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.
 


Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

Updated 14 sec ago
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Indonesia’s president-elect says Saudi Arabia ‘main partner’ in resolving global issues

  • Jakarta, Riyadh have been working with other Muslim countries to rally international support for Palestine
  • President-elect Subianto recently pledged to increase UNRWA funding, send more medical teams to Gaza

JAKARTA: Prabowo Subianto, Indonesia’s president-elect, sees Saudi Arabia as a main partner in resolving global issues, his office said on Thursday following a meeting with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Subianto, who is still serving as Indonesia’s defense minister before he takes the top office in October, visited Jeddah on Wednesday after attending an international aid conference on Gaza in Jordan. 

In his first meeting with the Saudi crown prince since winning the general vote in February, Subianto highlighted the importance of cooperation between Jakarta and Riyadh to support international peace efforts, including in Palestine.  

“For Indonesia, Saudi Arabia is a main partner in dialogue and in resolving regional and global issues,” Subianto said, as quoted in a Ministry of Defense statement. 

“I have witnessed (the crown prince’s) steadfastness in affirming Saudi leadership in the region, including to promote peace and stability for our brothers and sisters in Palestine. The issue of Palestine is very close to our hearts.” 

Subianto pledged to increase contributions to the UN’s agency for Palestinian refugees and send more medical teams to Gaza during the conference in Jordan, where he also called for a two-state solution for Palestine.

Indonesia has long been a staunch supporter of Palestine and one of the most vocal countries since the beginning of Israel’s onslaught on Gaza last October. It sees Palestinian statehood as mandated by its constitution, which calls for the abolition of colonialism. 

Indonesia and Saudi Arabia are part of a ministerial committee formed during the joint Arab-Islamic Extraordinary Summit last November, which has been working to rally international support for an immediate end to Israel’s war on Gaza.

“I rely on your leadership to defend peace, justice and humanity for Palestine,” Subianto told the crown prince during their meeting.

The Indonesian president-elect has been urging Israel to obey the orders of the International Court of Justice and stop its military offensive in the southern Gaza city of Rafah and has called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the besieged strip, where over 37,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 80 percent of people have been displaced from their homes.


UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

Updated 58 min 47 sec ago
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UK’s Labour pledges to recognize Palestinian state as part of peace process

  • “Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto

MANCHESTER: Britain’s opposition Labour Party, which is far ahead in polls before a July 4 election, pledged on Thursday to recognize a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process.
“Palestinian statehood is the inalienable right of the Palestinian people,” said Labour’s election manifesto — the collection of policies it would enact if it forms the next government.
“We are committed to recognizing a Palestinian state as a contribution to a renewed peace process which results in a two-state solution with a safe and secure Israel alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.”
The current Conservative-led government has previously said Britain could formally recognize a Palestinian state before the end of a peace process, and that Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must be given “the political perspective of a credible route to a Palestinian state and a new future.”
In May, Spain, Ireland and Norway officially recognized a Palestinian state, prompting an angry reaction from Israel, which has found itself increasingly isolated after more than seven months of conflict in Gaza.


NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

Updated 13 June 2024
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NATO defense ministers thrash out new security aid and training support plan for Ukraine

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg says Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons

BRUSSELS: NATO defense ministers gathered Thursday hoping to agree on a new plan to provide long-term security assistance and military training to Ukraine, after Hungary promised not to veto the scheme as long as it’s not forced to take part.
The ministers are meeting over two days at NATO headquarters in Brussels in the last high-level talks before a summit hosted by US President Joe Biden in Washington on July 9-11, where the military organization’s leaders are expected to announce financial support for Ukraine.
Ukraine’s Western allies are trying to bolster their military support as Russian troops launch attacks along the more than 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line, taking advantage of a lengthy delay in US military aid. European Union money was also held up by political infighting.
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, who is chairing Thursday’s meeting, said that Ukraine’s beleaguered armed forces need longer-term predictability about the kinds of weapons, ammunition and funds they can expect to receive.
“The whole idea is to minimize the risk for gaps and delays as we saw earlier this year,” Stoltenberg told reporters. The hold-up, he said, “is one of the reasons why the Russians are now able to push and to actually occupy more land in Ukraine.”
Since Russia’s full-fledged invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s Western backers have routinely met as part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, run by the Pentagon, to drum up weapons and ammunition for Kyiv. A fresh meeting was held at NATO headquarters on Thursday.
While those meetings have resulted in significant battlefield support, they have been of an ad-hoc and unpredictable nature. Stoltenberg has spearheaded an effort to have NATO take up some of the slack.
The idea is for the 32-nation military alliance to coordinate the security assistance and training process, partly by using NATO’s command structure and drawing on funds from its common budget.
Stoltenberg said he hopes Biden and his counterparts will agree in Washington to maintain the funding level for military support they have provided Ukraine since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion in February 2022.
He estimates this at around 40 billion euros ($43 billion) worth of equipment each year.
On Wednesday, Hungary announced that it would not veto the plan as long as it’s not forced to take part.
“I asked the Secretary-General to make it clear that all military action outside NATO territory can only be voluntary in nature, according to NATO rules and our traditions,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said. “Hungary has received the guarantees we need.”
The world’s biggest security alliance does not send weapons or ammunition to Ukraine as an organization, and has no plans to put troops on the ground. But many of its members give help on a bilateral basis, and jointly provide more than 90 percent of the country’s military support.
The other 31 allies see Russia’s war on Ukraine as an existential security threat to Europe, but most of them, including Biden, have been extremely cautious to ensure that NATO is not drawn into a wider conflict with Russia.
NATO operates on the basis that an attack on any single ally will be met with a response from them all.


G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

Updated 13 June 2024
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G7 leaders seek deal to use interest from Russian assets for Ukraine

  • The Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence are also on the packed agenda
  • For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday

BARI: Group of Seven leaders will aim to boost funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia and offer a united face in confronting China’s political and economic ambitions at their annual summit in southern Italy on Thursday.
For a second year running, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky will attend the summit, taking part in talks on Thursday, and he is due to sign a new, long-term security accord with US President Joe Biden.
The G7 leaders look likely to announce they have agreed at least in principle on plans to issue $50 billion of loans for Ukraine using interest from Russian sovereign assets frozen after its invasion of Ukraine to back the multi-year debt package.
“I think we will have the major tentpoles of this decided, but some of the specifics left to be worked through by experts on a defined timetable,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said of the discussions.
“I think we are on the verge of a good outcome here,” he added.
Officials acknowledge the plan is complex, with legal experts still having to thrash out the details that will need the backing of European nations, particularly Belgium, which is not in the G7.

Packed Agenda
With the Middle East, migration and artificial intelligence also on a packed agenda, the June 13-15 summit in the southern Italian region of Puglia would be taxing for leaders at the best of times, but most of them are also bowed down by their own domestic woes.
Only the host, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, is riding high after triumphing in Italy’s European election last weekend, but achieving meaningful results in the luxury Borgo Egnazia hotel resort will be a tall order.
Biden’s goal at the G7 was to reinforce the idea that the United States is best served if it is closely aligned with its democratic allies and partners, Sullivan said, when asked about the prospects of it being the president’s last summit given he faces a re-election battle in November.
Underscoring US determination to punish Moscow for its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Washington on Wednesday dramatically broadened sanctions on Moscow, including by targeting China-based companies selling semiconductors to Moscow.
By announcing new restrictions on Chinese firms on the eve of the G7 meeting, Biden is no doubt hoping to persuade Western allies to show greater resolve in confronting Beijing over its support for Russia and its industrial over-capacity.
Speaking ahead of the start of the summit, Sullivan said that China was a significant creditor to many heavily indebted countries.
“The G7 communique is not singling out or focusing on a single country,” he said, but added that China needed to play a constructive role in dealing with the debt burden.


Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

Updated 13 June 2024
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Eight EU countries call for restricting Russian diplomats’ movement

PRAGUE: Eight European Union foreign ministers called on the EU to ban Russian diplomats from moving freely around the bloc and restrict them to countries where they are accredited, in a letter to EU’s foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
“Free movement of holders of Russian diplomatic and service passports, accredited in one host state, across the whole Schengen area is easing malign activities,” according to the letter, dated June 11, seen by Reuters.
The ministers said that intelligence, propaganda “or even preparation of sabotage acts are the main workload for a large number of Russian ‘diplomats’ in the EU,” and while expulsions were important, the threat remained.
“We believe the EU should strictly follow the reciprocity principle and restrict the movement of members of Russian diplomatic missions and their family members to territory of a state of their accreditation only,” they said.
“This measure will significantly narrow operational space for Russian agents,” added the letter, which was signed by ministers from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland and Romania.