New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed a new bill into law that prohibits selling or buying “hate symbols’” such as the swastika and Confederate flag as well as their display on any state property such as the state and local fairgrounds.
The new law, effective immediately, severely limits the display of a range of symbols on state property. Symbols of neo-Nazi ideology, Confederate flags, are all defined by the bill as “symbols of hate.”
The bill does not go as far as making the buying or selling of such symbols totally illegal, nor does it seek to impose a blanket ban on the display of such symbols by private citizens, as is the case in certain European countries.
Critics see the move as a violation of the First Amendment.
In Germany, for example, the displaying of Nazi symbols and salutes or selling of goods that sport such “symbols of anti-constitutional organizations” is strictly banned. Even social media users who have shared images bearing the symbols have faced penalties or imprisonment. However, Germany is a rare and exceptional case.
The New York law, in comparison, strictly applies to state property, although it will also apply to private actors on public property.
Exceptions will be made for images appearing in books – such as textbooks, works of fiction, or other material serving educational or historical purposes – as well as museums and other media.
While Cuomo supported the bill introduced by Sen. Alessandra Biaggi, he conceded that the rule could require some alteration so that the state doesn’t run afoul of free speech protections codified in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
“This country faces a pervasive, growing attitude of intolerance and hate — what I have referred to in the body politic as an American cancer,” Cuomo said in a bill-signing memo.
“By limiting the display and sale of the confederate flag, Nazi swastika and other symbols of hatred from being displayed or sold on state property, including the state fairgrounds, this will help safeguard New Yorkers from the fear-installing effects of these abhorrent symbols.”
He continued: “While I fully support the spirit of this legislation, certain technical changes are necessary to balance the State’s interests in preventing the use of hate symbols on state land with free speech protections embodied in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Indeed, the law could eventually face challenges that could see the Empire State embroiled in legal battles over the bill. In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that infamous hate group the Westboro Baptist Church was well within their rights to stand on public property and curse and yell at mourners attending funerals for military service members.
According to free speech lawyer Floyd Abrams, problems with the bill could extend beyond a quick fix on mere “technical” grounds.
“Governor Cuomo is correct that the First Amendment may require changes in the law in light of the First Amendment,” Abrams told the New York Post. “A private entity can choose to sell or not sell offensive symbols but when the government bans the sale of offensive, but constitutionally protected symbols, on its property the First Amendment comes into play.”
According to the governor’s office, a legal team will review the bill and consult the state legislature in case any amendments are needed.
“There’s going to be a chapter amendment that limits the prohibitions at the state fair, to ensure that we are respecting the protections that the Supreme Court has recognized for individuals and vendors at state fairs to exercise their First Amendment rights,” said Maya Moskowitz, the press secretary for bill sponsor Sen. Biaggi.
Symbols such as the Confederate flag, which was used by the slave-owning states that were defeated in the U.S. Civil War of 1861-65, as well as monuments to Southern slave-owners and military leaders, have increasingly come under fire in recent years as blatant embodiments of white supremacy and anti-Black bigotry.
As the U.S. faced months of social upheaval and protests this year for racial justice and against police brutality, there was a surge in activity by concerned groups of citizens who targeted statues for toppling or lobbied authorities for their removal from public squares and government facilities.
The upswell in anti-racist social movement activity has also been accompanied by the rise of far-right white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups, including outright domestic terrorist groups who have threatened deadly attacks on civilian targets and public officials.
Dolphin Swims Through Louisiana Neighborhood in Aftermath of Hurricane Ida
A Louisiana family was shocked to find a dolphin swimming through their neighborhood in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.
Amanda Huling and her family were assessing the damage to their neighborhood in Slidell, Louisiana, when they noticed the dolphin swimming through the inundated suburban landscape.
In video shot by Huling, the marine mammal’s dorsal fin can be seen emerging from the water.
“The dolphin was still there as of last night but I am in contact with an organization who is going to be rescuing it within the next few days if it is still there,” Huling told FOX 35.
Ida slammed into the coast of Louisiana this past weekend. The Category 4 hurricane ravaged the power grid of the region, plunging residents of New Orleans and upwards of 1 million homes and businesses in Louisiana and Mississippi into the dark for an indefinite period of time.
Officials have warned that the damage has been so extensive that it could take weeks to repair the power grid, reports Associated Press.
Also in Slidell, a 71-year-old man was attacked by an alligator over the weekend while he was in his flooded shed. The man went missing and is assumed dead, reports WDSU.
Internet users began growing weary last year about the steady stream of stories belonging to a “nature is healing” genre, as people stayed indoors and stories emerged about animals taking back their environs be it in the sea or in our suburbs.
However, these latest events are the surreal realities of a world in which extreme weather events are fast becoming the new normal – disrupting our lives in sometimes predictable, and occasionally shocking and surreal, ways.
Mom in LA Suburbs Fights Off Mountain Lion With Bare Hands, Rescues 5-Year-Old Son
A mother in Southern California is being hailed as a hero after rescuing her five-year-old son from an attacking mountain lion.
The little boy was playing outside his home in Calabasas, a city lying west of Los Angeles in the Santa Monica Mountains, when the large cat pounced on him.
The 65-pound (30 kg) mountain lion dragged the boy about 45 yards across the front lawn before the mother acted fast, running out and striking the creature with her bare hands and forcing it to free her son.
“The true hero of this story is his mom because she absolutely saved her son’s life,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Captain Patrick Foy told Associated Press on Saturday.
“She ran out of the house and started punching and striking the mountain lion with her bare hands and got him off her son,” Foy added.
The boy sustained significant injuries to his head, neck and upper torso, but is now in stable condition at a hospital in Los Angeles, according to authorities.
The mountain lion was later located and killed by an officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, who found the big cat crouching in the bushes with its “ears back and hissing” at the officer shortly after he arrived at the property.
“Due to its behavior and proximity to the attack, the warden believed it was likely the attacking lion and to protect public safety shot and killed it on sight,” the wildlife department noted in its statement.
The mountain lion attack is the first such attack on a human in Los Angeles County since 1995, according to Fish and Wildlife.
The Santa Monica Mountains is a biodiverse region teeming with wildlife such as large raptors, mountain lions, bears, coyote, deer, lizards, and snakes. However, their numbers have rapidly faded in recent years, causing local wildlife authorities to find new ways to manage the region’s endemic species.
Video Shows Taliban Taking Joyride in Captured US Blackhawk Helicopter
The rapid fall of Kabul to the Taliban has resulted in a number of surreal sights – from footage of the Islamist group’s fighters exercising at a presidential gym to clips of combatants having a great time on bumper cars at the local fun park.
However, a new video of Taliban members seemingly testing their skills in the cockpit of a commandeered UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter shows the chilling extent to which U.S. wares have fallen into the hands of a group it spent trillions of dollars, and exhaustive resources, to stamp out.
In the new video, shared on Twitter, the front-line utility helicopter can be seen taxiing on the ground at Kandahar Airport in southeastern Afghanistan, moving along the tarmac. It is unclear who exactly was sitting in the cockpit, and the Black Hawk cannot be seen taking off or flying.
It is unlikely that the Taliban have any combatants who are sufficiently trained to fly a UH-60 Black Hawk.
The helicopter, which carries a $6 million price tag, is just a small part of the massive haul that fell into the militant group’s hands after the country’s central government seemingly evaporated on Aug. 14 amid the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition troops.
Some 200,000 firearms, 20,000 Humvees and hundreds of aircraft financed by Washington for the now-defunct Afghan Army are believed to be in the possession of the Taliban.
The firearms include M24 sniper rifles, M18 assault weapons, anti-tank missiles, automatic grenade launchers, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars.
Taliban fighters in the elite Badri 313 Brigade have been seen in propaganda images showing off in uniforms and wielding weaponry meant for the special forces units of the Afghan Army.
The U.S. is known to have purchased 42,000 light tactical vehicles, 9,000 medium tactical vehicles and over 22,000 Humvees between 2003 and 2016.
The White House remains unclear on how much weaponry has fallen into Taliban hands, with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan admitting last week that the U.S. lacks a “clear picture of just how much missing $83 billion of military inventory” the group has.