The U.S. Supreme Court has struck down a critical portion of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act. In a 5-to-4 decision, justices ruled Congress has used obsolete information in continuing to require nine states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval for changes to voting rules. The Voting Rights Act was challenged by Shelby County, Alabama, which argued the preclearance requirement has outlived its usefulness. Just two hours after the ruling, Texas began advancing a voter ID law and redistricting map that were blocked last year for discriminating against African-American and Latino residents.
President Obama has unveiled a new climate plan featuring a series of executive actions to tackle global warming. Speaking in Washington, Obama said addressing climate change is a fight for the survival of future generations.
President Obama: “The question now is whether we will have the courage to act before it’s too late. And how we answer will have a profound impact on the world that we leave behind, not just to you, but to your children and to your grandchildren. As a president, as a father and as an American, I’m here to say we need to act.”
Obama confirmed he will impose the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants. The move will not require congressional approval, meaning Obama can bypass expected Republican-led opposition. Obama also outlined a broad range of measures to protect coastlines and cities from rising sea levels, and vowed to promote the development of renewable energy. And in what some interpreted as an indication he plans to reject the Keystone XL oil pipeline, Obama said the project will be decided by its “net effects” on global warming.
President Obama: “Allowing the Keystone pipeline to be built requires a finding that doing so would be in our nation’s interest. And our national interest will be served only if this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. The net effects of the pipeline’s impact on our climate will be absolutely critical to determining whether this project is allowed to go forward.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin has ruled out handing National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden over to the United States. On Tuesday, Putin confirmed Snowden remains in a “transit” area of a Moscow airport, but said he is free to leave, having not gone through Russian customs. Putin said: “The sooner he chooses his final destination, the better it would be for us and for himself.” Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia to send Snowden to U.S. custody, despite the absence of a formal extradition treaty.
Secretary of State John Kerry: “We would simply call on our friends in Russia to respect the fact that a partner nation, a co-member of the Permanent Five of the United Nations, has made a normal request under legal systems for law to be upheld. And we would hope that as a nation, as a sovereign nation, Russia would not see its interests in siding with a — with a person who is accused of breaking the law in another nation and who is a fugitive from justice according to international standards of law.”
Snowden’s final destination remains unknown, though he has formally applied for asylum in Ecuador.
The rift over Edward Snowden comes as the United States and Russia continue to split over the crisis in Syria. A round of talks in Geneva on Tuesday ended with no agreement on when to hold an international peace conference and whom to invite. The two sides have clashed over whether to include Iran in the talks and which parties would represent the Syrian opposition. The U.N. envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, said differences among Syrian rebels would delay any potential conference at least through July.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “I doubt whether the conference will take place in July. The opposition are — they are meeting. I think their next meeting is on the 4th and 5th of July, so I don’t think they will be ready.”
According to the United Nations, more than 93,000 people have died and some 1.7 million people have been displaced since the Syrian conflict erupted in March 2011.
The family of former South African President Nelson Mandela appears to be making plans for his death as he remains in critical condition. Mandela was hospitalized more than two weeks ago suffering from a recurrent lung infection. On Tuesday, Mandela’s family held a meeting at his ancestral home to discuss what they called “sensitive family matters,” potentially plans for his burial. President Obama is due to visit South Africa this week as part of a three-country African trip that begins today.
In Texas, Democratic lawmakers and pro-choice demonstrators have blocked a bill that would have shuttered nearly all the state’s abortion clinics. Senate Bill 5 calls for banning abortion at 20 weeks and imposing harsh regulations that would force all but five Texas clinics to close down. On Tuesday morning, State Senator Wendy Davis rose to her feet to launch a filibuster that lasted nearly 11 hours before Republican senators managed to cut her off. As the midnight deadline for the special session drew near, hundreds of protesters in the gallery erupted into cheers that drowned out the proceedings, but Republican lawmakers attempted to claim they had passed the bill anyway. Hours later, Lieutenant Gov. David Dewhurst conceded the vote had not followed legislative procedures, blaming what he called “unruly mob using Occupy Wall Street tactics.” Despite the overnight victory, Texas Gov. Rick Perry could still call a second special session and tell lawmakers to reconsider Senate Bill 5.
At least 120 people have been arrested in the latest in a series of protests against the agenda of North Carolina’s Republican-controlled legislature. The NAACP has been holding what it calls “Moral Mondays,” a weekly demonstration opposing Republican cuts to social programs, restrictions of voting rights, and rejecting Medicaid expansion under President Obama’s healthcare law. The state is preparing to end unemployment benefits for around 70,000 people at the end of the month. After eight weeks, Monday’s arrest count of 120 brought the total number of demonstrators facing charges to nearly 600. Republican supporters are stepping up their targeting of the protests. Last week, the right-wing Civitas Institute began publishing photographs and private information of the arrested demonstrators.
Democratic Rep. Ed Markey has won a special election in Massachusetts to fill the Senate seat vacated by Secretary of State John Kerry. Markey defeated Republican rival Gabriel Gomez with 54 percent of the vote. His victory preserves Democrats’ 54-to-46 Senate majority.
Federal officials have denied a compassionate release to the cancer-stricken civil rights attorney Lynne Stewart. The 73-year-old imprisoned grandmother is fighting stage IV cancer that has metastasized, spreading to her lymph nodes, shoulder, bones and lungs. Stewart is serving a 10-year sentence in a federal prison near Fort Worth, Texas. In 2005, she was found guilty of distributing press releases on behalf of her jailed client, Egyptian cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh,” who is serving a life sentence for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks in 1995. Stewart’s prison warden had recommended that she be released to undergo cancer treatment. But Stewart’s family says it has been told by the Federal Bureau of Prisons that her bid for release was denied on the grounds that her “health is improving.” In a statement, the International Action Center called the government’s claim “cynical and false,” and said it will hold a series of protests in the coming weeks to demand Stewart’s release.