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FPF: Week Ending June 1

By Christopher Schonberger

This week on Front Page Flash: Splashdown on Mars, the Supreme Court bolsters workers’ rights, South Africa reels from violence, New York weighs in on same-sex unions, and Hillary bites her tongue.

Mars Craft Succeeds in Soft Landing [Washington Post]
On Sunday, NASA’s Phoenix spacecraft touched down on Mars in the first successful “soft landing”—using a parachute and thrusters rather than protective air bags—on the Red Planet since the twin Viking missions in 1976. The journey took 296 days and covered 422 million miles. Soon after landing, the Phoenix deployed its solar panels and began sending pictures back to Earth. It is expected to begin digging into the planet’s surface on Monday in order to find evidence that life existed on Mars, or could exist on other planets.

Supreme court gives workers protection from retaliation [La Times]
Bucking a trend of pro-business decisions that effectively limit workers’ rights, the Supreme Court ruled that federal civil rights protecting workers from discrimination also extend to those who face retaliation for complaining about bias in the workplace. Employees who say they were punished for complaining about discrimination can now sue for damages. This is not a huge change to existing laws, but it interprets more broadly past precedents about discrimination in the workplace and makes explicit the fact that employer’s can’t retaliate for complaints regarding age, race, etc.

South Africa seeks disaster status [BBC]
A month of extreme violence in South Africa’s Western Cape has resulted in a request from the provincial government to declare it a disaster zone. The violence, aimed against foreigners in South Africa, began in the townships outside of Johannesburg and spread into Johannesburg and Cape Town. UN and Red Cross figures suggest more than 70,000 foreigners fled the attacks, with 33,000 fleeing to neighboring nations. Migrant camps have been set up around the country to take in victims and those who flee the violence. The situation has sparked long-term concern about stability in South Africa, especially as the country is preparing to host the World Cup in 2010.

New York to Back Same Sex Marriages from Elsewhere [NYT]
A week after California legalized gay marriage, Governor David Patterson (aka Eliot Spitzer’s replacement) directed all state agencies to begin revising their policies and regulations regarding same-sex unions from other places, such as Massachusetts, California, and Canada. Under the suggested revisions, same-sex couples would be recognized in New York state and receive the same legal treatment as unions between a man and a woman. This move sends a signal that Patterson is committed to legalizing gay marriage in New York during his tenure.

Clinton Sorry for Remark About RFK Assassination [Washington Post]
Clinton’s latest gaffe came last Friday, but the story has had legs all week as the press grasps for something to cover in the interminable Democratic nomination race. When asked why she continues to run against the odds by a newspaper in Sioux Falls, S.D., Clinton responded, “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California." Clinton has since apologized to the Kennedy family for invoking RFK’s assassination, and her advisers have denied claims that her comments suggest she thinks Obama will be assassinated. Obama’s safety has been an underlying concern of the campaign—he began receiving Secret Service protection 18 months before the general election.

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