Ex-prisoners sue over Republican bid to restrict voting rights
A group of former prisoners in Florida, the US, are suing over what they call an attempt by Republicans to restrict democracy and undo a historic initiative restoring the right to vote to 1.4 million previously incarcerated felons.
Last year, Floridians gave their approval to the initiative, known as Amendment 4, one of the most influential voting rights amendments in state, if not national, history, the Guardian reported.
Allowing ex-felons to cast a ballot has the potential to shift the balance of power in Florida, which has plumped narrowly for Republican candidates in recent major elections, by adding a significant population of voters back into the
But voting-rights advocates were not able to celebrate for long. Months after Governor Ron DeSantis gave his tepid approval to Amendment 4, the state’s Republican legislature introduced a bill that would require the newly eligible population to pay every court fee, fine and lien they might have faced during and after their conviction in order to vote. Amendment 4 supporters called the new law a dangerous ‘poll tax’ designed to disenfranchise voters of color. DeSantis signed the bill into law in the
On Monday, the former felons, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and others, filed an injunction calling the new law unconstitutional.
“The ability to vote [under this law] becomes based on your pocketbook, how much money you have,” said Melba Pearson, the legal director of the ACLU Florida chapter.
“If you’re not able to pay fines or fees you would be prohibited from voting. That’s, quite frankly, wrong.”
While US states have historically curbed the right to vote among incarcerated populations, Florida’s terms have been especially restrictive. States such as Maine and Vermont allow incarcerated people to vote while in custody, and 14 other states restore voting rights upon release.
The trial comes at a crucial time, with municipal and primary elections due across Florida in the coming weeks and the presidential election a year from now. The state went for Donald Trump in 2016 by a narrow margin. As with the rest of the state, ex-felons do not tend to vote for any particular party over another, and Pearson emphasized that this was a nonpartisan issue.
Mark Mauer, the executive director of The Sentencing Project, a research and advocacy organization focused on the rights of incarcerated populations, cited estimates that upward of 80 percent of the people who completed their sentences would be blocked from voting if the law is implemented.
“Most are indigent and low income,” he said.
“This level of fines and fees imposed completely beyond their ability to pay.”
The trial is expected to last through the week, but Pearson of the ACLU said blocking the law is only part of the process.
“The battle in court will continue with regards to the constitutionality of 7066,” she said, referring to the law’s designation.
“We have to ensure this will not prohibit voting in the primaries.”
Young UK gaming addicts able to access NHS treatment
The National Health Service (NHS) in the UK is now ready to accept referrals for youngsters addicted to video games.
The new service for gaming-addicted youngsters aged 13 to 25, where professionals will be able to hold consultations via Skype, is part of the Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders, Sky News reported.
It follows the announcement in June that children with gambling addiction would be able to access specialist services, as well as the creation of 14 new adult NHS gambling clinics across the UK. The Northern Gambling Service clinic in Leeds is the first outside of London and opened last month.
NHS chief executive, Simon Stevens, said, “Health needs are constantly changing which is why the NHS must never stand still — this new service is a response to an emerging problem, part of the increasing pressures that children and young people are exposed to these
“However, the NHS should not be left to pick up the pieces — gambling and Internet firms have a responsibility to their users as well as their shareholders and should do their utmost to prevent rather than cash in on obsessive or harmful behavior.”
A gaming disorder is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a pattern of persistent or recurrent gaming behavior so severe that it takes “precedence over other life interests” including relationships, social life and
Dr. Henrietta Bowden-Jones, director of the Centre for Internet and Gaming Disorders and the Royal College of Psychiatrists’ spokeswoman on behavioral addictions, said, “Gaming disorder is a mental health condition which can have a hugely debilitating effect on people’s lives, both for patients and their families who can be left feeling utterly helpless in the wake of their loved one’s addiction.
“Gaming disorder is not a mental illness to be taken lightly: We are talking about instances where someone may spend up to 12 hours a day playing computer games and can end up becoming socially isolated and lose their job as a result.”
Gaming and Internet addiction, particularly for young people, has become a global issue with some countries introducing fairly draconian measures to try to combat it.
South Korea has banned children under 16 from accessing online games between midnight and 6:00 a.m., while in Japan players are alerted if they spend more than a certain amount of time each month playing games.
In China, Internet giant Tencent has also limited the hours that children can play its most popular games.
New Zealand wrestles with 250th anniversary of James Cook’s arrival
A replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour docked in Gisborne, New Zealand, 250 years after the British navigator landed in New Zealand and named the cove he first sighted Poverty Bay.
The replica is part of a flotilla, known as Tuia 250, that has been sailing around New Zealand on a taxpayer-funded voyage in memory of Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, the Guardian reported.
Dame Jenny Shipley, who is co-chair of Tuia 250, acknowledged that for many indigenous New Zealanders the commemoration celebrations are tinged with grief, as nine Māori lost their lives in the first encounter with Cook and his men, and eventually the Māori people lost their sovereignty.
“I’ve been very proud of both Māori and Pākehā, the way they’ve come to this and rather than arguing the facts of history, have tried to explore the emotions that it’s evoked and that’s been the experience here this week,” she said.
“It’s quite right that 250 years on some people are really proud and want to move on, they see this as a huge contribution to society, others see it as a tragic intervention.
“It is not a bad thing if people want to express their differences and New Zealanders are ready to grow up and do that,” Shipley said as she welcomed the Endeavour into port.
“If there are protests, of course they’re entitled to express their view, but I can tell you there are many in both of the iwi who also want to move forward and there’s got to be space for everybody.”
Some iwi — tribal Māori — have opposed the commemoration celebrations, and said that spending taxpayer money marking the colonization of Māori land is wrong.
At least one town banned the ship from docking after an outcry from the local Māori community.
Ten thousand people gathered in Gisborne to welcome the ship but the Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern was noticeably absent. She was meeting with the visiting Dutch Prime Minister Mark
Ardern told RNZ that it was important New Zealanders faced up to uncomfortable realities around Cook’s arrival in New Zealand, and she had already spent two days in Gisborne over the weekend. Ardern said her decision not to attend the commemoration should not be read as political move.
“There are things that need to be talked about when we talk about the 250th anniversary. Never before has the story fully been told of the loss of life when Cook arrived,” Ardern said.
“This is the chance to talk about the reality of New Zealand’s history, to acknowledge it, to be open about it. That might attract some protests but that is all part of the conversation.”
People in Gisborne expressed mixed emotions about the arrival of the replica Endeavour.
“He killed some of our ancestors. Why it is even coming here? Publicizing this man, when this place was already discovered — it’s hard,” one woman told the New Zealand Herald.
Kiribati ferry that killed 95 not licensed to take passengers, inquiry finds
An overloaded ferry that sank near the Pacific island archipelago of Kiribati last year, killing 95 people, was not allowed to carry passengers in the open sea, and had twice run aground before its final journey, an inquiry found.
Only five passengers and two crew members of the 102 aboard survived the sinking of the MV Butiraoi ferry in January 2018, Reuters reported.
Many died of thirst and hunger while adrift for over a week in a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean.
The report commissioned by the government detailed a litany of failings that caused the tragedy, including the ferry’s departure without notifying authorities. This omission meant it was several days before authorities realized the catamaran was missing and organized a search effort.
“With hardly any food and water, the survivors began to perish,” investigators said in the report, ordered by the office of Kiribati’s president.
The MV Butiraoi left the Kiribati island of Nonouti, about 3,000km (1,864 miles) southwest of Hawaii, on its way to Kiribati’s capital,
Tarawa, 250km (155 miles) away on January 18.
The vessel, loaded with almost 30 tons of dried coconut kernels called copra and 35 empty fuel drums, was not licensed to carry passengers in the open ocean.
The crew had also been drinking alcohol, the investigators found.
Facing strong winds and 2.5-meter (8ft) waves, the boat broke apart and capsized two hours after departure. The catamaran had been poorly maintained, according to the report, and had run aground previously, likely damaging its structure.
Two life rafts carrying a total of 50 people were launched but one became unusable after a puncture. As passengers reached for the one working lifeboat, its floor ‘failed’ as well, the commission said. Others clung to the capsized hull of the ferry.
Authorities did not commission a search-and-rescue operation until January 26 when the catamaran’s arrival in Tarawa became clearly overdue.
That operation included help from US, Australian and New Zealand aircraft and lasted for six days.
A newly-married Indian woman and three of her family drowned in a reservoir in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu after trying to take a selfie, BBC reported.