News in Brief: Republicans Stay Quiet While Others Speak Up About Koran Burning, and More

Republicans Stay Quiet While Others Speak Up About Koran Burning

According to Think Progress, top Republicans have remained silent on the plan by a Florida church to burn Korans on September 11. From former President George W. Bush to the centrist Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann’s request for comments was met by a string of “no comments.”

Despite Republican silence, some prominent figures, however, publicly commented on the controversial event. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg called the act “distasteful,” but defended the church’s right to do it under the First Amendment. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a group gathered for the State Department’s Annual Iftar dinner that the burning is a “disrespectful, disgraceful act.”

“Attorney General Eric Holder told a private gathering of religious leaders that the idea is ‘idiotic and dangerous,'” reports Think Progress. A group of religious leaders appeared before the press on Tuesday to condemn the burning at the Dove World Outreach Center in Florida. Despite the vocal opposition, pastor, Terry Jones, and his church’s 30 members, stands by the decision to go forward with the burning.

Health Insurers Planning Rate Hikes Following Health Insurance Overhaul

Some health insurance companies plan rate hikes between one and nine percent, according to The Wall Street Journal. Some may increase rates as much as 20 percent. Health insurance carriers are unanimously blaming the health insurance reform package that recently passed in Congress and was signed by Obama in March.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, director of the White House Office of Health Reform, said rate hikes were “already their modus operandi before the bill,” Karen Ignagni of America’s Health Insurance Plans, the health insurance industry’s lobbying group, believes the hikes are justified. “Anytime you add a benefit, there are increased costs,” she says.

Transit Union Workers Work for Easier Unionization

The Hill reports that a rule change by the Obama administration will make it easier for transportation workers to unionize. The National Mediation Board ‘s (NMB) rule change allows for a simple majority of voters who vote to unionize to do so, as covered under the Railway Labor Act. Previously, votes not cast counted as “no,” making it difficult for many companies to unionize. Richard Trumka of the AFL-CIO believes the change “makes the system fairer … and hopefully [more open to] collective bargaining agreements.”

Chicago Mayor Daley to Not Seek Another Term, Speculation Abounds About Successor

McClatchy Newspapers reports that Chicago Mayor Richard Daley will not seek another term, leaving the door open to White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel to run. While the White House has no comment on the move, many speculate that Emmanuel, who has long had his eyes on serving as Chicago’s mayor, will quit his job as White House chief of staff. Emmanuel served in Congress as representative for the district encompassing Chicago’s North Side. Daley, now 68, has been Chicago’s mayor since 1989 and was preceded as mayor by his father.

Iran Suspends Woman’s Stoning Death

Following a global outcry, Reuters reports that Iran has suspended the stoning death of a woman convicted of adultery. “The verdict regarding the extramarital affairs has stopped and it’s being reviewed,” a chief foreign minister told the country’s state run television network. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted of adultery in 2006. While Iranian media officials believe that the stoning may not occur, the possibility exists that she may be executed by hanging.

Pastors for Peace Founder Lucius Walker Dies

The Reverend Lucius Walker, founder of Pastors for Peace, has died at age 80, reports Democracy Now!. Walker also served as the executive director of the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization, Walker was known for his regular peace pilgrimages to Cuba as well as his criticism of the US embargo on Cuba.