The Supreme Court has ruled police must obtain a warrant before searching the cellphones of people they arrest. The ruling likely applies to other electronic devices, such as laptop computers. The unanimous 9-to-0 ruling overturns a decision upholding the conviction of a California man sentenced to 15 years to life in prison after police pulled him over for expired vehicle tags, found guns in his car and then searched his phone. Data from that search was then used to tie him to a shooting. The ruling is being hailed as a major victory for privacy rights in the age of smartphones. We’ll have more on this story after headlines.
The fight for marriage equality has picked up new victories with rulings against bans in Utah and Indiana. In a 2-to-1 decision Wednesday, the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that Utah’s ban is unconstitutional. Although lower courts have struck down a number of state bans, it is the first time a federal appeals court has done so since last year’s Supreme Court decision overturning the Defense of Marriage Act. More than 1,000 LGBT couples tied the knot in December during a brief window when a district court struck down Utah’s ban. The new ruling sets up a likely challenge before the Supreme Court with Utah planning to appeal. A federal judge, meanwhile, has struck down Indiana’s same-sex marriage ban and ordered officials to immediately begin issuing marriage licenses. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender Project said: “This is a significant step in the astounding progress that has been made in just a few years toward achieving dignity for all families.”
New figures revealed by The Huffington Post show U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement deported more than 72,000 parents of U.S.-born children last year. The plight of parents with American children has been a key subject in the immigration reform debate, with advocates urging President Obama to take executive action to stop the separation of millions of families. The 72,000 figure includes more than 10,000 deported parents with no criminal convictions. The news comes as the Obama administration grapples with an influx of thousands of undocumented children fleeing violence and poverty in Central America. On Wednesday, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson visited a federal immigration center in Arizona where he made a public appeal to the parents of child migrants. Johnson said children are making dangerous treks to the U.S. border based on false hopes of citizenship.
Jeh Johnson: “My overall message is that it is not safe to send your child on the over 1,000-mile journey into Mexico, into South Texas. If you’re a parent considering doing this, DACA is not available for your child. Comprehensive immigration reform, the earned path to citizenship is not available for your child. It is a dangerous, dangerous journey.”
Sunni militants have seized a new Iraqi town just an hour from the capital Baghdad. Mansouriyat al-Jabal is home to four natural gas fields and is the latest in the north and west to fall under militant control. In a televised speech, the powerful Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr vowed to “shake the ground” underneath advancing Sunni militants and expressed concern about foreign involvement in Iraq. ISIS forces are reportedly setting their sights on Iraq’s second-largest dam, in Haditha. The New York Times reports Iraqi forces guarding the dam have been ordered to prepare for opening the floodgates, despite the potential for widespread damage. ISIS militants already control a major dam up the Euphrates River in neighboring Syria. Along with dangerously low water levels, that could threaten a new humanitarian crisis. On a visit to Iraq, Ertharin Cousin of the United Nations World Food Programme voiced concern for the estimated half a million Iraqis displaced in recent weeks.
Ertharin Cousin: “These people didn’t have any place else to go, and they are depending upon the international community and the generosity of the people of this community for their survival. The challenge is that we do not have the necessary resources to provide the assistance that is required for a sustained period of time. We need the international community to continue to support our efforts here so that no family who has now come to find refuge goes without the basic food, water and other assistance needs that U.N. community and WFP is working to provide to them”.
At least 21 people have been killed and 17 wounded in a bombing at a shopping mall in the Nigerian capital of Abuja. The Nigerian government has blamed Boko Haram militants. The government, meanwhile, is denying reports around 90 people were kidnapped in the northern Borno state over the weekend.
New figures show the U.S. economy has suffered its worst contraction since the depths of the recession five years ago. The Commerce Department says gross domestic product fell 2.9 percent in the first quarter between January and March. Major factors included an unusually cold winter, the expiration of long-term unemployment benefits, and cuts to food stamps.
A United Nations panel has voiced concern over Detroit’s mass shutdown of water to city residents behind on their monthly bills. Since March, the Detroit water authority has cut the water taps of around 3,000 residents per week over unpaid bills of two months or more. In some cases, families losing their water have had their children removed and placed in foster care. In a statement, experts with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights say the disconnection of water taps constitutes “a violation of the human right to water and other international human rights.” They add: “Because of a high poverty rate and a high unemployment rate, relatively expensive water bills in Detroit are unaffordable for a significant portion of the population. … The households which suffered unjustified disconnections must be immediately reconnected.” The statement comes days after a coalition of human rights groups and Detroit activists submitted an appeal asking the United Nations to intervene.
House Speaker John Boehner is seeking House approval to sue President Obama for overstepping his authority. Obama has angered Republicans with a series of executive orders in the face of a gridlocked Congress, with actions including raising the minimum wage, expanding LGBT protections, and stopping the deportation of undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children. On Wednesday, Boehner said he will ask House colleagues to authorize a legal challenge.
House Speaker John Boehner: “You know, the Constitution makes it clear that a president’s job is to faithfully execute the laws. And in my view, the president has not faithfully executed the laws. We have a system of government outlined in our Constitution, with the executive branch, the legislative branch and the judicial branch. Congress has its job to do, and so does the president. And when there’s conflicts like this between the legislative branch and the administrative branch, it’s, in my view, our responsibility to stand up for this institution in which we serve.”
Boehner declined to say which executive actions he plans to oppose. At the White House, Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Republicans are approaching a new level of political obstruction.
Josh Earnest: “For a long time, we’ve seen Republicans block progress in Congress, a range of bills that would promote economic strength. But in this case, it seems that Republicans have shifted their opposition into a higher gear. Frankly, it’s a gear that I didn’t know previously existed. The fact that they are considering a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against the president of the United States for doing his job, I think, is the kind of step that most Americans wouldn’t support. I think they’re looking — I think what most Americans would say is they want their leaders in Washington, D.C., to make progress on behalf of the American people. I’m not suggesting that that is easy. Bipartisan progress, in particular, is difficult. But just lapsing into these kinds of tactics that for so long that have been employed in the legislative branch, and now appear to being applied at the judicial branch is frankly not the right way to go.”
In Indonesia, the campaign of a leading presidential candidate and former military general has threatened to arrest the American journalist Allan Nairn. Nairn wrote an article quoting from a 2001 interview he conducted with the former general, Prabowo Subianto, who said: “Indonesia is not ready for democracy” and needs “a benign authoritarian regime.” He also added: “Do I have the guts? Am I ready to be called a fascist dictator?” Nairn’s story has become an issue in the Indonesian presidential campaign and has put the former general on the defensive. It coincides with outrage over the release of a music video made by Prabowo supporters showing them in Nazi-like uniforms. A spokesperson for Prabowo’s campaign said the military is prepared to arrest Nairn if he is found to have re-entered Indonesia. On his website, Nairn said: “I am currently in Indonesia so if the [army] would like to capture me, they can.” Nairn has reported from Indonesia for years, previously exposing government killings of civilians.
Journalists covering the United Nations held an emergency session on Wednesday to denounce Egypt’s sentencing of three Al Jazeera journalists to between seven and 10 years in prison. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were convicted this week of “spreading false news” in support of the Muslim Brotherhood, deemed by the government a “terrorist group.” Speaking before the United Nations Correspondents Association, Al Jazeera America President Kate O’Brien demanded the trio’s release.
Kate O’Brien: “We want our Al Jazeera journalists cleared, freed and returned to their families and colleagues, where they belong. We are doing everything in our power to achieve that. It has been 179 days since Mohamed, Peter and Baher were arrested. It is time for them to come home to their families, their colleagues and to their all-important work.”
An Egyptian official attending Wednesday’s session said it may take three to four months for the journalists’ appeal to be heard. Also addressing the gathering, Robert Mahoney of the Committee to Protect Journalists called on Egypt to release all of the 14 journalists it is holding behind bars.
Robert Mahoney: “Today, as we speak, there are 14 journalists in jail in Egypt, including the three Al Jazeera journalists that we’re here to help. That makes Egypt, on our reckoning, the biggest jailer of journalists in the Arab world — more than Syria, where there are about 12. That’s not a record that any country should be happy to have. So we are working for the release of all those journalists, and we would urge the Egyptian authorities to work to their release. And the president, al-Sisi, has it within his power to free them.”
In his first statement since being sentenced, Greste urged supporters to keep up pressure on the Egyptian government, saying: “The verdict confirms that our trial was never simply about the charges against us — it has been an attempt to use the court to intimidate and silence critical voices in the media. … [Public support] has kept us strong and continues to do so. We must all remain committed to fight this gross injustice for as long as necessary.”