Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does N. Korea Have the Muscle to Back Up Its Tough Talk?

North Korea's recent nuclear test and belligerent talk has put a spotlight on the Korean Peninsula. It has long been one of the most militarized zones in the world.

Since its nuclear test Monday, North Korea has issued a stream of harsh rhetoric, even declaring that the armistice that ended fighting in the Korean War is null and void.

Not surprising
Experts on North Korea say its tough talk is not unusual. Kim Tae-woo is the vice president of the Korea Institute for Defense Analysis in the South Korean capital, Seoul.

"This is very normal kind of language [for North Korea]," Kim said. " We already get used to that kind of practice."

Provoking reaction
However, he says North Korea does appear to be trying to provoke some sort of reaction from South Korea and other countries with its nuclear test.

The bitter divide between communist North Korea and democratic South Korea has left a legacy of military force on the peninsula. Kim says North Korea has long maintained one of the largest armies in the world - with more than one million active-duty troops.

Read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Proposition 8 Upheld by California Supreme Court

San Francisco police arrested about 175 protesters who were part of a group that blocked a major intersection for hours today in response to the state Supreme Court's ruling upholding Proposition 8, the voter-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

Hundreds of people filled the intersection of Grove Street and Van Ness Avenue late this morning after word spread of the ruling. The court also ruled that roughly 18,000 existing same-sex marriages in California remain valid.

Around 12:45 p.m., officers were seen placing plastic handcuffs on protesters and leading them to police vans waiting nearby. With each new arrest, the crowd cheered.

Police Sgt. Lyn Tomioka said the protesters were arrested for being outside a crosswalk and failing to obey an officer. Tomioka said she was not aware of any injuries related to the protest.

As of mid-afternoon the intersection had been cleared and traffic was moving through normally.

A separate gathering was planned for 5 p.m. today by the group Marriage Equality. Tomioka said police will maintain a high profile during that protest, which included a planned march from City Hall to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial at Yerba Buena Gardens.

The state Supreme Court by a 6-1 vote today upheld Proposition 8, passed by California voters in November. The initiative was approved by 52 percent of voters as an amendment to the state Constitution.

Read the full story HERE.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Nevada Governor Takes the Moral High Ground With Regard to Gay Relationships

CARSON CITY, Nev.—Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed a law Monday that would give domestic partners, whether gay or straight, many of the rights and benefits that Nevada offers to married couples.

Gibbons said in a statement released during the Memorial Day holiday that Senate Bill 283 conflicts with a state constitutional amendment approved by Nevada voters in 2002 supporting marriage between a man and a woman.

"Only the voters should have the right to undo or amend constitutional mandates," he said.

It was not immediately clear if the Legislature would seek to override Gibbons' veto.

The measure would prohibit discrimination against domestic partners, and give them the same community property and debt rights as married couples.

The Republican governor also said domestic partners can sign private contracts to accomplish many of the goals of the law.

Harrah's Entertainment has called for an override if Gibbons vetoed the measure.

The casino giant pointed to an estimated $700 billion in buying power among potential lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender customers.

The bill also had support from of the powerful Nevada Resort Association, and drew praise from the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

Gary Peck, ACLU executive in Las Vegas, called domestic partnership rights an economic and civil rights issue.

Read the full story HERE.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Criticism of Pelosi Continues

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich today called on current speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to resign, saying her accusation that the CIA lied to her threatens national security.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich weighs in on the Pelosi firestorm.

"She really disqualified herself to be the speaker," Gingrich said on "Good Morning America" today. "She has a unique responsibility for national security. ... She made this allegation that smears everyone who's trying to defend her."

Leaving her in her place would be "very dangerous for the country," Gingrich added.

Last Thursday Pelosi denied that she knew the CIA employed waterboarding, a harsh interrogation technique that simulates drowning. The speaker said the CIA "misinformed" her when they briefed her in September 2002, the month after Guantanamo Bay detainee Abu Zubaydah was subjected to waterboarding.

Gingrich said on "GMA" that Pelosi is the one who misinformed the American people.

"What she said Thursday was a stunning dishonest statement about a major American institution that has a key role in our survival," he said. "I think the Democrats should get a new speaker."

Read the full story HERE.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

RNC Chairman Calls for Sharper Criticism of Obama, Among Other Things

Seeking to reassert himself as a party leader, Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele yesterday implored GOP members to stop "navel gazing" and sharply attack President Obama.

His early tenure marred by a series of gaffes, Steele continued a recent re-emergence into the public fray, declaring Obama's first several months "a reign of error" in a speech to RNC members, and adding that the Republican "renaissance has begun."

"We've seen strategists writing memos and doing briefings urging that Republicans avoid confronting the president," Steele said in remarks at a convention center at National Harbor in Prince George's County. "If we have the courage of our convictions, and we do, then we will and we must stand up against disastrous policies, regardless of the president's popularity."

It was Steele's most high-profile speech since a series of controversies left him apologizing to talk show host Rush Limbaugh and assuring Republicans he would reduce his number of mistakes as well as his number of television appearances.

But while encouraging stepped up party action, Steele has also warned against overreaching.

His sharp criticism of Obama came as some members of the 168-person committee pushed for a resolution demanding the Democratic Party rename itself "the Democrat Socialist Party."

Earlier this week, Steele said, "I don't think that that is an appropriate way to express our views on the issues of the day."

His committee allies have sought to soften the resolution's tone, but others said it is likely to pass despite Steele's concerns, though the language might be altered.

Read the full story HERE.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Republicans to Pelosi: "Put Up or Shut Up"

Top Republicans are demanding an apology from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi or proof to back her claim that the CIA misled Congress about the use of harsh interrogation tactics.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi says the CIA misled Congress about harsh interrogation tactics.

Pelosi last week said that she was briefed by the CIA on such techniques only once -- in September 2002 -- and that she was told at the time that techniques like waterboarding were not being used.

Pelosi, D-California, said she learned from an aide that waterboarding had been used after other lawmakers were briefed in 2003.

A recently released Justice Department memo says the CIA used waterboarding at least 83 times in August 2002 in the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah, a suspected al Qaeda leader imprisoned at U.S. facilities in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Rep. Pete Hoekstra, the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, said Monday that if Pelosi's accusations are not true, she may need to step down.

"She made some outrageous accusations last week where she said that the CIA lied to her and lied systematically over a period of years. That is a very, very serious charge," Hoekstra said Monday on CNN's "American Morning."

"Either the CIA needs to be held accountable for their performance during this time or the speaker needs to be held accountable and be responsible for the actions and the statements that she made last week. One or the other is correct, one or the other is wrong," he said

Read the full story HERE.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Obama administration continues to change the way it describes some of the nation's toughest problems. The latest phrase to go: "the war on drugs."

The Wall Street Journal says drug czar Gil Kerlikowske feels it is a barrier to dealing with the nation's drug issues: "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them. We're not at war with people in this country."

Kerlikowske says the administration is likely to deal with drugs as a matter of public health rather than criminal justice alone — favoring treatment over incarceration.

The president has already shelved the phrase "global War on Terror." And we reported back in March on Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's avoidance of the word "terrorism" — in favor of "man-caused disasters."

See the story in its original context HERE.

Hey, Obama! Let's focus less on changing the names of issues (Terrorism is now man-caused disasters? Are you serious?), and more on solving those issues! You may be able to fool some of the country into thinking that these name changes are some sort of progress, but whether you call it 'terrorism' or 'man-caused disasters' people are still dying. Fix the issue... not the name!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

House Majority Leader Refuses to Back Pelosi's Claims

Speaker Nancy Pelosi's deputy in the House declined to back her up on her stunning claim Thursday that the CIA misled Congress about its use of enhanced interrogation techniques.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, the House majority leader, panned the recent criticism of Pelosi as a "distraction" during a verbal tangle with Republican Whip Eric Cantor on the House floor.

But when asked directly whether he shares Pelosi's belief that the CIA misled Congress, he backed off.

"I have no idea of that. I don't have a belief of that nature because I have no basis on which to base such a belief," Hoyer said. "And I certainly hope that's not the case. And I don't draw that conclusion."

Hoyer was challenged on the issue after Pelosi, facing questions over how much she knew early on about the Bush administration's interrogation policies, told reporters Thursday afternoon that the CIA misled Congress. She adamantly insisted that she was not aware that waterboarding or other enhanced interrogation techniques were being used on terrorism suspects.

"Every step of the way the administration was misleading the Congress, and that is the issue and that's why we need a truth commission," she said, referring to her call for a congressional investigation into such Bush-era policies.

But Republicans stirred skepticism over her accusation against the CIA.

Read the full story HERE.

Another State Falls to Gay Marriage

BOSTON — Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire said Thursday that he would sign the state’s same-sex marriage bill if it was amended to further protect opponents of such unions from having to take part in ceremonies celebrating them.

Legislative leaders indicated they would allow the changes, making it all but certain that New Hampshire will become the sixth state to allow marriage between gay couples.

“New Hampshire’s great tradition has always been to come down on the side of individual liberties and protections,” Mr. Lynch, a Democrat, said in a statement. “But following that tradition means we must act to protect both the liberty of same-sex couples and religious liberty.”

In its current form, the bill exempts clergy members from having to perform same-sex weddings.

The amendment proposed by Mr. Lynch goes further, exempting any “religious organization, association, or society,” as well as individuals or nonprofit groups working with or for such an organization, from having to participate.

Vermont and Connecticut used similar language in their same-sex marriage bills.

See the story in its original context HERE.

Pelosi Claims CIA Memos Were 'Misleading'

The speaker of the US House of Representatives says she was misled by the CIA about the use of harsh methods during terror interrogations.

Nancy Pelosi has been under pressure to clarify what she knew since one of her aides said she had been briefed in 2003 that the CIA had waterboarded suspects.

Critics say the methods amount to torture and that officials who authorised them should be prosecuted.

Ms Pelosi has herself condemned the use of harsh interrogation techniques.

Questions remain

Nancy Pelosi has been feeling the political heat over the question of what she knew and when regarding the CIA's interrogation techniques.

At a somewhat chaotic news conference, the speaker - who used to be the leading Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee - turned her fire on the CIA itself.

Previously she said she had been briefed in 2002 that waterboarding and other controversial methods had been approved but not that they had been used.

Now she says the agency misled her by explicitly informing her that those methods had not been employed.

The question of Ms Pelosi's knowledge has taken on greater political significance since the White House published justice department memos written in 2002 and 2005 that provided the legal framework for the interrogations of terrorist suspects.

The decision to publish them has been criticised by some conservatives, while critics of the methods have used them to call for the prosecution of former Bush administration officials.

That is something the Obama Administration initially opposed, but then said was a matter for the courts.

Ms Pelosi reiterated her call for a truth commission at the news conference and called the criticism she has been facing a "diversionary tactic".

But questions remain about why she did not raise objections to the interrogation methods at the time.

If her goal today was to clarify the situation, she failed.

See the story in its original context HERE.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Notre Dame Seniors to Forego Commencement Ceremony

The University of Notre Dame is allowing a group of seniors to hold a prayer demonstration on school grounds on Sunday, graduation day -- to protest President Obama's controversial visit, which the students say undermines the school's Catholic identity.

"The university isn't sponsoring it, but we've approved it," university spokesman Dennis Brown told on Tuesday.

The demonstration -- spearheaded by the student group ND Response -- is in protest of the honorary law degree Obama will receive during Sunday's commencement. The group claims that by honoring Obama, the university is sanctioning his positions on abortion and embryonic stem cell research, which the Catholic church opposes.

"In defense of the unborn, we wish to express our deepest opposition to Reverend John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.'s invitation of President Barack Obama to be the University of Notre Dame's principal commencement speaker and the recipient of an honorary degree," the group states on its Web site.

ND Response has planned a prayer vigil on the university's South quadrangle during commencement to "bear prayerful witness" to Obama's speech, graduating senior Michele Sagala, who plans to attend the vigil, told

Read the full story HERE.

ND Response - Official Video

Friday, May 1, 2009

WASHINGTON — Justice David H. Souter plans to retire at the end of the term in June, giving President Obama his first appointment to the Supreme Court, four people informed about the decision said Thursday night.

Justice Souter, who was appointed in 1990 by a Republican president, the first George Bush, but became one of the most reliable members of the court’s liberal wing, has grown increasingly sour on Washington and intends to return to his home state, New Hampshire, according to the people briefed on his plans. One official said the decision might be announced as early as Friday.

The departure will open the first seat for a Democratic president to fill in 15 years and could prove a test of Mr. Obama’s plans for reshaping the nation’s judiciary. Confirmation battles for the Supreme Court in recent years have proved to be intensely partisan and divisive moments in Washington, but Mr. Obama has more leeway than his predecessors because his party holds such a strong majority in the Senate.

Read the full story HERE.