Monday, July 9, 2012

  • Syrian Opposition Spokesperson: Any Transition Deal Should Entail Assad’s Prosecution for War Crimes


    United Nations and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan met today with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the midst of worsening violence. Syria’s 16-month conflict has so far claimed more than 15,000 lives. Annan said today’s last-ditch attempt to salvage a peace effort ended with an agreement on how end the violence, but he did not disclose details. Earlier, he acknowledged his six-point peace plan had failed to halt the fighting between anti-government forces and the Assad regime. "The bottom line is that the majority of the country is engaged in a popular revolution for freedom, for democracy, for dignity," says Rafif Jouejati, the English-language spokesperson for the Syrian Local Coordination Committees, a network of activists throughout the country. "We have mountains of evidence indicating that his armed forces have been engaged in systematic torture, rampant detentions, massacres across the country." [includes rush transcript]

  • Texas, Justice Dept. Square Off over Voter ID Law as Part of Dispute That Could Decide 2012 Election


    The Justice Department and the Texas legislature are squaring off in court today over the state’s controversial voter ID law. The law requires voters to show photo identification at the polls, and Texas hopes to implement it before the November election. The DOJ blocked Texas’ voter ID law in March, saying it will disenfranchise at least 600,000 voters — a disproportionate number of which are Latinos and other minority groups. Currently, 16 states have passed restrictive voting laws that have the potential to impact the 2012 election, including vital swing states such as Florida and Pennsylvania. We speak with Robert Notzon, the legal redress chair for the Texas State Conference of the NAACP and co-counsel in a lawsuit challenging Texas’ voter ID law; and Ari Berman, who covers voting rights for The Nation and Rolling Stone magazines. "Not only is Texas such a large state, but it has probably the strictest voter ID law on the books right now," Berman says. "You can vote with a handgun permit but not a student ID. Hispanics are anywhere from 46 to 120 percent more likely to not have IDs than white voters. ... In some ways, it really is 'as goes Texas, so goes the nation,' in terms of demographic change and the Republican response." [includes rush transcript]

  • Oakland City Council Seeks to Cut Goldman Sachs Ties After Bank Profits from Lowered Interest Rates


    The Oakland City Council has voted unanimously to end a contract with Goldman Sachs that locked it into a financial deal called an high interest rate swap. The city signed on with the bank in 1998 on the premise it would reduce costs of its bonds amid rising interest rates. But after the 2008 financial meltdown, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates to near zero. As a result, Goldman’s rate dropped to 0.15 percent — even as it continued to require Oakland to pay a rate of almost 6 percent. The city council is calling on the city to refuse to do business with Goldman Sachs unless it ends the deal without requiring a $15 million payout. The vote comes after a long campaign by city workers, unions, the Occupy movement and local clergy members. "It’s really been through direct action and public pressure that we’ve been able to build for this," says Alysabeth Alexander, political action chair for SEIU Local 1021, who helped organize the Oakland community and present testimony to the council members. "This is actually the second swap that SEIU 1021 has taken on and we’re going to continue to do this with our community partners and take on Wall Street. It’s not right that, in this fiscal crisis, that they’re profiting off of our local governments." [includes rush transcript]