US Supreme Court stops race-based university admission

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Protesters for and against affirmative active demonstrate in Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on June 29, 2023. (Getty Images/AFP)
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The US Supreme Court ruled that race-conscious admission policies used by Harvard and the University of North Carolina (shown in this picture) violate the Constitution, bringing an end to affirmative action in higher education. (Getty Images/AFP)
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A view of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose race-conscious admission policies were declared a violation of the Constitution by the US Supreme Court.
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Updated 30 June 2023
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US Supreme Court stops race-based university admission

  • Ruling sides with Students for Fair Admissions group that sued Harvard University and the University of North Carolina over their admissions policies
  • Group argued that while the affirmative action favored Black Americans, it discriminated against Asian-Americans and others

WASHINGTON: The US Supreme Court on Thursday banned the use of race and ethnicity in university admissions, dealing a major blow to a decades-old practice that boosted educational opportunities for African-Americans and other minorities.

One year after overturning the guarantee of a woman’s right to have an abortion, the court’s conservative majority again demonstrated its readiness to scrap liberal policies set in law since the 1960s.

The ruling against “affirmative action,” delivered by a court heavily influenced by three justices appointed by Donald Trump during his presidency, drew cheers from conservatives but was blasted by progressives.
President Joe Biden expressed his “severe disappointment,” and criticized the justices as “not a normal court.”
“Discrimination still exists in America,” he said at the White House. “I believe our colleges are stronger when they are racially diverse.”
However, in an interview with MSNBC he pushed back on liberal demands to reorganize the powerful Supreme Court, including by adding to the nine justices, all of whom serve lifetime appointments.
“That may do too much harm,” he said. “If we start the process of trying to expand the court, we’re going to politicize it maybe forever in a way that’s not healthy.”




A view of Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, whose race-conscious admission policies were declared a violation of the Constitution by the US Supreme Court. (AP Photo)

The justices broke six to three along conservative-liberal lines in the decision, seen as a heavy defeat to efforts to expand diversity in school admissions and business and government hiring.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion that while affirmative action was “well-intentioned” it could not last forever, and amounted to unconstitutional discrimination against others.
“The student must be treated based on his or her experiences as an individual — not on the basis of race,” Roberts wrote.
The court said that universities were free to consider an applicant’s background — whether, for example, they grew up experiencing racism — in weighing their application over more academically qualified students.
But deciding primarily based on whether the applicant is white, Black or other is itself racial discrimination, Roberts wrote.
“Our constitutional history does not tolerate that choice,” he said.
In a scathing rebuttal, Justice Sonia Sotomayor accused the majority of being colorblind to the reality of “an endemically segregated society.”
“Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal,” she wrote.




Supporters of affirmative action protest near the US Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 29, 2023. (Getty Images/AFP)

The court sided with an activist group, Students for Fair Admissions, that sued the oldest private and public institutions of higher education in the country — Harvard University and the University of North Carolina (UNC) — over their admissions policies.
The group claimed that race-conscious admissions policies discriminated against Asian Americans competing to enter the two universities.
Harvard and UNC, like a number of other competitive US schools, consider an applicant’s race or ethnicity as a factor to ensure a diverse student body and representation of minorities.
Such affirmative action policies arose from the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s aiming to help address the legacy of discrimination against African Americans.
Some conservatives argue that the policy has outlived its need due to significant gains by Black people and other minorities.
“This is a great day for America,” said Trump, who often celebrates his success at building the court’s conservative majority.
Kenny Xu, a member of the board of Students for Fair Admissions, said the judgment will reduce prejudice against Asian-American students.
“They discriminate against Asians to make room for Black Americans,” he told CNN.
“If you’re an Asian-American, you had to score 273 points higher on the SAT to have the same chance of admission as a Black person at Harvard. Is that fair?” he said, referring to the standard university exam.




Supporters of affirmative action protest near the US Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on June 29, 2023. (Getty Images/AFP)

But the ruling was another major setback to progressives after the court overturned the landmark 1973 “Roe v. Wade” decision guaranteeing a woman’s right to abortion.
The end of federally guaranteed abortion rights almost immediately led to half of the 50 states banning or severely curtailing the practice.
The affirmative action ruling could have the same effect of many states and institutions, halting programs designed to give disadvantaged minorities extra consideration in the competitive admissions process.
Sotomayor said it would also chill any university’s effort to weigh admissions on values other than test scores.
Democratic Senator Cory Booker, an African American, called it a “devastating blow” to the US education system.
“Affirmative action has been a tool to break down systemic barriers and we must continue to advance our ideals of inclusivity & opportunity for all,” he said on Twitter.
At Harvard, summer school student Mayan McClinton, 17, said that pushing for minorities like herself helps all people.
“It’s pretty unfair to assume that we’re sort of taking these spots away from wealthier white students who do have other opportunities,” she said.
 


Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

Updated 8 sec ago
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Gunmen fire on targets in Russia’s North Caucasus region, two police killed, interior ministry says

DAGESTAN: Gunmen opened fire at a synagogue, an Orthodox church and a police post in Russia’s North Caucasus region of Dagestan, and two police officers were killed, news agencies quoted the Russian Interior Ministry as saying.
Six people were wounded in the attacks.
The reports said one officer was killed when shots were fired at a synagogue in Derbent, home to an ancient Jewish community in the North Caucasus. An exchange of fire also took place in an Orthodox Church in the town, a UNESCO heritage site.
Another exchange of shots took place at a police post in Makhachkala, about 125 kilometers (75 miles) to the north along the Caspian Sea coast and the main city in Dagestan, a mainly Muslim region in southern Russia.

UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

Updated 23 June 2024
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UK election betting scandal widens as a fourth Conservative Party official reportedly investigated

  • The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds

LONDON: The chief data officer of Britain’s Conservative Party has taken a leave of absence, British media reported Sunday, following growing allegations that the governing party’s members used inside information to bet on the date of Britain’s July 4 national election before it was announced.
The Sunday Times and others reported that Nick Mason is the fourth Conservative official to be investigated by the UK’s Gambling Commission for allegedly betting on the timing of the election.
The Times alleged that dozens of bets had been placed with potential winnings worth thousands of pounds.
The reports came after revelations in recent days that two Conservative election candidates, Laura Saunders and Craig Williams, are under investigation by the gambling watchdog. Saunders’ husband Tony Lee, the Conservative director of campaigning, has also taken a leave of absence following allegations he was also investigated over alleged betting.
Police said one of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak ‘s police bodyguards was arrested Monday on suspicion of misconduct in public office. The arrest came after the gambling regulator confirmed it was investigating “the possibility of offenses concerning the date of the election.”
The growing scandal, just two weeks ahead of the national election, has dealt a fresh blow to Sunak’s Conservative Party, which is widely expected to lose to the opposition Labour Party after 14 years in power.
Sunak said this week that he was “incredibly angry” to learn of the allegations and said that anyone found to have broken the law should be expelled from his party.
Sunak announced on May 22 that parliamentary elections would be held on July 4. The date had been a closely guarded secret and many were taken by surprise because a vote had been expected in the fall.
Saunders, a candidate standing in Bristol, southwest England, has said she will cooperate fully with the investigation.
Williams was Sunak’s parliamentary private secretary as well as a member of Parliament running for reelection on July 4. He has acknowledged that he was being investigated by the Gambling Commission for placing a 100-pound ($128) bet on a July election before the date had been announced.
Senior Conservative minister Michael Gove condemned the alleged betting and likened it to ” Partygate,” the ethics scandal that contributed to former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s ouster in 2022.
That controversy saw public trust in the Conservatives plummet after revelations that politicians and officials held lockdown-flouting parties and gatherings in government buildings during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“It looks like one rule for them and one rule for us,” Gove told the Sunday Times. “That’s the most potentially damaging thing.”
Daisy Cooper, the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, said “people are sick and tired of this sleaze” and that Sunak must intervene and order an official inquiry.
The Conservative Party said it cannot comment because investigations are ongoing.


Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

Updated 23 June 2024
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Energy professor traverses India to spur climate movement

  • Chetan Singh Solanki wants to inspire energy independence across the world
  • He takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement

NEW DELHI: Four years ago, at the height of his restlessness over the growing threat of climate change on the planet, Chetan Singh Solanki decided to embark on a journey to spark a change for the environment.

Solanki launched the energy swaraj journey in 2020 to inspire energy independence across the world, campaigning with the motto “Energy by Locals for Locals.”

He told Arab News: “I want to restore the environmental balance that we are already losing, and I want to do it at a global level because it is not a problem of one state or one country — it is a problem of the entire world.”

A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay’s department of energy science and engineering, Solanki takes inspiration from Mahatma Gandhi, the leader of India’s freedom movement who used nonviolent resistance as a tool for mass action.

Solanki believes in replicating a similar strategy to boost energy literacy among the people and inspire them to use cleaner energy as an alternative power source.

“It is the wrong energy that has created the problem (and) it is the right energy that will solve the problem. Clean energy and solar energy and to bring everybody on board is why I started this journey,” Solanki said. “My vision is aligned with Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of gram swaraj (village self-rule). I emphasize responsible energy consumption and localized production.”

The campaign was designed to be impactful and adopted by the masses.

“This is designed to trigger the mind that we all can be part of the climate solution. It is not rocket science — rich and poor, young and old, everybody can be part of it,” he added.

Chetan Singh Solanki talks to students as part of his nationwide journey to spur climate movement in this photo shared on June 8, 2024. (Energy Swaraj)

Through his journey, Solanki has earned the nickname “Solar Gandhi,” having covered 56,000 km on his solar-powered bus, which is equipped with essential amenities including an air-conditioned bedroom, office space, refrigerator and a working kitchen.

The vehicle is an “innovative mobile abode” that symbolizes his aspiration “for a forthcoming world driven by sustainable energy sources,” he said, adding that he plans to continue the nationwide journey until December 2030.

To him, it was clear that world governments “have not done enough,” despite annual climate conferences that are purported to address critical environmental issues.

“The business-as-usual approaches are not working nationally and internationally, and therefore the solution lies in becoming sensitive to planet Earth and its capacity to generate or regenerate,” he said.

Since his journey started in late 2020, Solanki said the campaign has been well received.

“I think there are good things happening and response has been good,” he said. “Energy literacy is the first step towards climate correction.”


Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

Updated 23 June 2024
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Aide to UK minister calls Rwanda migrant plan ‘crap’ in leaked audio

LONDON: The UK interior minister has defended a parliamentary aide who called the government plan to deport illegal migrants to Rwanda “crap,” in a leaked audio revealed by the BBC Sunday.
A controversial law by the Conservative government allowing irregular migrants arriving in the UK to be deported to Rwanda was finally passed in April, after months of parliamentary wrangling.
But in the recording James Sunderland, a parliamentary aide and Conservative party candidate, was heard saying: “the policy is crap, ok? It’s crap.”
“But it’s not about the policy. It’s about the effect of the policy,” he went on to say, speaking at a Youth Conservatives conference in April.
“There is no doubt at all that when those first flights take off it will send such a shockwave across the Channel,” Sunderland clarified.
Home Secretary James Cleverly said he was “surprised,” when asked about the audio, before saying Sunderland was making a “counterintuitive statement to grab the attention.”
Cleverly told Sky News on Sunday that his aide Sunderland “is completely supportive of the deterrent effect.”
Sunderland told the BBC he was “disappointed” to have been recorded at a private event, and said although the policy is “not the be all and end all,” it is “part of a wider response.”
No flights deporting asylum seekers have actually taken off yet for the African country, due to lengthy legal challenges and with parliament dissolved ahead of a looming general election on July 4.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the policy would only come into effect after the election, if he was re-elected.
The opposition Labour party — which looks poised to replace the Conservatives — has promised to scrap the Rwanda plan.
The government cleared a law allowing some asylum seekers to be deported in April, circumventing a Supreme Court ruling that said sending migrants to Rwanda in this way would be illegal because it “would expose them to a real risk of ill-treatment.”
Supporters of the Rwanda policy say it will deter tens of thousands of annual cross-Channel arrivals by small boats, and insist the policy is already having an impact.
More than 12,000 irregular migrants have crossed the Channel to Britain on small boats this year, according to government data.


Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

Updated 23 June 2024
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Ukraine missile attack on Crimea kills 2, wounds 22: Moscow-appointed governor

  • Sevastopol regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high

MOSCOW: A Ukrainian missile attack Sunday on Sevastopol on the Russian-annexed Crimea peninsula killed two people including a two-year-old child and wounded 22, the city’s Moscow-appointed governor said.
Sevastopol, a Black Sea port city and naval base on the Crimean peninsula annexed by Russia in 2014, regularly comes under fire from Ukraine but the toll from Sunday’s attack was unusually high.
“According to provisional information, today’s attack by Ukraine’s armed forces on Sevastopol killed 2 peaceful residents, one of them a 2-year-old child,” Sevastopol governor Mikhail Razvozhayev wrote on Telegram.
The governor said Ukraine had launched five missiles which Russian air defenses intercepted over the sea but fragments fell onto the shore area and pieces of shrapnel wounded people.
Razvozhayev said the missile fragments hit shore areas in the north of the city and set fire to a house and woodland.
Earlier Sunday, a drone launched by Ukraine on Russia’s southern Belgorod region killed a man, the governor said.
Three Ukrainian attack drones struck the town of Graivoron a few kilometers from the border with Ukraine, said Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov, with one hitting a car park near a multi-story block of flats.
“A peaceful civilian was killed. The man died from his wounds at the spot,” Gladkov wrote on Telegram, while three were wounded.