What does the Constitution Really Say about Gay Rights?

ConstitutionIt was a period of peace and relief for the LGBT people in Charlotte after this city outlawed LGBT discrimination last February (2016). That peace, however, was short-lived as North Carolina’s State governor and legislature passed and signed into law (just in one day) what many now consider as the most extreme anti-LGBT measure ever legalized in the country.

North Carolina’s new law has two parts: use of public restroom based on one’s biological gender (not on one’s preferred gender identity); and, prohibition on any local government to create any (new) anti-discrimination law (like the one Charlotte passed).

North Carolina is the third state (in the last five years) to prohibit local anti-discrimination laws. While many see this move as a counterattack in the latest battle over gay rights, it is this conservative State’s way of response to liberal cities that pass laws in protection of the LGBT people.

Can this move lead to questions about constitutionality?

Barely a week after North Carolina signed its new law, it has already been met with much criticism from various businesses and organizations. Besides a lawsuit filed by Equality North Carolina, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Lambda Legal, wherein the State is accused of violating the US Constitution’s stipulations regarding equal treatment, as many as 120 company executives have also signed a letter which criticizes the law and seeks its repeal; the States of Connecticut, New York, Washington as well as other cities have also banned government-connected travels to North Carolina as an expression of their opposition to the law.

The law, however, is not without supporters. One of these is the Liberty Council, a Christian legal aid group, which has offered to defend the State against the lawsuit (Liberty Council represented the Kentucky court clerk who refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples the previous year).
Apparently, North Carolina’s law is testing the limits of the US Constitution. But while the 14th Amendment promises equal protection under the law, the Supreme Court remains vague with regard to what this promise means for the LGBT community.

Many legal professionals believe that the case against North Carolina will definitely be a tough one to litigate; however, many also believe that it may force the Supreme Court to answer what the Constitution really says about gay rights.

Recalls and very Huge Fines Faced by Volkswagen

Around the globe, more than 8 million Volkswagen cars may be recalled, while in the US, besides the close to half a million cars that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already ordered to be recalled, a Volkswagen fraud lawsuit filed by the US Justice Department (against Volkswagen) in behalf of the EPA may also result to about $90 billion in fines.

The investigation of emission scandal that Volkswagen is involved with, wherein German car manufacturer Volkswagen is accused of cheating emissions tests in the US, has now spread to many other countries, including parts of Europe, Canada and South Korea.

Since 2009, Volkswagen has sold at least 480,000 of its clean diesel cars in the US after passing emissions tests conducted by the EPA. It was later found out, however, that these vehicles were equipped with a defeat device, a type of computer software which allowed the German-made cars to detect testing scenarios. Consequently, the device put the car into safety mode, reducing its emission of nitrogen oxide (NOx) by making the vehicle’s engine run below its normal power – though fraudulent, it was definitely an impressive way of dishonestly making its way into the US car market. After tests have been conducted, as the vehicle goes back on the road and runs on normal power, it also goes back to emitting hazardous pollutants that are up to 40 times higher than the limit set by the Clean Air Act.

Diesel-power cars are slowly, but definitely, gaining a spot in the US car industry. This is why some wonder how other car manufacturers, like Chevrolet, have been able to change the image of diesel engines from slow, noisy and emitting lots of dirty smoke, to quiet and as clean as gasoline engines, while Volkswagen had to cheat in order to pass emissions tests. Since diesel engines also provide more torque and diesel itself ensures better fuel economy, it may only be a matter of time before cars with diesel engine start dominating US roads and highways too, but as regards those manufactured by Volkswagen, only time will tell.

Black Woman Cast as Beloved Childhood Character

Social media went aflame when it was announced that Laurence Olivier Award-winning actress, Noma Dumawezni, Harry Potter Platformwas cast as the adult Hermione Granger in the upcoming play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Jamie Parker and Paul Thornley were also cast as Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, respectively. The play, adamantly stated as “not a prequel” to the septology, revolves around the hardships faced by overworked Ministry father and school-age son, Harry and Albus Severus.

Many people cited the films in justification for their vehemence against the casting of a black woman as Hermione Granger and even continually cites one line from the third book, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (published in 1999), that supposedly states that the character in question was white.

Author of the series, J.K. Rowling, took to her own social media channels and went on to support the new casting. She said, “Canon: brown eyes, frizzy hair and very clever. White skin was never specified. Rowling loves black Hermione”. Matthew Lewis and Evanna Lynch (who played Neville Longbottom and Luna Lovegood in the films) have also expressed their support for Dumawezni. Emma Watson played the role for the film adaptations.

The play is set to premiere on the 30th of July 2016 at the West End’s Palace Theatre.

Volkswagen to give out $1,000 for customers involved in emission rigging scandal

With hopes of winning back their clientele’s trust, Volkswagen is giving away cash cards worth $1,000 to those affected by what was dubbed by some to be one of the scruffiest scandals in the automotive industry.

According to a report by the Independent, the German automaker is planning to dole out a pre-loaded Visa card with $500, and another cash card worth $500 to be spent on any Volkswagen dealership. The move, which hopes to regain trust and goodwill to its customers and the public, is estimated to cost the company $500 million.

However, some found Volkswagen’s move unappealing. According to Senators Edward Markey and Richard Blumenthal, the compensation offered by the automaker giant is “insultingly inadequate.” The senators also challenged the company to buy back the affected cars, and to announce that every owner involved in the emission-rigging scandal should have the right to sue.

In September, the U.S. Environment Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that some Volkswagen units are equipped with a device designed to rig emission tests. The software, which was installed in more than 400,000 diesel-powered, four-cylinder cars, works by switching the engine into a sort of test mode when it sense that the car is being tested for emission. But when on the road, this test mode switches off, resulting to an emission that is up to 40 times higher than what clean air regulation allows.

Ten years later: Obama visits New Orleans to remember ‘Katrina’

It has been 10 years since Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc to Louisiana, Florida, and other areas in the southeastern part of the United States. Leaving millions of people homeless and without livelihoods, the hurricane had since been known as the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history. Now, President Obama asserts that the devastation caused by Katrina could have been avoided if not for government failure.


In a visit to New Orleans—the state most hit hard by the disaster—last August 27, the president addressed a small crowd gathered to commemorate the 10th year since the hurricane first struck the area on August 29, 2005. According to a report by NPR’s Scott Neuman, Obama called Katrina a “man-made calamity,” saying that the devastating outcome it left in its wake is as much a result of structural economic inequalities as it was a result of the deadly forces of nature.

“New Orleans had long been plagued by structural inequality that left too many people, especially poor people, especially people of color, without good jobs or affordable health care or decent housing…Too many kids grew up surrounded by violent crime, cycling through substandard schools where few had a shot to break out of poverty,” NPR quotes the president as saying.

In the years since Hurricane Katrina struck the nation, the White House has made plenty of efforts to help affected areas recover from the disaster. Aside from New Orleans and other surrounding areas in Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi have all benefited from the billions spent in restoration efforts since Obama first took the presidency in 2009.

Pollutants Volkswagen Diesel Emissions Produced

In 2009, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new regulations to lower emissions from diesel vehicles. This stringent plan to lower emissions was specifically targeting nitrogen oxides, which are harmful greenhouse gasses and contribute to smog among other chemical-induced air pollution. Due to the significant amount of health problems that nitrogen oxides can cause, the EPA has readily constricted the levels of nitrogen oxide pollution allowable.

In a statement, the EPA highlighted the negative health effects of nitrogen oxides: “Exposure to these pollutants has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses that can be serious enough to send people to the hospital.” The chemical composition contributed to ground-level ozone and particular matter, both of which have been cited to cause premature death from respiratory and cardiovascular conditions.

The U.S. has a long history of problems with diesel vehicles contributing unwanted and rampant pollution throughout its border. The new discovery of Volkswagen selling diesel vehicles that emit 10 to 40 times as many chemicals as the EPA allows is just one of many environmentally hazardous events the U.S. car industry has caused. With the inception of passenger vehicles, the threat of unregulated, larger diesel vehicles spreading more hazardous emissions was a significant threat to the air quality of major cities. Fortunately, the popularity of diesel fuel was minimal and the incorporation of stricter emissions laws caused diesel vehicles to lose appeal for car manufacturers and purchasers alike.

Many countries have discussed or already instituted bans on diesel vehicles due to the decrease in air quality the cars cause. The French government discussed slowly phasing out diesel vehicles while promoting electric cars since the current ratio of diesel vehicles to non-diesel is 3 to 1. Legislation that effectively limits the use of diesel may be in short order after the fraudulent activities of Volkswagen.

Thousands Evacuated After California Wildfires

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) stated that over 19,300 have been displaced and evacuated following what has been reported to be the most devastating fire in the Western United States this year. Jeremy Brown, Governor of California, declared a state of emergency in the affected areas. Some of the areas that were affected include the western Sierras, Middletown, west of Sacramento, and Lake County.

It has been reported that at least 81 houses and 130 buildings were engulfed in the flames, though Cal Fire has said that affected structures are in the thousands with an estimated 6,400 at least. In the first 12 hours of the flames alone, over 40,000 acres of forest were set ablaze. The long-suffered drought as well as the heat wave that has since carried over from the week prior made the fire more difficult to contain than it already was, according to a spokesman of Cal Fire.

Communities have been leveled to the ground in ash and soot as the fire has lasted well onto Sunday, the 13th of September. In a posts on social media from a certain Laura Streblow (27), an evacuee from Hidden Valley Lake alongside her boyfriend, she says “Middleton is basically gone” as she fled from the flames.
(Source: Reuters)

C.R. Bard’s responsibility in the injuries caused by the IVC Filters

After a NBC Investigation was conducted, many questions began to arise about the company C.R. Bard. The company is behind the device the Bard G2 IVC Filter, designed to catch blood clots before they travel towards the lungs and cause pulmonary embolism, according to Habush Habush & Rottier S.C. ®. Although the medical device was intended to help individuals looking to prevent the deadly disease, many side effects began to come to light. More than 900 cases of adverse effects caused by the implanting of the temporary device were reported to the FDA, including 27 deaths. Despite these disturbing figures, the company neglected to recall the product.

The failure of C.R. Bard to recall the device meant it was still being used on individuals unaware of the devastating risks associated with the IVC Filter. The device often became fractured inside the body or migrated to other areas of the body, leading to conditions such as cardiac tamponade and perforation of the heart. Not only were individuals put at risk of these conditions, but were not properly warned about these side effects. Numerous lawsuits have begun piling up against the Bard Company, who many suspect knew about the dangerous side effects and failed to warn patients about them. This is not the company’s first run-in with the FDA, as the Bard G2 IVC Filter was a replacement for the Bard Recovery Filter associated with many of the same side effects.

New dangers of the filters are still surfacing, thanks in part to NBC’s yearlong investigation of the company and the device. Individuals are still coming to the forefront reporting their nightmarish encounters after the implanting of the device, including many who narrowly escaped death after the device became lodged in their bodies. Regardless of the warning issued by the FDA, many individuals will continue to suffer from the filter as long as C.R. Bard does not properly handle the dangers associated with the device.

GM recalls thousands of cars

Honda recently recalled millions of their cars after discovering defective airbags in some on their models. This caused major safety concerns across America.  Now, another company has joined in recalling their vehicles just weeks after Honda. GM is recalling 200,000 older model Hummers, a majority being in America.

The recall comes after a problem was found in the connector module that controls the speed of air blown out of the air conditioning, causing it to overheat and catch fire.  This lead to 42 official reports of fires in Hummers, three of which caused burns to people.  None of the three were seriously injured but two of the Hummers were destroyed from the fires. The models being recalled include 2006-10 Hummer H3’s and 2009-10 Hummer H3T SUV’s.  Dealers are offering to replace the affected portion of the connector and harness.  GM is also recalling thousands of 2014-15 Chevrolet Sparks and Sonics because of a radio glitch. The glitch occurs when people use the OnStar system on the car, causing the computer screen to go blank and unable to warn drivers of potential safety hazards. GM reports it is doing all it can to help consumers who are being affected by the recall.

No crashes or fatalities have been reported due to the malfunctions.  Production of Hummers were ended in 2010.

Keeping Motorcycle Riders Safe

Records from the Department of Transportation (for 2014) show that the state of California has the highest number of registered motorcycles, at 801,803, followed by Florida, which has 574, 176, and then Texas, with 438,551.

Back in 2012, the number of motorcycles allowed on US roads and highways numbered close to 9 million – counting only those that were registered, of course. With the exception of light scooters or mopeds (a low-powered motorized bicycle with an engine smaller than 50cc), motorcycles, generally defined as any two- or three-wheel powered vehicle, should comply with state and federal certification standards and be registered or licensed to be used on public roadways.

While cars have now become the most common means of transport, the fame of motorcycles has also continuously risen in all 50 states, prompting state and local governments to pass and enforce laws that will keep motorcycle riders safe on public roads. Some of the directives required by these laws include:

  • The use of a helmet that complies with the standard required by the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 218 (FMVSS 218), more commonly known as the “DOT helmet standard”
  • The installation of the “automatic-on headlamp” (or the daytime running lamp), which lights up as the motorcycle engine is started. Some states required this feature in 1973. Eventually, almost all street bikes sold in the nation got equipped with it.
  • This daytime running lamp is intended to make motorcycles more noticeable even during the daytime to significantly reduce incidences of right-of-way violations
  • Recognition of a motorcyclist’s right-of-way. Violations of this law definitely have different effects on drivers and riders. While accidentally or intentionally failing to yield or give way to a motorcyclist may severely injure a driver in the event of an accident, this accident’s effect on a rider is more likely to result to harm that is far worse, such as disability, amputated limb/s, disfigurement or death.

While the risk of an accident should never be a deterrent for one to enjoy and benefit from the experience of riding a motorcycle in Louisville, one should also not forget that, no matter how careful a rider he/she may be, it will only take one negligent or reckless driver to make his/her motorcycle experience a nightmarish one. And, since his/her ride lacks the protection offered by a seat belt, steel frames, an airbag and all other protective shields that a car can provide, a rider can easily be tossed violently from his/her bike and suffer injuries that can alter the rest of his/her life.

Wear at least a DOT standard helmet, a brightly-colored and padded upper-torso jacket or shirt, and the prescribed riding pants, shoes and other necessary gear and, most important of all, always ride safely. Though some of these safety apparels may run in total contrast with one’s concept of being fashionable, especially when riding a perfectly cool motorbike, the benefits of taking precaution will still greatly outweigh the possible consequences of an accident, a situation, which a personal injury lawyer will be very much interested about. This is because a motorcycle accident will leave a rider not only traumatized, with damaged property and physically injured, but also with costly medical bills to pay and lost income: damages a negligent driver will be required by law to pay. But for the motorcycle rider victim, what is necessary is the best legal representation that only a seasoned personal injury lawyer can provide.

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