June 22, 2009

  • Violence continues in Iran; protesters challenge supreme leader over election results
  • Israeli government colludes with World Zionist Organization in settlement expansion
  • Palestinian village sues Canadian company over Jewish settlements
  • Air strikes will be limited says American commander in Afghanistan
  • Obama cuts deal with drug companies

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US High Court: Compromise on Voting Rights Act
The Supreme Court today granted a Texas municipality the power to opt out of a key provision of a landmark civil rights law.  Reporting from Houston, FSRN’s Rachel Clarke has more.

With an 8-1 majority, the Court opted out of ruling on the constitutionality of the 1965 Voting Rights Act. At issue was section 5 – a provision that requires 16 states, primarily in the South, to obtain Justice Department approval before making changes to voting requirements.  Rather than tackle the big question of continued federal oversight to ensure the enforcement of the 15th amendment barring states from restricting voter access on the basis of race, justices compromised.  Today’s ruling allows exemptions from Section 5. The case was brought by Northwest Austin Municipal Utility District – a small municipality that holds elections to select its board of directors. The majority opinion, penned by Chief Justice John Roberts claimed that ‘we are a very different nation’ and as a result the ongoing merit of section 5 would not be decided.  The lone dissenter, Justice Clarence Thomas, wrote that “the violence, intimidation, and subterfuge that led congress to pass section 5 …  no longer remains.” Supreme Court analysts say today’s ruling has the potential to produce the biggest change in US voting law in decades. Since 1982, the Justice Department has challenged more than 2,400 state and local voting changes under section 5. Reporting for Free Speech Radio News, I’m Rachel Clarke in Houston.

US High Court: Education money for disabled students, Alaska mine can dump in lake, no new life for Valerie Plame case
In other news today at the Supreme Court, justices ruled that public school systems must reimburse families for the costs of private education for disabled children if the school system does not provide an adequate alternative. And in a decision that environmentalists fear sets a precedent that endangers the nation’s waterways, the Court decided that a gold mine in Alaska can dump waste into a nearby lake, despite evidence that all the fish in the lake would die as a result.  And the Court declined today to resurrect the case against former VP Dick Cheney and other Bush administration officials in the Valerie Plame matter.

Greenpeace activists board cargo ship
In the UK today, environmental protestors boarded and are occupying a cargo ship laden with coal. For FSRN from London, Naomi Fowler reports.

Kingsnorth power station has become the focus of climate change protesters who oppose plans to rebuild and enlarge the plant.  If it gets built, it’ll be the first new coal-powered plant in the UK in a quarter of a century. According to Greenpeace, it’ll also be the dirtiest. Nine Greenpeace campaigners boarded the cargo ship late last night from inflatable speedboats. Six of them have been arrested but four remain locked on to the foremast, the funnel and one IS hanging off the side. Campaigner Sarah Shoraka:

“300,000 people are dying every year because of climate change…Coal is the most climate-wrecking fuel there is and we want to stop that from being burned. This one shipment would be responsible for the same amount of CO2 as hundreds of trans-atlantic flights because coal’s that dirty…what we think is really dangerous and reckless is the energy policy of the UK government and their friends in the coal industry.”

The police say the protesters haven’t managed to stop the coal vessel from docking although so far it has not unloaded its cargo. Naomi Fowler, Fsrn, London.

WHO: Swine flu cases increase dramatically
The World Health Organization revised the worldwide death toll from swine flu four and a half fold today. The number of people who have died from the virus jumped from 51 to 231. And the number of reported cases skyrocketed – on Friday nearly 7,900 cases were reported. Today there are 52,000.

Blogger charged with inciting injury
A New Jersey blogger appeared in court in Hartford, Connecticut, this morning, charged with inciting injury against three state officials because he felt they were attacking the First Amendment rights of the Catholic Church. Free Speech Radio News’ Melinda Tuhus reports.

During last year’s legislative session, the co-chairs of the Judiciary Committee introduced a bill at the request of some constituents that would have given lay members of Catholic parishes in the state some say over church finances. They withdrew the bill before any action was taken. Then Hal Turner, who used to have a radio talk show but now broadcasts on-line, issued a “commentary” about the bill. He accused the two politicians, Andrew McDonald and Michael Lawlor — who are both Catholic and both openly gay — of looking for payback because of the Church’s opposition to their fight for gay rights. He called them “abusive” and “tyrannical,” along with a third state official from the Office of State Ethics who was looking into possible ethics violations by a Connecticut diocese regarding the bill. Turner wrote, “Thankfully, the Founding Fathers gave us the tools necessary to resolve tyranny: The Second Amendment.” He added, “It is our intent to foment direct action against these individuals personally. These beastly government officials should be made an example of as a warning to others in government: Obey the Constitution or die. If any state attorney, police department or court thinks they’re going to get uppity with us about this; I suspect we have enough bullets to put them down too.” Turner’s attorney is arguing the First Amendment protects his client’s right to free speech. His next court appearance is July 14. Melinda Tuhus, FSRN, New Haven.

Somali Islamist Court sentences men to amputations – insurgency grows

A court operated by one of Somalia’s strongest insurgent groups – al-Shabab, sentenced four Somali men to amputations today – they were charged with stealing cell phones and firearms. They were to each lose one hand and one leg. It remains unclear when the sentences are scheduled to be carried out. The sentences were delivered as Somali President Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed declared a state of emergency. Violence has swept the nation recently in a concerted effort by insurgents to install a strict Islamic government. Over the weekend Somalia asked Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti for help. Today, Kenya’s Prime Minister called on the international community to consider sending “military assistance.”



Violence continues in Iran; protesters challenge supreme leader over election results
In central Tehran today, protests continued and riot police fired live bullets and attacked demonstrators with tear gas. This comes after violence this weekend, in which at least 13 people were killed.

Amateur videos emerged on the internet, including one that appears to show a young, bloodied woman dying in the street after being shot, and surrounded by screaming bystanders who had tried to help.  Some are calling the woman, identified as Neda, “Iran’s Joan of Arc.” According to the Associated Press, the government barred Neda’s family from holding a public funeral today.

Despite the unrest, Mir-Hossein Mousavi continued to urge his supporters to continue peaceful protests, saying in a statement,  “The protest against vote-rigging and untruth is your right.” Over the weekend, at least 13 were killed and hundreds of protesters were arrested with estimates ranging from nearly 500 to 1000. Government authorities also announced that they will establish a special court to try those arrested during the demonstrations.

In the US, President Obama has taken a moderate tone to the events in Iran, saying that the elections are that country´s internal affairs. Republicans urged Obama to take a more proactive stance over the weekend, while in cities throughout the US, rallies and vigils were held in solidarity with Iranians. Africa Jones reports from San  Francisco.

Israeli government colludes with World Zionist Organization in settlement expansion
A lawsuit filed by several Israeli human rights groups against the Israeli government, continues in Israel’s Supreme Court.  Through the proceedings documents have emerged exposing a wide swath of support for Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank by the Israeli government, in violation of Israeli and international law. FSRN´s Ghassan Bannoura has the story.

Palestinian village sues Canadian company over Jewish settlements
The small Palestinian community Bil’in has become internationally known for the their ongoing resistance to the unceasing construction of the Israeli wall and settlements within their land.  Today in Montreal Canada, Bil’in argued for the right to move forward in a lawsuit against two Quebec construction companies that are building settlements in the West Bank. FSRN’s Amy Miller has more from Montreal.

Air strikes will be limited says American commander in Afghanistan
General Stanley McChrystal, America´s new commander in Afghanistan, said on Friday that US forces would limit their use of airstrikes in Afghanistan only for the protection of US and Coalition forces.

This comes as the Defense Department releases a ground-breaking report, where it admits to the death of 26 civilians as a result of last month´s airstrikes against Taliban forces in the village of Granai.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says over 80 civilians died in that strike, but experts say that the Pentagon´s report still shows a significant change in US strategy in Afghanistan. FSRN spoke to Gareth Porter, an investigative journalist and historian who focuses on national security issues.

Obama cuts deal with drug companies
In Washington, DC today, President Obama formally announced a new deal with drug companies. Under the agreement, drug companies have committed to reducing prices on prescriptions for seniors by eighty billion dollars over the next decade.  The White House is claiming victory, but some critics say it’s a hollow concession. Tanya Snyder reports from Washington.

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