Gains outweigh setbacks in a landmark year for gay rights
Repeal of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy may be the movement’s biggest victory yet, activists say.
By Robin Abcarian and Jessica Garrison, Los Angeles Times
December 19, 2010
Today the military, tomorrow the marriage altar?
In an era when gay Americans have seen stunning progress and many setbacks in the quest for equality under the law, many believe 2010 will go down in history as a watershed that will lead inexorably to more legal rights.
Saturday’s vote in the Senate to allow the repeal of the federal law banning gays from openly serving in the military is “one of the greatest, if not the greatest, victory in the history of the movement for gay and lesbian equality,” said Aaron Belkin, director of the Palm Center, a UC Santa Barbara think tank that studies the issue of gays in the military.
The evolution of the perfect American Christmas tree
We want flawless trees, where once, those from the woods were just fine
By Wynne Parry
Lynne Aldrich, who owns a farm along with her husband Lee in North Central Iowa, got a call one holiday season from a upset woman. Apparently, her husband had shown up at the Aldrich Tree Farm to pick out a Christmas tree alone. Mistake. His wife described the tree he had chosen as the ugliest one she had ever seen. Lynne Aldrich told the woman to bring the tree back and pick out a new one.
So, the couple returned and headed out into the 28-acre farm, leaving the tree leaned up against the barn. Within 10 minutes another family had driven up and claimed it. Then the complaining woman returned with a tree that, from Aldrich’s perspective, was ugly, so ugly in fact that the couple hadn’t even tagged it for sale.
Rupert Cornwell: After 150 years, the Civil War still divides the United States
Out of America: As the country prepares to commemorate the great schism, the echoes of the bloody conflict still reverberate through its politics and culture
Sunday, 19 December 2010
“A joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink” is probably not how most people would choose to mark an event setting the stage for a conflict that lasted four years, cost 620,000 lives, and ended in annihilating defeat.
But when it comes to the American Civil War, South Carolina is not ordinary. It was the state where passions ran highest then, and where the flame of the “Lost Cause” is most tenderly nourished now. The war was made inevitable by an act of defiance by South Carolina. How fitting, indeed how inevitable, that the 150th anniversary commemorations of the most traumatic and divisive event in the country’s history should begin in similar vein, in the same state, tomorrow.
Probable carcinogen hexavalent chromium found in drinking water of 31 U.S. cities
By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
An environmental group that analyzed the drinking water in 35 cities across the United States, including Bethesda and Washington, found that most contained hexavalent chromium, a probable carcinogen that was made famous by the film “Erin Brockovich.”
The study, which will be released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, is the first nationwide analysis of hexavalent chromium in drinking water to be made public.
It comes as the Environmental Protection Agency is considering whether to set a limit for hexavalent chromium in tap water.
Moscow riots expose racism at the heart of Russian football
Links between neo-Nazis and fans are growing as the country gears up for the 2018 World Cup
The Observer, Sunday 19 December 2010
Behind a black door just steps from the golden domes of Novodevichy monastery, a group of young men and women sit huddled at computers. They are surrounded by racks of the red and white jumpers and scarves that mark the devoted fans of FC Spartak, Moscow’s leading football club.
This is the headquarters of Fratria, the unofficial Spartak fan club that lost one of its members when he was killed during a brawl with a gang from the Caucasus, the restive mainly Muslim region on Russia’s southernmost flank.
Vatican Bank hit by financial scandal… again
Investigators are closing in on the Pope’s bank, dissatisfied by claims that it will change its ways
By Victor Simpson and Nicole Winfield Sunday, 19 December 2010
This is no ordinary bank. The ATMs are in Latin, priests use a private entrance, and a life-sized portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs on the wall. Nevertheless, l’Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Institute for Religious Works) is a bank, and it is under harsh new scrutiny, including money-laundering allegations that led police to seize ¤23m (£19.5m) in Vatican assets in September. Critics say the case shows that the “Vatican Bank” has never shed its penchant for secrecy and scandal.
The Vatican calls the seizure of assets a “misunderstanding” and expresses optimism that it will be cleared up quickly. But court documents show that prosecutors say the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws “with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital”.
Politics in Iraq Casts Doubt on a U.S. Presence After 2011
By STEVEN LEE MYERS, THOM SHANKER and JACK HEALY
Published: December 18, 2010
BAGHDAD – The protracted political turmoil that saw the resurgence of a fiercely anti-American political bloc here is casting new doubt on establishing any enduring American military role in Iraq after the last of nearly 50,000 troops are scheduled to withdraw in the next 12 months, military and administration officials say.
Given Iraq’s military shortcomings, especially in air power, intelligence coordination and logistics, American and Iraqi officials had long expected that some American military presence, even if only in an advisory role, would continue beyond 2011.
Koreas up the ante over artillery drill
December 19, 2010
South Korea’s military said it would go ahead with a live-fire drill on a border island bombarded by North Korea last month, despite the North’s threat to strike back with deadlier firepower.
But the one-day drill, scheduled for some time between today and Tuesday, may be pushed back.
”There is no change in our stance with regards to the live-fire exercise,” a Defence Ministry spokesman said.
Advertisement: Story continues below
”We cannot confirm … whether we will carry out the exercise today.”
Foreign troop death toll hits 700 in Afghanistan
Latest to die is NATO soldier killed by roadside bomb in country’s south
KABUL – A member of the NATO-led force in Afghanistan was killed on Sunday, taking the total number of foreign troops killed in 2010 to 700, by far the deadliest year of the war since the Taliban were toppled in 2001.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said one service member was killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan. It gave no other details.
Follow us on Twitter
Get the latest updates on this story and others from @breakingnews.
A total of 521 foreign troops were killed in 2009, previously the worst year of the war, but operations against the Taliban-led insurgency have increased dramatically over the past 18 months.
About 2,270 foreign troops have been killed since the war began, roughly two-thirds of them Americans.
Mugabe ‘confident’ of winning 2011 elections
MUTARE, ZIMBABWE Dec 19 2010 08:34
Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader and in power since independence from Britain in 1980, was officially endorsed by his ZANU-PF followers as its presidential candidate at the party’s annual conference in the eastern city of Mutare.
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) conceded for the first time that a presidential election could take place in 2011, but it ruled out parliamentary polls until 2013.
Mugabe (86) could hold on to power until well into his nineties if he wins another term after a ballot that for months he has insisted must take place next year because a power-sharing deal with Tsvangirai, the current prime minister, is not working.
Shady group blocking official diamond sales
Elite accused of exploiting problems with the Kimberley Process
Dec 19, 2010 1:12 AM | By SUNDAY TIMES CORRESPONDENT
A review teamof the Kimberley Process Certification Scheme (KPCS), diamond dealers in Harare, politicians and civic organisations monitoring diamond dealings believe there is a cartel of greedy senior politicians, lawyers, unscrupulous businessmen and top civil servants who are making it difficult for KPCS to allow Zimbabwe to sell its diamonds.
Since diamonds are being sold unmonitored, the country is losing sales worth millions of dollars to underworld buyers in South Africa, Dubai, India, Lebanon and other diamond-dealing countries.
Mexican drug cartels find youths to be easy prey
Faced with a poor education system and dismal job prospects, boys and girls as young as 11 are lured into acting as mules, peddlers, lookouts – even executioners – for drug cartels offering easy money.
By Ken Ellingwood and Tracy Wilkinson, Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Jiutepec, Mexico, and Mexico City – The curly-haired suspect in the sweatshirt faced the flash of news cameras, looking impossibly small.
“When did you start to kill?” he was asked. “How much did you earn?” “How many did you execute?”
He said he began killing at age 11. A drug cartel paid him $200 a week. He’d killed four people.
“How?” came the final question.
“I cut their throats,” he replied. Then masked Mexican soldiers hustled him off, the way they do other drug suspects.