In election news, the Los Angeles Times is reporting that Bush administration lawyers are now attempting to overturn decades of legal precedence by claiming that only Attorney General John Ashcroft and not individual voters have a right to ask federal courts to enforce voting rights. In legal briefs filed in Ohio, Michigan and Florida, the Bush administration is arguing that the new Help America Vote Act stipulates that only the Justice Department, and not voters themselves, may sue to enforce the voting rights. Veteran voting rights lawyers say this would overturn decades of legal precedent and could greatly affect any legal challenge to Tuesday’s election. According to the LA Times, since the civil rights era of the 1960s, individuals have gone to federal court to enforce their right to vote, often with the support of the NAACP, the AFL-CIO, the League of Women Voters. J. Gerald Hebert, a former chief of the Justice Department’s voting-rights section, said he was dismayed that the government was seeking to weaken a measure designed to protect voters. Hebert, who worked in the voting-rights section from 1973 to 1994 told the Times, “This is the first time in history the Justice Department has gone to court to side against voters who are trying to enforce their right to vote. I think this law will mean very little if the rights of American voters have to depend on this Justice Department.” Even the Supreme Court has backed the idea of private suits. In 1969, the justices issued a ruling in a case related to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that “the achievement of the act’s laudable goal would be severely hampered … if each citizen were required to depend solely on litigation instituted at the discretion of the attorney general.”
A local TV station in Minnesota has aired video from Iraq that raises new questions about how much effort U.S. troops made to secure deadly explosives after the U.S. invasion. On Monday, the New York Times revealed that 377 tons of highly explosive materials went missing from the Al Qaqaa military base. The Bush administration has attempted to downplay the story claiming that the explosives were likely already gone when the U.S. troops arrived. But now the ABC affiliate in Minnesota has broadcast footage from its embedded reporter who traveled to Al Qaqaa with the U.S. troops. The video shows GIs breaking the locks on storage bunkers to reveal barrels and barrels labeled “explosive.” Meanwhile a military officer admitted to Knight Ridder that the U.S. didn’t have the resources to secure the sites. The officer said, “We weren’t able to respond because we didn’t have anyone to send.”
A new peer-reviewed study has concluded that at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died because of the U.S invasion last year. The study appears in the British medical journal Lancet and was conducted by researchers at Columbia University, Johns Hopkins and Al-Mustansiriya in Baghdad. The rise in the death rate was mainly due to violence and much of it was caused by U.S. air strikes on towns and cities. The estimated number of deaths is considerably higher than previous estimates. The U.S. military claims it does not keep tallies on civilian casualties. The researchers made its calculation based on door-to-door surveys in Baghdad where they gathered data to determine how the country’s death rate has changed since the U.S. invaded Iraq. Other estimates have put the civilian toll between 16,000 and 35,000.
The international journalist group Reporters Without Borders has issued its annual report on press freedom. The U.S. now ranks 22nd in press freedom among the world’s countries. The report criticized the U.S. on a number of grounds including “violations of source confidentiality, persistent problems in granting press visas and the arrest of several journalists during anti-Bush demonstrations.” The study also determined that Iraq had become “the most deadly place on Earth for journalists.” Meanwhile in Iraq, gunmen have killed an Iraqi newsreader who worked at the Al Sharqiya television station in Baghdad. He husband was murdered two months ago. The motive for her killing was not clear
In other Iraq news, the FBI has launched a criminal investigation into whether the Pentagon improperly awarded Halliburton no-bid contracts worth billions of dollars. The FBI has sought permission to interview Bunnatin Greenhouse, the chief contracting officer of the Army Corps of Engineers who has publicly questioned if Halliburton had unfairly been awarded the contracts.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat is scheduled to arrive France today to seek urgent medical treatment at a military hospital. Two days ago Arafat collapsed and briefly lost consciousness. Aides to Arafat said he was “very frail.” This marks the first time in over two years that Arafat has left his Ramallah compound.
In Oregon, three school teachers were recently removed from a Bush campaign event and threatened with arrest. Although the women had tickets for the events and were not engaged in any form of public protest, security guards approached them after seeing their t-shirts that read “Protect Our Civil Liberties.” One of the teachers, Janet Voorhies, said, “I wanted to see if I would be able to make a statement that I feel is important, but not offensive, in a rally for my president.”
Last month in Eugene Oregon, 54-year-old Perry Patterson was arrested and charged with criminal trespass after attending a campaign event by Vice President Dick Cheney. When Cheney told the crowd that President Bush has made the world safer, Patterson blurted out the word “No” and was arrested soon after.
And earlier this week police dragged out three protesters from a Bush campaign rally in Lancaster Penn. after the protesters shouted out that the president was a liar.
The Internal Revenue Service has launched an investigation to determine whether the non-profit NAACP improperly “intervened in a political campaign” when its Chairman Julian Bond gave a major speech condemning the Bush administration’s policies. Bond said yesterday “I think what’s at issue is our right to criticize the president of the United States. The IRS is saying that because I criticized the president’s education policies, his economic policies and his war policies that somehow I placed the tax exemption for the NAACP at risk.” During the speech in question Bond said, “The NAACP has always been nonpartisan, but that doesn’t mean we’re non-critical. For as long as we’ve existed, whether Democrats or Republicans have occupied the White House, we’ve spoken truth to power.”
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