May 24, 2001

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Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords switches from Republican to Democrat

After careful deliberation on what easily qualifies as the most important decision of his political career, Vermont Senator Jim Jeffords today followed his conscience, as he put it, and severed his political ties with the Grand Old Party, or GOP.
“I have changed my party label, but I have not changed by beliefs,” Jeffords explains. “Indeed, my decision is about affirming the principles that have shaped my career. I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it. I hope, in time, that my colleagues will as well.”
Certainly Jeffords is not the first senator to bolt from party ranks, and presumably he won’t be the last. In recent years, 15 U.S. congressmen have switched party affiliations, the majority of Democrats crossing into Republican ranks. But the ramifications of Jeffords’ decision to jump ship are historic. In this single move, he snatches power from the Senate republicans and now, instead of controlling all three parties of government they have only two. The chairmanships of powerful senate committees will switch hands and Senator Tom Daschle is primed to replace Senator Trent Lott as majority leader. Upon announcing his decision this morning, Jeffords said he no longer felt comfortable within the ranks of the GOP. Free Speech Radio News correspondent Terry Allen attended the Jeffords press conference; we spoke with her about what motivated him to switch.
Violent conflicts between Israel and Palestine continue

Israeli military aircraft shot down a small Lebanese civilian plane Thursday, after the plane crossed into Israeli airspace. The Israeli aircraft opened fire after the pilot, believed to be the only person onboard the civilian Cessna, failed to respond to radio and visual contact, the army said. The plane crashed in a nearby Mediterranean town and the pilot’s body fell through the roof of a navy training school. The Israeli army were on alert for possible attacks by the Lebanese group Hezbollah, including suicide plane attacks, an army spokesperson said. Thursday was the first anniversary of Israel’s military withdrawal from Lebanon. The downing of the plane came as violence continued between Israel and the Palestinians, despite international efforts to arrange a truce. Palestinian militants lobbed mortars at a Jewish settlement Thursday, causing no injuries. Israeli tanks rumbled into Palestinian territory in Gaza, firing shells and machine guns before withdrawing a half an hour later. Free Speech Radio News correspondent Raphaël Kraff files this update on the violence from the ground in Gaza.
India criticizes Afghanistan’s decree forcing Hindus to wear identity labels

India has reacted with outrage to the decree by Afghanistan’s fundamentalist Taliban regime forcing minority Hindus to wear an identity label. The move has sparked international condemnation. More from Sputnik Kilambi in western India.
Bush’s nominee for Undersecretary of Agriculture under fire by civil rights groups

The Iowa-Nebraska branch of the NAACP has a bone to pick with Tom Dorr, President Bush’s nominee for the Undersecretary of Agriculture job. Dorr has come under fire for reportedly making the statement that three counties in Iowa were economically successful because they’ve been ethnically and religiously very homogenous. Is he saying that they were successful because they were white? That’s what some are asking. From Des Moines, Renny McKay has more on the story of this controversial nominee.
Dr. James Pendergraft to receive sentence this week

This week, Dr. James Pendergraft, an African-American abortion provider who owns five clinics in Florida, will be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison and fined up to $750,000. In early February, Pendergraft was convicted of federal charges of attempted extortion, conspiracy and mail fraud. Although the prosecution and the judge insist the case was about extortion, not abortion, the doctor’s supporters say otherwise. From Ocala, Florida, Miranda Kennedy has more.

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