The nation’s passenger railroad company is carrying more passengers than ever. Amtrak said November’s $204.7 million cash haul was the biggest in the quasi-governmental company’s history. Thanksgiving week was the month’s busiest, with 777,897 riders who paid $61 million for their tickets. An Amtrak press release boasts about the railroad’s amenities such as free wi-fi, plenty of legroom and no middle seat which, taken together, was a not-so-subtle dig against its chief competitor, the airline industry. Amtrak could have also mentioned it doesn’t have long security waiting lines and body searches, but that might have been a dig too far.
Lawsuit tackles Arkansas campus speech policy
Turning Point USA, a student organization, filed a lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of a “free speech zone” that occupies only 1% of the Jonesville campus of Arkansas State University. Alliance Defending Freedom, a provider of pro bono legal services, said the decision to sue came after an administrator stopped students who were distributing literature from a table outside the student union. In addition to restricting First Amendment-protected speech, ADF said the school also requires students to obtain prior permission to use the speech zone.
Denver ordinance tramples First Amendment
Acting on behalf of the Colorado Union of Taxpayers Foundation, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit in a state court to overturn a Denver ordinance that requires non-profit organizations to disclose their donors—including their occupations and employers—if they spend $500 in a year to promote or defeat a ballot measure. The suit cites the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1958 decision in NAACP v. Alabama holding that a law requiring an organization to disclose its members was a violation of the First Amendment’s right of association.
Court orders new trial for Pennsylvania ballot law
The U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals vacated a district judge’s decision and ordered a new trial in a case brought by three minor political parties to contest a Pennsylvania ballot access law. The political organizations—the Constitution Party of Pennsylvania, the Green Party of Pennsylvania, and the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania—challenged the state’s petition-gathering requirements that require minor parties to collect 250% more signatures than required of the state’s Democratic and Republican parties. The district judge adopted a recommendation from the Commonwealth without any fact-finding or explanation, the appeals court said.
Robocaller shares liability for consumer fraud
A company that placed thousands of robocalls for a customer that was engaged in consumer fraud can be held liable for violating the Federal Trade Commission’s regulations, the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled. Thus, Universal Processing Services of Wisconsin LLC, the company which placed the calls for Treasure Your Success, could be fined and ordered to pay restitution to consumers who paid $600 to $1,000 to have their credit card interest rates reduced. TYS, the appeals court noted, didn’t have the ability to make good on its promises, but it managed to amass over $2.5 million from the fraud.
No sanctuary for four New York criminal aliens
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrested four illegal criminal aliens despite the New York Police Department’s refusal to alert ICE when they were released from the city’s custody. ICE submitted detainer requests for the four, but NYPD is a “sanctuary city” that refuses to cooperate with federal immigration law agents. Among those arrested were a 45-year-old Dominican citizen who was convicted for selling drugs on school grounds, ICE said.
Nevada cardiologist arrest for health care fraud
Dr. Devendra Patel, 58, a cardiologist in Elko, Nev., was arrested and charged with over-prescribing opioid medications such as fentanyl and oxycodone, and submitting false billings to Medicare and Medicaid for health care services he did not provide, the Department of Justice said. According to a 36-count indictment, Patel performed EKGs on his patients so he could bill the federal health care programs for nuclear stress tests that he did not administer.
Cost-of-living increased in November
The Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated a 0.4% increase in the Consumer Price Index in November, citing rising gasoline prices for most of it. The CPI rose 2.2% over the past 12 months, the BLS said. In November, gasoline prices rose 7.3%, accounting for about three-fourths of the month’s CPI increase.
Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.
The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Wednesday, December 13