Daily Archives: November 19, 2011

On This Day…

In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address as he dedicated a national cemetery at the site of the Civil War battlefield in Pennsylvania.

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Gadhafi’s Son Captured

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of slain Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, was captured in the Libyan desert after weeks on the run, senior military commanders said Saturday.

He was captured by revolutionary fighters in the western town of Obari, near the Algerian border, the commanders told CNN.

Saif al-Islam Gadhafi is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity, including murder and persecution.

His father was killed last month near Sirte after his capture by forces loyal to the National Transitional Council.

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Prosecutors Appeal Medical Release of Khmer Rouge “First Lady”

Trial Chamber 31 January 2011

Image by Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia via Flickr

Prosecutors at Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge tribunal on Friday appealed against a decision to free the regime’s former “First Lady” after she was deemed unfit for trial.

Judges on Thursday ordered Ieng Thirith to be released after medical experts said she suffers from memory loss and most likely has Alzheimer’s disease.

“We have appealed her immediate release,” international co-prosecutor Andrew Cayley told AFP.

The ruling on the seventy-nine-year-old’s fitness came just days before the tribunal was to hear opening statements in her long-awaited trial.

The former social affairs minister is facing charges of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity over the deaths of two million people during the movement’s reign.

Ieng Thirith will remain locked up while the Supreme Court ponders the appeal. She has been held along with her husband and former foreign affairs minister Ieng Sary and two other top regime leaders.

Questions have long been raised over the mental state of the regime’s “First Lady”, who famously lost her cool during a 2009 court appearance, telling the prosecutor he would be “cursed to the seventh circle of hell”.

Trial chamber judges said in a statement Thursday that the “continued detention of an accused who lacks capacity to understand proceedings against her… would not serve the interests of justice.”

While they agreed about her mental health affliction, they were split about what to do with Ieng Thirith after staying the proceedings against her. Cambodian judges suggested she should be hospitalised for six months before re-assessing her fitness, while international judges said there was no legal basis to keep her locked up. In the absence of an agreement, international law prevailed.

In their appeal document, prosecutors said judges had failed to exhaust all possible options to improve the suspect’s condition.

Freeing Ieng Thirith would likely cause a stir in Cambodia, where many victims are still haunted by the horrors of the regime.

Led by Pol Pot, who died in 1998, the Khmer Rouge wiped out a quarter of the population through starvation, overwork, and execution trying to create an agrarian utopia.

As social affairs minister, Ieng Thirith, who was Pol Pot’s sister-in-law, is believed to have been involved in some of the communist movement’s most drastic policies.

In the court’s first trial, prison chief Kaing Guek Eav was sentenced to thirty years in jail for overseeing the deaths of 15,000 people. His case is under appeal.

Amid fears that not all the elderly accused in the long-awaited second trial will live to see a verdict, the court last month divided their complex case into a series of smaller trials to speed up proceedings.

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Voter Turnout Is Low; States Want It Lower

US Electoral college map

Image via Wikipedia

Over the past century, our nation expanded voting rights and knocked down barriers to full electoral participation. In 2011, that momentum shifted.

State governments enacted new laws making it harder to register or vote. Some states require voters to show photo identification that as many as one in ten voters do not have. Other states have cut back on early voting, a popular innovation used by millions of Americans. Two states reversed earlier reforms and again disenfranchised millions who have past criminal convictions but who are now taxpaying members of the community. Still others made it more difficult for citizens to register to vote.

These new restrictions fall mostly on young, minority, and low-income voters, as well as on voters with disabilities. This changes may tilt the political terrain for the 2012 election. Based on the Brennan Center’s analysis of the nineteen laws and two executive actions that passed in fourteen states, it is clear that:

  • These new laws could make it much harder for more than five million eligible voters to cast ballots in 2012.
  • The states that have already cut back on voting rights will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63% of the 270 needed to win the presidency.
  • Of the twelve likely battleground states, five have already cut back on voting rights, and two more are currently considering new restrictions.

Although it is too early to quantify how the changes will impact voter turnout, they will be a hindrance to many voters when the United States continues to turn out less than two-thirds of its eligible citizens in Presidential elections and less than half in midterm elections.

Via Brennan Center for Justice.

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Oklahoma State Basketball Coaches Killed in Plane Crash

This is the Student Union in Oklahoma State Un...

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Oklahoma State University women’s basketball coach Kurt Budke and assistant women’s basketball coach Miranda Serna have been killed in a plane crash in Arkansas.

Two others, including the pilot, were also killed in Thursday night’s crash. There were no survivors.

Mr. Budke and Ms. Serna were on a recruiting trip, the university said in a statement.

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Peruvian Government May Have Coerced Women into Sterilizations

Anti-Fujimori graffiti

Image by The Advocacy Project via Flickr

Hundreds of women in Peru who believe they’re infertile may be the victims of a government policy that led to their sterilization. There are about 2,000 documented cases of women who had their tubes tied without consent under a program meant to offer birth control to deal with the country’s high birth rate.

CNN reports that Special Prosecutor Victor Cubas reopened an investigation into allegations that President Alberto Fujimori‘s government ordered sterilization quotas in the 1990s. About 300,000 women participated in a birth control campaign that involved several methods, including “voluntary contraceptive surgery.” The problem is that many women say they were coerced into signing consent forms or given the surgery while doctors were performing another procedure.

Human rights attorney Rossy Salazar says:

What happened was that [the government] instituted a policy of quotas, in a way forcing and giving incentives to doctors, gynecologists and nurses to sterilize a minimum of three women every month.

The attorney general’s office says that the number of victims is probably much higher. It’s also believed that the plan targeted poor rural women who don’t speak Spanish.

Officials from Fujimori’s administration insist they didn’t commit any crimes and didn’t have quotas, but former health minister Marino Costa Bauer says:

Of course there were problems … I’m not going to deny it. I have never denied that there were problems. But what did we do about it? First, we investigated all of the accusations that were filed; absolutely all of them without exception.

The cases might have been looked into at one point, but in 2009, all the investigations were shelved until the government of President Ollanta Humala had them reopened.

Victoria Vigo is the only woman who’s won a forced sterilization case in Peru. She says that after she went to the hospital to deliver her third child, she wasn’t able to conceive again. Three months later, a doctor confirmed that her tubes had been tied. After a trial that dragged on for years, she was awarded $2,750, and her doctor didn’t serve any jail time. Now, Ms. Vigo’s participating in the effort to prove that what happened to her wasn’t an isolated incident, but part of a government plan to deprive women of their reproductive choices. “As a woman, I feel indignant and that’s why 15 years ago I said no woman should remain silent when her body has been violated,” she says.

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It’s Official: House Republicans Declare Pizza a Vegetable

Official Portrait of President Ronald Reagan

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Thanks to House Republicans, pizza is now a vegetable. That’s right: House Republicans voted this week to classify tomato sauce as a vegetable when it’s served on pizza to America’s school children. It’s enough to warm Herman Cain’s heart.

In their latest attempt to block everything suggested by President Obama, Republicans have chosen to ignore the childhood obesity epidemic and undermine the President’s initiative on physical fitness and healthy eating.

I love a good slice of pizza, but this is just ridiculous. Could restoring Ronald Reagan’s declaration that ketchup is a vegetable be next?

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