(Reuters) - Workers removed the trademark "Golden Arches" sign from a McDonald's restaurant just north of Moscow on Monday, as the first stage of the rebranding of the fast food company's outlets started in Russia, days after it announced plans to exit. The world's largest burger chain is selling its restaurants in Russia to one of its local licensees, who will rebrand them under a new name that has yet to be announced, ending more than three decades in the country. McDonald's has said it will retain its trademarks. The yellow arches stood on the ground outside the restaurant in Khimki, a town...
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US lawmakers broke a decades-long stalemate on firearms control Friday, passing the first major safety regulations in almost 30 years, less than 24 hours after the Supreme Court bolstered the right to bear arms.
Gun regulation is a touchstone issue for both conservatives and liberals in the United States that has consumed national politics amid multiple mass shootings in recent years.
The Democratic-led House of Representatives voted to rubber-stamp a bipartisan Senate gun bill that -- while modest -- amounts to the first significant piece of legislation to regulate firearms since 1994.
Fourteen Republicans defied their leader Kevin McCarthy to cross the aisle and approve the 80-page package, which advanced from the evenly-divided upper chamber with cross-party backing late Thursday.
That vote came hours after the Supreme Court's conservative majority had struck down a century-old New York law requiring permits for concealed-carry handguns.
The gun legislation includes enhanced background checks for younger buyers and federal cash for states introducing "red flag" laws that allow courts to temporarily remove weapons from those considered a threat.
Billions of dollars have been allocated to crack down on "straw purchasers" who buy firearms for people who are not allowed them and to curb gun trafficking.
The deeply-divisive issue of gun control was reignited by two massacres in May that saw 10 Black supermarket shoppers gunned down in upstate New York and 21 people, mostly young children, slain at a school in Texas.
The Supreme court had voted along party lines, with the six Republican appointees in favor of bolstering the constitutional right to bear arms and the three Democratic appointees dissenting.
The ruling was hailed by campaigners for boosted gun rights, but took the shine off what was expected to be a day of jubilation for weapons control activists.
Liberals had been celebrating the congressional action despite disappointment at the limited scope of the legislation, which doesn't include universal background checks and omits any ban on semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines.
"This decision won't stop our grassroots army from doing what we've done for a decade: fighting to keep our families safe," added Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, said after the Supreme Court ruling was announced.
"Just as we're breaking the logjam in Congress, we're going to work day-in, day-out to mitigate the fallout in New York and any other states impacted by this decision and elect gun-sense lawmakers up and down the ballot."
Eric Tirschwell, chief litigation counsel at legal non-profit Everytown Law, said the Supreme Court had misapplied fundamental constitutional principles, and added that the group was "ready to go to court" to defend restrictions.
Top Republicans celebrated the court's decision.
"This is not just a long-sought triumph for lawful gun owners across America, it is a victory for all citizens and our constitutional order itself," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.
McCarthy hailed the ruling as a victory that "rightfully ensures the right of all law-abiding Americans to defend themselves without unnecessary government interference."
"The decision comes at an important time -- as the Senate considers legislation that undermines Second Amendment freedom," Wayne LaPierre, the National Rifle Association's executive vice president, said in a statement.
"This decision unequivocally validates the position of the NRA and should put lawmakers on notice: no law should be passed that impinges this individual freedom."
About two weeks ago, Brevard County school board member Jennifer Jenkins got a call from U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist’s gubernatorial campaign. It was about a potential running mate for Crist.
“They gave me a call and asked me if I would be willing to be placed on that list and considered, and, of course, I was super humbly grateful and — you know, if I’m being honest, I legitimately responded with ‘Why?'” she told the Florida Phoenix. “You know, I am just a regular person in my mind.”
This past week, Jenkins’ name appeared in a Politico article along with 17 other potential candidates on Crist’s list for Florida’s lieutenant governor. Crist, a former Republican governor, is running as a Democrat. He also served as Commissioner of Education.
But the days of being a “regular person” on a school board are essentially gone, swept up in new political wedge issues ranging from COVID-19 masks to what children can say about certain topics at public schools.
In an unusual move, Gov. Ron DeSantis has endorsed candidates in 10 local school board races, showcasing that the dynamics between state elected officials and elected school board members are getting increasingly close and complex.
Earlier this week, DeSantis’s Twitter page posted the endorsements, attempting to wield his influence on school board races in Alachua, Brevard, Duval, Hillsborough, Miami-Dade, Sarasota, and Volusia counties. Those were school districts that clashed with the executive branch over decisions affecting millions of students in Florida.
Andrea Messina, chief executive officer of the Florida School Boards Association, said it was the “first time” the organization has seen a governor endorse candidates in local school board elections.
“For some time now, the governor has been very clear that he is interested in local school board elections and he was going to play a role. So it’s not unexpected,” Messina said.
She said that endorsements for school board members have come from a variety of sources.
“It [a school board endorsement] has changed over the years, certainly. Fellow locals, fellow elected officials would do it. Citizens, prominent citizens. Sometimes industry leaders. You know, it evolves over time. As more and more segments of the population become interested and involved in public school issues and governance and races, then you start to see more types of endorsements coming out,” she said.
“Gosh, over the years we’ve seen civic organizations, churches, local homeowners associations — newspapers for sure, editorial boards. Things like that.”
She told the Phoenix that political parties or other statewide organizations will sometimes endorse candidates for local school boards.
“But typically they’re more focused on local leaders and local influence,” she added.
That said, the word local may be a misnomer. There are 67 school districts in Florida and many are massive in terms of geography and school enrollment.
“Collaboration” or “nonsense?”
DeSantis’ endorsements apparently came as a surprise to some of the candidates he endorsed. That’s what Hillsborough County school board candidate Aly Legge told the Phoenix.
“I learned about it when everybody else learned about it,” said Legge, a candidate for a school board seat in Hillsborough County. “I was very honored actually, and quite shocked. I think anyone would be. But definitely very honored and humbled.”
Legge supports many of the main tenets that DeSantis has pushed for over the past couple years, such as so-called parental rights. She also mentioned pushing for “religious, medical and educational freedom,” as well as supporting students with special needs.
Notably, Legge was brought up as a guest speaker with DeSantis when he signed a controversial education bill in April — HB 7 Individual Freedom, often referred to as the “Stop WOKE Act,” which limits certain teachings regarding race and gender in school classrooms and in the workplace.
Legge called the endorsements a “collaborative effort” from the governor.
“I think what this is doing is reinforcing the need to have a collaborative effort, so our local representatives are supposed to work with our state representatives and they’re supposed to represent the people that hired them in the first place, to sit as representatives,” Legge said.
“So it is a collaborative effort to work with everybody, in order for us to truly represent the people who we’re aimed to serve. So I think that Ron — our Governor, Ron DeSantis, is making a collected effort to do just that.”
But for Jenkins, from Brevard, DeSantis’ endorsements are “nonsense.”
“Now this recent week, I feel like DeSantis has turned up the fire for that culture war conversation in public education — the nonsense of all-of-a-sudden he’s endorsing school board members, making a nonpartisan race very clearly partisan,” said Jenkins, whose school district is in Central Florida, on the Atlantic coast.
Jenkins noted that some legislators in the 2022 legislative session pushed a bill that would make school board elections partisan, but the bill never made it to the finish line.
“It didn’t happen, and I think this is kind of their way to get around that and beating around the bush. Because how much more obvious can you get? Getting an endorsement from Ron DeSantis — literally turning a nonpartisan race into a partisan race,'” Jenkins said.
School boards and the Florida Constitution
The DeSantis administration has a complicated relationship with school boards, and has bumped up against several school boards over COVID policies during the past two years.
In fall of 2021, several Florida school boards were at the center of a heated debate about who should decide whether students wore masks at schools during a spike in the COVID pandemic — locally elected education officials or the students’ parents.
The state Board of Education sided with parents, citing a Florida law called the Parents’ Bill of Rights, claiming it gives parents the right to direct the medical decisions and upbringing of their child.
But the Florida Constitution grants local school boards authority to “operate, supervise and control” schools within their district and several school districts imposed mask policies to protect students and staff from COVID-19.
Over the course of the pandemic, the DeSantis administration has been testing just how much authority school boards actually have, from reopening schools in 2020 to the mask policy debacle. Subsequent lawsuits between local school boards and state education officials on the matter have sided with DeSantis.
“I think it’s, ‘Rules for thee and not for me. If the playing field isn’t working for me, I bend it,'” Jenkins said of DeSantis’ challenge to school boards’ constitutional authority.
Brevard was one of the districts that pushed back against the DeSantis administration.
Jenkins gained national attention when she wrote an opinion piece published in October by the Washington Post, which outlined some of her experiences of protesters gathering in front of her house to call her a pedophile and burning “FU” on her yard with weed killer.
Florida Phoenix is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Florida Phoenix maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Diane Rado for questions: firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Florida Phoenix on Facebook and Twitter.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD) and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) clashed during a House Rules committee hearing on Friday.
While questioning Greene, Raskin asked her if she thinks it's constitutional for states to ban private militias, to which replied that since the federal government "isn't protecting our border," they shouldn't be banned.
"I think we're in a time where states have the rights to try to figure out how to protect our citizens," she said.
Raskin then tried to get Greene to clarify if she agrees that private militias don't have the right to take up arms against the government, to which Greene replied that the "2nd Amendment is clear that we need well-armed citizens."
Raskin then asked her, "Do you think that the assault on the Capitol was a legitimate exercise of popular insurrection?"
"Oh, Mr. Raskins, I know it's early in the morning, but this is the Rules committee, this isn't your Trump-derangement committee, that you call the January 6 committee," Greene snapped before Raskin corrected her for repeatedly pronouncing his name wrong.
Greene, an ardent Donald Trump supporter, has echoed his baseless claims of rigging in the 2020 election.
She has also embraced QAnon conspiracy theories in the past and was endorsed by the president as a "future Republican star".
QAnon followers believe that Trump is waging a secret war against a global liberal cult of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. They have not offered any credible evidence for it.
Watch the full exchange below.
With additional reporting by AFP