Springsteen cancels concert to protest North Carolina bill
Last month, the general assembly of North Carolina passed the House Bill number 2, also known as the HB2 or the ‘Bathroom Bill.’ This document weakened a number of local anti-discrimination laws that were in place to protect the rights
of gay and transgender people. In addition, the main stipulation of this bill is that it requires all people to use the public bathrooms that match the sex indicted on their birth certificates. Amongst many notable figures and companies taking actions in protest of this latest North Carolina measure is the notable singer-songwriter Bruce Springsteen. He was due for tour-stop in Greensboro, North Carolina this past Sunday, but announced that he would be canceling the performance earlier last week. In his statement, Springsteen wrote that “some things are more important than a rock show, and this fight against prejudice and bigotry – which is happening as I write – is one of them… [canceling] is the strongest means I have for raising
my voice in opposition to those who continue to push us backwards instead of forwards.” Other instances of protest to the HB2 include backlash from Hulu, which has moved the filming of a new series from North Carolina to Canada, Paypal, which has scratched its plans of expansion in the state, as well as criticism from Bank of America, which is headquartered in the state.
Explosion at Kollam Temple kill over 100 people
Thousands of people gathered at the Kollam Temple in Kerala, India this weekend to celebrate the local new year. Events were already several hours underway when a fire started as a result of stored fireworks accidently being lit. Ironically, these fireworks were in storage rather than being set off as usual because the district’s magistrate did not grant permission for their use, citing safety concerns from local residents. After the explosion and ensuing blaze, the temple suffered a power outage, making rescue operations slow to arrive and more difficult to conduct. Bulldozers were used to search for survivors in the rubble and burn specialists were sent in from Delhi to treat the many wounded. At least 100 people are dead, and more than 200 have been injured, many of whom remain in critical condition. The area’s local news channel is calling this the state’s “Biggest Tragedy,” while Narendra Modi, the Indian Prime Minister, has flown into Kerala to see the damage, calling the scene “heart-rending and shocking beyond words.”
Former House Speaker found guilty of abuse
Hastert was U.S. House Speaker between 1999 and 2007. Prior to this service, he was a teacher and wrestling coach in Yorkville, Illinois. Between 1965 and 1981, he allegedly abused five boys, all of whom were minors at the time, and three of whom he coached in wrestling. The statute of limitations has passed for these offenses, so Mr. Hastert cannot be charged with sexual assault, however he is being charged for lying to the courts throughout this judicial process, as well as for breaking financial laws. From 2010 to 2014, lump withdrawals were continually transferred from his accounts to one of the individuals that he had abused. The former Speaker initially responded to the FBI’s concern over said transfers by claiming to have been blackmailed by a man making false claims. However, when the Bureau investigated phone records of conversations between the supposed blackmailer and Hastert, they found the discourse to be “inconsistent with someone
committing extortion.” Rather they discovered evidence that he was attempting to silence his victim. Hastert has since plead guilty to these offenses, and is due for sentencing by the end of the month.
Myanmar student activists released
Dozens of students were released from prison after being detained for just over a year. A total of 69 students were arrested in March 2015 during protests over controversial educational reforms. Their liberation followed the highly supported move for Myanmar national courts to drop charges due in large part to the efforts of Myanmar’s leader, Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. Her party, the National League for Democracy, won the majority of available seats in the last election, bringing an end to a decades-long era of strict military control. However, the military still holds about a quarter of seats in the parliament. Parents and friends of the jailed students waited outside of the prisons and courthouses with flowers to greet those released, and festivities were held to mark the occasion. Ms. Suu Kyi, who was in prison at one point in her life, is a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and dominated Myanmar’s election only five years after her own release from house-arrest. She has assured the public that the remaining prisoners are to be released in the coming weeks, with delays due only to mandatory legal processes.