Newsbits


Canadian Lesbians Win Right to Adopt Children

Four lesbian couples have been allowed to adopt children under a
ground-breaking decision by a Canadian court. Ontario court Judge
David Nevins granted adoption orders to the eight women, saying the
definition of spouse under the relevant law in Ontario was
discriminatory and violated Canada's charter of rights and
freedoms. Nevins ruled that the Child and Family Services Act, which
precluded gay and lesbian couples from applying to adopt, could not be
justified in a free society.  Toronto Lawyer Susan Ursel, an activist
with the Foundation for Equal Families, said that the ruling stands as
a legal precedent in Canada. [Reuter]



Violence Against Women and Hypocrisy at the U.N.

Responding to a recent news story which reported on Egypt, Indonesia,
and Iran's blocking a clause that would have mentioned marital rape in
a UN committee's resolution on violence against women, a local
rape-awareness educator noted that 'many, many states in the US also
do not consider marital rape a crime and there's no federal law on
marital rape. If the US backs a UN resolution that mentions marital
rape, they're just being hypocritical; at least those countries
[Egypt, Indonesia, and Iran] are forthright about their condoning
violence against women.'  'Most states don't even consider it rape if
the rapist lives under the same roof, whether or not they are
married.'  According to academic expert Diana Russell, 10% to 14% of
all married women in the US have been raped by their husbands. FBI
statistics based on reported incidents show that 16 rapes are
attempted and 10 women are raped every hour; it is estimated that only
5 to 20% of all rapes are reported. [Alternative News Collective]



Redefining Poverty

The federal government's definition for poverty is currently
misleading and should be based on disposable income, not income before
taxes, according to a National Academy of Sciences report issued last
week. The new proposal would add the value of such benefits as food
stamps, school lunches and public housing when considering an
individual's income. But it would subtract taxes, child support
payments, medical costs, health insurance premiums and some
work-related expenses. Under the proposed new measure, people in
working families would account for 59% of the poor, while they account
for 51 percent under the current system. [AP]



Clinton Approves Welfare Restrictions

The Clinton administration last week gave Delaware permission to
toughen its welfare rules. The new program would take most welfare
recipients off cash aid programs after two years and cap benefits to
women who have additional children while on welfare. In addition,
women will be required to identify the father of their children to
receive child care assistance. The plan is the latest in a series of
state efforts to reshape the welfare system radically by limiting
aid. Massachusetts recently adopted similar measures, described by
Governor Weld as 'the toughest welfare reform program in the nation.'
Governor Weld held a fund-raiser Sunday for Republican presidential
hopeful Pete Wilson who is currently Governor of California. Pete
Wilson recently won re-election on what is widely recognized as a
xenophobic and anti-poor political platform coined as 'California Uber
Alles' by human rights advocates. [Reuter]



U.S. Peddles Weapons to Taiwan

Taiwan has taken delivery of its first batch of U.S.-made M60A3 tanks
as part of a deal struck last year. The 20 vehicles are the first
consignment from 160 tanks, which are more than 10 years old and were
bought by Taiwan for T$15 million (US$590,000) each last August.
	An unidentified military source told the United Daily News
that Taiwan wants to have a total of 850 tanks and the target has yet
to be met. Officials could not be reached for comment.
	Taiwan has agreed to buy 150 F-16 jet fighters from the United
States and has signed a Taiwan $15 billion (US$590 million) deal with
Raytheon Co of the United States to buy Patriot air defense missiles.
	The US administration has concurrently proposed an increase in
military spending to guard against the increasing technological
sophistication of Third World countries. [Reuter]



17 Kurdish Guerrillas Killed

US backed Turkish security forces killed 17 Kurdish rebels in the
southeastern province of Diyarbakir on Tuesday, security officials
said. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) guerrillas died in a clash in
Hani district in the mountainous north of the province. The officials
gave no figure for security forces' casualties. Turkey last week ended
a six-week incursion against Kurds in northern Iraq. About 35,000
troops were involved at the height of the Iraq operation. More than
15,000 people have been killed in Turkish government repression of
pro-independance Kurds, which dates back before the Gulf War. [Reuter]



Call Your Senator FREE at Exxon's Expense!

	Here's an 800 number that actually works and lets you call
Congress.  It was set up by some big business group that wants to
destroy regulations on the environment.  But anyone can use it to call
their senator and urge them not to cut Pell Grants and the Student
Loan Interest Exemption.  PASS THIS ON!!  The number is 800-444-1555.
	The only catch is that they ask you to say your first name and
last name and address, separated by the 'pound' key on your touch tone
phone.  No problem.
	Just say "Abbie (#) Hoffman (#).' and then enter an address
where you can see what kind of propaganda these people want to send
you.  Then they connect you to your Senator.
	The service is intended to promote Sen. Dole's (R-industry)
bill S. 343, which will gut environmental protections. But people just
used it to register their opinion to Senators Helms and Faircloth that
'the bill goes too far, protecting corporations at the expense of
ordinary citizens,' and urging them to vote against it and come up
with something 'better' (a frightening thought if they really try to
do it).
	The toll-free number will likely be turned off once S343 is
voted on, so use it now and use it often.  The phone bill will go to
your 'friends' at the Alliance for Reasonable Regulation, working to
increase corporation's freedoms to poison everyone.
	Sponsors include the Chemical Manufacturers Association, the
National Association of Manufacturers and the Grocery Manufacturers
Association.
	This newsbit made possible by information from Mark Robinowitz.



Australia Begins Deporting Boat People to China

As part of its tough new stand against Asian asylum seekers, Australia
on May 9 began repatriating some 800 Sino-Vietnamese boatpeople to
China. A group of 53 asylum seekers who arrived in Australia in late
1994 were flown back to southern China under an agreement signed with
the Chinese government in January guaranteeing their protection. There
are a further 743 Sino-Vietnamese boatpeople held in detention centres
along Australia's northern coastline who are expected to be deported
in coming months.
	"The first removals went very smoothly, there were no problems
at all,' immigration department spokesman Steve Ingram said on
Tuesday. "We are still going through an identification process for the
remaining people. As to how many would be covered by this memorandum
of understanding... we believe it would probably be the overwhelming
majority,' Ingram told reporters.
	Australia and China signed a memorandum of understanding in
January ensuring protecton for repatriated Sino-Vietnamese refugees
and their families. The boat people initially fled Vietnam for China
in late 1970s after the breakdown of Sino-Vietnamese relations. A
total of 1,124 people have arrived in northern Australia in small
wooden boats since the start of 1994, most from the southern Chinese
port city of Beihai. [Reuter]



Marchers Prepare for Cambodian Peace Walk

More than 50 international peace marchers crossed from Thailand to the
Cambodian town of Poipet on May 7 to join about 500 Cambodian monks
and nuns on a peace march through their troubled country.
	The fourth Dhammayeitra Pilgrimage for Peace is scheduled to
start on Monday despite a spate of attacks by Khmer Rouge guerrillas
in the area that have left 15 people dead and more than 30 wounded in
the last 10 days.
	"We would like to pray to stop the war and have peace and
reconciliation in Cambodia,' Buddhist monk Maha Ghosananda said in a
welcome speech for the international marchers. Last year one monk and
one nun were killed on a similar peace march when the procession was
caught in crossfire between Khmer Rouge guerrillas and government
troops in northwestern Cambodia.
	The marchers arriving here on Sunday come as part of an
"Interfaith pilgrimage for peace and life' which started at the former
Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, Poland, and is scheduled to end in
Hiroshima in August on the 50th anniversary of the dropping of the
atomic bomb there.
	An estimated one million Cambodians died during the
three-and-a-half years the Khmer Rouge held power after the radical
guerrillas defeated an unpopular U.S.-installed government in 1975.
The the Khmer's ascendance to power was preceded by the US saturation
bombing of Cambodian and Laotian peasants, at a rate of 27,000 sorties
(1 sortie = 100 B-52's) per month. [Reuter]



Berkeley anti-Panhandling Law Axed

A federal judge has ruled it is unconstitutional for the city of
Berkeley to ban people from sitting on the sidewalk and solicitors
from asking for money in certain public areas. Voters last year
approved an ordinance restricting panhandling, and another measure
that forbids sitting on a public sidewalk within six feet of a
building. In a ruling made public last Monday, US District Judge
Claudia Wilken said the ordinances violate freedom of speech and
expression. The act of sitting on the sidewalk, next to an empty cup
or receptacle for money, sends a message 'that the solicitor is in
serious need and may be too weak, ill, or defeated by circumstance to
stand,' Wilken wrote. Several other cities have passed laws either
restricting or banning panhandling, including Chicago, Reno, Seattle,
and, yes, Cambridge. [AP]



Timorese Youths Sentenced to Prison for Demonstrating

Five East Timorese youths have been sentenced to prison for taking
part in a pro-independence demonstration. Jose Pinto, Pedro da Costa,
Alex Sandiko da Costa, Carlos Bernes Bareto and Paulo Jose Amaral were
found guilty Tuesday of publicly expressing hatred and hostility and
insulting the Indonesian government. The five were among 13 people
arrested following a Jan. 9 demonstration at Dili's East Timor
University. The others also face trial.
	At the protest, which coincided with U.N.-sponsored talks on
East Timor between Indonesia and Portugal in Geneva, the demonstrators
unfurled banners and chanted anti-Indonesia slogans. Bareto, 24, and
Amaral, 23, were sentenced to 30 months each. Pinto, 22, and the two
da Costas, 18 and 20, who rejected defense lawyers, were sentenced to
26 months.
	``Since East Timor has become part of Indonesia, there is no
reason for the suspects to deny the legitimacy of law applied in the
country,'' said District Court Judge Agustinus L. Rungngu, who led a
three-member judicial team. ``You have the right to seek presidential
clemency in case you are not satisfied with the verdicts,'' he added.
	Indonesia invaded East Timor in 1975, 24 hours after an
official state visit by President Nixon, killing a third (200,000) of
its inhabitants during the invasion and its aftermath.  The US
continues to support the Indonesian military in violation of US
law. [AP and the Alternative News Collective]


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