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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

U.S. Report: More Nicotine in Cigarettes

From the Washington Post:

The level of nicotine that smokers typically consume per cigarette has risen about 10 percent in the past six years, making it harder to quit and easier to get hooked, according to a new report released Tuesday by the Massachusetts Department of Health.

The study shows a steady climb in the amount of nicotine delivered to the lungs of smokers regardless of brand, with overall nicotine yields increasing by about 10 percent.

Massachusetts is one of three states to require tobacco companies to submit information about nicotine testing according to its specifications and the only state with data going back to 1998.

Click here to read tbe full article.

Calif. to Cap Greenhouse Gas Emissions

From the Washington Post:

California would become the first state to impose a limit on all greenhouse gas emissions, including those from industrial plants, under a landmark deal reached Wednesday by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and legislative Democrats.

The agreement marks a clear break with the Bush administration and puts California on a path to reducing its emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases by an estimated 25 percent by 2020.

The bill still needs lawmakers' approval, but that appears likely, given that Democrats control the Legislature.

Click here to read the entire article.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Bush to Meet with Autocrat

From the Washington Post:

President Bush launched an initiative this month to combat international kleptocracy, the sort of high-level corruption by foreign officials that he called "a grave and corrosive abuse of power" that "threatens our national interest and violates our values." The plan, he said, would be "a critical component of our freedom agenda."

Three weeks later, the White House is making arrangements to host the leader of Kazakhstan, an autocrat who runs a nation that is anything but free and who has been accused by U.S. prosecutors of pocketing the bulk of $78 million in bribes from an American businessman. Not only will President Nursultan Nazarbayev visit the White House, people involved say, but he also will travel to the Bush family compound in Maine.

Nazarbayev's upcoming visit, according to analysts and officials, offers a case study in the competing priorities of the Bush administration at a time when the president has vowed to fight for democracy and against corruption around the globe. Nazarbayev has banned opposition parties, intimidated the press and profited from his post, according to the U.S. government. But he also sits atop massive oil reserves that have helped open doors in Washington.

Nazarbayev is hardly the only controversial figure received at the top levels of the Bush administration. In April, the president welcomed to the Oval Office the president of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, who has been accused of rigging elections. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of Equatorial Guinea, who has been found to have millions of dollars stashed in overseas bank accounts.

Click here to read the entire article.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Amnesty International Accuses Israel of War Crimes in Lebanon

August 24, 2006
Human Rights Group Accuses Israel of War Crimes
BEIRUT, Lebanon, Aug. 23 —

Amnesty International accused Israel on Wednesday of war crimes in its monthlong battle with Hezbollah, saying its bombing campaign amounted to indiscriminate attacks on Lebanon’s civilian infrastructure and population.
“Many of the violations examined in this report are war crimes that give rise to individual criminal responsibility,” Amnesty International, the London-based human rights group, said in a report on the Israeli campaign. “They include directly attacking civilian objects and carrying out indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks.”
“During more than four weeks of ground and aerial bombardment by the Israeli armed forces, the country’s infrastructure suffered destruction on a catastrophic scale,” the report said, contending this was “an integral part of the military strategy.”
“Israeli forces pounded buildings into the ground,” the report went on, “reducing entire neighborhoods to rubble and turning villages and towns into ghost towns as their inhabitants fled the bombardments.
“Main roads, bridges and petrol stations were blown to bits. Entire families were killed in airstrikes on their homes or in their vehicles while fleeing the aerial assaults on their villages. Scores lay buried beneath the rubble of their houses for weeks, as the Red Cross and other rescue workers were prevented from accessing the areas by continuing Israeli strikes.”
Mark Regev, the spokesman for Israel’s Foreign Ministry, categorically rejected the claim that Israel had “acted outside international norms or international legality concerning the rules of war.” Unlike Hezbollah, he said, Israel did not target the civilian population, nor did it indiscriminately target Lebanese civilian infrastructure.

He added: “Our job was made very difficult by the fact that Hezbollah adopted a deliberate policy of positioning itself inside civilian areas and breaking the first fundamental distinction under the rules of war, by deliberately endangering civilians. Under the rules of war, you are legally entitled to target infrastructure that your enemy is exploiting for its military campaign.”
Citing a variety of sources, the Amnesty International report said Israel’s air force had carried out more than 7,000 air attacks, while the navy had fired 2,500 shells. The human toll, according to Lebanese government statistics, was estimated at 1,183 deaths, mostly civilians, about a third of them children; 4,054 wounded; and 970,000 people displaced, out of a population of a little under four million.

“Statements from the Israeli military officials seem to confirm that the destruction of the infrastructure was indeed a goal of the military campaign,” the report said. It said that “in village after village the pattern was similar: the streets, especially main streets, were scarred with artillery craters along their length. In some cases, cluster bomb impacts were identified.”
“Houses were singled out for precision-guided missile attacks and were destroyed, totally or partially, as a result,” the report said. “Business premises such as supermarkets or food stores and auto service stations and petrol stations were targeted.

“With the electricity cut off and food and other supplies not coming into the villages, the destruction of supermarkets and petrol stations played a crucial role in forcing local residents to leave.”

The Amnesty International report said the widespread destruction of apartments, houses, electricity and water services, roads, bridges, factories and ports, in addition to several statements by Israeli officials, suggested a policy of punishing the Lebanese government and the civilian population in an effort to get them to turn against Hezbollah.
“The evidence strongly suggests that the extensive destruction of public works, power systems, civilian homes and industry was a deliberate and integral part of the military strategy rather than collateral damage,” the report said.

It also noted a statement from the Israeli military chief of staff, Lt. Gen Dan Halutz, calling Hezbollah a “cancer” that Lebanon must get rid of “because if they don’t, their country will pay a very high price.”
The Amnesty International report came as a number of international aid and human rights agencies used the current lull in fighting to assess the damage.
The United Nations Development Program said the attacks had obliterated most of the progress Lebanon had made in recovering from the devastation of the civil war years. “Fifteen years of work have been wiped out in a month,” Jean Fabre, a spokesman for the organization in Geneva, told reporters.
Another urgent issue, aid groups say, is the number of unexploded bomblets from cluster bombs littering the southern villages. Tekimiti Gilbert, the operations chief of a
United Nations mine removal team, told reporters in Tyre: “Up to now there are at least 170 cluster bomb strikes in south Lebanon. It’s a huge problem. There are obvious dangers with people, children, cars. People are tripping over these things.”
United Nations officials say at least five children have been killed by picking up the bomblets scattered about by the cluster bombs.
Despite the cease-fire, southern Lebanon remained tense on Wednesday. Three Lebanese soldiers were killed trying to defuse a rocket that had not exploded. An Israeli soldier was killed and two others wounded when, according to the Israeli military, they walked over a minefield that Israel had previously buried.
The Israeli military also said it had fired artillery rounds from the disputed territory of Shabaa Farms to the Lebanese village of Shabaa. There were no reports of casualties.
Greg Myre contributed reporting from Jerusalem for this article.

Visit http://www.amnesty.org/for access to the entire report.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

State Dept. Probes Use of Israeli Bombs

From the Washington Post:

The State Department said yesterday that it has begun a preliminary investigation into allegations that Israel violated U.S. rules prohibiting the use of American-made cluster bombs in civilian areas during the recent war in Lebanon.
State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said the investigation began after human rights groups complained that cluster weapons had been found across Lebanon and were responsible for many civilian deaths.

"We have heard the allegations they were used, and we are taking a look at that," he said.
Three types of U.S.-made cluster bombs are said to have been used by Israel. Israel also makes its own cluster munitions.
The State Department Office of Defense Trade Controls will verify whether U.S.-made cluster bombs were used during the conflict with Hezbollah and will examine whether the weapons -- which scatter small bombs, or "bomblets," across wide areas -- were used "inappropriately," Gallegos said.

Click here to read the entire article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Child Labor in Africa

The New York Times has an interesting article about child labor in Africa, which can be accessed by clicking here. One amazingly sad part of the article reads:

Across the globe, the number of children forced to work is in sharp decline.

But sub-Saharan Africa, in places like Lusaka and for children like Alone, is the exception. Here, more than one in four children below age 14 works, whether full time or for a few hours a week, nearly the same percentage as the worldwide average in 1960.

It is by far the greatest proportion of working children in the world.

By the United Nations’ latest estimate, more than 49 million sub-Saharan children age 14 and younger worked in 2004, 1.3 million more than at the turn of the century just four years earlier.

Friday, August 18, 2006

An Interesting Idea

Check out yourquestion.org, an interesting website and idea devoted to sharing information and knowledge. The website asks for questions from anyone about anything, of which 100 will be chosen and discussed on September 9th in Berlin by some of the worlds leading thinkers. I think its a pretty cool idea and you can ask your own question or rate others. It's definitely worth checking out.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Human Rights Activists in Iran

Below is an editorial from the Tuesday August 15th edition of the New York Times about human rights activists in Iran, the editorial while short, is well worth reading.

August 15, 2006

Who’s Afraid of Shirin Ebadi?

Under cover of the international furor over its nuclear activities and its support for Hezbollah, Iran is trying to silence its most prominent human-rights activist, and, by extension, all of the Iranians who speak for fundamental rights.

Shirin Ebadi, the lawyer who won the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize, has been threatened with arrest unless she closes the Center for Protecting Human Rights in Tehran. The center provides free legal representation to journalists, students and dissidents who face prosecution for peaceful assembly and criticizing the government. Ms. Ebadi and the center’s lawyers have represented Iran’s leading dissident, Akbar Ganji. Most recently, Ms. Ebadi has been defending women who say they were beaten and detained by the police for demonstrating for women’s rights in June.

One of the center’s co-founders, Abdolfattah Soltani, spent several months in prison last year, and in July drew a five-year sentence on charges of opposing the state and disclosing confidential information to diplomats. He is free awaiting the outcome of his appeal, but there is no timetable for the decision.

In the meantime, other prominent Iranians are languishing in prison, among them, Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini, a former member of Parliament, who was arrested in June as he prepared to take part in the women’s rights demonstration, and Ramin Jahanbegloo, one of Iran’s best-known scholars, who was arbitrarily arrested in April.

The European Union recently expressed alarm at the deterioration of human rights in Iran, as have Human Rights Watch and other nongovernmental organizations. The United States and Europe need to engage with Iran. But they also need to make clear that Tehran’s poor treatment of its citizens as well as its nuclear ambitions are unacceptable.

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

--Tom Hayes

Federal Judge Orders Halt to NSA Wiretapping

From the Washington Post:

A federal judge in Detroit ordered a halt to the National Security Agency's warrantless surveillance program, ruling for the first time that the controversial effort ordered by President Bush was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor wrote in a strongly-worded 43-page opinion that the NSA wiretapping program violates privacy and free-speech rights and the constitutional separation of powers between the three branches of government. She also found that it violates a 1978 law set up to oversee clandestine surveillance.

The Justice Department said that it was appealing the decision and that the parties to the lawsuit had agreed to delay the judge's order until the appeal could be heard.

Ruling in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union and other advocacy groups, Taylor, 73, wrote that "public interest is clear, in this matter. It is the upholding of the Constitution. . . . "

"It was never the intent of the framers to give the president such unfettered control, particularly where his actions blatantly disregard the parameters clearly enumerated in the Bill of Rights," she wrote. " . . . There are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution. So all 'inherent powers' must derive from that Constitution."

Click here to access the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

The Precedent of Bush vs Gore

Below is an interesting editorial on why Bush vs Gore should have precedential value in the U.S. legal system.


New York Times
August 15, 2006
Editorial Observer
Has Bush v. Gore Become the Case That Must Not Be Named?
At a law school Supreme Court conference that I attended last fall, there was a panel on “The Rehnquist Court.” No one mentioned Bush v. Gore, the most historic case of William Rehnquist’s time as chief justice, and during the Q. and A. no one asked about it. When I asked a prominent law professor about this strange omission, he told me he had been invited to participate in another Rehnquist retrospective, and was told in advance that Bush v. Gore would not be discussed.
The ruling that stopped the Florida recount and handed the presidency to George W. Bush is disappearing down the legal world’s version of the memory hole, the slot where, in George Orwell’s “1984,” government workers disposed of politically inconvenient records. The Supreme Court has not cited it once since it was decided, and when Justice Antonin Scalia, who loves to hold forth on court precedents, was asked about it at a forum earlier this year, he snapped, “Come on, get over it.”
There is a legal argument for pushing Bush v. Gore aside. The majority opinion announced that the ruling was “limited to the present circumstances” and could not be cited as precedent. But many legal scholars insisted at the time that this assertion was itself dictum — the part of a legal opinion that is nonbinding — and illegitimate, because under the doctrine of stare decisis, courts cannot make rulings whose reasoning applies only to a single case.
Bush v. Gore’s lasting significance is being fought over right now by the Ohio-based United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, whose judges disagree not only on what it stands for, but on whether it stands for anything at all. This debate, which has been quietly under way in the courts and academia since 2000, is important both because of what it says about the legitimacy of the courts and because of what Bush v. Gore could represent today. The majority reached its antidemocratic result by reading the equal protection clause in a very pro-democratic way. If Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis is integrated into constitutional law, it could make future elections considerably more fair.
The heart of Bush v. Gore’s analysis was its holding that the recount was unacceptable because the standards for vote counting varied from county to county. “Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms,” the court declared, “the state may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person’s vote over that of another.” If this equal protection principle is taken seriously, if it was not just a pretext to put a preferred candidate in the White House, it should mean that states cannot provide some voters better voting machines, shorter lines, or more lenient standards for when their provisional ballots get counted — precisely the system that exists across the country right now.
The first major judicial test of Bush v. Gore’s legacy came in California in 2003. The N.A.A.C.P., among others, argued that it violated equal protection to make nearly half the state’s voters use old punch-card machines, which, because of problems like dimpled chads, had a significantly higher error rate than more modern machines. A liberal three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit agreed. But that decision was quickly reconsidered en banc —that is, reheard by a larger group of judges on the same court — and reversed. The new panel dispensed with Bush v. Gore in three unilluminating sentences of analysis, clearly finding the whole subject distasteful.
The dispute in the Sixth Circuit is even sharper. Ohio voters are also challenging a disparity in voting machines, arguing that it violates what the plaintiffs’ lawyer, Daniel Tokaji, an Ohio State University law professor, calls Bush v. Gore’s “broad principle of equal dignity for each voter.” Two of the three judges who heard the case ruled that Ohio’s election system was unconstitutional. But the dissenting judge protested that “we should heed the Supreme Court’s own warning and limit the reach of Bush v. Gore to the peculiar and extraordinary facts of that case.”
The state of Ohio asked for a rehearing en banc, arguing that Bush v. Gore cannot be used as precedent, and the full Sixth Circuit granted the rehearing. It is likely that the panel decision applying Bush v. Gore to elections will, like the first California decision, soon be undone.
There are several problems with trying to airbrush Bush v. Gore from the law. It undermines the courts’ legitimacy when they depart sharply from the rules of precedent, and it gives support to those who have said that Bush v. Gore was not a legal decision but a raw assertion of power.
The courts should also stand by Bush v. Gore’s equal protection analysis for the simple reason that it was right (even if the remedy of stopping the recount was not). Elections that systematically make it less likely that some voters will get to cast a vote that is counted are a denial of equal protection of the law. The conservative justices may have been able to see this unfairness only when they looked at the problem from Mr. Bush’s perspective, but it is just as true when the N.A.A.C.P. and groups like it raise the objection.
There is a final reason Bush v. Gore should survive. In deciding cases, courts should be attentive not only to the Constitution and other laws, but to whether they are acting in ways that promote an overall sense of justice. The Supreme Court’s highly partisan resolution of the 2000 election was a severe blow to American democracy, and to the court’s own standing. The courts could start to undo the damage by deciding that, rather than disappearing down the memory hole, Bush v. Gore will stand for the principle that elections need to be as fair as we can possibly make them.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Federal Panel Suggests Using Inmates in Drug Trials

From the New York Times:

An influential federal panel of medical advisers has recommended that the government loosen regulations that severely limit the testing of pharmaceuticals on prison inmates, a practice that was all but stopped three decades ago after revelations of abuse.

The proposed change includes provisions intended to prevent problems that plagued earlier programs. Nevertheless, it has dredged up a painful history of medical mistreatment and incited debate among prison rights advocates and researchers about whether prisoners can truly make uncoerced decisions, given the environment they live in.

Supporters of such programs cite the possibility of benefit to prison populations, and the potential for contributing to the greater good.

Until the early 1970’s, about 90 percent of all pharmaceutical products were tested on prison inmates, federal officials say. But such research diminished sharply in 1974 after revelations of abuse at prisons like Holmesburg here, where inmates were paid hundreds of dollars a month to test items as varied as dandruff treatments and dioxin, and where they were exposed to radioactive, hallucinogenic and carcinogenic chemicals.

In addition to addressing the abuses at Holmesburg, the regulations were a reaction to revelations in 1972 surrounding what the government called the Tuskegee Study of Untreated Syphilis in the Negro Male, which was begun in the 1930’s and lasted 40 years. In it, several hundred mostly illiterate men with syphilis in rural Alabama were left untreated, even after a cure was discovered, so that researchers could study the disease.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Human Rights Watch Accuses Israel of Using Cluster Munitions that Harm Civilians

Buried in a recent New York Times article about Israel's request that the United States speed the delivery of rockets armed with cluster munitions is information about Human Rights Watch's recent accusation that Israel fired cluster munitions on July 19th in Lebanon. I've also included some portions of the article that discuss the humanitarian concerns assocated with the use of cluster munitions.

From the article:

The request for M-26 artillery rockets, which are fired in barrages and carry hundreds of grenade-like bomblets that scatter and explode over a broad area, is likely to be approved shortly, along with other arms, a senior official said.
But some State Department officials have sought to delay the approval because of concerns over the likelihood of civilian casualties, and the diplomatic repercussions. The rockets, while they would be very effective against hidden missile launchers, officials say, are fired by the dozen and could be expected to cause civilian casualties if used against targets in populated areas.

Israel has long told American officials that it wanted M-26 rockets for use against conventional armies in case Israel was invaded, one of the American officials said. But after being pressed in recent days on what they intended to use the weapons for, Israeli officials disclosed that they planned to use them against rocket sites in Lebanon. It was this prospect that raised the intense concerns over civilian casualties.

During much of the 1980’s, the United States maintained a moratorium on selling cluster munitions to Israel, following disclosures that civilians in Lebanon had been killed with the weapons during the 1982 Israeli invasion. But the moratorium was lifted late in the Reagan administration, and since then, the United States has sold Israel some types of cluster munitions, the senior official said.

Last month, the advocacy group Human Rights Watch said its researchers had uncovered evidence that Israel had fired cluster munitions on July 19 at the Lebanese village of Bilda, which the group said had killed one civilian and wounded at least 12 others, including 7 children. The group said it had interviewed survivors of the attack, who described incoming artillery shells dispensing hundreds of cluster submunitions on the village.

Human Rights Watch also released photographs, taken recently by its researchers in northern Israel, of what it said were American-supplied artillery shells that had markings showing they carried cluster munitions.

Human Rights Watch and other groups have campaigned for the elimination of cluster munitions, noting that even if civilians are not present when the weapons is used, some submunitions that do not detonate on impact can later injure or kill civilians.

The M-26 “is a particularly deadly weapon,” Bonnie Docherty, a researcher with Human Rights Watch, who helped write a study of the United States’ use of the weapons in the 2003 Iraq invasion. “They were used widely by U.S. forces in Iraq and caused hundreds of civilian casualties.”

After the Reagan administration determined in 1982 that the cluster munitions had been used by Israel against civilian areas, the delivery of the artillery shells containing the munitions to Israel was suspended.
Israel was found to have violated a 1976 agreement with the United States in which it had agreed only to use cluster munitions against Arab armies and against clearly defined military targets. The moratorium on selling Israel cluster weapons was later lifted by the Reagan administration.

This week, State Department officials were studying records of what happened in 1982 as part of their internal deliberations into whether to grant approval for the sale to go forward.

For the sake of human rights, lets hope that the U.S. decides not to ship these weapons to Israel, a country who has, as noted above, a historical record of using cluster munitions in civilian areas.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Cease-Fire Accepted In Lebanon as Fighting Continues

From the Washington Post:

BEIRUT, Aug. 12 -- Hezbollah and the Lebanese government accepted a U.N.-declared cease-fire with reservations Saturday night, but the war wore on with Israeli airstrikes, Hezbollah rocket attacks and expanded fighting on the ground.
The continued warfare, in which at least seven Israeli soldiers and 19 Lebanese were killed, indicated that the month-old conflict was unlikely to stop immediately despite Friday's U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an end to Hezbollah attacks on Israel and Israel's military operations in Lebanon. The Israeli cabinet was scheduled to make its decision Sunday, with Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres predicting that the U.N. cease-fire would be accepted in Jerusalem as well. But at the same time, Lt. Gen. Dan Halutz, the Israeli chief of staff, said he had dispatched more troops and armor to Lebanon to pursue Israel's goal of driving Hezbollah fighters from a strip of border territory and holding it until an international peacekeeping force can be organized and deployed along the frontier.
Peres, in a telephone interview, said Israeli military forces were expanding operations in southern Lebanon because "the timetable permits it and there's an impression that Hezbollah controls the situation, which is not true." He added that while Hezbollah is continuing to fire rockets, "the best way to stop it is to clear out the area of the rockets."
Peres said that after the expected cabinet approval of the resolution Sunday, he believed that there was "a fair chance" that a cease-fire would be imposed by the end of the week and that the international forces could be in place in "another week or two" afterward.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Local and State Governments Act on Global Warming

From the Washington Post:

With Washington lawmakers deadlocked on how best to curb global warming, state and local officials across the country are adopting ambitious policies and forming international alliances aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

The initiatives, which include demands that utilities generate some of their energy using renewable sources and mandates for a reduction in emissions from motor vehicles, have emboldened clean-air advocates who hope they will form the basis for broader national action. But in the meantime, some businesses say the local and state actions are creating a patchwork of regulations that they must contend with...

Recently, 22 states and the District of Columbia have set standards demanding that utilities generate a specific amount of energy -- in some cases, as high as 33 percent -- from renewable sources by 2020. And 11 states have set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050.

California also has passed legislation mandating that automakers reduce their vehicles' carbon dioxide emissions 30 percent by 2016, and 10 other states have committed to adopt the same standards if the law survives a court challenge.

In addition, as many as 10 states in the Northeast are working to establish state-by-state ceilings for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and allow industries such as power plants to trade pollution credits for carbon emissions while cutting greenhouse gas emissions 10 percent by 2019. California, Oregon and Washington are negotiating a similar pact.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

AFL-CIO Embraces Day Laborers

From the Washington Post:

The AFL-CIO agreed today to work with a national network of day laborer organizers, a move that could bring representatives for some of the most publicly scorned illegal immigrants to the policymaking table of the nation's largest union group and provide day workers with a potent ally in local efforts to establish hiring halls and national campaigns for legalization.

Six years after organized labor's pivotal policy shift toward support of illegal workers, the resolution, approved by the AFL-CIO executive council in Chicago, further cemented the struggling labor movement's embrace of illegal immigrants as key parts of the American workforce and potential union members. The partnership does not require day laborers to join unions.

Research indicates about three-fourths of day laborers are in the country illegally.

For the day laborers and their grassroots organizers, who have faced intense opposition in Herndon and other places, the historic agreement offers access to perks of big organized labor: Teams of expert lobbyists and lawyers and a chance to devise strategies on work-related issues with local councils of the 9 million-member AFL-CIO, which for decades saw illegal immigrants as threats to native workers and pushed for sanctions against them.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Bush Administration Seeks Changes to War Crimes Act

From the Washington Post:

The Bush administration has drafted amendments to a war crimes law that would eliminate the risk of prosecution for political appointees, CIA officers and former military personnel for humiliating or degrading war prisoners, according to U.S. officials and a copy of the amendments.

Officials say the amendments would alter a U.S. law passed in the mid-1990s that criminalized violations of the Geneva Conventions, a set of international treaties governing military conduct in wartime. The conventions generally bar the cruel, humiliating and degrading treatment of wartime prisoners without spelling out what all those terms mean.

The draft U.S. amendments to the War Crimes Act would narrow the scope of potential criminal prosecutions to 10 specific categories of illegal acts against detainees during a war, including torture, murder, rape and hostage-taking.

Left off the list would be what the Geneva Conventions refer to as "outrages upon [the] personal dignity" of a prisoner and deliberately humiliating acts -- such as the forced nakedness, use of dog leashes and wearing of women's underwear seen at the U.S.-run Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq -- that fall short of torture.

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

Monday, August 07, 2006

15 States Expand Right to Shoot in Self-Defense

From the New York Times:

In the last year, 15 states have enacted laws that expand the right of self-defense, allowing crime victims to use deadly force in situations that might formerly have subjected them to prosecution for murder.
Supporters call them “stand your ground” laws. Opponents call them “shoot first” laws.
Thanks to this sort of law, a prostitute in Port Richey, Fla., who killed her 72-year-old client with his own gun rather than flee was not charged last month. Similarly, the police in Clearwater, Fla., did not arrest a man who shot a neighbor in early June after a shouting match over putting out garbage, though the authorities say they are still reviewing the evidence.
The first of the new laws took effect in Florida in October, and cases under it are now reaching prosecutors and juries there. The other laws, mostly in Southern and Midwestern states, were enacted this year, according to the
National Rifle Association, which has enthusiastically promoted them.
Florida does not keep comprehensive records on the impact of its new law, but prosecutors and defense lawyers there agree that fewer people who claim self-defense are being charged or convicted.
The Florida law, which served as a model for the others, gives people the right to use deadly force against intruders entering their homes. They no longer need to prove that they feared for their safety, only that the person they killed had intruded unlawfully and forcefully. The law also extends this principle to vehicles.
In addition, the law does away with an earlier requirement that a person attacked in a public place must retreat if possible. Now, that same person, in the law’s words, “has no duty to retreat and has the right to stand his or her ground and meet force with force, including deadly force.” The law also forbids the arrest, detention or prosecution of the people covered by the law, and it prohibits civil suits against them.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Sunday, August 06, 2006

More Frequent Heat Waves Linked to Global Warming

From the Washington Post:

Heat waves like those that have scorched Europe and the United States in recent weeks are becoming more frequent because of global warming, say scientists who have studied decades of weather records and computer models of past, present and future climate.
While it is impossible to attribute any one weather event to climate change, several recent studies suggest that human-generated emissions of heat-trapping gases have produced both higher overall temperatures and greater weather variability, which raise the odds of longer, more intense heat waves. Last week, Paul Della-Marta, a researcher at Switzerland's Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology, presented findings at an international conference on climate science in Gwatt, Switzerland, showing that since 1880 the duration of heat waves in Western Europe has doubled and the number of unusually hot days in the region has nearly tripled.
In a separate 2004 study, researchers at Britain's Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research produced computer models showing that greenhouse gas emissions had doubled the likelihood of events like the lethal 2003 European heat wave, and that by 2040 it is likely such heat waves will take place there every other year.
And researchers at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., reported this week that nighttime summer temperatures across the country have been unusually high for the past eight years, a record streak.

Click here to read the full article.

Also check out the Post's Special Section on Climate Change.

--Tom Hayes

Friday, August 04, 2006

Interesting Op-Ed on Hezbollah

Yesterday's edition of the New York Times has an interesting article by professor Robert Pape about Hezbollah suicide bombers. I'd be interested to know what others think. The article appears below:

August 3, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor
Ground to a Halt

ISRAEL has finally conceded that air power alone will not defeat Hezbollah. Over the coming weeks, it will learn that ground power won’t work either. The problem is not that the Israelis have insufficient military might, but that they misunderstand the nature of the enemy.
Contrary to the conventional wisdom, Hezbollah is principally neither a political party nor an Islamist militia. It is a broad movement that evolved in reaction to Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in June 1982. At first it consisted of a small number of Shiites supported by Iran. But as more and more Lebanese came to resent Israel’s occupation, Hezbollah — never tight-knit — expanded into an umbrella organization that tacitly coordinated the resistance operations of a loose collection of groups with a variety of religious and secular aims.
In terms of structure and hierarchy, it is less comparable to, say, a religious cult like the Taliban than to the multidimensional American civil-rights movement of the 1960’s. What made its rise so rapid, and will make it impossible to defeat militarily, was not its international support but the fact that it evolved from a reorientation of pre-existing Lebanese social groups.
Evidence of the broad nature of Hezbollah’s resistance to Israeli occupation can be seen in the identity of its suicide attackers. Hezbollah conducted a broad campaign of suicide bombings against American, French and Israeli targets from 1982 to 1986. Altogether, these attacks — which included the infamous bombing of the Marine barracks in 1983 — involved 41 suicide terrorists.
In writing my book on suicide attackers, I had researchers scour Lebanese sources to collect martyr videos, pictures and testimonials and the biographies of the Hezbollah bombers. Of the 41, we identified the names, birth places and other personal data for 38. Shockingly, only eight were Islamic fundamentalists. Twenty-seven were from leftist political groups like the Lebanese Communist Party and the Arab Socialist Union. Three were Christians, including a female high-school teacher with a college degree. All were born in Lebanon.
What these suicide attackers — and their heirs today — shared was not a religious or political ideology but simply a commitment to resisting a foreign occupation. Nearly two decades of Israeli military presence did not root out Hezbollah. The only thing that has proven to end suicide attacks, in Lebanon and elsewhere, is withdrawal by the occupying force.
Thus the new Israeli land offensive may take ground and destroy weapons, but it has little chance of destroying the Hezbollah movement. In fact, in the wake of the bombings of civilians, the incursion will probably aid Hezbollah’s recruiting.
Equally important, Israel’s incursion is also squandering the good will it had initially earned from so-called moderate Arab states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia. The countries are the court of opinion that matters because, while Israel cannot crush Hezbollah, it could achieve a more limited goal: ending Hezbollah’s acquisition of more missiles through Syria.
Given Syria’s total control of its border with Lebanon, stemming the flow of weapons is a job for diplomacy, not force. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Jordan, Sunni-led nations that want stability in the region, are motivated to stop the rise of Hezbollah. Under the right conditions, the United States might be able to help assemble an ad hoc coalition of Syria’s neighbors to entice and bully it to prevent Iranian, Chinese or other foreign missiles from entering Lebanon. It could also offer to begin talks over the future of the Golan Heights.
But Israel must take the initiative. Unless it calls off the offensive and accepts a genuine cease-fire, there are likely to be many, many dead Israelis in the coming weeks — and a much stronger Hezbollah.

Robert A. Pape, a professor of political science at the University of Chicago, is the author of “Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism.”

(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)

--Tom Hayes

One Year Anniversary

Today marks the one-year anniversary for the Colorado Coalition for Human Rights Blog. In just one year, the readership and traffic of this blog has grown more than I even thought it could and is increasing everyday. As of the time of this post, there have been over 6,000 visitors since this blog began, not bad for a beginning. Thanks to all those that have participated, posted, commented, and kept up with the goal of expanding peoples knowledge of human rights.

--Tom Hayes

U.S. Generals Warn of Civil War in Iraq

From the Washington Post:

Two top U.S. generals said yesterday that the sectarian violence in Iraq is much worse than they had ever anticipated and could lead to civil war, arguing that improving the situation is now more a matter of Iraqi political will than of U.S. military strategy.

"The sectarian violence is probably as bad as I've seen it," Gen. John P. Abizaid, commander of U.S. military operations in the Middle East, told the Senate Armed Services Committee. "If not stopped, it is possible that Iraq could move toward civil war."

The testimony from Abizaid and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace, was the military's most dire assessment of conditions in Iraq since the war began 40 months ago. It echoed the opinion of Britain's outgoing ambassador to Iraq, who, in a confidential memo revealed yesterday, told Prime Minister Tony Blair that a de facto partition of Iraq is more likely than a transition to democracy.

Both U.S. generals said they think Iraq will be successful in maintaining a stable government in the near future, but their assessment about the possible slide into civil war is something the administration had avoided acknowledging before.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Senate Rejects Estate, Minimum Wage Bill

From the Washington Post:

A Republican election-year effort to fuse a cut in inheritance taxes on multimilllion-dollar estates with the first minimum wage increase in nearly a decade was rejected by the Senate late Thursday.

Republicans needed 60 votes to advance their bill, which links a $2.10 increase in the $5.15 federal minimum wage over three years to reductions an estate taxes next decade. Passed by the House last Saturday, the bill got a 56-42 vote, four votes short of succeeding.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Altruistic Infants and Human Nature

A recent German study demonstrates that children show signs of altruism at very early ages. While I remember reading about this study earlier this year, I just thought about posting on it today. This is definitly interesting and has far ranging implications. Here's a portion of the an article about the study:

Infants already show signs that they want to help out adults without expecting anything in return, says a German study on altruism.

"The results were astonishing because these children are so young – they still wear diapers and are barely able to use language," said psychology researcher Felix Warneken of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, "But they already show helping behaviour."

As part of the study, Warneken developed scenarios in which an adult needed help. In one case, he dropped a clothespin on the floor while hanging up laundry.

In 84 per cent of cases, infants as young as 18 months, who were not familiar with Warneken, would help retrieve the peg.

During the test, he never asked for help. He also did not thank or reward the child, since the study was designed to show if the toddlers could show altruistic behaviour.

When he deliberately threw a peg on the ground, the infants didn't help to retrieve it. That suggests the babies were able to infer when the peg was needed to complete the task of hanging up clothes.

Click here to access the full article about the study from CBS News.

To access the original study and see videos of the expieriments click here.

--Tom Hayes

British Panel Recommends Reclassification of Drugs

The BBC has an interesting article on its website about a governmental committee in Britain that recommends reclassiflying drugs based on the harm they do, rather than on their current system which the panel argues are based on historical assumptions of what the drugs do, rather than scientific evidence. When one thinks of how people are currently incarcerated, especially in the U.S. it would be an interesting study to see how the prison population would change if a reclassification of drugs also led to a change in laws. Just imagine how many would be in prison if all substances worse than ecstasy had prison time. More on the study from the article:

The designation of drugs in classes A, B and C should be replaced with one more closely reflecting the harm they cause, a committee of MPs has said.

The Science Select Committee said the present system was based on historical assumptions, not scientific assessment.

BBC News has seen details of a system devised by government advisers which was considered by former Home Secretary Charles Clarke but is now on hold.

It rates some illegal drugs as less harmful than alcohol and tobacco.

The new system was based on the first scientific assessment of 20 legal and illegal stimulants used in contemporary Britain.

Alcohol was rated the fifth most harmful drug, ahead of some current class A drugs, while tobacco was listed as ninth. Cannabis, currently rated a class C drug, was below both those legal stimulants at 11th.

The MPs said including alcohol and tobacco in the classification would give the public "a better sense of the relative harms involved".

Click here to read the article.

--Tom Hayes

White House Proposal Would Expand Authority of Military Courts

From the Washington Post:

A draft Bush administration plan for special military courts seeks to expand the reach and authority of such "commissions" to include trials, for the first time, of people who are not members of al-Qaeda or the Taliban and are not directly involved in acts of international terrorism, according to officials familiar with the proposal.

The plan, which would replace a military trial system ruled illegal by the Supreme Court in June, would also allow the secretary of defense to add crimes at will to those under the military court's jurisdiction. The two provisions would be likely to put more individuals than previously expected before military juries, officials and independent experts said.

Click here to read the full article.

--Tom Hayes


(In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.)