Words By S.

Thursday, 26 October 2006

Oh, what a day for news!

Filed under: News,Politics,Popular Culture — S @ 9:04 am

The president does away with the Writ of Habeas Corpus, a newscaster from MSNBC openly attacks him for it, New Jersey is seemingly getting closer to accepting gay marriage, a man assaults and almost kills his girlfriend over MySpace…the country is in shambles! (Except for New Jersey – this is actually marvelous, wonderful news!)

Interrogation tactics become law

By Nedra Pickler
The Associated Press

President Bush signs the Military Commissions Act of 2006 which sets new standards expediting the interrogation and prosecution of terror suspects at the White House on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2006. (AP / Charles Dharapak)

Washington – President Bush signed legislation today authorizing tough interrogation of terror suspects and smoothing the way for trials before military commissions, calling it a “vital tool” in the war against terrorism.

Bush’s plan for treatment of the terror suspects became law just six weeks after he acknowledged that the CIA had been secretly interrogating suspected terrorists overseas and pressed Congress to quickly give authority to try them in military commissions.

“With the bill I’m about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice,” Bush said.

A coalition of religious groups staged a protest against the bill outside the White House, shouting “Bush is the terrorist” and “Torture is a crime.” About 15 of the protesters, standing in a light rain, refused orders to move. Police arrested them one by one.

Among those the United States hopes to try are Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, as well as Ramzi Binalshibh, an alleged would-be 9/11 hijacker, and Abu Zubaydah, who was believed to be a link between Osama bin Laden and many al-Qaida cells.

“It is a rare occasion when a president can sign a bill that he knows will save American lives,” Bush said. “I have that privilege this morning.” Bush signed the bill in the White House East Room, at a table with a sign positioned on the front that said “Protecting America.” He said he signed it in memory of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks.

“We will answer brutal murder with patient justice,” Bush said. “Those who kill the innocent will be held to account.” Among those in the audience were military officers, lawmakers who helped pass the bill and members of Bush’s Cabinet.

He singled out for praise, among others, Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, who has come under sharp criticism in recent months as violence has soared in Iraq.

The law protects detainees from blatant abuses during questioning – such as rape, torture and “cruel and inhuman” treatment – but does not require that any of them be granted legal counsel. Also, it specifically bars detainees from filing habeas corpus petitions challenging their detentions in federal courts.

Bush said the process is “fair, lawful and necessary.” “The bill I sign today helps secure this country and it sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair and we will never back down from threats to our freedom,” Bush said. “We are as determined today as we were on the morning of Sept. 12, 2001.” Many Democrats opposed the legislation because they said it eliminated rights of defendants considered fundamental to American values, such as a person’s ability to go to court to protest their detention and the use of coerced testimony as evidence. Bush acknowledged that the law came amid dispute.

“Over the past few months, the debate over this bill has been heated and the questions raised can seem complex,” he said. “Yet, with the distance of history, the questions will be narrowed and few. Did this generation of Americans take the threat seriously? And did we do what it takes to defeat that threat?” The American Civil Liberties Union said the new law is “one of the worst civil liberties measures ever enacted in American history.” “The president can now, with the approval of Congress, indefinitely hold people without charge, take away protections against horrific abuse, put people on trial based on hearsay evidence, authorize trials that can sentence people to death based on testimony literally beaten out of witnesses, and slam shut the courthouse door for habeas petitions,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero.

“Nothing could be further from the American values we all hold in our hearts than the Military Commissions Act,” he said.

The swift implementation of the law is a rare bit of good news for Bush as casualties mount in Iraq in daily violence. Lawmakers are increasingly calling for a change of strategy and political anxieties are jeopardizing Republican’s chances of hanging onto control of Congress.

Bush needed the legislation because the Supreme Court in June said the administration’s plan for trying detainees in military tribunals violated U.S. and international law.

The legislation, which sets the rules for court proceedings, applies to those selected by the military for prosecution and leaves mostly unaffected the majority of the 14,000 prisoners in U.S. custody, most of whom are in Iraq.

The Pentagon had previously selected 10 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay prison to be tried. Bush is expected also to try some or all the 14 suspects held by the CIA in secret prisons and recently transferred to military custody at Guantanamo.

The bill also eliminates some rights common in military and civilian courts. For example, the commission would be allowed to consider hearsay evidence so long as a judge determined it was reliable. Hearsay is barred from civilian courts.

The legislation also says the president can “interpret the meaning and application” of international standards for prisoner treatment, a provision intended to allow him to authorize aggressive interrogation methods that might otherwise be seen as illegal by international courts. White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush would probably eventually issue an executive order that would describe his interpretation, but those documents are not usually made public and Snow did not reveal when it might be issued.

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‘Beginning of the end of America’

Olbermann addresses the Military Commissions Act in a special comment

KEITH OLBERMANN’S SPECIAL COMMENTS

Updated: 3:00 p.m. ET Oct. 19, 2006

Olbermann: ‘Beginning of the end of America’
For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering: A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have lived as if in a trance.

We have lived as people in fear.

And now—our rights and our freedoms in peril—we slowly awaken to learn that we have been afraid of the wrong thing.

Therefore, tonight have we truly become the inheritors of our American legacy.

For, on this first full day that the Military Commissions Act is in force, we now face what our ancestors faced, at other times of exaggerated crisis and melodramatic fear-mongering:

A government more dangerous to our liberty, than is the enemy it claims to protect us from.

We have been here before—and we have been here before, led here by men better and wiser and nobler than George W. Bush.

We have been here when President John Adams insisted that the Alien and Sedition Acts were necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use those acts to jail newspaper editors.

American newspaper editors, in American jails, for things they wrote about America.

We have been here when President Woodrow Wilson insisted that the Espionage Act was necessary to save American lives, only to watch him use that Act to prosecute 2,000 Americans, especially those he disparaged as “Hyphenated Americans,” most of whom were guilty only of advocating peace in a time of war.

American public speakers, in American jails, for things they said about America. (See the video here.)

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New Jersey court recognizes right to same-sex unions

POSTED: 4:45 a.m. EDT, October 26, 2006

var clickExpire = “-1”;TRENTON, New Jersey (CNN) — In a decision likely to stoke the contentious election-year debate over same-sex marriage, the New Jersey Supreme Court has ruled that state lawmakers must provide the rights and benefits of marriage to gay and lesbian couples.

The high court on Wednesday gave legislators six months to either change state marriage laws to include same-sex couples, or come up with another mechanism, such as civil unions, that would provide the same protections and benefits.

The court’s vote was 4-to-3. But the ruling was more strongly in favor of same-sex marriage than that split would indicate. The three dissenting justices argued the court should have extended full marriage rights to homosexuals, without kicking the issue back to legislators.

Advocates of same-sex marriage hailed the decision, a respite from many defeats this year in courts nationwide.

“That is wonderful news,” said Cindy Meneghin, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit by seven same-sex couples that prompted Wednesday’s decision. “We can only hope that that means marriage, because that is the only way they can give us full equality.” (Watch a couple say why they want to call their 32-year relationship marriage — 2:01 Video)

Garden State Equality, a gay rights group, announced that three state legislators plan to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage. In an e-mail to supporters, the chairman of the group, Steven Goldstein, vowed that only “over our dead bodies will we settle for less than 100 percent marriage equality.”

Gay marriage opponents promise to fight

Those angered by the ruling predicted it will reinvigorate the fight in Congress for a federal constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage nationwide.

“They took the future of marriage out of the hands of the people of New Jersey,” said Matt Daniels of the Alliance for Marriage, which supports the amendment. “They are holding a gun to the head of the legislature of New Jersey and saying pick between two bullets — one that allows civil unions and one that allows marriage.”

Sen. Sam Brownback a leading social conservative in Congress, said the New Jersey decision “warrants swift, decisive action by Congress in the form of passage of the Marriage Protection Amendment.”

“Huge social changes should be decided by the people and their elected representatives and should not be forced by the courts,” the Kansas Republican said in a written statement.

The federal amendment, which President Bush supports, has stalled in Congress. It has so far failed to get the necessary two-thirds vote to be submitted to the states for ratification.

Opponents of same-sex marriage contend the New Jersey decision could have a national impact because the state imposes no residency requirements for people seeking marriage. In essence, it could open the door for gay and lesbian couples from other states to marry in New Jersey and challenge laws against same-sex marriage in their own states.

The gay marriage debate intensified in 2004 when Massachusetts became the first and only state to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry. The state does not allow nonresidents to marry there, however.

Precedent in Vermont

The decision mirrors the one made in 1999 by Vermont’s highest court, which prompted its legislature to create civil unions for same-sex couples, with the same rights and benefits enjoyed by heterosexuals. (Opinion — pdfexternal link)

The New Jersey high court held that state laws prohibiting gay and lesbian couples from receiving the “financial and social benefits and privileges” of marriage violate the equal protection clause of the New Jersey Constitution and served no “legitimate governmental purpose.”

Noting that New Jersey already prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, the high court said there was “no rational basis for giving gays and lesbians full civil rights as individuals while, on the other hand, giving them an incomplete set of rights when they enter into committed same-sex relationships.”

The justices wrote: “The issue is not about the transformation of the traditional definition of marriage, but about the unequal dispensation of benefits and privileges to one of two similarly situated classes of people.”

However, they stopped short of finding that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marry.

The ruling said the court would not “speculate” on whether legislation creating civil unions identical to marriage would pass constitutional muster “and will not presume that a difference in name is of constitutional magnitude.”

The justices also held that the state’s domestic partnership law for same-sex couples, passed in 2004, is not an adequate substitute for marriage rights because it provides gay and lesbians with fewer benefits and rights and has more stringent requirements for establishing partnerships than for marrying.

A hot button election topic

The issue of gay marriage has roiled American politics for more than a decade and on November 7 voters in eight states will decide whether to amend their constitutions to ban gay and lesbian couples from marrying.

Same-sex marriage advocates have suffered five high-profile court losses since July, including decisions in the high courts of New York and Washington state upholding state laws prohibiting marriage for gay or lesbian couples.

State supreme courts in Nebraska and Georgia also upheld constitutional amendments outlawing same-sex marriage that had been struck down by lower courts.

And earlier this month, an appellate court in California upheld the constitutionality of state laws against same-sex marriage, a decision now being appealed to the California Supreme Court.

The court said the state’s existing Domestic Partnership Act, similar to one adopted in several other states, including California, doesn’t go far enough in protecting the rights of gay couples.

Episcopal pastors Mark Harris and Denis Winslow, plaintiffs in the New Jersey suit, now have one dream to fulfill: to join the countless heterosexual couples they’ve married.

“We see it as a civil right that we’re denied,” Winslow said. “Even though we pay first-class taxes, we are treated as second-class citizens.

“We don’t have that freedom to exercise our relationship in a practical way, dare I say, spiritual way.”

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Man allegedly beats girl over Web page

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., Oct. 24 (UPI) — A Massachusetts man is charged with allegedly beating his girlfriend after she removed his name from friends listed on her MySpace.com page.

The MetroWest Daily News said 19-year-old Michael McGrath of Framingham allegedly bit, punched and choked the girl. He is also accused of destroying her laptop computer.

McGrath told police he was just joking, the newspaper said.

MySpace.com has a feature in which people can invite “friends” to their page, allowing them to send messages back and forth.

McGrath was charged with assault and battery and the malicious destruction of property worth more than $250, the newspaper said.

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A special thank you to all of my news sources. And Google.

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