If you’re curious about the UN’s response to the Ebola outbreak or want to know more about what the UN is doing to reduce deaths from preventable diseases like malaria and measles, the United Nations Foundation blog is going to be your new go-to resource online.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid Announces His Retirement
Today, Senate Democrats’ fearless leader Harry Reid announced he won’t seek reelection in 2016, signaling the end of a more than three decade-long career in congress. In his video announcement Sen. Reid assured his supporters that his decision had nothing to do with an eye injury he sustained on New Year’s Day, or the fact that the 2014 elections changed his title from Majority Leader to Minority Leader. Like the boxer he was as a young man, and the fighter he was throughout his time in the Senate, Reid promised to go out swinging: “My friend Sen. McConnell, don’t be too elated. I’m gonna be here for 22 months, and you know what I’m going to be doing? The same thing I’ve done since I first came to the Senate.”
Reid’s services to Nevadans and Americans are innumerable; he brought his own life story of struggle and hard work to the Senate with him each day. And the mark he left on the capitol will be remembered for years to come. To commemorate his outstanding service, ThinkProgress put together a list of just five (you have to draw the line somewhere) of his landmark achievements in the Senate, which we have adapted below:
Pushed filibuster reform through the Senate. In 2013, Sen. Reid facilitated a change in Senate procedure that prohibited filibusters in the nomination progress, allowing a wave of new judges to be named to important appeals courts.
Facilitated the Passage of the Affordable Care Act. As majority leader in 2009, Sen. Reid was an integral part of the vote counting and whipping process that allowed the President’s landmark law to be passed without one Republican vote.
Engineered Comprehensive Immigration Reform in the Senate. Sen. Reid personally fought for and passed comprehensive, bipartisan immigration bill that passed the Senate in 2013. Unfortunately the Republican-led House never took up the bill, despite overwhelming popular support, so the President was forced to take action without Congress.
Advocated for protections for LGBT Americans. Sen. Reid has publicly supported marriage equality, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), and supported the President taking executive action to ban workplace discrimination against LGBT federal contractors.
Protected the environment of his home state. Sen. Reid memorably blocked an attempt to use Nevada’s Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste site, despite approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and pressure from Republicans. He also championed Nevada’s transition away from coal reliance in advocating the state’s energy bill “NVision” that called on the state’s largest utility to eliminate a percentage of coal generation from its portfolio. Additionally, he worked across the aisle to establish Nevada’s Great Basin National Park, protecting more than 77,000 acres of public land.
BOTTOM LINE: Overcoming a challenging upbringing with hard work to become one of the most formidable forces for change in American politics, Harry Reid’s life story is the embodiment of the American Dream. It’s part of the reason why he has worked so hard to open the door of opportunity for more Americans. His presence on Capitol Hill will be missed, but his legacy will remain. And if his last 30 years in Congress are any indication, we are looking forward to the next 22 months.
Grand jurors heard three months of testimony at the St. Louis County Courthouse before declining to indict Darren …
A week before the Ferguson grand jury chose not to charge police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Michael Brown, itwas denied a request to make a public statement about the controversial case, court documents filed Fridayreveal.
It’s unknown what the 12 jurors wanted to say or what prompted them to seek an opportunity to be heard after the case was decided. The refusal came from St. Louis County Circuit Court Judge Carolyn Whittington.
The surprising request surfaced in an ongoing federal lawsuit of a grand juror against St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch. The juror, identified in court papers as Grand Juror Doe, seeks the court’s permission to speak publicly about his experience and wants immunity from prosecution.
On Friday, McCulloch filed arguments and exhibits to bolster his motion for U.S. District Judge Rodney Sippel to dismiss the case.
Portion of Judge Whittington’s letter. Click image to read entire document.
By law, grand juries are sworn to secrecy. In Missouri, it’s a misdemeanor for them discuss evidence, witnesses or their votes. Their identities are seldom known.
“I would imagine that it’s very unusual,” St. Louis law professor Susan McGraugh said of the panel’s wishes to go public after it ruled. “But as today proves, we don’t really get access to any requests like that that would be made.”
McCulloch’s lawyers maintain Doe should have taken his case up with Whittington, who swore in the grand jury and denied its effort to make a public statement.
“Indeed, on November 17, 2014, Judge Whittington rejected a request by the grand jury to issue a statement when it completed its work,” lawyers write in Friday’s filing. “…this Court should not permit [Doe] to sidestep the court to whom [Doe] swore his oath and by which he was twice charged to obey the law.”
Whittington writes: “my initial response to the question was, ‘Yes.’ ” But she said legal research caused her to change her mind.
“The Supreme Court has spoken on the issue of the power of the grand jury,” the judge writes in the Nov. 17 letter. “I do not believe there is authority for the Grand Jury to make a statement and request that you inform the Grand Jury that it must be guided by the ruling of the Supreme Court.”
Whittington writes that McCulloch delivered the panel’s request. But the letter does not indicate on what day the grand jury made the request or if the question was in writing.
“I think it just highlights the fact that McCulloch’s office and the circuit court have exclusive access to all sorts of information that the public does not,” said McGraugh, who supervises Saint Louis University School of Law’s criminal defense clinic. “But if not for the prosecutor’s office deciding to use this information to buttress for a claim, no one would have ever known this happened. That’s certainly one of the transparency issues that people have been arguing.”
After hearing three months of testimony, the grand jury reached a decision in the racially charged case. The vote did not have to be unanimous. In Missouri, a consensus of nine is needed to rule.
St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert McCulloch the night of the Ferguson grand jury decision. (Cristina Fletes-Boutte-Pool/Getty …
Instead of hearing from the grand jury, McCulloch — the subject of heavy criticism for refusing to charge Wilson or appoint an outside prosecutor — delivered the results the night of Nov. 24 before a nationally televised news conference.
The decision not to charge Wilson for killing the unarmed 18-year-old sparked riots and unrest in Ferguson, Mo., just as Brown’s shooting death had nearly four months before.
Earlier this month, federal investigators also concluded that Wilson had reason to fear Brown when he shot him. Wilson resigned from the Ferguson Police Department in late November.
With international attention and controversy surrounding the case, McCulloch made the unique move to himself discuss in detail why the officer was cleared. He also made public most evidence presented to the grand jury — though some of it was heavily redacted.
In January, Grand Juror Doe filed suit, alleging McCulloch wrongly implied that all 12 jurors believed that there was no evidence to support charging Wilson.
“[McCulloch] does not know [Doe’s] identity or how he voted, and [McCulloch] has never purported to speak for any grand juror individually,” the prosecutor’s lawyers wrote in Friday’s filing. “Although [Doe] may now regret having sworn his oath and accept his charge, [Doe] has no right to publicly report his impressions, and it has long been established that a prosecutor, unlike a grand juror, is competent to discuss the evidence presented to a grand jury.”
Jason Sickles is a reporter for Yahoo News. Follow him on Twitter (@jasonsickles).