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Court eyes Massachusetts church-state dispute
Headline Topics | 2017/09/07 22:50
An attorney says a Massachusetts town should not be barred from giving public funds to support the restoration of a historic building just because it happens to be a church.

Nina Pickering-Cook told Massachusetts' highest court on Thursday that communities' ability to protect their historic resources shouldn't change because the structures are owned by a religious entity.

At issue is whether the town of Acton violated Massachusetts' constitution when it approved more than $100,000 in community preservation grants to restore stained-glass windows and identify other needs at a church.

Douglas Mishkin is an attorney for the taxpayers who brought the lawsuit. Mishkin told the court that active houses of worship are clearly prohibited from getting taxpayer dollars.

The Supreme Judicial Court is expected to rule in the coming months.



Supreme Court justice blocks ruling on redrawing Texas districts
Headline Topics | 2017/08/26 00:12
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Monday temporarily halted enforcement of a lower-court ruling that required two Texas congressional districts to be redrawn.

Responding to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, Alito halted action on the order and gave those who challenged the districts until Sept. 5 to address the points raised by Paxton’s appeal.

Sept. 5 is the day the three-judge court was to hold a hearing in San Antonio on redrawing the districts, including one based in Travis County and another that includes Bastrop County.

The court ruled two weeks ago that the districts were created by the Republican-controlled Legislature to intentionally discriminate against minority voters, who tend to favor Democrats.


Top NC court weighs lawmakers stripping of governor's powers

North Carolina's highest court on Monday tackled the question of how far the Republican-led legislature can go to minimize new Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's ability to pursue goals that helped him get elected last year by reshaping state government.

The state Supreme Court heard arguments in a lawsuit brought by Cooper that claims legislators violated North Carolina's constitution this spring by passing a law diminishing the governor's role in managing elections.

It's the first time the high court has waded into the ongoing political battle between lawmakers and Cooper that began after he narrowly beat incumbent Republican Gov. Pat McCrory last November. GOP lawmakers have sought to diminish Cooper's powers ever since.

The governor's lawyers told the seven-member court that the General Assembly violated the constitution's separation of powers requirement by reshaping the state elections board in ways that entrench Republican advantage. Elections boards are examples of the types of bodies that implement laws, functions that the state constitution requires from governors.



UAE prison time dropped for transgender Singaporean, friend
Headline Topics | 2017/08/24 00:11
A transgender Singaporean and her friend facing a year in prison in the United Arab Emirates for dressing in a feminine way have seen their sentences reduced to a fine and deportation, an official said Monday.

Nur Qistina Fitriah Ibrahim, a transgender woman who has not undergone a sex-change operation, and her friend, freelance fashion photographer Muhammad Fadli Bin Abdul Rahman, will pay a fine of 10,000 dirhams — about $2,270 — and be immediately deported, the official said.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the negotiations, declined to elaborate further about the case as the process of freeing the two was ongoing.

A separate report on Monday in The National, a state-linked newspaper in Abu Dhabi, quoted an unnamed official as also saying the two would merely face a fine and deportation.

Their families and the Singaporean Embassy in Abu Dhabi declined to comment.

The two Singaporeans were arrested in Abu Dhabi, the oil-rich capital of the United Arab Emirates, on Aug. 9. Police stopped them at Yas Mall as they tried to eat at a food court, said Radha Stirling, CEO of the advocacy group Detained in Dubai.

Abu Dhabi advertises itself as a tourism destination and is home to the long-haul air carrier Etihad Airways. However, the emirate bordering Saudi Arabia is more conservative than Dubai, the UAE's commercial heart.

Even trips to Dubai can pose risks to LGBT travelers and others as laws sometimes contradict social attitudes.

Alcohol possession for foreigners is technically illegal without a government-issued license obtainable only after gaining their employer's permission, though liquor and beer is widely available in bars and clubs in both cities. Foreigners also have faced charges in the past for having sex outside of marriage.



French Designer Wins Court Case in Dispute with Brad Pitt
Headline Topics | 2017/08/19 08:43
A French lighting designer has won a $600,000 court ruling in a dispute with Brad Pitt over a grandiose re-design of the chateau in Provence that he and Angelina Jolie shared.

But designer Odile Soudant isn’t stopping there. She says her business went under because of Pitt’s refusal to pay for costly architectural reveries, and she’s now fighting for the intellectual property rights to the Chateau Miraval’s lighting design.

Pitt’s representatives argue the project was late and over-budget and the design was Pitt’s brainchild – not hers.

Soudant’s legal actions are the latest challenge for Pitt, who is in protracted divorce proceedings with Jolie.

The couple stayed at the chateau when she gave birth to their twins in nearby Monaco in 2008, launched a wine venture from its vineyards and married there in 2014.


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