Month: September 2020

Lt. Collins’ Law Among New MD Measures Taking Effect Oct. 1


ANNAPOLIS, MD — An update to Maryland’s hate crimes law, named for slain Army 2nd Lt. Richard Collins III, is one of several anti-discrimination measures going into effect Oct. 1. Other notable bills address crime, the environment and healthcare, including an infectious disease mandate named for Olivia Paregol, a University of Maryland freshman who died during a 2018 campus outbreak.

Collins’ Law – HB917/SB606. Sponsored by Delegate C. T. Wilson, D-Charles, and Sen. Joanne C. Benson, D-Prince George’s, this hate crimes update was named in honor of the Bowie State University ROTC candidate who was murdered by Sean Urbanski at a University of Maryland, College Park bus stop in 2017.

“He was a young rising star, a young military officer about to be commissioned,” state Sen. William C. Smith Jr., D-Montgomery, said of Collins, who was Black.

While Urbanski, who is white, was convicted of first-degree murder in 2019, the judge failed to find enough evidence to convict under the state’s hate crime law at the time.

“The standard, the fact he didn’t actually utter a certain phrase, was not enough to convict him of a hate crime as well,” Smith explained. “So, we changed the standard to allow the prior activity to be enough to prove intent. We were able to give that small peace of mind to the family.”

Sen. Clarence Lam, D-Howard and Baltimore counties, also wanted to highlight Collins’ law as an important piece of legislation enacted last session.

“Particularly in this time when the national environment is certainly very fraught,” Lam said. “There have been concerns about populations and individuals who feel they may be targeted due to their race, color, gender or orientation. To make sure the hate crimes statute covers them is particularly important. They’re all people, after all.”

Below are a few other bills enacted last session and going into effect Thursday. They are grouped by category.


Fair Housing – HB231/SB50. The HOME, or Housing Opportunities Made Equal, Act, whose sponsors include Smith and Delegate Brooke E. Lierman, D-Baltimore, expands Maryland’s fair housing policy by prohibiting landlords from discriminating against individuals based on their source of income, to include government subsidized housing vouchers, when renting or selling property.

“I think this law will unleash economic opportunity for thousands of families across Maryland,” said Smith. “A vast majority who have vouchers and are single mothers.”

Employment Opportunity – HB1444/SB531. Known as the CROWN Act, this law bans employment descrimination due to racial perceptions regarding hair texture or style by expanding the state’s legal definition of race. Bill sponsors included Sen. Smith and Delegate Stephanie M. Smith, D-Baltimore.

“The problem globally is a number of men and women who wear traditional hairstyles associated with the Black race have suffered discrimination in the workplace about ‘professional’ hairstyles,” Sen. Smith explained. “If they refused to change, they wouldn’t be hired or promoted. It’s something a number of Black men and women think about every single day

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Newsom signs law mandating more diversity in California corporate boardrooms

Many California corporations will have to increase the diversity of their boards of directors under a new law signed Wednesday by Gov. Gavin Newsom to address a shortage of people of color in executive positions.

Gavin Newsom wearing a suit and tie: Gov. Gavin Newsom has acted on a bill requiring more diversity on corporate boards in California. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

© (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)
Gov. Gavin Newsom has acted on a bill requiring more diversity on corporate boards in California. (Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press)

The law requires some 625 publicly held corporations headquartered in California to include at least one person from an underrepresented community by the end of next year, with additional appointments required in future years.

Newsom said during an online signing ceremony that the law is necessary to promote diversity in corporate boardrooms as part of a broader effort to improve racial equity in the U.S.

“When we talk about racial justice, we talk about empowerment, we talk about power, we need to talk about seats at the table,” Newsom said.

The new law is likely to be challenged in court by conservative groups including Judicial Watch, which sued to contest a 2018 law that required a minimum number of women on corporate boards.

“It’s a quota, and quotas are unconstitutional,” said Thomas Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, regarding the law signed by Newsom. Fitton made the same argument in a pending lawsuit about the law requiring women on corporate boards.

Fitton said his organization is reviewing the new law before deciding whether to go to court.

“We are deeply concerned about the new legislation,” Fitton said. “It’s a violation of the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution. It undermines the core legal concept of equal protection.”

Other constitutional law experts disagree that the measure is on weak ground, including Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Berkeley School of Law. He said the laws on the subject are unclear and will have to be decided by the courts.

“I believe that there is a compelling need to enhance diversity on corporate boards,” Chemerinsky said. “The question is whether a court will find these laws to be sufficiently narrowly tailored. Because there are few other alternatives, I think there is a strong argument that such laws are constitutional.”

Under Assembly Bill 979, publicly held corporations headquartered in California are required to have at least one director from an underrepresented community by the close of 2021.

By the end of 2022, corporate boards with four to nine members must have two people from underrepresented communities, and those with more than nine members must have at least three people from those communities.

Directors from an underrepresented community include those who self-identify as Black, African American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, Native Hawaiian or Alaska Native, or who self-identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.

“While some corporations were already leading the way to combat implicit bias, now all of California’s corporate boards will better reflect the diversity of our state,” said Assemblyman Chris Holden (D-Pasadena), one of the authors of the bill, on Wednesday. “This is a win-win,

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UN calls on new Mali government to implement peace agreement

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week called on Mali’s transitional government to maintain a 2015 peace agreement deemed critical for the country’s stability.

The appeal came in a report submitted to the Security Council.

“The peace agreement remains the relevant framework for the urgently needed institutional reforms, and its implementation must remain a priority,” the UN chief said in the document, which has not yet been made public but was obtained by AFP.

The peace deal, signed under the country’s previous president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was meant to disarm rebel groups and integrate them into the national army, but its implementation has dragged on for years despite international pressure.

“There is no viable alternative. I call on the transitional authorities to take ownership of the agreement,” Guterres added.

A military junta overthrew Keita last month, before taking over leadership of the West African nation long plagued by instability, a simmering jihadist revolt, ethnic violence and endemic corruption.

“The political vacuum is of great concern, as it may further delay the implementation of the peace agreement, and the reform agenda, which had already slowed down significantly in previous months,” Guterres said.

Mali’s interim president Bah Ndaw on Sunday named former Malian foreign minister Moctar Ouane as prime minister.

The appointment of a civilian premier opens the way for the country’s neighbors to lift sanctions imposed after the August military coup.


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Senate Passes Stopgap Funding Bill to Avert Government Shutdown

(Bloomberg) — The Senate Wednesday passed a stopgap spending bill needed to prevent an Oct. 1 shutdown of the federal government on an 84 to 10 vote.

a large building: The U.S. Capitol building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The Senate returns today with the Trump administration and Democrats no closer to agreement on a new virus relief package than they were when talks broke off in early August, despite the pressure of the U.S. election in 56 days.

© Bloomberg
The U.S. Capitol building stands in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. The Senate returns today with the Trump administration and Democrats no closer to agreement on a new virus relief package than they were when talks broke off in early August, despite the pressure of the U.S. election in 56 days.

The bill, H.R. 8337, which easily passed the House last week, now heads to President Donald Trump’s desk. He is expected to sign it before the midnight deadline.


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The funding bill would keep the government operating through Dec. 11 at current spending levels.

Congressional Republicans and Democrats, along with White House officials, last week removed the final stumbling block, striking a deal by agreeing to provide aid to farmers and more food assistance for low-income families.

The bill provides as much as $30 billion for the Department of Agriculture’s Commodity Credit Corp., which the Trump administration has used to send virus relief payments to farmers. Democrats got almost $8 billion for a pandemic program to feed children who normally receive school lunches.

With the temporary spending bill finished, lawmakers will try to complete work on the 12 annual appropriations bills for fiscal 2021 in the post-election lame-duck session in November and December. The Senate hasn’t drafted any of the bills so far, and there’s likely a battle ahead over paying for Trump’s wall on the U.S.-Mexico border and replacing military funds he redirected to pay for border security last year.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin agreed earlier this month to keep discussion of a coronavirus relief package separate from the stopgap bill. The two leaders on Wednesday held their first in-person talks since August, and while no deal on the stimulus was reached, they plan to continue discussions.

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Premier League asking for changes to football’s handball law

Referee Peter Bankes watches a monitor during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham and Newcastle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.

Referee Peter Bankes watches a monitor during the English Premier League soccer match between Tottenham and Newcastle at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium in London, Sunday, Sept. 27, 2020.


The Premier League is asking football’s lawmakers to allow more flexibility and leniency for referees assessing handballs after being told by players and managers that the current regulations are too harsh.

England’s top division has fielded complaints after a number of incidents in the opening rounds of the season, including that Eric Dier should not have conceded a penalty for Tottenham against Newcastle on Sunday when a ball came off his outstretched, raised arm.

Despite facing away from the ball, Dier was penalized because his arm was adjudged to be in an unnatural position after jumping to challenge Andy Carroll for the ball.

The penalty — awarded after a VAR review — allowed Callum Wilson to score and secure a 1-1 draw for Newcastle in stoppage time at Tottenham.

“You cannot jump without your hands,” Dier told the BBC. “You cannot defend without using your arms to balance and move so it is what it is.”

Premier League referees, though, have to abide by the laws of the game formulated by the International Football Association Board. There is, however, English influence on the panel that first met in the 19th century. The home nations in the United Kingdom — England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales — have half of the votes and world governing body FIFA has the other four.

A clarification to the handball law in 2019 stated that hands or arms cannot make a players’ “body unnaturally bigger”.

The Premier League’s Professional Game Match Officials body hopes the Laws of the Game could be updated and will ask IFAB for greater latitude.

Six of the 20 penalties awarded in the opening three rounds of the season have been for handball.

The Premier League has already responded to criticism by encouraging referees to soften their interpretation of handballs while still working within the spirit of the Laws of the Game.

According to a presentation shared within the Premier League, referees have now been told to consider the expected position of the arm — rather than just being outside the body line — when determining whether a handball should be penalized.

“Where the arms are clearly used for balance and/or protection,” the presentation slide states, “it is less likely to be penalized.”

That is also the case “where it is clear the player does not have the ability to react” and when the arm does not clearly block a direct shot.

The Premier League’s interpretation of the law should also see players not penalized if:

— the “ball travels from close proximity where the player has a limited opportunity to respond.”

— the “player falls and the hand/arm is between the body and the ground to support the body, but not extended laterally or vertically away from the body.”

Based on the Premier League’s revised guidance for referees

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American Physical Society announces five 2020 fellows affiliated with Jefferson Lab


IMAGE: The American Physical Society’s newly released list of 2020 Fellowships
includes two staff scientists and three others who have conducted or collaborated on research at Jefferson Lab.
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Credit: DOE’s Jefferson Lab

NEWPORT NEWS, VA – Five researchers who are affiliated with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility have been selected by their professional peers for the distinct honor of Fellow of the American Physical Society.

“We are proud to see both our staff and members of our User community recognized by their peers for significant contributions to the field of Nuclear Physics,” said Jefferson Lab Director Stuart Henderson. “Each one of these new APS Fellows has furthered our understanding of the subatomic world in their own, unique way, and it’s through these many diverse and important contributions that we move science forward.”

According to the APS, each of these four researchers has made exceptional contributions to the physics enterprise, from research delving into the heart of matter to discover the proton’s hidden secrets, to experiments measuring the elusive neutral pion, to a lifetime of work developing and advancing new tools that enable these studies.

The newly selected APS Fellows for 2020 include:

  • Roger D. Carlini

    Jefferson Lab senior staff scientist

    Citation: For intellectual leadership in a series of proton-proton and electron-proton parity violation experiments, culminating in the first measurement of the weak charge of the proton as a test of the Standard Model and the determination of the weak couplings to the up and down quarks.
  • David Richards

    Jefferson Lab senior staff scientist

    Citation: For seminal contributions to the understanding of hadron properties in lattice quantum chromodynamics, especially in the areas of hadron spectroscopy and hadron structure.
  • Rouven Essig

    Stony Brook University

    Citation: For broad and innovative contributions to the search for hidden sectors and low mass dark matter, and for developing and realizing new detection concepts both for fixed target and for sub-GeV dark matter direct detection experiments.
  • Ashot Gasparian

    North Carolina A&T State University

    Citation: For leadership in carrying out the world’s most precise measurement of the neutral pion radiative decay width, and for major contributions towards the resolution of the proton charge radius puzzle.
  • Barbara Pasquini

    University of Pavia

    Citation: For important work developing and improving theoretical tools, including dispersion relations, light-front models, and Wigner distributions which increase the sensitivity of both low- and high-energy experiments such as Compton scattering and tomography, to the fundamental structure of hadrons.

The APS Fellowship Program recognizes members who may have made advances in physics through original research and publication, or made significant innovative contributions in the application of physics to science and technology, or may have made significant contributions to the teaching of physics or service and participation in the activities of APS, according to the APS website. Each year, no more than one half of one percent of its membership may be elected to the status of fellow. The APS has more than 55,000 members employed in academia, national laboratories and

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Trump touts ‘law and order’ in debate. Are his tough-on-crime tactics working?

When federal officials announced they charged 61 people in Chicago as part of Operation Legend in August, that number meant little to Marquinn McDonald, who goes on late-night patrols in his South Side neighborhood to make sure the elderly, women and children get home safely. 

Is it legal for Department of Homeland Security to send federal agents to cities?



“They have their numbers. That’s beautiful. They made 61 arrests,” he said with some sarcasm. “OK, you locked up a person, but another person just died.”

In Chicago, weekly murder numbers dropped after the launch of Operation Legend, a crime-fighting initiative that the Justice Department deployed in nine cities since July. The week the charges were announced, 10 people were killed – less than half from before federal officers were sent. But that number has since doubled again. 

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The Trump administration has used the muscle of the federal government to crack down on violent crimes. At President Donald Trump’s campaign rallies, the words “law and order” have become a staple, as he sells himself to voters as a tough-on-crime leader while casting big cities led by Democrats as places where anarchy and lawlessness reign.

a group of people in uniform: US President Donald Trump speaks with officials on September 1, 2020, at Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. - Trump visited Kenosha, the city at the center of a raging US debate over racism, despite pleas to stay away and claims he is dangerously fanning tensions as a reelection ploy.

© MANDEL NGAN, AFP via Getty Images
US President Donald Trump speaks with officials on September 1, 2020, at Mary D. Bradford High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. – Trump visited Kenosha, the city at the center of a raging US debate over racism, despite pleas to stay away and claims he is dangerously fanning tensions as a reelection ploy.

During a heated and chaotic exchange in the presidential debate Tuesday night, Trump, again, attacked cities such as Chicago and New York over rising crime there, taunted Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden over his law and order record, and stoked fears of a suburban extinction.

“The people of this country want and demand law and order … and you won’t even say the phrase,” Trump said, adding that if Biden were elected, “the suburbs would be gone.”

Trump’s partner in the effort has been Attorney General William Barr, whose Justice Department sent hundreds of federal officers to Kansas City, Missouri; Chicago; Albuquerque; Detroit; Cleveland; Milwaukee; Memphis; St. Louis and Indianapolis. Thousands have been arrested, including many fugitives. Dozens of guns and significant amounts of drugs also have been seized.

But violent crime is far from dissipating in cities where the heavily trumpeted federal initiative was launched, and experts say it’s far too early to assess whether Operation Legend is a success or a “prop.”

‘Just for show’ or ‘literally saving lives’?

The rushed nature of the program – timed in the months leading up to the election and, at times, without buy-in from local officials in the cities where it was expanded – has opened it

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U.S. Senate passes bill to fund government through December 11 and avert shutdown

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate approved on Wednesday a temporary funding bill to keep the government open through Dec. 11, sending the measure to President Donald Trump for signing into law.

a person standing in front of a building: The United States Capitol dome is seen in Washington, D.C.

The United States Capitol dome is seen in Washington, D.C.

Government funding runs out at midnight Wednesday (0400 GMT on Thursday). The legislation, which had previously passed the House of Representatives, and passed the Senate on a vote of 84-10, continues funding most programs at current levels.


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Assuming Trump signs the bill, it will avoid a government shutdown in the middle of a pandemic and ahead of the Nov. 3 U.S. elections.

All 10 senators voting against the bill were Republicans.

The measure generally maintains current spending levels and gives lawmakers more time to work out budget details for the fiscal year that ends on Sept. 30 2021, including for military operations, healthcare, national parks, space programs, and airport and border security.

The legislation’s Dec. 11 end date will require Congress to return to the government funding question again during its post-election lame-duck session, after what is likely to be a bruising fight over whether to confirm Trump’s third Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and David Gregorio)

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what does the government’s latest UK Covid-19 data reveal?

a group of people walking down the street: Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

© Provided by The Guardian
Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA

What do the latest numbers say?

a group of people sitting in a chair talking on a cart: People wear face coverings in Cardiff after the Welsh government placed three more areas of Wales into local lockdown

© Photograph: Ben Birchall/PA
People wear face coverings in Cardiff after the Welsh government placed three more areas of Wales into local lockdown

With infections still on the rise, and sharply in some regions, it is clear that the latest restrictions brought in to suppress the virus have either yet to take effect or have not gone far enough. On Wednesday, a further 7,108 new cases were recorded, slightly down on the previous day’s 7,143, but high enough to show that the epidemic continues to grow at pace. There were 71 reported deaths for the second day in a row.

Is it as bad as the spring?

With the first wave of infections, testing was minimal and so the number of infections recorded each day was only the tip of the iceberg. The infection rate today is a more accurate reflection of the size of the epidemic, but still many cases are being missed. Back in March and April there may have been more than 100,000 new infections per day. That compares with the Office of National Statistics’ estimation of around 10,000 cases per day now. At the press conference on Wednesday Prof Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, and Sir Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser were challenged about whether their earlier predictions for a second wave had been too gloomy – with as many as 200 people a day dying by mid-November – but they broadly stuck to their guns saying that the second wave could very easily and quickly escalate out of control.

How is the outbreak different this time?

In the spring, the UK was one of the few countries in Europe to experience a broadly nationwide outbreak. In Italy and Spain, the outbreaks were extensive, but more regional. The latest data shows that in England, cases are rising unevenly this time around, at least for now.

The worst hit areas are the north-west, the north-east, Yorkshire and Humber, and parts of the West Midlands. The rises have triggered strict local lockdowns, but it is clear that the country as a whole is in a precarious position. Whitty was far from upbeat about the prospects of containing the virus in a handful of regions. “We’ve got a long winter ahead of us,” he said.

Is the outbreak still led by younger people?

While younger people are still recording the most new infections, as seen in other countries, these infections then spread into older, more vulnerable groups, with an inevitable rise in hospitalisations, admissions to intensive care, and sadly deaths. The most striking rises are in the 19 to 21-year-olds where the weekly percentage testing positive for the virus has doubled to nearly 13% in September alone. Better news is that infections are broadly flat in school-aged children.

What is the impact on older people?

Throughout the pandemic there has been a steady stream of voices advocating to let the virus

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EU Representatives Discussed Possible Election Delay With Venezuelan Government: Statement | World News

CARACAS (Reuters) – A European Union mission that visited Venezuela last week discussed with authorities the possibility of delaying a parliamentary vote scheduled for Dec. 6, in the hopes of improving electoral conditions, the bloc said on Wednesday.

Dozens of opposition parties say they will boycott the election, arguing it will be rigged in favor of President Nicolas Maduro’s ruling socialist party, though one group within the opposition has said it is seeking better conditions for possible participation.

“The EU’s policy vis-à-vis Venezuela remains unchanged: the conditions are not currently there for a free, fair and democratic electoral process to take place,” the EU said in a statement, adding that it would not be able to send an electoral observer mission in the current conditions without a delay.

“The possibility of postponing the legislative elections in order to open a space for dialogue and change those conditions was discussed.”

One person with knowledge of the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the EU representatives requested the government delay the vote by at least six months, and that there was no immediate response from the government.

Maduro, who had previously requested the EU send observers for the vote, argues the opposition does not want to participate because it does not value democracy. Venezuela’s information ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Maduro’s government has ignored laws passed by the National Assembly since an opposition coalition won control in a late 2015 vote. Legislative elections are due every five years under Venezuela’s constitution.

During their visit to Caracas, two representatives of the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrel met with two top socialist party officials as well as opposition leader Juan Guaido, civil society representatives and religious leaders.

(Reporting by Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Writing by Luc Cohen; editing by Grant McCool)

Copyright 2020 Thomson Reuters.

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