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Sources tells ABC News that President Obama has signed a secret presidential finding authorizing covert operations to “aid the effort” in Libya, where the US is working with NATO, and Arab partners to enforce a no-fly zone, protect civilians, and…



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Political Punch

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Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and the White House declined immediate comment.

News that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as the President and other U.S. and allied officials spoke openly about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi’s opponents, who are fighting better-equipped government forces.





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Ben Smith’s Blog

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Reuters reports:

President Barack Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters on Wednesday.

Obama signed the order, known as a presidential "finding", within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S. government sources familiar with the matter.

Such findings are a principal form of presidential directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central Intelligence Agency. The CIA and the White House declined immediate comment.

News that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as the President and other U.S. and allied officials spoke openly about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi’s opponents, who are fighting better-equipped government forces.





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Ben Smith’s Blog

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So, as I’m sure lots of folks in Washington know, the House of Representatives tomorrow is expected to pass a bill resurrecting the D.C. voucher program. This program is a top priority for Rep. John A. Boehner, the speaker of the House. And it’s sponsored in the Senate by Joseph Lieberman, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats.

The Obama administration, to no one’s surprise, has come out against the bill, saying:

The federal government should focus its attention and available resources on improving the quality of public schools for all students. Private school vouchers are not an effective way to improve student achievement.

The administration strongly opposes expanding the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program and opening it to new students. Rigorous evaluation over several years demonstrates that the D.C. program has not yielded improved student achievement by its scholarship recipients compared to other students in D.C.

The administration opposes targeting resources to help a small number of individuals attend private schools rather than creating access to great public schools for every child.

But they don’t say: We will definitely veto your bill.

Over at Flypaper, Mike Petrilli said that this dims (and maybe even totally dooms) the chances of an ESEA reauthorization this year.

But despite that, it’s not clear to me that there was ever truly an explicit deal here, where Boehner said to the administration, give us the D.C. vouchers, and we promise to give you reauthorization. That’s partly because I get the sense that Boehner and Rep. John Kline, R-Minn., the chairman of the House education committee, are still trying to get a feel for where the new, more conservative House freshmen want to take the reauthorized law.

Those freshmen are still getting up to speed on this very complicated domestic policy issue. Plus, they’re an independent bunch, so there’s no telling whether they would have (or still will) sign on to GOP leaders’ vision of where to take the new law, whatever that ends up being.

So, even if the administration had said, yup, sure thing on D.C. vouchers as long as you give us ESEA, I’m not sure if the House would have then absolutely gone straight to work on, and finished, a reauthorization bill this year.

But I do think there’s a rhetoric issue here. This is a top top priority for Boehner, an outspoken school-choice advocate. It almost certainly creates bad feelings that the administration isn’t supporting the only bill he’s sponsoring this Congress, particularly an education bill.

And I’m sure that if ESEA isn’t passed this year (it’s already April and we haven’t seen a bill, so don’t hold your breath) many folks may cite the administration’s decision not to support the D.C. voucher program as a big part of the reason. Will they be right? Comments section is open.


Politics K-12

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Written by Onnik Krikorian

With the opposition in Armenia divided between parties in parliament and those outside, Unzipped comments on the rivalry between two specific political forces in the country and the populist rhetoric used to attack and discredit each other following popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia as well as prior to the 2012 parliamentary elections in Armenia.

Global Voices in English

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Source of 30-mile oil spill in Gulf puzzles officials

Emulsified oil, oil mousse and tar balls from an unknown source were washing up on beaches from Grand Isle to West Timbalier Island along the Gulf of Mexico, a stretch of about 30 miles, and it was still heading west Monday afternoon, a Louisiana official said. The state is testing the material to see if it matches oil from last April’s BP Deepwater Horizon disaster.

Oil spill response workers under the direction of the U.S. Coast Guard and state officials were scrambling to block more of the material from coming ashore. ES&H Corp. has been hired to oversee the cleanup.

“We are working with our state and local partners to mitigate any further environmental impact while continuing to facilitate the safe movement of marine traffic to the fullest extent possible,” Capt. Jonathan Burton, the federal on-scene coordinator for the response, said in a news release late Monday.

“To avoid delays in resource availability and delivery, we have taken a forward leaning approach and authorized ES&H to procure whatever additional boom and resources they need,” Burton said.

The news release said that when all areas where the material has washed ashore are combined, about a half-mile of shoreline was affected.

Workers have deployed about 10,000 feet of containment and sorbent boom to prevent damage to environmentally sensitive areas; two MARKO skimmers are being moved to the area and another two are available; and two barge boats and two drum skimmers are at the scene.

Opposition rises to increased nuclear power use

The nuclear plant crisis that resulted from the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has prompted a spike in opposition in the U.S. to increased use of nuclear power, much like the rise in opposition to increased offshore oil drilling following the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico that was set off last April by the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon drilling platform.

But almost a year later, according to a Pew Research Center poll conducted March 17-20, support for more offshore oil drilling has rebounded.

Fifty-two percent of those surveyed by Pew following the drama at Japan’s nuclear plants said they opposed increased use of nuclear power compared to 39 percent who supported it. That’s a turnaround from February 2010, when 52 percent favored increased use of nuclear power and 41 percent were opposed.

Eight ways $ 100 a barrel oil may affect you

In recent weeks, the price of a barrel of oil has stayed at about $ 100 a barrel, and gasoline prices have been edging closer to $ 4 a gallon. The costs are apparently due to events half a world away, in the Middle East. Even though plenty of oil is around, there is fear of further disruptions, and consumers, business people, and politicians have all been making adjustments. Here are eight ways that higher energy prices are starting to affect America.

1. Airplane travel: More costly, yes, but also crowded

If you’re at a computer trying to make plane reservations for the summer, you had better hold on to your seat: The prices might make you hit the ceiling.

Airlines have hiked fares six times since the beginning of the year because of the soaring price of jet fuel, says Rick Seaney, CEO of FareCompare.com.

Anyone flying to Europe this summer can expect to pay $ 1,400 to $ 1,800 round trip for a coach ticket. That cost includes about $ 400 for a fuel surcharge and another $ 120 in taxes and fees.

Interior Department OKs first new deepwater oil and gas exploration plan since disaster

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement Director Michael Bromwich announced Monday that, for the first time since the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the bureau has approved a deepwater oil and gas exploration plan, submitted by Shell Offshore Inc., following the completion of a site-specific environmental assessment.

As explained by Salazar and Bromwich, an exploration plan describes all exploration activities planned by the operator for a specific lease or leases, including the timing of these activities, information concerning drilling vessels, the location of each planned well, and other relevant information that needs to meet important safety standards. Once a plan is approved, additional new applications for permits to drill can be issued.

According to BOEMRE, Shell’s plan supplements its original exploration plan for the same lease in the company’s Auger field, which was approved in 1985. This plan would allow for the Shell to seek permits to drill three exploratory wells in about 2,950 water depth, 130 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

Based on its review, BOEMRE said it found no evidence that the proposed action would significantly affect the quality of the human environment, meaning that an environmental impact statement was not required. That allowed BOEMRE to issue a “finding of no significant impact,” enabling the supplemental exploration plan to be approved.”

Start-ups are devising kites to turn wind power into a cheap source of power

Kites of all shapes and sizes will take to the breeze Sunday, filling the airspace around the Washington Monument. The capital’s annual kite festival will feature recreational fliers as well as competitions to determine the best homemade kites, the kite with the top aerial dance moves and the champion of Rokkaku-style kite-fighting.

Elsewhere, a different kind of kite contest is already in progress, and start-ups around the world are racing to win. The goal: to create a self-piloting kite, or something like one, that flies day and night and generates energy from the wind. The prize: potential riches, and renewable energy that proponents say will be cheaper, safer and more plentiful than fossil fuels or nuclear power.

As any kite-flier knows, getting a kite off the ground can involve some effort. But once aloft, a kite can fly seemingly forever. That’s because winds even a hundred feet or so above the ground are stronger and steadier than those close to the surface.

In the jet streams, which flow about six miles above the Earth, winds often exceed 100 mph. Those powerful air currents contain about 100 times as much energy as the world now uses, according to experts.

Poor countries pledge to help curb climate change

Mongolia says it will erect solar power plants in the frigid Gobi desert. The Central African Republic says it will expand its forests to cover a quarter of its territory. Mexico promises to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent by the end of the decade.

Costa Rica and the Maldives aim to become carbon neutral and even chaotic Afghanistan is promising to take action on climate change.

The pledges from dozens of developing countries, compiled by the United Nations and released Monday, are voluntary, and many made them conditional on financial and technical help from the industrial world.

But the list helps bring into focus demands by wealthy countries that everybody reduce greenhouse gases to fight global warming. Scientists say carbon dioxide from industrial processes trap the Earth’s heat, causing climates to change in ways that could alter agriculture, raise sea levels and contribute to more extreme weather.

Top ten U.S. and China collaborations in cleantech

A number of the cleantech efforts between the United States and China reflect the need for cooperation on issues surrounding climate change and clean energy as it is a major factor in the relations of these two countries. Although there are still issues to resolve in many of the collaborations, it is believed that if the United States and China can continue in their cleantech collaborations, that it will show the world that two major players on the international platform are serious about combating the challenge of climate change, and it will also encourage other countries to create alliances. Through collaboration, the two largest greenhouse gas emitters will be able to create technologies required to combat climate change. Not only that, but tangible benefits will be developed, not just for the United States and China, but the world as a whole.

1) United States – China Ten Year Framework for Cooperation on Energy and Environment was established in 2008, and it “facilitates the exchange of information and best practices to foster innovation and develop solutions to the pressing environment and energy challenges both countries face.” It also led to the creation of “EcoPartnerships” – a way to encourage both United States and Chinese stakeholders to strengthen their commitment to sustainable economic development within the local level.

2) United States – China Clean Energy Research Center (CERC) has its main headquarters in both countries. It will facilitate research and development of technology by a team of leading scientists and engineers in the clean technology industry. The research center receives both private and public funding which is split evenly for each country. The initial research priorities of the United States – China Clean Energy Research Center includes building energy efficiency, clean vehicles, and clean coal, which includes carbon capture and storage. It was founded in 2009 by United States President Barak Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao. The goal of the research center is to “build a foundation of knowledge, technologies, human capabilities, and relationships in mutually beneficial areas that will position the United States and China for a future with very low energy intensity and highly efficient multi-family residential and commercial buildings.”

Texas Republicans vow to fight EPA in Congress

Republican lawmakers representing Texas in Congress say they will fight attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce tougher rules.

U.S. Representatives Joe Barton and John Carter accused the EPA of being too tough on Texas following a meeting with state leaders. They said recent steps by the agency to reduce the state’s regulatory powers are a clear case of federal overreach. They vowed to introduce legislation to stop the EPA from enforcing stricter pollution rules.

Climate Progress

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San Salvador, El Salvador (CNN) – President Barack Obama on Tuesday expressed hope that Libya’s opposition movement, given new protection by a U.S.-led military mission, can organize itself to revive broad enthusiasm for political change and oust Moammar Gadhafi from power.

In a 13-minute interview with CNN’s Spanish-language network, Obama said the immediate goal of the U.N.-sanctioned military mission that began Saturday was to prevent an onslaught of the rebel stronghold of Benghazi by Gadhafi’s military.


CNN Political Ticker

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Written by Vadim Isakov

Image by jlmaral/Flickr

The famous cartoon by Peter Steiner depicts a dog sitting at the computer and saying that “On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog.” In Russia, this principle is often used to spin political agenda and replicate “public opinion.” Creating the “bots” and opening hundreds of fake blog accounts even became a full-time job for people who do not hesitate to use the blank spaces of online persona to their advantage.

High-profile oppositional blogger navalny (read GV's interview with him here) recently noted [ru]that some comments in his LiveJournal, the most popular blogging platform in Russia, were created by users registered on the same day. The comments usually range from simple offenses (”the author of this post is an idiot”) to argument-like entries (”this navalny doesn't have any information and is too lazy to check facts”). The issue of someone with numerous fake identities leaving a comment or two does not pose any problem per se. But it does become more than an annoyance when there is a whole army of “bots”  fighting a war with emerging opposition bloggers in the country. The numerous – however silly and out-of-place – comments distract the attention of readers from the discussion of important issues and spam blogs with pages of unrelated comments.

Other bloggers  (dolboeb, man_with_dogs, and aiden-ko, to name just few) got to the core of the issue and came up with a research-like posts [ru] on their LiveJournals. They talked about a peculiar posting on Free-lance.ru, a Russian website with job ads for people working in IT field. The posting has been deleted but man_with_dogs has a saved screenshot [ru] of the original.

“I need 5 people,” the ad says. “Each of them will leave 70 comments a day from 50 different accounts (the accounts need to be live). Urgently. The job is 5 days a week. The duration of this project is 3 months. The payment is every 10 days (Webmoney, Yandex Money [methods of payment – GV]). Total: 12,000 rubles [around $ 400-G.V.] a month.”

The author of this ad, someone named Vladimir Alekseev (probably a fake name since it sounds too conventional) also provided the details of the “job.” The human bots need to target the blog of navalny.

The task is to create the maximum believable wave of comments to degrade the rating of the journal's author and to form a negative attitude toward him. You need to comment each new post correctly and persuasively. It is also important to create a positive image of “United Russia” party [the ruling party in Russia – G.V.]. Can you do it?

Interestingly enough, navalny has a long history of accusing “United Russia” in all kinds of misbehavior. He famously called it “the party of crooks and thieves” and tried to document financial speculations and cases of embezzlement allegedly conducted by the party's members. So it should not surprise anyone that, if the job ad is real, “United Russia” attempts to discredit navalny online.

Of course, those notes and links are far from being the hard facts. In theory, everyone can fabricate and replicate this issue online and the ad can well be the product of someone who would like to present navalny as a real fighter with corruption (and there is no real fighter without someone who tries to fight him back). But navalny's “correct and persuasive” spam problem is an illustration that human bots become a relatively new trend (previously, comment bots were mostly programmed) on RuNet. More often than not, this turns out to be an effective way to spin or create a “hot” topic.

The recent sad, disappointing and embarrassing online “campaign” against Japan is just one example of how an issue can be created out of nothing.  Right after the  nuclear power plant in Fukushima became internationally known for possible disastrous consequences of the tsunami and earthquake, several bloggers posted a scanned copy of an old  Japanese newspaper [ru] that allegedly talked about the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. According to those bloggers, the newspaper called the Soviets “savages that cannot be let near the nuclear energy” and bragged that “the Chernobyl scenario is impossible in Japan.” Hundreds of bloggers commented on this. Many believed the scanned copy was real. It seemed that the issue had been actively promoted online and the topic became one of the top themes of the Russian Internet.

It took only someone who knows Japanese language to translate the real headlines of the newspaper: “New Russian Constitution Adopted at the Congress of the Members of Russian Parliament,” “Uniting with the Project of President,” “Interview with the Chairman of High Committee of Russia Sokolov.” And, of course, no mention of Chernobyl or anything related to it.

Blogger drugoi posted the real translation [ru] of the headlines and soon enough encountered the infamous human bots in comments.

This illustrated the sophistication with which certain forces approach the issue of controlling the Web. Human bots in Russia are more effective than good old automatic spam bots. They have a soul and a brain. They logically react to blog posts and they strength in their number. Evgeny Morozov's idea of  “spinternet” can be well applied here with the whole practice of promoting certain points of view online  becoming more and more prevalent in Russia. Nobody knows if you are a dog on the Internet but it certainly seems that dogs behave more ethically than some online forces that try to deceive people and discredit the Web as a tool for building a better society.

Global Voices in English

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It didn’t take long for others in the world to see the intervention in Libya as an opportunity to plead their own case:

Bahrain’s opposition asked for U.N. and American intervention in the government crackdown on the Shiite protests trying to loosen the monarchy’s grip, in a brief protest Sunday in the capital that disbanded before police could arrive to break it up.

The 18 opposition legislators protesting Sunday at the U.N. offices in Manama resigned last month to protest the crackdown on the monthlong revolt, inspired by the pro-democracy uprisings across the Arab world. Bahrain’s king declared martial law last week, and a Saudi-led military force from other Gulf nations is in the country to back the Sunni monarchy.

In the five-minute protest, the lawmakers appealed to the U.N. to stop the violence against protesters and mediate talks between the opposition and the monarchy; they asked the U.S. to pressure the Gulf force to leave.

Not at all likely to happen, of course, but it does lead one to wonder why the world is willing to look the other way in Baharain, but not in Libya.

 




Outside the Beltway

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Written by Onnik Krikorian

Ianyan presents its readers with a curated comments on last week's protest demonstration held by the extra-parliamentary opposition in Yerevan, Armenia. Unzipped also comments on the rally attended by 12-15,000 people. Meanwhile, however, The Armenian Observer is more skeptical with regards to opposition claims to have ‘liberated' the city's central Liberty Square.

Global Voices in English

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A controversial bill that would allow police to seize the cell phones and other types of electronic devices of those who use them while behind the wheel drew criticism at a legislative hearing today.

Both a defense lawyer and a police officer spoke against the proposal, saying it was unnecessary, ineffective and a potential invasion of privacy. They also predicted it would place an expensive burden on law enforcement and public defenders.

“The cell phone bill as written now certainly leaves a lot to be desired,” said James Ruane, a criminal defense lawyer, told the legislature’s Judiciary Committee. ”And quite frankly, seizing something without a due process hearing would cause an administrative nightmare for the state.”

The measure would empower police officers to seize the phone or electronic device used by the driver and impound it for 48 hours.

Ruane said the bill is unneeded because the state already prohibits reckless driving. “I don’t think it’s continually necessary to add to our codiified laws in order to get every unique scenario,” he said. Ruane noted that eating a banana while driving could be just as distracting as talking on a phone.

Moreover, many people keep sensitive and personal information on their smart phones and tablet computers. Attorneys, for instance, might have privileged information about clients, a doctor might have the medical records of his or her patients. Allowing police to seize the devices could create a “whole host of privacy issues,” Ruane said. 

Capitol Watch

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As President Obama prepares to speak this afternoon on the situation in Libya, a quick look at recent polls show Americans overwhelmingly do not support military intervention.

A CNN/Opinion Research poll finds 74% believe the United States should “leave it to others” to resolve the situation in Libya.

A Pew Research survey finds 65% think the United States doesn’t have the responsibility to do something about the fighting in Libya.

A Fox News poll finds 65% oppose the U.S. military getting involved.
Taegan Goddard’s Political Wire

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If there is one thing that House Republicans have taken a strident stand against, it is any measure that might bring additional revenue to the federal government, even with tax revenue at its lowest level in 60 years. The entire House Republican caucus recently voted against stripping tax subsidies from the nation’s biggest oil companies, and Republicans went all-out to prevent the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of taxpayers from expiring on schedule. Republicans have continually voted to allow multinational corporations to claim domestic tax credits on overseas profits, deriding attempts to reverse this policy as simply “tax increases.”

But House Republicans are evidently getting over their allergy for tax increases, at least when it helps them restrict a woman’s right to choose:

A Republican bill that would cut taxpayer funding for abortion aims to prevent women from using itemized medical deductions, certain tax-advantaged health care accounts or tax credits included in last year’s health care law to pay for abortions or for health insurance plans that cover abortion. Under common Republican definitions, limiting a tax benefit is viewed as a tax increase — which is anathema to the House majority. […]

The tax provisions raise a more complicated question because they would generate more money for the government. If a woman cannot use the itemized medical deduction — which is available for expenses exceeding 7.5 percent of adjusted gross income — for an abortion, she would pay more in taxes than she would have otherwise.

The bill in question, H.R. 3, will be the subject of a hearing before a House Ways and Means subcommittee today. The bill would deny tax credits — and thus, by the GOP’s own definition, raise taxes — to both individual women and small businesses that provide their employees with health care that covers abortion.

As CAP’s Jessica Arons wrote, H.R. 3 “would impose blanket prohibitions on all forms of direct and indirect funding streams that might potentially touch on the provision of abortion care. Rather than securing the ostensible goal of shielding citizens who object to the use of taxpayer money for abortion — a questionable objective given that taxpayers are not similarly protected in other areas of controversial funding such as the death penalty or war — [H.R. 3] would accomplish the unstated end of making abortion as difficult to obtain as possible without actually criminalizing it.” And if that end has to be achieved by raising taxes, House Republicans seem prepared to say so be it.

Wonk Room

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In this post, I want to unpack a bit more the claims of Timothy Shah made in a Christianity Today op-ed posted yesterday. Overall, I think it was a mistake for Christianity Today to publish an article making so many factual claims without sourcing or evidence. I have been following this story since March, 2009 and do not recognize the narrative advanced by Shah.

In this post, I want to address this paragraph:

But the legislation has received widespread attention not primarily because of its draconian provisions, whose very harshness has repelled virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders—including the President, the Catholic Bishops Conference, and a parliamentary committee that recommended the bill be thrown out as unconstitutional, effectively stopping it in its tracks. Instead, a major reason for the attention focused on the bill is that many believe it is the fruit of American evangelical homophobia.

Shah claims the bill was “stopped in its tracks” due to opposition from “virtually all of Uganda’s major political and religious leaders.” There are two fact problems here. One, the bill was not stopped and two, bill was not opposed by all of Uganda’s political and religious leaders.

As I have documented, the bill is still alive and may be considered before the end of this Parliamentary session in May. While the committee chair, Stephen Tashobya has expressed some uncertainty about the fate of the bill, he has refused to say that the bill is dead.

Shah says “virtually all” religious and political leaders were repelled by the bill. This is about as uninformed as statement as an observer could make. Going back to April 29, 2009, David Bahati asked the Ugandan Parliament for permission to introduce his private member’s bill. According to the minutes of Parliament, his request was approved without substantial concerns.

At the time, in the gallery were several religious and political leaders:

THE DEPUTY SPEAKER: I am aware of the matter and it is very important. I am going to give you time. There is a matter he wants to raise concerning the community and I am going to give him time. Let us have that motion quickly, get rid of it and get back to the statement. Afterwards we can stay here till midnight and talk about East Africa and all the other things. I am appealing to you.

Let us hear from hon. Bahati. In connection with the motion he is moving, we have in the gallery Apostle Julius Peter Oyet, Vice-President of the Born Again Federation; Pastor Dr Martin Sempa of the Family Policy Centre; Stephen Langa, Family Life Network; hon. Godfrey Nyakaana; the Mayor of Kampala City Council; Julius, a young boy who was sodomised, and his mother. His story has been in the press. They are all here in the gallery. Please, let us deal with them so that they can leave. There is also George Oundo who came out to speak against homosexuality. Please, let us balance the public good and our good since all of them are important. We shall do them all very quickly. Hon. Bahati. 

6.24

MR DAVID BAHATI (NRM, Ndorwa County West, Kabale): Thank you, Madam Speaker, for the opportunity to move a motion seeking leave of Parliament to introduce a Private Members Bill moved under Rule 47, 105 and 106. Some of the few copies available are going to be circulated in a minute. I beg the indulgence of Members that I move on.

The only way Mr. Shah can be correct is to dismiss Martin Ssempa, Julius Oyet, and Stephen Langa as religious leaders. How about the mayor of Kampala’s city council? Reading the minutes, it is abundantly clear that no MP offers more than procedural concerns. The Parliament had copies of the bill and gave Bahati permission to introduce it.

When Bahati did finally table his bill on October, religious leaders came out in support. For instance, Martin Ssempa told me that the bill had his ”total support” and that he hoped it would pass. The day after I posted Ssempa’s views, Minister of Ethics and Integrity, Nsaba Buturo publicly expressed support for the bill in an article on the official government media website with the headline, “Government Vows to Fight Homosexuality.”

In late October, 2009, Parliament’s Presidential Affiars committee held hearings on the bill and included religious leaders. Those leaders objected to the death penalty but did not call for the removal of the bill or a reduction in the sentence of life in prison:

Homosexuals should not be killed but instead imprisoned for life, religious leaders have suggested.

Making their input in the Anti-homosexuality Bill 2009 yesterday, the clergy said the clause on death as a penalty for homosexuality be scrapped.

“If you kill the people, to whom will the message go? We need to have imprisonment for life if the person is still alive,” said Rev. Canon Aaron Mwesigye, the provincial secretary of the Church of Uganda.

These religious leaders did not like the death penalty but were not repelled by the rest of the bill. Then in December, a coalition of religious leaders (including the Roman Catholic church) led by Martin Ssempa expressed strong support for the bill.

The first recorded opposition to the bill by President Museveni was on December 18, 2009 in a AFP report. According to that article, Museveni assured the US of his opposition.

The top US diplomat for African affairs said the bill, if passed, would not only violate human rights, it would also “undermine the fight” against HIV and AIDS by stigmatizing homosexual acts.

He added that it is premature for US government to consider withdrawing aid from Uganda because Museveni himself said he does not support the legislation and the battle is not yet lost.

However, Museveni did not address the bill directly until January, 2010 when he spoke to his party conference about the bill. Museveni did not express direct opposition but advise a dialogue, saying

So therefore, I strongly advise you that you agree to the idea that the cabinet sit down with Bahati, a subcommittee, and see how best to handle this issue because…because… it is a foreign policy issue. It’s not just our internal politics. It is a foreign policy issue, and we must handle it in a way which does not compromise our principles, but also takes into account our foreign policy interests.

This statement is not opposition but rather direction to his party about how he wanted to handle deliberation on the bill.

Then, on March 15, 2010, a small cabinet committee headed by Minister of Local Government, Adolf Mwesige issued a report critical of the AHB, saying it was redundant and that it might have been introduced illegally. However, the committee recommended keeping some of the good portions of the bill, namely the provisions on penalizing promotion of homosexuality.

I have just scratched the surface of this topic. There is so much evidence of the support for the bill from many religious and political leaders over the life of this bill that it is stunning that anyone could seriously claim otherwise. Shah paints a picture that is just untrue. Reading this article, one would come to the conclusion that the AHB was stopped by Ugandan opposition. One might think that Bahati’s bill was widely criticized by religious and political leaders.  Although some concerns have been raised, opposition to the death penalty is not the same as being repelled by the bill. The burden is on Mr. Shah to provide evidence for this narrative. I do not believe he can.

As far as I can tell, Shah’s conspiracy theory relies on demonstrating that Ugandans killed the bill. He needs to show this so that he can blame the uproar on something other than the real need to oppose an unjust proposal. Instead of finding some evangelicals involved in supporting what turned out to be a draconian bill, the whole reason Uganda is in focus is because the left loves to bash evangelicals. If only.

Another fact Shah has to ignore to make his case is the existence of a strong reaction from evangelicals around the world to the Ugandan proposal. Opposition to the AHB has not come solely from the left. Readers of this blog will surely attest to that. Shah’s article is not simply misleading, it ostracizes and marginalizes the persistent and growing evangelical opposition to the AHB and criminalization of homosexuality which has grown over the last 2 years. I will return to this point in my next post.


Warren Throckmorton

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ABC News’ Kirit Radia reports: The Obama administration’s new liaison with the Libyan opposition will be diplomat Chris Stevens, who had been the number two official at the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli until it was suspended when fighting began last…



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