< /head > Colorado Coalition for Human Rights: March 2007

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

New Effort to Pass Equal Rights Amendment

From the Washington Post:

Federal and state lawmakers have launched a new drive to pass the Equal Rights Amendment, reviving a feminist goal that faltered a quarter-century ago when the measure did not gain the approval of three-quarters of the state legislatures.

The amendment, which came three states short of enactment in 1982, has been introduced in five state legislatures since January. Yesterday, House and Senate Democrats reintroduced the measure under a new name -- the Women's Equality Amendment -- and vowed to bring it to a vote in both chambers by the end of the session.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

N.Ireland's Parties Seal Power-Sharing Deal

From the Washington Post:

Northern Ireland's Catholics and Protestants agreed to a power-sharing local government Monday, following a deal struck by two political leaders who had bitterly denounced each other for decades but never held a conversation.

The new provincial government will begin on May 8 under terms agreed to by the Rev. Ian Paisley, leader of the Democratic Unionist Party, the province's largest Protestant party, and Gerry Adams, head of Sinn Fein, the largest Catholic party. Sitting side by side in an ornate dining room in Stormont, Northern Ireland's palatial parliament building, the two fierce rivals pledged cooperation in governance of a province where their followers engaged in a three-decade war that claimed more than 3,600 lives.

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Sunday, March 25, 2007

Negotiations On N. Ireland Government In Jeopardy

From the Washington Post:

Northern Ireland's rival Catholic and Protestant political parties engaged in a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations Sunday, racing against a deadline to agree to terms for a new power-sharing government or have London retain full control of the province's affairs.

The British government has given the parties until Monday to form a local government, which is seen as a critical step toward cementing peace following the more than three decades of sectarian war that ended with a cease-fire in 1997. But as of late Sunday, any chance of meeting the deadline appeared in serious jeopardy because the province's largest Protestant party, the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), insisted that the deadline be extended until May.

Northern Ireland Secretary Peter Hain, London's top official for the province, said Sunday that Britain would dissolve the 108-member local assembly and scrap plans for local management of day-to-day governance if no agreement were reached by Monday. He said Northern Ireland had achieved "fantastic success" in efforts toward creating a peaceful and prosperous society and warned, "It would be a great tragedy if the politicians managed to blow that success out of the water."

But in an interview with the BBC, Hain also left open the possibility that London would consider extending the deadline if the DUP and Sinn Fein, the province's largest Catholic party, reached an alternative agreement on a power-sharing deal. Hain said any such plan would have to include a specific date for when the parties could agree to begin working together.

"If there's another way forward that has certainty about it, of course I'm not going to turn my back on it," he said.

Hain also said it was "a sign of tremendous progress" that the DUP's leadership said Saturday that it would participate in a power-sharing government if the deadline were delayed six weeks, until May. In a statement made public Sunday, the party said a joint Catholic-Protestant government could make a "meaningful improvement in the lives of all of the people of Northern Ireland." The party also said it would "support and participate fully in a Northern Ireland executive if powers were devolved to it on an agreed date in May."

At a European Union meeting in Berlin, Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern discussed the matter with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and said the DUP's wish for a six-week delay was "not something we can live with, it is not satisfactory to us."

Creating a local assembly in which Catholics and Protestants govern together was a cornerstone of the 1998 Good Friday accord, which set out a blueprint for creating a lasting peace. The first assembly collapsed in October 2002 in a storm of mutual distrust between the rival parties. Although the body officially reconvened in May 2006, officials have been unable to come up with a plan for power-sharing between the "nationalist" Catholics, who favor reunification with the Republic of Ireland, and the "unionist" Protestants, who favor continued British rule.

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Terror Database Has Quadrupled In Four Years

From the Washington Post:

Each day, thousands of pieces of intelligence information from around the world -- field reports, captured documents, news from foreign allies and sometimes idle gossip -- arrive in a computer-filled office in McLean, where analysts feed them into the nation's central list of terrorists and terrorism suspects.

Called TIDE, for Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, the list is a storehouse for data about individuals that the intelligence community believes might harm the United States. It is the wellspring for watch lists distributed to airlines, law enforcement, border posts and U.S. consulates, created to close one of the key intelligence gaps revealed after Sept. 11, 2001: the failure of federal agencies to share what they knew about al-Qaeda operatives.

But in addressing one problem, TIDE has spawned others. Ballooning from fewer than 100,000 files in 2003 to about 435,000, the growing database threatens to overwhelm the people who manage it. "The single biggest worry that I have is long-term quality control," said Russ Travers, in charge of TIDE at the National Counterterrorism Center in McLean. "Where am I going to be, where is my successor going to be, five years down the road?"

TIDE has also created concerns about secrecy, errors and privacy. The list marks the first time foreigners and U.S. citizens are combined in an intelligence database. The bar for inclusion is low, and once someone is on the list, it is virtually impossible to get off it. At any stage, the process can lead to "horror stories" of mixed-up names and unconfirmed information, Travers acknowledged.

The watch lists fed by TIDE, used to monitor everyone entering the country or having even a casual encounter with federal, state and local law enforcement, have a higher bar. But they have become a source of irritation -- and potentially more serious consequences -- for many U.S. citizens and visitors.

In 2004 and 2005, misidentifications accounted for about half of the tens of thousands of times a traveler's name triggered a watch-list hit, the Government Accountability Office reported in September. Congressional committees have criticized the process, some charging that it collects too much information about Americans, others saying it is ineffective against terrorists. Civil rights and privacy groups have called for increased transparency.

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