In a long-awaited decision, the Supreme Court agreed on Monday with a lower court ruling that found that Republican lawmakers in North Carolina drew two congressional districts with improper racial considerations in mind.

The ruling is the latest attempt by the justices to clarify the standard for what counts as unconstitutional racial gerrymandering the push by lawmakers, especially in the South, to draw district lines based on the racial demographics of a specific area.

The Constitution entrusts States with the job of designing congressional districts, wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the 5-to-3 decision. But it also imposes an important constraint: A State may not use race as the predominant factor in drawing district lines unless it has a compelling reason.

The court concluded that the two districts which, following the 2010 census, were drawn to pack a higher percentage of voting-age black voters into them violated this principle.

Kagan was joined in her majority opinion by Justices Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and Sonia Sotomayor.

The contested districts have quite the history at this Court, Kagan wrote, noting the long line of court challenges that have sought to find fault with how North Carolina draws its congressional districts.

Perhaps to illustrate the unusual shapes of Districts 1 and 12, Kagans opinion included an appendix with images of both, as well as one depicting all the districts in the state. She described District 12, in particular, as snakelike.

Supreme Court of the United States
An illustration of North Carolina’s congressional District 12, which the Supreme Court concluded was drawn to disadvantage black voters.

The evidence offered at trial, including live witness testimony subject to credibility determinations, adequately supports the conclusion that race, not politics, accounted for the districts reconfiguration, Kagan said of District 12.

The race-versus-politics distinction in redistricting decisions matters, because lawmakers often insist that they redraw district lines for political reasons that is, to keep winning elections and to retain their power by creating friendly districts. If its pure politics driving their decisions, they argue, then a map may not be unconstitutional by itself.

(In the law, thats an unsettled question: The Supreme Court could soon agree to hear a separate Wisconsin case that addresses squarely the validity of partisan gerrymandering.)

But whenever a legislature relies on race to redraw district boundaries, the Supreme Court has said that judges should really take a hard look at how the legislature went about the map-drawing. And here, three federal judges concluded that race was the predominant factor driving North Carolinas 2011 congressional maps,which put more black voters in Districts 1 and 12 while making neighboring districts whiter.

The Equal Protection Clause prohibits the unjustified drawing of district lines based on race, cautioned Kagan.

Thomas, a conservative who disfavors race-based considerations in any context, took the highly unusual step of joining the Supreme Courts four more liberal members in ruling against North Carolina.He wrote a short concurring opinion to note that the majority correctly applies our precedents under the Constitution and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Anthony Kennedy, Justice Samuel Alito wrote a partial dissent that took issue with how the majority was interpreting the Supreme Courts own case law dealing with District 12, which the court had vindicated in a prior ruling.

A precedent of this Court should not be treated like a disposable household item say, a paper plate or napkin to be used once and then tossed in the trash, Alito wrote. In his view, the districts borders and racial composition are readily explained by political considerations and the effects of the legislatures political strategy on the demographics.

The Equal Protection Clause prohibits the unjustified drawing of district lines based on race. Justice Elena Kagan

Justice Neil Gorsuch didnt participate in the ruling, as his colleagues hadheard arguments in the dispute before he joined the court.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder, who is part of a Democratic initiative to challenge Republican-drawn districting in the courts, hailed Mondays ruling as a watershed moment in the fight to end racial gerrymandering.

Todays ruling sends a stark message to legislatures and governors around the country: Racial gerrymandering is illegal and will be struck down in a court of law, Holder said in a statement.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), who succeeded Republican Gov. Pat McCrory as the named party in the case, also praised the decision in a statement.

North Carolina voters deserve a level playing field and fair elections, and Im glad the Supreme Court agrees, he said. The North Carolina Republican legislature tried to rig Congressional elections by drawing unconstitutional districts that discriminated against African Americans, and thats wrong.

As if responding to Holder, the chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party said in a statement that the invalidated maps were pre-approved by his Department of Justice during the Obama years back when the state had to submit districting plans to the federal government.

The courts have put legislatures in an impossible situation, with their constantly changing standards, said the state Republican Party chairman, Robin Hayes.

The Supreme Courts ruling represents North Carolinas second election-related setback in as many weeks. Last week, the justices declined to hear an appeal that sought to salvage a broad swath of voting restrictions.

But the state is also enveloped in a separate challenge to how the GOP-controlled General Assembly drew 28 state House and Senate districts, which a lower court also found were racially gerrymandered and may soon need to be redrawn. The high court is presently weighing the fate of those districts.

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Daria’s parents emigrated from Pakistan after her birth and eventually settled in Toronto. As you’d expect, they were pretty strict (though not with regards to religion) mostly about schoolwork and her friends. As an adult, Daria wound up in a bad relationship and became depressed. Her parents started to worry she was “spiraling down.” Eventually, she shook it off, worked through her issues, and started dating a new guy — one who is now her fiance. But before her parents even met him, tragedy struck:

“My dad was diagnosed with cancer … and my mom had a heart attack, and then she was diagnosed with cancer.”

Her parents asked if she’d go with them on a trip to Pakistan, “and made it seem as if it was our last family trip together, so I felt guilty kinda not going.”


Make Your Own Travel Plans, Or You Might Wind Up Stranded

When Daria arrived in Pakistan she found that she had no return flight. There was also no phone or internet at her place. As if that wasn’t unnerving enough, she learned something else: She was getting married.

This isn’t unheard of, by the way. The Canadian Travel and Tourism Department, the U.S. State Department, and basically any NGO working to eradicate forced marriage all dedicate sections of their websites to avoiding overseas travel for exactly this reason.

But at this point, Daria didn’t know what was going on. She’d always had a loving relationship with her family in Pakistan. In fact, because Daria’s mom was the first in her family to have children, they spoiled Daria accordingly.

“I had no indication that they would do something like this.”

Looking back, Daria now, of course, realizes that the mistaken one-way ticket and what she thought was normal limited access to communication during a family trip was probably an orchestrated choice by her family (a common condition of those abducted to be married). See, her family in Pakistan had found such a “nice” guy for her. They had to take action.

Daria’s family apparently doesn’t spend enough time on the MRA subreddits, or else they’d know what “nice guy” really means.

The “nice guy” they selected was a doctor from a well-off family. When Daria met him, she told him the marriage was not going to happen. He didn’t care. The whole arrangement was fine by him. Daria believes he was eager for a chance to move to Canada. While no plans were totally solidified, her family did want her to stay in Pakistan with her “husband” until he was ready to immigrate.

“I told my mom — and dad as well — I’m not ready for this, I can’t. I don’t want to be married to this guy. And my mom fell really ill and all my relatives in Pakistan kinda played the guilt card, and I started feeling extremely guilty and responsible for my mom’s sickness.”


There’s An Established Method Of Manipulation For Forced Marriages

The Tahirih Justice Center defines gaslighting in arranged marriages as such: “In a forced marriage, one or both parties feel powerless to make decisions due to pressure, threats, coercion, or abuse.” The pattern is the same everywhere. A nurse in Germany declined the proposal of a young man her father sent over, only to learn her family was sending wedding invitations out already. Nina Van Harn spent her entire upbringing learning that a woman’s role was to serve the men in her life. When she was told she had to marry a virtual stranger at age 19, it seemed a matter of course.

Did we mention this was in Michigan?

Yep. A recent two-year survey by the Tahirih Justice Center found 3,000 known and suspected cases of forced marriage in the United States during that time period alone.

As for Daria, her family members took a more direct approach. Every day they would corner her in a room and berate her, “‘Why don’t you want to get married? You should get married! This guy is like the only person for you.'”

“I’d never been in a situation like that where I had to either leave or stay. I didn’t know what to do.”

Ultimately, Daria’s family dragged her to a city five hours away to marry the “nice guy.” The city, incidentally, had no Canadian embassy.


People Will Find A Way To Ignore Your Distress

The wedding party was a huge production, with each event attracting upwards of 500 or so revelers.

“The first day is more like a fun dance party. A pre-wedding thing, people put henna on their hands, not as formal.”

Next came the “official” reception, after which she was considered married. On this evening, she went to a hotel room with her husband.

“It was actually a really crappy hotel. It was kinda creepy to be there with anybody, and it was really creepy to be there with him.”

She was able to delay consummating the marriage thanks to her period. The third day, a big thank-you dinner was thrown by the groom’s family.

“I was just devastated. I think what made it worse was all the salons I went to, to get ready, were so beautiful and everyone there was so happy and I just felt like … I can’t even explain it. It was the darkest feeling ever, I kept crying at the salon and they’re like ‘Oh, poor girl, she’s gonna miss her parents once she gets married.’ I was just in complete shock. And people were coming up to me and they’re like, ‘Oh, you know you look so beautiful,’ this and that, and every time I heard that … it was like somebody was ripping my heart out from the inside.”

Daria spent the three days on autopilot, hoping for a miracle. She recalls thinking that maybe if she closed her eyes, she’d open them again and her actual boyfriend would be there instead of the “nice guy,” or that if she looked sad enough, someone would recognize what was going on and help her.


Your Life Might Literally Be On The Line

So why didn’t she hop on a plane and flip her homeland the bird as it lifted off?

“There were a lot of like safety risks, you couldn’t — as a single female — just leave the compound and find your way home. It’s not something that happens there, especially if you’re a foreigner. There’s risks of getting kidnapped and, you know, lots of things can happen … and I didn’t have a cell phone. Even if I did, I can’t call an emergency service, things like that don’t exist there.”

“I didn’t know what to do, or where to go. I had no money, I didn’t have my passport. [A]t that point, if I- if I left, looking like that, with none of that stuff, I probably wouldn’t even be alive. It’s not like I would’ve been killed right away … but I don’t live there, I wouldn’t have had a clue on where to go — there’s no shelters, there’s nothing like that there.”

You see, women asserting agency over their own bodies often ends poorly in Pakistan. Even in 2016, people still practice honor killing. Luckily, last October, Pakistan passed a bill to punish perpetrators of such acts. Last October!

The change of tune only came after the brother of a “social media star” murdered his sister because he disagreed with the types of pictures she posted online and believed women should lead “traditional” lives in the home.

Honor killings happen a lot in Pakistan (though it’s hard to know exactly how frequently) as they often go undocumented. The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recorded 1,087 honor crimes against women since the first of this year. And according to a 2013 Pew Poll of Muslims, only 45 percent of those polled in Pakistan believe killings of women are never justifiable (despite the victim’s “offense”). There may be no better illustration of this sentiment than a 2011 headline in The Atlantic: Refusing to Kill Daughter, Pakistani Family Defies Tradition, Draws Anger.


Escape Is Possible, But You Must Be Clever

Daria stayed with her husband and his family for several days. She spent most of that time crying and contemplating suicide. Newlyweds!

After a bit, Daria and her husband headed back to the city.

“I tried to leave while we stopped at a rest area. I don’t know if he suspected I was leaving or what it was but he was just stuck to me. Once we got to the city my parents were living in, the next day I left, because I had my passport at that point and the Canadian embassy was only a few minutes away from that house we were in.”

Ah, but don’t lose hope just yet. Remember all those beautiful salons Daria had been sent to, before the wedding? She’d been smart: She skipped the services and pocketed the money. She’d also borrowed cell phones now and then — from folks who weren’t in on the abduction — and used them to make quick phone calls whenever she got a minute alone. Her boyfriend was well informed about the situation.

“I would call him and just let him know, this is what’s going on. And the day after I got married I called him and I’m like, ‘Ya know, I think I’m gonna have to stay here now,’ … I didn’t expect him to understand. [I] thought he was just gonna abandon me at that point as well, and he told me, ‘Just get out of there, I just need you to come back home.’ So he wired some money into Western Union the day that I was going to run away.”

“Any way we could also wire a passport, plane tickets, and a bodyguard, or is there an up-charge?”

Daria’s father had arranged a stay in a resort town for the newlyweds. She told her husband she needed to get some clothing tailored for their trip. He drove her to the tailor and waited outside. Daria ditched him there, found a cab, and asked to be dropped at the Marriott. She checked in using the money she’d saved from the salons and told the manager about her situation. Turns out this was like a fire drill for them — they had a procedure at the ready for this exact scenario. Throughout the course of her stay, Daria was not allowed to leave her room without a staff person escorting her. The hotel staff was strictly prohibited from disclosing her name to anyone who called. The front desk only transferred Daria’s boyfriend’s calls to her room; when her family called, they denied she was there.

What’s the proper tip for a bellhop who doubles as the forced marriage underground railroad? 25 percent? That’s crazy talk. But … probably at least 18 percent.


Help Comes From The Oddest Places

After checking in, Daria rented a car and went to Western Union to pick up the money her boyfriend had wired. Her next stop was the Canadian embassy. She did not have her passport, and most of her belongings were still at the house, or in the husband’s car. All she had as proof of identification was a Canadian driver’s license.

The embassy staff told Daria that her father had called and told them to expect her, that he believed she’d run away and was hoping they’d help her get back to Canada safely. Daria learned later that her mom’s family hatched the whole scheme; her father’s family doesn’t live in Pakistan and wasn’t involved.

“I didn’t contact any of my family from that moment onwards because I was scared that if I contacted them they would know where I was and they would find some way to get to me and I would be taken back. So, I didn’t contact them at all, I called my boyfriend from the Marriott and I told him, ‘I’m here, I’m safe now.'”

Or at least as safe as she was gonna get in a country where this kind of thing could actually get her murdered.

The Canadian embassy arranged a flight for Daria, but it was three days away. She realized she’d need more money, and went back to the Western Union … where she learned that her family had bribed the staff into refusing her service.

“I had to leave there very quickly after I found this out. And I came back to the hotel, called the Canadian embassy, and spoke to the woman that I was in contact with and told her what happened. She then transferred me to another hotel (just in case they might have known where the hotel was, too) and got me on an earlier flight and told me that I can leave on the temporary passport and the Canadian Government would pay for the flight. If I wanted to travel anywhere again on my passport I would just have to pay them back before I was allowed to do that.”

Because if Canada was a person, it’d be an actual nice guy.

Daria boarded a flight back to Canada within 24 hours — an escort from the embassy stayed by her side en route to the airport, all the way up until she boarded. Her boyfriend met her at the airport and drove her to her parents’ house. She packed all her belongings and left. She moved into an apartment on her own and didn’t speak to any of her family for a month-and-a-half.


Escape Is Possible!

If there’s any kind of silver lining here, it’s that you can get away from a forced marriage. The aforementioned 19-year-old bride in Michigan, now in her 30s, recently won the first case of forced marriage annulment in the state. And the nurse in Germany? She’s now married to a partner she chose, with whom she has a child.

But, as you may expect, the whole ordeal comes with some major psychological consequences. Once Daria re-established communication, it took a lot of effort to build a healthy and trusting relationship with her family again.

“My parents have apologized to me multiple times. I mean actually until this year, I’d never told them about what happened with my ex-boyfriend. And their reasoning was always, ‘You know you looked disturbed. We didn’t know what was going on with you. We thought this would help you.’ It took me a few years to get them to this point where they were like, ‘OK. We understand that didn’t help you, and that was wrong of us to think that that would help you.'”

Typically, if your helpful plan requires a country with less stringent consent laws, it merits a rethink.

That’s not a great apology — or even really an apology at all — but Daria is so, so much more understanding than we would ever be. “My parents had a pre-existing notion of what [life was] supposed to look like. So you know, ‘Our kids are gonna get married at this age, married to a doctor, engineer.’ And, ‘Hopefully, our kids won’t have any crises in the middle.’ I wasn’t doing all that stuff that they had in mind, according to the timeline they had in mind, so instead of talking to me and sorting through that (communication wasn’t really a big thing for them for some reason) they just thought this was the next best option.”

Daria even finds a way to fault herself a bit in this whole scenario:

“I do think that communicating with them [her family] more openly and not being afraid of disappointing them would have been beneficial. They really started to get nervous about the future after I had shut them out and it sort of slowly spiraled downhill for many years. Things only started to pick back up once we started to openly communicate.”

In the years since her abduction, Daria has mended relationships with her parents, and even some of her extended family in Pakistan. In fact, she recently returned from her first trip back there since her forced marriage. This trip was on her own terms: To buy stuff for her wedding in six weeks. To the person of her choosing.

Also check out 5 Cultures With the Most WTF Wedding Rituals and 5 Reasons ‘Traditional Marriage’ Would Shock Your Ancestors.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why Marriage Is A Scam, and other videos you won’t see on the site!

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An artist's illustration of Cassini at Saturn.
Image: nasa

Who knew that teaching actors about space science was part of NASA’s mandate?

Milo Ventimiglia who plays Jack in This is Us and Jess on Gilmore Girls begged NASA via Twitter on Monday to keep the Cassini spacecraft “alive” in orbit around Saturn. And, because Twitter is the great equalizer, of course the space agency replied.

NASA’s official Cassini account explained that the agency has no way to keep Cassini functioning after September, when the spacecraft is scheduled to make a planned death dive into the huge world’s atmosphere, burning up in the process.

It’s not that NASA doesn’t want to keep Cassini alive at the ringed planet, you see. I promise you, Milo, no one will be sadder to see that spacecraft go than the scientists who have devoted their careers to it. It’s just that Cassini is running out of fuel.

Plus, Cassini is plunging into Saturn’s atmosphere in September for a very specific and not to mention altruistic reason.

If scientists were to just allow Cassini to totally run out of fuel and free-fall somewhere in the Saturnian system of moons, it could actually contaminate a world that might harbor alien life.

It’s possible that Enceladus and Titan two moons circling Saturn both have subsurface oceans that may actually be habitable. Who knows what microbes lurk there?

If Cassini were to slam into one of those moons, it could bring Earthly organisms to the surface of the world, possibly harming native life. By burning up in Saturn’s atmosphere, Cassini avoids that possible issue.

The spacecraft has been studying Saturn and its dozens of moons since it arrived in 2004 after launching in 1997. In other words, this is a long mission.

Saturn as seen by Cassini.

Image: nasa/jpl-caltech

It’s actually rare for spacecraft to live as long as Cassini has. In fact, it was never expected to survive so long in the first place. Cassini’s initial mission was only set for four years, but NASA extended it twice.

Cassini’s long life has transformed the way we understand Saturn and its place in the solar system, revealing new information about the planet’s moons and rings.

So, Milo, please, let’s just thank Cassini for its service and send it on its way to the great space robot heaven in the sky.

Cassini has done enough.

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In this hand drawn animation a line is being extrapolated through a grid. When the line surpasses the boundaries of the grid, the process spreads to and reflects on its surroundings. Beyond each boundary the extrapolation of movement is causing deformation in a systematic but speculative way.

This work was created with support from â€Animation Artist in Residence Tokyo 2016†part of the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan (Bunka-cho) â€Project to invite overseas creators of media arts 2016†and the Mondriaan Fund.

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