Khatami’s Losing Hand

Former Iranian President Mohammed Khatami announced he will not run for president in the 2009 election, despite his popularity as a reformist candidate, following a scandal over an incident in Italy when he shook hands with a woman. Such handshakes are generally forbidden under Islam except for between family members. Khatami denied the incident took place even as a video circulated on YouTube. Radical clerics have circulated a petition calling for Khatami to be defrocked, and posters of Khatami have been defaced. Supporters see his decision to not run as capitulation to extremists.

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

Polygamy Bans Proliferate Everywhere But …

Utah reckons it’s home to thousands of polygamists, all following their interpretation of Mormon religious teachings, but in contravention of current Mormon practices — and the law. So, while governments in Uganda and Iraqi Kurdistan debate banning polygamous marriages altogether to protect women from abuse and exploitation, “fundamentalist” Mormons in the American Southwest are seeking the reverse: the decriminalization of the practice, which they say is voluntary, not forced. In fact, Reuters reports that this push for decriminalization also includes provisions to stamp out forced marriages and underage brides. In Iraq, Kurdish women groups are mostly lineup up against polygamy, which was legal for most of the nation throughout the Hussein era, and is supported by men and women there to this day. Based on Islamic-derived law, Iraqi men can have up to four wives, but must prove to a judge that they can support all of them, and that the women will be treated equally.

Little Progress for Gun Opponents

Lawmakers raced to propose tougher gun control laws following the Virginia Tech and Montreal school shootings, but each has drawn criticism — and not just from the usual suspects. New rules in Virginia forestall people who have been referred for mental health counseling from buying a gun. The rules are meant to close a “loophole” in the law that let Seung-Hui Cho buy his weapons. But mental health advocates worry it stigmatizes all mentally ill people as violent instead of dealing with a lack of state- run mental health treatment programs.
Pennsylvania lawmakers are looking at tightening state gun laws but aren’t likely to pass restrictions like Virginia’s. An aide to the governor points out that the man who killed five girls in an Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster County last year had no history of mental illness, and the state could not have stopped him from buying a gun.

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.

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.

Drugs, Guns & Politics

By Martin Leatherman & staff
Terrorism, political instability and the drug trade have been forged into a single problem, as narcotics take a leading economic role in nations already suffering from violence and poverty. According to the United Nations International Narcotics Control Board, Iraq is becoming a major transit country for drugs originating in Afghanistan and entering Jordan en route to Asia and Europe. The president of the U.N. board, Hamid Ghodse, said the situation in Iraq resembles other post-conflict nations, where the aftermath of war or other disasters leaves border security weakened. Similar cases include Colombia, Bolivia and Afghanistan. According to Agence France Presse, the political obstacles to Afghanistan’s war on drugs are huge.

UPDATE: Faith & Politics

The intersection of politics and religion continues to be notable mostly for its collisions. Miami and Alaska appear to be at the forefront of a new effort to get state and federal funding for religious schools. Elsewhere around the U.S., spiritual and secular takes on Christmas and other winter holidays have led to claims of discrimination, protests, and also lawsuits over offical statements of seasonal cheer — especially in schools. This includes one New Jersey school district’s complete ban on religious music. A protest against the policy brought out Republicans, Democrats, Christians and Jews.

Liberal theology

Research by Allison Bloch, intern 
Are all faith-based politics necessarily conservative? A survey of recent media coverage of religion and politics finds a distinct left-liberal trend that splits with the dominant dialog on war, homosexuality and the democratic process. -Peace Activism
-American Politics
-Foreign Politics
-Religion & Homosexuality
 – – – – – – – – – –
Back to the top
For all the history of religion as a justification for war, the tradition of pacifist theology remains alive and well. The Catholic-led SOA Watch is at the front of an ongoing movement protesting the School of the Americas, a training facility for Central American security forces and officers based in Ft. Benning, Georgia.

Women & Politics

Article research by Allison Bloch, Intern 
Simply having the right to vote does not guarantee civic enfranchisement or equal status. A short survey of women’s issues at home and abroad finds wage disparities, lack of political involvement, and, of course, conflict over abortion rights and wrongs. Some articles listed below may move to paid archives over time. To further your own research, we’ve provided links to keyword searches on the topics we cover. -Blue State Blues
-Women Abroad
-Status: Quo?