Iran’s Supreme Leader Backs Vote Outcome
In his first public response to days of protests, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has defended Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the rightful winner of last week’s presidential election. Addressing thousands of people at Tehran University, the ayatollah appealed for calm and called for an end to the protests calling for a new election. Khamenei’s comments come after six days of massive street demonstrations organized by backers of presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi. On Thursday hundreds of thousands of Mousavi supporters rallied in Tehran to mourn those killed over the past week. Meanwhile the Iranian human rights attorney and Nobel Peace Prizer winner Shirin Ebadi has called for new elections under the watch of international monitors.
Shirin Ebadi: “I think that if new elections are organised but if there are no international observers, no matter what the outcome of these new elections would be, it could be protested and rejected by one or the other parties.”
Senate Approves $106 Billion War Funding Bill
The U.S. Senate has overwhelmingly approved a $106 billion emergency spending bill to expand the war in Afghanistan and to continue the war in Iraq. The vote was 91 – 5. Voting against the war-spending bill was Democrat Russ Feingold, Independent Bernie Sanders and three Republicans: Jim Demint, Mike Enzi and Tom Coburn. The spending bill also includes $420 million for the Mexican government to fight the drug war as well as increased funding for the International Monetary Fund. The House passed a similar war-spending bill earlier this week. Much of the spending bill will go toward expanding the U.S. war in Afghanistan. On Thursday Defense Secretary Robert Gates admitted civilian casualties in Afghanistan have become a major strategic vulnerability in that war.
Robert Gates: “It is clear that we need to do much more to overcome what I believe is one of our greatest strategic vulnerabilities. The Afghan people must be reassured that US and NATO forces are there as friends, partners and, along with Afghan security forces, their protectors as well.”
U.S. Moves Missile Defense System to Hawaii
Defense Secretary Gates has said the U.S. is moving ground-to-air missile defense systems to Hawaii as tensions escalate between Washington and North Korea Robert Gates said that the U.S. is concerned that Pyongyang might soon fire a missile toward Hawaii.
Supreme Court Denies Post-conviction DNA Testing
Prisoners attempting to challenge their convictions have been dealt a major setback by the Supreme Court. In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled Thursday that criminals do not have a constitutional right to DNA testing after their conviction. In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts said it is up to the states and Congress to decide who has a right to testing that might prove innocence long after conviction. In the dissenting opinion, John Paul Stevens wrote QUOTE “there is no reason to deny access to the evidence and there are many reasons to provide it, not least of which is a fundamental concern in ensuring that justice has been done.” The Innocence Project says DNA testing has exonerated 240 people nationwide, at least 17 of whom had been sentenced to die.
Court Ruling Limits Workplace Age-Discrimination Lawsuits
The Supreme Court has also issued a ruling that will make it much harder for older workers to win workplace age-discrimination claims. In another 5-4 decision, the court ruled that workers bear the full burden of proving that age was the deciding factor in their dismissal or demotion. The business community praised the decision, while the National Senior Citizens Law Center and AARP sharply criticized it.
Immigrant Rights Group Criticize Lax Sentencing in Penn. Murder Case
Immigrant rights groups are outraged over the sentencing of two white teenagers involved in the beating death of a Mexican immigrant in the town of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. The teenagers will serve as little as six months in jail. Last month an all-white jury exonerated the two former high school football players of the most serious charges in connection with the fatal beating.
100 U.S-Born Children Filed Suit to Block Deportations Of Their Parents
100 U.S.-born children have filed a lawsuit seeking to halt the deportations of their parents until Congress overhauls U.S. immigration laws. The Miami-based American Fraternity organization argues that the constitutional rights of these children are being violated because they will likely have to leave the country if their parents are deported.
14 Anti-Coal Activists Arrested at West Virginia Mine
In West Virginia, 14 anti-coal protesters were arrested Thursday when then attempted to scale a 150-foot-high excavating machine at a mine owned by Massey Energy and unfurled a huge banner that read, “Stop Mountaintop Removal.” The piece of equipment, known as a dragline, can remove house-sized chunks of blasted rock and earth. The protest shut down Massey’s Twilight Mine for several hours.
LA Teachers End 24-Day Hunger Strike
In Los Angeles, a group of teachers have ended their 24-day hunger strike to protest budget cuts. The teachers said they will now organize a campaign to recall some members of the Los Angeles Unified School Board. Thousands of Los Angeles teachers may soon be fired as the district faces a $700-million budget gap.
Peru’s Congress Overturns Land Laws
The Peruvian Congress has overturned two controversial land laws that led to an indigenous uprising and dozens of deaths in the ensuing police crackdown. The laws would have opened large areas of the Peruvian Amazon to logging, dams and oil drilling. Indigenous leader Daysi Zapata praised the decision by the Peruvian Congress.
Daysi Zapata: “Today is a very historic day for all indigenous people and the entire country of Peru. We, the indigenous peoples, are present here because we believe that the demands of the indigenous peoples were just.”
Texas Billionaire Stanford Surrenders to FBI
Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford has surrendered to FBI agents. The chairman of the Stanford Financial Group is to appear in court this morning. Earlier this year the Securities and Exchange Commission filed civil charges against Stanford and his top executives of conducting an $8 billion fraud.
Court Overturns Ban on Military Recruitment of Minors
In California a federal judge has struck down laws in two Northern California cities banning military recruitment of minors. Voters in Arcata and Eureka passed the laws last November.
Senate Apologizes For Slavery
The U.S. Senate has unanimously approved a resolution apologizing for slavery and segregation of African-Americans. A disclaimer tacked on at the end of the bill said nothing in the resolution authorizes or supports reparations for slavery.
Aung San Suu Kyi Turns 64
Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi turns 64 today. She remains under house arrest. Activists across the world are marking her birthday with vigils and protests.
Hortensia Bussi, 94, Widow of Salvador Allende, Dies
And Hortensia Bussi, the widow of former Chilean President Salvador Allende, has died at the age of 94.