[JURIST] A spokesman for the Independent Electoral Commission of Iraq [official website; English version] said in Baghdad Saturday that the final tally of results from the January 30 election will be announced at 4 PM Sunday local time (8 AM ET); it is expected that they will be published online here. Partial results released previously [JURIST report] give the lead to a Shiite Islamic list, with Kurdish parties and a party group [political party website] led by Iraqi Interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi coming third. The Transitional National Assembly chosen in the vote will draft a permanent constitution for Iraq which will be put to a popular referendum in the fall. BBC News has more. JURIST provides an archive of Iraq election coverage.
[JURIST] Israeli officials Saturday announced plans to repatriate more than 55 Palestinians accused of terror activities who had been deported to the Gaza Strip and Europe during the Palestinian uprising. The announcement follows a Tuesday truce agreement [JURIST report] between Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon [official website; English version] and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas [Wikipedia profile] that ended four years of fighting in the region. While no timetable for the deportees return was announced, Raanan Gissin, an advisor to Sharon, issued a promise that they will not be arrested upon return. Palestinian and Israeli officials are also expected to meet Saturday evening to discuss Israel's planned handover of five West Bank towns, an easing of restrictions on Palestinian travel, and security issues. AP has more.
[JURIST] Tens of thousands of Russians returned to the streets [JURIST report] Saturday to demand the return of the Soviet system of state benefits. Protesters oppose a January 1 law that replaced the medical, housing and transportation benefits traditionally received by millions of Russian pensioners with cash payments. Opponents of the new law, including many Communists [political party website in Russian], say the payments are too meager to cover even basic needs. Many protesters are also calling for the ouster of President Vladimir Putin's government, after the Russian parliament rejected a motion of no-confidence Thursday. There were also counter-demonstrations in several centers supporting the changes. AP has more.
[JURIST] The US Department of Labor [official website] announced Saturday that retail giant Wal-Mart will pay $135,540 to settle 24 federal child labor law violations. The charges involve teenage workers who used hazardous equipment while working at Wal-Mart stores in Arkansas, Connecticut and New Hampshire. With few exceptions, current federal law [DOL backgrounder] prohibits any person under the age of 18 to operate hazardous machinery. As part of the settlement, Wal-Mart has agreed to train managers to make sure further violations do not occur. AP has more.
[JURIST] One day after the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court announced it would hear arguments [JURIST report] challenging its decision to legalize same-sex marriage, Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly [official website] told reporters Friday that he now supports the ruling. He had previously opposed the unions, and initially spoke out against the court's November 2003 ruling [press release]. Reilly, who is expected to announce that's he a Democratic candidate for governor, also said that he's not in favor of a constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and as Attorney General is opposed to taking away rights once they are granted. Skeptics call Reilly's statements nothing more than "pre-race politicking". Saturday's Boston Globe has more.
[JURIST] At least two people were killed Saturday in Lome, the capital of Togo [US State Department backgrounder] as thousands protesting the unconstitutional succession of Faure Gnassingbe [BBC profile] to the country's presidency clashed with the Togolese riot police. The Togo government said no one could gain by the violence [government press statement in French]. Meanwhile a government delegation arrived in Niger, where it had been summoned to hear demands of other African leaders urging a return to constitutional rule. Togo's army had installed Faure following the sudden death of his father, Gnassingbe Eyadema [Wikipedia profile], Togo's dictatorial ruler for 38 years. Constitutional succession procedures were not followed, although the country's parliament amended the constitution [JURIST report; unamended Togolese constitution in French] in a special sitting on February 6 to allow Faure to remain in office without an electoral mandate. The UN, major African heads of state, and former colonial ruler France have all demanded that the tranfer of power be invalidated and proper elections be held. The Togo goverment has posted a news release on the visit of delegation on it website. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Fast-food giant McDonald's [official website] has agreed to pay $8.5 million to settle a lawsuit over unhealthy trans fats [American Hear Association recommendations] in its cooking oils used to make french fries and other foods. The settlement is the result of litigation brought by the non-profit advocacy group BanTransFats.com [advocacy website] which alleged that McDonald's did not adequately inform the public of delays in switching to a healthier cooking oil. McDonald's has agreed to pay $7 million to the American Heart Association [official website] for education about trans fat foods with $7,500 each going to the BanTransFats website and another plaintiff in the case. Read a BanTransFats press release on the settlement. Reuters has more.
[JURIST] Four priests of the Roman Catholic Boston Archdiocese [official website] accused of sexually abusing minors have been defrocked by the Vatican. Robert D. Fay, Kelvin Iguabita, Bernard Lane, and Robert Ward are no longer permitted to perform as priests and will be denied diocesan benefits and financial support. The Boston Archdiocese has issued this statement. Several other priests from the Boston Archdiocese have been defrocked in recent years including Paul Shanley, defrocked last year and convicted of child rape and indecent assault earlier this week [JURIST report]. The Boston Herald has more.
[JURIST] Spanish police arrested two men Saturday thought to be linked to the terrorist group ETA [BBC backgrounder] according to Spain's Interior Ministry. The number of people associated with the Basque separatist group arrested in the past week is now approaching 20. ETA claimed responsibility for a car bomb Wednesday in Madrid that injured 43 during a visit by Mexican president Vincente Fox [Wikipedia profile]. Reuters has more.
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