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Click on the articles below which contain current news from across America related to liberty and justice in our lives.
U.S., British intelligence mining data from nine U.S. Internet companies in broad secret program
From Washington Post (June 7, 2013) - Through a program code-named PRISM, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the FBI have been secretly tapping the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies, including Facebook, Apple, Skype, YouTube and Yahoo. The agencies claim the information, obtained from audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents, and connection logs can help gather information about possible foreign targets. While the program remains legal under current laws, some citizens feel their right to privacy is being infringed upon by the government.
"Love Has No Color": Georgia High School Students Set to Hold First Integrated Prom
From Democracy Now! (April 26, 2013) - Students at Wilcox County High School have joined together to host the first integrated prom in the school’s history. Until this year parents and students held two separate proms, one for white students and one for black students. Public schools in the United States were desegregated in the 1950s, but segregated proms at Wilcox County High were able to continue because the dances were not held on school property and were organized by private groups.
Biden Defends Voting Rights Act Provision in Selma, Alabama
From ABC News (March 3, 2013) - At an annual memorial held in Selma, AL commemorating the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery civil rights march, Vice President Biden spoke in defense of the Voting Rights Act. More specifically, the Vice President mentioned a provision that was written to erase Jim Crow laws and other practices that impeded voting for minorities, specifically southern African Americans, during the first half of the 20th Century. Recently, the Supreme Court questioned the necessity of maintaining the provision in light of changes in American society. The Court also cited that the rules might actually make it more difficult for certain states to comply with voting regulations
Boy Scouts Delay Decision About Gays
From NPR (February 6, 2013) - The Boy Scouts of America voted less than a year ago to ban gay members and leaders. They will reconsider that decision by holding another vote in May. The organization is facing pressure from corporate sponsors and members to repeal the ban, calling it discriminatory. Conservative members, such as Texas Governor and Eagle Scout Rick Perry, support the ban, saying it reflects BSA’s values and morals.
Senator Unveils Bill to Limit Semiautomatic Arms
From The New York Times (January 24, 2013) - California Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein introduced a bill that would ban the sale and manufacture of certain types of guns and magazines holding many rounds of ammunition. Many other senators, organizations (like the NRA), and citizens are opposed to a ban on weapons and cite the Second Amendment in their arguments to maintain current laws regarding the manufacture and sale of guns. A ban on assault rifles expired in 2004 and has not, until now, been suggested for renewal. After the devastating shooting on December 14, 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, Connecticut, the nation has been engaged in a debate over gun control, mental health and safety.
Braced for Hardship, an Amish Clan Awaits Sentences in Shearing Attacks
From The New York Times (December 29, 2012) - Members of an Amish community in Eastern Ohio are being charged with felony hate crimes after forcibly cutting the beards and hair of individuals in a neighboring Amish community. As a result, ten men are being held in a Youngstown prison while six women and one man are out on bail. This group of sixteen admitted to the assault because they felt the victims needed to be reprimanded for sinful actions. However the accused group and their supporters claim the charges and possible jail time for the crime are too harsh and would unfairly punish their families.
Why Wal-mart workers are striking on Black Friday
From CNN Money (November 21, 2012) - Some Wal-mart employees, with the help of a union-supported group called OUR Wal-mart, held strikes across the country for Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year. They are protesting being scheduled to work on Thanksgiving Day, low wages and the lack of health care benefits. When employees have protested these issues in the past, employees claim Wal-mart retaliated by cutting hours and switching schedules. Wal-mart maintains that the protesters are a small minority of employees and that the protests and demonstrations are illegal.
Koch Brothers Among U.S. Billionaires Pressuring Thousands of Employees to Vote GOP on Election Day
From Democracy Now! (October 15, 2012) - Koch Industries, run by billionaires Charles and David Koch, has been accused of pressuring employees to vote for certain candidates in the November 2012 election. Employees of Koch Industries, and its subsidiary Georgia-Pacific, have reported being given packets of information that warned them of the consequences to their families and their jobs should they vote against the suggested candidates. Workers have also been warned about talking too much about politics at work and posting about politics on their personal facebook pages. Corporations are legally allowed to pressure their workers regarding elections because of the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
For Undocumented Youth, New Policy Carries Risks
From NPR (August 15, 2012) - The U.S. government began accepting applications for "deferred action for childhood arrivals" on August 15, 2012, which would allow young people who are undocumented, i.e. not official citizens, to work and study in the U.S. without fear of investigation or deportation. Many who might qualify were illegally brought to the United States as young children by their parents and they feel they are American.
Police identify Army veteran as Wisconsin temple shooting gunman
From CNN (August 7, 2012) - A 40-year-old former soldier attacked a Sikh temple on August 5, 2012. Six were killed and many were injured in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. The shooter was known as a member of a white supremacist rock band and many are calling the shootings a hate crime. Because of their traditional beards and turbans, Sikhs are sometimes confused with Muslims.
Same-Sex Marriage, Civil Unions, and Domestic Partnerships
From The New York Times (May 22, 2012) - On May 9, 2012, President Obama sat down for an interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts and publicly declared for the first time that he supports same-sex marriage. The President, who previously felt civil unions were sufficient, spoke about how his views changed over the years and cited that conversations with gay friends influenced his newly held belief. This marks the first time in history that a sitting president supports extending the rights and status of marriage to gay couples.
Affidavit says Zimmerman 'profiled' Martin
From CNN (April 13, 2012) - George Zimmerman was charged with second degree murder for the February 26 shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The affidavit of probable cause states that Zimmerman, a multi-racial Hispanic American, racially profiled Martin, an African-American, and disregarded requests from the dispatcher to not confront Martin and wait for the arrival of police. Zimmerman’s relatives deny that he racially profiled Martin and argue he acted in self-defense. This case has prompted a nationwide debate on race in America and Florida’s “stand your ground” law.
Justice Department bars Texas voter ID law
From The Washington Post (March 12, 2012) - The Department of Justice recently blocked a law in Texas that required voters to show photo ID at the polls. One reason for this block is that many Hispanic voters and other minorities lack the photo ID required, consequently restricting their voting rights. States with a history of voting discrimination must prove that proposed statutes do not discriminate against minority voters. According to the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Justice Department has the power to block voting laws that would cause discrimination.
New Museums to Shine a Spotlight on Civil Rights Era
From New York Times (February 19, 2012) - As the generation from the modern Civil Rights Era passes the torch to younger and future generations, Americans realize the importance to preserve their stories. Cultural institutions, like the Smithsonian, are breaking ground on new museums and historical sites to share the stories of not only Martin Luther King, Jr. but the unsung heroes and significant events that contributed to the movement towards equality. These new institutions will challenge visitors to look at the United States through a lens of injustice while ensuring that these stories live on for years to come.
Should felons be allowed to vote after serving their sentences?
From CNN (January 18, 2012) - On January 16, 2012, Republican presidential candidates debated in South Carolina on a wide range of topics, including whether people with felony convictions should regain their right to vote after serving their sentence. The disenfranchisement, or prohibition from voting, of felons differs from state to state. It disproportionately affects black male voters. Every vote counts, and prohibiting a portion of the population from voting can affect outcomes of state and national elections.
U.S. Backs Gay Rights Abroad, Obama and Clinton Say
From New York Times (December 6, 2011) - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on the United States’ vow to combat discrimination by other nations towards gay men, lesbians, bisexuals and transgendered people. The Obama administration plans to use diplomacy (for instance, foreign aid) to promote gay rights worldwide. This effort may create obstacles between the United States and its allies with differing beliefs. The statement also comes at a notable juncture with the 2012 U.S. election year fast-approaching.
Occupy Wall Street
From New York Times (October 3, 2011) - A leaderless group of peaceful protestors, communicating mostly through social media, gathered in New York City on Wall Street. They are protesting what they claim is the greedy, corrupted state of the nation’s banks and mortgage companies. Police arrested over 700 protestors marching across the Brooklyn Bridge and made other arrests periodically throughout the demonstration for other violations. Three weeks into the New York City protests, similar rallies are rising in other large cities across the US like Boston, Los Angeles and Chicago.
Supreme Court Strikes Calif. Law Banning Sale of Violent Video Games to Minors
From The Washington Post (June 27, 2011) - The Supreme Court ruled to uphold a lower court’s decision that banning the sale of violent video games to minors violates free-speech rights. Parents and social scientists debate whether violent video games influence young gamers in a harmful way. However the court commented on the similarities between banning games and the history of banning books and movies.
Florida Governor Signs Welfare Drug-Screen Measure
From CNN (June 1, 2011) - Governor Rick Scott signed legislation requiring welfare recipients be tested for drug use in an effort to save tax dollars and motivate individuals to not use drugs. Florida representatives are questioning the measure as an unconstitutional violation of personal privacy. The Governor is also under scrutiny because of his connection to an urgent-care clinic company which provides drug screenings. The company might benefit from this legislation.
Hundreds protest in Dearborn Friday against Pastor Terry Jones' anti-Islam gospel
From MLive.com (April 30, 2011) - Pastor Terry Jones of Gainesville, Fl. held a rally at the City Hall of Dearborn, Mi. to protest Islam and Sharia Law in America. The city of Dearborn is known for its large population of Arab Americans, the likely reason Jones chose to hold the protest there. Jones was supported by civil rights attorneys after he was denied the right to protest at his original intended location, the Islamic Center of America, by the city of Dearborn a week earlier.
Most Justices Appear Skeptical of Making Wal-Mart Suit Class Action
From CNN (March 29, 2011) - Current and former female employees of Wal-Mart from across the United States are bringing one of the largest class-action lawsuits to the Supreme Court. This case focuses on corporate versus workers’ rights, and specifically sexual discrimination, an issue of justice and equality that has been debated since the Industrial Revolution.
Obama: U.S. Had Responsibility to Act in Libya
From The Washington Post (March 28, 2011) - President Obama addressed the nation, outlining the moral, economic and political decision to intervene in the civil unrest between current leader of Libya, Moammar Gaddafi, and the rebel forces who call for a new, more democratic political system. The President stressed the importance of protecting civilians from danger; however those who oppose the decision for involvement cite the lack of a clear time table and funding source for the mission.
As Egypt Protest Swells, U.S. Sends Specific Demands
From The New York Times ( February 8, 2011) - Protesters in Egypt call for the current President, Hosni Mubarak, to end his 30 year term. Vice President Joe Biden and other U.S. officials encourage the Egyptian government to develop a plan to outline a new government and protection for journalists and opposition leaders.
Senate Repeals Ban Against Openly Gay Military Personnel
From The New York Times (December 18, 2010) - The senate repealed a 17 year old policy that forced gay and lesbian U.S. military service members to hide their sexual orientation. This is a landmark decision for civil rights that was deferred and complicated by issues of national security. This is also an example of the compromise of differing opinions of the House of Representatives, the Senate and the President.
Judge Strikes at Health Law
From The Wall Street Journal (November 29, 2010) - A judge in Virginia has sided with the Republican Attorney General and ruled that mandatory health insurance is unconstitutional. Two other judges have previously ruled in support of the Health Care Reform Bill. Even today judges are in disagreement about individual rights and the interpretation of the Constitution.
Vast Leak Discloses Diplomatic Secrets
From The Wall Street Journal (November 29, 2010) - Thousands of sensitive United States diplomatic cables were made public by WikiLeaks, an international non-profit organization that publishes difficult to obtain documents from anonymous sources. These leaks represent the constant struggle in American Democracy between national security and bureaucratic transparency.
Monitors Say Haiti Vote Fraud Not Massive
From The Washington Post (November 29, 2010) - The legitimacy of the November 2010 democratic election in Haiti has been questioned due to problems at polling stations. In addition, damage caused by major earthquakes and lethal outbreaks of cholera in the capital have created election complications. American Democracy has influenced other nations who strive to maintain the commitment to fair elections and a system of checks and balances.