Iran And Al-Qaida Argue Over 9/11

Leaders of al-Qaida are disgruntled with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for comments that he made during a speech to the United Nations calling the 9/11 terrorist attacks a mysterious incident that had been used as a pretext to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.

“By using their imperialistic media network which is under the influence of colonialism, they threaten anyone who questions the Holocaust and the September 11 event with sanctions and military actions,” said Ahmadinejad in New York, according to The Guardian

In an al-Qaida magazine entitled Inspire, leaders of the terrorist group say the Iranian President’s claims are ridiculous and based in jealousy.

“For them, al-Qaida was a competitor for the hearts and minds of the disenfranchised Muslims around the world. Al-Qaida … succeeded in what Iran couldn’t. Therefore it was necessary for the Iranians to discredit 9/11 and what better way to do so? Conspiracy theories.”

Responding to the article’s assertions Thursday, Iranian state news repeated Ahmadinejad’s arguments and said “reports released by al Qaeda are usually believed to be produced by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA),” according to ABC.

President Barack Obama has called Ahmadinejad’s comments “offensive” and “hateful,” according to reports.

Obama Echoes Carter Speech: America’s Soft

Many people have compared the Barack Obama Presidency to that of President Jimmy Carter over the past few years; Obama has now made a statement that seems to echo Carter.

Obama said to a Florida television station, “This is a great, great country that had gotten a little soft and we didn’t have that same competitive edge that we needed over the last couple of decades.”

Obama’s solution to American “softness” is to “get back on track” by passing his $447 billion jobs bill immediately. While he was critical in his speech, the President did compliment America’s youths and said that the country will recover from economic troubles with the help of education and innovative thinking with the help of the government.

According to The Daily Caller, Obama’s speech echoes the sentiment of a Carter speech given in July 1979 that declared, “…in a nation that was proud of hard work, strong families, close-knit communities and our faith in God, too many of us now tend to worship self-indulgence and consumption.” The speech, though never including the term, became known by many Americans as the “malaise speech.” Carter’s solution to “get back on track” during a time when the country was plagued by rising energy costs and massive inflation was to find a solution to the energy crises through new sources of fuel.

Obama Loses Favor With Wall Street

The Los Angeles Times reported on Friday that President Barack Obama has lost favor with many big-name Wall Street campaign contributors that were major money-makers in his 2008 Presidential bid.

According to the article, Wall Street campaign contributors appear to favor Republican Mitt Romney. The former Massachusetts Governor and businessman held a sold-out breakfast fundraiser at the exclusive Essex House hotel Tuesday and before that had breakfast with one of the biggest names on Wall Street, JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon.

According to the article, even with the support of big-name financial tycoon Warren Buffet, Obama has had trouble selling $10,000 a plate spots at fundraisers in New York City’s financial hub.

Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Obama campaign, said Romney’s efforts to win over the finance industry are not a surprise, according to the report.

“It’s no surprise that the Romney campaign is raising money from Wall Street by saying they want to repeal consumer protections and allow Wall Street to write its own rules,” he told the Times.

Obama has also taken steps to improve relations with financial leaders. Last January, he hired a JPMorgan executive, William Daley, to be his chief of staff. The President has also invited top financial executives to the White House for conversations about the economy.

Big Tobacco Knowingly Dosed Smokers With Radiation For Decades

A University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) study of big tobacco intercompany documents released in a 1998 legal settlement — the Tobacco Master Settlement Agreement — shows that tobacco companies tried to keep information discovered in 1959 about radioactive substances in their products quiet for decades.

“The documents show that the industry was well aware of the presence of a radioactive substance in tobacco as early as 1959,” the authors write. “Furthermore, the industry was not only cognizant of the potential ‘cancerous growth’ in the lungs of regular smokers, but also did quantitative radiobiological calculations to estimate the long-term lung radiation absorption dose of ionizing alpha particles emitted from cigarette smoke.”

The study says that tobacco company research identified the radioactive substance as polonium-210 in 1969. The isotope can be found in all foreign and domestic cigarette brands as a byproduct of tobacco crop development.

The tobacco industry has not only been aware of the isotope since 1959, but has also known of two processes by which it can be eliminated, says the study.  One technique, developed in 1980 and called acid washing, was found to be highly effective in removing the isotope from tobacco plants, where it forms a water-insoluble complex with the sticky, hair-like structures called trichomes that cover the leaves. The tobacco industry allegedly shunned the process because it was also shown to have an impact on the levels of the content of nicotine in tobacco, the drug which keeps smokers hooked.

“The industry was concerned that the acid media would ionize the nicotine, making it more difficult to be absorbed into the brains of smokers and depriving them of that instant nicotine rush that fuels their addiction,” said one researcher.

The study comes out just two years after 2009 passage of the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, which grants the U.S. Food and Drug Administration broad authority to regulate and remove harmful substances besides nicotine from tobacco products. The study’s authors hope that their research will be taken into account by the FDA as it attempts to regulate tobacco safety.

Massachusetts Man Arrested In Terror Plot

The FBI arrested a Massachusetts man on Wednesday who allegedly planned to build small remote controlled airplanes armed with explosives and fly them into the Pentagon and other government buildings.

Rezwan Ferdaus, a 26-year-old physics graduate of Northeastern University in Boston who lived in the basement of his parents’ home in Ashland, Mass., began planning to commit violent jihad against the United States in early 2010 after viewing radical Web sites and videos, according to The Washington Post.

The U.S.-born citizen of South Asian background traveled to Washington last May to conduct surveillance for his plan to launch three small GPS-guided aircraft from East Potomac Park: two against the Pentagon and one against the Capitol, according to a detailed plan he gave to the FBI. He planned to follow up the drone-like attacks with two teams of three machine gun-wielding attackers that were intended to cause chaos in the streets.

Ferdaus relayed his plan to FBI agents who he believed were al-Qaida operatives working within U.S. borders. The agents provided him with money to purchase remote-controlled planes and also helped him acquire what he believed to be C-4 plastic explosives. He had already purchased one remote-controlled aircraft (a small-scale model of the F-86 Sabre, a Cold War-era U.S. fighter jet), according to reports. Agents said that the man was presented with multiple opportunities to back out of his plan in conversations with his would-be collaborators.

Ferdaus also supplied the undercover agents with seven mobile phones that he modified to act as electrical switches for improvised explosive devices in Iraq. When they falsely told him that his creations had been used to kill U.S. troops, the man “appeared gratified,” according to reports.

 

 

Taxpayers Pay Settlements For Capital Hill Worker Disputes

On Thursday, the Office of Compliance (OOC) released a report that shows the number of discrimination and harassment claims on Capitol Hill have doubled in the past five years. Taxpayers have footed the bill for hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements.

The State of the Congressional Workplace report indicated 168 claims were filed in fiscal 2010,compared to 87 in 2006. Fifty-seven of the claims made last year were based on race, while 41 claims involved age, 34 involved gender and 28 involved disabilities, the report read.

“The OOC has felt the impact of a substantial increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation cases over the past 5 fiscal years. The OOC dispute resolution program in fiscal year 2010 saw an increase in formal requests for confidential counseling and mediations, compared to five fiscal years ago. Also in comparison, there was an increase in discrimination, harassment, and retaliation claims. These cases are becoming more complex and sophisticated, often with multiple allegations of discrimination, discovery disputes, and issues relating to the OOC’s rules and procedures,” said a statement from OOC Executive Director Tamara Chrisler.

Since 1997, taxpayers have footed the bill for more than $13.2 million in cases resolved by the OOC. The highest number of claims filed involved terms and conditions violations, hostile work environments, harassment and discipline issues.

 

 

 

 

Hispanics Very Important In 2012 Race

Media reports indicate that both Democrats and Republicans are scrambling to become sweethearts among growing numbers of Hispanic voters in key electoral States.

President Barack Obama’s popularity among many white voters has dropped, and he faces more contention among blacks than at any time during his Presidency. Therefore, it has become increasingly important for his Administration to address the Hispanic populations of States like Florida and Nevada.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Florida, the nation’s largest Presidential swing state, has a voting-age Hispanic population that grew by nearly 250,000 people between 2008 and 2010. By contrast, the voting-age white population grew by only 30,400. Similar trends held true in Nevada and New Mexico where the number of Hispanics eligible to vote grew at nearly twice the rate of white voters.

Many people speculate that Obama’s attempt to attract more Hispanic voters is directly related to his Administration’s stance against strong immigration laws being passed in many States that some consider discriminatory and as harmful to legal Hispanic residents as they are to their illegal counterparts.

The GOP has also sought to gain rapport with Hispanic voters and have a number of conservative Hispanic politicians in the party to aid in the process. In November of 2010, Republicans elected three young conservative Hispanic Republicans: Marco Rubio easily won a Senate seat in Florida, Susana Martínez was elected Governor of New Mexico and Brian Sandoval was elected Governor of Nevada.

 

 

‘Raise My Taxes’ Plea Backed By Progressive Group

A California millionaire on Monday asked President Barack Obama to “please, raise my taxes” at a town-hall meeting. A progressive group, The Agenda Project, has now taken credit for his remarks.

As Obama told the group about the collective benefits of his new jobs proposal and the positive effect he believes the “Buffet” rule will have on the country, Doug Edwards — self-proclaimed retired millionaire — asked the President to raise the taxes of wealthy Americans.

“Will you please raise my taxes?” the man said. “It kills me to see Congress not supporting the expiration of the tax cuts that have been benefiting so many of us for so long.”

A group of wealthy Americans has joined forces with the Agenda Project as an offshoot organization called Patriotic Millionaires. Erica Payne heads up the group.

“Doug and his fellow Patriotic Millionaires are pounding Washington leaders to do the right thing for the country,” she said on Monday, according to The Hill.

The Agenda Project pushes a number of progressive agendas and paints conservatives as hypocrites. Earlier this month, the group blamed the Tea Party and “Constitutional conservatives” for failing to uphold Constitutional ideals.

“For too long, tea partiers and other so-called ‘constitutional conservatives’ have claimed our Constitution for themselves, all while distorting it and even advocating repeal of many of the progressive Amendments that have made it better,” a website linked to the group reads. “Don’t let self-proclaimed ‘constitutional conservatives’ march us backward to 1789.”

As Solyndra Talk Quiets, DOE Issues $1 Billion In Solar Loans

As headlines about the Department of Energy’s (DOE) backing of a now bankrupt solar firm cool down, the department announced on Wednesday that it has finalized about $1 billion in guarantees for two other solar projects.

The DOE announced a $737 million loan guarantee to help finance construction of the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, a 110-megawatt solar-power-generating facility in Nye County, Nev. The project is sponsored by Tonopah Solar, a subsidiary of a California-based company called SolarReserve. DOE officials claim the loan will create 600 temporary construction jobs and 45 permanent jobs in the area.

“If we want to be a player in the global clean energy race, we must continue to invest in innovative technologies that enable commercial-scale deployment of clean, renewable power like solar,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu in a press release. “Solar generation facilities, like the Crescent Dunes Solar Energy Project, help supply energy to local utilities and create hundreds of good, American clean energy jobs.”

The Energy Department also announced that it had finalized a separate $337 million loan guarantee to Sempra Energy for a 150-megawatt photovoltaic solar generation project in Arizona.

Solyndra, the now infamous government-backed solar panel manufacturer that shut down last month, is under investigation by the Department of Justice and several governmental wasteful spending committees.

Alabama Federal Judge: Tough Immigration Law Not In Violation

A Federal judge in Birmingham, Ala., upheld most portions of the State’s highly controversial immigration law on Wednesday. The Department of Justice filed a lawsuit seeking to block the law.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Lovelace Blackburn upheld some provisions in the tough immigration legislation which were under DOJ scrutiny. The provisions allow police to stop and detain suspected illegal aliens, permit schools to check the immigration status of students and allow the nullification of contracts that have been knowingly entered into with illegal aliens. She also upheld a section making it a felony for “an alien not lawfully present in the United States” to apply for a license plate, driver license, business license or other business license.

The law was set to go into effect on Sept. 1, but the judge issued a temporary injunction to consider it provisions before ruling on its legality.

The Department of Justice had argued that the State law takes away from the Federal government’s right and ability to enforce immigration legislation. But legislators in the State argued against the DOJ, saying that the Federal government has done little to enforce immigration law, leaving it up to the States. The Republican-led Legislature also contends that passing the law was the follow-through to many campaign promises during successful GOP campaigns of the 2010 election cycle.

Massachusetts Airport Sues For Obama Visit

A Marlborough, Mass., airport filed suit against the Federal government on Tuesday alleging that a 2010 visit by President Barack Obama caused $676,048 in damages to the tarmac.

The President landed at the Marlborough Airport on April 1, 2010 to visit an emergency bunker in the State, according to the Boston Business Journal.

The airport’s complaint alleges that the while the President’s helicopter, Marine One, did not cause any damage, the Secret Service negligently damaged the runway with vehicles brought in for Presidential security.

“[G]round vehicles brought onto the airport by or under the Secret Service, such as, but not limited to, a ‘foam truck,’ which weighs approximately 44,000 pounds, (were) negligently driven onto the airport and proximately caused property damage in an amount of $676,048.13,” the complaint says.

The airport has reportedly asked the Federal government for compensation to recoup the damages, but has been denied.

“They stated we haven’t shown or proven any negligence,” Evans J. Carter, the lawyer for the airport operator, told the Boston Business Journal.

Supreme Court May Get Involved In Healthcare Debate

In its upcoming term, the Supreme Court may formally address a multi-State challenge to the Democrat-backed Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Two Federal courts of appeals have ruled on the Constitutionality of the mandate that requires all individuals to purchase health insurance; one has upheld the mandate, and another has struck it down. Lower courts are also divided on the question of whether the rest of the bill can survive if the mandate is unConstitutional.

The National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) headed up an effort to file a petition for a writ of certiorari to the court on Wednesday and issued a statement on its website.

“The 11th Circuit ruling confirmed NFIB’s view that the individual mandate in the health-care law is unconstitutional. It is now imperative that the Supreme Court rule on whether the entire law can stand without the mandate,” said Karen Harned, executive director of NFIB’s Small Business Legal Center in the release. “The sooner the Court takes up this case, the sooner small businesses and individuals will know whether they will have to bear the full weight, financially and economically, of this bad law.”

The court’s consideration of the case will likely take place during the height of the 2012 election season.

As ‘Mens Rea’ Erodes, More Become Unwitting Criminals

A Wall Street Journal report on Tuesday outlines the decline of the consideration of criminal intent in prosecutions in America as the Federal criminal code continues to swell each day.

The WSJ reports that in 1790, the first Federal criminal law passed by Congress listed fewer than 20 Federal crimes. The list has since grown to 4,500 Federal statutes, plus thousands more embedded in Federal regulations, many of which have been added to the penal code since the 1970s. This has made it easier than ever for citizens to unknowingly break a law, and they are more and more often prosecuted without the consideration of mens rea, Latin for proof of a “guilty mind.”

More than 40 percent of nonviolent offenses created or amended during two recent Congressional sessions had “weak” mens rea requirements at best, according to a study conducted by the conservative Heritage Foundation and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

Many believe that while ignorance of the law was at one time a non-defense in criminal matters, legislators have made it impossible to know and understand every law in the criminal code.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has criticized lawmakers for passing too much “fuzzy, leave-the-details-to-be-sorted-out-by-the-courts” legislation that has led to massive increases in arrests in the United States. About 80,000 people were arrested and subject to jail time or fines in 2010.

Lobbying Group Angered By Proposed Rules

Proposed rules from the Administration of President Barack Obama that would no longer allow Federal employees to accept gifts of any value from companies that employ lobbyists have drawn criticism from the American League of Lobbyists.

The proposals will also prohibit government officials from receiving free admission to “widely attended” conferences where they brush shoulders with lobbyists from all matter of corporate and special interest groups, according to The Washington Post.

The lobbying organization issued a statement on Monday saying that the President’s proposals will result in a “dumbing down” of government.:

“Lobbyists and their employers have knowledge that Federal employees can use and they have knowledge that we want to tap. Federal workers develop policies and regulations that affect every aspect of our society. To prevent interaction of almost any kind between lobbyists and Federal employees is not in the public interest. It will result in the dumbing-down of government at a time when public trust is at an all-time low.”

Some exemptions to the rules exist, including those for gifts from journalists or friends and gifts in connection with some political work.

 

Pakistan Views U.S. As World Bully

As Pakistani officials warn Washington not to again breach the country’s borders in search of Islamic extremists, public opinion in the country has condemned the United States for the increase in suicide bombings since the beginning of the War on Terror.

The Washington Post reports that since Islamabad partnered with Washington in its relentless Mideast search for terrorists, there have been 335 suicide bombings in the country. Prior to the partnership, only one had been reported.

Many Pakistanis believe that since their government has opted to join the U.S. in fighting terror, it has split the country and destabilized the region.

“I have become so unsafe that sometimes I think I should have my family leave Pakistan,” said Hamid Mir, explaining the view of many Pakistanis. “Why is that? It is because of the American policies in Pakistan.”

According to the Pew Research Center, 63 percent of Pakistanis believe that the U.S. violated their sovereignty when military units invaded the country in search of Osama bin Laden and only 14 percent believe his death was a good thing.

The Pakistani Newspaper reported on Tuesday that the country’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has warned Washington that continued accusations of his country playing a double game in the war on terrorists only risked further fanning anti-Americanism in Pakistan. He said any unilateral military action by the U.S. to hunt down the Haqqani network inside Pakistan would be a violation of his country’s sovereignty.

 

 

 

Perry Falling in Polls

After a debate attack on Mitt Romney, the Presidential campaign of Texas Governor Rick Perry has suffered major blows in polls across the nation.

“I think Americans just don’t know sometimes which Mitt Romney they’re dealing with. Is it the Mitt Romney that was on the side of against the Second Amendment before he was for the Second Amendment? Was it — was before he was before the social programs, from the standpoint of he was for standing up for Roe v. Wade before he was against Roe v. Wade? He was for Race to the Top, he’s for Obamacare, and now he’s against it. I mean, we’ll wait until tomorrow and — and — and see which Mitt Romney we’re really talking to tonight,” Perry said attempting to paint Romney as a flip-flopper.

But Romney, seemingly knowing that his opponent had stumbled, simply responded to the attack, “Nice try.” The former Massachusetts governor then went on to say that Perry had already backtracked on issues that he wrote about in a book that was published about six months ago.

Since the debate, many upsets have been witnessed in the GOP field as disgruntled Republicans search desperately for a strong candidate to beat President Barack Obama.  Herman Cain surprised the nation last Saturday when he won the high-profile Florida Straw Poll, taking nearly twice as many votes as perceived front-runner Perry.

An IBOPE Zogby poll released on Monday shows a trend of a month-long 20 point popularity drop by Perry, placing him now second — with 18 percent support — behind Cain, the front-runner candidate with 28 percent support.

The poll said that Obama’s approval held steady at just around 42 percent over the past month.

 

 

 

 

Ron Paul Talks To Jon Stewart

On a Monday episode of The Daily Show, comedian Jon Stewart offered 2012 GOP candidate Ron Paul some advice about how get the mainstream media to stop leaving him out of news reports despite overwhelming support.

Stewart suggested jokingly that Paul might try repudiating some of his past political positions to give other candidates something to engage him about at future debates.

“I would suggest, perhaps, what you should do right now is come out for a war on Iran,” said Stewart before saying that Paul’s “consistency has been a real problem for the media.”

The comedian also noted that the mainstream media continue to cover politicians like Sarah Palin and Chris Christie who are not even running in the 2012 race yet, while suppressing headlines for Paul who consistently places third place or better in polls.

“Some people don’t want to hear the message,” Paul said, “Because it’s a threat to them. I’m a threat to the establishment. And some just don’t understand what freedom is all about.”

Paul said that his campaign could very well be on the verge of an explosion of interest in his Presidential bid as his message of freedom and free markets gains momentum.

 

 

FEMA Granted $2.65 billion, Government Shutdown Averted

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said that the latest Senate deal to avert a complete Federal shutdown will be a “win for everyone.”

After about a week of bickering between the Republican and Democrats in the House and Senate over budget cuts to green programs to fund disaster relief, a deal struck offers a compromise, The Washington Post reports.

The conciliatory deal, approved 79-12 in the Senate and expected to be ratified in the House next week, provides less money than Democrats hoped for disaster relief but also strips away “green” cuts that had been their bane in passage. The bill will keep the Federal government operating until Nov. 18.

This marks the third budget battle to cause Congressional contention and threaten markets of an economy already wrought with problems.

The major controversy in passing the spending bill came when Democrats demanded that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) be funded at least $3.65 billion, $1 billion of which would have been put toward the fiscal year that ends on Friday. Republicans agreed to the expense only if $1.6 billion in cuts were made elsewhere and set their sights on a “green” auto program that many Democrats supported. The ensuing fight threatened FEMA with no money, so the agency told members of Congress that it could go without the $1 billion for this week if it were allowed to tap into $2.65 billion in Federally granted money between Friday and Nov. 18.

Obama To CBC: Stop Whining; Maxine Waters Complains

Representative Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who told the Tea Party to “go to hell” about a month ago, had a message for President Barack Obama Monday after he essentially asked the Congressional Black Caucus to shut up over the weekend.

Obama gave a speech at the Congressional Black Caucus’s annual dinner on Saturday, and he chastised the black electorate for its criticism of his failure to show public favoritism to black constituents.

“I don’t know about you, CBC, but the future rewards those who press on. With patient and firm determination, I am going to press on for jobs. I’m going to press on for equality. I’m going to press on for the sake of our children. I’m going to press on for the sake of all those families who are struggling right now. I don’t have time to feel sorry for myself. I don’t have time to complain. I am going to press on,” the President said. “I expect all of you to march with me and press on. Take off your bedroom slippers, put on your marching shoes. Shake it off. Stop complaining, stop grumbling, stop crying. We are going to press on. We’ve got work to do, CBC.”

Waters spoke to CBS NEWS on Monday, saying that the President has unfairly singled out African-Americans and catered to other minority causes since the beginning of his Presidency.

"Despite the fact that he’s appointed [Sonia] Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, he has an office for excellence in Hispanic education right in the White House, [the Hispanic caucus is] still pushing him," she said. "He certainly didn’t tell them to stop complaining, and he would never say that to the gay and lesbian community, who really pushed him on Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Even in a speech to AIPAC [the American Israel Public Affairs Committee], he would never say to the Jewish community to stop complaining about Israel."

Waters has been critical of budget plans that reduce entitlements and do not provide extra relief for poor blacks whom she considers the hardest hit by the current economic crisis.

China Gets Gold Vending Machine As Demand Soars

Amid soaring inflation, a new vending machine hit the streets of China on Sunday. The machine offers a new kind of payday: solid gold bullion in return for cash.

According to EconomyWatch, the machine, a collaborative effort between the Beijing Agricultural Commercial Bank and a gold trading company, is aimed at giving citizens a new opportunity for safe investment amid a real estate buying frenzy in the country. The machine allows patrons to receive up to 5.5 lbs. of gold with each withdrawal at a cost of about 1 million yuan ($160,000).

In 2010 China’s demand for bullion grew 27 percent, according to the World Gold Council, making it second behind India, presently the world’s top gold consumer.

The idea of gold vending machines has already been implemented in the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Spain, the U.K. and Italy. The significance in China is that the country has only recently allowed citizens to purchase gold, and demand has skyrocketed.

The news of China’s new gold machine came at the same time as China’s state-run newspaper People’s Daily reported that the yuan, gained 105 basis points to a record high of 6.3735 per U.S. dollar on Monday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading system.

Saudi Arabia Gives Women A Vote

On Sunday, Saudi King Abdullah said he will now grant women in the country the right to vote and run in municipal elections, the only public polls in the kingdom.

According to Reuters, the King said, “Starting with the next term, women will have the right to run in municipal elections and to choose candidates, according to Islamic principles.”

A round of elections is due to take place Thursday and nominations have already been made, so women in the country will have to wait four years until the next term to participate in the electoral process.

Allowing women to participate in the electoral process is a big step forward for women’s rights in a country where females are not allowed to drive without a male in the vehicle and must have a man’s permission to work or to receive certain medical procedures. Though these rights for women in the country are new, the voting process is in an infantile state as well.

Thursday’s vote will be only the second municipal election in Saudi Arabian history; its purpose is to fill half the seats in the kingdom’s 285 municipal councils. The other half are appointed by the government. The first elections were held in 2005, but the government extended the existing councils’ term for two years.

The White House on Sunday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s move to let women vote and run for municipal office, hailing it as an “important step forward” in women’s rights in the kingdom.