Former felons in Florida who still owe fines and fees related to their imprisonment may not get to vote this year after all.A federal court on Wednesday delayed a May 26 ruling by Judge Robert Hinkle that would have been one of the biggest expansions of voting rights in the state’s history, affecting up to 775,000 ex-felons.The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta issued the stay after a majority of its judges accepted Gov. Ron DeSantis’s request for a full court review of Hinkle’s decision.A three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit upheld Hinkle’s first ruling last October.Back then, the case affected just the 17 plaintiffs in the lawsuit by the ACLU, Campaign Legal Center and other voting rights groups.The court at that time also denied a request by DeSantis for the full court review.The court has set a hearing date of Aug, 11, putting the affected felons past the the July 20 registration deadline for the Aug. 18 primary.Meanwhile, the registration deadline for the November election is Oct. 5.“Today’s decision is a setback,” said Paul Smith, vice president of the Campaign Legal Center.Breaking: The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals will hear Florida’s felon voting case en banc (meaning the whole court). It also stayed the district court’s ruling, so Florida’s law requiring felons to serve their full sentences before voting remains in effect.— Honest Elections Project (@honestelections) July 1, 2020 He went on to say, “The district court’s decision to block Florida’s pay-to-vote system followed clear Supreme Court precedent. We are hopeful that the court of appeals will follow suit and confirm once and for all that wealth cannot determine a person’s eligibility to vote.”Nearly 65 percent of Florida voters approved Amendment 4 in 2018, restoring voting rights to the state’s 1.4 million ex-felons.Advocates for the amendment claimed it was self-implementing.However, a law signed by DeSantis last year outlined requirements to pay back fines, fees and restitution as part of a felon’s sentence.Hinkle’s ruling came from a lawsuit brought by voting rights groups that claimed the fines and fees requirement in the law were racially discriminatory, and that they are the equivalent of a “poll tax” banned by the U.S. Constitution.Hinkle ultimately ruled the provision was unconstitutional because “the State of Florida has adopted a system under which nearly a million otherwise-eligible citizens can vote only if they pay an amount of money. … Many do not know, and some may not be able to find out, how much they must pay.”The judge also called the law a “pay-to-vote system,” and ordered the state to allow those who are unable to pay to be able to register.
Following a tumultuous season filled with controversies, scandals and shortcomings, USC basketball fans had their eyes set on the NBA Draft to see where some of their favorite stars would land. Four Trojans have declared for the draft, but only two heard their name called on Thursday night.De’Anthony MeltonDe’Anthony Melton — USC’s highest selection in the 2018 Draft — was chosen 46th overall by the Houston Rockets. His selection as a second round pick surprised many, as media outlets such as ESPN and Sports Illustrated had Melton slotted in the 20s. Despite the 6-foot-4 guard not playing a single minute this season amid an ongoing FBI scandal, NBA teams were intrigued by Melton’s size, playmaking and defensive versatility during his only season at USC. In 2016-2017, he averaged 8.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.8 steals per game.Melton will look to crack the rotation and become the steal of the draft on a Rockets team that came up just one game short of an NBA Finals appearance and already features a starting backcourt of reigning league MVP James Harden and 2017 Sixth Man of Year Eric Gordon.Chimezie MetuJunior forward Chimezie Metu was selected by the San Antonio Spurs as the 49th pick in the 2018 NBA Draft. During his three years at USC, Metu recorded a .533 shooting percentage. (Daily Trojan file photo).Chimezie Metu, the Trojans’ leading scorer and rebounder in 2018, was selected 49th overall by the San Antonio Spurs. Though many project Metu to spend time in the G League this season, scouts are optimistic Metu will develop into a serviceable two-way big man who can block shots (1.7 per game in 2018) and score willingly at the NBA level with his athleticism and mobility in the long run.His opportunity for significant minutes may also come sooner than some expect with the uncertain future of franchise cornerstone Kawhi Leonard and an aging Pau Gasol. As he develops, he will look to help lead a youth movement in San Antonio that features All-Defensive 2nd Team point guard Dejounte Murray, and the 18th selection in this year’s draft, Lonnie Walker IV from Miami. Jordan McLaughlinJordan McLaughlin, arguably the face of USC basketball for the past four years, went undrafted but has agreed to play in the summer league and training camp with the Brooklyn Nets. Though McLaughlin doesn’t have the elite athleticism of his peers, there is no question in his leadership and ability to distribute the ball. In his four-year career as a Trojan, McLaughlin finished second all-time in assists and fourth all-time in scoring in USC history. USC head coach Andy Enfield, vouched for his point guard in an interview with the Orange County Register. “He has the best court vision, probably, of any point guard in the country,” Enfield said. McLaughlin will look to earn a roster spot with strong performances in the summer league. Elijah StewartElijah Stewart, USC’s all-time leader in 3-pointers made and games played, also went undrafted despite working out for multiple NBA teams during the pre-draft process. He will spend training camp and summer league with the Indiana Pacers. Despite going undrafted, Stewart’s elite 3-point shooting ability and defensive intensity (126 blocks in four years) are skills many NBA teams in this floor-spreading era desire. With Victor Oladipo emerging as the face of the franchise and commanding defensive attention, opportunities for Stewart to show what he excelled at in Los Angeles may be on the horizon.
Veli-Pekka Piirainen, Critical ForceOver a billion people around the world have been playing games made in Finland, a country with a population of just over 5.5 million. In fact, the game industry in Finland is doing so well that it’s in desperate need of staff. Finish game studios expect to see 280 new job roles emerge this year alone, and already around 18% of employees in its game industry come from abroad. The availability of foreign labour coupled with the slow admission rate into Finland are proving a barrier to the industry’s further growth.Angry Birds (developed by Rovio Entertainment) aside there are other games developers based in Finland, such as Supercell and Critical Force, which are heavily involved in the world of esports. Clash of Clans and Clash Royale developer Supercell was bought out by Tencent last year in a deal worth a reported $8.6bn (£6.6bn) for 84% of the company. Despite this majority acquisition by the Chinese company, its HQ remains in Helsinki. Critical Force meanwhile is based further North in Kajaani and has seen considerable success in the past year with its mobile FPS title Critical Ops, for which an agreement has just been reached with ESL for a tournament series.In response to reports of a ‘talent shortage crisis’ for the games industry in Finland, Critical Force PR and Communications Manager Leili Mård told Esports Insider: “I would not say it is a talent shortage crisis per se. Rather it’s that the industry is growing so fast the local pool simply cannot keep up. It is however true that senior positions are proving particularly difficult to fill.”As to the success and growth of the developer’s FPS title, Critical Force CEO Veli-Pekka Piirainen stated: “Our competitive mobile first person shooter Critical Ops has seen a soft launch for Android and iOS, and it has already achieved massive success via 17.5 million organic downloads and 670,000 daily active users.“The amount of players is still rising rapidly even though we’ve not rolled out all the features we have planned for the game. For example a clan system and ranked matches will be added in the near future. Critical Ops tournaments already have thousands of teams competing for winning glory and prize money.” As to the future of Critical Force and whether the company will remain in Finland despite the shortage of high level staff, Piirainen said: “The Critical Force HQ and the main game development facility will definitely stay in Kajaani Finland.“This is because Kajaani University has the oldest and best game development curriculum in Finland and it’s one of the best in Europe. Critical Force has an excellent source of talented and passionate game developers around the corner. The amount of employees at Critical Force is already at 45 and we are looking forward to hire 10-15 more employees this year. We have already started our plans to open a further development office in South-Korea. Two of our developers have already moved to Seoul and five more developers will move there at the beginning of this summer. In Seoul, we will also be hiring local talent in the team little by little.”Many from outside of the Nordics will not have heard of Kajaani but its reputation for game development is notable. Taking place in the town in June there’ll be an esports bootcamp for teams and players which is being put on by the Nordic Esports Academy in conjunction with the university. There’ll be a focus on CS:GO in the inaugural month long bootcamp, but the sessions will focus on everything on a wider level from how to run the business side of a team to how to prepare your players psychologically. The four week program will end in a €10,000 CS:GO tournament. This will be the first of many such bootcamps by the Nordic Esports Academy in Finland, and it’s testament to the potential of the country as a hub for both esports and gaming more generally to thrive.To achieving that end Critical Force, which won Finnish Game Developer of the Year in 2016, is launching a ‘Critical Force Academy’ for students. Up to twenty students will be selected for the initial program.Piirainen had this to say about the academy: “We have been lucky in finding great people from abroad, but supporting and hiring talent from the local university is definitely very important to us. Despite its remote location at some 550 km north of Helsinki, Kajaani is one of Finland’s innovation hotbeds for games with many studios and the excellent game development curriculum of Kajaani University of Applied Sciences.”Esports Insider says: It seems that Finland is a half-asleep giant in the world of game development. With the expansion of Critical Force and its investment into an academy with Kajaani University alongside its commitment to retaining the main HQ there is excellent news for Finland. The hope and likelihood is that with the likes of Supercell and its big money backers, the Finnish game industry can continue its recent surge into 2018 and beyond.