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How a Democratic Congress can push back against the Supreme Court

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Now that the Democrats are assured the majority in the House of Representatives for the next two years, they can begin to plan their policy agenda going forward. Even if they reclaim the White House and a majority of the Senate in 2020, one of the key legacies of the Donald Trump presidency is the Republican majority on the Supreme Court. Left unchecked, this Republican faction has the power to nullify Democratic policies going forward.

Congress has a few options for pushing back against the influence of the Supreme Court. Here are five, beginning with the most obvious:

1) Overturn Court decisions by constitutional amendment

If a majority of Congress disagrees with the Court’s interpretation of the Constitution, one option is to override that decision with an amendment to the Constitution. This has happened before. The 11th Amendment overturned Chisholm v. Georgia, which allowed citizens of one state to sue a different state without its consent in federal courts.

The 14th Amendment (specifically dual birthright citizenship) overturned Dred Scott v. Sandford, while the 16th Amendment (allowing direct income taxes) overturned Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan and Trust Company.

The obvious limitation to this strategy is that it requires a supermajority of both chambers of Congress and of the states. Any decision by the Republican faction supported by most Republicans in either chamber, or in 13 states, will be impossible to overturn. For example, a proposed amendment to overturn Citizens United has languished in Congress for years while the campaign finance system has disintegrated.

2) Impeach and remove Justice Brett Kavanaugh

A second Constitutional option (possibly under discussion) is to impeach and remove newly confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh, or some other current justice. Removing someone from the Court would require an investigation and formal charges by the House Judiciary Committee, a majority vote in the House, a trial in the Senate, and a two-thirds majority.

This approach would need extremely compelling grounds for removal in order to gain support from more than 20 Republicans. As a practical matter, the House would need new information — such as abuse of office, financial improprieties, or further evidence of sexual assault or perjury — to provide the basis for removal, while the search for material would itself be easily criticized as partisan.

3) Expand the Supreme Court so the next Democratic president can fill extra seats

Another proposal, widely discussed among progressives, is simply to allow the next Democratic president to add new members to the Court. There is no constitutional requirement that the Court have nine members, so a Democratic majority could nullify the effects of the 2017 Neil Gorsuch and 2018 Kavanaugh appointments by passing a law to increase the size of the Court.

The disadvantage of this move is that it breaks a norm dating back to 1869. When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt attempted to pack the Court in 1937, he ran into bipartisan resistance to violating this norm in a transparent effort to dilute the influence of an opposition faction.

Breaking the norm may be justifiable in 2021, but it would legitimize future violations of the same norm when Republicans are in power (such as the Republican extension of the “nuclear option” in the Senate in 2017) and, more broadly, may fuel a cycle of retaliation in a system based as much on norms as on rules.

4) Jurisdiction-stripping

Article III, Section 2 of the Constitution grants the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction over most cases, “with such exceptions, and under such regulations as the Congress shall make.” Put simply: Congress can declare some legal questions to be outside the purview of the Supreme Court.

On issues where the Court majority has previously acted in error, violated congressional authority, or acted as an extension of the Republican Party, Congress may have a strong argument for excluding the Supreme Court from future cases on those issues.

Two examples: campaign finance laws and the Voting Rights Act. In the latter case, for example, the majority asserted in Shelby County v. Holder that “things have changed dramatically” since 1965. This case’s decision to nullify the pre-clearance provision of the Voting Rights Act unleashed a wave of racially discriminatory election rules and practices across the country, and especially in the South.

As a civil rights decision, it was breathtakingly naïve. As a Republican stratagem, it has set in motion a self-reinforcing cycle of restrictions, electoral success, and more restrictions.

As with Court-packing, the risk of this approach is that it would legitimize similar actions by the other party when the political pendulum swings. A Republican Congress could, for example, pass a law banning abortion that excluded constitutional challenges to the bill from the Court’s jurisdiction.

5) Pass. laws.

In the current political environment, it is understandable that progressives are concerned —and Republicans overjoyed — by the solid Republican majority on the Court. For more than a decade, Congress has struggled to legislate on a range of issues. Even the high point of this stretch, the 111th Congress (from 2009 to 2010) included a second session that petered out as the majority party members realized that the more they accomplished, the madder people seemed to get.

Like nature, politics abhors a vacuum. In the absence of legislative action, Presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump have rewritten regulations and issued executive orders to enact major shifts in environmental and immigration, and in doing so illustrated the instability of presidential actions.

The federal courts have also become a major source of policy change on campaign finance, same-sex marriage, and voting rights. Whether one agrees with these rulings or not, it is hard to say that the Court is passively “calling balls and strikes” when, in reality, it is a major source of new national policies. This is why the fight over Supreme Court nominations have become so bitter: They are a proxy fight for all the decisions Congress avoids.

Congress, however, can diminish the effect of executive and judicial policymaking by actually passing laws on several fronts, including.

  • DACA: Congress could enact its own Deferred Action for Children of Arrivals law so hundreds of thousands of lives do not depend on executive inaction.
  • Voting Rights: Congress could nullify Shelby County v. Holder by revising the Voting Rights Act pre-clearance authority.
  • Health Insurance: Congress could overturn the Hobby Lobby decision to amend the Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify that corporations cannot have religious views and thus cannot avoid providing full health insurance benefits.
  • Abortion Access: Since 1973, abortion policy has largely taken the form of states proposing restrictions to abortion and the Supreme Court deciding whether each state law passes constitutional muster. By 2018, the practical effect of these restrictions is that many people have to travel long distances to have an abortion, and may face state-imposed costs and delays when they get there. Congress has the power to invalidate many state laws as restraints on interstate commerce, ensuring continued access to abortion services nationwide.

These are just examples. The main point is that the power of the Republican faction on the Supreme Court depends, in part, on congressional inaction. A proactive Congress can limit Supreme Court overreach.

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11 Exercises to Fix Rounded Shoulders and Sculpt Beautiful Posture

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Modern life takes its toll on our posture when we spend hours sitting and neglect the position of our spine. Poor posture leads to an imbalance in our muscles which means that they can’t support the body properly. Luckily, this can be fixed by doing a set of effective exercises. Moreover, they can help you to reduce back pain, stop headaches, increase energy, and improve circulation and digestion.

Bright Side is ready to help our readers achieve a beautiful and healthy body, and found 11 simple exercises that can be done at home by anyone. At the end we included a small tip, as a bonus for those who enjoy massage.

1. Upper trapezius stretch

It’s better to start from your shoulders first to relax your upper muscles. An upper trapezius stretch is just perfect for this.

Initial position: For this exercise, you can stand or sit on your yoga mat, whatever you like. Keep your head straight.

What to do:

  • Slowly move your right ear toward your right shoulder. When you do this, it’s normal that your left shoulder might lift as well. If it does, bring your head back to the initial position and try to relax your left shoulder.
  • Put your right hand over your head and place it on your left cheekbone. Don’t push your head down with it, it should just lie there. This will stretch your upper trapezius muscles very gently.
  • Calmly breathe and sit in this position for 30 seconds.
  • Slowly remove your hand, come back to the initial position and repeat the same on the other side.

2. Superman

The Superman exercise engages your upper and lower back. It helps you fight lower back pain and prevents a curved spine.

Initial position: Lie face down on your stomach, on your yoga mat.

What to do:

  • Extend your arms and legs. Keep your neck neutral.
  • Keep your torso stationary and lift your arms and legs up toward the ceiling. Try forming a “U” shape with your body.
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds, lower your arms and legs, and go back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 10 times.

3. Bridge

The bridge works out glutes and strengthens the lower back, which is important for good posture.

Initial position: Lie on your yoga mat, bend your knees, and place your feet hip-width apart. Place your arms by your sides.

What to do:

  • Engage your buttocks and raise them up, creating a straight line with your body. Your shoulders should be on the floor.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds and slowly lower your body back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 15-20 times. Give yourself a rest for 30 seconds after every 5 reps.

4. Reverse shoulder stretch

This is an effective exercise to stretch your back and shoulder muscles and remove tension and pain in them.

Initial position: Stand on a yoga mat, with your feet wider than your shoulders, place your straightened hands behind you, and lock your palms together.

What to do:

  • Bring your shoulder blades together and start putting your arms up. Try to feel the tension in your spine and shoulder muscles.
  • For more spine stretch bend forward and bring your locked hands up. Hold this position for 10-15 seconds.
  • Slowly return back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 20 times.

5. Foam roller exercise for upper back

A foam roller will help you to relieve pain in your back muscles, fix rounded shoulders, and improve your overall posture.

Initial position: Get a yoga mat and lie on it with your hips apart and your feet on the floor. Place your foam roller right under your upper middle back, in your shoulder blade area.

What to do:

  • Bring your hands behind your head, this will support it. Bring your hips into a bridge pose, and hold your balance, supporting your body with your legs.
  • Inhale, push your body from your heels, and roll on your spine. Stop when the roller reaches the top of your shoulder blades.
  • Exhale and roll back until the roller reaches the bottom if your rib cage.
  • Repeat this for 30-45 seconds.

6. Cat-cow exercise

The cat-cow exercise is perfect for stretching your back, lower spine, and core muscles.

Initial position: Stand on all fours on the yoga mat, place your hands right under your shoulders, and knees and feet hip-width apart. Keep your toes pointing toward your body. Your spine should be natural and straight, no bending or arching.

What to do:

  • Cat position: exhale and engage your abdominal muscles. Arch your spine up toward the ceiling, bringing your head to your chest, aligned with your spine. Hold this for 10 seconds.
  • Cow position: slowly start bringing your stomach toward the floor and try to feel the tension in your lower back. Bring your shoulder blades together. Hold this for 10 seconds and go back to the initial position.
  • Repeat 15 times.

7. Kneeling hip-flexor stretch

The kneeling hip flexor stretch will help to remove tension from your pelvic and lower back muscles.

Initial position: Kneel on a yoga mat, bring your right leg in front of you, and bend it at a 90 degree angle. Your foot is flat on the ground. Support yourself by standing on your left knee that is also bent at 90 degrees.

What to do:

  • Slowly start bringing your right knee forward and brace your core. Engage your glutes and keep bringing your hips forward.
  • Your left knee is already bent at more than 90 degrees. Keep your spine straight, don’t bend it forward or backward.
  • Hold this position for 10 seconds to feel the stretch in the muscles then slowly return to the initial position.
  • Repeat 10 times for both sides.

8. Bird dog exercise

Bird dog helps to remove back pain, strengthens the core, and promotes proper posture.

Initial position: Stand on all fours on the yoga mat, your hands under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Your spine should be straight and neutral.

What to do:

  • Raise your right hand and your left leg at the same time, bringing them parallel to the floor.
  • As you do this, lengthen your neck and bring your chin to your chest. Look down at the floor and remain like this for 10 seconds.
  • Return to the starting position and then repeat the same exercise with your left hand and right leg.
  • Repeat 10-15 times.

9. Forearm plank

Plank is not only effective at burning fat, but it also helps to strengthen the spine muscles, it prevents back pain, and it helps to improve your posture.

Initial position: Place your forearms on the yoga mat and align your elbows below your shoulders. Your arms should be parallel to your body at about shoulder-width distance.

What to do:

  • You can clasp your hands together for more comfort. Correct your neck and spine by looking at one spot on the floor somewhere about 30 centimeters in front of your hands.
  • Pay attention, so that your head is in line with your back.
  • Hold this position for 20 seconds.

10. T-Spine windmill stretch

The t-spine windmill stretch can help you fight pain and tension in your lower back and trunk. Moreover, it works out your shoulder muscles.

Initial position: Lie on your side on a yoga mat and bend your knees and hips at 90 degrees. Extend and stack your arms together on your right side.

What to do:

  • Raise your left arm up and then place it out to the left, opening your body up. Right now, your shoulder blades should be on the floor and your legs should remain in the same position.
  • Hold it for a couple of seconds and return to your initial position.
  • Do 30 repetitions on each side.

11. Tight shoulder massage

A simple tennis ball can help you to remove pain in your shoulders in different areas and relax them. All you need here is a tennis ball and a wall.

Initial position: Stand next to the wall and face it. Place a tennis ball on the wall and lean on it. Your chest should push the ball inside your shoulder.

What to do:

  • Start making a circular movement around this muscle and try to find a trigger point.
  • Hold a ball on this point until you feel that the tension and pain are gone.
  • Keep doing this until you relax all of your trigger points.
  • Repeat on the other shoulder.

Bonus: Thai massage is amazing for your back and shoulders.

Thai massage is an ancient form of massage that uses stretching and gentle pressure on the body to relieve muscle and joint pain, and balance your body. This massage helps to make muscles more flexible and removes chronic stiffness. For better results in achieving a healthy back and good posture, you can try this type of massage, focusing on your spine muscles.

Exercises can be effective, but it’s also important to pay attention to your posture throughout the day and strive to keep your spine straight. Do you have good posture? Maybe, you have a couple of exercises that help you relieve back and shoulder pain? Let’s share in the comments!

Illustrated by Alena Tsarkova and Marat Nugumanov for BrightSide.me

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8 Top Technology Trends To Watch In China

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This is a preview of 2019 Technology Trends Report in China from Business Insider Intelligence and EqualOcean. Chinese high tech firms have been leading the way in innovation for many technologies, such as 5G. These technologies are either currently undergoing or about to undergo major phases of change.

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Why Iran is attacking oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz

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The Strait of Hormuz is a narrow waterway that lies between Iran and Oman. Dozens of tankers carry oil through the 21-mile-wide passage each day. This flow of oil represents 20 percent of the world’s supply.

Most of the tankers traveling through the Strait of Hormuz are bound for Asia. But an attack on any tanker there, regardless of its destination, can affect the price of oil everywhere. That’s because oil is a globally traded product — a drop in supply from the Persian Gulf can drive up prices from other sources around the world. After two tankers were attacked in June, the price of Brent Crude — oil sourced from the North Sea — jumped by nearly $2 per barrel.


The price of Brent crude, a global benchmark, jumped in response to the attack of two oil tankers in the Strait of Hormuz.

Vox/Danush Parvaneh

The attacks in June weren’t the only incidents in Hormuz in recent months. Several other oil tankers have been seized, attacked, and harassed. These tankers — and this narrow water passage — have become a center of conflict between the US and Iran. It’s a conflict with the potential to escalate in one of the world’s most important oil chokepoints, sending the global economy into a tailspin.

You can find this video and all of Vox’s videos on YouTube. And if you’re interested in supporting our video journalism, you can become a member of the Vox Video Lab on YouTube.

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