PUTIN AGAIN PURSUES PROSECUTION OF POLITICAL OPPONENT
12 July 2005
Yesterday, the government of the Russian Federation announced it was planning to investigate former Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov on fraud charges related to real estate purchases. Kasyanov, target of the investigation, has been said to be one of the figures likely to lead the liberal opposition to Putin in the next election. [Full Story]
WHO KNEW ABOUT THE LEAK?
Evidence arising out of the notes and testimony of reporters subpoenaed by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in his investigation of the outing of an undercover CIA agent by administration officials points to the involvement of Karl Rove, Bush's top political advisor. As the evidence mounts, the White House has now begun to refuse to answer questions about the matter. Democrats openly call for Rove's dismissal. [Full Story]
IS PRESS FREEDOM UNDER ATTACK BY SPECIAL PROSECUTOR?
A new Economist article ends with a warning to serious journalists to "beware". Clearly something has shifted in the media climate, and in the political climate, where the rule of law, in a nation where the Constitution provides an absolute right to publish, has come to mean the government may dictate what news sources are and are not permissible, where press freedom runs afoul of particular prosecutions. [Full Story]
Sudan swore in southern former rebel chief John Garang as the first vice president of its new unity government, on Saturday. Garang's taking office is a major step toward a civil process in the wake of a brutal civil war that lasted over two decades and left more than two million dead, but the country is still roiled by violence in Darfur in the west and now by conflict with rebel groups in the east. [Full Story]
The Uzbek regime is putting pressure on Kyrgyz authorities to return a number of Uzbek citizens who fled the country to escape the state's massacre of demonstrators on 13 May 2005 in the city of Andizhan. In early June, Kyrgizstan did return a handful of these refugees to Uzbek authorities. Four asylum seekers were returned, and all have since "disappeared" in Uzbek custody; their fate remains unknown. [Full Story]
New York Times reporter Judith Miller has been jailed by a Special Prosecutor investigating the leak by White House officials of the identity of an undercover CIA agent to the press. Many believe it signals an assault on the First Amendment's vital "freedom of the press", moreso because many details of the case make it unclear what value Miller's testimony would have and whether other reporters (such as Robert Novak, who published the name itself) have faced similar prosecutorial rigors. [Full Story]
CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS PRESERVED
Late last night, word came that a group of moderate senators from both parties had agreed to a plan that would prevent the Republican leadership from eliminating the filibuster from debate over judicial nominations. The parliamentary institution, enshrined in the constitutional rights of the minority to participate in and curb the activities of the majority party, can be an annoyance to leaders, but has served both parties consistently throughout Senate history and is seen as a key check on unfettered centralized power in Washington. [Full Story]
The Congressional Black Caucus, in order to defend the concept of minority rights within the functioning of the US Congress, held a press conference explaining the importance of the filibuster in Senate procedure. They cited the many occasions where the Republican party and conservative southern Democrats used the filibuster to oppose civil rights legislation in the mid-twentieth century, saying that though they opposed the politics of such an implementation of the filibuster, it served to protect the right of minority viewpoints to be heard in open debate, and even to control the direction of debate. [Full Story]
FREEMAN DEFENDS STUDY OF EXIT POLLING DISCREPANCIES
Steven F. Freeman, who published findings shortly after the November election which indicated statistical aberrations in the relation between historically reliable exit polling and at least 10 states' official ballot counts, has defended his findings of a probability of 250 million to one that the result which occurred would occur in those 10 states simultaneously. His article is a response to Russ Baker's critique of his research and of his qualifications, which critique appears on both counts to have used flawed information and insufficient research. Starting from that point, Freeman elaborates an in-depth explanation of his work, including the intricacies of polling research, election monitoring, and the specific facts of the case of the November election.
BUSH WINS 2ND TERM
WIth tens of thousands of votes still in dispute in Ohio, and still no official final tally, the Democratic campaign to replace George W. Bush in the White House with Sen. John F. Kerry, has conceded defeat. Sen. Kerry spoke of the need to recognize the civil nature of the democratic process and of his desire to continue the fight on behalf of his supporters. Many Democratic faithful were displeased to hear the concession before a final count of Ohio's votes, and several court cases still pending put over 300,000 votes in question, many of which have not been counted even once.
IS YOUR CEREAL BROADCASTING YOUR SECRETS?
How much do you know about your cereal, and how much does it know about you? What about your money, your passport, your boarding pass? These are just some of the items in your personal sphere which may soon be broadcasting radio frequencies, testifying to your habits and your movement. RFID, or Radio Frequency IDentification technology, is the reason why. Various private firms are currently researching, designing, producing and selling RFID chips, even for human implantation, and the powers that be are excited about it. [Full Story]
Amnesty International says the government of Argentina needs to investigate threats of violence against journalists during the period of economic collapse, up through present day investigations into past abuses of police and military forces. The Asociación en Defensa del Periodismo Independiente - PERIODISTAS) reported in 2002 that attacks against journalists in Argentina were 15 percent more frequent than during 2001, a worrying escalation in so short a time. It is these reports of violence and harassment, that should be investigated, according to the report. [Full Story]
In a ruling today, the Supreme Court upheld due process rights for all detainees. The ruling reinforces the essential Constitutional role of the Judiciary branch in the adjudication of accused crimes, whether against domestic law or national security. The ruling permits the Bush administration to hold American citizens as enemy combatants without charge, but detainees must have access to attorneys and be allowed to challenge their detention. The designation of enemy combatant will be assessed by the court system, like any other charge of criminal activity. [Full Story]TURKEY RELEASES 4 KURDISH ACTIVISTS, INCLUDING MP ZANA
9 June 2004
Turkish courts ordered the release of 4 Kurdish activists, after a state prosecutor quashed the charges against them. Leyla Zana, who was the first Turkish MP to openly identify herself as Kurdish, had been jailed for speaking Kurdish at the end of her acceptance of the seat in Turkey's Parliament. The prisoner release is a major step in the eyes of EU officials, who have called for sweeping judicial and political reforms in Turkey, prior to any move toward accession to the EU. Critics note there are still major steps to be taken to democratize the legal system, and to recognize the Kurdish minority population, the very existence of which Turkey's government has long denied. [For more: BBC]
EUROPEANS STILL LEARNING EU ELECTORAL SYSTEM
The European parliamentary elections are to be held this week, and across the continent, voters are still learning about the process itself. In many countries, the elections are seen as a national, not a continental affair, with candidates jockeying for the right to represent native interests against the constant tug of continental interests. [For more: Scotsman]
CONGRESS CONSIDERS BILL MIXING CHURCH & STATE
Republicans in Congress have introduced legislation (part of the American Jobs Creation Act of 2004) that would reduce fines for religious organizations that violate separation laws, and permit them to maintain their tax-exempt status (contingent on separation under current law). The separation of church and state is one of the cornerstones of the First Amendment, designed to guarantee the freedom of all Americans to practice their faith freely and bolstering the other provisions of the Bill of Rights itself. [Full Story]
DARFUR CRISIS IMPERILS HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS
4 June 2004
The refugee crisis in Darfur, in western Sudan, is deepening, with more Sudanese seeking refuge in the dangerous neighboring country of Chad. The UN has designated the Darfur crisis the world's worst humanitarian disaster at present. The UN has cited incidents of mass killing that it classifies as ethnic cleansing, carried out by government backed Arab militia. The ongoing violence has made the distribution of aid extremely complicated... [Full Story]
The ACLU is reporting that current processes underway to prepare for November's elections in Florida are likely to cause many of the same incidents of disenfranchisement that turned thousands of voters away with no remedy in 2000. The State of Florida has said it cannot guarantee that information used to erase 40,000 names from the state's voter registry was accurate. Despite this shortcoming, the State ordered all county supervisors to begin the "purge" of names said to belong to legally disenfranchised felons, without any instruction reminding them of their legal obligation to ensure that the names actually match felons who have been barred from voting. [Full Story]
The US House today considered a proposed Constitutional Amendment permitting the appointment of Representatives to replace any who may have perished in an attack killing at least 100 elected Representatives. The proposed Amendment would establish a process whereby House Members themselves would specify an appointment to serve temporarily in their stead, in the eventuality that they perish in an attack killing at least 100 Members. [Full Story]
HAITI STILL MIRED IN ABUSES, UNREST
Despite an internationally imposed solution, acceding to rebel demands to remove Pres. Aristide from power, Haiti remains mired in political turmoil, with armed militia and government forces committing grave abuses against one another's supporters. Amnesty International reports the viability and independence of the judiciary is threatened by the impunity of government officials and rebel leaders in their moves to consolidate power without following the strictures of international law. [For more: AI]
1 June 2004
The Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate is now seeking to push a business-sponsored bill through the Senate, in order to forbid citizens from filing class-action suits before state courts. The purpose of the bill, as envisioned by its backers, is to impede the freedom of citizens to access the judicial system in order to seek redress for wrongs committed against them. By predetermining that a certain type of lawsuit can only occur in federal courts, the Republican sponsors are hoping that judges favorable to their political interests will reject suits that are unfavorable to their supporters in the corporate world. [Full Story]
The state of Maine has passed an Anti-Sweatshop Purchasing law requiring that all companies selling textiles in Maine follow international human rights-based code of conduct, inform public of location of factories, allowing consumers to choose lawful, ethical manufacturers over less scrupulous ones.
RUSSIAN ELECTIONS QUESTIONED
The Russian election this Sunday was observed by representatives from Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe. These observers said the election did not meet democratic standards. Sitting President Vladimir Putin won his second term with 70% of the vote. US Sec. of State Powell has criticized the Putin government for restricting opponents' access to the media.
Observer Julian Yates noted that "vibrant political discourse and meaningful pluralism were lacking" in the campaign climate leading up to the election. [For more: BBC]
AUSTRALIA TO ABOLISH ABORIGINAL REPRESENTATIVE BODY
Australia's Prime Minister has announced that his government will seek to abolish the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission, a representative body designed as a form of self government for Australia's indigenous population. The Prime Minister wants to integrate all services into existing government agencies, through a process called "mainstreaming". Aboriginal supporters say that the conditions of health and education for Australia's aboriginal population has worsened since Howard took control of those services away from ATSIC in 1996. [For more: Globalinfo.org]
15 March 2004
Only three days after the worst terrorist incident in Spanish history, the stricken nation held its parliamentary elections. The Spanish people have replaced the governing PP with the PSOE socialist party, which had governed throughout the 1980s and the transition to democracy. Tension over issues of war and peace had been growing since 90% of Spain's population opposed its government's involvement in the Iraq war. Turnout was up 8.46% over 2000. The new Prime Minister, Zapatero has pledged to combat terrorism as top priority. [Full Story]
ELECTRONIC VOTING MACHINES FAIL IN PRIMARIES
As the United States shifts as much as 20% of its balloting devices to electronic voting systems, new doubts arise about the integrity, security and fairness of the systems being implemented. In the "Super Tuesday" primary vote across 10 states, serious glitches occurred, erasing and preventing votes: 10% of machines in San Diego county experienced technical problems; 1 in six voters in Alameda county were turned away by machine glitches. The CEO of Diebold, which makes most widely used electronic balloting machines has declared partisan allegiance and his desire to "deliver... electoral votes to the president" in 2004. [Full Story]
Reports now indicate Jean-Bertrand Aristide is in exile in the Central African Republic, possibly with plans to seek asylum in South Africa. Yesterday, following his departure, supporters ruled the streets, decrying the change of power as a violent and illegitimate coup d'état. Today, the Chief Justice of Hait's Supreme Court has been sworn in, 500 US Marines have occupied the Presidential Palace, and Guy Philippe's rebel forces have entered the capital, Port-au-Prince. [Full Story]
MEDIA SELECTED KERRY, SAYS NEW STUDY
A study conducted by the Center for Media and Public Affairs targets the nature of coverage in the week prior to the Iowa caucuses. According to this study, the media "appointed" John Kerry as most electable by showering him with favorable coverage, while attacking the details of the Dean campaign. Suddenly, Dean is a media hero again: today NBC's Chris Matthews praised Dean as a maverick leader in the best tradition of American politics, leading public debate to the core values ingrained in our system. Timing becomes a serious question, when public portrayals can swing so dramatically around issues not necessarily related to candidate viability... [Full Story]
28 January 2004
Lord Hutton's investigatory report appears to clear PM Tony Blair of the charge that he "sexed up" an intelligence report about Iraq's WMD programs. The report slams the BBC's editorial methods in its airing of the "dodgy dossier" story. Hutton claims to find that the late weapons inspector Kelly was not the source for story. While the report recognizes that no one with the broadcaster or the government could have known Kelly would commit suicide, it faults the BBC for allowing rumors to circulate that Kelly had been the source for their report about intelligence manipulation.
BBC Chairman Gavyn Davies resigned, saying he takes responsibility for the mistakes. But his official public statement initiates a critique of the one-sided Hutton Report. Hutton appears to place exclusive blame on the BBC, ignoring evidence that was accurately presented, excusing apparently misleading statements by government officials.
NEW GEORGIAN PRESIDENT TAKES HELM
Mikhail Saakashvili officially took office on Sunday, pledging an end to corruption and an effort to resolve separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and elsewhere. US Sec. of State, Colin Powell, was on hand, urging Russia to withdraw troops from Georgia, promising no US interest in bases. Powell heralded the new infusion of democratic sensibility, embodied by the young president, who rose to prominence after November's 'velvet revolution' in Tbilisi.
ARISTIDE UNDER ATTACK FOR REPRESENTING MAJORITY POOR
The non-partisan, non-profit Council on Hemispheric Affairs, after investigating events on the ground in Haiti, has released a memorandum citing "unfair and indecent diplomacy" as key to the ongoing political tension. The report notes systematic unwillingness by the well-financed opposition to enter a legitimate democratic process, and Washington's continued opposition to sending aid to the hemisphere's poorest country, as part of what appears to be a return to policies that restored the Duvalier dictatorship in 1991. [Full Story]
BRAZIL TO FINGERPRINT VISITING AMERICANS
In direct response to new laws regarding Brazilian citizens entering the United States, the Brazilian government has imposed security restrictions for Americans entering Brazil. Americans will now be required to be fingerprinted, and to carry an entry visa, provisions which mirror new provisions imposed on Brazilians who visit the US. [For more: Seattle Times]
HONG KONG DEMONSTRATORS WANT FREE ELECTIONS
A 2-mile long procession of demonstrators marched yesterday in Hong Kong, demanding the right to elect directly the Chief Executive and the entire regional legislature. The current CE was elected by an 800-member electoral panel loyal to Beijing. This past summer, 500,000 marched and successfully delayed the implementation of strict new security laws. The government issued a statement saying it had a responsibility to listen and to pursue democratic structures, under the Basic Law, the Hong Kong constitution agreed to by the UK and China before transition. [For more: NYT]
25 December 2003
The Ukrainian parliament passed a preliminary bill to shift presidential electoral powers from the people to the parliament. The bill would amend the nation's constitution, granting parliament the power to elect the president. The current president, Leonid Kuchma, who has faced strong opposition in recent years, supports the bill, though he says he will not run for a third term. Opponents say the bill is a shameless attempt to seize power and prolong Kuchma's rule. Under political pressure in 2001, Kuchma indicated he would resign in 2004. Critics of the Kuchma-led initiative say it would amount to a ruling party coup, thwarting the will of the people. [For more: Moscow Times]
SRI LANKA NEGOTIATIONS BREAK DOWN
Reports are emerging that suggest the negotiations between Sri Lanka's president and prime minister (from opposing parties) have broken down. Sri Lanka's efforts to achieve peace with Tamil rebels are jeopardized by the governmental infighting. President Kumaratunga took control of the military, as well as the interior and information ministries, when PM Wickremesinghe was visiting the US in early November. [Full Story]
QADHAFI VOLUNTARILY ABANDONS WMD PROGRAMS
In convergent broadcasts, Libya, the UK and the US announced a deal in which Libya agreed to let international inspectors to assist in its deactivation of weapons of mass desctruction research and development programs.
UN URGES FAIRNESS, OPENNESS, INTERNATIONAL OBSERVERS FOR TRIAL
Kofi Annan told the Security Council today that Iraqis must be assured that the international community will continue to provide support both financial and military for the stabilization and democratization of Iraq. He also specified that any trial for war crimes must withstand international human rights scrutiny, abide by the Geneva conventions and be transparent. The UN favors an international tribunal, able to provide an open and fair forum for the prosecution of Ba'athist war crimes. [Full Story]
TRIPARTITE PACT YIELDS NEW CATALÁN PRESIDENT
The new government, formed by Pasqual Maragall (Catalán Socialist Party), Josep-Lluís Carod-Rovira (Republican Left of Catalunya) and Joan Saura (Catalán Green, United Left), brings a progressive face to Catalán politics, and ends the reign of Jordi Pujol as President of the Generalitat. Maragall, the new president, has said he wants to have a new relationship with Spain's central government and that Catalunya is once more "sincere, having recognized its diversity as wealth". [For more: AVUI]
CONSTITUTION ON HOLD FOR EUROPE
EU leaders fail to reach agreement on distribution of legislative authority across the continent. Spain and Poland held a hard-line defense of their current level of representation, refusing "double majority" rule. By "double majority", laws would have to be approved by a majority of delegates representing 60% of the EU population. Constitution talks are thought to be off until 2005. [For More: BBC]
HRW REPORT ALLEGES CREEPING HUMAN RIGHTS CONSTRICTION IN US
The freedom to organize and to assemble for political activity is not only central to the American way of life; it is enshrined in the First Amendment to the US Constitution and is enjoyed by groups across the political spectrum. It was the exploitation of such assembly that allowed American colonists to organize their opposition to the British crown and to establish a free and independent society. Throughout US history, major gains in Constitutionally-protected rights have been achieved by groups that used their privilege under the First Amendment to assemble in order to achieve political goals. Now a new report says that the rights of Unions and other activist groups may be suffering erosion in the same United States that has so long benefited from such civic participation. [For more: CEPR]
ALLEGED CORRUPTION ON HOUSE FLOOR
Serious questions have arisen as to the methods used by Republican leaders in the House of Representatives to persuade members of their party to vote in favor of the Medicare prescription drug bill. Conservative columnist Robert Novak broke the story, in which Rep. Nick Smith of Michigan, a Republican who voted against the bill, charged that various colleagues and business interests offered large amounts of money to his son's congressional campaign in exchange for a yes vote. [Full Story]
TAIWAN EMPOWERED TO VOTE FOR INDEPENDENCE
Taiwanese leaders have said the newly passed law permitting a plebiscite on "national security issues" is not an assertion of independence. There will, however be another referendum in March, which the government says will only address indpendence directly if China attacks the island. The newly passed Taiwanese initiative permits the Taiwanese people to vote directly on independence if Taiwan's sovereignty is threatened. It has been suggested that the missiles China has pointed at Taiwan already qualify as such a threat, and that independence could now be officially proposed at any time. [For more: FT]
ESKIMOS INVESTIGATE POLLUTION
Yup'ik Eskimos, along Cape Romanzof in Alaska, are seeking answers regarding the source of high levels of contaminants found in their fragile local ecosystem. The Air Force had operated a strategic base at Cape Romanzof during the Cold War, and has agreed to begin cleanup of materials that appear to have originated at the base. [For more: NPR]
FTAA OBSTACLES SHOW AT MIAMI MINISTERIAL MEETING
The United States wants to fashion a Free Trade Area of the Americas agreement which is comprehensive, hemispheric and lasting. The public in many countries is increasingly skeptical about the benefits of such an agreement. Agricultural subsidies in developed countries can pose significant barriers to agricultural prosperity in developing nations. Argentina and Brazil in particular demand that there be an arrangement through which countries adversely affected by such policies would receive compensation or special consideration in bilateral agreements.
Ambassador Ross Wilson, chief American negotiator for the FTAA, addressing the Center for Strategic and International Studies, yesterday, noted that recent free trade meetings in Cancún and Miami could be viewed as setbacks to the liberalization of trade throughout the hemisphere. Argentine Ambassador to the US, José Bordón, noted his hopes that Miami would have been a great "opportunity to speak frankly" about the nature of trade relations and the need to consider the difficulties of domestic economic considerations in many countries. [Full Story]
BOLIVIAN PRESIDENT RESIGNS, PARLIAMENT APPROVES
Bolivia's embattled President Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada resigned yesterday, in the wake of violent protests and demonstrations that rattled the country for weeks. The president delivered his resignation to the parliament for consideration, the parliament voted to approve the resignation, allowing the vice president to complete the term which lasts until 2007.
It is estimated that 74 people were killed in violent clashes between anti-government protesters and state police during the month leading up to the resignation. [Full Story]