< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: December 2006

Friday, December 22, 2006

American Farm Subsidies

The Washington Post has an interesting article about an effort to restructure farm subsidies. Below is a portion of the article:

Bread for the World, an anti-hunger organization, has brought religious leaders to Washington to lobby for cuts in subsidies, which they argue can lead to a glut on world markets that hurts poor farmers abroad. The Republican-leaning Club for Growth says subsidies stand in the way of a global trade deal that would help U.S. business. A politically potent coalition of unsubsidized fruit and vegetable growers from California and Florida want their share of the pie. Even the National Corn Growers Association, with 33,000 members, advocates an overhaul.

But these groups will be going up against one of Washington's most effective lobbies as Congress takes up a new farm bill next year.

The farm bloc is an efficient, tightknit club of farmers, rural banks, insurance companies, real estate operators and tractor dealers. Many of its Washington lobbyists are former lawmakers or congressional aides. Harnessed to dozens of grass-roots groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation, the National Cotton Council and the USA Rice Federation, farm-state lawmakers -- the "aggies," as they call themselves -- fight with the fervor of the embattled.

Click here to read the full article.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Bush Signs India Nuclear Law

From the Washington Post:

President Bush signed legislation yesterday permitting civilian nuclear cooperation with India, reversing three decades of nonproliferation policy in the interest of redefining U.S. relations with the world's largest democracy and reshaping the geopolitical balance as China asserts itself in Asia.

Bush, who has made the fight against the spread of nuclear weapons a centerpiece of his foreign policy, persuaded Congress to make an exception for India despite its not having signed the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Although critics warn that the deal could spark a regional arms race, Bush called it a landmark moment that finally relegates Cold War-era tensions to the past.

Click here to read the article.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Lethal Injection Is On Hold in 2 States

From the Washington Post:

Executions by lethal injection were suspended in Florida and ordered revamped in California on Friday, as the chemical method once billed as a more humane way of killing the condemned came under mounting scrutiny over the pain it may cause.

Gov. Jeb Bush (R) ordered the suspension in Florida after a botched execution in which it took 34 minutes and a second injection to kill convicted murderer Angel Nieves Diaz. A state medical examiner said that needles used to carry the poison had passed through the prisoner's veins and delivered the three-chemical mix into the tissues of his arm.

In California, a federal judge ruled that the state must overhaul its lethal-injection procedures, calling its current protocol unconstitutional because it may inflict unacceptable levels of pain.

Judge Jeremy D. Fogel of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ordered the state to revise its procedures and consider eliminating the use of two drugs: pancuronium bromide, which causes paralysis, and potassium chloride, which causes cardiac arrest.

The judge did not order executions halted, though they have been effectively on hold since February while he conducted a review.

The "pervasive lack of professionalism" in the executions, Fogel wrote, "at the least is very disturbing."

More than 30 states, including Virginia and Maryland, use the same three-drug sequence for lethal injections. Groups opposed to the death penalty have had increasing success arguing that the pain the cocktail inflicts is unconstitutional "cruel and unusual punishment."

Click here to read the article.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Homeless in state: 11,890

From the Rocky Mountain News:

The first statewide summertime survey of homelessness in 17 years found 11,890 people living everywhere from emergency shelters in Denver to potato cellars in rural Colorado.

The survey, conducted on Aug. 28 by more than 400 volunteers, provided a one-day snapshot of homelessness, not just in urban areas but in places not traditionally thought of as havens for the homeless.

"We're going to have homeless numbers in communities that didn't think they had homeless," said Kathi Williams, director of the Colorado Division of Housing, which helped coordinate the count along with several other agencies.

The findings released Wednesday are preliminary and contained no data yet on exactly where the homeless were counted. Those figures are expected to be contained in a full report in January.

The preliminary results also found that 75 percent of those surveyed indicated they had been homeless more than once. The survey also found that 60 percent of the homeless were families with children.

Click here to access the full article.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Persistently Poor

From the Washington Post:

Despite an intensified campaign against poverty, World Bank programs have failed to lift incomes in many poor countries over the past decade, leaving tens of millions of people suffering stagnating or declining living standards, according to a report released Thursday by the bank's autonomous assessment arm.

Among 25 poor countries probed in detail by the bank's Independent Evaluation Group, only 11 experienced reductions in poverty from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, while 14 had the same or worsening rates over that term. The group said the sample was representative of the global picture.

Click here to read the full article.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Peacekeeping Force For Somalia Approved

From the Washington Post:

The U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a resolution authorizing an East African peacekeeping force to prevent an alliance of Islamic militias from overthrowing Somalia's fragile interim government.

The decision marked the first time the 15-nation council has backed a foreign intervention in Somalia since U.S. and U.N. troops withdrew from the country in the 1990s. It reflected fears that Islamic militias, known as the Islamic Courts Union, may be poised to topple the country's internationally recognized government.

Click here to read the full article.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Congress Addresses Voting; Advocates Hold Breath

From NPR:

The debate over electronic voting machines is heating up. A draft government report concludes that paperless touchscreen voting is not secure. And questions continue over 18,000 ballots cast in Sarasota County, Fla. This has boosted efforts in Congress to require paper backups on electronic voting equipment, but some experts think that will only further complicate elections.

Sarasota election workers spent hours today at a warehouse testing five of the county's touch screen voting machines. They're trying to figure out why thousands of ballots showed no votes for a congressional race in the midterm elections.

Observers outside the room listened through speakers as the workers were instructed on how to re-enact the November vote, in an effort to see if the machines might be at fault. An answer isn't expected before next week. But Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) thinks no one will ever know.

"The problem cannot be resolved now without a paper trail," he says. He claims there's no way to verify the electronic results without some kind of paper backup to compare results. His argument has been bolstered by a draft report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The agency is helping to develop federal guidelines for voting equipment, although it's not clear the NIST findings will be adopted. Holt says something has to be done soon, even if, on the surface, appears that the midterm elections went relatively well.

"For all we know, there are other examples maybe dozens it could be...where maybe 18,000 votes are not missing, but maybe 400 votes or 1,000 votes are missing," says Holt.

The congressman already has more than half of his House colleagues as cosponsors for his bill to require paper backups on electronic voting machines. He expects quick action next year.

In the Senate, California Democrat Dianne Feinstein plans to introduce a similar bill in January. And aides say she'll hold aggressive hearings on the issue as the new chairman of the Senate Rules Committee.

"The most important thing for Congress is to take a deep breath," says Dan Tokaji, an election-law expert at Ohio State University. He worries that momentum is building for something that could prove to be a mistake.

"Passing paper trails at this stage, based on what we know right now is really fool's gold. It may provide an initial sense of confidence. But that confidence won't be long-lasting unless we resolve some deeper issues."

Issues such as adequate poll worker training and better voter access. Tokaji notes that there's strong evidence that the problem in Sarasota wasn't due to the machines. Researchers from Dartmouth and UCLA concluded last week that many of the county's voters probably overlooked the race because of poor ballot design.

In addition, lots of election officials complain that paper audit trails cause more problems than they solve. Georgia Secretary of State Kathy Cox spoke at a forum this week in Washington.

"If the paper jams and the voter doesn't know what to look for, the election poll worker may not understand there's a jam," Cox said. "When you go to count your paper component, it's not going to match your electronic component because there was a jam. So the paper is not a panacea."

In fact, a study in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, found that 10 percent of paper ballots attached to its touchscreen machines were blank, ripped or otherwise uncountable. That's causing local jurisdictions to take matters into their own hands as the debate over how to make electronic voting more reliable continues.

Cuyahoga County commissioners this week said they want to ditch their new touchscreen voting equipment before the next election. Voters in Sarasota County agreed in November to do the same thing.

Click here to access NPR's website.


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