Monday, June 29, 2009

Clinton calls for full democratic order in Honduras


Clinton calls for full democratic order in HondurasWASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the United States was working with other nations in the hemisphere to restore full democratic and constitutional order in Honduras after the ouster of President Manuel Zelaya.
Clinton said the Honduran military`s removal of Zelaya on Sunday had "evolved into a coup."
Under U.S. law, no aid -- other than for the promotion of democracy -- may be provided to a country whose elected head of government has been toppled in a military coup. Asked if the United States was now considering cutting off aid to Honduras, Clinton shook her head no.
She later said the United States was assessing the situation in Honduras and possible final outcomes before determining the next steps.
Clinton called the military arrest and expulsion of Zelaya "unfortunate events" and said it was a test of the inter-American system`s ability to support and defend democracy and constitutional order in the hemisphere.
"The United States has been working with our partners in the OAS to fashion a strong consensus condemning the detention and expulsion of President Zelaya and calling for the full restoration of democratic order in Honduras," said Clinton, referring to the Organization of American States.
(Reporting by Deborah Charles, Editing by Sandra Maler)
Original article

U.S. trade panel favors stiffer duties on Chinese tires


By Susan Cornwell
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A majority of the U.S. International Trade Commission recommended on Monday that President Barack Obama impose additional duties for three years on imports of low-cost Chinese tires the panel says are harming U.S. industry.
In a case seen as a test of how the Obama administration will cope with Chinese trade issues, four members of the six-member commission recommended that Obama impose additional duties of 55 percent in the first year, 45 percent in the second year, and 35 percent in the third year on imports of passenger vehicle and light truck tires from China.
"In our opinion, these tariff levels would remedy the market disruption that we have found to exist," the four said in a statement. The complaint was brought by the United Steelworkers union, which said a surge of Chinese tire imports have cost thousands of U.S. jobs.
Two other members of the commission disagreed, saying Obama should take no "trade-restricting" action because this would do more harm than good.
"This is an industry in which the trend toward gradual downsizing appears likely to continue regardless of the commission`s action today," the two dissenters said in a statement. But they joined the majority in urging that the Obama administration provide aid to displaced tire workers under the U.S. Trade Adjustment Assistance program.
The trade commission will formally submit its recommendations to Obama in a report next month. He will then have until September to decide what, if any, action to take. He can embrace, modify or ignore the commissioners` proposals.
Trade experts are watching to see whether Obama, who criticized China for what he called unfair labor practices during his campaign and won strong labor support in his bid for the White House, will be tougher on China than predecessor George W. Bush.
Bush routinely rejected petitions for restricting Chinese imports.
The case is one of several prickly trade issues between the United States and China, Washington`s second-largest trading partner behind Canada. Tensions have been exacerbated by the growth in the U.S. trade deficit.
Earlier Monday, China complained about U.S. investigations that could lead to duties on Chinese steel imports, saying they were a shocking sign of trade protectionism.
The steelworkers, who filed their complaint in April, argued that some 5,100 U.S. workers have lost jobs because of low-price Chinese tire imports that hit 46 million in 2008. They want Obama to restrict Chinese tire imports to 21 million.
The steelworkers cited closings of U.S. plants by Goodyear, Continental Tire and Bridgestone/Firestone, and said more closings are pending.
Chinese tire producers countered that U.S. companies largely abandoned the low-cost tire market before Chinese manufacturers moved in. They also noted that no U.S. tire producers had joined the steelworkers` complaint.
Vic DeIorio, executive vice president for sales of Chinese tire maker GITI in the United States, said he was disappointed that four of the six trade commissioners "felt compelled to take a decidedly protectionist path."
"If there is a barrier placed on tires produced in China, U.S. manufacturers and distributors will simply increase importation of tires from other countries, such as Venezuela. What`s more, duties will result in higher tires prices for American consumers at a time when they can ill afford it," DeIorio said in a statement.
(Editing by Philip Barbara)
Original article

Related articles:
China ministry "regrets" U.S. tire trade finding

Russian gays ready to protest during Obama visit


MOSCOW (Reuters) - Gay rights activists in Moscow plan to ignore a ban and rally in favor of same-sex marriages when U.S. President Barack Obama visits next week, one of their leaders said Monday.
In a statement, Nikolai Alexeyev said the Moscow authorities had banned a proposed demonstration outside the U.S. embassy next Tuesday, the second day of Obama`s July 6-8 trip.
"Moscow authorities have again violated the law by denying us the right to freedom of assembly," Alexeyev said in a statement.
"We don`t intend to abandon our plans and in the near future we will determine the format of action on July 7 during the visit of Barack Obama in Russia."
A Moscow municipal spokeswoman confirmed city authorities had turned down a request from gay activists to protest in front of the U.S. embassy on July 7. She said the area had already been booked for another event and that Muscovites were against the gay protest.
Russia decriminalized homosexuality in 1993 but tolerance is not widespread and Moscow`s authorities often ban protests in support of gay rights.
In May, a lesbian couple failed in their attempt to be officially married and a few days later Russian riot police broke up a gay rights protest on the day of the Eurovision Song Contest final.
(Writing by James Kilner; Reporting by Tatyana Ustinova; Editing by Richard Balmforth)
Original article

Supreme Court rules against city in race-based promotions case


By James Vicini
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Monday that New Haven, Connecticut, discriminated against a mostly white group of firefighters who were denied promotions, overturning a decision by high court nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
By a 5-4 vote and splitting along conservative and liberal lines, the justices overturned a ruling for the city by a U.S. appeals court panel that included Sotomayor, who is President Barack Obama`s nominee to replace retiring Justice David Souter on the Supreme Court.
At issue in the case was whether a city can, as New Haven did, throw out the results of a firefighter promotion exam after it yielded too many qualified white applicants and no acceptable black candidates. The high court ruled it cannot.
The appeals court`s ruling in the New Haven case is expected to be a focus of questioning by Republicans at Sotomayor`s Senate confirmation hearing scheduled for next month.
In the New Haven case, civil rights groups said the ruling could affect promotion policies for employers nationwide, many of which operate under "affirmative action" programs designed to foster diversity and redress past discrimination.
The Supreme Court ruled for a group of 19 white firefighters and one Hispanic firefighter who filed a lawsuit in 2004 against New Haven.
Writing the court`s majority opinion and reading it from the bench on the last day of the term, Justice Anthony Kennedy said the city`s action in discarding the tests violated federal civil rights law.
The firefighters said they would have been promoted if the city had not thrown out the tests for lieutenant and captain because no blacks had scored high enough to move up in rank.
The dispute was one of two major civil rights cases that reached the Supreme Court after Obama became the nation`s first black president.
In the other case last week, the court declined to decide a constitutional challenge to the Voting Rights Act that seeks to ensure access to the polls by minorities, ruling narrowly that political subdivisions in a state can apply to be exempted from the law.
(Editing by Deborah Charles and Will Dunham)
Original article

Top court sets arguments again on campaign law


WASHINGTON, June 29 Reuters - The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would hear arguments again on whether a federal campaign finance law improperly limited corporate-funded messages in political elections, a case that could lead to fewer restrictions on ads that seek to sway voters.
On the last day of the court`s term, Chief Justice John Roberts announced the justices would hear arguments on September 9 over a conservative advocacy group`s challenge to the law as part of its effort to broadcast and promote a movie critical of Hillary Clinton during her presidential campaign.
The group, Citizens United, released a 90-minute documentary film "Hillary: The Movie" in January 2008 when Clinton, then a U.S. senator from New York, was running for president. She later became secretary of state in President Barack Obama`s administration.
The case was argued before the Supreme Court on March 24. The court will occasionally hear arguments a second time in a case when it wants to explore other legal issues.
The 2002 campaign finance law at issue in the case was named after Senator John McCain of Arizona, the unsuccessful Republican presidential candidate in 2008, and Senator Russell Feingold, a Democrat from Wisconsin.
The court said in a brief order that it would consider as part of the rearguments whether to overrule part of its 2003 ruling that upheld the campaign finance law.
The court`s conservative majority, with the addition of Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito in 2005 and 2006, has limited or struck down parts of the 2002 law that was designed to regulate the role of money in politics and federal elections.
Critics said the law amounted to censorship and violated free-speech rights.
(Reporting by James Vicini, Editing by Deborah Charles and Vicki Allen)
Original article

Congress eyes market impact of speculators: Vilsack


CHICAGO (Reuters) - Congress is eyeing ways to make sure speculative trading helps commodity markets rather than distorting pricing signals, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said in a Reuters Television interview Monday.
"There are concerns," Vilsack said, noting he has spoken about the issue with Tom Harkin, chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, about the issue.
"I suspect that there will probably be an effort to make sure when there is trading that takes place on the market, that it`s trading that actually assists the market, doesn`t hurt the market, creates a robust trading scheme so that we get a good pricing signal," Vilsack said.
Grain futures markets are bracing for more government regulation after a U.S. Senate probe blamed index funds for overinflating wheat prices last year.
Vilsack was slated to tour the Chicago Board of Trade on Monday with executives from parent company CME Group Inc, the world`s largest derivatives exchange, which has said speculators were not responsible for price volatility.
Food prices soared to record levels last year, causing riots and hoarding in some countries.
While prices have come down from the spike, they remain at historically high levels, especially in developing countries.
Vilsack was also slated to speak to about the Obama administration`s approach to global food security on Monday.
The Obama administration has said it will ask Congress to double agricultural development aid to $1 billion by 2010.
"It is part of national security, it is part of foreign policy, it`s part of our trade policy. It`s part of our economic recovery efforts," Vilsack said.
The United Nations` World Food Program has pleaded with rich nations to maintain food aid as more than a billion people are chronically hungry at a time when global food aid is at a 20-year low.
Original article

Obama opposes energy bill trade penalties: reports

Obama opposes energy bill trade penalties: reportsWASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Sunday called a House-passed climate change bill "an extraordinary first step," but spoke out against a provision that would impose trade penalties on countries that fail to cut greenhouse gas emissions.
"At a time when the economy worldwide is still deep in recession and we`ve seen a significant drop in global trade, I think we have to be very careful about sending any protectionist signals," Obama said in an Oval Office interview reported by The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post.
"I think there may be other ways of doing it than with a tariff approach," Obama said.
The Democratic-controlled House on Friday passed the climate change bill that would require large U.S. companies, including utilities and manufacturers to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases associated with global warming by 17 percent by 2020 and 83 percent by 2050, from 2005 levels.
A top priority for Obama, the measure was approved by a 219-212 vote, with only eight Republicans joining Democrats in support of the bill. Republicans said the bill would neither effectively help the environment nor improve an economy reeling from a deep recession.
Obama dismissed the Republican criticisms and castigated opponents for "lying" about cost projections and "scaring the bejeezus" out of voters, the Los Angeles Times said.
Obama also accused Republicans of being stuck in a 1990s-era debate on energy when the American people "have moved forward" with concerns about climate change and hope for renewable power, the newspaper said.
Obama predicted similar energy legislation faced a difficult path through the Senate and would require additional compromises to win enough votes for passage, The New York Times reported. The article said Obama did not set a timetable for Senate action but called on the leadership to "seize the day."
An aide said Obama plans to announce new energy-saving standards for light bulbs this week to keep the focus on energy issues, the newspaper said.
(Reporting by Joanne Allen)
Original article