In brief | Nation & world | 8-29-14


Europe seeks role in postwar Gaza, paving way for Abbas return

JERUSALEM — European nations are offering to help enforce the cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, a scenario that could provide key international backing for maintaining the peace and step up the pressure on Hamas militants to relinquish power.

The European plan remains vague, and it is unclear whether Israel or the Palestinians will agree.

But a European presence in Gaza could go a long way toward meeting two key demands: the Palestinians’ insistence on freer movement in and out of the territory, and the Israeli requirement that Hamas be kept in check.

French President Francois Hollande laid out the case for European involvement on Thursday, telling international diplomats that Europe could help oversee the destruction of tunnels used by Hamas militants and monitor the territory’s border crossings with Israel and Egypt.

“It is necessary to move toward an end to the blockade and a demilitarization of the territory,” he said, indicating that international supervision could help pave the way for a return of Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority, to Gaza.

California Legislature passes bill changing consent mandate for college rape investigations

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — State lawmakers on Thursday passed a bill that would make California the first state to define when “yes means yes” while investigating sexual assaults on college campuses.

The Senate unanimously passed SB967 as states and universities across the U.S. are under pressure to change how they handle rape allegations. The bill now goes to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has not indicated his stance on the bill.

Sen. Kevin de Leon, D-Los Angeles, said his bill would begin a paradigm shift in how California campuses prevent and investigate sexual assault. Rather than using the refrain “no means no,” the definition of consent under the bill requires “an affirmative, conscious and voluntary agreement to engage in sexual activity.” Earlier versions of the bill had similar language.

“With this measure, we will lead the nation in bringing standards and protocols across the board so we can create an environment that’s healthy, that’s conducive for all students, not just for women, but for young men as well too, so young men can develop healthy patterns and boundaries as they age with the opposite sex,” de Leon said before the vote.

Silence or lack of resistance does not constitute consent. The legislation says it’s also not consent if the person is drunk, drugged, unconscious or asleep.

Obama reiterates pledge to act on immigration if Congress doesn’t, but sets no timeline

WASHINGTON — With a self-imposed deadline looming, President Barack Obama said Thursday he still intends to act on his own to change immigration policies but stopped short of reiterating his past vows to act by the end of summer.

Obama raised the slim hope that Congress could take action on a broad immigration overhaul after the midterm elections in November. He said that if lawmakers did not pass an overhaul, “I’m going to do what I can to make sure the system works better.”

But for the first time since pledging to act by summer’s end, he signaled that such a target date could slip. He said that the administration had been working to reduce the flow of unaccompanied minors attempting to cross the border and noted that the number of apprehensions at the border had fallen in August.

“Some of these things do affect time lines and we’re just going to be working through as systematically as possible in order to get this done,” he said in a news conference where he also addressed Russian aggression in Ukraine and action against Islamic State militants.

Two months ago, Obama angrily conceded that the House did not intend to take up immigration legislation this year and ordered Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and Attorney General Eric Holder to come up with actions the president could take on his own.

US sanctions Oklahoma for ditching Common Core education standards; teacher layoffs possible

OKLAHOMA CITY — President Barack Obama’s administration on Thursday stripped Oklahoma of authority to decide how to spend $29 million in education funding because the state abandoned national academic standards known as Common Core, in a rebuke that a union official said could lead to teacher layoffs.

The U.S. Department of Education said it was hitting Oklahoma with the sanction under the No Child Left Behind Act because the state could no longer demonstrate that its school standards were preparing students for college and careers.

The Republican-dominated Oklahoma Legislature voted this year to ditch Common Core, a national benchmark for what students should learn in such subjects as math and English that has been adopted in more than 40 states. GOP Gov. Mary Fallin signed the measure into law and Oklahoma will revert to weaker standards in place in 2010.

Following the announcement, Fallin blasted Obama and the federal government for the decision and said Oklahoma would fight vigorously.

“It is outrageous that President Obama and Washington bureaucrats are trying to dictate how Oklahoma schools spend education dollars,” she said in a statement. “This is one more example of an out-of-control presidency that places a politicized Washington agenda over the well-being of Oklahoma students.”

By wire sources