In South Dakota, about 38,000 residents have signed a petition in an effort to block the state from enacting a new ban on abortion. The group South Dakota Campaign For Healthy Families announced on Tuesday that it collected more than twice the number of signatures needed to force a statewide referendum on the issue in November. The law, which is seen as the most extreme abortion law in the country, was scheduled to go into effect on July 1. The new law bans all abortions — including in cases of incest and rape — unless it is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life. Doctors who perform abortions deemed illegal by the state could face up to five years in jail and a five thousand dollar fine.
In Iraq it now appears the United States will be unable to reduce the number of troops it has on the ground this year due to the increasing violence and the decision by several countries to begin withdrawing troops. On Monday, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. George Casey, ordered the deployment of fifteen hundred more troops from Kuwait into Iraq. Meanwhile Italy has announced it would pull out its 2600 troops by year’s end and South Korea plans to bring home one thousand troops. Once Italy pulls out, Britain and South Korea will be the only nations besides the United States to have more than one thousand troops in Iraq.
Meanwhile a new study by the Brookings Institute has determined that there were more multiple fatality bombings in Iraq during the month of May than in any previous month of the war. The study found there have been at least fifty bombings so far this month that killed three or more people.
On Tuesday a car bomb exploded near a bus stop north of Baghdad killing at least twenty-five people. In Hilla, another twelve people died in a car bombing. And a third bomb killed ten people outside a Baghdad bakery.
The United Nations General Assembly Special Session on AIDS opens today in New York. Outside the UN, protesters are gathering at 12:30 p.m. to demand that the leaders of rich countries and the most affected countries listen to people most directly affected by HIV and fulfill their commitments to fighting AIDS. On Tuesday UNAIDS officials announced that the total number of HIV cases worldwide has topped 38 million but that the epidemic has begun to slow. Last year 4.1 million people became infected with HIV. An estimated 2.8 million people infected with HIV died last year.
Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS added that the United Nations must focus its efforts on Africa.
The Supreme Court has dealt a setback to government whistleblowers. In a five to four decision, the court declared that the Constitution does not always protect the free-speech rights of government employees for what they say on the job. The court held that the free-speech rights of public employees are protected when they speak out as citizens on matters of public concern, but not when they speak out in the course of their official duties. The case centered on the demotion of a Los Angeles County prosecutor named Richard Ceballo. He sued the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office when he was demoted after he revealed that a sheriff’s deputy had lied to get a search warrant.
The Senate has confirmed telecom lobbyist Robert McDowell to the Federal Communications Commission. With McDowell on board, Republicans have regained a majority on the FCC for the first time in 14 months. The FCC is now expected to begin tackling a number of contentious issues, including changes to the country’s media ownership limits.
In New Hampshire, the former executive director of the state Republican Party has been released from jail after serving seven months for his role in an Election Day phone-jamming scandal. In November 2002, the official — Charles McGee — helped jam the phones of Democrats and labor groups making get-out-the-vote calls. Now McGee is back at his old job and next weekend he will be speaking at a two-day event to teach Republicans how to run for office at a so-called GOP campaign school. The state’s Democratic party has criticized the Republican party for continuing to associate with McGee.
In Chile, nearly 600,000 high school students walked out of classes on Tuesday to demand the government spend more on education. In the capital of Santiago, police arrested nearly 400 student protesters. Police also used tear gas and water cannons to try to break up the demonstrations, which are the largest student protests in Chile in decades. The protests began two weeks ago when students began taking over schools in Santiago.
In East Timor, the United Nations is estimating 100,000 people have now been displaced by recent violence. On Tuesday, East Timor’s President Xanana Gusmao declared a state of emergency, assumed control of the army and police and called on residents to hand over their weapons.
And President Bush has nominated Goldman Sachs Chairman Henry Paulson to become Treasury Secretary replacing John Snow. The nomination took some by surprise because of Paulson’s views on the environment and global warming. In addition to his job at Goldman Sachs, Paulson served as chairman of the board of the Nature Conservancy — a group that strongly supported the Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gases. The group has maintained that the failure of the United States to enact Kyoto undermines the competitiveness of U.S. companies. Last month a group of free-market think tanks asked President Bush not to consider Paulson for the job because of his views on global warming.
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