Newscast for Thursday, June 27, 2013

  • Senate passes immigration reform bill with amendment to increase border militarization
  • Supreme Court’s ruling on Voting Rights Act prompts renewed push for restrictive voting measures
  • In Zimbabwe, voters cite obstacles to registration, arrests of activists ahead of election
  • Protesters in Brazil continue push for reform amid strong police presence

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Grand jury indicts Boston Marathon bombing suspect

A federal grand jury has indicted Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on 30 counts.  He’s charged with killing four people and using a weapon of mass destruction.  If convicted, several of the charges could result in the death penalty.

High court dismisses two gay rights cases in wake of DOMA ruling

Just a day after Supreme Court rulings striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and allowing same-sex marriage to begin again in California, the court today declined to hear two other cases involving marriage equality.  One, from Nevada, could have triggered a broad decision on the constitutionality of laws restricting same-sex marriage.  It involved a direct challenge to the state’s ban.  The other, from Arizona, involved state benefits for LGBT employees.  Because the court declined to hear the case, the ruling of a lower court allowing domestic partners to receive spousal benefits stands.

Gay rights advocates look to next steps

After yesterday’s decision to strike down DOMA, gay rights advocates across the country are mobilizing to ensure federal benefits will be available to all legally married same-sex couples, even if they live in a state that has banned gay marriage.  North Carolina voted to ban all same sex unions just last year.  Jennifer Rudinger is with the North Carolina ACLU.

“We’ll be pushing for Congress and the administration to adopt a choice-of-law standard so that the couples applying for the federal benefits, as many of them as possible will be able to receive these protections.”

Federal agencies will decide how broadly they want the law to be applied to same sex couples. Other advocates across the country are using the high court ruling to formulate challenges to state bans on marriage equality.  Alabama’s first openly gay state lawmaker, Representative Patricia Todd, told WIAT news she plans to sue the state.

“I know it’s going to be an uphill battle.  I know a lot of things are going to be said about me, but that’s okay.  It’s not just about me, it the thousands of other people in the state who have waited so long for justice and equality.”

Ecuador pulls out of trade deal to avoid US “blackmail” in Snowden case

Ecuador says it will pull out of a trade deal with the United States as the country considers an asylum request from NSA leaker Edward Snowden. Today Ecuador’s Communication Minister said the US was using the benefits as a form of blackmail.  The AP reports the country has granted Snowden safe passage to enter the country, but Ecuador has not officially granted him asylum.  Today President Obama, kicking off a trip to Africa in Senegal, addressed the US efforts to bring Snowden back to the US to face charges.  He said countries considering providing asylum should abide by international law.

“We’ll continue to press them as hard as we can to make sure that they do so.”

Ecuador’s extradition treaty with the United States does not cover “crimes or offenses of a political character,” which could be argued in the Snowden case.

Texas governor calls another special session to push abortion legislation

Texas governor Rick Perry has called another special legislative session in an effort to push through controversial anti-abortion legislation critics say would put most of the states clinics out of business.  This comes after state Senator Wendy Davis effectively blocked the legislation with an 11 hour filibuster Wednesday.  The new session will begin Monday.

EU ag rules fall short on environmental protections

After many months of intense lobbying, the EU has just agreed on new rules that require farmers to be more earth-friendly in order to get some types of subsidy payments.  But activists say the “green” proposals have been so watered down they will do little to reverse the environmental costs of European agriculture.  From France, FSRN’s Liam Moriarty has more.

Originally, agriculture minister Dacian Ciolos proposed a raft of new rules that, among other things, would have required European farmers to diversify their crops, leave more land fallow and set some land permanently aside to benefit wildlife.  But agriculture groups pushed back hard against the proposed rules, saying they were too burdensome.  The compromise agreement does make 30% of subsidies contingent on farmers using environmentally-sound practices.  But Stanka Becheva, with Friends of the Earth Europe, says this was a missed opportunity.

“We urgently needed a reform that would insure long-term food security, rural regeneration and the protection of our natural resources.  And what we can see instead is that the majority of our subsidies will go to prop up a failing system that benefits only a few multinationals and industrial scale farms.”

Final approval of the deal is expected this fall.  Liam Moriarty, FSRN, Normandy, France.

Canadian woman files suit against state alleging gender identity discrimination

A Montreal woman has filed a complaint of judicial bias against a judge who continuously referred to her as a man.  If successful, the case could compel changes Canadian anti-discrimination laws. FSRN’s Lillian Boctor has more from Montreal.

Tomee Soujourner appeared before a Montreal rental board earlier this month after filing a complaint against her landlord. The judge started the hearing by calling Sojourner Monsieur and Mister and refused to stop addressing her by male pronouns. Sojourner, a black lesbian with close-cropped hair, says the judge’s bias battered her dignity and humanity and stole her right to a fair and impartial trial.

“This is not just a one case one off. There is a systemic issue here of discrimination that’s happening against racialized communities, and in terms of gender identity and sexual orientations there are very few protections for transgendered folks, for folks who are perceived to be transgendered.”

Gender identity discrimination is not included in the Quebec or Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and a bill to include gender as grounds for discrimination is stuck in the Senate. Lillian Boctor, FSRN, Montreal.



Senate passes immigration reform bill with amendment to increase border militarization

The US Senate passed a comprehensive immigration reform bill today 68 to 32, sparking chants of “Yes we can” in the public gallery. It now goes to the House. But several changes made to the bill this week, including the approval of a massive increase in border militarization, has prompted several lawmakers and human rights and environmental advocacy groups to come out against it. They’re now calling for lawmakers to start over and craft a bill that better protects the rights of both citizens and noncitizens. On Capitol Hill, FSRN’s Alice Ollstein has more.

Supreme Court’s ruling on Voting Rights Act prompts renewed push for restrictive voting measures

The Supreme Court’s decision this week to strike down a key part of the Voting Rights Act has already sparked battles in several states, as local officials renew efforts to push through measures that voting rights advocates say could restrict access to the polls. Republicans in Mississippi and North Carolina pledged to push through photo ID voting bills. In a moment we’ll look at what the High Court’s decision means for Virginia  where a voter ID law is scheduled to take effect next year, but first we go to Texas. Today, the Supreme Court sent back two cases on voting laws in the state for reconsideration. One concerns a 2011 voting ID law that a federal judge found imposed a disproportionate burden on lower income, minority voters. The other is on a redistricting plan that was rejected by a federal court. For more on how these developments could affect voters, we go to Juanita Wallace, president of the Dallas, Texas NAACP.

Supreme Court’s ruling on Voting Rights Act prompts renewed push for restrictive voting measures

And now we go to Virginia to speak with Tram Nguyen, associate director with Virginia New Majority, a voting rights advocacy group

In Zimbabwe, voters cite obstacles to registration, arrests of activists ahead of election

In Zimbabwe, voter registration is taking place for the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections. But civic society organizations say the Electoral Commission is leaving them out of the process.  And some promoting voter awareness have been targeted and arrested. FSRN’s Garikai Chaunza reports.

Protesters in Brazil continue push for reform amid strong police presence

In Belo Horizonte, Brazil, about 50,000 protesters gathered outside Wednesday’s football match, where the host team, Brazil, beat Uruguay in the Confederations Cup, the tournament seen as a precursor to next year’s FIFA World Cup, also in Brazil. There were scenes once again of police using tear gas in response to mostly peaceful protests. The capital Brasilia also saw protests and on the streets of Rio de Janeiro, the police remain highly visible. Banks and government buildings have been covered with protective wooden panels. But protesters vow to continue pushing for reforms. FSRN’s Sam Cowie reports.

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