Supreme Court backs religious groups in New York » Church-goers in New York are free to attend worship services without restrictions this weekend.
In a decision issued late Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court blocked enforcement of New York’s coronavirus-related limits on attendance at churches and synagogues.
The ruling argued that Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order placed greater limits on places of worship than on businesses in the same areas. Justice Amy Coney Barrett sided with the majority, while Chief Justice John Roberts voted with the court’s more liberal justices in the 5-4 decision.
The unsigned opinion said Gov. Cuomo’s coronavirus orders “strike at the very heart of the First Amendment’s guarantee of religious liberty.”
Iran frees Australian academic » Thailand confirmed Thursday it has released three Iranian prisoners jailed over a failed bombing plot in 2012. Their release immediately followed Iran’s decision to free an Australian academic jailed for two years in Tehran.
But Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied claims of a prisoner swap.
MORRISON: The Australian government doesn’t acknowledge or confirm any such arrangements regarding any release of any other persons in any other places. They would… if other people have been released in others places it’s the decision of sovereign governments of these places. There are no people who have been held in Australia who’ve been released.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard arrested 33-year-old Kylie Moore-Gilbert in 2018 after she attended an academic conference in central Iran. The government charged her with espionage and sentenced her to 10 years in prison.
In letters written during her imprisonment, Moore-Gilbert claimed her captors offered to reduce her sentence if she agreed to work as a spy for them. She refused.
The U.S. State Department welcomed her release but said “she should never have been imprisoned” in the first place. The statement accused Iran of “hostage diplomacy.”
Parler data breach » The social media platform known as Parler was not hacked earlier this week despite widely circulated claims that it was.
Tweets of the hack spread rapidly on Twitter when a user claimed personal information—including more than 5,000 social security numbers—had been stolen from Parler servers. Additional retweets included a screenshot of supposedly hacked code from a WordPress database.
Turns out an online artist created the image as a stunt, and thousands of Twitter users were ready to believe it.
Parler’s CEO John Matze said he first learned of the artwork months ago. He told users Wednesday that Parler doesn’t use WordPress products for its platform—though it once hosted a blog there. Matze assured Parler’s 3 and a half million users that all their personal information is “hidden behind multiple layers of security and are not accessible via the web.” He then criticized Twitter’s agenda bias, arguing it should have fact checked the story much sooner.
Parler’s popularity has exploded over the last few months, due to highly publicized censorship by big tech companies like Facebook and Twitter.
Ethiopia prepares assault on Tigray region » Ethiopia’s prime minister has ordered troops to move in on Tigray’s regional capital. Word of the impending assault came at the end of a 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed warned the city’s half-million residents to stay indoors and disarm. He said soldiers would show “no mercy” to civilians who didn’t move away from Tigray leaders in time.
Abiy’s announcement alarmed human rights groups already investigating mass casualties in the conflict. An Amnesty International researcher says Tigray separatists killed hundreds of civilians during a retreat from Ethiopian forces earlier this month.
ABIY: There was a massacre in the town of Mai-Kadra. Mai-Kadra is a big area, there is a rural part of Mai-Kadra, and there is a town what we have found is that that massacre has happened in the town.
Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region began on November 4th. The Tigray People’s Liberation Front once dominated Ethiopia’s government, but Abiy’s administration forced them out as part of political reforms. Tigray leaders now say his government is illegitimate.
Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his reform efforts. But he has rejected international interference in Tigray, calling it “unwelcome” and “unlawful.”