Hoosier hooey: Indiana perverts religious freedom in service of anti-gay bigotry

There is no doubt that Indiana’s legislature and governor enacted a law purportedly aimed at protecting religious freedom in order to empower business owners to deny services to marrying or married gays. Federal courts added Indiana to the states where a same-sex marriage ban has been ruled unconstitutional, pending a final ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. The decisions drove enactment of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The motivation behind the law was noxious, as is Gov. Mike Pence’s contention that he is upholding the finest traditions of the First Amendment’s protections for faith. At its beguiling heart, the law bars Indiana from approving any statute that crimps free exercise unless the state has a damned good reason for it. Pence is correct in pointing out that Congress approved, and President Clinton signed, a federal version of the law more than two decades ago. 2016 GOP CANDIDATES SUPPORT INDIANA'S DISCRIMINATION LAW  Here, though, Indiana’s goal is not only extremely different, it represents an attempted perversion of how the U.S. law has been applied. In 2014, in the so-called Hobby Lobby case, the U.S. Supreme Court set standards for judging when a federal law impermissibly infringes on religious freedom. There, a fundamentalist Christian family ran a company that sold products to hobbyists. They conducted business not only in accord with religious principles but as an expression of them. Along came Obamacare, with mandates that employers must provide contraception coverage. The Hobby Lobby owners, who held contraception to be immoral, objected that assisting employees in that regard would force them to violate a basic tenet of belief. The high court agreed. LUPICA: INDIANA'S BILL IS A DISGUISE FOR BIGOTRY In Indiana, folks who oppose gay marriage want to be shielded from lawsuits for, say, refusing to rent out a catering hall as the site of a same-sex wedding Continue Reading

San Diego cop kills service dog after knocking on wrong door: owner

A San Diego cop gunned down a man’s service dog after knocking on the wrong door, the heartbroken owner said. Ian Anderson claims he opened the door to two officers early Sunday morning, and his pet pit bull, Burberry, bounded out behind him. The first officer reached down as if to pet the 6-year-old pooch, but his partner danced away, drew his gun and unloaded, surveillance video revealed. “Boom. Shot right in the head, and he was done,” Anderson told NBC San Diego. “He was dead.” The officers were reportedly investigating a domestic disturbance call about 5:30 a.m. and ended up on Anderson’s doorstep by mistake. It’s not clear why they targeted his house. A police spokesman didn’t immediately respond to questions from the Daily News. “I know nothing will bring Burberry back, but it only seems necessary that this Officer is reprimanded for his disorderly actions, before this trigger happy Officer takes more lives,” Anderson wrote on Facebook. Burberry was a registered service animal, who helped the 24-year-old deal with anxiety following his father’s death, Anderson told NBC San Diego. “He was the best dog in the entire world,” he told NBC San Diego. “I would do anything to have him back right now. Absolutely anything.” The grieving dog lover is lobbying for better training for police officers who might deal with animals. An online petition started by a friend calls for police to take courses modeled after a Colorado law, designed to cut down the number of animals killed by cops. More than 4,600 people had signed on Wednesday. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Administration for Children’s Services cleans up city child care programs after audit finds violations

Administration for Children’s Services officials have taken steps to clean up 73 city child-care programs after a federal audit in December found violations ranging from missing paperwork to safety issues, agency officials said. Problems uncovered in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services review ranged from rodent feces on cots and lunch tables to children being left alone in classrooms. The federal agency, which funds many city child-care programs, gave ACS up to 180 days to fix the issues or risk losing funding. But as of Friday all the violations deemed most serious-including allegations that kids were mistreated- have been addressed, ACS officials said. “There's no immediate risk to any child in these programs — if there was, we’d shut them immediately,” said agency spokeswoman Jill Krauss. “In all cases, we've aggressively tackled problems, because the safety of children is our top priority.” ACS officials said the agency is on track to fix a slew of less serious violations by filing missing paperwork and repairing broken equipment. Still other violations related to class size rules will be addressed by July, agency officials said. Thousands of city kids aged 2-5 are enrolled in hundreds of federally funded daycare programs in all five boroughs. The city manages administers the funding and is in charge of overseeing the programs. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

More and more funeral homes are offering live-streaming of services, so mourners who can’t attend can still say goodbye

Every day, we reveal much of our lives online. Now, we’re revealing more of our deaths. It may sound tacky or ghoulish, but more and more people are live-streaming a relative’s funeral ceremony, giving an alternative for mourners who are too sick, too far-away, or too financially strapped to attend the event. “People used to be uncomfortable about the whole idea,” says Curtis Funk, whose company, FuneralRecording.com, streams about 100 funerals a day, up from three or four a few years ago. “But at this point, our (marketing) is minimal. The funeral homes keep coming to us.” When Stuart Porteous’ father died back in January, some relatives couldn’t make the trek to Auckland, New Zealand, but Porteous balked at the idea of a live-stream. “A funeral is so personal, it seemed odd to put it up on the Web,” he says. Soon he reconsidered, in hopes of giving closure to his dad’s far-flung friends. To provide the ability for people to attend the funeral, even remotely, was very special. In this day and age, it’s a powerful tool. “To provide the ability for people to attend the funeral, even remotely, was very special,” Porteous says. “In this day and age, it’s a powerful tool.” Funk got the idea for his service back in 2003 when he attended a relative’s final rites and was given a dated old cassette recording after the ceremony. “I got the idea to record these events on CD and DVD,” Funk says. “When webcasting came in, it went to streaming. Yet, only the brave, the earliest adapters” jumped on it. Funk said the turning point came from Jews, who are required by religious law to bury their dead within 24 hours — often too quickly for mourners to arrive. Streaming companies like Funk’s charge funeral homes between $149 to $300 a month for their Continue Reading

HBO Now launching as stand-alone service in early April with Apple as exclusive partner

Apple will be the exclusive launch partner of HBO’s stand-alone streaming service named HBO Now, the network’s CEO Richard Plepler announced at Monday’s Apple event. The service, which will cost $14.99 a month, will offer the network’s content — such as the Game of Thrones series, as well as movies on-demand — without having to subscribe to a cable or satellite tv subscription. Plepler said the service will become available in early April, and can be watched on Apple TV, iPhone and iPad apps. The network's original HBO Go streaming service is currently available on other platforms such as Roku, Android, Amazon FIre TV, Xbox and PlayStation when purchased as part of a cable or satellite subscription. No announcement has been made yet as to when the stand-alone edition will be available on non-Apple platforms. Follow @NYDNTech on Twitter for more updates from Monday's Apple announcements. Follow on Twitter @MikeJSorrentino Continue Reading

Fringe benefits! Revolve unveils same-day delivery service for Coachella fashion emergencies

Is there anything worse than arriving at a music festival only to realize that you've forgotten to pack your favorite tasseled poncho? Now online retailer Revolve Clothing has unveiled a same-day delivery service for Coachella Music and Arts Festival this month, reports Women's Wear Daily. The service, which will run for the weekends of April 9-12 and April 16-19, will let shoppers who place their order by midday get their items by 6 p.m. — just in time for the evening set. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

Taking Tidal’s Temperature: Jay Z’s new streaming service has a long way to go to prove itself

Another day, another headline-making “exclusive” from Tidal. On Wednesday, the splashy new streaming service from Jay Z and friends, floated its latest, and longest, lure: Jay will perform a full show viewable only by Tidal subscribers on May 13, featuring a set list based on obscurities from his catalog suggested by fans. The announcement joins a flurry of other big name, Tidal-only teases over the last few weeks, including a song by Rihanna, a home video by Beyonce and behind-the scenes-footage of Madonna. More than anything, the swiftness with which these specials keep coming emphasizes the need for this service to prove itself and fast. Fairly or not, Tidal has turned into a pinata - both for its fans and for its powerful competitors. The service’s all-star kick-off last month succeeded only in presenting the new portal as a way for already rich stars to get even richer. The starry line-up failed to communicate their deeper and worthier cause - to better compensate the struggling artists it carries, along with fairly remunerating the hot shots at the top. Tidal has also failed to make a case for its sustainability with the numbers it's provided. After the company fell out of Apple’s Top 700 app list last week, Jay took to Twitter to say everything was going just peachy. He reported that Tidal already has 770,000 members. To put this into perspective, Spotify has 60 million, 15 million of whom pay up. Of course, that company had a decade long jump on Tidal. Even so, the new organization’s figure of 770,000 subscribers provides no genuine measure of the site’s value because listeners haven’t yet had to pay. We’re still in the “first-month-free” zone. It will be interesting to see what happens deeper into May when that deal expires. After all, isn’t paying the real issue? Continue Reading

Rick Santorum: Original draft of Indiana ‘religious freedom’ law would have let gays deny service, too

Former Pennsylvania Republican Sen. Rick Santorum on Sunday cited an offensive slogan used by the bigoted Westboro Baptist Church to explain his defense of the original version of Indiana’s controversial “religious freedom” law. Santorum, in an effort to argue that businesses owners of all values shouldn’t ever be forced to provide services to groups of people with whom they disagree, attempted to explain that gay people would have also had the right to deny service under the original draft of the bill to anyone they felt impinged on their own freedom. “If you’re a print shop and you are a gay man, should you be forced to print ‘God Hates F--s’ for the Westboro Baptist Church because they hold those signs up?” Santorum said on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” referring to an infamous slogan used by the Kansas-based sect known for picketing funerals and displaying hateful signs. “Should the government — and this is really the case here — should the government force you to do that?” Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, as it was originally written, would have essentially allowed businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians on religious grounds. But after an intense outcry by businesses and politicians across the country, Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence, who had supported the bill, relented and called for revisions that would explicitly prohibit discrimination. Santorum, however, said he supported the original version of the bill and “was hoping he (Pence) wouldn’t change it. “Tolerance is a two-way street,” Santorum said Sunday. “And that’s what these cases are all about. This is about the government coming in and saying, ‘No, we’re going to make you do this.’ And this is where I just think we need some space to say let’s have some Continue Reading

Kanye West tweets support for Tidal after removing all Twitter references to Jay Z’s music service

The Tidal has turned. Kanye West is once again promoting his pal Jay Z’s new music service Tidal, after making headlines for scrubbing his Twitter account of all references to it. “The love of music is louder than words,” he tweeted Wednesday night. It was a change of tune for Yeezus, considering that he initially deleted all references to Tidal, including removing the service’s logo as his Twitter avatar. West was one of the many music superstars, along with Beyoncé, Rihanna, Madonna and Nicki Minaj, who attended Tidal’s star-studded launch last month, which is why it didn’t go unnoticed when he removed his original tweets promoting the service. It was unclear why the rapper deleted the messages, but the removal did coincide with news of Tidal's middling launch; it dropped out of iTunes’s Top 700 most-downloaded apps chart this week. Perhaps West’s change of heart has to do with reports that Jay Z and Beyoncé plan to release a joint album exclusively on Tidal, a move that could bolster the flailing company. Continue Reading

‘Military mistress’ who married 14 service men is stopped, released in Alabama despite alleged crime spree

An Oregon woman dubbed "the military mistress" for her marriages to 14 servicemen was stopped, but released by Alabama authorities Tuesday — despite being wanted for an alleged multistate crime spree. Bobbi Ann Finley, 39, and her latest husband, Zackerie House, 27, were spotted living in a stolen vehicle with a dog in Mobile County on Tuesday, officials told AL.com. The Mobile County Sheriff's Office seized the car but released the couple because they were not facing any local charges. The couple is wanted in three states — Oregon, Colorado and Oklahoma — for writing $13,500 in bad checks, officials said. Finley and House have continued the scam on the road, using a Wells Fargo bank account to purchase survival equipment, officials said. They were previously thought to be driving a stolen 2005 Cadillac Escalade. Officials did not immediately say if that was the car in which they were stopped Tuesday. House is the latest service member to get wrapped up in Finley's scheme, officials said. The Oregon woman has picked up military members across the U.S. and wiped out their bank accounts since 2004, the Marion County Sheriff's Office said. Finley tricked the men, lying about her background and pretending to be the perfect wife, her exes told ABC in 2011. "She's a domestic terrorist," ex-husband Ben Giles said. "As a military member, we were sworn to protect this country against all enemies, foreign and domestic. She is targeting military members. She's destroying their lives." The mother of nine was convicted of forging checks in 2007 and for theft in 2010. Authorities ask anyone with information about the couple to contact their local police department. Join the Conversation: Continue Reading