October 18, 2012

  • Voter suppression reported in key states, neighborhoods of color
  • In Navajo Nation, water issues bring up representation, land rights in election season
  • Colorado voters weigh pros, cons of marijuana legalization
  • Berkeley measure would ban sitting on public sidewalks outside businesses

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Circuit Court rules DOMA unconstitutional

The US 2nd Circuit Court has issued another blow to the Defense of Marriage Act. The court ruled in the case of a New York woman, Edith Winsor, who sued after she was forced to pay the non-married rate of estate tax after her partner died. The two women had been wed in Canada.  In its decision, the court said, DOMA’s classification of same-sex spouses was not substantially related to an important government interest. And consequently Section 3, which defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman, violates equal protection and is therefore unconstitutional. The Obama Administration no longer defends DOMA, but the Republican-led House Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group is paying lawyers to represent the government in 14 challenges to the law thus far. Democrats are criticizing the Group for already spending nearly all of the $1.5 million allotted for the defense.

Uruguay passes legislation allowing abortion

Uruguay’s Congress has passed legislation legalizing abortion. It’s a groundbreaking move in South America where no other country has made abortions accessible to all women during the first trimester of pregnancy.  FSRN’s Manuela Aldabe reports from the capital Montevideo.

Compromises made to get the measure through Congress disappointed supporters and opponents alike, who gathered to protest in the capital. The measure gives women the right to a legal abortion during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy and decriminalizes later-term abortions when the life of the mother or fetus is at risk.  In cases of rape, abortions would be legal during the first 14 weeks. Martha Aguñin is with Woman and Health in Uruguay, a group working to promote the law. “We think this is a ‘minimum’ law.  It is not the law we were fighting for for years.  It makes a lot of conditions: the woman has to go to a ‘tribunal where she has to explain why she wants to terminate the pregnancy. She is sent home to contemplate her choice, and then has to go back to the tribunal after five days to confirm her decision.”  Opponents say they will call to a referendum, despite the latest polls showing 52% of Uruguayans support the law.  Manuela Aldabe, FSRN, Montevideo.

Rights group says up to 80k civilians disappeared in Syria

The human rights groups Avaaz says between 28,000 and 80,000 people have disappeared in Syria since the internal uprising began more than a year ago.  The group blames the government for most of the disappearances, snatching women and men off the streets.  Most of these people are suspected to be dead or in prison. Today’s report comes as a peace envoy is traveling to the country with the aim of striking a brief ceasefire during the Muslim Holiday of Eid al-Adha next week.  The New York Times reports more than 40 people died today during aerial military shelling in the country’s north.

Peace talks open between Colombian government and FARC rebels

Peace talks between the government of Colombia and FARC rebels formally opened today in Oslo, Norway. FSRN’s Shannon Young has the story.

The long-anticipated talks between representatives of the Colombian government and the country’s oldest guerrilla army kicked off with a 3-hour press conference in the Norwegian capital. This comes after months of preliminary talks between the two sides. FARC’s chief negotiator, Iván Márques spoke at length about foreign-owned extractive industries whose operations have expanded in Colombia since the implementation of the US-sponsored military aid package, known as Plan Colombia. The government’s representative, former Vice President Humberto De la Calle countered, saying foreign investment projects are not up for discussion during the peace talks. These are the first direct talks between the groups since 2002. The next round will be held next month in Havana, Cuba. There, comprehensive agrarian development is the first item on the agenda. Shannon Young, FSRN.

Clean Water Act hits 40 year anniversary

Today is the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the groundbreaking legislation vetoed by the Nixon administration – with that veto subsequently overridden by Congress.  Before the environmental protections were put in place, industrial and municipal water pollution was rampant.  Dianna Riddick is with the Kentucky Sierra Club. “Lots of toxic metals and fish bodies, open sewage, the Cuyahoga River covered with oil and catching on fire and burning down two bridges…I think that’s the penultimate pre-Clean Water Act situation.” Because of pollution, the Cuyahoga River had caught fire several times in the previous century, but the fire in 1969 caught the attention of the country, and was instrumental in the push for waterway protections. Despite the successes, the Supreme Court has ruled on two cases since 2000 that limited the Clean Water Act’s reach by narrowing the scope of waterways covered.  Environmentalists also argue many of its provisions are out-of-date.




Voter suppression reported in key states, neighborhoods of color

With less than three weeks until the US presidential election, voting rights advocates are reporting accounts of voter suppression in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and other key states, particularly in neighborhoods of color. The complaints range from intimidating billboards to misleading robocalls. In response, civil rights and labor rights groups are training teams of lawyers to combat any voter misinformation or intimidation during the last few weeks of early voting and on Election Day itself. But with a patchwork of laws across the 50 states and more confusion around political speech after the Citizens United decision, advocates are investigating which tactics they can challenge in court. FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

In Navajo Nation, water issues bring up representation, land rights in election season

In Arizona, a tight senate race is shaping up to replace long-time Senator John Kyl, who is retiring. Democrat Richard Carmona and Republican Jeff Flake are vying for the seat. One of the issues the winning candidate will face is the state’s water resources. The Navajo Nation has criticized current Senators John McCain and Jon Kyl and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar for their support of a proposed water deal. The settlement would direct access to the Little Colorado River and could extend leases for coal production in the area, according to a government memo obtained by the Navajo Times this week. The controversy brings up the control of resources, land rights and representation on tribal land. For more, we’re joined by Marley Shebala, senior reporter with the Navajo Times. She is Navajo and Zuni. She joins us from Window Rock, Arizona.

Colorado voters weigh pros, cons of marijuana legalization

Voters in Washington, Oregon and Colorado will be deciding on ballot measures to legalize marijuana. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at Colorado’s measure. Supporters, from inside and outside the state, say its passage could start a nationwide trend. But as FSRN’s Hannah Leigh Myers reports, the race remains close in the final weeks ahead of Election Day.

Berkeley measure would ban sitting on public sidewalks outside businesses

Voters in California will decide the fate of more than 10 statewide propositions in November, which cover a range of contentious issues. Proposition 34 would repeal the state’s death penalty. Proposition 32 would prohibit corporations and unions from using payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. And Proposition 37 would require labels for genetically modified foods. Voters will also be weighing local ballot measures. In Berkeley, the city council placed a measure on the November ballot to ban sitting on public sidewalks outside of businesses. FSRN’s Judith Scherr has the story.

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