Newscast for Friday, May 27, 2011

  • US House approves defense bill but fails to accelerate troop withdrawals from Afghanistan
  • Republicans block Warren appointment to new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
  • G8 Summit calls for Gaddafi to step down and pledges 20 billion dollars to Egypt and Tunisia
  • In New York, opposition grows to a federal immigration program

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Court rules to allow direct corporate contributions to political campaigns
A Northern Virginia district court ruled in support of legalizing corporate donations today. The ruling is expected to have ramifications throughout the political financing world. FSRN’s Brad Kutner has the story from Richmond.

Corporations and human beings are equally allowed freedom of speech, according to a District Judge ruling from a federal bench in Alexandria. This freedom of speech allows corporations to voice their concerns financially just as citizens are.

The final decision used precedent from last years Citizens United case, which allowed corporations to campaign for officials with privately funded advertisements, but still denied direct donations. Today’s ruling revoked that ban, giving corporations the right to donate directly to candidates independent of their employees.

The ruling stems from criminal case that accused two men of using cooperate funds to reimburse their employees’ political contributions to Hilary Clinton’s campaigns in 2006 and 2008.

The courts did limits on total campaign contributions by corporations to five thousand dollars total per candidate. The case is expected to be appealed to the Supreme Court for a final decision. Brad Kutner, FSRN, Richmond.

Obama reauthorizes Patriot Act
Just before midnight last night, President Obama signed a 4-year extension of the Patriot Act, the 9-11 era domestic spying authorization. The provisions were set to expire at the end of the day. A few hours before, the US House voted to extend the legislation by a 250 to 153 vote. The Senate passed the bill 72-23. Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, who is on the Senate Intelligence Committee and has access to classified information, argued that the government is abusing the powers laid out in the Patriot Act.

“I believe there are two Patriot Acts in America. The first is the text of the law itself, and the second is the government’s secret interpretation of what they believe the law means. And, as an example, several years ago Americans woke up to learn that the Bush Administration had been secretly claiming for years that warrantless wiretapping was legal. This disclosure greatly undermined the public’s trust in the Department of Justice and our national intelligence agencies, and it took Congress and the executive branch years to sort the situation out.”

Like many Senators, including Tea Party Republican Rand Paul, Colorado Democrat Mark Udall decried the lack of debate on the issue.

“The process by which we’ve considered these provisions has been rushed, and I believe we’ve done a disservice to the American people by not having a fuller and more open debate about these provisions.”

The current extension covers three controversial provisions: warentless wiretapping, pursuit of so-called “lone wolf” operatives, and access to business records.

Supreme Court upholds E-Verify law in Arizona
The US Supreme Court yesterday upheld an Arizona law that penalizes businesses that hire undocumented immigrants. The law requires employers to determine citizenship by checking employee social security numbers in the federal E-Verify database. Businesses who repeatedly violate the law could lose their business license. Four states already have similar laws and 31 others have introduced legislation to do the same.

Thousands try to re-ignite revolution in Egypt’s Tahrir Square
Thousands of people protested today in Egypt’s Tahrir Square, pushing the interim military government to move forward on promises of reforms. Some organizers tried to bill the protest the Second Revolution. But recent efforts have been hampered by threatened fracturing of protest groups.

Russian GLBT activists vow to hold Pride parade despite ban
Gay rights organizers in Russia say they will go forward with a planned Moscow Gay Pride parade tomorrow despite being denied a permit. Police in the city say they will enforce the ban on the parade.  GLBT rights groups applied for a permit, but were denied by the city government, according to RIA News, because police couldn’t guarantee their safety against religious, nationalist, and parent groups who have opposed the action.


US House approves defense bill but fails to accelerate troop withdrawals from Afghanistan
In Washington late yesterday, US lawmakers passed a nearly 700 billion dollars defense authorization bill for the 2012 fiscal year. The White House warned it would veto some provisions in the Republican-sponsored budget, including one that restricts the US President’s ability to limit nuclear weapons and another that prevents the transfer of detainees in Guantanamo to the US mainland. The House bill which still has to go to the Senate is about one billion dollars greater than the defense budget originally requested by the White House. Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, followed the debate and he joins us now.

The defense authorization bill also includes anti-gay amendments aimed at slowing down repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and prohibiting the use of military facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies. But the budget debate is far from over. The Senate still has to push through a version, and then reconcile that with the House bill.

Republicans block Warren appointment to new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Senate Republicans have vowed to block Elizabeth Warren’s appointment to head the country’s new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Warren, a Harvard professor tapped to run the fledgling agency, has come under attack by Republicans and Wall Street, who largely oppose more regulations protecting consumers. The Senate has refused to adjourn for Memorial Day recess in order to prevent the Obama administration from confirming her this weekend. By law, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will begin work on July 21st. A bill passed by the House Financial Services Committee seeks to replace the director of the bureau with a bipartisan committee. For more, Michael Lawson spoke with Bart Naylor of Public Citizen, a consumer rights advocacy group.

G8 Summit calls for Gaddafi to step down and pledges 20 billion dollars to Egypt and Tunisia
The G8 Summit in the French seaside resort town of Deauville has ended. Leaders from the world’s top eight economies announced 20 billion dollars in aid and loans to Tunisia and Egypt, to foster the democratic governments emerging from the Arab Spring uprisings. President Barack Obama was there and used the occasion to emphasize the G8’s united call on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down:

“Meeting the UN mandate of civilian protection cannot be accomplished when Gaddafi remains in Libya directing his forces in acts of aggression against the Libyan people and we are joined in resolve to finish the job.”

G8 leaders also heard from the heads of leading internet companies at another meeting in Paris earlier this week. The e-G8 Summit, sponsored by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, brought together executives from Google, Facebook, and other media giants in the hopes of reaching consensus on global regulations governing the internet. Activists there pushed for an internet bill of rights to protect free speech online. Lawrence Lessig from Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics spoke at the e-G8 summit.

In New York, opposition grows to a federal immigration program
In New York, opposition to a federal program called “Secure Communities” is gathering momentum. The immigration reform program requires local police to report arrested immigrants to federal authorities for possible deportation. But many activists and some lawmakers oppose the program, saying it violates human rights and hurts the public’s relationship with the police. They are demanding that the New York Governor end the program immediately. From New York, Salim Rizvi reports.

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