38,000 Sign Papers to Overturn S. Dakota Abortion Ban

May 31, 2006

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.

U.S. Sends 1500 More Troops Into Iraq; Italy to Pull Out All Troops

May 31, 2006

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.

Record Number of Multiple Fatality Bombings Recorded in Iraq

May 31, 2006

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.

Over 50 Die in Series of Iraq Bombings

May 31, 2006

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.

UN Says AIDS Epidemic Is Beginning to Slow Down

May 31, 2006

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.

  • Kofi Annan: “We are unfortunately nowhere near getting on top of the epidemic and the problem is still very, very, very serious and we need to continue to be vigilant and to redouble our efforts, particularly with young people and of course also press for the protection of women. Today AIDS has a women’s’ face, more than fifty percent of those being infected are women and young people.”

Peter Piot, the executive director of UNAIDS added that the United Nations must focus its efforts on Africa.

  • Peter Piot: “The whole region still suffers from a legacy from the Apartheid days from a division of labor that meant that men come from other countries, from rural areas, live in hostels, in compounds with each other and in other words, families are broken up. Secondly, the fundamental driver of the epidemic is that of gender inequality. Inequality between men and women and the fact that women are not in control of their sexuality.”

Supreme Court Rules Against Gov’t Whistleblowers

May 31, 2006

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.

Senate Confirms Telecom Lobbyist to FCC

May 31, 2006

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.

GOP Official Involved in Phone-Jamming Scandal Released From Jail

May 31, 2006

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.

600,000 Students Walk Out of Classes in Chile

May 31, 2006

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.

UN: 100,000 Displaced by Violence in East TImor

May 31, 2006

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.

  • Xanana Gusmao: “I appeal to the people to surrender voluntarily the weapons, the ammunitions, the grenades, the military equipment and even the machetes, the other, the other instruments to hurt other people to the authorities but essentially to the international forces.”

Bush Nominates Henry Paulson to Become Treasury Secretary

May 31, 2006

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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