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News Shorts-June 16, 2004

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After reviewing 20,000 e-mails and 9,000 phone calls and staging a six-week trial, federal prosecutors were unable to convince a jury that Saudi University of Idaho student Sami Al-Hussayen was spreading terrorism on the Internet.

After seven days of deliberations the jury rendered a not guilty verdict on five of the 14 charges against Al-Hussayen. Jurors deadlocked on the remaining charges, forcing U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge to declare a mistrial on those charges.

Al-Hussayen remains jailed on a deportation order.

WAGE WARS

Three former Ada County Sheriff's workers have filed a federal lawsuit against the county, accusing the agency of knowingly shortchanging them.

The class-action suit filed by William Thomas identifies the primary plaintiffs as Dawn Knickerbocker, Virginia Atchley and Tammy Batch. The suit also brings action on behalf of "a class of others similarly situated."

The lawsuit alleges the plaintiffs suffered "violations of the law with respect to their wages, hours and conditions of employment."

It states the county owes the workers overtime pay, after misclassifying their jobs under the federal Fair Labor Standard Act (FLSA).

The FLSA dictates which types of workers are entitled to overtime. Although law-enforcement personnel are mostly exempt from overtime pay, the plaintiffs were noncommissioned officers, traditionally entitled to regular overtime pay.

The suit accuses the county of knowingly underpaying its employees, and therefore seeks triple the amount of overtime owed for the past three years. The total amount of money is unspecified but to be proven in court.

Ada County representatives were unable to be reached for comment as of press time.

COMMANDMENTS COALITION KEEPS ON TRUCKIN'

Brandi Swindell and her flock of Ten Commandments monument freedom fighters began a new strategy this week to resurrect the Ten Commandments monument recently removed from Julia Davis Park. In the next 60 days, the crew must gather nearly 8,700 signatures in order to get an initiative to return the monument to the park on the November ballot.

The group claims this is the nation's first voter initiative on the public display of the Ten Commandments.

"This campaign will give the citizens of Boise the opportunity to voice their opinion on the issue of religious freedom and the First Amendment. It will also serve as inspiration for those across the nation who are struggling with similar issues," says Brandi Swindell, co-chair of the Keep the Commandments Coalition.

The original monument was removed from Julia Davis Park in March by order of the City Council. It was taken to St. Michael's Cathedral where it is now on public display.

NO RAISES FOR YOU

Idaho legislators get to feel the pain state employees felt for two years and many of Idahoans are currently experiencing: a pay freeze.

The Citizens' Committee on Legislative Compensation met this week and voted to freeze legislative pay and expenses for another two years. Legislators receive about $15,600 a year plus daily living expenses while the Legislature is in session--$99 a day if they live outside Boise, $38 a day if they reside within 50 miles of Boise.

The six-member special citizens committee also eliminated the policy of paying lawmakers an extra $50 a day when they were on official business between sessions.

WHERE THE BUFFALO (DON'T) ROAM

Representatives Maurice Hinchey (D-NY) and Charles Bass (R-NH) will introduce an amendment to the 2005 Interior Appropriations Bill this week to make it illegal for the National Park Service to spend money on the slaughter of Yellowstone buffalo.

A similar amendment, introduced last year by Representative Nick Rahall (D-WV), drew the support of 199 House members and came just 20 votes shy of passage.

In recent years the Park Service has taken a dramatic role in the slaughter, capturing nearly 500 buffalo inside Yellowstone and sending them to slaughter. The park currently spends $1.2 million dollars a year to haze, capture and slaughter America's last wild buffalo.

Montana livestock interests claim the slaughter is necessary to protect cattle from brucellosis, despite the fact that there has never been a documented case of wild buffalo transmitting the disease to livestock. Further, there are no cattle present at the times of year when buffalo migrate across park boundaries, making transmission impossible.

In a nationwide poll conducted in April by Penn, Schoen, and Berland Associates for the Humane Society of the United States, eight out of 10 respondents said they "disapprove of spending federal tax dollars to subsidize killing of buffalo at Yellowstone National Park."

Representatives Hinchey and Bass have emerged as Congressional champions of the buffalo. In November they introduced the Yellowstone Buffalo Preservation Act (H.R. 3446) to prohibit state and federal agency officials from hazing, capturing or killing Yellowstone buffalo. It currently has 103 cosponsors.

In the past 10 years the Montana Department of Livestock and National Park Service have slaughtered 2,786 buffalo in and around Yellowstone National Park at a cost of nearly $3 million a year.

PRESIDENTIAL PLAY OF THE DAY

June 15 press conference in The Rose Garden:

Reporter: [Ron Regan at his father's service] said that politicians should not wear religious faith on their sleeve. And a lot of Republicans interpreted those remarks as being critical of you and your position on stem cell. I'd like to ask you about that.

President Bush: Whether or not a politician should wear their--I've always said I think it's very important for someone not to try to take the speck out of somebody else's eye when they may have a log in their own. In other words, I'm very mindful about saying, you know, oh, vote for me, I'm more religious than my neighbor. And I think it's--I think it's perfectly--I think it's important for people of religion to serve. I think it is very important for people who are serving to make sure there is a separation of church and state.

U.S. NATIONAL DEBT CLOCK

The Outstanding Public Debt as of June 15 is $7,225,205,691,850.16.

The estimated population of the United States is 294,317,440, so each citizen's share of this debt is $24,49.02.

The National Debt has continued to increase an average of $1.71 billion per day since September 30, 2003.

Source: www.brillig.com/debt_clock/

U.S./IRAQ DEATH TALLY

U.S. CASUALTIES: As of 10 a.m. Tuesday, June 15, 829 U.S. service members have died since the war in Iraq began in March 2003: 611 in combat and 218 from noncombat-related incidents and accidents. Seven U.S. soldiers died last week.

Source: U.S. Department of Defense

IRAQI CIVILIAN DEATHS: Estimated between 9,436 and 11,317.

Source: www.iraqbodycount.org

COST OF IRAQ WAR: $117,990,000,000.

Source: costofwar.com

--Compiled by Cynthia Sewell and Mika Belle

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