Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules
A person visits a Covid-19 testing site along a Manhattan street on Friday in New York City. (AFP)
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Updated 22 January 2022

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules

Arizona sues Biden to keep school anti-mask rules
  • Ducey's lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden's American Rescue Plan Act
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19

PHOENIX: Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey sued the Biden administration on Friday over its demand that the state stop sending millions in federal COVID-19 relief money to schools that don’t have mask requirements or that close due to COVID-19 outbreaks.
The lawsuit filed in federal court in Phoenix comes a week after the US Treasury Department demanded that Ducey either restructure the $163 million program to eliminate restrictions it says undermine public health recommendations or face a repayment demand.
The Treasury Department also wants changes to a $10 million program Ducey created that gives private school tuition money to parents if their children’s schools have mask mandates.
Ducey’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department created restrictions on spending the money Arizona receives under President Joe Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act on its own and without legal authority. It asks a court to declare that the Treasury Department’s rules are illegal and permanently block enforcement and any demands that it pay back the $173 million it is spending on the two programs.
“Nothing in that underlying statute authorizes Treasury to condition the use of (ARPA) monies on following measures that, in the view of Treasury, stop the spread of COVID-19,” the lawsuit says. “If Congress had truly intended to give Treasury the power to dictate public health edicts to the States, and recoup or withhold (monies) ... it would have spoken clearly on the matter. It did not.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends universal mask-wearing in school settings to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
“By discouraging families and school districts from following this guidance, the conditions referenced above undermine efforts to stop the spread of COVID-19,” the Treasury Department wrote in last week’s letter.
The Treasury Department started demanding that Ducey change the programs in October. It was part of a concerted effort to force Arizona and some other Republican-led states that have opposed mask mandates or were using pandemic funding to advance their own agendas to end those practices.
Ducey rejected Treasury’s request the following month, and last week the Biden administration followed up with a formal demand that it cease using the money for the disputed programs or face either repayment demands or withholding of additional money it is set to receive under Biden’s COVID relief bill.
Friday’s lawsuit said the Treasury Department initially recognized that states have “broad latitude to choose whether and how to use the (money) to respond to and address the negative economic impact” of COVID-19. But then it changed course, and created the new rules, the suit said.
The Treasury Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the new lawsuit.
At issue are two state programs the Republican governor created last summer meant to help schools and students.
Arizona’s Education Plus-Up Grant Program provides $163 million in funding to schools in higher-income areas that received less than $1,800 per student in federal virus aid. Districts that require face coverings or that have closed due to virus outbreaks are ineligible.
Another called the COVID-19 Educational Recovery Benefit Program provides for up to $7,000 for parents if their child’s school requires face coverings or quarantines after exposure. It lets parents use the money for private school tuition or other education costs and its design mirrors the state’s existing school voucher program.
In a letter sent last week, the Treasury Department warned that the state has 60 days to remove the anti-masking provisions before the federal government moves to recover the relief money, and it threatened to withhold the next tranche of aid as well.
Ducey created the programs in part to up the pressure on school districts that had mask mandates or other COVID-19 restrictions, saying they were hurting children and parents who had endured more than a year of school shutdowns, remote learning and other restrictions. Provisions in the state budget that barred school mask mandates statewide were later thrown out by the Arizona Supreme Court because they were improperly adopted, but Ducey did not change the programs.
“Safety recommendations are welcomed and encouraged — mandates that place more stress on students and families aren’t,” Ducey said in August. “These grants acknowledge efforts by schools and educators that are following state laws and keeping their classroom doors open for Arizona’s students.”
Arizona has received about half of the $4.2 billion awarded to it under the 2021 coronavirus relief bill, and the Treasury Department said it may withhold payments if Ducey failed to comply with its demands.


’End of an era’ as New York removes last of its iconic payphone booths

A worker removes the last public payphone near Times Square in New York City, U.S., May 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
A worker removes the last public payphone near Times Square in New York City, U.S., May 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 24 May 2022

’End of an era’ as New York removes last of its iconic payphone booths

A worker removes the last public payphone near Times Square in New York City, U.S., May 23, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Fixed-line payphones began disappearing from the streets of New York in the early 2000s as cell phone use spread, and then vanished even faster in the 2010s with the explosion of smartphones

NEW YORK: Marking the end of an era, New York City on Monday removed the last of its storied payphone booths, which have fallen victim to the ubiquity of free Wi-fi and cell phones in recent years.
But Superman fans can take comfort in the fact that Manhattan will keep four of the defunct booths, made famous as the impromptu changing rooms for journalist Clark Kent as he transformed into the Man of Steel.
Over the decades, the phone booths have featured widely in pop culture, from comic books to Hollywood blockbusters and TV shows.

Workers pose with the last public payphone before its removal near Times Square in New York City, U.S., May 23, 2022. (REUTERS)

That ended Monday morning, when, in front of assembled media, Manhattan borough president — the equivalent of the mayor — Mark Levine had the last booth housing two Bell System payphones at the corner of 7th Avenue and 50th Street dismantled and lifted on to a flatbed truck.
Levine said on Twitter he was “on hand today to say ‘Bye Bye’ one last time to the famed (infamous?) NYC pay phone.”
“I won’t miss all the dead dial tones but gotta say I felt a twinge of nostalgia seeing it go,” he added.
Fixed-line payphones began disappearing from the streets of New York in the early 2000s as cell phone use spread, and then vanished even faster in the 2010s with the explosion of smartphones.

New York City Council Member Julie Won poses for a photo after workers remove the final New York City payphone near Seventh Avenue and 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on May 23, 2022. (AFP)

The final blow came when, in 2015, Manhattan went ahead with the installation of thousands of LinkNYC hotspots offering WiFi and free local calls.
Those new kiosks are to be gradually connected to the emerging 5G network.
“Truly the end of an era but also, hopefully, the start of a new one with more equity in technology access,” said Levine, referring to neighborhoods in northern Manhattan, such as Harlem, that are less well covered by telephone and Internet networks.
According to local media, Manhattan will keep four of the old-fashioned phone booths on the Upper West Side, on West End Avenue at 66th, 90th, 100th and 101st streets.


Riyadh police identify, investigate girl who assaulted another in viral video

Riyadh police identify, investigate girl who assaulted another in viral video
Updated 23 May 2022

Riyadh police identify, investigate girl who assaulted another in viral video

Riyadh police identify, investigate girl who assaulted another in viral video

Riyadh Police said they have identified the girl who was seen assaulting another girl in a video that went viral on social media platforms across the country. 

An investigation is ongoing, and the necessary actions will be taken, a spokesperson for the police department said in a statement. 

In the video, a group of girls are seen sitting together when the assailant begins to repeatedly hit the victim on the back of her head in an apparently unprovoked attack. 

One girl steps in to try to stop the attack while others watch. 

Dozens of people took to social media on Sunday to call on authorities to reprimand the assailant using the hashtag “Girl bullies her friend” in Arabic. 

And in a shocking twist a second video has been shared in response to the police tweet which appears to show the same attackers beating a woman in an abaya.

In this video the girls - who are wearing the same clothes and have the same physical features repeatedly punch their victim before two other youths appear to come to her rescue.


Canada celebrates political icon ‘Hurricane Hazel’, aged 101

Hazel McCallion, 101, was recently reappointed to the board of Canada's largest airport. (AFP)
Hazel McCallion, 101, was recently reappointed to the board of Canada's largest airport. (AFP)
Updated 21 May 2022

Canada celebrates political icon ‘Hurricane Hazel’, aged 101

Hazel McCallion, 101, was recently reappointed to the board of Canada's largest airport. (AFP)
  • She also played on a professional women’s hockey team for two seasons, losing two teeth while earning Can$5 ($4) per match, which she described as “a princely sum in those days”

TORONTO, Canada: Hazel McCallion, 101, was recently reappointed to the board of Canada’s largest airport as she forges ahead with a career that has included being a city mayor for 36 years and playing professional hockey.
Her tenacity earned her the nickname “Hurricane Hazel.”
“I don’t know how it came about (that) they call me ‘Hurricane Hazel,’” she said in an interview with AFP at a Mississauga, Ontario exhibit celebrating her life, adding with a boisterous laugh: “I know I move quickly.”

And nothing seems to stop her. Throughout her long life, she says she followed the mantra: work hard and be prepared.

“Hard work never killed anybody, my mother told me that,” she said. “If you want to go anywhere you have to work hard.”
Born in 1921, in Port Daniel, Quebec, Hazel is the youngest of five children. Her father worked in the fishing industry while her mother was a nurse.
She left the family farm at age 16 to continue her education, before taking up secretarial work during the Second World War at a Montreal engineering firm.
She also played on a professional women’s hockey team for two seasons, losing two teeth while earning Can$5 ($4) per match, which she described as “a princely sum in those days.”
In 1951, she married Sam McCallion with whom she had three children.
“She wasn’t always there, but she was there when she needed to be,” recalled her son Peter McCallion, describing her as a “wonderful” grandmother to her only granddaughter.

Inspired by former Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton — the first female mayor of a major Canadian city — and Margaret Thatcher, she entered politics in the 1960s.
In 1978, she won the mayoralty of Mississauga on the shores of Lake Ontario, neighboring Toronto — helped at the polls by her refusal to be baited by her opponent’s sexist remarks during the campaign.
Today, she spurns questions on gender and politics. “It has not been difficult at all. I have been supported by men both in business and in politics,” she said, adding that she’s been “fortunate.”
McCallion has left an indelible mark on Mississauga, which has dramatically changed over the past decades as it grew to become Canada’s seventh largest city.
She had been in office only a few months when a train carrying toxic chemicals derailed in a populated area of the city, and erupted in flames.
McCallion gained a national profile for managing the mass evacuation of 220,000 residents, in which nobody died or was seriously injured.
“To live a happy life you have to be very positive and you have to feel that you’re contributing. You can’t think of ‘me’ all the time,” she says, explaining her commitment to public service.
She would be re-elected 11 more times to lead the city of Mississauga, making her one of Canada’s longest serving mayors.
According to Tom Urbaniak, author of a book on Mississauga under her watch, her longevity in politics is due to her strong personality and accessibility, but also “her down-to-Earth populism” and outspokenness.
“Hazel McCallion leans toward conservatism but she is extremely pragmatic,” said the Cape Breton University professor, who noted her support for political parties of all stripes.
The self-described “builder” was voted most popular mayor, before retiring three years later at age 93.
A stamp collector, McCallion says she enjoys gardening and making videos for charitable causes, and keeps up with the news, wearing a yellow and blue ribbon on her lapel to show support for Ukraine at war.
“I’ve lived one hundred years and I’ve never felt so negative about what is happening in the world today,” she laments. “It’s very disturbing.”


Rangers fan found ‘safe and sound’ after going missing for 36 hours in Seville

Rangers fan found ‘safe and sound’ after going missing for 36 hours in Seville
Updated 20 May 2022

Rangers fan found ‘safe and sound’ after going missing for 36 hours in Seville

Rangers fan found ‘safe and sound’ after going missing for 36 hours in Seville
  • Gordon Smith, 42, disappeared after Scottish side’s defeat to Eintracht Frankfurt in Europa League final
  • Sister thanks fans ‘and Scotland as a whole’ for helping find her missing brother

DUBAI: A Rangers fan who went missing for nearly 36 hours after Wednesday’s Europa League final in Seville has been found.
Gordon Smith, 42, became separated from his brother Craig, 23, after going to the toilet at a fan zone at about 11 pm, soon after his team had been beaten by Eintracht Frankfurt in the Spanish city.
According to media reports, after waiting for several hours, the younger sibling, from Renfrewshire, went searching for his brother but was unable to track him down.
When the missing man failed to make contact with any of his family members, his sister, Danielle Ashleigh Smith, took to social media to appeal to Rangers supporters to help find him.
She told the media that her brother had not returned to the fan zone and that bags containing the brothers’ passports, money and phones had been stolen.
“Their belongings were stolen at some point in the early hours from Craig,” she said.
Smith described her brother’s disappearance as “out of character” and said at the time she was concerned for his safety.
But on Friday afternoon, she posted on Facebook that the missing sibling had been found “safe and sound” at 11 a.m. that morning.
“He’s safe and en route to some accommodation,” she said.
She also expressed her gratitude at the response she received to her social media plea, saying that several people had offered help with money, accommodation and even flights.
“The support shown from not only Rangers fans but Celtic fans and Scotland as a whole has been amazing and I am proud this is my country,” she wrote.
News reports said a Seville resident had helped liaise with police during the search for Smith.
Younger brother Craig was now preparing to fly home after contacting his family and being issued with emergency travel papers, the reports said.


Former Moroccan footballer dies after daredevil cliff jump

Former Moroccan footballer dies after daredevil cliff jump
Updated 19 May 2022

Former Moroccan footballer dies after daredevil cliff jump

Former Moroccan footballer dies after daredevil cliff jump
  • Murad Lamrabette, formerly of Dutch club SBV Vitesse, dies during family holiday in Majorca
  • Lamrabette’s wife recorded 31-year-old’s ill-fated stunt on video that went viral

DUBAI: A Moroccan former footballer leapt to his death while performing a daredevil jump whilst on a family holiday in Spain.
Media reports identified the man as 31-year-old Murad Lamrabette, who played for Dutch club SBV Vitesse’s U23 team in the 2010/2011 Eredivisie season, as well as other professional football clubs in Holland.
Lamrabette died in front of his two children and wife, who filmed him as he attempted to perform a “tombstone” stunt from a 30-meter high cliff during the family’s vacation in Majorca.
The 31-year-old miscalculated his jump, and drowned after hitting a rock and falling into the water below unconscious, said reports.
His wife could be heard shouting “oh my god” as she recorded the stunt in a 14-second video that later went viral across social media and news platforms.
Spanish authorities carried out an autopsy, the results of which indicated that Lamrabatte died from drowning, rather than injuries caused by the impact of hitting the rock.
Reports added that authorities had yet to interview his wife as she was too traumatized by the incident.
After retiring from football, Lamrabatte retrained and became a kickboxing coach.
His former club posted an obituary on its website, and tweeted: “Vitesse has received the sad news that Murad Lamrabatte has passed away. The former attacker of Jong Vitesse has just turned 31. We wish family and friends a lot of strength.”