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American Scene: Judge rules for students in immigrant-tuition suit

- - Tuesday, September 4, 2012

MIAMI — A federal judge has ruled that Florida college students cannot be charged higher out-of-state tuition simply because their parents may be in the U.S. illegally.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of students who are U.S. citizens and Florida residents but whose parents cannot prove legal immigration status. U.S. District Judge K. Michael Moore says charging them non-resident tuition violates the Constitution.

Children of illegal immigrants have won similar battles in New Jersey, California and Colorado.

Attorneys estimate thousands of Florida students could be affected.

Florida education officials say lawyers are reviewing the ruling and that no decision has been made on whether to appeal. There are 28 public two-year colleges and 11 four-year universities in Florida.

LOUISIANA

Officials: Hurricane damaged 13,000 homes

BATON ROUGE — A state emergency official says Hurricane Isaac damaged at least 13,000 homes in Louisiana.

The numbers released Tuesday are the first official damage estimates from the storm that struck a week ago.

Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness spokeswoman Christina Stephens called the figures "very preliminary."

Isaac came ashore in Louisiana near the mouth of the Mississippi River as a Category 1 storm, relatively weak compared to other named storms that remain fresh in residents' memories.

But its damage, particularly flooding, was significant in Plaquemines and St. John the Baptist parishes. It inundated homes and left residents awaiting rescues from rooftops.

The floodwaters were receding and the widespread power outages have nearly all been repaired.

MASSACHUSETTS

Judge: Sex change granted for murder convict

BOSTON — A federal judge on Tuesday ordered state prison officials to provide taxpayer-funded sex-reassignment surgery to a transgender inmate serving life in prison for murder.

Michelle Kosilek was born male but has received hormone treatments and now lives as a woman in an all-male prison. Robert Kosilek was convicted of murder in the killing of his wife in 1990.

U.S. District Judge Mark Wolf is thought to be the first federal judge to order prison officials to provide sex-reassignment surgery for a transgender inmate.

Kosilek first sued the Massachusetts Department of Correction 12 years ago. Two years later, Judge Wolf ruled that Kosilek was entitled to treatment for gender-identity disorder but stopped short of ordering surgery. Kosilek sued again in 2005, arguing that the surgery is a medical necessity.

In his ruling Tuesday, Judge Wolf found that surgery is the "only adequate treatment" for Kosilek's "serious medical need."

NEW YORK

Weight loss groups back sugary drinks plan

NEW YORK — Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig and other diet groups said Tuesday they are supporting the city's proposed crackdown on supersized, sugary drinks, adding prominent weight loss groups' influence to the campaign ahead of a vote next week.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Weight Watchers North America President David Burwick announced the groups join a list of physicians, elected officials and others who have come out in support of the plan.

"There has been a lot of discussion about obesity, but little action, which is why we at Weight Watchers support what this administration is doing to help New Yorkers live healthier," Mr. Burwick said. Along with his organization and Jenny Craig, the creator of the South Beach Diet, the founder of The Best Life and other diet experts expressed their support.

Opponents, too, are counting their ranks: An opposition group called New Yorkers for Beverage Choices said Friday it has the backing of more than 2,000 businesses and 201,000 individuals. Some City Council members have criticized the plan, which isn't scheduled to come before them for a vote.

The proposal is set to go to a Sept. 13 vote at the city Board of Health. Its members are appointed by Mr. Bloomberg.

The proposal call for restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, food carts and delis to stop selling sodas and other sugary drinks in servings larger than 16 ounces.

WISCONSIN

WWII vet receives 8 medals, 67 years later

MONDOVI — More than 60 years after completing a distinguished career in World War II, a Mondovi veteran has received the Distinguished Flying Cross and seven other medals.

Doug Ward, 89, said he was grateful to be recognized, but especially touched that many of his fellow veterans were on hand to watch Rep. Ron Kind, Wisconsin Democrat, present him with the medals Sunday.

"It's an honor. Anytime you get a medal it's an honor," Mr. Ward said.

The western Wisconsin native served in the U.S. Air Force during World War II, flying missions over North Africa, Italy and Germany.

After all these years, it wasn't clear whether Mr. Ward had misplaced his medals or simply never received them. Either way, Mr. Kind said that after meeting Mr. Ward several years ago, he was determined to make things right.

Mr. Ward served from 1942 through 1945.

From wire dispatches and staff reports