Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bishops develop proposal responding to 'Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury'

Thursday, November 30, 2006

[Episcopal News Service/Anglican Communion News Servic] A group of bishops, including Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has developed a proposal responding to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury" addressing what other petitioning bishops and dioceses have termed "alternative primatial oversight" or "alternative primatial relationship." Full texts of the group's response and accompanying statement follow here.

A Response to "An Appeal to the Archbishop of Canterbury"

Some bishops and dioceses of the Episcopal Church have requested that the Archbishop of Canterbury provide what they have variously called "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship." In consultation with the Presiding Bishop, the Archbishop of Canterbury proposed that a number of bishops from the Episcopal Church meet to explore a way forward. A first meeting took place in September, and a second meeting in November developed the following proposal that seeks to address the concerns of those parishes and dioceses which for serious theological reasons feel a need for space, and to encourage them to remain within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

1. Taking seriously the concerns of the petitioning bishops and dioceses, the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury, will appoint a Primatial Vicar in episcopal orders to serve as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor in such dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could preside at consecrations of bishops in these dioceses. The Primatial Vicar could also serve the dioceses involved on any other appropriate matters either at the initiative of the Presiding Bishop or at the request of the petitioning dioceses.

2. The Primatial Vicar would be accountable to the Presiding Bishop and would report to an Advisory Panel that would consist of the designee of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop’s designee, a bishop of The Episcopal Church selected by the petitioning dioceses, and the President of the House of Deputies (or designee).

3. This arrangement for a Primatial Vicar does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate, when appropriate, some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church.

4. Individual congregations who dissent from the decisions of their diocesan leadership are reminded of the availability of Delegated Episcopal Pastoral Oversight and its process of appeal.

5. This arrangement is provisional in nature, in effect for three years, beginning January 1, 2007. During that time, the Presiding Bishop is asked to monitor its efficacy and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding this arrangement and possible future developments


A group of bishops, including the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, gathered at the initiative of the Archbishop of Canterbury, has developed a proposal for the appointment of a Primatial Vicar in response to those bishops and dioceses that have requested what they termed "alternative primatial oversight" or an "alternative primatial relationship."

Those present at the September meeting, in addition to Bishops Griswold and Jefferts Schori, included Bishops Peter James Lee of Virginia, and Bishop John Lipscomb of Southwest Florida, as co-conveners, and Bishops James Stanton of Dallas, Edward Salmon of South Carolina, Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, Jack Iker of Fort Worth, Dorsey Henderson of Upper South Carolina, Robert O’Neill of Colorado, and Mark Sisk of New York. Bishop Don Wimberly of Texas was invited but did not attend. The Rev. Canon Kenneth Kearon, Secretary-General of the Anglican Communion was also present at the September meeting.

The same bishops and Canon Kearon were invited to the November meeting with the exception of Bishop Griswold who had completed his tenure as Presiding Bishop. Bishop Don Johnson of West Tennessee joined the group in November. Bishops Salmon, Stanton, Iker, Duncan and Wimberly did not attend the November meeting. Bishop Lipscomb, who had been involved in the planning of the meeting, was unexpectedly hospitalized at the time of the November meeting, sent his sincere regrets, and was briefed on the meeting at its conclusion.

The proposal provides for the appointment by the Presiding Bishop, in consultation with the Archbishop of Canterbury of a Primatial Vicar as the Presiding Bishop’s designated pastor to bishops and dioceses that have requested such oversight. The Primatial Vicar, in episcopal orders, could preside at consecrations of bishops in those dioceses. The Primatial Vicar, accountable to the Presiding Bishop, would report to an advisory panel that would include the designees of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop, the President of the House of Deputies, and a bishop of the Episcopal Church selected by the dioceses petitioning for pastoral care by the Primatial Vicar.

The response makes clear that the arrangement does not affect the administrative or other canonical duties of the Presiding Bishop except to the degree that the Presiding Bishop may wish to delegate some of those duties to the Primatial Vicar. The response also specifies that the Primatial Vicar and the Advisory Panel shall function in accordance with the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church.

The response drafted at the New York November 27th meeting is provisional in nature, beginning January 1, 2007 and continuing for three years. The New York group asked the Presiding Bishop to monitor its efficacy, and to consult with the House of Bishops and the Executive Council regarding the arrangement and possible future developments.

The response has been submitted to the Archbishop of Canterbury and to the bishops of the petitioning dioceses.

Bishop Lee of Virginia, co-convenor of the meetings that drafted the response said: "The group was conscious of the need to respond quickly to the needs of parishes and dioceses which felt themselves to be under pressure and sought a proposal which could be put into place without delay. Accordingly, this is a provisional measure that is entirely within the discretion of the Presiding Bishop and requires no canonical change nor any action by the General Convention. It is intended to provide some space for dioceses and congregations that feel they need it while the Anglican Communion sorts out more lasting measures to deal with differences. Those of us who drafted it hope it will be received and used in good faith."

Center Unveils Unprecedented Investigation into President Bush's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief Abroad

WASHINGTON - November 30 - On the eve of World AIDS Day (Dec. 1), the Center for Public Integrity today released "Divine Intervention," a year-long investigation into how President Bush's $15 billion initiative for care, treatment and prevention of HIV/AIDS abroad has failed countries struggling with the pandemic.

The special report, the first of its kind to examine the policies, politics and goals of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), looks at its effects on specific "focus countries," as well as India and Thailand, where the sex-trade industry is driving high rates of infection. Reporters affiliated with the Center's International Consortium of Investigative Journalists in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa, Haiti, India and Thailand found that faith-based ideology – including abstinence – often trumps science in the guise of federal rules, regulations and support of the organizations receiving taxpayer money.

More than three years after PEPFAR's creation, about $8.3 billion has been spent with less than $1 billion going to prevention in the 15 focus countries. Meanwhile, the number of people with HIV continues to rise internationally, with 75 percent infected through sexual intercourse. More than 450 people contracted HIV each hour last year, resulting in more than 4 million new cases.

"The goals and directives established by PEPFAR have stifled HIV/AIDS prevention efforts in countries such as Thailand and Uganda, formally recognized as success stories, and disregarded countries such as Swaziland, Lesotho and Zimbabwe," said Wendell Rawls, Center interim executive director and Divine Intervention project manager. "Sadly, 'compassionate conservatism' seems not to have been the most effective way to prevent the spread of the disease."

Interviews with scores of activists, people living with HIV/AIDS, physicians, health care workers, government officials and academics, and an examination of thousands of pages of incomplete documents also reveal a pattern of contradictory, conflicting and confusing policies.

For Divine Intervention, CPI filed two dozen Freedom of Information requests and lawsuits against the State Department, Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to access information about PEPAR, which is managed through the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator (OGAC) at the State Department.

During their investigations, ICIJ reporters encountered PEPFAR officials who couldn't answer basic questions about the programs they oversaw, PEPFAR recipients who were reluctant to criticize their donor out of fear of losing funding and Freedom of Information Act requests that were stalled for months. Requests for interviews and information from OGAC's Washington office were often ignored or canceled, dozens of phone calls and emails never returned, and database information that was provided contained errors.

The report also features extensive in-country interviews, profiles of all 15 focus countries and a sampling of organizations that have received funding, as well as a PEPFAR glossary.

Divine Intervention was made possible through grants from the Popplestone Foundation and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation. Core support for the Center was provided by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, the Carnegie Foundation, the Annenberg Foundation, the Park Foundation and the Schumann Center for Media and Democracy.

American Travelers to Get Secret 'Risk Assessment' Scores

EFF Fights Huge Data-Mining Program Set for Rollout on U.S. Borders

WASHINGTON - November 30 - An invasive and unprecedented data-mining system is set to be deployed on U.S. travelers Monday, despite substantial questions about Americans' privacy. In comments sent to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) asked the agency to delay the program's rollout until it makes more details available to the public and addresses critical privacy and due process concerns.

The Automated Targeting System (ATS) will create and assign "risk assessments" to tens of millions of citizens as they enter and leave the country. Individuals will have no way to access information about their "risk assessment" scores or to correct any false information about them. But once the assessment is made, the government will retain the information for 40 years -- as well as make it available to untold numbers of federal, state, local, and foreign agencies in addition to contractors, grantees, consultants, and others.

"The government is preparing to give millions of law-abiding citizens 'risk assessment' scores that will follow them throughout their lives," said EFF Senior Counsel David Sobel. "If that wasn't frightening enough, none of us will have the ability to know our own score, or to challenge it. Homeland Security needs to delay the deployment of this system and allow for an informed public debate on this dangerous proposal."

Earlier this month, EFF's FLAG Project submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to DHS seeking more details about the ATS data-mining program, but the agency has not yet disclosed the requested information.

People Not Getting AIDS Treatment They Need to Stay Alive

Newer AIDS Drugs Unaffordable and Unavailable

NEW YORK - November 29 - AIDS treatment in the developing world will not be sustainable unless international institutions get serious about the high cost of newer medicines, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) warned today. Five months after the World Health Organization (WHO) released updated AIDS treatment guidelines that recommend the use of newer and improved drugs in developing countries, the organization has failed to outline a strategy to help countries access these drugs, which remain largely inaccessible in developing countries.

New WHO-recommended drug regimens for people starting treatment can be up to six times more expensive than today's most commonly used combination. In addition, due to drug resistance or side effects, people on antiretroviral treatment eventually need to switch to newer drugs. In the case of resistance, people need to receive entirely new drug combinations, or face becoming sick again and dying. This "second-line" therapy can be up to 50 times more expensive.

"Our experience over the last year has told us two things," said Dr. Tido von Schoen-Angerer, Director of MSF's Campaign for Access to Essential Medicines." First, treatment costs are going to rise massively in the coming years unless something is done about high drug prices. Second, we cannot rely on pharmaceutical companies to solve this problem. We need drastic changes in strategy. It's clear as day that at current prices, the cost of accessing newer drugs will bankrupt treatment programs, but governments, industry, and multilateral agencies are doing far too little to address the issue."

Currently, MSF provides antiretroviral therapy to over 80,000 people in 65 projects in more than 30 countries. Data from MSF's program in South Africa, which is one of the organization's longest running treatment programs, shows that 17.4 percent of people who have been on treatment for five years have had to switch to second-line therapy. In Malawi, where MSF has 11,000 people on AIDS treatment, it is estimated that roughly 1,600 people will need to switch to newer drug combinations in three years, which will take up 70 percent of the entire treatment budget.

"AIDS treatment became a reality in the developing world because of the availability of affordable generic drugs," said Dr. von Schoen-Angerer. "Treatment programs will fail unless a continual supply of generic versions of newer medicines is also guaranteed."

Generic competition since 2000 helped bring down prices of certain first-line AIDS drugs by 99 percent, from $10,000 to roughly $130 per patient per year. Yet prices for newer drugs will remain high primarily due to increased patent barriers in key generic-producing countries like India. On top of cost, newer medicines often are not marketed in developing countries.

"Many newer drugs are not even available where we work, because companies do not make a priority of registering them," said Dr. Moses Massaquoi of MSF in Malawi. "It's simply unacceptable that we have to wait many years to use medicines that are commonly used in wealthy countries, if we get them at all."

Tenofovir, one of the most commonly prescribed AIDS drugs in wealthy countries and one of the drugs recommended by WHO, was approved for use in the US in 2001, but Gilead, the manufacturer, has only registered it in roughly 15 of 97 developing countries that qualify for the company's reduced pricing. Abbott launched an improved version of one of its antiretrovirals—heat stable lopinavir/ritonavir—over a year ago in the US, but the drug is still not registered in a single developing country, even though the new formulation is much better adapted to tropical settings. For most developing countries outside of Africa, such as Thailand and Guatemala, the company has announced a price of $2,200 per year, which is far more than the average annual per capita income in those countries.

A high-level meeting of WHO, UNAIDS and the World Bank concluding today in Washington, DC has failed to address the fact that pharmaceutical patents continue to drive the price of treatment up.

"Donor money should not be squandered to pay for overpriced drugs. The priority is to make drug prices come down as much as possible," said Dr. von Schoen-Angerer. "International organizations, donors, and industry must overhaul their strategies to ensure that universal access to AIDS treatment for life becomes a reality – this means confronting companies and their patents."

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

CIA Abuses: EU Report Condemns European Complicity

Report Stresses Further Need to Investigate Secret Detention and Rendition to Torture

NEW YORK - November 29 - A new report by the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on illegal CIA activity in Europe is a powerful indictment of European governments’ complicity in CIA abuses, Human Rights Watch said today. “The report shows how European governments acted as the willing facilitators of CIA abuses such as secret detention and rendition to torture,” said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. “European governments must now investigate these abuses fully and take steps to ensure that they do not happen again.”

The report, made public today, does not mince words in condemning European government complicity in CIA abuses. Its language is equally strong in deploring the failure of the Council of the European Union to keep the European Parliament fully informed of developments in EU security policy, particularly with regard to the council’s discussions with US government officials.

According to the report, records of a meeting of European foreign ministers with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last December confirm that EU member states “had knowledge of the programme of extraordinary rendition and secret prisons.”

“At a time when the EU should have been providing global leadership in the wake of US abuses, European governments were secretly colluding with the Bush administration on secret detention and unlawful rendition,” said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The EU must openly oppose unlawful rendition and secret detention and reestablish itself as a force for human rights.”

The committee’s report strongly criticizes the reluctance of “nearly all member States,” and of the European Union as an institution, to fully cooperate with the committee’s investigations.

Poland and the United Kingdom are singled out as having been especially uncooperative.

“The committee’s achievements are all the more extraordinary considering how much stonewalling it faced,” Mariner said. “European governments need to end their silence on these abuses.”

The report documents a number of cases of “extraordinary rendition,” by which people were transferred to countries that routinely practice torture. It accuses Italian intelligence officials of assisting in the CIA’s kidnapping and rendition of Abu Omar from Milan to Egypt in February 2003, and states that it is “highly likely, in view of the involvement of its secret services,” that the Italian government knew of Abu Omar’s rendition. Because the Milan public prosecutor had been investigating Abu Omar prior to his rendition, the report also concludes that the rendition jeopardized the investigation of terrorist networks operating in Italy.

The report also condemns the Swedish government for direct complicity in the CIA renditions of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari from Stockholm to Cairo in December 2001. Both men were subsequently tortured. The report notes that Swedish reliance upon “diplomatic assurances” from the Egyptian authorities, promising that the two men would not be tortured upon return, provided no safeguard against such abuse.

The German government was identified as complicit in the renditions of Khaled el-Masri and Mohammed Zammar. US military bases in Germany were also used for stopovers during rendition flights. The report described interrogations by German officials of Murat Kurnaz, a Turkish national and resident of Germany, at Guantanamo Bay in 2002 and 2004, and the German government’s failure to assist in Kurnaz’s release until 2006.

The committee’s report concludes that there were at least 1,245 overflights or stopovers by CIA planes in Europe, and that some of these flights probably involved prisoner transfers.

The report contains a set of detailed recommendations to European governments to ensure that CIA abuses are fully investigated, and that they do not happen again in the future. It calls on existing and aspiring EU member states to, for example, pass laws regulating the activities of foreign secret services on their territories.

“European governments that facilitated CIA abuses in the recent past must now take concrete steps to prevent their reoccurrence,” said Mariner. “It’s shocking that these abuses happened at all, but it would be utterly inexcusable for them to happen again.”

The report also calls on the US government to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, and for European governments to accept the return of their citizens and residents held at Guantanamo. It criticizes the British government, in particular, for refusing to provide consular assistance to two long-term British residents who remain in detention at Guantanamo.

As the report stresses, extraordinary rendition and secret detention “involve multiple violations of human rights,” including violations of the right to be free of torture and other inhumane treatment.

Human Rights Watch called on the US Congress to prioritize reforming US detention policies when it begins its session next year.

The draft report was issued by the Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and illegal detention of prisoners. The committee was established in January, in the wake of a public outcry over press reports about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe. Its rapporteur is the Italian MEP, Claudio Fava.

The committee’s report is the result of many months of investigations. As part of its inquiry, the parliamentary committee undertook fact-finding missions to seven countries and held some 130 interviews and hearings. Human Rights Watch representatives testified before the committee in February and May 2006.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Biden: Blames immigration woes on Mexico

The AP reported today that:

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Sen. Joe Biden, theSenate Foreign Relations Committee's incoming chairman, wants to get tough with Mexico, calling it an "erstwhile democracy" with a "corrupt system" responsible for illegal immigration and drug problems in the U.S.

Biden, D-Del., was in Columbia on Monday in his first postelection trip to this first-in-the-South presidential primary state as he continues to line up support for his presidential bid.

During a question-and-answer session before more than 230 Columbia Rotary Club members, Biden was asked about immigration problems.

Biden, who favors tightening the U.S.-Mexico border with fences, said immigration is driven by money in low-wage Mexico.

"Mexico is a country that is an erstwhile democracy where they have the greatest disparity of wealth," Biden said. "It is one of the wealthiest countries in the hemisphere and because of a corrupt system that exists in Mexico, there is the 1 percent of the population at the top, a very small middle class and the rest is abject poverty."

Unless the political dynamics change in Mexico and U.S. employers who hire illegal immigrants are punished, illegal immigration won't stop. "All the rest is window dressing," he said.

An even bigger problem are illegal drugs "coming up through corrupt Mexico," he said. "People are driving across that border with tons, tons — hear me — tons of everything from byproducts for methamphetamines, to cocaine, to heroine."

Covering a variety of topics, Biden kept most of the crowd in their seats for an hour — twice as long as scheduled.

"I warn all of you, all of you making more than a million bucks — I hope you all are — I'm taking away your tax cut," Biden said. "I'm not joking."

The extra revenue would generate $75 billion a year and pay for a backlog in national security and local law enforcement programs, Biden said.

The complete story may be found here:

Monday, November 27, 2006

CREW Sends Letter To DOJ Urging Investigation Into Speaker Hastert's Land Deal

WASHINGTON - November 27 - Earlier today, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) asked the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate whether Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill. pictured left) violated the law by inserting an earmark into the 2005 Highway Bill that earned him a 500 percent profit on a lucrative land deal.

As reported in the Chicago Tribune, in August 2002, Hastert purchased 179 acres of land, inaccessible by road, in Kendall County, Ill. for $925,000 or $5,200 per acre. Then, in February 2004, Hastert formed a real estate trust with two other land buyers and purchased 69 acres of land adjacent to the original parcel at a cost of $1,033,000 or $15,000 per acre. The trust's 69 acres was then joined with 69 acres of Hastert's land.

The land purchased by the trust was more valuable than Hastert's property because it was accessible by road.

In the summer of 2005, the Federal Highway Bill was enacted containing a $207 million earmark inserted by Hastert for construction of the Prairie Parkway. While the earmark was sufficient only to build about one-third of the entire 36 mile parkway, the language of the legislation mandated that construction take place on the portion of the parkway nearest to Hastert's property.

As reported in The New Republic, four months after the bill was signed into law, the trust's 138 acres was sold to a developer for $4,989,000 or $36,152 an acre. The partners apportioned the proceeds of the sale according to the acreage each had contributed. Thus, Hastert was credited with 62 percent ownership on the supposition that his $5,200 per acre land was equal in value to the partnership's $15,000 per acre land with the result that he received $3,118,000 of the proceeds. While Hastert's partners each made a 144 percent profit on their investment, Hastert's profit was 500 percent of his original investment.

Melanie Sloan, CREW's executive director, stated, "Speaker Hastert's use of the earmarking process to increase his own property value is an egregious abuse of his legislative authority. The Department of Justice should immediately investigate this sweetheart deal."

Sloan continued, "Congressional leaders have promised that the first order of business in January will be to enact ethics legislation. Any reform package must include a provision prohibiting members from inserting earmarks for their own personal financial benefit."

The request for investigation and supporting documents are available at CREW's Web site.

Hastert was included in the watch list of CREW's September 2006 report, "Beyond DeLay: The 20 most corrupt members of Congress (and five to watch)."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Philippines to bar entry of foreign activists in Asean Summit

‘Trouble-makers to be thrown into Mactan Straits’

The Inquirer Network reported today that:

THE government will stop the entry of foreign "trouble-makers'' who will attempt to disrupt the peaceful holding of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Cebu from December 11 to 14, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez warned on Saturday.

In a telephone interview with the Inquirer, Gonzalez cited "intelligence reports'' indicating that local and international groups would try to mar the summit with massive protest actions.

"There are also intelligence reports about that, but the intelligence community believes they can handle it. I also ordered that all the trouble-makers should not be allowed to enter the country,'' Gonzalez said.

The justice secretary said the Philippines would emulate Singapore in ensuring the security of an international conference of foreign leaders in its territory. "Singapore banned all the trouble makers from entering Singapore during the World Bank meeting in Singapore,'' he said.

"We will not allow a situation where the international delegates, the chiefs of state will be cordoned off inside Shangri-La (Hotel on Mactan Island)," said Gonzalez. He said this happened recently in Hong Kong, where foreign delegates were "prevented from leaving the building" due to protest actions.

"We will not allow that here. We will throw them into the Mactan Straits and let the sharks eat them there,'' he said.

Gonzalez said he would not mind criticisms and protests from international human rights groups because the country had grown used to being the "whipping boy" on the issue of human rights abuses.

Despite the possibility of disruptive protests, Gonzalez said the country’s intelligence community had expressed confidence that the 15,000 soldiers and policemen deployed in Cebu City are enough to foil any trouble.

"There will be an iron curtain imposed there,'' he said.

He also admitted that fear of threat to the lives of the delegates or their staff was one of the reasons he ordered the tightening of the security check at the country's airports.

Last Friday, Gonzalez directed immigration and airport officials to strictly monitor all Pakistani, Afghan, and Indian nationals entering the country, amid intelligence reports that operatives of Arab terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden entered the country recently.

In a memorandum order, Gonzalez said he received confidential information regarding the use of airlines for trafficking of Indian nationals to Manila, using, among others, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport as the port of entry.

"It was discovered that in many cases, the arrival of Indians with fake Philippine visas and/or re-entry permits or Special Return Certificates are not officially admitted by corrupt immigration officers and the same are not encoded in the BI Travel Info Database,'' Gonzalez said.

According to Gonzalez, the surveillance would also cover other foreign visitors carrying Indian passports who enter the Philippines.

The complete story may be found here:

Archbishop and Pope share worship, say 'churches share witness and service'

[Episcopal News Service] His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, shared worship together November 23 at the Redemptoris Mater Chapel in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican. The worship followed a formal Audience in the Papal Library.

The service took the form of midday prayers with psalms sung in plainsong, in the presence of senior Vatican representatives, including Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster, and senior Anglicans, including Archbishop Peter Carnley, former Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia, and Bishop David Beetge of Highveld in Southern Africa.

The Redemptoris Mater Chapel, formerly known as the Matilde Chapel, was rededicated by Pope John Paul II in 1999 after nearly four years of restoration work.

After the service Pope Benedict hosted a private lunch for Williams.

Earlier, in a Common Declaration signed by Benedict and Williams, the two leaders expressed thanks for 40 years of cooperation and dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the churches of the Anglican Communion and renewed the historic commitment to the goal of "full visible communion in the truth of Christ." The two paid tribute to the continuing process of dialogue which had begun with the historic meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey in 1966.

"Since that meeting, the Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion have entered into a process of fruitful dialogue, which has been marked by the discovery of significant elements of shared faith and a desire to give expression, through joint prayer, witness and service, to that which we hold in common," the declaration acknowledged.

As that process continues, the declaration said, difficulties and obstacles to this goal caused by new developments within the Anglican Communion would need to be faced.

" renewing our commitment to pursue the path towards full visible communion in the truth and love of Christ, we also commit ourselves in our continuing dialogue to address the important issues involved in the emerging ecclesiological and ethical factors making that journey more difficult and arduous."

The churches share a common witness and service, the statement said, and there were issues and challenges which could be tackled jointly.

"There are many areas of witness and service in which we can stand together, and which indeed call for closer co-operation between us: the pursuit of peace in the Holy Land and in other parts of the world marred by conflict and the threat of terrorism; promoting respect for life from conception until natural death; protecting the sanctity of marriage and the wellbeing of children in the context of healthy family life; in outreach to the poor, oppressed and the most vulnerable, especially those who are persecuted for their faith; in addressing the negative effects of materialism; and in care for creation and for our environment. We also commit ourselves to inter-religious dialogue through which we can jointly reach out to our non-Christian brothers and sisters."

The Common Statement concluded with a reminder of the churches' common calling:

"Confident of the apostolic hope "that he who has begun this good work in you will bring it to completion"(cf Phil 1:6), we believe that if we can together be God's instruments in calling all Christians to a deeper obedience to our Lord, we will also draw closer to each other, finding in his will the fullness of unity and common life to which he invites us."

During the Audience, Williams praised the ecumenical commitment of Pope Benedict XVI in a formal greeting presented to the Pope:

"I have been heartened by the way in which from the very beginning of your ministry as Bishop of Rome, you have stressed the importance of ecumenism in your own ministry," he said. "If the Good News of Jesus Christ is to be fully proclaimed to a needy world, then the reconciliation of all Christians in the truth and love of God is a vital element for our witness."

He acknowledged the difficulties and obstacles to unity and said that churches were affected by each other's troubles:

"I say this, conscious that the path to unity is not an easy one, and that disputes about how we apply the Gospel to the challenges thrown up by modern society can often obscure or even threaten the achievements of dialogue, common witness and service. In the modern world, no part of the Christian family acts without profound impact on our ecumenical partners; only a firm foundation of friendship in Christ will enable us to be honest in speaking to one another about those difficulties, and discerning a way forward which seeks to be wholly faithful to the charge laid upon us as disciples of Christ."

Anglicans and Roman Catholics shared a charge, he said, to serve Christ in the preaching of the Gospel:

"However, there is a task which is laid upon us both as pastors of the Christian family: to be advocates of reconciliation, justice and compassion in this world - to be ambassadors for Christ - and I am confident that an honest exchange of our concerns will not be allowed to eclipse what we can affirm and proclaim together - the hope of salvation and healing found in the Grace and Love of God revealed in Christ."

During the Audience, Williams presented the Pope with a specially commissioned icon showing St. Gregory and St. Augustine -- forbears of Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury respectively -- in the presence of Christ the Savior, Lord of the earthly and heavenly realms. The icon has been painted by Sergei Fyodoro, a Moscow-based iconographer. Further details are below.

Earlier in the day, Williams and the Anglican delegation said prayers in St. Peter's Basilica at the Tomb of Pope John Paul II, whose funeral Williams attended in 2005.

ENGLAND: Archbishops critical of British Airways' cross-wearing policy

[Ecumenical News International, Church of England] The Anglican Archbishops of Canterbury and York have called on British Airways (BA) to reconsider its decision to refuse to allow Nadia Eweida, a check-in worker, to wear a necklace cross on the outside of her uniform.

The airline announced on November 20 that her appeal against the original instruction not to wear the cross at work had been rejected by senior management.

It said in a statement: "Personal jewellery, including crosses, may be worn -- but underneath the uniform ... The policy recognizes that it is not practical for some religious symbols -- such as turbans and [Islamic] hijabs to be worn underneath the uniform. This is purely a question of practicality. There is no discrimination between faiths whatsoever. We want Nadia to come back to work."

Dr. John Sentamu of York, second in the Church of England hierarchy, said on November 20: "This decision by British Airways is nonsense and is based on flawed reasoning. The basis for the decision should not be 'practicality' as BA suggests, but rather whether it impacts on Nadia's ability to carry out her duties at the check in counter."

At a press conference in Rome on November 24, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, said: "I said some weeks ago that I regarded it as absolutely basic that people of any faith should have the right to display the signs of their faith commitment in public; that's the point from which I start. What I find deeply confusing about the present situation is the response of BA, which doesn't seem to make it clear whether they're simply talking about regulations, concerning a piece of jewelry or whether they are in some sense claiming that the cross is a source of offence.

"Now if BA is really saying or implying that the wearing of a cross in public is a source of offence, then I regard that as deeply offensive and, in a society where religious liberty and the expression of religious commitment is free, I regard it as something really quite serious. If they're saying that it's to do with matters of health and safety, I would question whether that is a sensible kind of regulation, whether in fact there really is a problem here, and I would ask them to look very seriously at this, given the enormous reaction of dismay that's been caused in the Christian community."

On flying to Rome with British Airways, Williams said: "All of this came up last weekend in its present form; I have a responsibility for proper use of the resources of staff and money and reorganizing at short notice expensively and complicatedly doesn't seem to me a responsible use given the time scale. I'll have to be consulting with others in the Church of England about our whole attitude to BA in which, as you know, we have some financial investment; that's a question that's already been raised for discussion with the Church Commissioners in London.

"It's just perhaps worth noting with some irony that amongst the duty-free jewelry items for sale are some crosses."

Sentamu noted that, "Under BA's current reasoning, an employee who turned up to work wearing a three foot long cross must be allowed to wear it, because to hide such a cross under their uniform would be impractical. Yet in Nadia’s case, a cross less than three inches is deemed a problem."

He added: "British Airways needs to look again at this decision and to look at the history of the country it represents; whose culture, laws, heritage and tradition owes so much to the very same symbol it would ban."

Eweida, 55, who refused an alternative back-room job, and chose not to accept suspension on pay until the matter was resolved, has the right to a second appeal and has told reporters that she is prepared to take her case all the way to the High Court.

Fellow employees have signed a petition backing her stand. Non-religious figures such as London's Mayor, Ken Livingstone and the director of the pressure group Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti, have voiced support for her.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Wal-Mart gives sop to anti-gay group....AFA calls off boycott

The AP reported November 21 that:

NEW YORK - A conservative group that had called on supporters to boycott Wal-Mart’s post-Thanksgiving day sales to protest the retailer’s support of gay-rights groups withdrew its objections Tuesday, saying the company had agreed to stay away from controversial causes.

The American Family Association, which had been asking supporters to stay away from Wal-Mart on Friday and Saturday — two of the busiest shopping days of the year — said it was pleased by a statement the company issued Tuesday.

While stressing its commitment to diversity and equality, Wal-Mart said in its statement that it “will not make corporate contributions to support or oppose highly controversial issues unless they directly relate to our ability to serve our customers.”

Mona Williams, Wal-Mart’s vice president of communications, said in a telephone interview that the company would continue working with the Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and other gay-rights groups on specific issues such as workplace equality.

“Going forward, we would partner with them on specific initiatives. ...As to opposed to just giving blanket support to their general operating budget,” she said.

The company’s statement, she said, resulted primarily from concerns expressed by customers and employees, not from the boycott threat.

There was no immediate word from a second conservative group, Operation Save America, on whether it was reconsidering its plans for prayer-and-preaching rallies outside many Wal-Mart stores on Friday.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Roman Catholic Bishop of Santa Rosa Spared Criminal Charges by Enrolling In Diversion Program

Bay Cities Newswire reported yesterday that:

1/20/06 8:25 PST


The Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese said Bishop Daniel Walsh intends to enroll in and successfully complete a diversion program that will spare him from criminal charges regarding his failure to immediately report a priest's alleged lewd conduct with an underage boy.

Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua announced this morning that Walsh will be able to enroll in a counseling diversion program for first-time misdemeanor offenders.

Those offenders are referred to the Adult Diversion Services program run by the California Human Development Corporation, Passalacqua said. If Walsh successfully completes the four-month counseling diversion program, no formal criminal charges will be filed, Passalacqua said.

Passalacqua said Walsh admitted wrong doing, has no prior record and is eligible to enroll in the program.

The district attorney's office investigated whether Walsh failed to immediately report to authorities in April alleged admissions by Rev. Francisco Xavier Ochoa that he kissed an underage boy on the lips before the boy danced and strip-teased in his apartment after a Sunday mass in April.

An investigation by the Sonoma County Sheriff's Department disclosed alleged improper sexual conduct by Ochoa with two other boys. Ochoa, 67, former priest at the St. Francis of Solano Church in Sonoma, is believed to have fled to Mexico in around May 2.

The diocese informed the county's Child Protective Services three days after Ochoa's alleged confession on April 28. The diocese was criticized for the delay that enabled Ochoa to leave Sonoma County where he now faces 11 criminal charges and a civil lawsuit that names eight alleged victims since 1985.

"It is clear that Bishop Walsh should have known of his obligations to immediately report the matter involving Francisco Ochoa,'' Passalacqua said. He added the diocese receives training and even previously established its own protocol on the mandated reporting law.

Santa Rosa Diocese spokeswoman Deirdre Frontczak said Walsh intends to enroll in the program and to successfully complete it.

Frontczak said the program is individually designed and does not require Walsh to enter a plea of any kind.

Leading Constitutional Scholars, Civil Rights Organizations, Bar Associations and Reporters' Group Support ACLU Challenge to NSA No Warrant Wiretaps

NEW YORK - November 21 - The American Civil Liberties Union today announced the filing of five friend-of-the-court briefs in support of its successful challenge to the National Security Agency's illegal domestic spying program, which the government has appealed. The briefs were submitted on behalf leading constitutional scholars, civil rights organizations, legal experts, bar associations and a reporters' advocacy group.

"All Americans have the right to speak on the phone or send and receive e-mails without the government eavesdropping on their conversations without a warrant," said Ann Beeson, Associate Legal Director of the ACLU. " The broad support for ending this illegal spying program shows just how indefensible the government's position is."

Since 2001, the NSA has been secretly intercepting the phone and e-mail communications of Americans without first obtaining judicial approval. Saying that the Bush administration's illegal spying on Americans must end, the ACLU filed a lawsuit against the NSA in January of this year. On August 17, in the first and only ruling by a federal court to strike down the controversial program, the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan ruled that the warrantless wiretapping program is illegal.

In a brief affirming the landmark ruling, the nation's leading constitutional law scholars, including Kathleen Sullivan, Laurence H. Tribe, Richard Epstein and Ronald Dworkin said: "Whatever inherent powers the President might have under Article II, they do not include the power to conduct a warrantless domestic surveillance campaign, of indefinite duration and unlimited scope, where a duly enacted statute expressly prohibits such conduct. Thus, no separation of powers concern requires deference to the Government's implausible statutory construction. To the contrary, deference to the Government's position would itself cast doubt on the constitutionality of the statute."

In another friend-of-the-court brief, civil rights organizations, including National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Japanese Americans Citizens League, the League of United Latin American Citizens, and United for Peace and Justice pointed to decades of spying on Americans - including members of their organizations - that was halted only after a congressional investigation in the 1970's exposed the abuses. Drawing on their shared history, the groups said that "Intelligence agents misused information gained by such surveillance to 'discredit' ideas and 'neutralize the actions' of Americans engaged in First Amendment-protected speech and advocacy, further distorting the political marketplace of ideas, a marketplace in which the American values of civil rights have historically triumphed."

The brief signed by the New York City Bar Association, the Bar Association of San Francisco, the Los Angeles County Bar Association, the Boston Bar Association and the Beverly Hills Bar Association discussed the importance of confidential communications and trust in the sacred American value of the privileged attorney client relationship. "The NSA surveillance program threatens to undermine a fundamental principle of a just legal system: That justice requires that persons accused by the government of wrongdoing have access to legal advice and that such legal advice can only be effective if lawyer-client communications are conducted in confidence, uninhibited by fears that government agents are listening in," the groups said in their brief.

The fourth brief was filed by the Center for National Security Studies and the Constitution Project and concerns the preservation of the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution. "The Fourth Amendment thus undergirds and reinforces FISA's requirement that the government obtain a warrant in order to engage in foreign intelligence surveillance of persons in the United States. Any concerns potentially counseling against enforcing the warrant requirement in the foreign intelligence realm have been absent for the better part of thirty years, and the threat to individual liberties by an unchecked Executive is, if anything, magnified in the current environment. Accordingly, there is no basis for determining that the President has inherent authority to disregard the warrant requirement enacted by Congress to safeguard the Fourth Amendment rights of persons in the United States."

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a brief as well, citing concerns that "if any journalist strongly and legitimately suspects that his or her communications with a source are being intercepted by a third party, that journalist simply cannot promise confidentiality in good faith to an international source when that source could face torture or death if the communication is revealed... the program ignores the United States' long-recognized commitment to the free flow of information and disregards the dangers posed to international sources who communicate with the media about issues of national security."

The ACLU lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys, and national nonprofit organizations (including the ACLU) who frequently communicate by phone and e-mail with people in the Middle East. Because of the nature of their calls and e-mails, they believe the program is disrupting their ability to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship and engage in advocacy. The spying program has sparked national and international furor and has been condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, by Beeson, Jameel Jaffer and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU and Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan. The civil rights organizations are represented by Jonathan Hafetz of the Brennan Center for Justice. The constitutional scholars brief was written by Kathleen M. Sullivan and Derek L. Shaffer of the Constitutional Law Center at Stanford Law School.

EFF Files Suit for Answers About New International Air Passenger Data Deal

Department of Homeland Security Dodges Records' Disclosure

WASHINGTON - November 21 - The FLAG Project at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed suit against the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) today, demanding information about a new agreement on the handling of air passenger data from flights between the European Union (EU) and the United States.

Two years ago, the U.S. and EU made a controversial deal requiring airlines to give DHS access to detailed passenger information from EU flights to and from the U.S. In May, the European Court of Justice struck down the agreement, finding it at odds with EU laintelligence agencies greater access to the data than the previous deal did. EFF filed its suit after DHS failed to respond to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for records about the handling of data under the new agreement, including how they are maintained, used, disclosw. But the U.S. and EU reached a new agreement last month that will give U.S. law enforcement and ed, and secured.

"Travelers may give up a lot of personal information when they make flight reservations," said EFF Staff Attorney Marcia Hofmann. "Those traveling between Europe and the United States deserve to know who gets to see that data, how the information is protected, and whether those practices comply with EU law."

EFF's FLAG Project uses FOIA requests and litigation to expose the government's expanding use of technologies that invade privacy. Previous lawsuits have demanded information about the FBI's huge database of personal information, as well as records on the FBI's electronic surveillance systems.

"When federal agencies don't comply with the FOIA's requirements, they may conceal activities and programs that raise serious legal issues and put Americans' privacy at risk," said Hofmann. "The Department of Homeland Security must abide by the law and give the public information about the new passenger data agreement."

For the FOIA complaint filed against the Department of Homeland Security:

For more on the FLAG Project:

Monday, November 20, 2006

'It's Always Christmas Time' for Credit Card Companies But Consumers Can Get Trapped by Abusive Fees and Practices

Consumers Union Warns Shoppers About Penalty Fees, Interest Rate Hikes, and Misleading Contracts

SAN FRANCISCO - November 20 - Just as the holiday season gets ready to kick into high gear, Consumers Union is warning shoppers about the increasing number of credit card traps that can trip up consumers and lead to spiraling debt. To help get out the message and mobilize support for reform, the group is releasing "It's Always Christmas Time (For VISA)," an animated satire that takes aim at abusive credit card fees and practices.

"You can find yourself buried in debt if you aren't careful to avoid the credit card gotchas," said Michelle Jun, Staff Attorney for Consumers Union. "Too many credit cards are designed to get you in debt and keep you there."

"It's Always Christmas Time (For VISA)" is a lighthearted take on the unexpected fees, interest rate hikes, and misleading contracts that are contributing to high credit card debt in the U.S. After viewing the animation, viewers can send an email to Congress asking lawmakers to support credit card reforms. To view the animation, click on

Consumers enjoy few protections when it comes to credit cards and there are an increasing number of ways they can be penalized with fees or get stuck with higher interest rates:

-- Universal default: Your interest rate can skyrocket if your credit score declines because of your behavior with other creditors even if you always pay your credit card on time and never miss a payment. Some card issuers will raise your rate if you inquire about a car loan or open a new credit card.

-- Change of terms: Credit card terms keep changing. Read the fine print and chances are you'll find this disclosure: "We reserve the right to change the terms (including the APRs) at any time for any reason." A fixed rate is fixed until the bank gives you at least 15 days notice that it isn't. If you want to keep your account open, you'll pay the higher new rate on your existing balance.

-- Teaser rates: That low rate you signed up for expires suddenly and you end up paying more. A temptingly low introductory rate can climb to 30 percent or more.

-- Minimim payment: If you pay the minimum payment every month, you'll end up paying a lot more than what you charged and you could be on the hook for a very long time.

-- On time payment: Card issuers are systematically mailing statements closer to the due date, giving customers less turnaround time. You can be hit with a late fee even if the payment is mailed on time. The average fee for a late payment has more than doubled in the past decade.

-- Double cycle billing: Finance charges are usually calculated using the average daily balance. If you alternate between paying off and carrying a balance, you'll end up paying more interest.

-- Cash advance/convenience checks: The interest rates on these are higher than your credit card.

-- Penalty interest and fees: Late payments can raise your interest from 7 percent to 27 percent ! Rather than rejecting charges that exceed your credit card limit, issuers today often let them go through but then charge a hefty fee -- as high as $39.

-- Fees, fees, and more fees: As if the penalties weren't enough, you pay more fees for paying by phone or charging abroad. You may have to pay a fee to receive what used to be free year- end summary statements.

-- Balance transfer switcheroo: Transferring a balance from an account with a high APR to another one with a lower interest rate could come at a high cost. Any payments you make are typically applied first to the lowest rate balance. So while the credit card company uses your payment to quickly pay off that 0 percent transfer balance, you are piling up interest on purchases, at say, 18 percent. Multiple balance transfers will hurt your credit score.

A recent report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) found that there are many types of credit card fees, and that they have risen much faster than inflation. It also finds that current fee disclosures are difficult to understand, bury important information, and often fail to convey to cardholders when late fees would be charged and what actions could result in penalty interest rates. The report found that 35 percent of active credit cardholders of the six largest issuers were charged at least one penalty fee in 2005, averaging $33.64.

Consumers Union is urging Congress to pass reforms to rein in abusive credit card practices, including banning universal default, stopping card issuers from applying punitive interest rates to the entire balance, and requiring better disclosure so consumers understand the true cost of making only the minimum payment. For a more complete list of credit card reforms supported by Consumers Union and other consumer groups, see:

"Getting trapped in the jaws of credit card debt has become alarmingly easy," said Jun. "Congress should not let another year go by without acting to prohibit abusive credit card fees and practices."

Pentagon Wrongfully Withholding Images of Detainee Abuse, ACLU Tells Court

NEW YORK - November 20 - The American Civil Liberties Union appeared in court today to challenge the government’s appeal of an order directing the Defense Department to release 21 photographs depicting abuse of detainees by U.S. forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“In this new climate of renewed checks and balances, the Bush administration should not be allowed to hide the truth, and individual leaders should never be allowed to subvert the law to cover up their misdeeds,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “The ACLU is pursuing this fight on behalf of all Americans to keep our government honest.”

The government is appealing a district court order to release the 21 photographs, once redactions have been made to obscurechambers. The ACLU, the New York Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Constitutional Rights have led a Freedom of Information Act challenge since 2003 to obtain records related to the treatment and death of detainees held in United States custody abroad, as well as the rend individually identifying features. The district court issued its ruling after first reviewing the photographs in private ition of detainees to countries known to employ torture.

This is the second time the government has attempted to withhold visual evidence of detainee abuse on the grounds that the public disclosure of such evidence would generate outrage, and would violate U.S. obligations towards detainees under the Geneva Conventions. Earlier this year, the government appealed an order to release 74 photographs and three videotapes of abuse at Abu Ghraib, claiming that releasing the images would result in widespread violence. The government withdrew its first appeal when most of those images were published on without causing violence.

Amrit Singh, the ACLU attorney who argued the case before the court today, said the government is attempting to radically expand the exemptions allowed under the Freedom of Information Act for withholding records.

“Under the government’s logic, records that uncover the most egregious government misconduct would be afforded the greatest protection from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. That cannot be,” said Singh. “These images shed light not only on the scope of prisoner abuse by U.S. forces, but also on command responsibility for that abuse. The public has a right to examine these images for itself.”

The government agrees that the final ruling on appeal with respect to the 21 images will also apply to other images of prisoner abuse that it is withholding on the same grounds. So far, the government has identified approximately 23 such images of prisoner abuse.

Several organizations and legal experts have filed briefs with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals supporting the release of the abuse images, including 22 professors of the law of armed conflict, the National Security Archives, the New York City Bar Association, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and more than a dozen media organizations. Some of the briefs note that the United States itself pioneered the use of photographs of prisoners to strengthen international human rights, and images of abuse led to the ratification of the Geneva Conventions.

To date, more than 100,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has been posting these documents online at

In a related case, the ACLU and Human Rights First represent nine men subjected to torture and abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. That lawsuit charges that then-Defense Secretary Rumsfeld bears direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees. A federal court hearing is scheduled in that case on December 8 in Washington, D.C.. For more information, go to

On November 28, the ACLU will appear at a federal hearing in Richmond, VA in the case of Khaled El-Masri, an innocent German man who was kidnapped by the CIA and transported to a secret site in Afghanistan where he was detained and abused. A district court upheld the CIA’s claim that the case could not proceed without disclosing state secrets. The ACLU appealed the decision, noting that accounts of El-Masri’s abduction have already appeared in news reports around the world and foreign governments have launched their own investigations into the matter. For more information go to

CDT Identifies Threats to the Internet and Civil Liberties in the Lame Duck Congress

WASHINGTON - November 20 - The 109th Congress is drawing to an end, but that doesn't mean supporters of civil liberties and a free, open Internet can breathe easy. Several bills that threaten core civil liberties and privacy protections remain very much in play in the waning days of the lame-duck Congress. Defenders of those values must remain vigilant to ensure that these misguided measures don't find their way into the large legislative packages likely to be approved before lawmakers head home for the holidays.

Today, the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT) issued a special lame duck edition of its "Internet Watch List," identifying seven legislative efforts that cannot be allowed to succeed in the so-called "silly season" at the end of the 109th Congress. The watch list is online at .

"The hectic, unstructured final days of the 109th Congress are no time to enact legislation that fundamentally undermine our basic civil liberties or that would drastically alter the Internet experience for millions of Americans," CDT Executive Director Leslie Harris said. "Defenders of the Internet and civil liberties have been successful thus far in preventing the worst bills from passing, but we can't afford to let our guard down now. These measures will pose a very real threat until this Congress takes its final bow."

Remaining at the Watch List are two bills that would rewrite the law that protects ordinary Americans from government snooping. Put bluntly -- from a civil liberties perspective -- bills simply don't get much worse than those proposed by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) and Rep. Heather Wilson (R-N.M.) to "modernize" the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). What began ostensibly as an effort to bring the administration's warrantless surveillance program under judicial review has turned into an attempt to repeal the language that protects Americans from warrantless snooping.

President Bush has made clear that passing wiretapping legislation is one of his top priorities for the lame duck session.

"Not only would these measures authorize a domestic surveillance program that remains shrouded in secrecy, they would grant future Presidents broad new authority to spy on the activities of Americans without warrants or judicial review," said CDT Staff Counsel Nancy Libin. "It's not at all clear the law protecting Americans from unchecked surveillance needs to be 'modernized,' but even if it does, it would be a terrible mistake to try to deal with an issue that has the potential to undermine fundamental Fourth Amendment protections in the hectic final days of Congress."

Also on the watch list are Congressional efforts to impose mandatory labeling requirements on Web site operators; a bill that would require schools and libraries to block interactive Internet content; and an attempt to compel Internet providers to retain massive amounts of customer data for use by law enforcement. New to the list for the lame duck session is an effort to grant immunity to telecom companies that may have violated the law by sharing information about their customers with the government in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks.

CDT is urging lawmakers, journalists and activist to remain vigilant as the 109th Congress draws to an end, to make sure that none of these proposals become law.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Human Rights Groups Seek Criminal Investigation in Germany of Rumsfeld and other High-Ranking US Officials for Authorizing Torture

War Crimes Complaint Filed on Behalf of 11 Iraqi Victims and 1 Guantánamo Detainee Under Doctrine of Universal Jurisdiction
Rumsfeld Resignation Means He Can No Longer Claim Immunity

NEW YORK / PARIS - November 14 - The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), the Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV) and others, represented by Berlin Attorney Wolfgang Kaleck, filed a criminal complaint in Germany today alleging that high-ranking U.S. civilian and military officials, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, committed war crimes in Iraq and in the U.S.-controlled Guantánamo Bay prison camp. Additional co-plaintiffs include dozens of international human rights groups from various regions in the world, Nobel Peace Prize winners Aldolfo Perez Esquirel and Martín Almada, as well as Theo van Boven, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture.

Made possible by Germany’s 2002 universal jurisdiction statute, the complaint was filed on behalf of 11 Iraqi citizens who were victims of gruesome crimes, including severe beatings, sleep and food deprivation, hooding and sexual abuse at the infamous Abu Ghraib prison. Mohammed al Qahtani, a Saudi citizen detained at Guantánamo who was subjected to torture and abuse there under the specific authorization of Rumsfeld and the supervision of Major General Miller, is also a plaintiff in the case.

Rumsfeld’s resignation last week means that he can no longer try to claim immunity as a head of state or government official. The defendants are alleged to have ordered war crimes, aided or abetted war crimes, or failed to prevent their commission by subordinates, actions that are explicitly criminalized by German law. Under Germany’s 2002 Code of Crimes against International Law (CCIL), the German Federal Prosecutor is entitled to prosecute war criminals irrespective of the location of the defendant or plaintiff, the place where the crime was carried out, or the nationality of the persons involved.

In November 2004, the previous German Federal Prosecutor failed to prosecute an earlier complaint against many of these same defendants. The U.S. pressured Germany to drop the case, which was ultimately dismissed in February 2005 on the eve of a visit by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to Germany. The Federal Prosecutor, who refused to take up a single case under the universal jurisdiction law for the four years since it was passed, has been replaced be a new prosecutor.

In dismissing the case, the first prosecutor stated: “there are no indications that the authorities and courts of the United States of America are refraining, or would refrain, from penal measures as regards the violations described in the complaint.” The passage of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 attempting to immunize officials and others from prosecution in the United States and substantial new evidence show this is not the case, according to attorneys and human rights groups.

“Two years after filing our first case in Germany, the utter and complete failure of authorities in the United States to take any action to investigate high level involvement in the torture program could not be clearer,” said CCR President Michael Ratner. “The recently passed Military Commissions Act, which purports to amnesty the alleged war crimes of U.S. officials, is only the most recent illustration of American unwillingness to prosecute Americans. These crimes are not the work of ‘a few bad apples;’ they were planned and executed at the highest levels of the U.S. government.”

Taking account of extraordinary new information that has come to light over the past two years, the new complaint now charges that former White House Counsel Alberto Gonzalez and former Deputy and Assistant Attorney General John Yoo and Jay Bybee, as well as others are alleged to be the legal architects of the Bush Administration’s practice of torture. The existence of so-called 'torture memos' and the authorization by Secretary Rumsfeld, Lt. General Sanchez and others, of special interrogation techniques that violate humanitarian and human rights law make clear that responsibility for abusive treatment at Abu Ghraib and the other U.S. facilities reaches all the way to the top. Former Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, a defendant in the earlier complaint as the commanding officer at Abu Ghraib, will now testify in Germany for the plaintiffs’ case.

Berlin attorney Wolfgang Kaleck said: “In November 2004, we went to Germany because it was seen as a court of last resort, and in 2006 it still is. There is simply no other place to go except to foreign domestic courts. As we fight for accountability and justice, our worldwide network of human rights organizations and lawyers is working to strengthen universal human rights as the first resort for victims of war crimes wherever we have the opportunity to do so. Seizing advantage of the principle of universal jurisdiction lets us confront war crimes, no matter where they occur or who commits them. Today’s complaint is to be understood as an attempt, amongst others, to combat torture and deter further crimes.”

“The United States of America, purporting to set moral and legal standards for the world, refuses to seriously investigate the role of those at the top of the chain of command for the crimes committed against hundreds of detainees held in U.S. custody in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay Naval Station, Cuba,” said Sidiki Kaba, FIDH President. “We now call upon the German prosecutor to fulfill her prosecutorial duties in an independent, impartial and objective manner.”

For documents and more information on the case, visit



Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
Former CIA Director George Tenet
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Dr. Stephen Cambone
Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez
Major General Walter Wojdakowski
Major General Geoffrey Miller
Colonel Thomas Pappas
Former Chief White House Counsel Alberto R. Gonzales
Former Assistant Attorney General Jay Bybee
Former Deputy Assistant Attorney General John Yoo
General Counsel of the Department of Defense William James Haynes, II
Vice President Chief Counsel David S. Addington
Colonel Marc Warren
Major General Barbara Fast



1980 Nobel Peace Prize winner Aldolfo Perez Esquirel (Argentine)
2002 Nobel Peace Prize winner Martín Almada (Paraguay)
Theo van Boven, the former United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture
Sister Dianna Ortiz, (Torture survivor, Executive Director of TASSC)

International and Regional NGOs

FIDH: International Federation for Human Rights The International Peace Bureau (Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1910)
International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA)
European Democratic Lawyers
European Democratic Jurists
International Association of Democratic Lawyers

National NGO’s

Argentina: Comité de Acción Jurídica (CAJ)
Argentina: Liga Argentina por los Derechos del Hombre
Bahrain: Bahrain Human Rights Society (BHRS)
Canada: Lawyers against the War (LAW)
Colombia: Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo
Democratic Republic of Congo: Association Africaine des Droits de l’Homme (ASADHO)
Egypt: Egyptian Organization for Human Rights (EOHR)
France: Ligue Française des Droits de l'Homme (LDH)
Germany: The Republican Attorneys' Association (RAV)
Jordan: Amman Center for Human Rights Studies (ACHR)
Mexico: Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH)
Mexico: Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos (LIMEDDH)
Nicaragua: Centro Nicaraguense de Derechos Humanos (CENIDH)
Palestine: Palestinian Center for Human Rights
Chad: Association Tchadienne pour la Promotion et la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (ATPDH)
Senegal: Rencontre Africaine pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (RADDHO)
USA: The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
USA: National Lawyers’ Guild (NLG)
USA: Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition International (TASSC)
USA: Veterans for Peace

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Catholic Bishops adopt gay outreach guidelines

BALTIMORE - The nation's Roman Catholic bishops adopted new guidelines for gay outreach Tuesday that are meant to be welcoming, while also telling gays to be celibate since the church considers their sexuality "disordered."

Gay Catholic activists said the approach was so contorted and flawed that it would alienate the very people it was trying to reach.

The statement, "Ministry to Persons with a Homosexual Inclination," was adopted by a 194-37 vote, with one abstention, at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The bishops also overwhelmingly adopted separate statements encouraging Catholics to obey the church's widely ignored ban on artificial contraception, and directing parishioners to examine their consciences to decide if they are worthy of receiving Holy Communion.

Anyone who knowingly persists in sinful behavior, such as gay sex or using artificial birth control, should refrain from taking Communion, the bishops said.

"To be a Catholic is a challenge," said Bishop Arthur Serratelli of Paterson, N.J., chairman of the bishops' doctrine committee. "To be a Catholic requires a certain choice."

Presenting the gay ministry document at the meeting, Serratelli acknowledged that gay and lesbian Catholics "have a difficult task in this world, but this task is necessary and good."

"The tone of the document is positive, pastoral and welcoming," Serratelli said. "Its starting point is the intrinsic human dignity of every person and God's love for every person."

But gay Catholic groups thought the bishops' approach was flat-out wrong.

Francisco DeBernardo, executive director of New Ways Ministry, an independent outreach to Catholic gays that has run afoul of some church leaders, said the guidelines "do not reflect good science, good theology or human reality."

"This document proposes that lesbian and gay people be viewed not in the entirety of their lives, but in one dimension only — the sexual dimension," DeBernardo said. "No other group in the church is singled out in this way."

The guidelines condemn discrimination against gays and say it's not a sin to be attracted to someone of the same sex — only to act on those feelings.

The bishops also underscore Catholic opposition to gay marriage and adoption by gay and lesbian couples, but also say children of gay Catholics can be baptized if they are being raised in the faith.

Under the guidelines, parishes are instructed to help Catholics avoid "the lifestyle and values of a 'gay subculture.'" Gays also are discouraged from telling anyone about their sexual orientation outside a close circle of friends and supporters in the church.

On the subject of therapy to change same-sex attraction, the bishops said there is no scientific consensus on whether it can succeed. But church leaders say gays are free to seek counseling to help them live a chaste life.

Sam Sinnett, president of DignityUSA, an advocacy group for gay Catholics, said the document is damaging because it recommends that gays "stay emotionally and spiritually in the closet."

Monday, November 13, 2006

Vietnam: Street Children at Risk Before APEC Summit

Police Roundups in Hanoi Land Children in Harsh Detention Centers

NEW YORK - November 13 - Government roundup campaigns to clear Hanoi’s streets of “wanderers” and “vagrants” are landing street children in detention centers, where some are beaten and subject to other forms of abuse, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Human Rights Watch is concerned that street children are particularly vulnerable to arrest now, as the Vietnamese government attempts to present its best face for this week’s meetings in Hanoi of world leaders, including US President George Bush, for the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit.

“Vietnamese authorities need to protect street children from abuse, not condemn them to further harm by throwing them into detention centers,” said Sophie Richardson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch. “Visiting world leaders should press Vietnam to uphold basic rights and freedoms.”

Vietnam should abide by its commitments to protect children under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, especially children deemed especially vulnerable to abuse, Human Rights Watch said. Vietnam was the first country in Asia and the second in the world to ratify the treaty.

The 77-page report, “Children of the Dust: Abuse of Hanoi Street Children in Detention,” documents cases of serious violations of the rights of street children in Hanoi. Police routinely round up street children in arbitrary sweeps and deposit them at state “rehabilitation” centers – euphemistically called “Social Protection Centers” – where they are detained for periods ranging from two weeks to as much as six months.

Drawing on testimonies from street children interviewed over the past three years, Human Rights Watch detailed the particularly harsh treatment at one of the rehabilitation centers, Dong Dau Social Protection Center. Children there are locked up in filthy, overcrowded cells for 23 hours a day, sometimes together with adults, with only a bucket for excrement. The lights remain on night and day. They are released for two half-hour periods per day to wash and to eat. They are offered no rehabilitation, no educational and recreational activities, and no medical or psychological treatment. Their families are often not notified about where they are.

Even more disturbing are reports that children at Dong Dau are subject to routine beatings, verbal abuse and mistreatment by staff.

“Staff members in the so-called rehabilitation center have slapped and punched children, and beat them with rubber truncheons,” said Richardson. “Children report being placed in isolation, deprived of food and medical treatment, and denied family contact. This violates both Vietnamese and international law.”

After being beaten, the children rarely receive medical treatment for their injuries, nor are staff persons who carry out the beatings disciplined.

“Rather than serving as a rehabilitation center, Dong Dau is a de facto jail,” said Richardson. “Upon release, the children return battered, bruised and even less well-equipped to survive on the streets of Hanoi.”

None of the children Human Rights Watch spoke to were provided any legal representation or told what, if any, charges were being brought against them; nor did their cases go before a court of law.

Officially, the government’s policy is to round up street children in order to reunite them with their families. In practice, staff members at Dong Dau rarely make an effort to link children with their families or even notify the families about their children’s whereabouts.

At the end of their detention, efforts are rarely made to take the children home or reunite them with their families. Instead, the children told Human Rights Watch that they are deposited at the gates of the center – more than 20 miles from Hanoi – and expected to find their way back. Most do not return to their homes in the countryside, but end up in Hanoi with no new alternatives.

Although Vietnamese law outlines policies and programs to assist street children – most of whom are poor children from the countryside who go to Hanoi to find work – Human Rights Watch found that government authorities are often doing the opposite of what is called for in Vietnamese and international law.

“On paper, Vietnam has good policies to protect street children,” said Richardson. “But the reality for Hanoi’s street children is not rehabilitation, but institutionalization and abuse, which leaves children in even worse shape.”

Human Rights Watch called for an independent audit of conditions and practices at Dong Dau and for development of a plan of action to halt abuses there. In addition, Human Rights Watch recommended that the Vietnamese government put in place systems to protect children from arbitrary arrest and detention and ensure that street children do not suffer abuse at the hands of government authorities. Centers for street children should meet international standards, promote rehabilitation and family reunification (when appropriate), and provide adequate education and health care.

Testimonies from the report:

“I didn't know how to queue when I first arrived. The guards came and hit me with a rubber club. They hit me everywhere ... more than 20 times, on the right side of my back, lower and upper arms. It still hurts. Then they sent me back to the room without food. It was too painful to eat anyway. My back and right shoulder were swollen. I had scratches all over my arms. ... I didn’t eat for two days – it was too painful to eat.”
– 17-year-old street child

“When I had to fill out the form, [the staff person] asked me how many times I had been there. I told him twice, but he thought I was lying. He thought I must have been there four times. I told him he was wrong, so he hit me. He used a rubber club to hit me all over my body. He hit me twice on the back and shoulder, and twice on the back of my thighs.”
– 15-year-old street child

“On the first day, eight people [were sent to Dong Dau] with me. We were all very sad. Some people cried all day, and they didn’t eat anything. When I was lining up for dinner, I didn’t feel like eating anything, so I was moving slowly. So were the others. The guards came and made us kneel down in the middle of the room. We weren’t allowed to eat anything. The first time we got to eat was the next day at 10 a.m.”
– 15-year-old shoe shiner

“There were windows, but they were shut ... tied with metallic string. Day and night was the same because the light was on all the time. There were some wooden surfaces to sleep on but there were not enough, so people who were there first got those. Others slept on the floor. We had just enough space to lie down. I couldn’t even turn my body. Staying there for one day is like staying there for one month. We just sat in the room. We couldn’t do anything.”
– 17-year-old street child, talking about his detention at Dong Dau when he was 16

“I was always depressed, sad, bored. Many nights, I was lying on my bed, thinking how it’s so unfair to be somewhere like this. I don’t deserve it. There shouldn’t be any violence in a Social Protection Center.”
– 15-year-old street child

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Presiding Bishop invites congregations, individuals into deepened hospitality, service

New 'Groundwork' resources posted online for 2007 Lenten use

Friday, November 10, 2006

[Episcopal News Service] In reflections affirming "local life for global good," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has invited congregations and individuals into a new season of hospitality, evangelism and service.

Offered in the first full week since her investiture as 26th Presiding Bishop, and on the eve of the Executive Council's November 12-15 meeting launching the Episcopal Church's 2007-2009 triennium of ministry, Jefferts Schori's reflections underscore the importance of faith communities widening their "stance of welcome" (see full text below).

To assist congregations in this outreach, the Presiding Bishop commends in her reflections the use of "Groundwork III" resources now available online here.

Coordinated with the Year C lectionary readings for the Sundays of Lent, Groundwork III continues a three-year series begun in 2004. The resources have been edited by the Rev. Dr. James B. Lemler, director of mission at the Episcopal Church Center in New York, and by the Rev. Charles N. Fulton III, director of congregational development.

As in years past, Groundwork III booklets will be mailed in November to all congregations, and full texts in Spanish will also be posted online.

In her reflections, the Presiding Bishop also recommends "a re-engagement of the 2020 energy that called our Church, through the General Convention in 2000, to work to double its membership within two decades' time. This is doable, even with the challenge of declining birthrates that have an impact upon all mainline denominations at present."

- - -

Local Life for Global Good: Reflections from the Presiding Bishop

In order to achieve effectively the Episcopal Church's priorities for peace and justice work framed by the Millennium Development Goals, our congregations -- together with the individual spiritual life of each of us -- must be rooted in places of health and strength.

For our congregations, this means practicing a stance of welcome and hospitality, reaching out to invite seekers and neighbors into widened expressions of community. It also means assuring the highest quality possible in public worship, education and outreach programs.

As individuals, this grounding comes in the form of a regular and disciplined prayer life, study of the scriptures, the commitment to participation in a local community of faith, and an attitude of generosity that limits personal excess in order to provide necessities for those in need.

In short, this practice is a matter of living a local life for global good.

For our congregations, I call each local community of faith to a season of careful assessment of your ministries of hospitality, evangelism and service. The 2007 "Groundwork" Lenten-study resources provided by the Mission Office at the Episcopal Church Center can help.

I would also recommend a re-engagement of the 2020 energy that called our Church, through the General Convention in 2000, to work to double its membership within two decades' time. This is doable, even with the challenge of declining birthrates that have an impact upon all mainline denominations at present.

For each of us individually, I recommend a discipline of personal examination of life, focused attention to the needs of others, and a generosity of spirit that seeks to love our neighbors equally as we love ourselves. That is the sort of holy living to which Jesus calls us all. When we meet and love our neighbor, we are meeting and loving God himself in our midst.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Donor withdraws gift to Florida International University

The AP reported today that:

Fri Nov 10, 3:45 PM ET

MIAMI - A $20 million gift for a university medical school evaporated with a phone call after the donor thought the university president insulted him.

Herbert Wertheim took back the gift offer after the call last week and resigned from Florida International University's board of trustees.

"The conversation just wasn't what it should have been. There were things said that shouldn't have been said, and Humpty Dumpty is broken," Wertheim said.

The loss of the businessman's money also meant the loss of a matching $20 million grant from the state, and it means Wertheim's name will no longer go on the medical school.

Wertheim, who made his fortune manufacturing ophthalmic equipment, had wanted to defer some payments on the gift until 2009 for tax purposes, despite agreeing to deliver a lump sum within 30 days of naming the school for him on Sept. 29.

In the phone call, he said, university President Modesto "Mitch" Maidique told him he had gotten the naming rights "on the cheap" and that the university "could now get $100 million for it."

Maidique responded in a letter Thursday, apologizing and leaving the door open for further negotiations, but saying that receiving the $20 million in a lump sum had been "pivotal" in the naming-rights agreement because it ensured the state would match the gift.

"You have been a friend of the University's and of mine for almost 20 years. If I was unclear during our conversation and I unintentionally hurt you, I apologize," he wrote.

The university's press office didn't return calls Friday. But school board chairman David Parker said he was confident other donors would step forward. Parker said the school would likely return at least $700,000 Wertheim already had sent.

Wertheim, chairman and CEO of Brain Power Inc., joined the school's foundation board of directors in 1988 and led its first capital campaign, raising $204 million in four years.

Editor's comment....We wonder if the search is now on for a new university president?

Thursday, November 09, 2006

China opens first free clinic for Gays

Reuters reported today that:

BEIJING - China, where homosexuality was listed as a mental illness until five years ago, has opened its first free clinic for gays, providing tests for
AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, state media said on Thursday.

People wanting checkups would have to log on to the Beijing clinic Web site and fill in an application form, but patients would be treated anonymously, the China Daily said.

During Mao Zedong's era, homosexuals were persecuted and prison terms and death sentences meted out.

Many Chinese associate homosexuality with AIDS, fears of which run so strong that some people refuse to go to hospitals they believe treat AIDS patients, the China Daily said.

China generally is becoming more tolerant, but homosexuals remain under heavy pressure within traditional families to stay in the closet.

The government China Center for Disease Control and Prevention along with Beijing's Chaoyang District provided the funding for the clinic.

"We hope this program will underline the common medical rights enjoyed by gays," Xiao Dong, head of the Chaoyang Chinese AIDS Volunteer Group, was quoted as saying.

Official nationwide estimates put the total number of gay men in China at between 5 and 10 million, but Xiao said the number might be between 10 and 50 million.

"Things related to homosexuality are quite accepted among younger people in China," Zhao Zheng, a volunteer at the clinic, told the newspaper.

The complete story may be found here:

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Election 2006: Support for Same-Sex Marriage Grows Significantly

Arizona delivers first-ever win in defeating anti-marriage amendment Races coast to coast show supporting fairness for gay families is a plus; aligning with the extreme Christian right a big minus

WASHINGTON - November 8 - For the first time, a proposed constitutional amendment to ban any form of legal recognition for same-sex couples was defeated, and 39 percent of voters opposed the bans, a significant increase over the 33 percent who opposed similar ballot measures in 2004.

As important, election results in House, Senate and gubernatorial races coast to coast show that supporting fairness for gay and lesbian families is not a liability, while aligning with the extreme Christian right is.

Anti-marriage constitutional amendments

Anti-marriage amendments were on the ballot in eight states and were approved in seven of the eight, but by significantly lower margins than in past years. In 2004, there were 11 anti-marriage amendments on the November ballot, and in only two of them did opposition top 40 percent: Oregon (43 percent) and Michigan (41 percent). Early this morning, five out of the eight states topped 40 percent, including Arizona, Colorado, South Dakota, Virginia and Wisconsin.

“It’s clear that fear-mongering around same-sex marriage by the GOP and the extreme Christian right is fizzling out,” said Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. “It doesn’t have the juice it had just two years ago — people are getting sick of it.”

Two states — South Dakota and Virginia — did far better than pundits expected. In South Dakota the margin was 48 percent to 52 percent and was attributed to a strong campaign run with meager resources by South Dakotans Against Discrimination and its campaign manager Jon Hoadley, and a strong “live and let live” ethos among South Dakotans.

In Virginia , the margin was 43 percent to 57 percent, a tie with the best-showing state in 2004 (Oregon). Assumptions that the margin would be higher reflected a failure to understand how much the Old Dominion has changed and underestimating the strength of the “Vote No on #1” campaign managed by Claire Guthrie Gastañaga.

In Colorado, meanwhile, with 60 percent of the precincts reporting voters were rejecting a measure to extend domestic partnership rights to same-sex couples and their families. The outcome of the measure remained uncertain due to widespread delays in the tabulation of votes in Denver and Boulder.

Historic win in Arizona

Arizona became the first state to reject an anti-marriage constitutional amendment, by a margin of 51 percent to 49 percent. Through today, voters in 28 states have voted on marriage amendments since 1998, with Arizona being the only state to reject an amendment.

“It is always wrong to put basic rights up for a popular vote and it is nearly impossible for any minority to protect itself when that happens. But today, in Arizona the impossible happened,” said Foreman. “This sweet victory was due to an exceptional campaign run by ‘No on 107’ and its campaign chair Cindy Jordan and ‘Arizona Together’ and its campaign chair Kyrsten Sinema, and the hundreds of volunteers who worked on the campaign.”

The No on 107 campaign in Southern Arizona was extremely successful at using messages that openly and honestly shared how same-sex couples in the state would be harmed by the amendment. And, Arizona Together, the statewide campaign, was also extremely successful at showing how broad anti-marriage amendments that also outlaw domestic partner benefits and civil unions harm everyone, including heterosexual couples. Combined, the messages of both campaigns were able to convince a majority of Arizona voters that marriage discrimination has no place in their constitution.

“Arizona has a special place in history as the first state to reject an anti-gay marriage ballot measure. We know it will not be the last,” said Foreman.

Pro-gay candidates triumph over those aligned with extreme Christian right

The influence of the extreme Christian right took a major hit this election as voters elected a number of pro-gay candidates and rejected some of the nation’s most vocal anti-gay candidates.

“Across the nation, voters rejected candidates who aligned themselves with the extreme Christian right wing agenda and repudiated Karl Rove’s divisive strategy of relying on the GOP’s base of so-called ‘values voters’ and divisive wedge issues to win elections,” said Foreman. “Voters didn’t fall for it this time. The extreme Christian right has been revealed as the Achilles heel of the Republican Party in races across the country.” (Individual races are detailed below.)

Defeat of Santorum and Hostettler in Pennsylvania and Indiana overjoys lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community

Voters sent packing two of the most anti-gay members of Congress: Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the third-ranking GOP leader in the Senate who compared same-sex marriage to “man on child, man on dog” sex, lost his seat to Democrat challenger Bob Casey, and in Indiana, Democratic challenger Brad Ellsworth defeated Republican Rep. John Hostettler, one of the House’s anti-gay leaders. Hostettler, who was elected in the GOP sweep of 1994, worked to slash funding for AIDS programs and drafted the Marriage Protection Act, designed to prevent federal courts from ordering states to recognize same-sex marriages permitted in other states. In this year’s campaign, he ran a campaign ad that warned that if he lost and House leadership changed hands, “(Nancy) Pelosi will then put in motion her radical plan to advance the homosexual agenda, led by Barney Frank, reprimanded by the House after paying for sex with a man who ran a gay brothel out of Congressman Frank's home." The statement about Frank was factually incorrect.

“We are thrilled, ecstatic and overjoyed that Rick Santorum has been thrashed at the polls. His extreme and gratuitous homophobia will no longer pollute the Senate. Good riddance,” Foreman said. “Ditto for Hostettler in the House. To him we offer an equally enthusiastic good-bye.”

Pro-gay gubernatorial candidates victorious in Wisconsin, Michigan and Ohio

In Wisconsin, Ohio, Michigan and Oregon, pro-gay gubernatorial candidates triumphed over candidates closely aligned with the extreme Christian right.

In Wisconsin, where an anti-marriage amendment was on the ballot, Democratic incumbent Gov. Jim Doyle defeated Republican Mark Green. Republicans, who dominate the state Legislature, put the marriage amendment on the ballot in a transparent attempt to influence the gubernatorial contest. Doyle campaigned against the marriage amendment while Green strongly supported it. Polls leading up to the vote showed the two candidates consistently within two to three points of each other.

“Jim Doyle’s convincing win proves that the right-wing attempt to win the governor’s mansion by attacking gay families failed and failed miserably,” said Foreman. “People who believe in justice and equality owe a lot to Governor Doyle for standing up for gay people so consistently and so courageously.”

In Ohio, Democrat Ted Strickland beat Republican Ken Blackwell by a wide margin. Blackwell is one of the most virulently anti-gay elected officials in the nation, a chief advocate of Ohio’s 2004 anti-marriage constitutional amendment and an outspoken opponent of Cincinnati’s recent nondiscrimination law. Strickland, on the other hand, voted against the Federal Marriage Amendment as a member of Congress and opposed the 2004 Ohio state constitutional amendment banning same-sex partner recognition of any kind.

“We saw Republicans and Christian right extremists trying to use an anti-gay family amendment to help win Ohio for Bush-Cheney in 2004. Yet in 2006 Ohio voters have rejected the politics of division and elected a moderate who opposes scapegoating gay and lesbian families for political gain.”

In Michigan, Democratic incumbent Jennifer Granholm defeated Republican challenger Dick DeVos. Gay and reproductive rights both played a role in the race. In mid-September, the Triangle Foundation, a statewide LGBT organization, linked DeVos to a $10,000 gift to the American Family Association, which is leading a boycott against Ford Motor Company because it advertises in gay publications. Because the financial woes of the big three auto companies have created financial hardships for the state, this received widespread publicity. Granholm picked up additional support through a series of ads telling that while she personally opposed abortion, she supported a woman’s right to choose while DeVos opposed abortion in all cases, including instances of rape or incest. Both candidates opposed a ballot initiative to end affirmative action in the state.

“In 2004, DeVos supported an amendment which stripped thousands of public sector employees in Michigan of employer provided health coverage. Then we learned that DeVos’ family is supporting the boycott of Ford Motor Company. Michigan voters have rejected this anti-gay zealot who puts his own bigotry ahead of the needs of Michigan families and workers,” Foreman said.

In Oregon, voters re-elected Gov. Ted Kulongoski , one of the most pro-gay governors in the nation, defeating Rox Saxton. During the campaign, Kulongoski strongly supported civil unions and nondiscrimination legislation. Saxton, on the other hand, openly courted the support of the vehemently anti-gay Oregon Family Council and said he would veto any bill protecting gay people from discrimination.

“Oregonians re-elected the most pro-gay sitting governor in the nation, beating an opponent who courted and received the enthusiastic support of anti-gay forces in the state. Kulongoski was re-elected without wavering — and in fact, continually reaffirming — his commitment to civil unions,” said Foreman.

Nation’s first pro-marriage governors elected by wide margins

In Massachusetts and New York, pro-marriage equality gubernatorial candidates Deval Patrick and Eliot Spitzer were elected by landslides. This is the first time pro-marriage equality candidates have been elected governor of any state.

“Massachusetts and New York voters have elected in overwhelming landslides the first two governors ever who support marriage equality for same-sex couples. These historic victories show that support for full equality for our families is not a negative but something voters are willing to embrace enthusiastically,” Foreman said.

Pro-equality local measures pass in Michigan and Oregon

In Ferndale, Mich., residents overwhelmingly approved nondiscrimination protections based on sexual orientation by nearly three to one. Ferndale voters rejected a similar ordinance by just 117 votes in February 2000. This campaign was the third attempt since 1991 to pass a human rights ordinance barring such discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodation. And more than 60 percent of voters in Corvallis, Ore., voted to amend their city charter to provide equal protection and nondiscrimination for all, inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity or expression.

“The campaigns in Ferndale and Corvallis show the depth of local support for nondiscrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people,” said Foreman. “We applaud Ferndale Alliance Valuing Our Residents and Inclusive Corvallis for coordinating these victorious campaigns, which has sent a resounding a message to those who seek to target our community that hatred and intolerance have no place in Ferndale or Corvallis.”