A judge has set bail at $200,000 for each of the two former Ku Klux Klansmen charged with murder in the 1963 Birmingham church bombing that killed four black girls. Bobby Frank Cherry and Thomas Blanton of Birmingham are charged in the dynamite blast that horrified the nation and galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. The two had been suspects for decades in the attack, but until this month, only one man had been prosecuted in the bombing, former Klansman Robert Chambliss, who was convicted in 1977 and later died in prison.
Prolonging a bitter campaign that has pitted rich against poor, Venezuela’s highest court suspended this weekend’s presidential, congressional and regional elections, citing glitches in the electronic balloting system. Thursday’s delay gives President Hugo Chavez’s main challenger, a former state governor named Francisco Arias Cardenas, more time to try to reduce the President’s fifteen- to twenty-point lead in the polls. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice suspended the balloting, citing a lack of credibility and transparency because of the technical difficulties. The court instructed the legislatures to set a new election date and prohibited campaigning until it is announced.
And this news from Peru: Thousands of people protested outside the courtyard of the government palace, where President Alberto Fujimori has been holed up. Brushing aside the threat of international isolation and demonstrations nationwide, Fujimori is pushing ahead with Sunday’s presidential runoff against economist Alejandro Toledo, who refuses to participate in what he is calling a protest campaign of corruption. The National Election Board confirmed yesterday that the vote would take place as scheduled, despite demands for a delay from Toledo and international monitors who say more time is needed to guarantee a fair election. Groups from Organization of American States, as well as the Carter Center, have announced that they are pulling out their observer missions for the runoff. Again, thousands of people protesting in the streets in Lima, as well as the second largest city of Arequipa in Peru.
In an effort to halt the use of child soldiers, the UN General Assembly yesterday approved the amendment calling for governments to take all feasible measures to prevent troops under the age of eighteen from taking part in combat. The new language in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child would bar all forced recruitment of minors, whether by regular armies or by rebel forces, and calls on governments to raise the minimum age for voluntary recruitment. UN agencies and rights campaigners have been trying for years to raise the age limit on military recruits from fifteen to eighteen. The United States, which allows voluntary enlistment at seventeen, has been opposed to that limit. Only the United States and Somalia have yet to ratify the Child Rights Convention.
Armed rebels who have been holding Fiji’s prime minister and dozens of legislators hostage in Parliament for a week knocked down a military barricade today so that more of their supporters could enter the complex. Rebel leader George Speight and about sixty gunmen have been holding Prime Minister Mahendra Chaudhry and more than thirty members of his government hostage since storming Parliament May 19th. Speight has declared himself prime minister and appointed his own cabinet. Chaudhry, who was elected prime minister last year in Fiji, is the first leader of Fiji from its ethnic Indian minority. Speight claims to be acting on behalf of the Pacific island nation’s majority, ethnic Fijians.
This news from South Carolina: A coalition of black churches has rejected South Carolina’s Confederate flag compromise and says it will back the NAACP’s call for an expanded boycott of the state. The South Carolina Coalition of Black Church Leaders said yesterday it would continue to support the boycott called by the NAACP even though lawmakers have voted to remove the flag from the State House dome. The State House and Senate agreed last week to remove the flag from the Capitol and place it instead on a thirty-foot pole near a Confederate monument on the State House grounds. South Carolina Governor Jim Hodges signed the bill, saying the move would help bring South Carolinians closer together. But Reverend Joe Darby, Chair of the Church Coalition, said the bill doesn’t go far enough.
The California Medical Association is suing the state’s three largest for-profit health insurers, claiming they have forced doctors to provide less than adequate care to patients. The lawsuit, filed in US District Court in San Francisco, claims the companies impose unfair contract terms, deny and delay payments for medically necessary treatments and deliberately underpay doctors. The CMA also accuses the companies of fraud.