Friday, May 31, 2013

  • In Civil Rights Victory, Virginia Restores Voting Rights for Hundreds of Thousands Nonviolent Felons

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    In a major victory for voting rights, Virginia’s Republican Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced he will automatically restore voting rights for people with nonviolent felony convictions. His decision will eliminate the two-year waiting period and petition process that currently disenfranchises thousands of nonviolent felons who have completed their sentences and satisfied all the conditions of their punishments. According to the Sentencing Project, 350,000 Virginians who have completed their sentences remained disenfranchised in 2010. We speak to Benjamin Jealous, president and CEO of NAACP, which has been on the forefront of the campaign to restore voting rights to former felons. The news comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to issue a major ruling that could decide the future of the Voting Rights Act.

  • As FBI Seeks Capture of Assata Shakur, NAACP Head Calls for U.S. Truth & Reconciliation Commission

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    Earlier this month, former Black Panther Assata Shakur was added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list, becoming the first woman ever to make the list. In addition, the state of New Jersey announced it was adding $1 million to the FBI’s $1 million reward for her capture. She was convicted in the May 2, 1973, killing of a New Jersey police officer during a shootout that left one of her fellow activists dead. She was shot twice by police during the incident. In 1979, she managed to escape from jail. Shakur fled to Cuba, where she received political asylum. Shakur has long proclaimed her innocence and accused federal authorities of political persecution. We ask NAACP President Benjamin Jealous about her case. "We have not taken any position on the Shakur case," Jealous says. "But I do think that if we are going to heal as a nation, we must look at the violence, the sort of politically motivated violence on both sides, and figure out how we heal both at once."

  • Oscar López Rivera: After 32 Years in Prison, Calls Grow for Release of Puerto Rican Activist

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    Hundreds of Puerto Ricans rallied this week to call for the United States to release the Puerto Rican independence activist Oscar López Rivera. Wednesday marked his 32nd year in prison. In 1981, López  was convicted on federal charges, including seditious conspiracy — conspiring to oppose U.S. authority over Puerto Rico by force. He was accused of being a member of the FALN, the Armed Forces of National Liberation, which claimed responsibility for more than 100 bombings to call attention to the colonial case of Puerto Rico. In 1999 President Bill Clinton commuted the sentences of 16 members of the FALN, but López refused to accept the deal because it did not include two fellow activists who have since been released. In a rare video recording from prison, López said the charges against him were strictly political. Calls are increasing for López to be released from Nobel Peace Laureate South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to Eduardo Bhatia, president of the Puerto Rican Senate. To talk more about the case, we speak with Luis Nieves Falcón, a renowned Puerto Rican lawyer, sociologist, and educator. He is the editor of the new book of López’s letters and reflections called, "Oscar López Rivera: Between Torture and Resistance." We also talk with Matt Meyer, long-time member of the War Resisters League.

  • Four Years After Murder of Dr. George Tiller, His Wichita Abortion Clinic Reopens Despite Threats

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    Today marks the fourth anniversary of the murder of Dr. George Tiller, a 67-year-old abortion provider who was shot point-blank in the forehead as he attended church services in Wichita, Kansas. Tiller’s clinic was one of a handful in the nation that performed abortions after the 24th week of pregnancy. He faced constant threats and incidents of violence and vandalism in the decades leading up to his death. The man who assassinated him, anti-choice extremist Scott Roeder, is serving a life sentence and was recently reprimanded in prison for making intimidating remarks against other abortion providers. The four years since Tiller was murdered have seen a wave of new abortion restrictions. Eight states now ban abortion at 20 weeks post-fertilization. Meanwhile, clinics across the country have been threatened by laws aimed at shutting them down. After working with Tiller for eight years, our guest Julie Burkhart joins us from South Wind Women’s Center, the newly reopened abortion clinic where Tiller worked. She is director and founder of the Trust Women Foundation. "We have had approximately 200 patient visits in just the two short months that we’ve been open. We are just so happy to be back in this community," Burkhart says. On threats made against the clinic and her life she says, "These threats are definitely to be taken seriously, and they are chilling. However, women still need abortion care. ... I don’t think that the rights of women in this part of the country should be curtailed just because we have extremists."