Separate but equal classrooms in California… and more on today’s CrossPolitic Daily News Brief. This is Toby Sumpter. Today is Tuesday, December 7, 2021.
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Biden Reassures Ukrainian President of US Support
Alarm bells have been ringing across Europe over a buildup of Russian troops along the border with Ukraine in recent months. The fear is that Russian President Vladimir Putin is contemplating a rerun of 2014, when Russian forces annexed the Crimean peninsula and provided support for a separatist, pro-Russian insurgency in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. Moscow denies having any plans to invade, but U.S. officials have said such a move is possible.
President Biden spoke Thursday with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and prepared to conduct talks with nine countries on the eastern flank of NATO, as the U.S. seeks to negotiate a de-escalation of Moscow’s troop buildup along the Ukrainian border.
The White House said Mr. Biden’s secure call with Mr. Zelensky began at 1:34 p.m. ET Thursday. Later, he was to speak with leaders of the Bucharest Nine group of nations to brief them on Tuesday’s video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin, hear their perspectives on the current security situation, and underscore the American commitment to Transatlantic security.
Those countries are Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia.
The call was designed to reassure Mr. Zelensky that the U.S. and allies are prepared to back up Ukraine in the event of an invasion. Mr. Putin has amassed a large troop presence near the Ukrainian border but denies plans for an invasion, saying he is responding to a “creeping threat” from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.
Should multilateral talks fail to prevent conflict, the U.S. has warned of severe economic sanctions against Russia and pledged additional military resources, though Mr. Biden has ruled out the unilateral use of U.S. force.
Maker of suicide pod plans to launch in Switzerland
The company behind a 3D-printed pod which can help carry out assisted suicide has said it is confident it could be used in Switzerland as early as next year.
Sarco commissioned a Swiss legal expert, who found that the machine did not break any laws in the country.
But other lawyers questioned his findings.
An assisted-suicide organisation Dignitas said it would be unlikely to meet “much acceptance”.
Assisted suicide, in which somebody is given the means to end their own life, is legal in Switzerland. About 1,300 people died there in this way in 2020.
Both assisted suicide and euthanasia, in which a doctor ends the life of somebody who wants to die, are illegal in the UK.
The current method used in Switzerland is to provide the person with a series of liquids that, if ingested, will end the person’s life.
By contrast, the pod – which can be placed anywhere – is flooded with nitrogen, reducing the oxygen levels rapidly.
The process would make the person inside lose consciousness and die in approximately 10 minutes.
The suicide pod is activated from the inside and also has an emergency button to exit.
Daniel Huerlimann, a legal expert and assistant professor at the University of St Gallen, was asked by Sarco to explore whether the use of the suicide pod would break any Swiss laws.
He told the BBC that his findings suggested the pod “did not constitute a medical device”, so would not be covered by the Swiss Therapeutic Products Act.
He also believed it would not fall foul of laws governing the use of nitrogen, weapons or product safety.
“This means that the pod is not covered by Swiss law,” he said.
But Kerstin Noelle Vkinger, a doctor, lawyer and professor at the University of Zurich, told
Swiss newspaper Neue Zurcher Zeitung: “Medical devices are regulated because they are supposed to be safer than other products. Just because a product is not beneficial to health does not mean that it is not also affected by these additional safety requirements.”
And Dignitas told the BBC: “For 35 years now, through the two Swiss Exit groups and for 23 years also with Dignitas, Switzerland has the practice of professional accompanied suicide with trained staff, in co-operation with physicians.
“In the light of this established, safe and professionally conducted/supported practice, we would not imagine that a technologised capsule for a self-determined end of life will meet much acceptance or interest in Switzerland.”
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California School District Setting Up Separate-But-Equal Classrooms
A tiny school district in California is setting up a separate in-person instructional program for its unvaccinated students, courting a showdown with the biggest state in the country and a tussle over the legal limits of how schools can respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
The Alpine Union school district’s plan, the first of its kind in the country, is designed to save its unvaccinated students from losing face-to-face instruction when the state’s K-12 vaccine mandate—also the only one of its kind in the nation—goes into effect, for some grades as early as July.
California is the only state so far to add COVID-19 inoculations to the longstanding list of other vaccinations required for in-person school attendance, such as measles, mumps and rubella. The mandate will take effect in phases, when federal officials grant full approval for the vaccine’s use in each age group. Currently, COVID vaccines are fully approved only for those 16 and older. Younger children can receive them under an emergency-use authorization.
Once California’s requirement kicks in, families of unvaccinated students—other than those with state-approved exemptions—will have three choices: private school, home schooling, or “independent study,” a learn-from-home option offered by the state.
The predicament Alpine faces is likely to arise nationwide. Louisiana announced this week that it will require the COVID vaccine for school attendance. Five districts in California already require it. And at least a dozen districts around the country require the vaccine for some students, typically student-athletes.
Some districts have conducted short-lived experiments aimed at serving both masked and unmasked students by teaching them in separate rooms, but they quickly abandoned those practices. No district has yet tried a separate program for unvaccinated students.
The California governor’s office signaled that any district that sets up separate in-person instruction for unvaccinated students would run afoul of its orders. “If you do in-person instruction, you need to abide by the vaccine mandate,” said Alex Stack, a spokesman for Gov. Gavin Newsom.
County health departments will be tasked with enforcing the vaccine mandate, Stack said. Legal experts said the state also has the authority to seek a court order to shut down school programs that violate state law.
“I don’t think California will allow a school district to create a separate program for unvaccinated students. If it violates state law, a judge is going to shut that down,” said James Hodge, a professor of law at Arizona State University and director of its Center for Public Health Law.
Courts have upheld challenges to vaccine mandates in higher education, and last weekend marked a key ruling for such requirements in K-12. On Dec. 5, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld San Diego Unified school district’s vaccine requirement. Hodge said that would buttress other California districts that enact such rules.
Psalm of the Day: Zephaniah 3:17
He will rejoice over you with singing
He will rejoice over you with His song
The Lord your God is in your midst
The Mighty One will save
He will rejoice over you with gladness
He will quiet you with His love.
He will rejoice with shouts of joy.
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Remember you can always find the links to our news stories and these psalms at crosspolitic dot com – just click on the daily news brief and follow the links.
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