On Capitol Hill, Senate Republicans fell short in an attempt yesterday to change the country’s constitution by adding an amendment that would ban same-sex marriage. Republicans didn’t even have enough votes to bring the measure — which President Bush had endorsed — to a vote on the floor. Democrats defeated the move 50 to 48 in a procedural vote; 12 short of the super-majority needed for it to move on to a floor vote.
The Washington-based newspaper The Hill is reporting that House Republicans are now looking for other ways to ban same-sex marriage. Options included stripping federal courts of jurisdiction over the issue, passing a federal law to define marriage and using the appropriations process to ban gay marriage in Washington D.C.
Meanwhile in Albany New York, a judge Tuesday dismissed criminal charges against two Unitarian Universalist ministers who were arrested for marrying 13 same-sex couples in March. In her ruling, the judge questioned the legality of New York’s ban on same-sex marriage.
In Iraq, 10 people were killed, including three police officers, in a car bombing earlier today in the town of Haditha, west of Baghdad. This marks the second major car bombing in two days. In the north a pipeline connecting the oil fields of Kirkuk and the Turkish port of Ceyhan has been attacked and set ablaze. Meanwhile yesterday marked the bloodiest day in the country since the so-called handover of power. In Baghdad the death toll of the massive car bomb outside the Iraqi government offices reached as high as 12. Near Mosul the provincial governor was killed along with two bodyguards — he was the highest-ranking official to be assassinated so far this month. In Ramadi at least 3 Iraqis died after a US convoy came under attack.
On the campaign trail, President Bush said yesterday the country needs to vote for him in November because work still has to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said, "I need four more years to complete the work. There’s more to do to make America a safer place. There’s more work to do to make the world a more peaceful place." [For full transcript see here]
The Washington Post is reporting the Bush administration is struggling to keep countries in the so-called coalition from pulling out of Iraq. The Philippines have already begun pulling out their troops. Norway has quietly removed its 155 military engineers leaving behind only 15 people. New Zealand plans to pull its engineers out by September. Thailand also plans a September pull-out. And the Netherlands is likely to pull out next spring. Spain, Honduras and the Dominican Republic have already pulled their troops. Other countries have reduced their presence. Moldova now has 12 people in Iraq, down from 42. Singapore has 33, down from 191. There are some exceptions. South Korea has announced it will increase its force from 600 to 3700. And Georgia plans to more than double the number of troops it has from about 150 to 400. The U.S. currently has about 140,000 troops stationed in Iraq. In October, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed critics who claimed the Iraq invasion was largely a US effort. He said behind the Iraq occupation was "one of the largest coalitions in the history of mankind."
The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees= is reporting, an Israel tank shot at one of its convoys as it attempted to deliver food in northern Gaza yesterday. The UN was bringing flour, oil, lentils, sugar, rice and milk to the Palestinian town of Bait Hanun, which was cut off by Israeli troops from the rest of Gaza over two weeks ago.
The government announced yesterday it is dismantling a controversial airline passenger screening system called CAPPS II, which would have assigned every passenger a color-coded threat level. Under the plan, security officials would have collected detailed personal information about every passenger from public and private databases to determine how much of a threat the passenger posed. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge said yesterday the system is being canned because of privacy issues. Under the system, a ’’red’’ rating would mean the passenger would not be allowed to fly; ’’yellow’’ would mean extra security at the airport; ’’green’’ would mean a trip through regular security.
A Senate investigation has found that Riggs Bank courted business from former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1996 and helped him hide up to $8 million while he was under house arrest in Britain. This according to a report in the Washington Post. The Post also reports the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee is probing 150 Saudi Arabian accounts as part of an investigation into terrorist funding. The revelation comes just months after the bank was forced to pay $25 million in penalties for violating money-laundering laws in dealing with the embassies of Saudi Arabia and Equatorial Guinea.
And the diet company Slim Fast has dropped Whoopi Goldberg from its ads just days after she appeared at a Kerry/Edwards fundraiser and made fun of President Bush’s name.