Supreme Court

Trump administration takes aim at teen vaping, proposes ban on non-tobacco flavored e-cigarettes

In a major win for the Trump administration, the Supreme Court issued an order late Wednesday ending all injunctions that had blocked a White House ban on asylum for anyone trying to enter the U.S. via a third country, such as Mexico, without seeking protection there.

The Supreme Court’s order was not a final ruling on the policy’s merits but does allow the See More policy to take effect nationwide, including in the 9th Circuit, while the case makes its way through the lower courts.

Supreme Court allows Trump asylum restrictions to take effect, ending 9th Circuit injunctions
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NCAA warns Calif. governor about college athlete ‘fair pay’ bill
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The Supreme Court is gearing up to decide next term whether states can ban students from using student-aid programs to attend religious institutions – an education dispute that could have major ramifications for the school choice movement.

The justices announced at the end of last month’s session that they will take up the case of Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue — which concerns whether states can ban student-aid programs that allow families to choose religious schools for their children. In December 2018, the Montana Supreme Court struck down a tax-credit scholarship program in the state, saying the program violated the state constitution’s “No-Aid clause” barring government money for religious schools because it had allowed students to use the money for that purpose.

“Every parent should have the right to choose where they send their kids to school,” Kendra Espinoza, one of the plaintiffs challenging the Montana decision, told Fox News.

Kendra Espinoza and her daughters. Espinoza is a plaintiff in a school choice case that’s made its way to the Supreme Court. (Institute for Justice)

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Others see the case as an assault on the separation of church and state.

“The decision by the court to review the Montana case signals that the majority may be gunning for the strong provisions in most state constitutions that bar public school funds from going to religion or religious schools,” the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a liberal advocacy group, said in a June 28 statement.

Government money going to religious schools doesn’t necessarily violate the First Amendment, but appeals courts are split on whether excluding such schools from programs like Montana’s violates religious freedom.

The legal staff of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, which says it plans to file an amicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court supporting the Montana decision in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue. Patrick Elliott, who spoke with Fox News, sits in the bottom row, second from the right. (FFRF)

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The tax-credit scholarship program, passed in May 2015, gave Montanans up to a $150 credit for donating to private scholarship organizations, which helped students pay for their choice of private schools.

It’s similar to many programs across the U.S., and other states have proposed tax-credit scholarship programs but not passed them due to confusion about their legality.

FFRF attorney Patrick Elliott says the Supreme Court should leave decisions on these programs to state courts.

“I think this case involves interference with state rights,” he told Fox News. “States can adopt constitutional protections without federal interference.”

Espinoza said she enrolled her daughters in a private Christian school because she wanted a values-based education that would challenge them academically, but she has trouble paying for tuition and relies on scholarships. She planned to use Montana’s tax-credit scholarship program.

“I’ve been working two and three jobs just to make ends meet,” she said. “There was a question of whether I could afford it.”

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But the Montana Department of Revenue said providing tax credits for donations that later help pay tuition at private schools amounts to indirect funding of religious education by the state, in violation of the “No-Aid clause” – also known as a Blaine Amendment. It made a rule preventing Espinoza or other religious school families from receiving the scholarships.

Espinoza and the libertarian Institute for Justice sued the department over that rule in December 2015, but the Montana Supreme Court invalidated the entire program last year. Espinoza’s lawyers say the program was voided simply because it afforded a religious option, and the U.S. Supreme Court should restore what the Montana legislature passed.

“The federal Constitution prohibits that kind of animus toward religion and the fact that animus is codified in the Montana Constitution in the Blaine Amendment only makes things that much worse,” Institute for Justice senior attorney Michael Bindas said.

Blaine Amendments originated in the 1870s when, as Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a 2000 case, “it was an open secret that ‘sectarian’ was code for ‘Catholic.’” Thirty-seven states have Blaine Amendments today, but Bindas calls them, “vestiges of 19th century anti-Catholic bigotry.”

Espinoza’s lawyers also cite Trinity Lutheran, a Supreme Court case from 2017 that ruled Missouri couldn’t deny a church a grant to resurface its playground simply because it was a church.

But Elliott said Blaine Amendments don’t mention a specific religion and have operated without bias.

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“No funding of religious education was something states decided early on because they didn’t want to have a religiously segregated school system,” he said. “Public schools are open regardless of religious background. That’s not always the case with private schools.”

If the justices reverse Montana’s decision, it could open the door to more scholarship and voucher programs across the U.S.

“This case has the potential to remove Blaine Amendments as a barrier to school choice throughout the country,” Bindas said.

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WASHINGTON (AP) — Amy McGrath, a Marine combat aviator who narrowly lost a House race to an incumbent Republican in Kentucky, has set her sights on an even more formidable target: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

McGrath, whose campaign announcement video in her House race showcased the viral power of social media to raise money and national profile, said Tuesday she will try to defeat one of the most entrenched officials in Washington in McConnell. But she sees him as vulnerable because of his lengthy tenure in Washington, his stance on healthcare, and his taut allegiance to the policies of President Donald Trump.

Her decision to enter the race represents a rare victory for Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, who has had difficulty persuading top-tier candidates in other states to take on incumbent Republicans with control of the Senate at stake.

The contest also will test the power of incumbency against a call for generational change, along with a measure of whether Trump’s popularity is transferable.

McGrath, 44, will almost certainly be able to raise enough money to mount a serious challenge to McConnell, 77, but she is still a decided underdog in a state that has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since Wendell Ford in 1992.

“I’ve been always somebody who stepped up to the plate when asked, when I felt like my country needed me, and this is one of those times,” McGrath said in an interview.

She is attempting to repeat her viral moment with a new video, one that leans hard on idealism while also attacking McConnell as the embodiment of a dysfunctional Washington.

“I felt like somebody needs to stand up to him,” McGrath said.

McGrath also reprises one element of her first video, pointedly noting that when, as a 13-year-old girl, she wrote to McConnell to make the case that women should be able to fly in combat, the senator never wrote back.

But her attacks on McConnell and his record carry risks because Trump remains highly popular in Kentucky, and McConnell has pushed through much of the president’s agenda and, perhaps more importantly, his nominees to federal courts, including Supreme Court Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

She said that Kentucky voters are not fans of either political party and they supported Trump in part because of his promise to “drain the swamp” in Washington, lower drug prices, and deliver a more effective alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

“Those things haven’t happened because of guys like Senator McConnell,” she said.

McGrath lost to Rep. Andy Barr by 3 percentage points in the 2018 midterm election, a race that she had been so confident of winning that she was working on her victory speech as the first returns came in.

She ran up comfortable margins in the heavily Democratic Lexington area, but Barr was able to win overwhelmingly in rural areas. Barr also benefited from a campaign appearance by Trump, rare for a House member. Former Vice President Joe Biden went to Kentucky to campaign for McGrath in what proved to be a failed effort to win back onetime Democrats in rural areas.

Trump also is expected to actively support McConnell and to try to muddy McGrath at least as much as Barr did.

In that race, McGrath, a Naval Academy graduate, foreswore negative attack ads against Barr while he and several outside groups supporting him spent millions of dollars labeling her as “too liberal” for Kentucky. McGrath, who must first win the Democratic nomination, would not show similar restraint against McConnell.

Democrats have prepared briefing books of more than 1,000 pages on McConnell, whose long record and ties to Washington interest groups provide ripe openings for attack. But he also can make the case that he has been able to use his power in Washington for the benefit of the state.

McConnell has in Kentucky a fiercely loyal team of political operatives who are known for hard-hitting campaigns that leave his opponents badly bruised.

Schumer worked hard to persuade McGrath to run against McConnell. Several other would-be recruits, including former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams, declined his overtures, and others, like former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke, and Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, passed on Senate races to run for the Democratic presidential nomination.

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Trump saluted America in A #MAGA July 4 event, despite critics, What Do you Think About His Speech?

Trump salutes America in elaborate July 4 event, despite critics — and a downpour of rain
Despite concerns that he would use the Fourth of July event as a glorified campaign rally, President Trump used his “Salute to America” speech Thursday evening to praise the men and women of the armed forces and American exceptionalism. With the Lincoln Memorial as a backdrop and flanked by camouflaged See More Bradley fighting vehicles, Trump stuck mainly to the script during his speech – praising the spirit that “runs through the veins of every American patriot” and attempting to strike a more unifying and conciliatory tone than he is generally known to take.

While Trump’s speech set a unifying tone, the lead-up to the event was far from harmonious – with Trump’s opponents,especially 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, slamming him on everything from the cost of the event to the perceived exploitation of the holiday for a political purpose. Two outside groups, the National Parks Conservation Foundation and Democracy Forward, want the Interior Department’s internal watchdog to investigate what they say may be a “potentially unlawful decision to divert” national parks money to Trump’s “spectacle.”

White House seeking all options on citizenship question for 2020 census
President Trump on Thursday doubled down on his push for a citizenship question on the 2020 Census, promising that his administration is “working very hard” on the controversial issue — as reports say he is mulling using an executive order to get the question on the census. “So important for our Country that the very simple and basic ‘Are you a Citizen of the United States?’ question be allowed to be asked in the 2020 Census,” he tweeted. He added that the Commerce and Justice departments were “working very hard on this, even on the 4th of July!” Earlier this week, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross announced that his department was going ahead with the printing of the census without the citizenship question, apparently indicating that the administration had dropped the controversial issue. That decision came after a Supreme Court ruling last week that blocked the citizenship question for the time being until more reasoning from the administration was provided.

Ocasio-Cortez calls border officials liars after new report on offensive Facebook posts
In a Twitter message Thursday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., branded the leadership of U.S. Customs and Border Protection as liars after a news site reported that CBP officials knew much longer than they claimed about a Facebook group on which some past and current CBP employees had posted offensive material. Ocasio-Cortez was the subject of some of this material. ProPublica, a self-described non-profit news group, reportedly has obtained screenshots of doctored images of Ocasio-Cortez, including one that shows a smiling PresidentTrump forcing her head toward his crotch.

According to Politico, top CBP officials had known about offensive posts “for up to three years” – even though officials claimed this week that they had only recently learned about them. “Looks like CBP lied,” Ocasio-Cortez charged Thursday, one day after the Politico story appeared. “Reporting shows they knew about it for *years.* This is a big deal.”

Ted Cruz schools Kaepernick, adds ‘context’ after ex-NFL star quotes Frederick Douglass ‘Fourth of July’ speech
Sen. Ted Cruz responded Thursday night after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernickposted a passage earlier on the Fourth of July from a famous speech by Civil War-era abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The passage Kaepernick cites is from Douglass’ speech, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Douglass delivered to the speech at a meeting of the Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Rochester, N.Y., on July 5, 1852 – nearly nine years before the Civil War began.

Kaepernick posted the following portion, without adding any comments: “What have I, or those I represent, to do with your national independence? This Fourth of July is yours, not mine…There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking andbloody than are the people of these United States at this very hour.” “You quote a mighty and historic speech by the great abolitionist Frederick Douglass,” Sen. Cruz writes in response, “but, without context, many modern readers will misunderstand.”

Closely watched June jobs report to be released Friday
Wall Street will be closely watching Friday’s release of the June jobs report, which could provide insight into whether the Federal Reserve will cut interest rates at its July meeting. As the U.S. enters the longest economic expansion on record, investors are looking at the Department of Labor’s monthly payroll and unemployment data for signs that the rapid job growth over the past two years is softening and lending way to an overall growth slowdown.

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