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11 Dec

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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The Supreme Court justice’s remarks about African-Americans and higher education cause pain and anger on campus

The Supreme Court this week heard oral arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas Austin, a case that could have a far-reaching effect on the future of affirmative action in the United States. Abigail Fisher, who is white, claimed she was denied a spot at the University of Texas Austin because the system by which the school admitted freshman excluded her on the basis of race.

During Wednesday’s session, Justice Antonin Scalia said, “There are some who contend that it does not benefit African-Americans to get them into the University of Texas where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well.” Scalia continued, “I’m just not impressed by the fact the University of Texas may have fewer [black students]. Maybe it ought to have fewer.”

The reaction to Scalia’s remarks was swift and severe.

On social media, many African-Americans responded to Scalia’s comments using the hashtag #StayMadAbby — referring to the plaintiff — voicing their disagreement with Fisher, graduation photos, or references to elite colleges they attended.

Meanwhile, at the Austin campus, many African-American students said that Scalia’s comments have dominated their conversations.

David McDonald, 22, is a member of the Black Student Alliance at the University of Texas, and was one of three UT students actually in the courtroom when Scalia made his comments.

“I don’t know if anyone else reacted because I was so caught up in my own reaction,” McDonald told Al Jazeera. “It just really resonated with me how disconnected he was from the true black students who matriculate through UT… we are excelling in every field.”

LaShawn Washington, a senior political science major, heard about Scalia’s comments from her mother, after calling to say she got an A in her neuroscience class. “It was kind of a juxtaposition to my actual reality at the time,” said Washington.

Washington said she felt crushed. “I’m being told by someone who is not a minority that blacks don’t succeed in these types of atmospheres and they should go to quote-unquote slower track schools,” she said. “I’m still having to justify why I’m qualified to be in the same space as a white man.”

Washington was originally rejected when she applied to the University of Texas in high school. She went to community college for a semester, and then took two years off to take care of her disabled mother. She reenrolled in community college, and then reapplied to the University of Texas, where she was admitted on scholarship, and started in the fall of 2014. Washington said that she has a 3.89 grade point average. “I’m a first-generation college student,” said Washington. “Someone who struggled, but they came to UT, and still excelled.”

“There are lots of other races and ethnicities that are on campus, but it’s predominately white,” said Melissa Herman, an American studies major who graduated from UT in May of 2014. According to an accountability report published by Texas Higher Education Data, a group created by the Texas Legislature, the autumn enrollment of 2014 was 46.9 percent white, 19.9 percent Hispanic, 17.3 percent Asian, and 4.4 percent African-American.

By comparison, the autumn enrollment of 2000 was 62.7 percent white, 11.8 percent Hispanic, 12.5 percent Asian, and 3.2 percent African-American.

Herman, an African-American, said she wouldn’t trade her UT experience for anything. “But at the end of the day, it’s still heavily white, it’s still mired in a history of racism,” she added. “[Fisher’s] whole case just kind of undermines everything that the university has done to make it a more inclusive and diverse place.”

The University of Texas did not return a request for comment at the time of this article’s publication.

“I think that a lot of times we view thoughts like these, or people’s thoughts in this area as individual racism, but I think it kind of shows a bigger picture about how institutional racism is perpetuated,” said Chelsea Jones, 22, an African-American UT alumni who graduated last week. “It’s these things by individuals in power that influence polices and influence important court cases that decide the fates of students of color in the future.”

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French foreign minister calls for second all-night session to seal agreement on 20-year diplomatic process but admits talks will finish on Saturday

US secretary of state, John Kerry, and French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, on the sidelines of the COP 21 conference on climate change in Paris.

US secretary of state John Kerry, left, meets French foreign minister Laurent Fabius. Photograph: Dominique Faget/AFP/Getty Images

Governments trying to reach a climate change agreement in Paris have drawn “extremely close to the finish line” but will overrun into Saturday, Laurent Fabius, the French foreign minister, said.

With an agreement in sight to keep temperature rises in check and avoid dangerous global warming, Fabius called for a second all-night session of negotiations to try to bring 20 years of rollercoaster diplomacy to a successful close.

Late on Thursday night, Fabius was maintaining the talks would finish on Friday as planned. But as overnight negotiations ran on, Fabius admitted the talks would finish on Saturday.

“I will not present the text Friday evening, as I had thought, but Saturday morning,” he said. “There is still work to do. Things are going in the right direction.”

The latest version of a draft text, a slightly condensed 27 pages, retained a key demand of low-lying and vulnerable states to limit warming below 2C above pre-industrial levels and seek to keep it to 1.5C.

But when it came to recognising irreversible effects, such as land loss and migration, the draft was a huge disappointment, campaign groups said. “The current options provide no hope for people who will suffer the impacts of climate change the hardest,” according to WWF………………….

 Podcast Paris climate talks turn up the heat on world leaders – podcast

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How the officers of American law enforcement’s deadliest county plan to continue policing themselves

Part four of a five-part series from The Counted

by and . Video by and Alex Parker. Design and graphics by the

The vial of methamphetamine that the police officers found on Amyra Nicholson was small, she said, but their reaction was overwhelming.

Nicholson, who said her purse was searched because she “was holding it too tight” while standing in her front yard in Bakersfield, California, alleged that she was taken to her bathroom in handcuffs, made to bend over and given an unnecessary cavity search.

Nicholson’s 14-year-old daughter was summoned and told by the same female officer to disrobe to “complete nakedness” for a strip search while male officers stood pointing their handguns, according to a lawsuit from Nicholson that the city eventually settled for $35,000.

One of the accused officers, Scott Tunnicliffe, no longer works for the Bakersfield police department. Instead, he has been placed in charge of scrutinising it.

 

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After decades in which deaths involving officers in the two biggest police departments in Kern County have been investigated only by the departments themselves, the office of the county’s district attorney has in recent weeks become able to review such incidents if it chooses. The DA’s office claims to offer a newfound impartiality. “We’re not part of them, though we work with them,” assistant DA Scott Spielman said recently of the local police.

But the connections are closer even than previously acknowledged, a Guardian investigation into the law enforcement officers of Kern County, who have killed more people per capita than in any other US county so far in 2015, has found. The findings lend weight to claims from critics that police in Kern County are effectively policed only by themselves.

Tunnicliffe, the DA’s 55-year-old chief investigator, retired as a Bakersfield lieutenant in 2013, and receives a $75,000-a-year pension for his police work in addition to his salary. Of 26 other investigators working under him in the DA’s office that could be identified, 19 were also previously Bakersfield police officers or Kern County sheriff’s deputies, according to a review of public records. Three were former officers of other law enforcement agencies.

One of the other four investigators is a director of the Kern Law Enforcement Association, a union that represents the same Kern County sheriff’s deputies whose potential fatal shootings would be reviewed by the DA’s office.

Another DA’s investigator accidentally shot and injured a high school footballer as an officer in Tulare, California, during a botched drunk-driving arrest in 1986. Lawsuits over the shooting were settled for $70,000, according to local reports from the time. The officer later worked for two decades as a Bakersfield police detective before moving to the DA’s office in 2012……………..

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Former Oklahoma police officer Daniel Holtzclaw found guilty of multiple rapes and battery

Daniel Holtzclaw, a 29-year-old former Oklahoma City officer, sobs as he is convicted of 18 counts of raping and sexually assaulting eight women while on duty. Holtzclaw’s victims were all black women with histories of run-ins with law enforcement, some of whom he targeted by running background checks to gain leverage with which to coerce sex. He is facing up to life in prison

The women were teenagers and grandmothers. Most were living on the margins. All of them were black. And during a month-long trial that became a symbol of police predation, they formed a bleak parade of 13 witnesses who accused a former Oklahoma City officer of using his badge to coerce sex acts and rape.

On Thursday, after 45 hours of deliberation, a jury convicted Daniel Holtzclaw, 29, on five counts of rape and 13 other counts of sexual assault, including six of sexual battery, against eight of the women.

The convictions included four for first-degree rape, which carries a possible sentence of life in prison. He will appear in court on 21 January for sentencing.

Holtzclaw was cleared of a further 18 of the 36 charges he faced, including rape, sexual battery, burglary, indecent exposure and stalking……………….

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Joel Jenkins has been simultaneously indicted in the fatal shooting of a speeding suspect in March and in the deadly shooting of a neighbour last week

Ohio officer shooting Joel Jenkins Robert Rooker Pike County

The Ohio deputy is at least the ninth police officer to be charged with a crime after a fatal shooting this year. Photograph: Alamy

An Ohio police officer has been simultaneously indicted in the fatal shooting of a speeding suspect in March and in the deadly shooting of a neighbour last week, according to state officials.

A special grand jury charged the officer, Joel Jenkins, with murder for the shooting of Robert Rooker in March and with manslaughter in the apparently accidental shooting in the head of Jason Brady last Thursday. Jenkins was fired this week from his job as a Pike County sheriff’s deputy.

Robert Rooker

Robert Rooker Photograph: Facebook

Jenkins was also charged with reckless homicide over the death of Rooker, 26, who was shot after fleeing at high-speed when he was caught speeding. Authorities alleged that Rooker eventually rammed two police vehicles.

In the off-duty shooting of Brady, 40, the former deputy was indicted for involuntary manslaughter as well as reckless homicide and tampering with evidence, according to Dan Tierney, a spokesman for the Ohio attorney general. Jenkins has said he fired the gun inadvertently while showing it to his neighbour. Police said he had been drinking.

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Jenkins, 31, who had been released on bail in the Brady shooting, according to Tierney.

Jenkins had been placed on administrative leave after the March shooting and then reinstated, placed on leave and reinstated again, according to local reports. He was fired for insubordination after refusing to answer a major’s questions about the shooting that killed Brady, according to NBC4……………..

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White House says it is also exploring so-called gun show loophole as House Democrats push to have federal ban on gun violence research funding lifted

Obama has asked his staff for recommendations on what the administration can do on its own to curb gun violence, an adviser said Thursday.

President Obama has asked his staff for recommendations on what the administration can do on its own to curb gun violence, an adviser said Thursday. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Barack Obama has ordered officials to draw up an urgent new plan to strengthen background checks on gun buyers without the approval of Congress.

The president has asked his advisers to complete a proposal and submit it for his review, White House adviser Valerie Jarrett said.

“The president has directed his team in short order to finalise a set of recommendations on what more the administration can do on its own to save lives from gun violence, and those recommendations will include making sure we do everything we can to keep guns out of the wrong hands, including those expanded background checks,” Jarrett told a national gun violence vigil in Washington.

After the mass shooting in Roseburg, Oregon in October, Obama indicated he was looking for ways to boost gun laws without a vote in Congress.

On Thursday, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the review that Jarrett referred to had been under way for “the past couple of months” but claimed there was now increased appetite for fresh reform attempts among the US public in the recent weeks.

“These are essentially recommendations ………………….

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The Environment

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US politics

Donald Trump strikes chord with GOP voters over Muslims, poll finds

Former Gulf associates abandon Donald Trump over anti-Muslim comments

Obama looks to expand background checks for guns with executive action

A dreary August morning, 1984. Ant, my brother, bursts into my tiny room and throws down some letters – the post is my lifeline. I pick up one envelope, with strange, spiky block capitals; intriguing handwriting I don’t recognise. I open it, gingerly. It’s a postcard of Morrissey and Sandy Shaw. My heart flutters 10 beats. And I’m shaking as I turn it over to read: “You write delightfully, a priceless gift … Be well, be happy. Love Morrissey XXX”

These words leap at me, embrace me, sing into my senses like the blessing of angels. I spend some time staring at it, holding it, stroking it. Eventually I manage, with some effort, to keep it in my bra, close to my trembling heart, and the once dull day flowers into creativity: a few poems, a new song, and an 11-page letter to my best friend, Kate.

Hand in Glove by the Smiths with lead singer Morrissey

Truly, life will never be the same again. I live downstairs in the family council house, in what feels like a prison. I’m disabled and my mother, by default, is my carer. There’s no genuine social care at this point in time. Disabled people have negligible rights in law, and pretty much no access to anything. Living in chronic poverty at the edge of the Chalfont-moneyed classes gives me a heightened sense of the divide between the rich and the poor. I rage at Thatcher’s Britain. I rage in knowing there’s more to life than this. I have wild hair, second-hand stilettos and shaved-off eyebrows.

At a tiny desk, in a ragged chair, I sit writing in my journal – in thrall to Anaïs Nin. On my cassette player there’s the Smiths, a live bootleg. Hand in Glove wrenches my angst-ridden heart to pieces every time: “And if the people stare, then the people stare, I really don’t know and I really don’t care.”

Morrissey in 1995

‘Morrissey played a part in putting me back on track as a burgeoning writer.’ Photograph: Jane Bown

In my forthcoming memoir, First in the World Somewhere, I elaborate on this moment – a true epiphany. Starting in the 80s, up to the brink of the new millennium, my story is one of a first-generation punk crip who skirted through new romantic pop into being a music-junkie indie kid, lurking with many in the north London music scene, including Alan McGee of Creation Records, and the band Wire.

But it was Morrissey who saved me from giving up on my dreams. At the time I first wrote to him, I was desperate to move from my grim Chalfont council estate to the dirty, creative action of London. I was a writer. I had had moderate success as a fanzine poet from the earliest days under a number of guises, including my favourite nom de plume and mask, Kata Kolbert. It was also as Kata Kolbert that I made cassette tapes of my poetry and music.

I’d written to Morrissey on the off-chance, in a fiery gloom: a fan letter, a declaration that I recognised within him, and the songs of the Smiths, a sense of someone who was spreading an alternative message, someone who was plainly different. I was at a point in my young life where I was considering giving up all my creative impulses. I didn’t expect a response, but Morrissey was kind enough to write back, and on more than one occasion. And it liberated some deep part of myself. It let me keep faith with what I could do.

I hope that my book will not only tell my story, my gentle link with Morrissey, but also detail my connection to the earliest formation of disability activism and arts. It tells of the help from Ken Livingstone to move to London; and from Robert Wyatt, who supports and endorses me still; and of the making of a cult 90s LP, Spiral Sky (still available on eBay, occasionally).

I have known what it is to be part of the hidden class of young disabled people developing their own answers and frameworks to understand their place in an unaccepting world – one that still exists, to some extent.

It’s world that decries you as a charity case, a medical specimen, a brave Paralympic superhuman – and, these days, a skiver. But never simply human, flawed, contrary and three-dimensional.

Ultimately, Morrissey played a part in putting me back on track as a burgeoning writer, and while – if press reports are to be believed (never!) – he is now perhaps something of a grumpy old man, my affection remains true. Thank you, Morrissey. I’m still here. Still dreaming, still fighting, still writing. Because of you

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