US Supreme Court holds to narrow interpretation of the Voting Rights Act
Critics say the ruling on ‘crossover’ districts could reduce the political clout of minorities.
By Warren Richey | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the March 10, 2009 edition
The federal Voting Rights Act does not authorize vote dilution lawsuits in voting districts in which a particular racial or ethnic group comprises less than 50 percent of the voting age population.
In a 5 to 4 decision announced on Monday, the US Supreme Court rejected a claim that so-called minority crossover districts qualify for protection under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Instead, the court’s conservative wing embraced a narrow view of the law.
Crossover districts are those in which a cohesive minority voting population can elect candidates of its choice by forming a coalition with cross-over votes from whites or other non-minority voters.
The case is important because it establishes ground rules that will apply nationwide during the redrawing of voting districts following the 2010 census. It could result in a reduction of minority districts by encouraging district drafters to pack traditional minority districts with more than 50 percent minority voters, rather than aiming for widespread distribution across several voting districts.
UN report condemns Britain over torture cases
UK hid illegal acts and breached basic human rights of detainees in US rendition programme, report finds
guardian.co.uk, Monday 9 March 2009 19.24 GMT
Britain is condemned today in a highly critical UN report for breaching basic human rights and “trying to conceal illegal acts” in the fight against terrorism.
The report is sharply critical of British co-operation in the transfer of detainees to places where they are likely to be tortured as part of the US rendition programme. It accuses British intelligence officers of interviewing detainees held incommunicado in Pakistan in “so-called safe houses where they were being tortured”.
It adds that Britain, and a number of other countries, sent interrogators to Guantánamo Bay in a further example of what “can be reasonably understood as implicitly condoning” torture and ill-treatment. It said the US was able to create its system for moving terror suspects around foreign jails only with the support of its allies.
Obama’s Budget Faces Test Among Party Barons
By JACKIE CALMES and CARL HULSE
Published: March 9, 2009
WASHINGTON – What the Democratic barons of Congress liked best about President Obama’s audacious budget was his invitation to fill in the details. They have started by erasing some of his.
The apparent first casualty is a big one: a proposal to limit tax deductions for the wealthiest 1.2 percent of taxpayers. Mr. Obama says the plan would produce $318 billion over the next decade as a down payment for overhauling health care.
But the chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees, Senator Max Baucus of Montana and Representative Charles B. Rangel of New York, have objected to the proposal, citing a potential drop in tax-deductible gifts to charities.
Obama’s Order on Stem Cells Leaves Key Questions to NIH
By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 10, 2009; Page A01
President Obama’s open-ended order lifting limits on federal funding for stem cell research raises the prospect that taxpayer money could be used for a much broader, much more controversial array of studies than many scientists, officials and activists anticipated.
Although the decision to allow expanded funding had been long expected, many thought Obama would limit federally funded scientists to working with cell lines derived from embryos destined to be discarded at infertility clinics. Instead, he left that key issue open.
The task of deciding what kinds of studies will be supported now falls to the National Institutes of Health, which finds itself confronting far more extensive questions than its officials were contemplating. It has 120 days to do the job.
Dalai Lama calls Chinese rule in Tibet ‘hell on Earth’
The spiritual leader speaks to thousands of supporters marking the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent him into exile.
March 10, 2009
Dharmsala, India — Chinese rule in Tibet has created a “hell on Earth” that has caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans, the Dalai Lama said today in a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of the failed uprising that sent him into exile.
Speaking to thousands of supporters, the Tibetan spiritual leader said Chinese martial law and hard-line policies such as the Cultural Revolution had devastated the Himalayan region.
“These thrust Tibetans into such depths of suffering and hardship that they literally experienced hell on Earth,” he said in this Indian hill town, where he and the self-proclaimed government-in-exile have been based since shortly after fleeing their homeland. “The immediate result of these campaigns was the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Tibetans.”
Tibetan culture and identity are “nearing extinction,” he told about 2,000 people, including Buddhist monks,Tibetan schoolchildren and a handful of foreign supporters. The group gathered in a courtyard that separates the Dalai Lama’s home from the town’s main temple, and monks blowing enormous conch shells and long brass horns heralded his arrival.
Sri Lanka suicide bombing targets government ministers
Ten killed and six ministers injured as explosives detonated near mosque
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 10 March 2009 06.37 GMT
A suicide bomber set off explosives as a gathering of Muslims celebrated a religious holiday in southern Sri Lanka today, killing 10 people and injuring
at least 20 others, including a government minister, the military said.
The bomber appeared to have been targeting six ministers as they walked towards the mosque in the town of Akuressa, near the southern point of the nation, HM Fowzie, the Sri Lankan oil miniuster, said.
Fowzie, who had been attending the celebration of Mawlid, which commemorates the prophet Muhammad’s birthday, told the Associated Press: “A suicide bomber tried to kill us, but we escaped.”
The minister said he was covered in blood when the bomber detonated explosives behind the group of ministers.
Ulster police chief defiant after officer killed
By Shawn Pogatchnik, Associated Press
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
A police officer was ambushed by apparent Irish Republican Army dissidents and fatally shot in the head as he responded to an emergency call, less than 48 hours after the killing of two soldiers, Northern Ireland’s police commander said today.
Together, the killings are the first of British security forces in Northern Ireland since 1998 – the year that rival British Protestant and Irish Catholic politicians tried to leave behind decades of bloodshed by striking a peace deal that called for paramilitary disarmament and a future of Catholic-Protestant cooperation in government.
Chief Constable Hugh Orde, whose force was already on high alert following the weekend’s dissident killings of two unarmed British soldiers, said Monday night’s attack on a police patrol looked like “a deliberate set-up.”
What do cars and cows have in common? No, not horns
From The Times
March 10, 2009
Carl Mortished, World Business Editor
Proposals to tax the flatulence of cows and other livestock have been denounced by farming groups in the Irish Republic and Denmark.
A cow tax of €13 per animal has been mooted in Ireland, while Denmark is discussing a levy as high as €80 per cow to offset the potential penalties each country faces from European Union legislation aimed at combating global warming.
The proposed levies are opposed vigorously by farming groups. The Irish Farmers’ Association said that the cattle industry would move to South America to avoid EU taxes.
Livestock contribute 18 per cent of the greenhouse gases believed to cause global warming, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation.
US, Iran seek to stop Afghan narco-traffic
By Kaveh L Afrasiabi
United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has urged Iran to attend a “big tent” conference on Afghanistan at the end of the month. And with characteristic candor, she has cited Tehran’s problems with the Afghan drugs smuggled into Iran as one of several reasons why the Iranians should participate in the United Nations-sponsored event.
The ministerial-level conference is likely to take place in the Netherlands and involve the countries and organizations with stakes in Afghanistan’s future. “If we move forward with such a meeting, it is expected that Iran will be invited as a neighbor of Afghanistan,” Clinton said last week. “It is a way of bringing all the stakeholders and interested parties together.”
The narrow focus on select dimensions of the Afghanistan crisis and the hope to enlist Iran’s cooperation mark a smart move by the administration of President Barack Obama in its new (yet to be fully determined) Afghanistan policy.
Palestinians launch unity talks
Rival Palestinian factions are to meet in Cairo, at the start of a process they hope will pave the way for a national unity government.
Cross-party committees are due to start work on a number of key issues.
The most challenging ones are reforming the security services and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
Divisions between the two main groups – Fatah and Hamas – are making rebuilding Gaza in the aftermath of Israel’s military campaign there more difficult.
While internationals donors have pledged billions of dollars to the reconstruction of Gaza, they are not willing to deal directly with Hamas, which is widely viewed as a terrorist organisation.
Israel, which also refuses to deal directly with Hamas, continues to maintain a strict blockage of Gaza, allowing in only essential food and medicine.
Q & A
Sudan opposition leader discusses detention
Hassan Turabi talks to The Times about his two-month imprisonment. The prominent Islamist was arrested after calling for President Bashir to turn himself in to face trial on war crimes charges.
By Edmund Sanders
March 10, 2009
Reporting from Khartoum, Sudan — Hours after his release from a two-month stint in prison, Sudanese opposition leader Hassan Turabi looked fit and chipper Monday in the reception hall of his Khartoum home.
If he was tired at all, it was from the stream of dignitaries, political leaders and family members who came to celebrate his surprise release.
One of Africa’s most influential and controversial Islamists, Turabi was arrested in January after he called for Sudanese President Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir to turn himself over to the International Criminal Court to face prosecution over his government’s counter-insurgency campaign in the Darfur region.
Turabi has been in and out of prison for the last 40 years thanks to his Zelig-like tendency to be at the center of most of the nation’s post-independence coups. He helped Bashir topple the elected government in 1989, was instrumental in imposing Islamic law and was dubbed the “Pope of Terrorism” for inviting Islamic extremists such as Osama bin Laden to live in Sudan during the 1990s.
Tsvangirai tribute set for Harare
Thousands of mourners are expected to turn out in Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, for a ceremony paying tribute to Susan Tsvangirai, on the eve of her funeral.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s wife died in a road accident on Friday in which he was injured.
The ceremony is to be held at Glamis Stadium, where Mr Tsvangirai addressed a rally last month after being sworn in as prime minister.
Mr Tsvangirai said it was unlikely the crash involved foul play.
The driver of the truck that hit the couple’s car has been charged with culpable homicide.
The lawyer for Chinoona Mwanda, 35, who was bailed on Monday, said his client would plead not guilty and blamed the collision on the poor state of the road.
‘Life goes on’
The premier’s party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), is urging all Zimbabweans to attend the event, in remembrance of a woman who stood as a pillar of support to her husband for 31 years.
Up to 30,000 are expected to heed the call.
Colombians Snap Up Hostages’ Memoirs
Those Revealing Intimate Details Stir Debate
By Juan Forero
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 10, 2009; Page A07
BOGOTA, Colombia — In a new book titled “Out of Captivity,” three Americans describe being chained at the neck by rebel guards during five years of imprisonment in Colombia’s jungles, and reveal tensions among themselves and their fellow hostages.
Another former hostage, Fernando Araújo, recounts in his book the anguish of finding his wife with another man after his escape from the guerrillas’ clutches.
Luis Eladio Pérez writes that during the years he was held by the rebels, he came to realize what a self-absorbed politician he had been. Lucy Artunduaga, whose husband was a hostage, writes about learning that he had fallen in love with another captive during his six years in the jungle.