President Bush announced Tuesday his support to amend the Constitution to ban same-sex marriage. Bush’s comments came under intense attack from gay rights activists as well as many constitutional scholars. The announcement comes on the heels of San Francisco’s decision to grant marriage licenses to more than 3,000 same sex couples and a Massachusetts court decision that ordered the state to soon allow same-sex marriages. But the timing of the announcement was also viewed as part of an election year strategy to reach out to social conservatives who provided the backbone of Bush’s support in 2000. According to the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, Bush had intended to sidestep the battle over constitutional marriage but decided he had to take up the issue in order to secure his socially conservative base of supporters who had “grown restless over the budget deficit, government spending and his plan to liberalize immigration.” Democratic presidential frontrunners Senators John Kerry and John Edwards have both said that they’re against the Constitutional amendment and back civil unions over gay marriage. Dennis Kucinich has publicly supported gay marriage. According to constitutional scholars, Prohibition marks the only time the constitution has been amended to curtail public freedoms. Despite Bush’s highly publicized endorsement, passing an amendment to the Constitution is not easy. The amendment must win two-thirds support in both the Senate and House and be ratified by 38 states.
In Haiti, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide has called on the international community to help Haiti stop the fighting and to prevent a humanitarian crisis. He said '’I ask the international community to hurry up and prevent the flow of blood. I ask the international community to hurry up and augment the number of policemen. Hurry, hurry to stop the terrorists.'’ Hours after Aristide’s plea, his opponents rejected a U.S.-backed compromise that would have kept the democratically-elected Aristide to stay as president with reduced powers. His opponents say they will accept nothing but his resignation. Guy Philippe, who is seen as leading the opposition, said his men are preparing to attack the Haitian capital of Port-au-Prince. He said 'There is no `if.' I will succeed because the people will let us.” Philippe is a former Haitian police chief who had to flee Haiti in 2000 after he was discovered plotting a coup. He received training by US Special Forces in Ecuador during the 1991-1994 coup. On the international front, French officials invited members of Aristide’s government and the opposition to meet in Paris later this week. And the Miami Herald reports that the Rev. Al Sharpton plans to travel to Haiti as a mediator.
In Iraq, for the second time since May the CIA has recalled its top officer in Baghdad over doubts about his leadership abilities. This according to Agence France Press. In Baghdad, the CIA is running the largest office in the agency’s history with over 500 agents. Also in Iraq, the US is claiming it killed an aide of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and arrested several other people in a raid last week in Al-Ramadi. The U.S. has claimed Al-Zarqawi has ties to Al Qaeda and is organizing the foreign resistance in Iraq.
On the campaign front, John Kerry yesterday easily won three races in Utah, Idaho and Hawaii. John Edwards placed second in Utah and Idaho and Dennis Kucinich came in second in Hawaii with his best showing so far with 26 percent of the vote. In other campaign news, the Boston Globe is reporting former presidential candidate Senator Bob Graham of Florida is planning to endorse Kerry.
The Pentagon filed the first charges against detainees held at Guantanamo Bay. Two men, who are allegedly high ranking members of Al Qaeda, will go before a military tribunal in the spring or summer to face charges of conspiracy to commit terrorism and war crimes. This will mark the first time the Pentagon has used a military court to try enemy prisoners since World War II.
The Supreme Court yesterday overturned the death sentence of a Texan man who came within 10 minutes of being executed last year The court ruled 7-2 to throw out the death sentence of Delma Banks. The court also unanimously agreed that Banks should be allowed to appeal his murder conviction because prosecutors may have improperly withheld information during the phase of the trial in which jurors found him guilty of killing 16-year-old Richard Whitehead. Banks, who says he did not commit the crime, is African-American. His victim was white, as were all 12 jurors.
In Morocco, over 550 people have died since an earthquake struck the country yesterday.
The National Education Association asked President Bush on Tuesday to fire Education Secretary Rod Paige for calling the union a “terrorist organization.”
A new study by the Center for the Advancement of Human Rights at Florida State University has found that modern-day slavery still exists in parts of Florida and other states where human traffickers bring people into the country and force them to work as prostitutes, farmworkers or maids.
During a visit to Uzbekistan, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the U.S. is considering setting up new military bases in the country. This according to the Los Angeles Times. Rumsfeld described Uzbekistan as a wonderful ally in the war on terror. Human rights groups have intensely criticized the country for its mistreatment of political dissidents.
New reports issued Tuesday suggested that half of all young people in the country will get a sexually transmitted disease by the age of 25. In the year 2000 there were 9 million new cases of STDs among teens and young adults between the ages of 15 and 24. According to the head of one of the studies, the Bush administration’s policy of abstinence-only education will only increase the rates. James Wagoner, president of Advocates for Youth, said “the stakes are simply too high to talk only about abstinence. Given the prevalence of STDs, young people need all the facts–including medically accurate information on condoms.”
In London, a government translator was cleared today of violating Britain’s Official Secrets Act after the government offered no evidence against her. The woman, Katherine Gun, had leaked information to the press last year that the US asked Britain to help them in spying on diplomats at the United Nations in the lead up to the UN vote on Iraq. The “leaked” memo from January last year reportedly said the National Security Agency had begun a “surge” in eavesdropping on UN Security Council countries about to vote on action in Iraq. Officials from Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Bulgaria, Guinea and Pakistan all had their phones tapped in what was described as a “dirty tricks” operation. Gun leaked an internal email to the Observer newspaper which publicized the spying operation last March.