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

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

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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.

National

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:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=tnGjQKjIdaA%3Fversion%3D3%26hl%3Den_US

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 Politico.com 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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News

‘Wildly Lawless’: Judge Cannon’s Removal Predicted by Top Legal Scholar

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U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon will be removed from overseeing the trial in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s Espionage Act case against Donald Trump, predicts a top constitutional scholar who is calling her rejection of an urgent request from federal prosecutors to place additional restrictions on the ex-president “wildly lawless,” and a “smoking gun.”

Last week Donald Trump, his campaign, and almost immediately his supporters, falsely claimed President Joe Biden had tried to assassinate the ex-president in 2022 when FBI agents executed a legal and lawful search warrant on Mar-a-Lago. Trump had been storing well over 1000 White House items he had taken, including hundreds of classified documents, at his Florida residence and resort. Among those were some of the nation’s top nuclear secrets.

In a fundraising email one week ago Trump’s campaign claimed, “Joe Biden was locked & loaded ready to take me out & put my family in danger.” Trump was out of state when the FBI entered Mar-a-Lago. Federal agents had conferred with Secret Service, and had planned for the search warrant to be executed when the ex-president was not at the club.

READ MORE: ‘The State is Not God’: DeSantis Paid Educators to Teach ‘Christian Nationalism’ Report Says

“Cannon’s wildly lawless rejection of Special Counsel Smith’s clearly correct request for a gag order against fake and dangerous claims that the FBI was ordered to assassinate him is good news,” declared University Professor Emeritus at Harvard University, Laurence Tribe, a professor of law and top constitutional scholar who wrote a major textbook on the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s the smoking gun that will finally lead to her removal from the stolen secrets case,” Professor Tribe added.

Not responding to the substance of the Special Counsel’s request to order the ex-president to not make any statements that could be dangerous to law enforcement, Judge Cannon instead rejected the motion on the grounds Smith’s attorneys should have conferred with Trump’s attorneys before making the request, as ABC News reports.

“The Government moves to modify defendant Donald J. Trump’s conditions of release, to make clear that he may not make statements that pose a significant, imminent, and foreseeable danger to law enforcement agents participating in the investigation and prosecution of this case,” federal prosecutors wrote in the filing that Judge Cannon rejected.

READ MORE: Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

While the Special Counsel’s prosecutors did confer with Trump’s attorney, Judge Cannon claimed their efforts were “wholly lacking in substance and professional courtesy,” according to ABC News. “Trump’s lawyers argued that the special counsel violated Local Rule 88.9, which says both parties must ‘meet and confer’ before flings motions so the court and the parties’ time is used efficiently. In a filing Monday, Trump’s lawyers asked Cannon to strike the special counsel’s request and impose sanctions on any prosecutors involved in filing their motion.”

Trump’s attorney had wanted to delay any meeting to confer over the issue until Monday, but federal prosecutors, concerned about Trump’s recent remarks, said they could not wait.

“As we also tried to explain earlier, our judgment was that the situation your client has created necessitated a prompt request for relief that could not wait the weekend to file,” Special Counsel prosecutor David Harbach told Trump’s lawyers via email, according to ABC News. “We understand your position and represented to the court that you do not believe the government has engaged in adequate conferral here.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Scheme for Absolute Immunity From State Prosecutions Forever: Report

 

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‘The State is Not God’: DeSantis Paid Educators to Teach ‘Christian Nationalism’ Report Says

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Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis last year recruited thousands of public school teachers and paid them thousands of dollars out of taxpayer funds to attend training on teaching what he called “civics,” but a report states the program focused on “the tenets of Christian nationalism,” and included at least one quote from the Christian bible.

“Training materials produced by the Florida Department of Education direct middle and high school teachers to indoctrinate students in the tenets of Christian nationalism, a right-wing effort to merge Christian and American identities,” Popular Information founder Judd Legum revealed in his exclusive report Tuesday.

“A three-day training course on civic education, conducted throughout Florida in the summer of 2023, included a presentation on the ‘Influences of the Judeo-Christian Tradition’ on the founding of the United States,” Legum writes. “According to speaker notes accompanying one slide, teachers were told that ‘Christianity challenged the notion that religion should be subservient to the goals of the state,’ and the same hierarchy is reflected in America’s founding documents. That slide quotes the Bible to assert that ‘[c]ivil government must be respected, but the state is not God.’ Teachers were told the same principle is embedded in the Declaration of Independence.”

Legum included a screenshot from the training that bears the logos of the Florida Department of Education and DeSantis’ “Civics Literacy Excellence Initiative.”

READ MORE: Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

It reads in part: “‘Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.’ Matthew 22:21.”

“The next slide in the deck,” Legum continues, “quotes an article by Peter Lillback, the president of Westminster Theological Seminary and the founder of The Providence Forum, an organization that promotes and defends Christian nationalism. The group’s executive director, Jerry Newcombe, writes a weekly column for World Net Daily— a far-right site known for publishing hundreds of stories falsely suggesting Obama was a Muslim born in Africa.”

That slide “argues that there would be no freedom, no republic, and no constitution without religion. The speaker notes accompanying the slide emphasize that ‘the separation of Church and State did not mean the separation of God and government,’ and all the founders were ‘steeped in the Judeo-Christian tradition.'”

In a March of 2023 press release, DeSantis’s office trumpeted: “Today, Governor Ron DeSantis highlighted Florida’s continued commitment to expanding civics education in Florida schools and announced that the first 4,500 teachers have completed the Civics Seal of Excellence endorsement course and will receive a $3,000 bonus.”

The statement claimed the course was “at capacity with 20,000 teachers making their commitment to civics education, and there are additional 14,000 teachers on the waiting list for this first of a kind civics teacher professional development program.”

READ MORE: Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

It also pointed to a 2022 program, saying “Florida’s Civic Literacy Excellence Initiative also included a three-day Civics Excellence teacher training course in the summer of 2022 for teachers to increase their knowledge of civics in addition to the creation of supplemental materials for civics lessons including the Civics Reading List and the Portraits of Patriotism video series to further student interaction with civics.”

Some teachers called that 2022 program’s teachings “cherry-picked,” NBC News (video below) reported at the time. Others were “shocked to learn what they were expected to teach their students.”

“They told us what to think and what our opinions were,” one teacher told NBC News, calling it “very unsettling.”

One slide in that program NBC News reported claimed it is a “misconception” that “The Founders desired strict separation of church and state and the Founders only wanted to protect freedom of worship.”

In 2022 The Washington Post reported, “New civics training for Florida public school teachers comes with a dose of Christian dogma, some teachers say, and they worry that it also sanitizes history and promotes inaccuracies.”

Watch that NBC News video below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

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Supreme Court ‘Puppetmaster’ Slammed Over Report He’s Flying Alito’s ‘Theocratic’ Flag Again

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The bombshells over the past few weeks revealing U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito flew flags associated with the January 6, 2021 insurrection and Christian nationalism over two of his homes were followed by a report that Leonard Leo, the right-wing legal activist behind Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominees, also flew one of those flags.

The “Appeal to Heaven” flag has a “close association with both far-right Christian nationalists and the insurrectionists who stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6,” Rolling Stone reported last week, adding it “raises serious questions about Alito’s ability to rule impartially.”

“The conservative court on which Alito sits is largely the product of right-wing dark-money overlord Leonard Leo, and — wouldn’t you know it — Leo flew the same ‘Appeal to Heaven‘ flag outside of his house in Maine,” Rolling Stone also reported.

On social media Rolling Stone noted: “Justice Samuel Alito is under fire for flying the far-right ‘Appeal to Heaven’ flag outside his home. Turns out Supreme Court puppetmaster Leonard Leo has flown it too, according to an image provided to Rolling Stone.”

READ MORE: Pence Defense of Alito’s Insurrectionist Flag Highlights Its Ties to Violent Government Overthrow

Rolling Stone editor Andrew Perez on Memorial Day via social media added: “Some of Leo’s neighbors send pics from his house today — he is back to flying this flag.”

Alex Aronson is the former Chief Counsel, U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee for Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) who now serves as Executive Director of the non-profit organization Court Accountability.

“Leo’s decision to re-hoist this theocrat flag is two things at once,” Aronson wrote on Monday. “1) an arrogant Alito-esque display of impunity, and 2) recognition of a strategic misstep in ever removing it, as he and his goons now lean into the gaslighting claim that it’s an innocent revolutionary banner.”

READ MORE: ‘You Just Don’t Do It’: Federal Judge Denounces Alito’s Flags as ‘Stop the Steal’ Stickers

In 2019, even before Trump appointed Amy Coney Barrett to the nation’s highest court, The Washington Post reported, “few people outside government have more influence over judicial appointments now than Leo.”

Leo has served on the Board of Governors of the Council for National Policy (CNP), a highly-secretive right-wing organization that has been described as a “pluto-theocracy.” In 2021 Americans United for Separation of Church and State called CNP “The Scariest Christian Nationalist Group You’ve Never Heard Of.”

CNP’s members have included far-right activist Charlie Kirk and the heads of at least a half-dozen groups that appear on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of hate or extremist groups.

Last year ProPublica branded Leo as “The Man Behind the Right’s Supreme Court Supermajority” who “built a machine that remade the American legal system.”

Leo also served as a vice president for the Federalist Society for many years, and has worked to support the nominations of every right wing justice on today’s Supreme Court, including Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett.

See the social media posts above or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump’s Bronx Rally Attendance Claim Fuels Mockery as Aerial Images Show a Different Story

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