Review Category : Poltics

High Court to Decide Whether Pregnant Woman Suffered Workplace Discrimination

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — The U.S. Supreme Court is tackling the delicate case of whether pregnant women on the job deserve special consideration because of their condition.

At issue is former United Parcel Service part-time worker Peggy Young’s contention that she was unfairly treated by UPS when her doctor said she should not lift packages weighing more than 20 pounds due to her pregnancy in 2006. Typically, drivers must be able to lift packages up to 70 pounds.

However, UPS determined that she did not meet the criteria for workplace accommodation: disability, injury or loss of certification to drive. Thus, Young was put on unpaid leave without benefits.

Two courts have already ruled in favor of UPS so Young’s next step was the Supreme Court where conservative justices appeared to side with the lower courts that the plaintiff was unduly seeking the status of the best-treated workers.

Liberal justices maintained it was just the opposite because those who met UPS’ three criteria were rarely denied the accommodations Young wanted.

Ultimately, the decision expected next year will test the limits of the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978. The law says women who are pregnant must receive treatment of those “similar in their ability or inability to work.”

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Texas and 16 Other States Sue to Stop Obama Immigration Action

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(WASHINGTON) — The governors of 17 states have joined in a lawsuit to keep the White House from implementing President Obama’s executive action to stop the deportation of up to five million undocumented immigrants.

Texas Governor-elect Greg Abbott, who is spearheading the effort, contends that the president’s intention to make under half the country’s undocumented immigrant population temporary legal residents violates U.S. law.

Abbott also argues that immigration reform can only made by Congress, according to the Constitution, not, as the governor describes, “by presidential fiat.”

The other states calling for a court to stall executive action on immigration are Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

All but two have Republican governors.

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Sharpton Calls for National March Against Police Brutality

Scott Olson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Rev. Al Sharpton declared Wednesday night there would be “a national march to deal with a national crisis” following the decision by a grand jury not to indict a white New York City police officer in the apparent choke hold death of Eric Garner, an unarmed black man who was confronted by cops last July while selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner.

The march against police brutality will take place in Washington, D.C. on Saturday, Dec. 13 to spur the federal government into taking over the investigations of Garner’s death as well as the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and other instances of African-Americans allegedly dying at the hands of white cops.

Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday in Washington that the Justice Department would investigate whether Garner’s civil rights were violated.

Sharpton, who appeared with both the widow and mother of Garner, said that minority communities across the country have lost faith in state and local prosecutors because of their close ties to police departments.

Although demanding a call to action from not just minorities but any American sympathetic to the cause of justice, Sharpton urged protesters to keep their demonstrations peaceful so as not to denigrate the memories of Garner, Brown and others.

Next, Sharpton gave the floor to Garner’s widow, Esaw Garner. When asked if she accepted the condolences of Daniel Pantaleo, the officer seen on video putting her husband in an apparent choke hold, Garner responded angrily, “The time for remorse would have been when my husband was yelling to breathe. That would have been the time for him to show some type of remorse or some type of care for another human being’s life — when he was screaming 11 times that he can’t breathe!”

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Justice Department Investigating Eric Garner’s Death

Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Attorney General Eric Holder announced Wednesday night that the Justice Department will launch a civil rights investigation into the death of Eric Garner, the unarmed black man who died after being placed in a chokehold by a white New York City police officer during an arrest last summer.

The announcement came just hours after a Staten Island grand jury declined to indict officers involved in Garner’s arrest. Garner died July 17 after being placed in a chokehold by Officer David Pantaleo. The incident was caught on tape, and shows that Garner was unarmed and posing no apparent threat to the half-dozen officers who surrounded him.

After he was taken down in the chokehold by Pantaleo, other officers held him down. Garner can be heard on tape saying, “I can’t breathe.”

Holder said the department will conduct an “independent, thorough, fair and expeditious investigation. He noted that many have seen the video of the incident, and that “all lives must be valued, all lives.”

He said the federal investigation would review all aspects of the case. “We must seek to heal the breakdown in trust that we have seen,” he said.

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The Staten Island decision follows a similar finding by a grand jury in Missouri in the case of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was shot in a confrontation with Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson.

The Missouri grand jury decision sparked some violent demonstrations in Ferguson, and days of demonstrations in dozens of cities around the country. New York authorities have prepped a similar reaction following the decision in Staten Island.

The attorney general pointed out these incidents “have tested the sense of trust that must exist between law enforcement and the communities they are charged to serve and protect.” He added, “This is not a New York issue or a Ferguson issue alone. Those who have protested peacefully across our great nation following the grand jury’s decision in Ferguson have made that clear.”

Wednesday night, as crowds of protesters gathered in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities, the attorney general sent them a message.

“I urge all those inclined to demonstrate tonight and in the days ahead to remain peaceful in their demonstrations, and not to engage in activities that deflect our attention from the very serious matters our nation must confront.”

Now, the Justice Department finds itself at the center of cases involving race that have captured the attention of a divided nation.

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Bobby Jindal, Ted Cruz Do Small Talk in Washington

L: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call; R: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — Potential 2016 presidential candidates Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal ran into each other at the Foreign Policy Initiative’s day-long forum Wednesday, and ABC News caught part of the exchange on camera.

The Republicans talked about the U.S. Senate runoff in Louisiana between Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu and Republican Bill Cassidy, and Cruz wished Jindal luck as he went off to the stage.

It was just two guys talking politics – except they might be trying to prevent the other from getting the Republican nomination soon.

Here’s a transcript of their exchange:

CRUZ: So your term is up next year?

JINDAL: Yeah. Our election is in November. We still got one more election on Saturday. We’re going to get you a Republican…

CRUZ: The numbers look good though, I’m encouraged by it.

JINDAL: He’s up by 14, 16 points.

CRUZ: So he should win.

JINDAL: Right now it’s just turnout.

CRUZ: It’s just turnout. That’s the whole game.

JINDAL: She snuck by us in ’02 [inaudible]

CRUZ: Go break a leg.

JINDAL: Great to see you again.

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Military Sex Assaults Up Again, but There’s a Sign of Progress

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Pentagon statistics to be released Thursday show the number of reported sexual assaults in the military rose to nearly 6,000 in fiscal year 2014, an eight-percent increase from the previous year. But in an encouraging sign, there was a significant drop in the estimated number of unwanted sexual contacts to 19,000, from 26,000 in 2012.

The eight-percent increase reflected 5,983 reports of sexual assault filed for fiscal year 2014, Defense officials confirmed.

The Pentagon reported in May of this year that for the fiscal year that ended September 30, 2013, there were 5,061 reports of sexual abuse filed. That was an unprecedented 50-percent increase from the 3,374 in 2012.

The military defines sexual assault as any form of intentional sexual contact that could range from sexual harassment to rape.

Pentagon officials at the time attributed the substantial increase in reporting as the result of greater awareness among potential victims and growing confidence that the military can prosecute sexual assault cases.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will unveil the new annual statistics at a Pentagon news conference Thursday.

Also to be released will be the results of a survey conducted every two years that estimates the number of unwanted sexual contacts in the military, or sexual prevalence.

Defense officials say the Rand Corporation’s report, known as the “Military Workplace Study,” will show a substantial 27-percent decrease from 26,000 in 2012 to 19,000 this year.

That figure is what it was in the 2010 version of the survey.

A Defense official interpreted the increased reporting in 2014 and the significant drop in sexual prevalence numbers as “encouraging” and indicative of growing confidence that the military can prosecute sexual offenders.

A series of high-profile incidents in 2013 resulted in Congress passing legislation that reformed some of the ways the military reviewed sexual assault cases. It also led the military services to review the qualification of officers assigned to handle sexual assault cases in their units.

Sexual assault in the military was a hot-button issue in Congress last year as the Senate rejected an amendment from Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., that would have removed military commanders from the chain of command that decides the prosecution of cases.

That proposal was opposed by senior military leaders who said it would affect the overall chain of command.

Gillibrand could be poised to once again reintroduce her legislation to the pending Pentagon funding bill.

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Federal Court Stops Execution in Texas After Claims of Mental Illness

iStock/Thinkstock(AUSTIN, Texas) — A federal court has stopped an execution in Texas hours before it was to be carried out.

Scott Panetti was sentenced to death after shooting and killing the parents of his estranged wife 22 years ago.

However, Panetti’s lawyers say their client is delusional, and under federal law, mentally ill people cannot be executed because they might not understand the punishment.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — while not necessarily agreeing with the attorneys’ assessment — has stopped Wednesday night’s scheduled execution so that new competency tests can be conducted on Panetti.

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How National Democrats ‘Just Walked Away from’ Mary Landrieu

(L) US SENATE / (C) US CONGRESS / iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Three days before a runoff election that’s expected to end Mary Landrieu’s 18-year-long career in the Senate, the Louisiana Democrat said she’s “disappointed” that her party has abandoned her.

“I am extremely disappointed in the Democratic Senatorial [Campaign] Committee. I’ve said that. You know, they just walked away from this race,” Landrieu told the Washington Post.

Polling in advance of the general election consistently showed Landrieu losing to Cassidy in a head-to-head contest. And after a bruising wave of Democratic defeats across the country Nov. 4, the DSCC made the decision to pull $2 million in previously reserved air time for the embattled Democrat as she advanced toward a runoff against Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy.

The Democratic committee said at the time it would continue to stay involved in the race despite pulling the finances.

“We are going to make ongoing determinations on how best to invest in the race,” DSCC Communications Director Justin Barasky told ABC News on Nov. 6. “We made the initial reservation when there were concerns that the rates would skyrocket but they have stabilized, giving us more flexibility to make week-to-week decisions.”

But the DSCC has spent nothing in the race since the runoff began, according to Federal Election Commission records. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, on the other hand, has spent over $1.3 million since Nov. 5.

The DSCC has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

The Democratic committee’s withdrawal from the race is only one part of Landrieu’s losing money battle. Outside groups have spent over $11 million in support of Cassidy during the runoff, compared to just $2.1 million in support of Landrieu.

And as of Nov. 16, Landrieu had only $782,616 cash on hand compared to Cassidy’s $1,296,282, according to FEC filings.

And while the national Democratic Party backed away from the race, the Republican National Committee doubled down on a robust field strategy, adding an additional 200 paid staff during November. In total, the RNC has spent $2.9 million in Louisiana.

With what money Landrieu and her remaining supporters still have to spend in the race, Landrieu has made late-breaking allegations that Cassidy was paid for work he didn’t do as a part-time Louisiana State University professor her campaign’s central line of attack. But whether such a late campaign issue will sway voters at the polls is an open question.

But if early voting numbers are any indication of how Saturday’s election will break, it’s bad news for Landrieu, who relies heavily on the African-American vote to compensate for a weak performance among the state’s white population.

On Nov. 4, for example, Landrieu captured 94 percent of the black vote compared to just 18 percent of the white vote and still finished just 16,000 votes ahead of Cassidy. Early voting decreased among African-Americans and registered Democrats in the runoff compared to the general election, while voting among white and registered Republicans increased.

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How National Democrats ‘Just Walked Away from’ Mary Landrieu

(L) US SENATE / (C) US CONGRESS / iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Three days before a runoff election that’s expected to end Mary Landrieu’s 18-year-long career in the Senate, the Louisiana Democrat said she’s “disappointed” that her party has abandoned her.

“I am extremely disappointed in the Democratic Senatorial [Campaign] Committee. I’ve said that. You know, they just walked away from this race,” Landrieu told the Washington Post.

Polling in advance of the general election consistently showed Landrieu losing to Cassidy in a head-to-head contest. And after a bruising wave of Democratic defeats across the country Nov. 4, the DSCC made the decision to pull $2 million in previously reserved air time for the embattled Democrat as she advanced toward a runoff against Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy.

The Democratic committee said at the time it would continue to stay involved in the race despite pulling the finances.

“We are going to make ongoing determinations on how best to invest in the race,” DSCC Communications Director Justin Barasky told ABC News on Nov. 6. “We made the initial reservation when there were concerns that the rates would skyrocket but they have stabilized, giving us more flexibility to make week-to-week decisions.”

But the DSCC has spent nothing in the race since the runoff began, according to Federal Election Commission records. The National Republican Senatorial Committee, on the other hand, has spent over $1.3 million since Nov. 5.

The DSCC has not responded to ABC News’ request for comment.

The Democratic committee’s withdrawal from the race is only one part of Landrieu’s losing money battle. Outside groups have spent over $11 million in support of Cassidy during the runoff, compared to just $2.1 million in support of Landrieu.

And as of Nov. 16, Landrieu had only $782,616 cash on hand compared to Cassidy’s $1,296,282, according to FEC filings.

And while the national Democratic Party backed away from the race, the Republican National Committee doubled down on a robust field strategy, adding an additional 200 paid staff during November. In total, the RNC has spent $2.9 million in Louisiana.

With what money Landrieu and her remaining supporters still have to spend in the race, Landrieu has made late-breaking allegations that Cassidy was paid for work he didn’t do as a part-time Louisiana State University professor her campaign’s central line of attack. But whether such a late campaign issue will sway voters at the polls is an open question.

But if early voting numbers are any indication of how Saturday’s election will break, it’s bad news for Landrieu, who relies heavily on the African-American vote to compensate for a weak performance among the state’s white population.

On Nov. 4, for example, Landrieu captured 94 percent of the black vote compared to just 18 percent of the white vote and still finished just 16,000 votes ahead of Cassidy. Early voting decreased among African-Americans and registered Democrats in the runoff compared to the general election, while voting among white and registered Republicans increased.

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What It Takes to Get the White House in the Holiday Spirit

Devin Dwyer/ABC News(WASHINGTON) — The holidays have officially arrived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

The White House on Wednesday unveiled this year’s over-the-top decorations and theme, which is “A Children’s Winter Wonderland.”

As families across the nation decorate their own homes, and wrestle with those pesky Christmas lights, here’s a look at what it takes to bring holiday cheer to the White House:

  • In all, 106 volunteers from 37 states came together to create this year’s White House Winter Wonderland.”
  • There are 26 different Christmas trees, including one official tree in the Blue Room that stands 18 feet high and nearly 12 feet wide and is adorned with 2,000 unique ornaments.
  • It took more than 1 mile of black and white ribbon to create this year’s animated replicas of First Dogs Sunny and Bo.
  • 80 pounds of gingerbread dough, 40 pounds of marzipan and 25 pounds of sugar were used to make one massive gingerbread White House.
  • 300 bunches of preserved hydrangea were carefully woven together to create the archway in the East Colonnade.
  • It took 30 volunteers roughly 350 hours to create the ornate decorations for the columns in the East Wing Hallway.
  • The first ever White House 3D printed ornament challenge received over 300 submissions, ranging from a holiday Abe Lincoln to happy snowmen.
  • All of this hard work will be enjoyed by the approximately 65,000 visitors who are expected to visit the White House this holiday season.

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