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Western States Agree to Cut Greenhouse Gases
Headline News | 2007/02/27 05:04

The governors of five western US states signed an agreement Monday to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, a cause of global warming. During the winter meeting of the National Governors Association (NGA), the governors of Arizona, California, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the Western Regional Climate Action Initiative, which calls for the states to set reduction goals within six months, devise a "market-based program" to reach those goals and track emissions through a regional registry. "In the absence of meaningful federal action, it is up to the states ... to address climate change," Gov. Janet Napolitano (D-AZ) said in a press release. The market-based program could take the form of a cap-and-trade system, in which companies whose emissions exceed mandatory limits could buy credits from companies that produce less pollution. A regional cap and trade program would be a powerful first step toward developing a national program, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R-CA), the only Republican among the five governors, said in an address to the NGA. Statements were also issued by Govs. Bill Richardson (D-NM), Ted Kulongoski (D-OR) and Christine Gregoire.

Monday's agreement is only the latest joint effort by the western states. Last year, Arizona and New Mexico formed the Southwest Climate Change Initiative, and the governors of California, Oregon and Washington issued a joint statement in 2003 calling for regional action to address global warming. Elsewhere in the country, several Northeastern states have created the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from power plants through a regional cap-and-trade program, and some Midwestern states signed on to the Lake Michigan Air Directors Consortium, to establish a voluntary registry for companies to report their emissions-reduction efforts.

Efforts to establish national emissions limits have gained traction in Congress since the Democrats became the majority party, with at least four major proposals emerging. President Bush opposes mandatory carbon dioxide (CO2) limits but has proposed reducing emissions through the use of alternative fuels. A coalition of businesses and environmental groups has called for federal legislation, including a cap-and-trade program, to limit emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In September, California became the first US state to restrict greenhouse gas emissions when Schwarzenegger signed a bill authorizing a state board to set emissions targets for various industries.

Oil rises amid US chill, Iran tensions
Legal World News | 2007/02/27 01:01

Oil rose on Monday as a burst of cold weather boosted heating demand in the United States and as world powers discussed tightening UN sanctions on Iran, the world's fourth-largest oil exporter.

US crude rose 26 cents to $US61.40 a barrel, just below the 2007 high of $US61.80 hit on Friday. London Brent was up 47 cents to $US61.35.

Analysts said wintry weather sweeping across the key Midwest and North-east heating markets was supporting oil's gains, and added that prices could find even more strength heading into the spring, when gasoline demand picks up.

"It is the first time this year that the large speculative funds are showing a net long position in crude oil," said Olivier Jakob, an analyst at Swiss-based Petromatrix.

Oil prices have swung between a high of $US78.40 last July, when fighting flared in Lebanon, and a 20-month low of $US49.90 in January, when an expected influx of fund money failed to materialise, disappointing oil investors.

A steady recovery in prices since late January has been supported by gradually tightening supplies - OPEC has twice cut output since November - and by concerns over a possible disruption of Iran's oil supplies.

Supreme Court hears arguments in deadly force
Legal Career News | 2007/02/26 19:03
The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in Scott v. Harris, 05-1631, where the court must decide whether a police officer violated a fleeing suspect's constitutional rights by using deadly force when he bumped his police car into the suspect's car to end a high speed chase. Victor Harris was pursued by Coweta County, Georgia police when he refused to pull over while speeding. Video taken from the dashboard of the police car showed the ensuing collision, which resulted in Harris' paralysis and eventual suit against former sheriff's deputy Timothy Smith for violation of the Fourth Amendment. The US Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals held that Scott's qualified immunity claim under the Fourth Amendment was an insufficient defense because he acted unreasonably. The accident video was not played in court, but at least half of the bench appeared to have seen the footage; Justices Breyer and Kennedy each implied the video evidenced that contrary to the appeals court holding Harris was driving erratically. The Court is expected to rule by July.

High-Speed Chase Reaches Supreme Court
Court Feed News | 2007/02/26 18:36

The Supreme Court finds itself smack in the middle of a big debate over high-speed chases.

Officers in Georgia were chasing a speeding Victor Harris in 2001 when a cruiser rammed Harris' Cadillac at roughly 90 miles-per-hour, sending him into an embankment and leaving him paralyzed.

Harris sued Deputy Timothy Scott for violating his civil rights by using excessive force. Scott said he was trying to end the chase before anybody got hurt. Two lower courts sided with Harris.

This will be the first time in more than 20 years that the high court considers constitutional limits on police use of deadly force to stop fleeing suspects.

Harris' lawyer argues something more serious than a traffic violation has to occur before such force is used. Scott's attorney counters he didn't use excessive force, and that Harris was driving recklessly.

Egypt cleric claims CIA torture in 2003 rendition from Italy
Legal World News | 2007/02/26 05:02

Egyptian cleric Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr said in a live television interview with Al Jazeera Sunday that he was "savagely tortured by the CIA when kidnapped" and taken from Milan to Egypt in 2003. Nasr, who has been at the heart of Italian judicial proceedings against US and Italian intelligence agents implicated in his alleged kidnapping, did not say in the interview whether he was tortured during his four years of Egyptian imprisonment, although he alleged that previously. He also personally revealed plans previously disclosed by his lawyer to sue former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi [JURIST news archive] for his participation in the abduction, as well as plans to seek monetary compensation from the US for his suffering.

Nasr was released from prison earlier this month. The US State Department has refused to comment on his case.

World court finds Serbia innocent of genocide charge
Legal World News | 2007/02/26 04:58

SERBIA did not commit genocide against Bosnia during the 1992-5 war, the United Nation's highest court has ruled in a landmark case - but it said that the country had violated its responsibility to prevent genocide.

Bosnia had asked the International Court of Justice (ICJ), based in The Hague, to rule on whether Serbia had committed genocide through the killing, rapes and ethnic cleansing that overtook Bosnia during the war.

It was the first time a sovereign state had been tried for genocide, outlawed in a UN convention in 1948 after the Nazi Holocaust of the Jews.

A judgment in Bosnia's favour could have allowed the country to seek billions of pounds of compensation from Serbia.

Judge Rosalyn Higgins, the ICJ president, said the court concluded that the 1995 Srebrenica massacre of thousands of Bosnian Muslim men and boys did constitute genocide, but that other mass killings of Bosnian Muslims did not.

But she said the court ruled that the Serbian state could not be held directly responsible for genocide, so paying reparations to Bosnia would be inappropriate even though Serbia had failed to prevent genocide and punish the perpetrators.

"The court finds by 13 votes to two that Serbia has not committed genocide," she said. "The court finds that Serbia has violated the obligation to prevent genocide ... in respect of the genocide that occurred in Srebrenica."

Some 8,000 Muslims from Srebrenica and surrounding villages in eastern Bosnia were killed in July 1995. The bodies of almost half of them have been found in more than 80 mass graves nearby.

Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb wartime leader and his military commander, Ratko Mladic, both accused of genocide over Srebrenica, are still on the run.

Reacting to the ruling in Belgrade, the Serbian president, Boris Tadic, urged the country's parliament to condemn the massacre. "For all of us, the very difficult part of the verdict is that Serbia did not do all it could to prevent genocide," he told a news conference.

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