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Current Affairs 23 March 2019 Digest 1: Trump orders colleges to support free speech, New Zealand bans assault weapons

US President Donald Trump had signed an executive order to promote free speech on college campuses by threatening the colleges that the government will cut federal research funding if they do not protect those rights.

Mar 23, 2019 10:25 IST
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Story 1- Trump directs colleges to support free speech or risk lose funding

US President Donald Trump signed an executive order on March 21, 2019 to promote free speech on college campuses by threatening the colleges that the government will cut federal research funding if they do not protect those rights.

Under the new order, the federal agencies are required to ensure that any college or university receiving research grants agrees to promote free inquiry and follow federal rules and regulations supporting free speech.

Objective

The order aims to prevent action against conservative students protesting at US colleges and universities.

President Trump was compelled to issue the order after a student at the University of California at Berkeley was punched in the face last month for supporting the president and conservative causes.

Key Highlights

According to Trump, despite the fact that universities receive billions of dollars from taxpayers, many have become increasingly hostile to free speech and the first amendment.

Under the new order, the universities will be required to certify that their policies support free speech as a condition of receiving federal research grants.

However, it will not jeopardize schools' access to student financial aid that covers tuition.

The implementation details of the order is expected to be worked out in the coming months.

Background

The US President initially had proposed the idea during a March 2 speech to conservative activists. Trump had highlighted the case of activist Hayden Williams, who was punched in the face while recruiting at the University of California, Berkeley.

Berkeley and other colleges have countered that they already have policies protecting free speech and don't need an executive order.

Story 2- New Zealand bans assault weapons

New Zealand on March 21, 2019 imposed an immediate ban on assault weapons following last week's Christchurch massacre that claimed the lives of at least 50 mosque-goers.

The announcement was made by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said that all assault rifles and military-style semi-automatic weapons would be banned with immediate effect, making a pledge to ensure that nothing like the last week's attack ever occurs in the Pacific nation again.

The Prime Minister added that high-capacity magazines and devices similar to bump stocks, which allow users to fire weapons faster, will also be banned.

Significance

The legislation enacting the restriction will be introduced in parliament when it meets in early April, but an interim measure means a ban on new purchases has, for practical purposes, already been enacted.

Reactions

New Zealanders have reacted to the ban of the assault weapons with great positivity. They have already begun answering government appeals to hand in their weapons.

The supporters of gun control in the United States and around the world have also praised the move. The ban, has in fact, been contrasted with the US failure to enact even modest controls.

Christchurch Massacre

• On March 15, 2019, two consecutive terrorist attacks began at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand during the Friday prayer.

• The attacks began at the Al Noor Mosque in the suburb of Riccarton at 1:40 pm, and continued at the Linwood Islamic Centre  at about 1:55 pm. The gunman live-streamed the first attack on Facebook Live.

• The attacks killed at least 50 people and injured 50 more. They were launched by a 28-year-old Australian male, described as a white supremacist. He was arrested and charged with murder.

• The attacks have been linked to an increase in white supremacism and alt-right extremism globally, observed since the mid-2010s.

• Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern referred to the attacks as "one of New Zealand's darkest days". It is the deadliest mass shooting in modern New Zealand history.

• The scale of the attack caused a worldwide outcry, heightened by alleged shooter Brenton Tarrant's use of social media to livestream the carnage.

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