Sunday news round-up: June 22nd-28th

Top Story: Supreme Court issues breakthrough civil rights ruling: The Supreme Court of the United States has delivered its highly anticipated and definitive ruling on the issue of same-sex marriage, protecting it as a Constitutional right and bringing it to all corners of the country. After assessing the rulings of various Appellate Courts at the state level, SCOTUS decided to take on the federal case, Obergefell v. Hodges, filed by a man who sued the court to have his name put on his same-sex partner’s death certificate. In the ruling, 5-4, the court agreed that not providing and recognizing same-sex marriages violated a provision in the Constitution that guarantees equal representation under the law. Many tearful and overjoyed couples celebrated the historical ruling by marrying in local courthouses. While this is a hard fought victory, the struggle is not over, with many states in the U.S. still allowing businesses to fire gay employees on the basis of their sexuality. Additionally, many courts in conservative states as well as some Republican Presidential candidates have vowed to defy the ruling.

Up to 30,000 migrant nurses face deportation from UK: Government plans to introduce harsher rules for migrants working in the UK could cost the NHS up to 30,000 nurses, the Royal College of Nursing has warned. The government plans to introduce a pay threshold next April, meaning that those who do not earn at least £35,000 a year will be deported after six years. The plans are being introduced to combat what the government sees as a disproportionate ratio of migrant to native skilled work, and hopes to meet the ever-increasing demand for nurses by recruiting from the UK, not overseas. Despite the seemingly noble intentions to give UK workers more nursing opportunities, the RCN has decried the plans and reiterated the need for skilled migrants in the UK. Nurses aside, the current government has been consistently hostile to the NHS, selling off chunks all through its first term and pushing ahead with disastrous restructuring plans.

Freedom Flotilla III heads for Gazan shore: The third Freedom Flotilla is heading for the shores of the Gaza Strip in order to break the economic and humanitarian siege imposed by Israel. The flotilla is heading from southern Greece to Gaza this weekend with supplies for the severely impoverished region, under the thumb of a cut-throat military rule. Flotilla spokesman Anwar Al-Maghribi urged the UN to protect the humanitarian mission from piracy or military assault by the apartheidist Israeli government, but Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu insists that the flotilla will be treated as “hostile” and will not be permitted to reach Gaza. Israeli forces brutally intercepted the first Freedom Flotilla as it approached Gaza in 2010, murdering nine activists in the process.

Wikileaks publish over 60,000 Saudi cables: Whistleblowing group Wikileaks has yet again embarassed the government of Saudi Arabia by releasing a treasure trove of diplomatic cables. The cables reveal that the Saudis have gone to great lengths to suppress the influence of long-term adversary Iran, such as pressuring a satellite TV provider to take an Iranian station off the air, and financially backing political opponents of former Iraqi PM Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, a supporter of Iran. Although the cables do not reveal anything particularly damning, they are further confirmation that the Saudis use their considerable oil wealth for “checkbook dimplomacy”, that is, buying and selling supporters across the region in order to suppress adversaries like Iran.

Paris describes NSA spying revelations as “unacceptable”: The French government expressed outrage this week after a Wikileaks report accused the NSA, America’s main intelligence agency, of spying on at least three consecutive French heads of state. According to the leak, NSA officials wiretapped the personal phones of former Presidents Jacques Chirac and Nicolas Sarkozy, as well as incumbent President François Hollande. The reasons for the wiretappings are not entirely clear, but NSA whistleblower Kirk Wiebe claims that the repercussions from these revelations may be more severe than past ones, such as revelations that the U.S. was spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel, since France pursues a more independent foreign policy. The US Ambassador to France has been summoned to Paris.

Google accused of installing listening devices on computers: Tech giant Google faced fresh accusations of foul play and hypocrisy this week, as many news outlets began reporting that the company has been covertly spying on Google Chome users. An open source version of Google Chrome reveals that the web browser automatically installs the ability to listen and record sound data, according to Rick Falkvinge, the founder of Sweden’s Pirate Party. The feature is designed to allow users to say the famous “Ok, Google” phrase in order to use the search engine without typing, but Google has been accused of installing the feature without asking for users’ permission or knowledge. While not all sounds are automatically recorded and stored by Google, Falkvinge worries that Google has installed other trigger phrases other than “Ok, Google” in order to spy on users.

 

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