The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a Montana law limiting corporate political spending, declining to revisit its landmark Citizens United ruling that opened the floodgates for corporate spending on elections. In a five-to-four ruling Monday, the justices reversed a lower court decision that upheld a century-old Montana law curbing corporate political spending. Many supporters of fair elections had hoped the court would reconsider Citizens United, but instead the Court said the 2010 ruling applies to Montana state law. In a dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer challenged the decision, writing: “Montana’s experience, like considerable experience elsewhere since the Court’s decision in Citizens United, casts grave doubt on the Court’s supposition that independent expenditures do not corrupt or appear to do so.”
The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld a key component of Arizona’s controversial anti-immigrant law while striking down three other provisions. In a long-awaited decision Monday, the court rejected S.B. 1070’s rules subjecting undocumented immigrants to criminal penalties for seeking work or failing to carry immigration papers at all times. In each case, the majority said those powers rest with the federal government, not with Arizona. But in a unanimous decision, the justices upheld the law’s controversial Section 2B, which requires police to check the immigration status of people they stop before releasing them. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said the decision “will lead to widespread civil rights violations until it is reviewed again and possibly struck down.”
In a separate ruling on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states may not impose mandatory life sentences without parole on children, even if they have been convicted of taking part in a murder. In a five-to-four decision, the justices ruled that such harsh sentencing for children violates the Eighth Amendment’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling does not mean the 2,500 juvenile offenders currently serving such sentences must be released, only that they now get the chance. The two cases at issue involved 14-year-old boys who had taken part in murders in Arkansas and Alabama.
A military judge has ordered prosecutors to hand over key documents to attorneys for the accused U.S. Army whistleblower Bradley Manning. On Monday, Judge Denise Lind ruled the government must share “damage assessment” reports that evaluated the impact of the publication of government diplomatic cables that Manning is accused of providing to WikiLeaks. Manning’s attorneys had filed the request after accusing prosecutors of withholding information that could help Manning’s case. News reports have suggested internal government reviews have found the leak caused minimal damage, contradicting prosecutors’ contention that Manning harmed national security and aided U.S. foes. In a statement, the Bradley Manning Support Network said: “Any ruling in favor of the truth is a victory for Bradley Manning, because the government’s strategy of abuse, obfuscation and outright deception simply won’t stand the light of day.”
Ecuador’s ambassador to Britain has returned home to discuss WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s bid for political amnesty. Assange has spent a week in the Ecuadorian embassy in London seeking to avoid extradition to Sweden where he faces questioning on allegations of sexual assault. Assange and his supporters say he is ultimately concerned with avoiding being sent to the United States to face punishment for WikiLeaks publishing classified U.S. diplomatic cables. Ecuadorian ambassador Anna Alban said Assange’s bid remains under review.
Anna Alban: “We have offered him the ease to survive — food and access to some people that come to visit him. We are diligently providing him with the basics. This is what we have undertaken while this matter is worked out and a decision is made according to the Ecuadorian government’s position.”
Latin American governments continue to denounce the ouster of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo in what has been called a parliamentary coup. On Friday, the Paraguayan Senate voted 39-to-4 to dismiss Lugo, saying he had failed to maintain public order. On Monday, the Union of South American Nations, UNASUR, announced an emergency meeting in Argentina for later this week to address Lugo’s removal. In Havana, Cuban President Raúl Castro criticized Paraguayan lawmakers for their effort against Lugo.
Cuban President Raúl Castro: “The man had nine months left in his presidency and did not even think about being reelected duly denied by the constitution. There was no reason to do what they’ve done. It was a coup d’état. It is unusual on this continent to see a coup of this kind, using the parliament while the opposition has the majority of the seats.”
On Monday, the Obama administration issued its first substantive comments on the removal of Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo, saying it does not believe his ouster constitutes a coup. Speaking to reporters in Washington, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland said the United States is concerned over the events in Paraguay but has not yet determined whether Lugo was removed illegitimately. Nuland also says no decision has been reached on whether to recall the U.S. ambassador to Paraguay, James Thessin. In addition, Nuland confirmed Lugo had met with Thessin on Thursday, the day of Lugo’s impeachment. A 2009 diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks shows U.S. officials believed Lugo’s opponents were planning to remove him through the same channels as they did last week. The cable described Lugo’s opponents’ “goal” as: “Capitalize on any Lugo missteps to break the political deadlock in Congress, impeach Lugo and assure their own political supremacy.”
Mexico is in the final week of campaigning before next Sunday’s presidential election. Former Mexico City Mayor Andrés Manuel López Obrador has surged in the polls to challenge front-runner Enrique Peña Nieto of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. López Obrador narrowly lost Mexico’s 2006 elections by less than a percentage point to outgoing Mexican President Felipe Calderón. In an address to supporters, López Obrador called for addressing inequality in Mexico.
Andrés Manuel López Obrador: “If we don’t combat poverty and inequality, we will not be a nation at peace. Frustration will continue, and the culmination of hate that we have seen recently will continue. Insecurity and violence will continue.”
Tropical Storm Debby is continuing to drench parts of Florida, where it has already spurred tornadoes and dumped torrential rain. This marks the first time in recorded history four tropical storms have been documented in the Atlantic before July 1. The storm halted 23 percent of oil and gas production in the region Sunday as workers were evacuated from drilling rigs and production plants in the Gulf of Mexico. In mid-May, Tropical Storm Alberto became the earliest tropical storm in the Atlantic in nearly a decade.
The pension fund giant TIAA-CREF has removed the corporate construction giant Caterpillar from its Social Choice Equity fund following long-term protests by activists for Palestinian rights. The TIAA-CREF and other pension funds have come under pressure to remove Caterpillar over the company’s ties to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Caterpillar has supplied the bulldozers that have razed thousands of Palestinian homes, destroyed Palestinians’ arable land, and notoriously killed the U.S. activist Rachel Corrie in 2003. The decision removes more than $73 million in pensioners’ money from Caterpillar’s stock. In a statement, the group Jewish Voice for Peace said: “By selling weaponized bulldozers to Israel, Caterpillar is complicit in Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights. We’re glad to see that the socially responsible investment community … is starting to take appropriate action.”
In Portland, Texas, two teenage girls who were in a same-sex relationship have been shot in the head, one of them fatally. Nineteen-year-old Mollie Judith Olgin was found dead in a grassy area at a park on Saturday with 18-year-old Mary Christine Chapa, who was rushed to a hospital. Chapa underwent surgery and was listed in serious but stable condition. The two women had been in a relationship for five months. Authorities said they do not yet know whether the young women’s sexuality was a factor, but said the crime did not appear to be random.
Former President Jimmy Carter has issued one of his most forceful criticisms to date of post-9/11 U.S. foreign policy. In a New York Times opinion piece called “America’s Shameful Record on Human Rights,” Carter writes: “At a time when popular revolutions are sweeping the globe, the United States should be strengthening, not weakening, basic rules of law and principles of justice enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But instead of making the world safer, America’s violation of international human rights abets our enemies and alienates our friends.” Carter also singles out the Obama administration’s expansion of targeted killings, adding: “Revelations that top officials are targeting people to be assassinated abroad, including American citizens, are only the most recent, disturbing proof of how far our nation’s violation of human rights has extended.”
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