Operation Rescue Buys Building, Evicts Abortion ClinicJune 29, 2006 20:27 An anti-abortion group has evicted a Wichita clinic that provided abortions and was a focal point of the massive 1991 demonstrations known as the "Summer of Mercy."

Operation Rescue announced Thursday that it has purchased the building that had been leased since 1983 by Central Women's Services.

The anti-abortion group has evicted the clinic and plans to renovate the building for use as its headquarters and a memorial display, said Cheryl Sullenger, Operation Rescue spokeswoman.

"We're going to convert that building from a place of death to a place where life is protected," Sullenger said. "We feel like there's going to be a little less human misery in the world."

Operation Rescue previously had bought a vacant lot by the building as the site of a billboard used to carry anti-abortion messages.

  Buffett giving away a fortuneJune 26, 2006 12:32 In what some are calling the biggest philanthropic gift ever, Warren Buffett, the 75-year-old business titan who is the world's second-richest person, has pledged to begin giving away 85 percent of his US$40 billion (HK$312 billion)-plus fortune in July - most of it to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The donations, to be made over a period of years in the form of more than 12 million class B shares of Berkshire Hathaway stock, will also benefit four foundations controlled by Buffett's family.

But the Gates Foundation will receive by far the biggest gift - 10 million shares - with the goal of strengthening its mission to improve public health around the globe.

That revelation on the Fortune magazine Web site, as well as in an open letter from Buffett to Gates and his wife Melinda posted on Berkshire's Web site Sunday, comes on the heels of Microsoft co-founder Gates' announcement earlier this month that he would gradually switch from running his company to running the foundation that he co- chairs with his wife.
  See-No-Evil Lawmakers: Voting Rights ActJune 22, 2006 08:00 CONSIDERING the disturbing evidence of racial discrimination in the past two presidential elections -- remember Florida 2000 and Ohio 2004 -- it would seem that renewal of the federal Voting Rights Act would be a given.

Even before recent congressional hearings, it was clear that the United States still needs to scrutinize its elections for intentional and inadvertent acts of disenfranchisement. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 has been credited with eliminating some of the most overt forms of discrimination, such as poll taxes and literacy tests.

The congressional hearings chaired by Rep. James Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, led the voting-act renewal's crafters to maintain federal oversight on nine Southern states. House Republican leaders had pledged to move the bill as soon as possible, allowing them to hit the campaign trail with an achievement to show a commitment to civil rights.

But the fate of what should have been a routine Voting Rights Act renewal was engulfed in doubt Wednesday in a closed-door Republican caucus. It seems a significant bloc of GOP lawmakers objected to the nine-state watch list as well as requirements for bilingual ballots in areas with large immigrant populations.

  Bush Will Respect Rights In 'War On Terror'June 20, 2006 20:31 The United States will pledge to respect human rights in its "war on terror", according to the draft of a final statement prepared for a European Union-United States summit on Wednesday, at which the Europeans are expected to complain about US treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay.

The draft of the joint statement by American President George Bush and European Union leaders says: "Consistent with our common values, we will ensure that measures taken to combat terrorism comply fully with our international obligations, including human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law.
  Pregnancy Crisis Centers(?) & FDA Blocks Plan BJune 20, 2006 08:52 Amongst other news on this page:

The National Abortion Federation in a June 15 study found that "crisis pregnancy centers" use deceptive practices to intimidate women seeking abortions and misuse government funds. Over 4,000 crisis pregnancy centers are operating in the United States, according to the Washington-based group, compared to 2,000 abortion clinics. The federation charges the crisis centers with such practices as opening a storefront near an abortion clinic and giving it a similar name to lure women "at risk" for abortion. In extreme cases, women say they have received pregnancy tests at the centers and informed the results were negative, concealing the pregnancy until it is too late to have an abortion safely. The federation says crisis pregnancy centers are receiving federal tax dollars to subsidize their operations by siphoning funds from abstinence and sex education programs. Crisis centers received an estimated $6 million in 2002. In at least a dozen states, crisis pregnancy centers receive funds through direct allocations, tax credits or "alternatives to abortion" programs.
  S. Dakota Abortion Ban In Voters' HandsJune 20, 2006 08:49 Opponents of South Dakota's abortion ban have succeeded in suspending implementation of the law, leaving it up to a statewide referendum this fall.

The statute, which outlaws abortion unless it's necessary to save the life of the pregnant woman, was signed into law in March and was scheduled to take effect July 1. But the secretary of state's office in Pierre, the state capital, announced Monday that petitions containing at least 16,728 signatures had been certified--enough to refer the ban to voters on Nov. 7.

Although South Dakotans are staunchly conservative, the outcome of the referendum is not preordained. Some voters who consider themselves "pro-life" are uncomfortable with the fact that the law makes no exception for cases of rape or incest, or to prevent serious injury to the woman. The fact that opponents managed to collect more than 38,000 signatures in a state with fewer than 500,000 registered voters was considered an indication of that discomfort.

At the same time, abortion-rights activists said many voters don't really know what the law says and will need to be educated before Election Day.

  Top Court To Decide Second Abortion Law CaseJune 19, 2006 10:04

The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would expand its review of a federal law banning some abortion procedures and would decide a California case on whether the law was too vague and imposed a burden on women.

The justices in February agreed to rule on a Nebraska case on whether the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003 is unconstitutional because it lacks an exception to protect the health of a pregnant woman.

  Bush Fails Women In AfghanistanJune 14, 2006 23:09 The Taliban are back. Less than five years after British and U.S. troops drove them out of Afghanistan, they are launching increasingly audacious attacks, including an ambush of British troops in Helmand province last weekend. British soldiers were jumping from helicopters when they came under fire, beginning a battle in which 21 Taliban fighters were killed. One observer warned that British troops must regain control of Helmand or "the whole of southern Afghanistan will be lost to the Taliban insurgents."

I could make a sarcastic remark about another great success in President Bush's war on terror, but the situation in Afghanistan is too horrifying.

At the same time, I can't help recalling the lunatic optimism of the president's wife a few weeks into the Afghan campaign in 2001. "Because of our recent military gains in much of Afghanistan, women are no longer imprisoned in their homes," Laura Bush declared. "The fight against terrorism is also a fight for the rights and dignity of women."

Well, we've seen what nonsense that is in Iraq, where women dare not venture outdoors unless they are covered and the government is turning out to have a worse record than Saddam Hussein in some respects, repealing legislation giving inheritance rights to women. In Afghanistan, the Taliban's status as public enemy number one persuaded many foreigners that their defeat was all that was needed to free women from tyranny, an assumption that doesn't stand up to five minutes' scrutiny.

  Artificial Conflicts Generated By Politicians Divert Us From Real Issues Of Conscience And FaithJune 13, 2006 14:44 Friction between religion and government is not uncommon in the United States. When it occurs we have come to expect the usual dichotomy between those who believe that faith is under assault and those who believe that religious teachings are being substituted for public policy.

My interest in this topic is the product of pure hypocrisy. I complain when some religious firebrand like Jerry Falwell jumps headlong into political campaigns and attempts to use his pulpit to benefit one politician over another. On the other hand, I applaud when some religious leader pushes Congress to increase funding of health care for the poor. If I am to be intellectually honest, I have to admit that I am a supporter of entangling religion with public policy if it supports my position, but I am quick to advocate separation of church and state when the religious beliefs of others might result in secular policy that I oppose. Unfortunately, many political and religious leaders share this trait — they just won’t admit it.

Some conflicts arise because people with deeply held religious views feel that their faith requires opposition to some law or policy. For example, Quakers have a long history of struggle with policies adopted during times of war. At other times conflicts originate from crass political maneuvering. President Bush’s use of the gay marriage issue is a prime example of this deplorable behavior.

  Bush's play to the Christian right is a red herringJune 10, 2006 23:25 Well, it gave US President George W. Bush the presidency once before, so why not use it again? Our old friend gay marriage is back, evoked anew by the man in the White House to scare "values voters," most of them Christian conservatives, into voting Republican one more time.

It did the business in 2004, when Bush's efforts to turn the election into a referendum on same-sex unions may well have tipped the pivotal state of Ohio, chiefly by persuading social conservatives to get out and vote. So it's no surprise to see a tired Bush, facing second-term poll numbers in the Nixon depths, reaching for the same stick now.

Bush wants to amend the Constitution so that that precious charter of rights and liberties will include a new sentence defining marriage exclusively as an arrangement between a man and a woman.

Such an exclusion clause would demean the document, like graffiti scrawled across a sacred text. The Constitution has been altered before -- but usually to expand rights, not to restrict them.

  South Dakota Churches Must Be Careful On Abortion Vote, IRS SaysJune 09, 2006 19:05 The Internal Revenue Service has done more to crack down on political activities by nonprofit groups in the last election cycle and IRS officials are warning churches in South Dakota not to overstep their bounds when it comes to a campaign against a likely November ballot initiative to overturn the state's abortion ban.
Church groups in South Dakota say they plan to be very involved in the abortion vote.

"I don't think there's any mystery about what the church's position is on abortion, so I'm certain we will be involved," Jerry Klein, chancellor of the Sioux Falls Catholic Diocese, told the Argus Leader newspaper. "How, we haven't decided."

The decisions will likely be modified based on what church attorneys find can and can't be done under IRS rules and the newspaper reports that IRS officials plan to be more strict in enforcing its policies.

  Senate Blocks Same-Sex Marriage BanJune 07, 2006 17:12 The Senate blocked on Wednesday a bid to amend the Constitution to essentially ban same-sex marriage.

Republicans pushed the plan even though supporters conceded the measure did not have enough votes to pass.

Proponents failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and move to a vote on the actual amendment. The Senate vote was 49-48 to end debate.

Opponents called the measure an election-year ploy that wasted precious time on the legislative calendar.

"This is not about the preservation of marriage. This is about the preservation of a majority," Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Illinois, said as debate started Wednesday. "I think, sadly, most people realize there's political motivation here."

  Supreme Court To Hear Seattle Schools Race CaseJune 06, 2006 14:31 Her anger has eased, but Kathleen Brose's voice still shakes slightly when she describes the turmoil Seattle Public Schools caused six year ago by denying her daughter's enrollment to her neighborhood school, Ballard High, because she was white.

Brose was one of several parents who sued in 2000, contending that the district violated state and federal laws by considering race when assigning students to popular schools.

Over the years, courts have struck down and upheld the policy, intended to promote diversity. The district hasn't used it since 2002 as the legal battle waged on.

Now, however, the issue will be decided once and for all. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed Monday to hear the case, setting up perhaps the most significant decision it has made on affirmative action and schools in years.

  Wasteful Election Year Politics: Senate To Tackle Gay Marriage BanJune 05, 2006 14:52 President Bush and congressional Republicans are aiming the political spotlight this week on efforts to ban gay marriage, with events at both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue all for a constitutional amendment with scant chance of passage but wide appeal among social conservatives.

"Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all."

The president was to make further remarks Monday in favor of the amendment as the Senate opened three days of debate.

  President Bush Backs Federal Marriage AmendmentJune 04, 2006 02:04 President Bush backed a federal marriage amendment in his Saturday radio address, and announced plans to meet with religious leaders on Monday.

"Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society," said President Bush. "Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all."

"A constitutional amendment will put a decision that is critical to American families and American society in the hands of the American people, which is exactly where it belongs," Bush explained. "Democracy, not court orders, should decide the future of marriage in America."

Although the constitutional amendment most likely won't have enough votes to pass the Senate, Bush is being criticized from both sides for his stance.