Florida sued over ban on pro-Palestinian student groups

Florida sued over ban on pro-Palestinian student groups
Demonstrators gather under the statue of John Harvard in support of students taking part in sit-in inside University Hall organized by a collective of students called Harvard Jews for Palestine, at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts on Nov. 16, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 November 2023
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Florida sued over ban on pro-Palestinian student groups

Florida sued over ban on pro-Palestinian student groups
  • The suit seeks a preliminary injunction to a state order blocking SJP from receiving school funds and using campus facilities
  • Students at US universities have clashed over issues emerging on both sides of the nearly six-week-old conflict

FLORIDA, USA: The American Civil Liberties Union challenged Florida’s ban on pro-Palestinian university groups, arguing in a federal lawsuit on Thursday that the state is violating students’ free speech as tensions roil US campuses over Israel’s war with Hamas.
Florida’s university system, joined by Governor Ron DeSantis, last month ordered colleges to shut down chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP), a group at the center of US campus activism since Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7.
The suit — against DeSantis, a 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, and several state university system officials — seeks a preliminary injunction to a state order blocking SJP from receiving school funds and using campus facilities.
At least two Florida universities — the University of Florida and the University of South Florida — have SJP chapters.
Students at US universities have clashed over issues emerging on both sides of the nearly six-week-old conflict. Some accuse their schools of not doing enough to denounce antisemitism and others that the schools ignore the plight of Gazans under Israeli fire.
The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in Florida by the ACLU, ACLU of Florida and Palestine Legal, cites a Supreme Court decision affirming students’ right to associate and speak out on matters of public concern, and another case establishing that federal law does not criminalize “independent political advocacy” as long as it is not done in coordination with, or at the direction of, foreign terrorist groups.
Brandeis University has also banned SJP indefinitely, and Columbia University and George Washington University have suspended the group. The schools have cited the national organization’s support for the Hamas attack and said their campus chapters violated school policies.
The student groups call the suspensions and bans unjust. Videos posted to Instagram have shown Palestinian supporters rallying at Columbia and George Washington on Wednesday in protest over the SJP groups’ suspensions.
Florida’s university system has said it based its ban on a “toolkit” issued by the national organization to chapters that referred to Hamas’ attack as “the resistance” and stated “Palestinian students in exile are PART of this movement.”
In his Oct. 24 memo ordering the ban, State University System of Florida Chancellor Ray Rodrigues said the national SJP identified itself as part of Hamas’ attack and that it was a felony under Florida law “to provide material support... to a designated foreign terrorist organization.”
Brian Hauss, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Speech, Privacy and Technology project and counsel in the case, said the student plaintiffs in the state university system were victims of “guilt by association” in this case.
“They are a completely autonomous and independent group that is in no way beholden to the national Students for Justice in Palestine,” Hauss said in an interview, adding that he did not believe the national organization could be found criminally liable for its statements about Hamas.
Israel says Hamas killed 1,200 people in the Oct. 7 assault and took about 240 hostages to Gaza. Gaza health authorities say more than 11,000 people have been confirmed killed in Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza.


IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant

IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant
Updated 13 sec ago
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IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant

IAEA urges halt to attacks on town near Ukrainian nuclear plant
  • The Zaporizhzhia plant’s Russia-installed management said some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions, but that nuclear safety measures remained fully operational

MOSCOW: The UN’s nuclear watchdog called on Sunday for a halt to attacks on Enerhodar, a town near the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station after drone strikes this week hit two electricity substations serving the area.
The plant’s Russian-installed officials accused Ukraine of staging two drone strikes that destroyed one substation, damaged another and cut power to residents for a time.
Rafael Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, made no reference to Ukraine and said the incidents had no affect on the Zaporizhzhia plant’s operations.
But he said the attacks had to stop.
“Whoever is behind this, it must stop. Drone usage against the plant and its vicinity is becoming increasingly more frequent,” Grossi said in a statement on the IAEA website.
“This is completely unacceptable and it runs counter to the safety pillars and concrete principles which have been accepted unanimously.”
Power had been cut to Enerhodar, a few kilometers from the plant, for 16 hours, he said. But neither of the attacks, which occurred on Wednesday and Friday, had any impact on the power lines that the nuclear plant uses to keep operating.
The Zaporizhzhia plant’s Russia-installed management said some “infrastructure facilities” including the transport department and print shop experienced disruptions, but that nuclear safety measures remained fully operational.
Ukrainian officials have made no comment on the incidents and Reuters could not independently confirm the reports.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said the attacks exposed Ukraine’s disregard for nuclear safety.
Russian troops seized the Zaporizhzhia plant in the early days of the February 2022 invasion, and Moscow and Kyiv have since regularly accused each other of endangering safety around the facility. It produces no electricity at the moment.
The IAEA maintains inspectors at the station.
Russia launched mass attacks on Ukrainian energy infrastructure in the first winter of the conflict and resumed a long series of attacks in March. Kyiv says the renewed attacks have knocked out half of its energy-generating capacity. 

 


Millions in the US prepare for more sweltering heat as floodwaters inundate parts of the Midwest

Millions in the US prepare for more sweltering heat as floodwaters inundate parts of the Midwest
Updated 24 June 2024
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Millions in the US prepare for more sweltering heat as floodwaters inundate parts of the Midwest

Millions in the US prepare for more sweltering heat as floodwaters inundate parts of the Midwest
  • An AP analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that excessive heat contributed to more than 2,300 deaths, the highest in 45 years of records

WASHINGTON: Millions of Americans prepared to sweat through yet another scorching day, with the potential for rolling storms later Sunday to bring relief from the sweltering heat for at least some. Floodwaters inundated parts of the Midwest, including a town in Iowa whose own water-level gauge was submerged.
From the mid-Atlantic to Maine, across much of the Midwest and throughout inland California, public officials cautioned residents sweating through the heat and humidity. In Oklahoma, the heat index — what the temperature feels like to the human body — was expected to reach 107 degrees (41 degrees Celsius) on Sunday.
In the Midwest where South Dakota, Iowa and Minnesota meet, floodwaters rose through the weekend. In northwest Iowa, 13 rivers flooded the area, said Eric Tigges of Clay County emergency management. Entire neighborhoods — and at least one entire town — were evacuated, and the town of Spencer imposed a curfew Sunday for the second night in a row after flooding that surpassed the record set in 1953.
“When the flood gauge is underwater, it’s really high,” Tigges said in a news conference organized by Spencer officials.
Gov. Kim Reynolds declared a disaster for 21 counties in northern Iowa, including Sioux County. In drone video posted by the local sheriff, no streets were visible, just roofs and treetops poking above the water.
In South Dakota, Gov. Kristi Noem declared an emergency after the southeastern part of the state bordering Nebraska received heavy rainfall. Several highways were closed. Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city, had more than 7 inches (17.7 centimeters) of rain in three days.
“Even though the rain is slowing down, we need to keep vigilant,” said Noem. “The worst of the flooding along our rivers will be Monday and Tuesday.”
Emergency management officials in the small South Dakota community of Dakota Dunes on Sunday issued a voluntary evacuation order for the area’s roughly 4,000 residents. Dakota Dunes is near the Nebraska and Iowa borders and is sandwiched between the Missouri and Big Sioux rivers, both of which are expected to crest in the coming days. Emergency management in Dakota Dunes warned residents that a mandatory evacuation could come quickly if flood barriers are breached.
But elsewhere, the heat was the biggest worry.
“It’s more important for people who are going to be outside to stay hydrated, because heat, humidity and low winds, even if you’re in good shape and not really acclimated to it, it could be a danger, ” said Bruce Thoren, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Oklahoma. “It happens quickly.”
The cities of Washington, D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia all saw record heat on Saturday with more high temperatures expected Sunday.
Lamont Cousins, who owns the Ampersea restaurant on Baltimore’s waterfront, said business had been slow this weekend. The 40 outdoor dining seats at the restaurant, usually packed this time of year, were empty until around dinnertime Saturday.
“I think it’s affected us because people are staying home scared,” he said.
On Saturday morning, when he went to put umbrellas on the tables, it was already over 90 degrees. But Cousins said he’s not too worried about the lost business – and he expected Sunday would be better.
“Yesterday, it was nobody walking around. It’s hotter today, but there’s a breeze going. Yesterday, it just felt like I was being punished.”
Last year the US experienced the most heat waves since 1936, experts said. An AP analysis of data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that excessive heat contributed to more than 2,300 deaths, the highest in 45 years of records.
The National Weather Service warned of the potential for rare tornadoes in the Northeast later Sunday. Tornadoes on Saturday struck in Wisconsin, leveling the historic Apple Grove Lutheran Church, founded in 1893 in the town of Argyle.
“The good news is we are all safe,” Dan Bohlman, pastor of Apple Grove Lutheran Church, said on the church website.
Marvin Boyd, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Burlington, Vermont, said a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for parts of northern New York as a storm with wind gusts exceeding 60 mph (95 kph) and the threat of tornadoes heads toward Vermont near Lake Champlain. It is one of several expected to pass through the region Sunday afternoon.
“It’s an unusual alignment of ingredients for Vermont and northern New York to produce a threat of tornadoes,” Boyd said.
 

 


French feminists march against far right with days before vote

French feminists march against far right with days before vote
Updated 23 June 2024
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French feminists march against far right with days before vote

French feminists march against far right with days before vote
  • Macron’s alliance would open up to “all who want to come, from the conservative right to the social-democratic left,” Macron’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe told broadcaster France 3

PARIS: Thousands of people turned out in France on Sunday for feminist demonstrations against the far right, which is expected to come out on top in June 30 snap elections, as parties sought to shore up support with days to go.
With the far-right National Rally (RN) polling at around 35 percent, “we have to remind people that they’re the ones who talked about ‘comfort abortions’, who are always attacking family planning services,” said Morgane Legras, a nuclear engineer and feminist activist taking part in the Paris march.
There were between 13,000 (police estimate) and 75,000 (organizers’ estimate) people at Sunday’s demonstration.
Protesters, many wearing violet, marched from the Place de la Republique square in central Paris to Place de la Nation in the east, bearing signs with messages such as “Push back the far right, not our rights.”
Police sources said 53 rallies took place across the country, and said 33,800 people had taken part.
France’s two-round election system makes it difficult to predict which party could ultimately claim a majority in the lower house of parliament, handing them the prime minister’s post which is second in power only to President Emmanuel Macron.
Since Macron dissolved parliament after a European Parliament election battering, his centrists are badly lagging the RN as well as a reforged left-wing alliance called the New Popular Front (NFP) in surveys of voting intentions.
The RN has garnered unprecedented levels of support after a decades-long “de-demonization” push to distance its image from its roots, including a co-founder who was a member of the Nazi Waffen-SS paramilitary.
But the core of its message remains hostility to immigration, Islam and the European Union.
Senior RN lawmaker Sebastien Chenu gestured toward Muslim and Jewish voters Sunday by vowing not to ban the ritual slaughter of livestock to produce halal or kosher meat.
“Everyone will be able to keep eating kosher meat if they want,” Chenu told Jewish broadcaster Radio J.
He added that a historic far-right policy of barring the kippa in public spaces — in the footsteps of an existing law forbidding the full-body burka worn by some Muslim women — was not top of the RN’s agenda, saying its priority was to fight “the Islamist threat.”
In Macron’s camp, Prime Minister Gabriel Attal acknowledged that the European Parliament result — where they scored just 14 percent — was “a message to us that we have to do better with our methods, with our governance” of the country.
If his party defies the odds to come top in the legislative polls, he vowed “change,” including a turn to “seeking out coalitions with the French public, with civil society” in an interview with broadcaster RTL.
Macron’s alliance would open up to “all who want to come, from the conservative right to the social-democratic left,” Macron’s former prime minister Edouard Philippe told broadcaster France 3.
Attal also hammered the centrists’ mantra about the threats from “extremes” on the left and right, saying both promised a “tax bludgeoning... a shredder for the middle classes.”
The RN especially is “not ready to govern... it’s a party of opposition, not a party of government,” Attal said.
In a sign of the disquiet abroad over Macron’s snap poll gamble, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told public broadcaster ARD on Sunday he was “concerned about the elections in France,” though “it’s up to the French people to decide.”
The left-wing NFP alliance continued to show strains Sunday, after parties hastily re-knitted ties sundered over differing responses to Hamas’s October 7 attack on Israel and the ongoing retaliation by Israeli forces in Gaza.
Divisions are particularly stark over whether their candidate for prime minister should be Jean-Luc Melenchon, head of France Unbowed (LFI) — the largest party in the grouping, some of whose members have been accused of anti-Semitism.
Melenchon should “shut up,” former Socialist president Francois Hollande said Sunday, as “people reject him more strongly” than the RN’s leaders Marine Le Pen and Jordan Bardella.
“Do we want the left to win, or do we want to be stoking conflict?” he said.
Melenchon said on Saturday that he aimed “to govern the country.”


Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters

Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters
Updated 23 June 2024
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Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters

Kenya’s president Ruto ready for ‘conversation’ with ‘peaceful’ young protesters
  • Organized on social media and led largely by Gen-Z Kenyans, the protests have caught Ruto’s government off-guard as discontent mounts over his economic policies

NAIROBI: Kenya’s President William Ruto said Sunday that he was ready for “a conversation” with thousands of “peaceful” young protesters who held nationwide demonstrations this week to oppose proposed tax increases.

Organized on social media and led largely by Gen-Z Kenyans who have live-streamed the demonstrations, the protests have caught Ruto’s government off-guard as discontent mounts over his economic policies.

“I am very proud of our young people ... they have stepped forward peacefully and I want to tell them we are going to engage them,” Ruto said in his first public comments on the protests. “We are going to have a conversation so that together we can build a greater nation,” Ruto said during a church service in the Rift Valley town of Nyahururu.

His characterization of the protests as “peaceful” came after rights campaigners reported two deaths following Thursday’s demonstrations in Nairobi.

There was no immediate response from the protesters, who have called for a national strike on June 25. The demonstrations were mostly peaceful, but officers fired tear gas and water cannon throughout the day to disperse protesters near parliament.

According to a Kenya Human Rights Commission official, 21-year-old Evans Kiratu was “hit by a tear gas canister” during the protests and died in hospital.

On Friday, a police watchdog said it was investigating allegations that a 29-year-old man was shot by officers in Nairobi after the demonstrations. The Independent Policing Oversight Authority said it had “documented the death ... allegedly as a result of police shooting” on Thursday. Several organizations, including Amnesty International Kenya, said that at least 200 people were injured in the protests in Nairobi, as thousands of people took to the streets across the country.

Ruto’s administration has defended the proposed levies as necessary for filling its coffers and cutting reliance on external borrowing. Following smaller-scale demonstrations on Tuesday, the cash-strapped government agreed to roll back several tax hikes laid out in a new bill.

However, Ruto’s administration still intends to increase some taxes, defending the proposed levies necessary to raise money.

Kenya has a debt mountain, and servicing costs have ballooned due to a fall in the value of the local currency over the last two years, leaving Ruto with few options.

The tax hikes will pile further pressure on Kenyans, with many already struggling as the cost of living surges and well-paid jobs remain out of reach for young people. “Tuesday 25th June: #OccupyParliament and Total Shutdown Kenya. A national strike,” read a poster shared widely online, adding that “Gen Z is granting all hard-working Kenyans a day off. Parents, keep your children at home in solidarity.”

After the government agreed to scrap levies on bread purchases, car ownership, and financial and mobile services, the treasury warned of a 200-billion-shilling ($1.5-billion) shortfall.

The government has now targeted an increase in fuel prices and export taxes to fill the void left by the changes — a move critics say will make life more expensive in a country already saddled with high inflation.


Russia says US is responsible for deadly Ukrainian attack on Crimea

Russia says US is responsible for deadly Ukrainian attack on Crimea
Updated 24 June 2024
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Russia says US is responsible for deadly Ukrainian attack on Crimea

Russia says US is responsible for deadly Ukrainian attack on Crimea
  • The Black Sea port city and naval base on the Crimean peninsula was annexed by Russia in 2014 but is still internationally recognized as part of Ukraine

MOSCOW: Russia said on Sunday that the United States was responsible for a Ukrainian attack on the Russian-annexed Crimean peninsula with five US-supplied missiles that killed four people, including two children, and injured 151 more.
The Russian Defense Ministry said four of the US-delivered Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) missiles, equipped with cluster warheads, were shot down by air defense systems and the ammunition of a fifth had detonated in mid-air.
Footage on Russian state television showed people running from a beach and some people being carried off on sun loungers.
Russian-installed authorities in Crimea said missile fragments had fallen just after noon near a beach on the north side of the city of Sevastopol where locals were on holiday.
The incident generated a furious reaction among Russian public figures.
The Defense ministry said US specialists had set the missiles’ flight coordinates on the basis of information from US spy satellites, meaning Washington was directly responsible.
“Responsibility for the deliberate missile attack on the civilians of Sevastopol is borne above all by Washington, which supplied these weapons to Ukraine, and by the Kyiv regime, from whose territory this strike was carried out,” the ministry said.
Russia annexed Crimea in 2014 and now views the Black Sea peninsula it as an integral part of its territory, though most of the world considers it still part of Ukraine.
Russian President Vladimir Putin sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, in what he cast as a defensive move against a hostile and aggressive West. Ukraine and the West say Russia is waging an imperial-style war.
The United States began supplying Ukraine with longer range ATACMS missiles, which have a 300-kilometer (186-mile) range, earlier this year.
Reuters was unable to immediately verify battlefield reports from either side.

TREATING THE INJURED
Russian-installed Sevastopol Governor Mihail Razvozhaev put the death toll at four, with 144 injured, including 82 taken to hospitals. Twenty-seven children were among the injured.
Specialist doctors were being flown in from other parts of Russia.
Russia will respond to Sunday’s attack, the Defense Ministry said, without elaborating. The Kremlin said Putin had been “in constant contact with the military” since the attack.
Dmitry Medvedev, Deputy Chairman of the Security Council and a leading voice among Russian hawks, described the incident as “a vile, despicable act against our people.”
He likened it to attacks carried out by gunmen on Sunday against a synagogue, a church and police post in Dagestan and said there was “no difference to us” between the US administration, Ukrainian leaders and “crazy fanatics.”
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, a prominent supporter of the invasion, said there “was no justification whatsoever for a missile strike on civilians” and expressed indignation that the incident occurred on the Orthodox holiday of Trinity.
Neither Ukraine nor the United States has commented on the attack, which came on a day when Ukraine said one person had been killed and 10 others wounded by Russian strikes on the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv.
Putin has repeatedly accused the US of using Ukraine to undermine Russia’s own security, which Kyiv and its Western allies deny, and has warned of growing risks of a direct confrontation between Moscow and the US-led NATO alliance.