December 17, 2010
December 18th, 2010
Obama was expected to sign the bill into law next week, although changes to military policy probably wouldn't take effect for at least several months. Under the bill, the president and his top military advisers must first certify that lifting the ban won't hurt troops' ability to fight. After that, the military would undergo a 60-day wait period.
Repeal would mean that, for the first time in American history, gays would be openly accepted by the armed forces and could acknowledge their sexual orientation without fear of being kicked out.
More than 13,500 service members have been dismissed under the 1993 law.
"It is time to close this chapter in our history," Obama said in a statement. "It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed."
The Senate voted 65-31 to pass the bill, with eight Republicans siding with 55 Democrats and two independents in favor of repeal. The House had passed an identical version of the bill, 250-175, earlier this week.
Supporters hailed the Senate vote as a major step forward for gay rights. Many activists hope that integrating openly gay troops within the military will lead to greater acceptance in the civilian world, as it did for blacks after President Harry Truman's 1948 executive order on equal treatment regardless of race in the military.
"The military remains the great equalizer," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "Just like we did after President Truman desegregated the military, we'll someday look back and wonder what took Washington so long to fix it."
Sen. John McCain, Obama's GOP rival in 2008, led the opposition. Speaking on the Senate floor minutes before a crucial test vote, the Arizona Republican acknowledged he couldn't stop the bill. He blamed elite liberals with no military experience for pushing their social agenda on troops during wartime.
"They will do what is asked of them," McCain said of service members. "But don't think there won't be a great cost."
How the military will implement a change in policy, and how long that will take remains unclear. Senior Pentagon officials have said the new policy could be rolled out incrementally, service by service or unit by unit.
In a statement issued immediately after the vote, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he will begin the certification process immediately. But any change in policy won't come until after careful consultation with military service chiefs and combatant commanders, he said.
"Successful implementation will depend upon strong leadership, a clear message and proactive education throughout the force," he said.
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he welcomes the change.
"No longer will able men and women who want to serve and sacrifice for their country have to sacrifice their integrity to do so," he said. "We will be a better military as a result."
Sen. Carl Levin, a chief proponent of repeal, said he has received a commitment from the administration that it won't drag its heels.
"We hope it will be sooner, rather than later," he said.
The fate of "don't ask, don't tell" had been far from certain earlier this year when Obama called for its repeal in his State of the Union address. Despite strong backing from liberals in Congress, Republicans and conservative Democrats remained skeptical that lifting the ban could be done quickly without hurting combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In February, Mullen provided the momentum Obama needed by telling a packed Senate hearing room that he felt the law was unjust. As chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mullen became the first senior active-duty officer in the military to suggest that gays could serve openly without affecting military effectiveness.
"No matter how I look at the issue," Mullen said, "I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens."
With Mullen's backing, Gates ordered a yearlong study on the impact, including a survey of troops and their families.
The study, released Nov. 30, found that two-thirds of service members didn't think changing the law would have much of an effect. But of those who did predict negative consequences, most were assigned to combat arms units. The statistic became ammunition for opponents of repeal, including the service chiefs of the Army and Marine Corps.
"I don't want to lose any Marines to the distraction," Gen. James Amos, head of the Marine Corps, told reporters. "I don't want to have any Marines that I'm visiting at Bethesda (Naval Medical Center) with no legs be the result of any type of distraction."
Mullen and Gates counter that the fear of disruption is overblown and could be addressed through training. They note the Pentagon's finding that 92 percent of troops who believe they have served with a gay person saw no effect on their units' morale or effectiveness.
But even with backing from Gates and Mullen, the bill appeared all but dead this month when Senate Republicans united against it on procedural grounds. In last-minute wrangling, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was able to revive the bill during the rare Saturday session with just days to go before the lame-duck session was to end.
The Republicans who voted for repeal said the Pentagon study on gays and assurances from senior military leaders played a crucial role.
"The repeal of 'don't ask, don't tell' will be implemented in a common sense way," said Ohio Republican Sen. George Voinovich. "Our military leaders have assured Congress that our troops will engage in training and address relevant issues before instituting this policy change."
Advocacy groups were jubilant following the Senate's initial test vote that passed 63-33 and set up final passage. The Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called the issue the "defining civil rights initiative of this decade." Supporters of repeal filled the visitor seats overlooking the Senate floor, ready to protest had the bill failed.
"This has been a long-fought battle, but this failed and discriminatory law will now be history," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign.
At least 25 countries allow gays to serve openly in the armed forces, among them Britain, Canada and Israel, according to the Palm Center, a research institute at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
- Photo in Slideshow: Adm. Mike Mullen of the U.S … chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
- Article: Obama reassures lawmakers on missile defenses … Barack Obama Reuters
- Photo in Slideshow: Barack Obama, Dmitry Medvedev
Pentagon study: http://tinyurl.com/23lxc49
Servicemembers Legal Defense Network: http://www.sldn.org/
Information on the bill, H.R. 2965, can be found at http://thomas.loc.gov
December 18th, 2010
ONLINE Patriot Alert! CALL THE SENATE AND TELL THEM NO! NO!NO! HELL NO!
ONLINE Patriot Alert! CALL THE SENATE AND TELL THEM NO! NO!NO! HELL NO!
December 18th, 2010
PERKINS, Okla. -- A small-town bank in Oklahoma said the Federal Reserve won’t let it keep religious signs and symbols on display.Federal Reserve examiners come every four years to make sure banks are complying with a long list of regulations. The examiners came to Perkins last week. And the team from Kansas City deemed a Bible verse of the day, crosses on the teller’s counter and buttons that say "Merry Christmas, God With Us." were inappropriate. The Bible verse of the day on the bank's Internet site also had to be taken down.
“I don’t think there should be a problem with them displaying whatever religious symbols they want to display,” said Amy Weierman, a Perkins resident.Specifically, the feds believed, the symbols violated the discouragement clause of Regulation B of the bank regulations. According to the clause, "...the use of words, symbols, models and other forms of communication ... express, imply or suggest a discriminatory preference or policy of exclusion."
The feds interpret that to mean, for example, a Jew or Muslim or atheist may be offended and believe they may be discriminated against at this bank. It is an appearance of discrimination. But customers Eyewitness News 5 talked to said they aren’t buying it.
“This is just ridiculous,” said bank customer Jim Nyles. “This whole thing is just ridiculous. We all have regulatory bodies that govern us. But this is too much.” “I think that’s absurd,” said Chelsi Holser, a bank customer. “I don’t agree with it at all. They are taking Christ out of Christmas and life.”
The bank is quietly fighting for a clearer interpretation of the clause. Officials have contacted their two U.S. legislators, Rep. Frank Lucas and Sen. Jim Inhofe, and the Oklahoma Bankers Association to help.
December 18th, 2010
The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet.
Establishment of such a group has the backing of several countries, spearheaded by Brazil.
At a meeting in New York on Wednesday, representatives from Brazil called for an international body made up of Government representatives that would attempt to create global standards for policing the internet - specifically in reaction to challenges such as WikiLeaks.
The Brazilian delegate stressed, however, that this should not be seen as a call for a "takeover" of the internet.
India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia appeared to favour a new possible over-arching inter-government body.
However, Australia, US, UK, Belgium and Canada and attending business and community representatives argued there were risks in forming yet another working group that might isolate itself from the industry, community users and the general public.
"My concern is that if we were to make a move to form a governmental-only body then that would send a very strong signal to civil society that their valuable contribution was not required or was not being looked for," an un-named Australian representative told the meeting.
Debate on the creation of a new inter-governmental body stemmed from a UN Economic and Social Council resolution 2010/2 of 19 July.
The resolution invited the UN Secretary-General "to convene open and inclusive consultations involving all Member States and all other stakeholders with a view to assisting the process towards enhanced cooperation in order to enable Governments on an equal footing to carry out their roles and responsibilities in respect of international public policy issues pertaining to the Internet but not of the day-to-day technical and operational matters that do not impact upon those issues."
Much debate concerned the meaning of "enhanced cooperation" and whether a new inter-governmental body was required. Participants also debated the roles of existing organisations - such as the Internet Governance Forum, ICANN and the ITU.
The IGF - an organisation that informs the UN but makes no decisions - is running close to the end of a five-year mandate, due to expire at the end of the year.
The likes of ISOC, ICANN and more recently the World Information Technology and Services Alliance (WITSA) have recently expressed concerns [PDF] that a working panel to decide on the future of the IGF has been limited to representatives from member-states.
"Australia is a very strong supporter of the Internet Governance Forum," the unidentified Australian UN representative said at the New York meeting this week. "That is very much due to the multi-stake-holder approach of the IGF. It is an inclusive process."
Australia's Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy said that Australian Government welcomed the resolution of the Second Committee of the United Nation General Assembly (UNGA) to extend the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) for a further five years.
The DBCDE said it would like to see the organisation retain an open and participatory membership.
"Australia has always supported the participation of civil society and the private sector in the IGF and regards their participation as being integral to the IGF's success," a spokesman told iTnews.
December 18th, 2010
From Katy Byron, CNN
(CNN) -- A blast of harsh winter weather socked Europe on Saturday morning, causing travel chaos and sending temperatures into a deep-freeze ahead of a busy holiday travel week.
From Northern Ireland to Bulgaria, blizzard conditions left airports with heavy delays or shut them entirely on Friday, and many delays and cancellations continued into Saturday.
London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports closed all runways Saturday afternoon because of heavy snow and ice, and British Airways canceled all domestic and European flights until 5 p.m.
Police also closed several access roads surrounding the airports due to dangerous driving conditions.
The delays and cancellations extended across Europe -- to Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Geneva, Switzerland; Munich, Germany; Paris, France; and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Ireland braced for an icey Saturday as the Irish Meteorological Service, Met Eireann, forecast widespread frost, ice and freezing fog for the morning, and some sleet and snow showers for later in the day. Temperatures were expected to drop down to between 4 and 8 degrees Celsius below zero (between 18 degrees and 25 degrees Fahrenheit) Saturday night.
Northern Ireland was blanketed at the end of this week with its worst snowfall in 25 years, according to CNN affiliate TV3.
The government issued emergency snow warnings Friday night, and more snow was expected Saturday.
The Police Service of Northern Ireland warned motorists to avoid treacherous roads and travel "only if absolutely necessary."
At Frankfurt Airport Saturday morning, snow was still coming down.
"We have a light snow now. According to the weather forecast, the snowfall should stop in three hours," airport spokesman Tino Ross said. Approximately 80 flights were canceled Saturday and there were still some delays, he said.
Airport personnel were working Saturday morning to de-ice airplanes and resume full operations at the airport, Ross said. He added that while about 3,000 passengers were stranded Friday, after having passed through passport control, the situation has improved Saturday and that stranded passengers were provided food and water for the wait.
The relentless weather caused approximately 250 flights to be cancelled and thousands of passengers stranded at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport on Friday, according to airport spokeswoman Antoinette Spaans.
"We are expecting more delays due to weather conditions," Spaans said Saturday. "The most delays and cancellations are expected to affect air traffic within Europe," she added.
To the south in Bulgaria, the eastern part of the country has been under snow for three days, with accumulation at nearly 1 meter (40 inches) in some areas, according to CNN affiliate bTV.
The main highway, airport and port in Varna, Bulgaria, were closed Friday for several hours. Four regions in Bulgaria -- Silistra, Dorbich, Varna and Burgas -- elevated the weather advisory, and the country was still expecting heavy snowfall and strong winds, bTV's website said. Many roads remain closed, and town and villages were without water or electricity.
In Belgium, the weather forced truck drivers to spend a freezing night in their cabs after authorities banned trucks over seven tons from travelling on icy roads.
Italy's ANSA news agency reported that two people had died because of the bad weather -- a truck driver who was killed in a car accident and a man who died of a heart attack while cleaning up snow outside his house. Hundreds of passengers were stranded in Florence, Italy, after snow and ice stopped high-speed trains from entering the city's train station, the agency said.
In northeastern Greece near Macedonia, heavy snowfall mid-week caused massive problems on several highways, where snowchains were declared mandatory, according to national news Athens News Agency.
Meteorologists say the cold weather is caused by a negative phase of the Arctic Oscillation, which means that cold Arctic air is flowing into southern latitudes that are normally much warmer.
Forecasters don't expect conditions to change anytime soon. The next wave of snowy weather is expected to bring up to 20 centimeters (8 inches) to some parts of the U.K., with London expected to receive 5 to 10 centimeters (2 to 4 inches) of snow.
The weather system will move across France and Germany on Saturday night and Sunday. Below-normal temperatures are expected to continue in northern Europe into the beginning of next week.
CNN's Mila Sanina, Boriana Milanova, Hada Messia Per Nyberg and Peter Taggert contributed to this report.