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Women can’t be paid less than men based on past wages, court rules

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In the case decided Monday, plaintiff Aileen Rizo took a job as a math consultant in Fresno County in 2009 after working for several years in Arizona. The policy of the Fresno County superintendent of schools at the time was to add 5 percent to the previous salaries of all new hires.

The policy was “gender-neutral, objective and effective in attracting qualified applicants,” Fresno County Superintendent of Schools Jim Yovino responded in a statement Monday saying he will appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Yovino said the policy was applied to more than 3,000 employees over 17 years and had “no disparate impact on female employees.”

It’s not clear how the school district in Phoenix where Rizo worked arrived at her previous salary. However, 9th Circuit Judge Paul Watford said in a separate opinion that Fresno County failed to show her pay there was not affected by gender discrimination.

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Rizo said Monday she cried “tears of joy” when she heard about the ruling. The decision overturned an opinion last year by a smaller panel of 9th Circuit judges that was criticized by equal pay advocates.

A California law signed last year prohibits employers from asking job applicants about prior salaries — a policy adopted by a handful of other states and some cities. The measure is designed to narrow the pay gap between men and women.

Women made about 80 cents for every dollar earned by men in 2015, according to U.S. government data.

The Equal Pay Act, signed into law by President John F. Kennedy in 1963, forbids employers from paying women less than men based on gender for equal work performed under similar conditions. But it creates exemptions when pay is based on seniority, merit, quantity or quality of work or “any other factor other than sex.”

Fresno County argued that basing starting salaries primarily on previous pay was one of those other factors and prevented subjective determinations of a new employee’s value.

The 5 percent bump encourages candidates to leave their positions to work for the county, it said.

Reinhardt, however, said prior salary is not a “legitimate measure of work experience, ability, performance, or any other job-related quality.”

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The judge lamented what he said was the continued “financial exploitation of working women,” calling it “an embarrassing reality of our economy.”

In a separate opinion Monday, 9th Circuit Judge M. Margaret McKeown said her colleagues were going too far in barring any consideration of previous pay, even in conjunction with other factors such as education and experience.

“Differences in prior pay may well be based on other factors such as the cost of living in different parts of our country,” she said. “Also, it is possible, and we hope in this day probable, that the prior employer had adjusted its pay system to be gender neutral.”

Rizo, who trained math teachers in the Fresno County district before leaving for another job, earned a little under $63,000 a year when she was hired. She learned that one male colleague with less experience, education and seniority made nearly $13,000 more than her, she said.

“This case is not about me,” said Rizo, now an advocate for equal pay. “It’s about all women and the chance that we have for pay equity when we’re released from historically low wages that many women, especially women of color like myself, have been earning.”

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Italy: Close associate of ex-PM Silvio Berlusconi cleared of negotiating with mafia after bombings | World News

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A close associate of ex-Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi and three former police investigators have had their convictions overturned, in a case where the state was accused of colluding with the mafia during its 1990s bombing campaign.

Former senator Marcello Dell’Utri, along with Mario Mori, Antonio Subranni and Giuseppe De Donno, have now been acquitted by a judge at an appeals court in Palermo. They had all maintained their innocence.

Dell’Utri was accused of brokering a deal to stop the attacks, in return for scaling back crackdowns by authorities and loosening strict conditions for top bosses behind bars.

Marcello Dell'Utri is a former senator
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Marcello Dell’Utri is a former Italian senator

Dell’Utri, who had been a politician for Berlusconi’s right-wing Forza Italia party, was convicted in 2018 of acting as a liaison between state institutions and Cosa Nostra bosses in Sicily.

He had been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for undermining the state, as were former generals Mori and Subranni, while ex-colonel De Donno received an eight-year jail term.

But the judge in Palermo, Angelo Pellino, has ruled the charges did not constitute a crime, suggesting state officials could contact mobsters if deemed necessary.

However, he upheld guilty verdicts against two mobsters, including Leoluca Bagarella, a convicted killer for the Corleone mafia family.

Dell’Utri told Italy’s Adnkronos news agency: “This acquittal is a turning point, not only for me but for Italian justice. This trial was monstrous.”

The prosecution case claimed state representatives had negotiated with the mob following a string of mafia bombings that killed 23 people, including prominent anti-mafia magistrates Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino.

Silvio Berlusconi casts his ballot at the 2000 elections. Pic: AP
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Silvio Berlusconi pictured in 2000. Pic: AP

According to prosecutors, talks between the mafia and the Italian state began after judge Falcone, his wife and three bodyguards were killed by a device under a motorway in May 1992.

The state’s willingness to enter negotiations after Falcone’s murder encouraged further bombings, it was alleged.

The prosecution said those attacks included the one that killed Mr Borsellino two months later because he had opposed the negotiations.

Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed in a bomb blast in May 1992. Pic: AP
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Judge Giovanni Falcone was killed in a bomb blast in May 1992. Pic: AP

The following year, Cosa Nostra carried out unprecedented mainland attacks on cultural and church targets, including Florence’s Uffizi Gallery.

Ten people were killed in Milan and Florence. After 1993, the attacks abruptly stopped.

The prosecutors said they would review Thursday’s ruling to decide if they would appeal the decision to the Supreme Court.

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La Palma eruption: Lava spread raises fears of more damage on Spanish island as it rises 50 feet in places | World News

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The advance of lava from a volcanic eruption in Spain’s Canary Islands has slowed, rising in some places up to 50 feet as it thickens.

One giant river of lava on the island of La Palma slowed to 13 feet (4m) per hour on Wednesday – on Monday, a day after the eruption, it was moving at 2,300 feet (700m) per hour.

A second stream of lava has virtually ground to a halt.

As it slows, it has raised concerns that the molten rock may fan out across the land and destroy more homes.

vScreen grab from a video taken by a night drone shows a volcano erupting and tongues of lava in La Palma, Spain September 22, 2021. Spanish Emergency Military Unit (UME)/
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The advance of the lava has slowed significantly

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Correspondent broadcasts live as volcano erupts

It now covers 410 acres and has entombed 350 homes.

There have been no casualties reported from the eruption but damage to property, infrastructure, and farmland is expected to be extensive.

Almost 7,000 people were evacuated after scientists monitoring the volcano warned of the eruption.

The lava slowing has allowed more residents of towns in its path to grab belongings under police escort.

Officials had initially expressed fears about what would happen when the lava – with temperatures exceeding 1,000 degrees Celcius – reached the Atlantic ocean, as it could cause explosions, trigger landslides and produce clouds of toxic gas.

However, the head of the National Geographic Institute in the Canary Islands, Maria Jose Blanco, said some lava streams won’t reach the ocean until the weekend, and others may never reach it at all.

Thick ash has covered the island
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Thick ash has covered the island

Meanwhile, molten lava, ash and smoke continue to pour from the volcano’s mouth, shooting up to nearly 14,000 feet high, the Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said, raising concerns about whether airspace above the island could remain open.

Readings taken of the air found no threat to health, authorities said.

Joel Francisco, 38, said he and his elderly parents left their home with only a handful of belongings and important documents.

Now the flow appears to have slowed, he hopes to return, if police allow.

“We don’t know how long we have to wait until we can return to our homes because the roads are closed,” he told The Associated Press.

“Some people have it worse off, their houses are gone.”

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Video of La Palma eruptions burning buildings and destroying homes

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute said the eruption and its aftermath could last for up to 84 days.

This means residents could still be at risk of earthquakes, lava flows, toxic gases, volcanic ash, and acid rain.

However, tourists visiting the island have been largely undeterred, with many continuing to land for previously planned holidays.

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Ukraine leader pledges ‘strong response’ after shots fired at aide’s car in assassination attempt | World News

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Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has warned the “response will be strong” after one of his top aides survived an assassination attempt.

At least 10 bullets struck Serhiy Shefir’s car, the top aide and close personal friend of Mr Zelenskiy, outside of Kiev on Wednesday.

The driver of his black Audi was badly wounded and taken to hospital, but Mr Shefir escaped uninjured.

It is not known who carried out the shooting and the gunman is still at large.

Markers are attached next to bullet holes in a car of Serhiy Shefir, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy's principal aide, following an assault outside the capital Kyiv, Ukraine September 22, 2021. REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko
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Markers are attached next to the bullet holes in the car of Serhiy Shefir following the attack

Mr Zelenskiy issued a warning to the attacker from New York, where he is taking part in the UN General Assembly.

He said he did not know who was responsible for the attack, but pledged “a strong response”.

“These could be internal or external forces. But I don’t consider them to be strong because sending me a ‘hello’ by firing from a forest into the automobile of my friend is weakness,” he said.

“This [attack] will not affect the strength of our team.

“This does not affect the path toward change that I have chosen with my team, for taking our economy out of the shadows, for the fight against criminal elements with large, influential financial groups – on the contrary, because the people of Ukraine gave us a mandate for change.”

Mr Zelenskiy addressed the 76th Session of the U.N. General Assembly in New York City this week while the assassination attempt took place 12 miles south of Kiev
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Volodymyr Zelenskiy, who was in New York at the time of the attack, has pledged ‘a strong response’

Mr Shefir praised his driver for acting “heroically” by accelerating away from the gunman as the “shots rang out”.

He added: “We had to speed up a little, it was scary.”

Mr Shefir also said he believed he had been targeted in an attempt to intimidate the “highest echelon of power”, but added this would not work.

He said: “One has to understand that our president [Zelenskiy] is very strong-willed, he has a spine and cannot be intimidated.”

The Kremlin has denied any Russian involvement.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov added any suggestion of a link with Russia showed “the signs of an excessively excited emotional state”.

He said: “Unfortunately nowadays, whatever happens in Ukraine, none of the current politicians is able to rule out the Russian trace.”

Mr Shefir praised his driver for acting "heroically" by accelerating away from the gunman
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Serhiy Shefir praised his driver for acting ‘heroically’ by accelerating away from the gunman. File pic

Ukraine has seen a huge rise in violence since its conflict with Russia began in 2014 when the Crimean peninsula was annexed.

Several military and political officers have been targeted in assassination attempts since then, with seven deaths taking place between 2016 and 2017 alone in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

The attack came just days before Ukrainian politicians were set to debate Mr Zelenskiy’s bill on cracking down on the country’s powerful oligarchs, who dominate the economic and political landscape.

On Thursday, a day after the shooting, Ukraine’s parliament passed a law which bans oligarchs from financing political parties or taking part in privatisations.

It must now be approved by the president to come into force.

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