US Judicial Panel Finds Texas Hurt Latino Vote with Redrawn Boundaries
Reuters – A special federal judicial panel ruled for the second time in two months on Thursday that the Republican-led Texas Legislature deliberately redrew political boundaries so as to unfairly diminish voter clout of the state’s growing Latino population.
A divided three-judge panel found that the boundaries of several state legislative districts were reshaped with the intention of illegally diluting the strength of the Democratic-leaning Hispanic electorate for the benefit of the Republican Party.
The panel ruled that the redrawn boundaries were designed to either fragment cohesive Latino communities among multiple districts, or to lump Hispanics into a single jurisdiction and thus limit their overall sway.
Similar gerrymandering tactics of “cracking” and “packing” were found last month by the same panel in redrawn boundaries for three of the state’s 36 congressional districts.
It was not immediately clear whether Texas would appeal the latest decision, which pertained to state legislative districts encompassing some of the state’s largest cities, including Dallas, San Antonio and Houston.
N. Korean Ship Docks in Chinese Port Despite Coal Embargo
CNN – The docking of a North Korean ship at a port in northern China has raised questions over a Chinese ban on coal imports from the nuclear-armed state. The Jin Hung 9 docked at a port in Tangshan city in northern Hebei province, near Beijing, on Thursday morning.
According to a daily docking plan published on Jintang port’s website, the North Korean ship was loaded with anthracite coal. The website listed a nearly six-hour unloading time for the ship.
What the Jin Hung 9 unloaded is not clear.
Speaking Friday, Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Lu Kang said the country’s policy of not accepting coal imports from North Korea had not changed.
‘Pivotal Moment’ for Democrats? Gerrymandering Heads to Supreme Court
New York Times – The hand-to-hand political combat in House elections on Tuesday in Georgia and last week in Kansas had the feel of the first rounds of an epic battle next year for control of the House of Representatives and the direction of national politics as the Trump presidency unfolds.
But for all the zeal on the ground, none of it may matter as much as a case heading to the Supreme Court, one that could transform political maps from City Hall to Congress — often to Democrats’ benefit.
A bipartisan group of voting rights advocates says the lower house of the Wisconsin Legislature, the State Assembly, was gerrymandered by its Republican majority before the 2012 election — so artfully, in fact, that Democrats won a third fewer Assembly seats than Republicans despite prevailing in the popular vote. In November, in a 2-to-1 ruling, a panel of federal judges agreed.
Ann Coulter Event Back on After UC Berkeley finds ‘protected venue’
The Guardian – The University of California, Berkeley, has announced it has found a new “protectable venue” for the controversial rightwing speaker Ann Coulter, after initially canceling the event over security fears.
At a press conference on Thursday afternoon, the university’s chancellor, Nicholas Dirks, said that the school could host Coulter in May at the “protectable venue.”
A university spokesman, Dan Mogulof, said the venue would be on campus, though Dirks said the university would disclose the exact location at a later point. The university had drawn criticism from prominent figures on both the right and left for the cancellation, which was described as an abridgment of free speech.
Russia Declines to Comment on Claims Its Troops are Headed Toward North Korea
TIME – Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov on Friday declined to comment on media reports that Russia was moving military hardware and troops towards the border with North Korea, the RIA news agency quoted him as saying. Peskov said that deployments of Russian troops inside Russia’s own borders were not a public matter.
Some media in Russia’s Ear East have cited local residents as saying they have seen military hardware being moved towards North Korea as tensions with the United States over its nuclear program escalate
Mattis Says Syria has ‘Dispersed Their Aircraft’
Politico – Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said on Friday that, in the wake of punitive U.S. missile strikes, the Syrian Air Force has moved its combat aircraft to make them less vulnerable to attack — and re-issued warnings to the Assad regime not to use chemical weapons again.
In response to the recent U.S. strikes — the first against the Assad regime since U.S. forces began attacking the Islamic State in 2014 — Syria has reportedly moved its combat planes to a Russian base in the northeastern part of the country.
“They have dispersed their aircraft, no doubt,” Mattis said in a joint press conference with Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman during the first visit to Israel by a Cabinet official from the new Trump administration. “They have dispersed their aircraft in recent days.”
Mattis also confirmed recent reports that Syria, which was targeted by U.S. missile strikes for air attacks against rebel fighters using nerve gas, retains stockpiles of chemical weapons.