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US Supreme Court Gets More Requests From Religious Groups for Exemptions to Pandemic Restrictions

US Supreme Court Gets More Requests From Religious Groups for Exemptions to Pandemic Restrictions
SCOTUS sees religious groups "seeking exemptions from pandemic-related limits that they claim amount to faith-based discrimination, even as the country is undergoing another surge in coronavirus cases," The Hill reported.

Dr. Yolandra Hancock, board-certified pediatrician and obesity specialist, joins us to discuss a recent report in The Hill that the Supreme Court has seen new filings by religious groups seeking exemptions from COVID-19-related restrictions. These cases involve "a Christian school in Kentucky, a reverend and rabbi co-litigant team from New Jersey, and a church in California," and they come after "the justices agreed on Thanksgiving eve to bar New York authorities from enforcing attendance restrictions at churches and synagogues in the state's efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19," the outlet noted. 

Caleb Maupin, journalist and political analyst, returns to talk about the wave of executions the US Justice Department has set up during the Trump administration's final days. "The Justice Department's push to carry out executions before President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration — including scheduling three during the week before he takes office — has drawn sharp condemnation," the Washington Post reported Wednesday. "'It's just unconscionable to move forward with executions at this point, in this situation,' said Shawn Nolan, a lawyer for two of the federal death-row inmates facing execution. 'Joe Biden ran on a platform of not moving forward with executions. And they shouldn't move forward with these executions during this transition period.'"

Dr. Emmitt Riley, political scientist and assistant professor of Africana studies at DePauw University, joins us to discuss Wednesday's 46-minute video tirade by US President Donald Trump in which he continued to make allegations of voter fraud in the November election. Trump "declared that the nation's election system was 'under coordinated assault and siege' and argued that it was 'statistically impossible' for him to have lost" to projected President-elect Joe Biden, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. They also discuss newly pardoned former national security advisor Michael Flynn's call for Trump to suspend the US Constitution, declare martial law and have the military oversee a new election.

William Astore, retired US Air Force lieutenant colonel who has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School and now teaches history at the Pennsylvania College of Technology, joins us to discuss the battle for the top spot at the Pentagon heating up. "Michèle Flournoy, seen by many as the lead contender for the role, is facing stiff competition from former Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Jeh Johnson as well as retired four-star Army Gen. Lloyd Austin," The Hill reported Thursday. "Johnson, who is Black, is backed by members of the Congressional Black Caucus and progressive groups who are urging President-elect Joe Biden to pick a more diverse Cabinet."

Scott Ritter, former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, returns to talk about Biden's plans to return the US to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In an interview with a New York Times writer that was published Wednesday, Biden said he also would also seek a follow-up agreement on Iran's ballistic missile program.

Yves Engler, Montreal-based writer, author and activist, joins us to discuss Venezuela's elections. "Since [Hugo] Chávez became the president, the United States government and its allies have tried to destabilize Venezuela's government, including by direct efforts at regime change," Vijay Prashad and Carlos Ron said in a Thursday article at CounterPunch. They also discuss a Jacobin magazine article by Daniel Finn, the introduction to which said, "US media outlets like the New York Times rightly dismissed bogus claims of electoral fraud by Donald Trump. Now they need to start applying the same standards to Latin America, where such claims have been used to justify the violent overthrow of elected left-wing governments."

Dr. Dania Francis, professor of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Boston, joins us to discuss a Wednesday Common Dreams report which said, "US wage data released this week reveal the continuation of a trend that began at the end of the 1970s, and which has given the United States the dubious distinction of having the worst income inequality among most-developed countries. The Economic Policy Institute reports that between 1979 and 2019, the top 1% of people in the US — whose mean income was nearly $738,000 in 2018 — have enjoyed 160% income growth, while wages for the bottom 90% have stagnated, rising just 26% over the same 40-year period." 

Gerald Horne, professor of history at the University of Houston, author, historian and researcher, returns to discuss how "Biden's win boosts unions at a critical time," as reported Wednesday by the Financial Times. "So far, unions have been pleased with Mr. Biden's picks for top economic jobs, but some have yet to emerge, including labor secretary and US trade representative, which will both be closely watched," the outlet noted.

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