Friday, September 24, 2021

A judge in Florida on Wednesday blocked a city’s COVID-19 mandate from taking effect

Circuit Judge Monica Brasington, a Sen. Rick Scott appointee, granted a request for an emergency injunction. That means the mandate, which was slated to take effect on Oct. 1, is blocked for now.

“The city did not put on any evidence, at all, at the injunction hearing,” Brasington wrote in a 7-page ruling.

“Without any evidence, the court is unable to consider whether the vaccine mandate serves a compelling interest through the least restrictive means, whether the vaccine mandate meets a strict scrutiny test, a rational basis test, or whether it meets any other standard,” she added.

Gainesville’s City Commission on Aug. 5 decided all city employees needed to get vaccinated against the virus that causes COVID-19. A week later, City Manager Lee Feldman ordered employees to get at least one dose by Oct. 1 and be fully vaccinated by Oct. 14.

More than 200 Gainesville employees sued, noting that the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in stopping transmission of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus has stopped. They also said that the mandate did not make sense because many of them have natural immunity, or protection from having had COVID-19, and because area hospitals were not experiencing a shortage of beds.

In a recent hearing, the employees argued that the mandate violated their right to privacy under the Florida Constitution.

That means defendants have to show that the law “furthers a compelling state interest in the least restrictive way,” Judge Brasington said.

But the city submitted no evidence, called no witnesses, and did not file any affidavits or declarations, leading the judge to rule in favor of the plaintiffs.

“The city had an opportunity to present evidence that would show that this Vaccine Mandate was the least restrictive means to meet a compelling government interest. The city did not do that and, in fact, did not present any evidence, at all. Therefore, the court is required to find that the city failed to meet its burden of proving that the vaccine mandate furthers a compelling state interest in the least restrictive way,” she ruled.

The city is prohibited from enforcing the mandate and firing or disciplining any employee who fails to comply with it.

“The court agreed that the city doesn’t own its employees’ bodies,” Jeff Childers, an attorney for the plaintiffs, told The Epoch Times.

Jon Cicio, one of the plaintiffs, said he was relieved.

“It feels like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I can get back to focusing on serving the citizens the way they deserve, with no distraction,” he told The Epoch Times.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, a Republican who filed an amicus brief in support of the plaintiffs, also celebrated the ruling.

“I was proud to stand with police and first responders to stop the city of Gainesville from firing them based on an unlawful government vaccine mandate. Today, the court agreed and protected their jobs. This is great news,” she wrote on Twitter.

A lawyer for Gainesville declined to commen


British minister's asylum plan will break international law, says UNHCR

Priti Patel’s new asylum plan stigmatises those seeking asylum in the UK as “unworthy and unwelcome” and creates a two-tier system that would be in violation of international law, the UN Refugee Agency has said.

The UK Nationality and Borders Bill, which the government has introduced in order to deter people from attempting “illegal” entry into the UK, will create a “lower class of status” for the majority of refugees who arrive in the country spontaneously, the UNHCR said.

The bill, which was published in July and is currently going through parliament, would make it a criminal offence for an asylum-seeker to arrive in the UK without permission. Asylum seekers would face up to four years in prison if convicted.

It also seeks to “rapidly remove” asylum seekers who arrive in the UK via unauthorised routes, and grant them only temporary protection, with limited rights if it cannot immediately do so.

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR’s UK representative, said there was no evidence the bill would achieve its aim of deterring asylum-seekers from travelling to the UK without the correct documents.

She said: “This bill would undermine, not promote, the government’s stated goal of improving protection for those at risk of persecution. It seems to be aimed at deterring refugees, but there’s no evidence that would be the result.

“Those arriving irregularly will be stigmatised as unworthy and unwelcome, kept in a precarious status for ten years, denied access to public funds unless destitute. Family reunion will be restricted.”

The bill is based on the notion that asylum-seekers should seek sanctuary in the “first safe country” they arrive in – however the UNHCR said there was no such requirement under international law, and the principle was not in the 1951 Refugee Convention.

The UN body said requiring all refugees to claim asylum in the first safe country would be “unworkable”.

Ms Pagliuchi-Lor added: “This differentiation of treatment has no basis in international law.

“The Convention’s definition of a refugee doesn’t vary according to the route of travel, choice of country of asylum, or the timing of a claim. Are we saying that an Afghan refugee is less deserving in the UK than when in Iran or Pakistan?

“There are no quick fixes to what is a global problem. The humane solution lies in working with neighbours on refugee transfers – and with countries of origin on returns of those who are not refugees and have no right to remain – and improving the UK system.”

The bill has attracted condemnation from a range of respected voices, including the UK’s modern slavery tsar, who warned in a strongly worded letter to the home secretary that the proposed reforms would make the identification of victims of modern slavery “harder” and “create additional vulnerabilities”.

Dame Sara Thornton said: “Those entering this country irregularly may become exploited at any point, particularly if they have debt incurred for their journey. Differential treatment of refugees based on the nature of their arrival may only serve to exacerbate vulnerability.”

The Law Society of England and Wales has also warned that the UK’s global reputation for justice was being put at risk by the new bill.

The Law Society president, I Stephanie Boyce, said: “There are significant concerns and a lack of clarity over whether the Nationality and Borders Bill would comply with international law or, indeed, uphold access to justice for extremely vulnerable people.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The entire government is determined to tackle the unacceptable rise in dangerous Channel crossings at every level.

“The New Plan for Immigration provides the only long-term solution to fix the broken system, which includes changes to the law to tackle criminal gangs and prevent further loss of life. It fully complies with all our international obligations including under the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Refugee Convention.

“People should seek protection in the first safe country they reach, like France. They should not, after having obtained safety, make further unnecessary and dangerous journeys to their preferred destination as a matter of choice.”


Britain exploring trade agreements

I always thought that Britain should join NAFTA but NAFTA is no more. Its succesor is USMCA

The UK is considering joining a trade partnership between the US, Canada and Mexico or an Asia-Pacific free trade group after Boris Johnson gave up on his dream of a bilateral deal with Washington.

The prime minister accepted a direct free trade agreement (FTA) with the UK was not high on US president Joe Biden’s list of priorities after meeting with his American counterpart in the White House on Tuesday.

The UK will instead look to improve trade links with the US by exploring other avenues such as inserting itself as the fourth member of the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) or joining the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the Independent understands.

We’ve taken a look at the two trade pacts and what they could mean for the UK.

The CPTPP was born out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a group promoted by then-US president Barack Obama as part of Washington’s increased emphasis on relations with Asia.

Obama’s successor, Donald Trump, pulled out in 2017 and Biden has not rejoined the group.

The UK revealed it was formally applying in January 2021 and negotiations began in June.

The CPTPP, which took effect in 2018, includes agreements on market access, movement of labour and government procurement.

The Department for International Trade said joining the trade group would cut tariffs on food, drink and cars and improve access to the markets of its members, such as Mexico, New Zealand and Vietnam.

Other benefits are said to include easier travel between partnership countries and cheaper visas.

If accepted, the UK would become the first European member, joining Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.


Britain may also bid to join the trade partnership between the US, Canada and Mexico as a fourth member in the US-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

USMCA came into effect in July 2020 as a replacement for the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement (Nafta), which was torn up by Donald Trump.

Britain already has trade agreements with Canada and Mexico. therefore the main benefits of joining would be linked to the US element of the deal.

There has previously been no talk of extending the three-nation arrangement.


(1) Males and females are different after all

An angry backlash has erupted after an all-boys netball team won a state title in Queensland by beating sides made up of female players in the decider.

The Queensland Suns Under-17 team was comprised entirely of boys and won the Under-18s championship in Brisbane this week, beating regional female teams en route to the trophy.

The Courier Mail reports after the Suns beat the Bond University Bull Sharks 46-12 in the final, some members of the crowd directed abuse towards the boys, with many believing it was unfair they were allowed to compete.

Suns coach Tammy Holcroft told the publication: “The abuse ranged from comments made courtside deliberately within earshot of the Suns contingent, to adults making vulgar comments directly behind the team bench.

“It’s disappointing that the frustration was directed at the players.

“At the very core of this, our boys just want to play and they copped the brunt of these comments and behaviours and were made to feel unwelcomed and unsupported.”

NRL commentator and radio host Andrew Voss said it was “bulls***” the boys team, which was undefeated throughout the tournament and boasted an average winning margin of 29 goals, was allowed to compete against the girls.

“How is that common sense?” Voss said on his SEN breakfast show. “You’re surely not going to endorse that as the way of the future, at Under-18s level.

“They say they want to be inclusive, not exclusive. That’s bulls***. It’s a farce.”

NRL legend Cameron Smith said former Melbourne Storm teammate Matt Geyer’s daughter played against the Suns team this week, and Smith’s wife went along to watch a game.

“She just said Matt’s daughter’s team were a gun side and they had no chance. The males were just too fast, too physical, it was just a disadvantage to the girls,” Smith said on SEN.

“It’s crazy. How do you put one male team in against all the other females and expect the girls to compete? Particularly at that age when they’re still developing. It’s not fair.

“That’s a weird one to enter a male team in the netball competition.”

In a Facebook post after the final, the Bull Sharks wrote: “Congratulations on an outstanding tournament to our 18U Women. Undefeated by other women’s teams for the week and runners up in the State Titles.”

The comments on a separate Facebook post promoting the final questioned why an all-boys team was competing against a girls side.

“Netball QLD in their wisdom thought it would be fair to include a young men’s state team against regional young women’s team and allow them to contest the State Title,” Jodie Muir wrote.

Renee Miles replied: “Netball QLD seems to be as intelligent as the QRL,” with a face palm emoji.

Netball Queensland posted about the success of the state titles on Facebook, but the comments underneath were extremely critical.


(2) Males and females are different after all

Following the debut of MMA fighter Alana McLaughlin, an Australian advocate has called for transgender athletes to be banned from competing in professional women’s sports.

McLaughlin, the second openly transgender woman to compete in MMA in the United States, won her debut on Friday night via submission at the Combate Global prelims.

The 38-year-old used a rear-naked choke against Celine Provost to end the match three minutes, 32 seconds into the second round.

Provost landed multiple punches in the first round, but McLaughlin ultimately came out on top.

As she was declared the victor, McLaughlin wore a shirt with the phrase, “End Trans Genocide.”

Her debut comes as multiple states argue bills aimed at restricting transgender athletes from participating in youth, high school and college sports.

Speaking on 2GB’s Ben Fordham Live, Save Women’s Sport Australasia co-founder Katherine Deves said including transgender athletes in professional sport was “an attack on women and girls”. “Humans cannot change sex,” she claimed.

“Sex matters for sport. Sport does not care about your feelings or your identity.

“This is male violence against women. It is sanctioned, and celebrated, and monetised.

“It’s an attack on everything that women have fought for, for equality of access to sports competitions.

“How far do we have to fall as a society before the authorities stop pandering to the woke and start protecting women and girls?

“We don’t want to have mediocre males playing against the most elite women in the world.

“Women’s sports is not a dumping ground for men who can’t hack it in male competition.”

According to Sport Australia, there is no evidence of athletes transitioning from a man into a women in order to gain a competitive advantage.

McLaughlin, who began her gender transition after leaving the U.S. Army Special Forces in 2010, said she hopes to be a pioneer for transgender athletes in combat sports.

“I want to pick up the mantle that Fallon put down,” McLaughlin told Outsports before the fight, referring to Fallon Fox, who in 2012 became the first transgender woman to fight in MMA.

“Right now, I’m following in Fallon’s footsteps. I’m just another step along the way and it’s my great hope that there are more to follow behind me.”

McLaughlin began training a year ago and was cleared to fight by the Florida State Boxing Commission after having her hormone levels tested, according to ESPN.

She said it was a “nightmare” finding an opponent.

“I‘m getting a lot of variations of the same nasty messages calling me a cheater,” McLaughlin wrote on Instagram on Saturday.

“She almost finished me more than once, and on scorecards she definitely won that first round.

“This is the only post I‘ll make about this. Transphobes are just making my block hand stronger.”




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