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Now, About Gay Marriage

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the heels of Pastor Rick Warren's invocation, Obama should drop the semantics and acknowledge that denying same-sex marriage is discriminatory.

By Los Angeles Times Op-Ed

Pastor Rick Warren, the famous leader of Lake Forest's Saddleback Church, became a lightning rod in the same-sex marriage controversy when he was chosen to deliver the invocation at Barack Obama's inauguration. Yet he didn't give his opponents anything to shout about Tuesday, offering a prayer that was short, inspirational and above all uncontroversial. That points up an uncomfortable truth for proponents of gay rights: Warren may not be as big a problem as the president he blessed.

Warren, who has infuriated many by equating homosexual unions with incest, child molestation and polygamy, is entitled to his religious beliefs. President Obama is too, but on Tuesday he swore allegiance to a document quite separate from the Bible: the U.S. Constitution, which forbids all forms of discrimination. Obama showed how clearly he understood that in his inaugural address, when he said: "The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation: the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free and all deserve a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness."

It is impossible to adhere to those principles while also proposing that some citizens should have fewer rights than others for no better reason than the majority disapproves of their sexual preference. Obama claims not to support such discrimination, but his views on the issue are an embarrassing muddle; he opposed Proposition 8, California's same-sex marriage ban, yet says unequivocally that he believes "marriage" is strictly between one man and one woman.

Obama is caught up in semantics, apparently believing that gays and lesbians should be allowed to engage in civil unions with all the rights of marriage, as long as they aren't called marriages. That's an evasion that was rightly rejected in May by the California Supreme Court when it overturned a previous ban on same-sex marriage, because such semantic distinctions tend to cast doubt on a union's legitimacy.

At the time of Obama's birth in 1961, some states would not have allowed his interracial parents to marry. He, of all people, should know better.

(Click for original).

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Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state by 94-2

By William Douglas
McClatchy Newspapers


WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., to be President Barack Obama's secretary of state by a 94-2 vote Wednesday after nearly a half a day of debate for an outcome that was never really in doubt.

Some Senate Republicans, including several who voted for her confirmation, raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest stemming from the international activities of former President Bill Clinton's William J. Clinton Foundation.

The foundation, which works on HIV/AIDS, climate change and poverty, has accepted more than $131 million from foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Norway.

Shortly after her nomination, Bill Clinton released a list of donors to his foundation. At the start of her confirmation hearing last week, Hillary Clinton agreed to measures designed to monitor the Clinton Foundation and assure transparency in the foundation's fundraising.

That wasn't enough to satisfy Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I remain concerned that senator, soon-to-be Secretary of State Clinton's diplomatic work will be encumbered by the global activities of the Clinton Foundation under these circumstances," Cornyn said.

Still, in the end, Cornyn voted for Clinton. Sens. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., and David Vitter, R-La., were the lone "no" votes. Clinton didn't vote, nor did Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who was still recovering from suffering a seizure on Tuesday....(Click for remainder).

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Kennedy Withdraws Senate Bid

Caroline Kennedy walked through the lobby at Syracuse City Hall after meeting with the mayor in December.
James Rajotte for The New York Times


By Nicholas Confessore and Danny Hakim
The New York Times


Caroline Kennedy announced early Thursday that she was withdrawing from consideration for the vacant Senate seat in New York, startling the state’s political world after weeks in which she was considered a top contender for the post.

Ms. Kennedy on Wednesday called Gov. David A. Paterson, who will choose a successor to Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, to inform him that she was no longer interested.

“I informed Governor Paterson today that for personal reasons I am withdrawing my name from consideration for the United States Senate,” Ms. Kennedy said in a statement released by her public relations firm.

Ms. Kennedy did not elaborate, but a person who spoke to her suggested that her concerns about the health of her uncle, Senator Edward M. Kennedy, who suffers from brain cancer and was hospitalized after a seizure on Tuesday, contributed to her decision.

Ms. Kennedy believed that the job was hers if she would accept it, the person said, but aides to Mr. Paterson would not comment on whether that was true....(Click for remainder).

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China censors parts of inaugural speech

A giant screen in Beijing showing a recap of President Barack Obama's inauguration.
(Elizabeth Dalziel/The Associated Press)

By Edward Wong
International Herald Tribune


BEIJING: President Barack Obama's 18-minute inauguration speech Tuesday was generally lauded by Americans for its candor and conviction. But the Chinese Communist Party apparently thought the new American president's gilded words were a little too direct.

China Central Television, or CCTV, the main state-run network, broadcast the speech live until the moment Obama mentioned "communism" in a line about the past defeat of ideologies. After the off-screen translator said "communism" in Chinese, the audio faded out even as Obama's lips continued to move.

CCTV then showed an anchor asking an analyst about the economic challenges that Obama faces. The analyst was clearly caught off-guard by the sudden question.

The offending line was this: "Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions."

Later, the president said: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist."...(Click for remainder).

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The Presidential Pledge

MySpace Celebrity and Katalyst present The Presidential Pledge

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Obama Selects George Mitchell for Mid-East Envoy


By Al Jazeera English

Barack Obama, the US president, is set to name George Mitchell, former peace negotiator in Northern Ireland as US special envoy for the Middle East, diplomatic sources have said.

The White House is set to announce the appointment of Mitchell, who served as Democratic senate majority leader from 1989 to 1995 under Bill Clinton and George Bush, the sources said on Wednesday.

He is best known for helping to broker Northern Ireland's historic Good Friday agreement in 1998 which ended decades of bloody conflict.

In 2000, he also presided over a committee investigating the ongoing violence of the Middle East conflict and recommended Palestinians do more to stop attacks on Israel and an end to Israeli settlement building on occupied land.

The White House is expected to announce the decision later on Wednesday or on Thursday, media reports said....(Click for remainder).

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DOJ Giving 'Serious Thought' to Probing Bush's Torture Policy

By Jason Leopold
The Public Record


The Department of Justice is giving “serious thought” to a recommendation proposed by a leading Democratic lawmaker to appoint a special counsel to conduct a criminal probe into the interrogation practices enacted during the Bush administration, according to three DOJ lawyers.

These DOJ attorneys said consideration is being given to the idea of expanding a special prosecutor’s current investigation into the destruction of the CIA’s torture tapes to include a probe into the interrogation methods, such as waterboarding, that are depicted on the tapes to determine whether federal torture laws were broken. U.S. Attorney John Durham, who was appointed by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey last year to investigate the destruction of the CIA’s torture tapes had only been given the authority to probe the destruction of the tapes.

Congress asked Mukasey last year to expand his investigation to include whether the interrogation methods shown on the videotapes violated international and federal laws, but Mukasey rebuffed the request.

The DOJ attorneys, who spoke to me several times over the past two weeks, requested anonymity because they were not given authority to speak publicly.

Fearing that the Justice Department may be working to launch a criminal probe into the Bush administration’s interrogation practices, Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee have delayed a vote to confirm Holder Attorney General because of statements he made during his confirmation hearing last week that waterboarding was torture.

Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, said he wants to ask Holder whether he intends to investigate the Bush administration and intelligence officials for torture.

Cornyn said Holder’s view that waterboarding is illegal under anti-torture laws means there is a possibility investigations may be on the horizon....(Click for remainder).

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President Obama’s New Presidential Records Order

By Sarah Cohen
The Washington Post


Barack Obama's first acts as president included signing three orders today that could open public access to documents and records that had been closed off during the Bush administration.

Obama reversed George W. Bush's restrictions on access to records of former presidents. He also told the Justice Department to write new guidance to agencies on the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) to improve transparency, and gave top officials in his administration four months to create a new "Open Government Directive" that he said would go beyond the requirements of the open records law.

If the new rules are followed within the government, they could open scores of records that have been closed for years to the public and reporters. Some agencies, with the encouragement of the Bush administration's legal advisers in the Justice Department, have reached deep into FOIA's exemptions to withhold information.

During the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, for example, the names of drugs forcibly administered to prisoners were withheld, claiming they would create "an unwarranted invasion of personal privacy" -- one of the law's reasons for rejection. News organizations and local citizen groups have had little access to information on toxic chemical spills that used to be readily available on the Internet. And agencies have tried to rebuff The Post and other news organizations on such requests as the schedules of high-level officials, the names and salaries of political appointees, and inspection results for government-owned or subsidized housing. In one case, officials blacked out every name on every document in the name of privacy -- including one that was an old press release....(Click for remainder).

For Immediate Release January 21, 2009

EXECUTIVE ORDER

- - - - - - -

PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, and in order to establish policies and procedures governing the assertion of executive privilege by incumbent and former Presidents in connection with the release of Presidential records by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) pursuant to the Presidential Records Act of 1978, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this order:

(a) "Archivist" refers to the Archivist of the United States or his designee.

(b) "NARA" refers to the National Archives and Records Administration.

(c) "Presidential Records Act" refers to the Presidential Records Act, 44 U.S.C. 2201-2207.

(d) "NARA regulations" refers to the NARA regulations implementing the Presidential Records Act, 36 C.F.R. Part 1270.

(e) "Presidential records" refers to those documentary materials maintained by NARA pursuant to the Presidential Records Act, including Vice Presidential records.

(f) "Former President" refers to the former President during whose term or terms of office particular Presidential records were created.

(g) A "substantial question of executive privilege" exists if NARA's disclosure of Presidential records might impair national security (including the conduct of foreign relations), law enforcement, or the deliberative processes of the executive branch.

(h) A "final court order" is a court order from which no appeal may be taken.

Sec. 2. Notice of Intent to Disclose Presidential Records. (a) When the Archivist provides notice to the incumbent and former Presidents of his intent to disclose Presidential records pursuant to section 1270.46 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist, using any guidelines provided by the incumbent and former Presidents, shall identify any specific materials, the disclosure of which he believes may raise a substantial question of executive privilege. However, nothing in this order is intended to affect the right of the incumbent or former Presidents to invoke executive privilege with respect to materials not identified by the Archivist. Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel). The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

(b) Upon the passage of 30 days after receipt by the incumbent and former Presidents of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Archivist may disclose the records covered by the notice, unless during that time period the Archivist has received a claim of executive privilege by the incumbent or former President or the Archivist has been instructed by the incumbent President or his designee to extend the time period for a time certain and with reason for the extension of time provided in the notice. If a shorter period of time is required under the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations, the Archivist shall so indicate in the notice.

Sec. 3. Claim of Executive Privilege by Incumbent President. (a) Upon receipt of a notice of intent to disclose Presidential records, the Attorney General (directly or through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel) and the Counsel to the President shall review as they deem appropriate the records covered by the notice and consult with each other, the Archivist, and such other executive agencies as they deem appropriate concerning whether invocation of executive privilege is justified.

(b) The Attorney General and the Counsel to the President, in the exercise of their discretion and after appropriate review and consultation under subsection (a) of this section, may jointly determine that invocation of executive privilege is not justified. The Archivist shall be notified promptly of any such determination.

(c) If either the Attorney General or the Counsel to the President believes that the circumstances justify invocation of executive privilege, the issue shall be presented to the President by the Counsel to the President and the Attorney General.

(d) If the President decides to invoke executive privilege, the Counsel to the President shall notify the former President, the Archivist, and the Attorney General in writing of the claim of privilege and the specific Presidential records to which it relates. After receiving such notice, the Archivist shall not disclose the privileged records unless directed to do so by an incumbent President or by a final court order.

Sec. 4. Claim of Executive Privilege by Former President. (a) Upon receipt of a claim of executive privilege by a living former President, the Archivist shall consult with the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel), the Counsel to the President, and such other executive agencies as the Archivist deems appropriate concerning the Archivist's determination as to whether to honor the former President's claim of privilege or instead to disclose the Presidential records notwithstanding the claim of privilege. Any determination under section 3 of this order that executive privilege shall not be invoked by the incumbent President shall not prejudice the Archivist's determination with respect to the former President's claim of privilege.

(b) In making the determination referred to in subsection (a) of this section, the Archivist shall abide by any instructions given him by the incumbent President or his designee unless otherwise directed by a final court order. The Archivist shall notify the incumbent and former Presidents of his determination at least 30 days prior to disclosure of the Presidential records, unless a shorter time period is required in the circumstances set forth in section 1270.44 of the NARA regulations. Copies of the notice for the incumbent President shall be delivered to the President (through the Counsel to the President) and the Attorney General (through the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel). The copy of the notice for the former President shall be delivered to the former President or his designated representative.

Sec. 5. General Provisions. (a) Nothing in this order shall be construed to impair or otherwise affect:

(i) authority granted by law to a department or agency, or the head thereof; or

(ii) functions of the Director of the Office of Management and Budget relating to budget, administrative, or legislative proposals.

(b) This order shall be implemented consistent with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations.

(c) This order is not intended to, and does not, create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural, enforceable at law or in equity by any party against the United States, its departments, agencies, or entities, its officers, employees, or agents, or any other person.

Sec. 6. Revocation. Executive Order 13233 of November 1, 2001, is revoked.

BARACK OBAMA

THE WHITE HOUSE,
January 21, 2009.

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Supreme Court Strikes Down Internet Porn Law

By Advocate.com

The U.S. Supreme Court has let stand a decision that a federal law created to keep children away from Internet pornography violates free speech rights.

The Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Justice Department, handing the victory over to those who argued that Congress’s efforts to regulate cyberspace violated free speech rights.

The law required that website operators use credit card numbers and access codes to keep children away from seeing adult content. Violators faced up to six months in prison and fines up to $50,000 per day.

The law was adopted in 1998 when the Supreme Court struck down another law called the Communications Decency Act. It has never been enforced because lower courts have repeatedly ruled it unconstitutional.

The Justice Department appealed to the Supreme Court after a U.S. appeals court in Philadelphia declared the law unconstitutional for being overly broad and too vague.

In enforced, the law would have punished as many as 700 million websites. The law was challenged by the American Civil Liberties Union and a number of gay adult booksellers and online properties, including A Different Light Bookstores and PlanetOut Corp.

(Click for original).

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New evidence on Antarctic warming

Um, this can't be good. Really.

The continent of Antarctica is warming up in step with the rest of the world, according to a new analysis.


By Richard Black
BBC New Environment Correspondent


Scientists say data from satellites and weather stations indicate a warming of about 0.6C over the last 50 years.

Writing in the journal Nature, they say the trend is "difficult to explain" without the effect of rising greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere.

Meanwhile, scientists in Antarctica say a major ice shelf is about to break away from the continent.

The Wilkins Ice Shelf is said to be "hanging by a thread" from the Antarctic Peninsula, the strip of land pointing from the white continent towards the southern tip of South America.

In isolation

Most of Antarctica's scientific stations are located along the peninsula, and scientists have known for many years that this portion of the continent is getting warmer.

But trends across the bulk of the continent have been much harder to discern, mainly because data from land stations is scarce.

It is somewhat insulated from the rest of the world's weather systems by winds and ocean currents that circulate around the perimeter....(Click for remainder).

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Obama 'set to close Guantanamo'

By BBC News

US President Barack Obama is expected to sign an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay prison within a year.

A draft order circulated on Wednesday also called for halting military trials in the prison, where terror suspects had been held for years without trial.

Separate orders are expected to ban abusive interrogations and review the detention of terror suspects.

On his first full day in office on Wednesday, Mr Obama issued orders on government ethics and transparency.

The measures included curbs on lobbying and a pay freeze for senior White House staff. Federal employees will have to sign up to new ethics procedures.

Later Mr Obama and his advisers are expected to discuss the global economic downturn affecting the US and also the Iraq and Afghanistan wars....(Click for remainder).

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Palestinian Doctor's Daughters killed while he is interviewed on Israeli TV

This is unbelievably disturbing. If you don't find this to be a moral outrage, then you're a pathetic excuse for a human being.

By Assaf
Daily Kos


Dr. Ezz-El-Din Abu El-Aish (I hope I am transliterating correctly) is a Palestinian gynecologist from Beit Lahiya, in the NE corner of the Gaza Strip. He works at Israel's largest hospital, Tel Hashomer near Tel Aviv.

This impressive and peaceful man has been stranded at home during the war. Israel's Channel 10 TV has regularly interviewed him by phone about the situation. On one occasion, a tank gun aimed at his home - and Israeli media intervention saved him.

No such luck today.

(the link is a Hebrew site, the clip starts auto-playing after a few seconds. the article comes after a short commercial). What we see in the clip is Israeli anchor Shlomi Eldar holding a cellphone with Dr. Abu El-Aish on the other side, howling with misery. A tank shell has just hit his home and immediately killed three of his children (apparently they cut off the first seconds when the shell actually hit).

Text below the video frame says that the doctor's brother and two of his brother's children also died. Eldar barely holds himself from crying, and then offers help. Ambulances evacuated some of the wounded to Israel....(Click for remainder).

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Obama Sworn in for Second Time

By BBC News

Barack Obama has been sworn in as US president for the second time in two days, because one word was given out of order during Tuesday's ceremony.

The Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court, John Roberts, administered the oath again at the White House.

The decision to repeat the oath was taken out of an abundance of caution, an official said.

But Mr Obama joked: "We decided it was so much fun...." before adding: "We're going to do it very slowly."

In contrast to the first oath-taking, Mr Obama did not swear on a Bible and his wife Michelle was not at his side.

And instead of an audience of millions, only a few close aides saw the second attempt, with even journalists excluded from the Map Room of the White House....(Click for remainder).

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