For a Soldier’s Father, Deportation

When Pfc. Armando Soriano was killed in Iraq, his mother benefited from a loophole on immigration law that allows soldiers’ family members to apply for legal residency. But the rules work on a case-by-case basis, and his father, who has been in the U.S. illegally since 1999, faces deportation because he once snuck back into the country. One of Soriano’s sisters is also not a citizen. Such cases are increasingly common as more foreign-born fighters join the military en route to citizenship.

Democratic Congress: A High Pork Diet

A report from the Center for Investigative Reporting exposes the hypocrisy of Democratic claims that the $463.5-billion spending bill they passed in February was “earmark-free,” or free of any specific pork-barrel project money for their home states. But within days of the bill passing, Democrats deluged federal agencies to fund their pet projects directly, according to the report. In fact, documents show that agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce received 122 spending requests from 52 senators and 205 representatives in January through April — exactly when Democrats were reaping the publicity benefits of their “earmark-free” appropriations policy. Congressmen say these requests differ from earmarks because agencies can “just say no,” but experts say the agencies, already dependent on Congress to fund their budgets, are likely to feel pressure to accede to them. Source:
“Lawmakers try to save their earmarks”
Los Angeles Times, July 10, 2007

Schwarzenegger: on the Wings of Charity

Government watchdogs are concerned that a shadowy nonprofit that finances Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s lavish international trips may also allow special interests to donate big bucks to the governor in return for political favors — and all without any public accountability. The Los Angeles Times reports that a 501c(3) charity, the California State Protocol Foundation, spent $1.3 million in 2006 alone to pay for the governor’s private jets and luxurious hotel suites when Schwarzenegger travels abroad, even though he is personally wealthy. The group is closely connected with the California Chamber of Commerce, and pays all the bills the governor submits without itemization. The foundation won’t reveal who its donors are, but a spokesman suggested the charity was actually sparing taxpayers from having to foot the governor’s travel bill. Watchdogs say the public ought to pay for such official trips, since it would keep Schwarzenegger from spending so much money.

Civil Rights, Security, and One Man’s Solution

Even as President George W. Bush authorized a controversial plan to centralize government powers in the White House following any large-scale national disaster, a closed group of government officials and scholars studied “contingencies” for dealing with nuclear terrorism in the United States. “The Day After,” a meeting hosted by the Preventive Defense Project, was staged behind closed doors in Washington, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The group addressed a variety of issues, including health and shelter concerns, as well as the imposition of martial law and the eventual restoration of civil liberties. Terrorism fears turned inward in Alabama, where the state’s Homeland Security office was found to host a Web site that listed anti-war and gay rights activist groups among possible terror suspects. The site was taken down following protests.

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.

Muslim Discrimination, From Massachusetts to Mindanao

Four Muslim truck drivers for FedEx in Massachusetts are suing over claims that upper management ignored racist verbal abuse and unfair work assignments. A judge has ruled that the suit can proceed because the men are employees and not independent contractors — a finding that also undermines the company’s case against a unionization bid by its 15,000 truckers. On the overwhelmingly Christian island of Mindanao in the Philippines, Muslims say they have been barred from working at malls over fears that they might be suicide bombers. Critics say this increases tensions in a province with a decades-old Islamic independence movement, where Muslims tend to be poorer, and have shorter life expectancies than average. Sources:
“Arab Americans charge harassment by FedEx”
Reuters, March 10, 2007
“Philippines: Muslims ‘banned’ from working in malls in Mindanao”
ADNKRONOS International, March 9, 2007

Contraception & Abortion: A Morning After for Chile, North Dakota

Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet has issued an executive order legalizing free “morning after” contraception to teens without parental consent. The issue has split the ruling party in a socially conservative nation where divorce was only legalized in 2004. Supporters say the new rules will provide equal access to contraception for low-income Chilean women, according to the Santiago Times. In North Dakota, the legislature overwhelmingly passed a “trigger ban” on abortion that would take effect the instant Roe v. Wade were overturned. A second bill, which was defeated, would have banned abortion immediately and prosecuted women for seeking the procedure, the Bismarck Tribune reports.