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Week In Review: A Zygote Is A Person?, Eurozone Greek Crisis, NJ Gay Marriage, Internet Freedom



 Eurozone crisis pushes Greece to form a Unity government, New Jersey court rules civil unions challenge may continue, is a zygote a person?


Eurozone Sovereign Debt Crisis Dominates Week, Greek PM  Prepares to Form Unity Government After Prevailing on Confidence Vote, Greece Could Return to “Drachma”

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou

In what could only be defined as an extraordinary week in Europe: Eurozone countries, the G-20 and the financial global community were completely seized with the Greek sovereign debt crisis. Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, joined by Nicholas Sarkozy, President of France, brokered a 130 billion Euro rescue package in an arduous and protracted effort to rescue Greece from going bankrupt and vigorously acted in an overt gesture to calm roiling world markets.

Despite the heightened crisis, the G-20 countries failed to make additional commitments for contributions to the International Monetary Fund or to the European financial stability facility.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou responded to the rescue package by a surprise announcement that he would send it to voters before his government would agree to its terms. Members of Papandreou’s Socialist government, who were blindsided by his call for a referendum, immediately rejected a public vote, forcing a Friday vote of no confidence that he miraculously sustained by winning 153-145. But not before Berlin and Paris told Athens that it was withdrawing 8 billion Euros in immediate aid and conveyed that if Greek voters rejected the rescue package, Greece would be ejected from the Eurozone on January 1, 2012.

This morning European officials are urging Greece to form a Unity government to shepherd through a rescue package, that includes deep cuts, insuring Greece remains solvent and in the Eurozone.   Papandreou’s political future is uncertain, but in the aftermath of the no confidence vote, he said he would be stepping down to make way for financial minister Evangelos Venizelos to become leader. Papandreou was mortally wounded by his mishandling of this monetary crisis that has gripped Europe for months and weeks.

It remains unknown the extent of American exposure in the possibility that Greece would default on their sovereign debt. Neither the U.S. government, nor brokerage houses on Wall Street have addressed this question to date.

The political takeaway is that Merkel, the most powerful leader in Europe today, has indicated that the Euro currency is more important than Greece, and if need be, Greece could be forced from the Eurozone and a return to the “Drachma”.

The New York Times today notes small businesses are closing rapidly, and quotes one owner who says, “The politicians are playing games with the people … This city is boiling. I am not a protester, but soon the top on the kettle will pop.”

OSCE Representative Supports Internet Freedom, Tajik Journalists Freed


Dunja Mijatovic

Dunja Mijatovic is the Representative on Freedom of the Media for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the 56-member State mulit-lateral Vienna-based security organization (US and Canada are members too) that formed in 1973, serves as a mechanism to advance human rights in countries formerly behind the Iron Curtain. During the past couple of weeks, Mijatovic spoke out on behalf of Internet freedom for bloggers and activists Jabbar Savalanli and Baxtiyar Haciyev who have been imprisoned in Azerbijan for their internet activism. She called for their release on the margins of meeting in Tbilisi, Georgia on media freedom in the Caucasus. The Caucasus have been challenged and fraught with violations of media freedoms, both in traditional and new media fields.

“The emergence of new media has completely changed the way people communicate and share and receive information,” she said, according to an OSCE press release.  These new challenges underline the need to discuss how new technologies necessitate new approaches to safeguarding OSCE commitments regarding media freedom.”

In a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty  interview about the Azerbaijani bloggers, Mijatovic pointedly made specific reference to how freedom of expression should be defined in the age of new media:

“When I raise my voice for bloggers, Facebook activists, sometimes I’m told that they’re not journalists. I do not engage myself in defining journalism when I see that people are stopped by imprisonment or any other form of harassment for expressing their views freely. I think it’s my mandate to raise my voice and to ask for their release. This is actually the case with two of them at the moment.”

When this writer contacted Mijatovic last week, she was preparing to board a plane for Dushanbe, Tajikistan. She was making the long trip to launch a three-day workshop with government officials and journalists and also join a celebration with Mahmadyusuf Ismoilov and Urunboi Usmonov, journalists who had just been released from prison after she had applied pressure for their release. And that seems to be a developing pattern wherever Mijatovic goes–journalists are freed, a successful trend to watch.


Court Rules NJ Gay Marriage Challenge Can Continue

Marcia Shapiro and her partner Louise Walpin

A New Jersey Superior Court Judge ruled on Friday that a legal complaint filed by seven plaintiffs challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s Civil Union law can go forward for review that could ultimately establish legal gay marriage in the Garden State.

Judge Linda Feinberg said that same-sex couples don’t have a fundamental right to marry, but they should have a chance to prove New Jersey’s civil union law does not give them benefits equal to heterosexual married couples.

This lawsuit emanates from last year’s failure to adopt gay marriage in the state legislature in its last days before the new governor, Chris Christie, assumed office. Christie announced he would veto a measure to legalize gay marriage in New Jersey.

Garden State Equality for LGBT persons has challenged the equality of benefits which is illustrated in this video:

Herman Cain Leads Republican Polling, Despite Revelations of Past Sexual Harassment


Herman Cain denies sexual harassment charges

Herman Cain, the current Republican Party leader for the presidential nomination, was confronted two weeks ago when broke a story  reporting that Cain had been accused of sexual harassment during his tenure as the President of the National Restaurant Association in the 1990s that resulted in two women receiving compensation before leaving the group.

Cain battled back against the charges sometimes more effective than others during the week, but questioning of his conduct continued last night following a congenial “Lincoln-Douglas” style debate sponsored by the Texas Tea Party that disallowed discussion of the sexual harassment allegations. When journalists confronted Cain after the debate about the allegations, he refused to answer and said his campaign “was going back on message,” and directed his chief of staff to give a copy of a “journalistic code of ethics” to journalists who attempted question him. Takeaway political message during these events is that women’s allegations of sexual harassment are not serious matters of character for Republicans. Republican women voters take note.

Mississippi Poised to Vote on Law Declaring  a Fertilized Egg a “Person” 

Human Embryo

Voters in the State of Mississippi will have the opportunity to decide the legal definition of “personhood” on Tuesday when they go to the election polls. Advocated by anti-abortion forces in Mississippi and beyond, ballot Initiative Measure 26, which legally stipulates a fertilized egg, unattached to a woman’s uterine wall, is a person. This radical proposed constitutional amendment, is surprisingly opposed by none other than the Roman Catholic Church.

If adopted, all abortions would cease (only one abortion clinic remains in the state). In vitro fertilization in Mississippi would also be eliminated, forcing infertile couples, including lesbians seeking to become pregnant, to go out of state. If adopted, what kind of legal environment would be created by such a draconian law?  In essence, the State of Mississippi would legally be empowered to occupy and regulate the uteruses of all women residents, strikingly akin to Margaret Atwood’s chilling fictional novel “The HandMaid’s Tale.” Could Mississippi sink to even lower depths? It appears it can.

Ohio Voters Face Referendum on the Future of Collective Bargaining Rights 

Labor union supporters placed Ohio Senate Bill 5 on the ballot for voters on Tuesday to repeal a law that would strip public workers the right to organize and sharply curtail their right to engage in collective bargaining. The law is backed by the increasingly unpopular Republican Governor John Kasich and Democrats see the referendum as an opportunity to beat Republicans on an issue that is vital to labor unions, one of the Democratic Party’s core constituencies as both parties move forward into the 2012 election cycle. The anti-labor rights movement began in Wisconsin in 2010 after the election of Republican Governor Scott Walker, who is backed by the Koch Brothers, Republican business leaders who have sought to shut down unions in Wisconsin.

USAID Encourages Contractors Not to Discriminate Against LGBT Persons

A new policy at USAID that encourages contractors not to discriminate against LGBT persons sounds great (and is likely an election year initiative), but not enforceable, according to Nan Hunter, Georgetown University law professor. Hunter posted the new policy on her blog site titled “Hunter for Justice.” A report of the new policy initially was published by the Washington Blade. The new policy “strongly encourages all its contractors (at all tiers) to develop and enforce comprehensive nondiscrimination policies for their workplaces” that include the same prohibitions that USAID applies to itself.” Stopping short of President Obama issuing an executive order, this is the best that can be expected during the election season.  New Civil Rights Movement readers should bookmark Hunter’s excellent blog on LGBT related rights.

(Image: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou)

Tanya L. Domi is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University who teaches about human rights in Eurasia and is a Harriman Institute affiliated faculty member. Prior to teaching at Columbia, Domi worked internationally for more than a decade on issues related to democratic transitional development, including political and media development, human rights, gender issues, sex trafficking, and media freedom.

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‘Start the Kevin McCarthy Death-Clock’ After Biden Wins Debt Ceiling Battle: Rick Wilson



Appearing late Saturday night on MSNBC after it was announced that President Joe Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) had reached an agreement “in principle’ on a budget deal, former GOP strategist Rick Wilson claimed this could be the beginning of the end for McCathy’s speakership.

Sitting in on a panel with guest host Michael Steele, Wilson suggested that McCarthy’s decision to compromise with the president to avoid a default that would spin the economy into chaos will not go over well with far-right members of his House caucus who could make a motion to “vacate the chair” to express their displeasure.

Asked by host Steel about what comes next, Wilson stated it was a win for the White House which will not make conservatives happy.

RELATED: ‘Crazy cuckoo MAGA people’ could sink debt ceiling deal: Dem strategist

“Great night for Joe Biden, great night for the White House even though I think their messaging has been kind of tentative the past few weeks” the Lincoln Project founder began. “I think though we are now going to start the Kevin McCarthy death-clock. He has certainly got a very angry part of his caucus tonight who probably burning up his phone no matter how good it is for the country not to default.”

“It’s not going to please the chaos caucus in the GOP,” he added.

Watch below or at the link:


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Debt Ceiling: McCarthy Faces ‘Lingering Anger’ and a Possible Revolt as Far-Right House Members Start Issuing Threats



As House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) continues to negotiate a deal to avoid a debt crisis, members of the far-right Freedom Caucus are growing furious with him over broken promises he made to them.

According to MSNBC political analyst Steve Benen, with a slim GOP majority in the House, McCarthy is walking a tightrope to get a budget deal passed and may need help from House Democrats if members of his caucus refuse to go along with him.

As Benen points out, in order to win the speakership McCarthy agreed to an easier path for a motion to “vacate the chair” which could end his tenure as Speaker. That could come into play if the Freedom Caucus stages a revolt.

“… as the negotiations approach an apparent finish line, the House Republicans’ most radical faction is learning that it isn’t likely to get everything its members demanded — and for the Freedom Caucus, that’s not going to work,” he wrote in his MSNBC column.

ALSO IN THE NEWS: Trump in danger of heightened espionage charges after bombshell report: legal expert

Citing a Washington Times report that stated, “[Freedom Caucus members] want everything from the debt limit bill passed by the House last month plus several new concessions from the White House,” Benen suggested far-right House Republicans are now issuing veiled threats.

In an interview, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) stated, “I am going to have to go have some blunt conversations with my colleagues and the leadership team. I don’t like the direction they are headed.”

With Politico reporting, “The [House Freedom Caucus] was already unlikely to support a final bipartisan deal, but lingering anger with Kevin McCarthy could have lasting implications on his speakership,” Benen added, “If this is simply a matter of lingering ill-will from members who come to believe that GOP leaders ‘caved,’ the practical consequences might be limited. But let’s also not forget that McCarthy, while begging his own members for their support during his protracted fight for the speaker’s gavel, agreed to tweak the motion-to-vacate-the-chair rules, which at least in theory, would make it easier for angry House Republicans to try to oust McCarthy from his leadership position.”

Adding the caveat that he is not predicting an imminent McCarthy ouster he added, “But if the scope of the Freedom Caucus’ discontent reaches a fever pitch, a hypothetical deal clears thanks to significant Democratic support, don’t be surprised if we all start hearing the phrase ‘vacate the chair” a lot more frequently.”

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Prosecutors Tell Trump They Have a Recording of Him and a Witness: Report



Prosecutors in Donald Trump’s Manhattan criminal trial have notified the ex-president’s attorneys they have a recording of him and a witness. The notification comes in the form of an automatic discovery form, CBS News reports, which “describes the nature of the charges against a defendant and a broad overview of the evidence that prosecutors will present at Trump’s preliminary hearing or at trial.”

CBS reports prosecutors have handed the recording over to Trump’s legal team.

It’s not known who the witness is, nor are any details known publicly about what the conversation entails, or even if it is just audio or if it includes video.

READ MORE: ‘Likely to Be Indicted Soon’: Trump Might Face Seven Different Felonies, Government Watchdog Says

According to the article’s author, CBS News’ Graham Kates, via Twitter, prosecutors say they also have recordings between two witnesses, a recording between a witness and a third party, and various recordings saved on a witness’s cell phones.

Trump is facing 34 felony counts in Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s case related to his allegedly unlawful attempt to hide hush money payoffs to a well-known porn star by falsifying business records to protect his 2016 presidential campaign.

See the discovery form above or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock


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