WASHINGTON: Supreme Court halts death penalty for youth

In the second major defeat for the death penalty in three years, the Supreme Court, in a 5–4 decision, ruled that persons under 18 when they committed a crime cannot receive the death penalty.

The decision removes the U.S. from a list of only a handful of countries, including Saudi Arabia, that allow juveniles to be executed. It immediately bars 18 states, where 70 youth sit on death row, from carrying out planned executions.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote the majority decision, noted, “Our society views juveniles as categorically less culpable than the average criminal.” He said that most states already prohibit judges or juries from imposing the death sentence on youth.

CARSON CITY, Nev.: State Assembly rejects Social Security privatization

With 314,120 Nevadans depending upon monthly Social Security checks to pay their bills, the State Assembly approved a resolution 27–13, Feb. 24, demanding that Congress reject Bush’s plan to privatize Social Security. Bush and many Republicans are fighting to replace the country’s most successful social insurance program with “private accounts” to wheel and deal in the stock market.

In an address to the Assembly, Nevada’s U.S. Senator Harry Reid said the Bush administration should win an Academy Award for creating the illusion that a crisis exists in Social Security.

All 26 Democrats and one Republican approved the resolution. The 13 who opposed it were all Republicans. The resolution goes to the state Senate, where Republicans dominate with a 12–9 edge.

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.: Hands off Social Security, say lawmakers

A union-led delegation held a press conference, then filed into the state House chambers, Feb. 25, for a debate on a resolution calling on Congress to reject all forms of privatization for Social Security. Following a nasty two-hour debate, the House voted 40–27 to approve the resolution.

Speaking at the press conference preceding the debate were New Mexico’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman and Rep. Tom Udall, both Democrats, and state House Speaker Ben Lujan, sponsor of the resolution.

Josie Marujo, leader of the New Mexico Federation of Government Employees, the union representing Social Security workers, said the Bush administration instructed workers to lie to the public about a crisis in the system. The union is convinced that if the Bush private accounts replace the current system, Social Security would be destroyed.

CYBERSPACE: MoveOn joins Social Security fight

During the 2004 elections, the online organization MoveOn.org mobilized millions to vote against Bush. Now it has launched an online campaign to garner 500,000 signatures on a petition to Congress to stop the privatization of Social Security.

Originally, MoveOn sought 200,000 signatures, but in just three weeks over 360,000 members of the online community signed the petition, so MoveOn upped the ante.

MoveOn invites visitors to its web site to add their own stories on the impact of Social Security.

WASHINGTON: ACLU sues Rumsfeld on torture

Retired Navy Judge Advocate General John D. Hutson joined Anthony Romero, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, and a host of human rights attorneys and activists to announce that they are suing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on behalf of eight men who charge they were tortured by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The eight men, who were never charged with a crime, were imprisoned and beaten, subjected to sexual humiliation and mock execution, and restrained in excruciating, contorted positions.

SPARTANBURG, S.C.: Judge rules Bush must charge or free Padilla

For more than two years, the Bush administration has held U.S. citizen Jose Padilla in a Navy brig here with no charges filed against him. That changed Feb. 28 when U.S. District Judge Henry Floyd rejected the administration’s designation of “enemy combatant” as the grounds to imprison him and ordered that Padilla be charged or freed. Floyd was appointed by Bush in 2003.

In a 23-page decision, Floyd wrote, “The court finds that the president has no power, neither express nor implied, neither constitutional nor statutory, to hold petitioner as an enemy combatant.” The government has 45 days to act.

The Bush administration alleges that Brooklyn-born Padilla, arrested in 2002, planned to blow up residential buildings and set off a “dirty bomb.”

Bush administration spokesman John Nowacki said the government would appeal.

National Clips are compiled by Denise Winebrenner Edwards (dwinebr696@aol.com). Emil Shaw contributed to this week’s clips.