradation.

The Oregon-based youth advocacy group Our Children’s Trust filed the lawsuit in 2015 in Eugene on behalf of the youngsters. It sought an injunction ordering the government to implement a plan to phase out fossil fuel emissions and draw down atmospheric carbon dioxide emission. The case had bounced around the federal courts for five years and multiple trial dates were canceled.

The 2-1 vote for dismissal by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was a serious setback for the climate activists, who vowed to ask the full 9th Circuit panel to review the ruling. Our Children’s Trust has filed numerous similar cases in state and federal courts and currently has nine cases pending in state courts from Alaska to New Mexico. The federal ruling was less likely to impact those cases, experts said.

“This is a very serious blow to the case, perhaps a fatal blow,” said Jennifer Rushlow, an associate dean for environmental programs at Vermont Law School, who has been watching the case closely.

Our Children’s Trust said in a statement that although the justices ruled for dismissal, it was important to note that they also said in the opinion that the evidence showed climate change was real and caused by fossil fuels and that the young plaintiffs had suffered legitimate consequences from climate change.

The “case is far from over,” said Julia Olson, lead attorney for Our Children’s Trust. “The court recognized that climate change is exponentially increasing and that the federal government has long known that its actions substantially contribute to the climate crisis.”

Government attorneys repeatedly sought the case’s dismissal and succeeded in having the scope of the claims narrowed and some defendants dismissed during years of back-and-forth litigation.


A Munich court on Monday convicted a German man of more than a dozen offenses of attempted murder for tricking women and girls into giving themselves electric shocks while he watched over the internet.

The regional court in the Bavarian capital sentenced the man, identified only as David G. for privacy reasons, to 11 years' imprisonment.

Court spokesman Florian Gliwitzky told The Associated Press that the 31-year-old defendant would be sent to a secure psychiatric clinic for treatment.

Prosecutors said the man contacted women and girls as young as 13 online over a five-year period starting in 2013, claiming to be a doctor seeking paid volunteers for a medical experiment on pain perception. He then persuaded them to attach a home-made contraption to the electricity mains and their extremities while he watched and issued instructions. None of the victims was ever paid.

Judges concluded that 13 of the 88 cases constituted attempted murder because the defendant had told the women to hold the cables to their temples or feet, causing electricity to flow through their brains or hearts.

The court also convicted him of two counts of serious bodily harm and five counts of premeditated bodily harm, of breaching the victims' privacy by filming them, and of illegally claiming to have a medical degree.


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