May 2, 2007

News You Might Have Missed * Vol. 6, No. 18

Important but overlooked news from around the world.

QUOTED:

“Since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime Christians in Iraq, and in particular Baghdad, have faced persecution for the first time in the history of this country.”

— Iraqi Christian legislator Romeo Hakkari (see “Top Stories, below).

CONTENTS:

Top Stories
–Republican-backed voter fraud alleged
–New Orleans: No home to African Americans
–Iraq’s Christian flight continues

Environment
–The EPA under pressure

Immigration
–Between America and Mexico, a broken border

Race & Society
–Affirmative action foe has new targets


TOP STORIES

Republican-Backed Voter Suppression Alleged

Former Justice Department employees say the White House used Republican political appointees to prevent thousands of poor and minority voters from registering ahead of the 2006 midterm elections, McClatchy Newspapers reports.

They say the appointees inflated fraud concerns to justify tough voter ID rules that were later overturned as unconstitutional, pushed a database method that caused three states to “mistakenly” disqualify “tens of thousands” of new registrations, and pushed U.S. attorneys to prosecute voter fraud cases favored by Republicans in Florida, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio and Washington.

New Orleans: No Home to African Americans

African Americans face discrimination in their search for housing in the New Orleans area after Hurricane Katrina, according to a year-long study in which African and Caucasian “testers” applied to rent the same apartments but got different results.

Nearly 60 percent of all landlords didn’t return phone calls from African Americans, wouldn’t show them apartment units or give them applications, and offered the same rental units to Caucasian applicants for less money.

Iraq’s Christian Flight Continues

Thousands have fled Mosul and Baghdad under death threats from Islamists who say will kill Christians if they do not pay a special religious “tax” for non-Muslims.

Romeo Hakkari, a Christian parliamentarian in Iraq’s Kurdish region, says hundreds of Christians, who numbered half a million before the war, have resettled in Kurdistan; the rest have fled the country.

Sources:

“Housing discrimination cited in N.O.”
The Advocate (LA), April 25, 2007

“Campaign against alleged voter fraud fuels political tempest”
McClatchy, April 19, 2007

“Iraq: Christians face mounting threats, MP says”
ADNKronos, April 27, 2007


ENVIRONMENT

The EPA Under Pressure

The Environmental Protection Agency has come under fire from activists and state officials for not enforcing laws to protect the public from harmful chemicals and emissions, even as it considers controversial budget cuts that will reduce its enforcement staff.

California has threatened to sue the EPA within six months if it does not issue a waiver allowing the state to enforce its own vehicle emissions standards.

The state has been waiting for the waiver since 2005, and the EPA now wants to continue the delay until it completes an analysis of whether greenhouse gases are linked to human health.

Activists also say the EPA’s new rule on power plant emissions is in conflict with a recent Supreme Court ruling that overturned a lower courts support of regulating emissions based on an hourly standard, rather than an annual standard preferred by environmental activists.

And House lawmakers have questions for the EPA’s Acting Inspector General, who was given a $150,000 bonus even as he prepares to lay off 60 employees in anticipation of a $5.1 million budget cut.

Congress has approved no such cuts, and lawmakers are concerned that the layoffs are focused on “auditors, criminal investigators and senior program analysts,” all of whom enforce laws against industrial polluters, the Washington Post reports.

Sources:

“EPA accused of flouting Supreme Court”
Associated Press, April 25, 2007

“Lawmakers upset over job cuts at EPA’s watchdog”
Reuters, April 24, 2007

“Calif. may sue EPA over clean air law”
Los Angeles Times, April 26, 2007


IMMIGRATION

Between America and Mexico, a Broken Border

A heavy crackdown in immigration along the U.S.-Mexico border has resulted in more arrests, but has not deterred Mexicans from trying to cross, or from dying along the way.

Immigrants attempting to cross the desert in the hot summer months have only a 50 percent chance of survival.

Border agents near Yuma, Arizona, are working with their Mexican counterparts to add rescue beacons to the desert and paramedics to save lives on enforcement missions.

Meanwhile, more Mexican immigrants are drowning in the Rio Grande than in the winter months.

Border agents found another body there last week.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon called border migration a “natural” and “inevitable” phenomenon that would continue regardless of political “decree” from the United States, El Universal reports.

Sources:

“Migration overhaul urged”
El Universal (Mexico), April 27, 2007

“Migrant death toll high despite U.S. border crackdown”
Reuters, April 26, 2007

“Border Patrol announces safety initiative”
Yuma Sun (AZ), April 27, 2007

“Immigrant who died in canal was a few inches from safety”
El Paso Times (TX), April 27, 2007


RACE & SOCIETY

Affirmative Action Foe Has New Targets

The man who led a successful 1996 ballot-initiative campaign to ban affirmative action in California is turning his attention to Colorado, Arizona, Oregon, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and South Dakota.

Ward Connerly and his group, the American Civil Rights Institute, hope all these states will follow California in November 2008.

Connerly and his supporters contend that affirmative action helps perpetuate discrimination instead of preventing it.

The proposed ban would affect hiring at state-run agencies and recruiting at public universities.

State agencies and university spokesmen say they don’t use quotas or race-based hiring and enrollment practices — but also admit to “tacit” practices of admitting athletes with lower academic qualifications, the Denver Post reports.

Critics say Connerly’s campaign is premature, because race-driven disparities still exist in the United States.

Arizona state Rep. Kyrsten Sinema told the Arizona Star that disparities persist in wages between men, women, and different ethnicities.

Connerly also admitted that his drive for equity focuses on race and gender, but neglects sexual preference.

One expert suggested Connerly’s targeted choice of swing states is part of a wider political strategy to bring out voters during a presidential election year.

Sources:

“Race, sex emphasis in Colo. targeted”
Denver Post, April 24, 2007

“Anti-affirmative action group wants initiative”
Kansas City Star, April 25, 2007

“Head of Maricopa County NAACP pans plan to ban race, sex-based preferences”
Capitol Media Services (AZ), April 26, 2007


Editors: Julia Scott, Josh Wilson

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