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Saturday, June 23, 2007

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Don't veto, don't obey

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Don't veto, don't obey
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 22, 2007

President George W. Bush is notorious for issuing statements taking exception to hundreds of bills as he signs them. This week, we learned that in a shocking number of cases, the Bush administration has refused to enact those laws. Congress should use its powers to insist that its laws are obeyed.

The Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan arm of Congress, investigated 19 provisions to which Bush objected. It found that six of them, or nearly a third, have not been implemented as the law requires. The GAO did not investigate some of the most infamous signing statements, like the challenge to a ban on torture. But the ones it looked into are disturbing enough.

In one case, Congress directed the Pentagon in its 2007 budget request to account separately for the cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was a perfectly appropriate request, but Bush issued a signing statement critical of the rule, and the Pentagon withheld the information. In two other cases, federal agencies ignored laws requiring them to get permission from congressional committees before taking particular actions.

The Bush administration's disregard for these laws is part of its extraordinary theory of the "unitary executive." The administration asserts that the president has the sole authority to supervise and direct executive officers, and that Congress and the courts cannot interfere. This theory has no support in American history or the Constitution, and is a formula for autocracy.

Other presidents have issued signing statements, but none has issued as many, or done so with the same contemptuous attitude toward the co-equal branches of government. The GAO report makes clear that Bush's signing statements were virtually written instructions to executive agencies to flout acts of Congress.

Congress has a variety of methods available to make the administration obey the law, including the power of the purse. When the Bush presidency ends, there will be a great deal of damage to repair, much of it to the Constitutional system. Congress should begin now to restore the principle that even the president and those who work for him are not above the law.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The China puzzle

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The China puzzle
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 22, 2007

The "Chinese miracle" has been the biggest economic story for several years now, a tale of a nation rising from the ashes of a Stalinist command economy to become the world's premier trading partner. But China reminds us with distressing regularity that the progress has been selective.

The latest reminders are reports of slave labor in Chinese factories and the discovery that some of the popular Thomas the Tank Engine toys manufactured in China have lead in their paint. Before that, it was the contaminated dog food, the stubborn support of Sudan for its oil, the regular reports of human rights abuses, the huge economic disparities between city and country, the controls on the media.

Why rehearse these faults now? Because governments and companies tend to become so seduced or intimidated by China that they won't hold it to high standards of human rights and business ethics.

Western companies have been so anxious to transfer manufacturing to China's cheap factories that they have been happy to close their eyes to what else goes on over there - just as Google or Yahoo were happy to assist in repressing information to get a toe into the Chinese market, or as Washington and other Western capitals compete in trying to please visiting Chinese leaders. The ultimate source of China's failings is a Communist Party that has jettisoned worn-out Marxist economic theories but clings to its authoritarian rule on all other fronts, creating a dangerously unbalanced behemoth.

This is not an argument against trading with or investing in China. Globalization can be a potent force for democratization. But human rights violations cannot be relegated to untouchable internal affairs. Just as the world has not hesitated, rightly, to lambaste the United States over issues like Guantánamo Bay, it should not be shy about systematic and widespread violations of human rights in China.

China's unreformed political system fosters corruption and an undue focus on short-term economic gains, which will lead to more internal inequities and injustices and more tainted exports. A politically reformed China would be an even more formidable economic power, but a less destructive one.

25 Afghan civilians die in NATO crossfire

25 Afghan civilians die in NATO crossfire
By Barry Bearak and Taimoor Shah
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 22, 2007

KABUL: At least 25 civilians, including nine women, three babies and an elderly village mullah, were killed in an airstrike Friday when they were caught in a battle between Taliban and NATO forces in southern Afghanistan, the police chief of Helmand Province said.

The scenario was a grimly familiar one: The Taliban launched an attack under the cover of darkness and then retreated into the village of Kunjakak in the Grishk district of Helmand. NATO commanders ordered air support. The result was devastating.

A NATO spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Mike Smith, reported in a written statement that perhaps 30 Taliban insurgents had been killed in the airstrike, adding that while an unknown number of innocents may have lost their lives, the fault was entirely the enemy's: "In choosing to conduct such attacks in this location at this time, the risk to civilians was probably deliberate. It is this irresponsible action that may have led to casualties."

The statement itself was a preemptive strike. Afghans are not only angry with the Taliban, whose tactics include suicide attacks and concealed roadside bombs. They are upset by what they see as the sometimes-indiscriminate death toll of allied bombs and rockets.

That concern has been echoed by foreign charities working in the country. Earlier this week, Acbar - a coalition of Afghan and international relief agencies such as CARE, Save the Children and Mercy Corps - criticized the United States and its allies, saying that hasty military action led to a minimum of 230 civilian deaths in 2007.

"Members of Acbar recognize the challenges faced by soldiers in a battlefield environment but military forces must at all times respect international humanitarian and human rights law," the organization said. "Notably, forces must distinguish between civilians and combatants and use force strictly in proportion with legitimate military objectives."

Acbar's critique went beyond airstrikes. It alleged 14 instances where civilians were "killed for simply driving or walking too closely" to foreign soldiers. It mentioned "abusive raids and searches of Afghan homes" that have sapped support for both international aid workers and the multinational military presence.

Little is yet known about the fighting in Kunjakak. The Helmand Province police chief, Muhammad Hussein Andiwal, said the battle started Thursday night.

The Taliban used at least two civilian compounds in their efforts to escape, he added.

These are brutal days in Afghanistan. The militants have launched several suicide attacks, including the bombing Sunday of a police bus in Kabul that killed 24 recruits. On Monday, seven children were killed in a religious compound during an airstrike by the U.S.-led coalition in the eastern province of Paktika. There were reports that dozens of civilians have died during days of fighting in the Chora district of Uruzgan in the south.

"This past week has been very tough," said Christopher Alexander, deputy special representative of the UN secretary general in Afghanistan. "I've seen the reports. In the Chora incident, the Taliban literally slit the throats of men, women and children and burned the bodies." He added that there was also close air support by NATO that killed civilians.

Various groups here in Kabul keep a running tally of casualties; there is wide variation in numbers. According to Alexander, during the past two years, the number of wartime dead has risen fourfold. So far this year, the United Nations has counted about 2,800 casualties, which is 20 to 30 percent above the pace of 2006. Roughly one-quarter of the deaths are civilians, with the vast majority killed by the Taliban, he said.

U.S. weighs speedier closing of jail in Cuba

U.S. weighs speedier closing of jail in Cuba
By David Stout
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 22, 2007

WASHINGTON: President George W. Bush's top advisers are considering a recommendation to speed up the process of closing the American detention unit for suspected terrorists at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, according to administration officials familiar with the deliberations.

The recommendation comes from several deputies of cabinet members and reflects a growing belief that the continued use of the detention facility is tainting the image of the United States and hampering its campaign against terrorism, the officials said.

Bush has said that he wanted to shut down the camp at Guantánamo, which holds about 400 prisoners, including more than a dozen suspected Al Qaeda leaders, but that it was not possible to do so in the near future.

The cabinet deputies are recommending that the process be accelerated, and at a meeting scheduled for Friday they were expected to urge a White House announcement within weeks, according to the officials dealing with the issue.

The meeting was canceled as a result of a report Thursday by The Associated Press about it, said officials who knew about the session.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley and their top deputies were among those scheduled to attend.

[On Friday, The Associated Press reported that the United States was helping to build a prison in Afghanistan to take some prisoners now held at Guantánamo. But the White House said Friday that it was not meant as an alternative to the facility in Cuba, The AP added.]

Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said Friday that there was no deadline for closing down the facility. "Everybody is working toward the goal to meet what the president has asked them to do, which is to do it as soon as possible," she said.

The abrupt cancellation of the meeting prompted a statement Thursday evening by Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council.

"The president has long expressed a desire to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility and to do so in a responsible way," Johndroe said. "A number of steps need to take place before that can happen such as setting up military commissions and the repatriation to their home countries of detainees who have been cleared for release. These and other steps have not been completed. No decisions on the future of Guantánamo Bay are imminent and there will not be a White House meeting tomorrow."

Guantánamo was chosen for the prison camp in the first place because, while it is an American military installation, it is not on American soil and thus not as subject to American law as are prisons within the United States.

Transferring the prisoners from Guantánamo would raise a host of legal, diplomatic and human rights questions, depending on whether they were sent to their home countries, other countries or to military prisons in the United States.

But the continued confinement of the prisoners, some from countries that are allies of the United States, has sparked intense criticism of the United States.

The Guantánamo detainees do not fit into easy categories. They are not prisoners of war in the traditional sense, in that they were not uniformed soldiers of countries at war with the United States. And only some of them have been charged with crimes.

Most of the prisoners are classified as "enemy combatants." Among them is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who the U.S. government says was the mastermind of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Administration hard-liners have opposed housing the prisoners in the United States, at least in part because they would presumably have legal rights and thus be able to challenge the conditions of their confinement and interrogations.

Since the Guantánamo detention unit was opened in 2002, Bush has said that the suspects there do not deserve all the legal rights enjoyed by American citizens, and that to grant them would hamper the search for intelligence that could help capture other terrorists and perhaps prevent a repeat of the Sept. 11 attacks.

But the administration has suffered repeated setbacks in American courts, which have held that the prisoners should at least be able to challenge the basis for their incarceration.

Congress has responded with legislation to limit the detainees' ability to go to court.

Lawyers for some prisoners have criticized the military tribunals established at Guantánamo, asserting that they are designed not to provide fair trials but to reinforce the impression that the Americans rounded up the right people.

The momentum for closing the camp has come in part from Gates, who has argued repeatedly that it has acquired such a shabby image abroad that legal proceedings involving the suspects would not be respected around the world.

Gates and Rice agree on the issue, in sharp contrast to Gates's predecessor, Donald Rumsfeld, who opposed shutting down the camp.

One sign of Gates's influence was his success in killing plans to build a $100 million courthouse complex at Guantánamo on the grounds that its construction would signal American intention to keep prisoners there for a long time. A much more modest, less costly facility was approved.

The move toward closing Guantánamo may also have picked up speed because Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who opposes shutting down the camp, has lost influence within the administration because of the continuing calls for his resignation over the firings of several United States prosecutors and other turmoil within the Justice Department.

Vice President Dick Cheney also opposes closing the camp and has been silent for some time about the issue.

Perino, the White House spokeswoman, noted Friday that the United States planned to release about 80 of the detainees soon.

"America does not have any intention of being the world's jailer," she said.

Helene Cooper, Thom Shanker and David E. Sanger contributed reporting for this article.

A mystery in Beijing: Who runs the military?

A mystery in Beijing: Who runs the military?
By David Lague
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: June 22, 2007

BEIJING: As China converts its growing economic power into military muscle, a lack of transparency and a habit of secrecy pose formidable challenges in assessing the country's long-term ambitions, according to defense experts.

For foreign governments and analysts monitoring the Chinese military, one of the biggest mysteries is who is actually in charge.

Nominally, President Hu Jintao, who is also chairman of the Central Military Commission, the top military command body, is head of the armed forces, but there is considerable doubt among experts about the extent of the authority that he and his fellow civilian leaders exert over the 2.3 million-strong People's Liberation Army.

"I think Hu Jintao is still facing some challenges from top generals," said Philip Yang, an expert on the Chinese military and a professor of international relations at the National Taiwan University. "Especially those with their own agenda from the different services and others with their own agenda and perceptions about changes in the outside world, particularly in East Asia."

For China's neighbors and regional military powers, including the United States, this lack of knowledge about China's military decision-making is frustrating attempts to understand a buildup that could shift the balance of power in Asia.

Some of China's broad goals are clear from military publications, the speeches of senior leaders and the type and numbers of new weapons deployed.

The army's primary mission remains preserving the Communist Party's monopoly on power and protecting senior leaders.

In addition to defending Chinese territory, most Chinese and foreign analysts agree that Beijing aims to build a force capable of enforcing its claim of sovereignty over Taiwan.

But China's current thinking about when force is justified or what perceived threats are driving its accumulation of firepower remains unclear for most foreign governments and analysts.

Some foreign military analysts believe that there is now considerable debate under way in the Chinese military about the role of pre-emptive force in some circumstances including the use of nuclear weapons.

The Bush administration has repeatedly complained about this lack of transparency and called for increased military exchanges with Beijing.

"The outside world has limited knowledge of the motivations, decision making and key capabilities supporting China's military modernization," the Pentagon said in its annual report on China's military power released late last month. "China's leaders have yet to explain adequately the purposes or desired end-states of the PLA's expanding military capabilities."

Senior Chinese officials reject suggestions that a stronger army poses a threat to regional stability and insist that defense spending is strictly tailored to the country's needs.

Some influential Chinese analysts say that the PLA has made considerable strides in recent years in explaining its doctrine and spending plans, and they expect this trend to continue.

But they argue that Washington's military support for Taiwan makes it impossible for China to reveal more about its strategic thinking and force structure.

"We have to keep certain secrets in order to have a war-fighting capability," said Shen Dingli, a security expert at Fudan University in Shanghai. "We can't let Taiwan and the U.S. know how we are going to defeat them if the U.S. decides to send forces to intervene in a conflict over Taiwan."

Doubts about the chain of command in China were heightened in the aftermath of the PLA's successful test of an antisatellite missile on Jan. 11 when most analysts concluded that top officials from the Foreign Ministry and civilian bureaucracy were clearly in the dark about the military's plan to shoot down an obsolete weather satellite.

Despite widespread protest from the international community, it took almost two weeks before the Foreign Ministry confirmed the test.

Other analysts point to an incident in October when one of China's newest conventional submarines approached the U.S. aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and its battle group in international waters off Okinawa and was only detected when it surfaced near the American ships.

U.S. officials played down the incident, but some experts questioned whether China's civilian leadership would have sanctioned what could be seen as a highly provocative move.

For some analysts, both incidents could be interpreted as a clear demonstration for Washington of China's growing military capabilities and perhaps evidence that elements in the PLA leadership were less concerned about the diplomatic consequences than their civilian counterparts.

There is also evidence that some military officers enjoy far more leeway for criticizing or contradicting official policy in a country where dissent remains tightly controlled.

Major General Zhu Chenghu escaped serious censure, according to Chinese officials, after he said in July 2005 that China would respond with nuclear weapons if the United States intervened in a conflict over Taiwan.

Amid an international outcry over Zhu's remarks, top civilian bureaucrats were extremely reluctant to criticize him or even comment on his views.

Tolerance has also been extended to another senior officer and influential thinker, Lieutenant General Liu Yazhou, who has publicly called for political reform in China, a move that would be dangerous for most senior Chinese officials.

To some observers, it is to be expected that Hu lacks the authority that revolutionary leaders like Mao Zedong and Deng Xiaoping exerted over the military after establishing their credentials in resisting the Japanese invasion and then winning the civil war.

"Since Deng Xiaoping, no one has had that kind of control or legitimacy," said Yang.

When Hu succeeded former President Jiang Zemin in 2003 as leader of the state, party and military, most analysts speculated that it would take time for him to match his predecessors' hold over the armed forces and begin building his own power base.

There were signs that Hu is attempting to assert his authority through the promotion of loyal senior officers, a crackdown on corruption in the armed forces and the tough disciplinary action against senior officers held responsible for two accidents last year in which about 90 troops were killed.

Hu is also expected to use the 17th party congress expected to be held in October to promote more of his supporters in the military to top posts.

From speeches and reports in military newspapers and magazines, it also appears that Hu has been attempting to demonstrate his credentials as a military leader and thinker.

In these speeches, Hu has exhorted the military to accelerate preparations to fight high technology wars in an age where the use of information is crucial on the battlefield.

Analysts say that his references in these speeches to the military and political thinking of former leaders Mao, Deng and Jiang is an attempt to portray himself as part of a tradition that has directed the modernization of the PLA from a mass, peasant army to a modern, high technology force.

Under Hu, the military has continued to enjoy double-digit annual budget increases to pay for increasingly sophisticated weapons and improved lifestyles for senior officers.

Despite his background as an engineer and civilian bureaucrat, Hu wears an olive green style military tunic - although without badges or insignia - when meeting senior officers or attending parades and functions.

In what is seen by some analysts as an attempt to consolidate his control, Hu has ruled out suggestions from some younger officers that the Chinese military should become a fully professional force that owes its loyalty to the state rather than the ruling party.

In a speech to military delegates to China's annual parliamentary session in March, Hu called for tighter political discipline.

This view was reinforced in an April edition of the party magazine, Qiushi (Seeking Truth), where General Zhao Keming, the political commissar of China's National Defense University, wrote that the military must resist pressure to distance itself from politics.

"We must uphold the Chinese Communist Party's absolute leadership over the army from beginning to end," Zhao wrote.

Macy's stock jumps on rumors of buyout - Harley-Davidson also subject of speculation

Macy's stock jumps on rumors of buyout - Harley-Davidson also subject of speculation
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and Bloomberg News
Published June 23, 2007

NEW YORK -- Shares and stock-option volume of Macy's Inc. and Harley-Davidson Inc. surged Friday on speculation the companies could be bought.

Macy's stock climbed $2.56, or 6.6 percent, to $41.43, on the New York Stock Exchange. It was the largest jump since November 2005.

"There is talk of a private-equity buyout this weekend" at $52 a share by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., said Marc Weinberger, head trader at W. Quillen Securities in New York. At that price, the company would be valued at $23.9 billion.

Jim Sluzewski, a spokesman for the Cincinnati-based department-store chain, said the company doesn't comment on market speculation. David Lilly, a spokesman for KKR, and Goldman Sachs spokesman Michael DuVally declined to comment. The former Federated Department Stores Inc. changed its name to Macy's this month.

Trading in call options to buy the company's shares surged to a record 121,312, more than 35 times the 20-day average. The price of the most actively traded contracts, July calls at $42.50, jumped sixteenfold, to $1.70 from 10 cents. Each call option gives investors the right, without the obligation, to buy 100 shares of a company at a specified price by a given date.

Trading in options to buy shares of Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson also jumped to a record on speculation that the nation's biggest motorcycle-maker might be acquired by the world's biggest, Honda Motor Co.

A combined firm would command as much as 60 percent of the U.S. motorcycle market, said Tim Conder, an analyst with A.G. Edwards & Sons in St. Louis.

The number of call options traded jumped to 49,848. Volume hadn't exceeded 25,000 contracts since October 2005. The most active call, which gives investors the right to purchase Harley-Davidson shares at $70 by July 21, rose sevenfold in price, to 35 cents.

"There are rumors of a potential takeover," said Frederic Ruffy, an options analyst at Redwood City, Calif.-based "Investors think it's credible. They expect an announcement in the short term and a big move in the stock."

Shares of Harley-Davidson increased the most since October, adding $2.43, or 4 percent, to $62.55, on the NYSE after touching $63.99 earlier in the session.

Conder called the speculation "false" because an offer from Honda might not survive Federal Trade Commission scrutiny and a merger might "alienate U.S. customers."

Bob Klein, a spokesman for Harley-Davidson, declined to comment. A Honda spokesman didn't return a call.

Traders "are looking to get as much leverage as possible" by buying contracts that expire next month at a strike price that's more than $7 higher than Harley-Davidson's share price, Ruffy said.

"That's a sign they expect something soon because it would take a major announcement to push the stock up to $70," he said.

Worries weigh on markets - Investors focus on subprime loans, tax legislation

Worries weigh on markets - Investors focus on subprime loans, tax legislation
By William Sluis, Tribune staff reporter. Tribune news services contributed to this report
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2007

A combination of worries centering on subprime mortgages and legislation in Washington that could restrict corporate dealmaking staggered traders on Wall Street Friday, sending stocks steeply lower.

The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 185.58 points, or 1.4 percent, to cap off the worst week for investors since March. The index closed at 13,360.26.

Broader stock indicators also dropped sharply. The Standard & Poor's 500 index slid 19.63, or 1.3 percent, to 1502.56, and the Nasdaq composite index sagged 28.00, or 1.1 percent, to 2588.96.

The week was a rough one on the stock market. The Dow and the S&P 500 lost 2 percent, and the Nasdaq slid 1.4 percent.

"It was an extremely fluky day, with raw emotions taking over," said Chicago investment manager William Hummer.

One of the primary concerns centered on subprime mortgages, thousands of which are going into default. Such defaults prompted efforts by Bear Stearns Cos. to prevent one of its hedge funds from collapsing.

Bear Stearns said it will assume $3.2 billion of loans to the fund. That fueled concern of widespread markdowns of similar investments held by banks, pension funds and other investors. The funds hold large numbers of securities related to subprime mortgages.

Adding to the unease among traders was the prospect that lawmakers in Washington might toughen tax laws to create a less favorable climate for leveraged corporate buyouts.

"The sell-off was catalyzed by events in Washington," said mutual fund manager Henry Van der Eb. "The mass psychology of the stock market was changed by the possibility that the tax laws would change. That would mean the privatization boom is starting to dissipate."

He said that while the events involving the hedge funds "serve as a real black eye for Bear Stearns," it appears that the problems with subprime mortgages are contained, for now.

"But longer term, there will be some ripple effects, and that could prolong the housing slowdown," said Van der Eb, of the Gamco Mathers Fund in Bannockburn.

Such effects would undoubtedly mean higher mortgage rates for home buyers, he said.

The day's events "can't be blamed on higher interest rates because a rally in Treasuries sent bond yields lower," said Hummer, of Wayne Hummer & Co.

The yield on the bellwether 10-year Treasury note ended at 5.14 percent, down from 5.20 percent Thursday.

One concern, however, was that oil prices moved closer to $70 a barrel, Hummer said. A barrel of light, sweet crude for August delivery rose 49 cents, to $69.14, on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Policymakers of the Federal Reserve will meet Wednesday and Thursday, and though they aren't expected to take any action on interest rates, they are expected to offer comments about inflation.

Any hint that they plan to tighten credit later this year will set off alarms on Wall Street, where there already are concerns about an implosion of the huge debts run up in the mortgage market and in highly leveraged corporate transactions.

"The economy, [excluding] housing, seems to be showing strong signs of recovery, which will prevent the Fed from lowering rates anytime soon," economist Eugenio Aleman of Wells Fargo & Co. said in a report for clients.

Friday's session began with a focus on the initial public offering of a stake in the management arm of Blackstone Group LP.

The most talked-about IPO since Google Inc. went public saw the buyout shop's stock open well above the $31 a share at which it had been priced late Thursday.

The stock finished the day up $4.06, or 13.1 percent, at $35.06. Enthusiasm over the Blackstone offering, however, wasn't broad enough to give the markets a boost.

"Nobody wants to go into the weekend overextended. Once you see start to see momentum push it down, it's hard to stay in the way of it," said Bill Schultz, chief investment officer at McQueen, Ball & Associates.

Losses in the mortgage market might be the "tip of the iceberg," as borrowers fail to keep up with rising payments on billions in adjustable-rate loans in coming months, Bank of America Corp. analysts said Friday.

Homeowners with about $515 billion on adjustable-rate mortgages will pay more this year, and an additional $680 billion worth of mortgages will reset next year, analysts led by Robert Lacoursiere wrote in a research note. More than 70 percent of the total was granted to subprime borrowers.

"When you see a hiccup like this, it's a reminder that there are a lot of potential problems down the road," Jack Kaplan at Carret Asset Management in New York said of Friday's decline. "We may not understand fully what's out there, and we're not going to know for sure until we have more time to really get a feel for what the possible implications are."


Green Bay heats up immigrant debate - City becomes one of largest in the nation to enact law targeting undocumented workers

Green Bay heats up immigrant debate - City becomes one of largest in the nation to enact law targeting undocumented workers
By Tim Jones
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2007

The business of doing business in Green Bay is changing this weekend because of a new ordinance that would let the city yank the operating licenses of employers who knowingly hire undocumented workers.

Proving that immigration reform is not simply a matter of congressional gridlock and talk-radio shouting, Wisconsin's unofficial football capital added its name this week to the growing number of local communities trying to address the issue.

"Look, had Congress done their job we wouldn't have this [ordinance] in Green Bay," Mayor Jim Schmitt said Friday. "I think at this time it's the right thing to do, given what's not happening at the federal level."

The new law, set to take effect Saturday, comes amid similar local efforts around the country, including Waukegan, Ill., where the City Council on Monday authorized giving the chief of police permission to apply to Washington for authority to enforce federal immigration laws.

Many of these efforts have spawned lawsuits or questions about enforceability. A common effect of nearly all of these laws is friction with rapidly growing Hispanic communities, such as the one in Green Bay.

Luis Bello, the CEO of La Uni-k Radio, a Spanish-language radio station in northeast Wisconsin, said most people in the Hispanic community "are pretty upset about it. They feel like they're being taken advantage of, doing jobs that most Americans aren't willing to do."

Bello added: "And now they feel targeted and afraid."

The local movement aimed at regulating immigration has generally been confined to smaller towns and cities. Hazleton, Pa., population 22,000, last year approved a law that prohibited hiring or renting to illegal immigrants. That law was challenged and is before a federal district court; a similar proposal in the Chicago suburb of Carpentersville has been delayed pending the outcome of the Hazleton case.

Last year, the mayor of the western Wisconsin town of Arcadia proposed an "illegal alien task force," designed to prevent renting to undocumented immigrants. He backed down after a public outcry.

Hispanic population growing

Green Bay, with 102,000 people, is a larger entrant into the debate. Hispanics represent a rapidly growing segment of the city's population, about 7 1/2 percent, according to the Census Bureau. As Congress wrestled with immigration reform in Washington, support for the law in Green Bay grew.

Matt Hollenbeck, who heads the mayor's Hispanic Advisory Council, said the law giving the city authority to penalize businesses is little more than a "political statement."

"There are people who believe some city official is going to be patrolling the streets to pick up undocumented workers. This doesn't do that," Hollenbeck said. "And there are a lot of folks who believe this will take care of the illegal immigration problem in Green Bay -- or the impression of a problem. And it won't do that either."

Schmitt, who is attending the U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Los Angeles, said he regrets the ill feelings that the debate has aroused.

"If there's any harassment, we'll shut it down right away. We won't allow that," Schmitt said. "We understand the city will be built on diversity; we've all got to work together. That's what this is all about."

The demographics of Northeast Wisconsin, which for generations has been overwhelmingly white, have changed in the past two decades. The city of Wausau, 90 miles to the west, opened its doors to Hmong refugees from Laos more than 25 years ago. The rapid growth of the Hmong community in Wausau spurred a backlash as the public school system struggled with an influx of students unfamiliar with English.

Doubting need for ordinance

Hollenbeck, whose council severed its ties to the mayor's office after the ordinance was approved Tuesday, said the city passed an ordinance it can't enforce to deal with a problem that doesn't exist.

"The schools are not overburdened with illegal immigrants. ... There's not a crime problem with the immigrant community. I just think it's a perception and a lot of ignorance and [City Council members] not doing their homework," he said.

City Council members said they were responding to what their constituents want. Supporters of the law say the October 2005 arrest by federal customs and immigration officers of seven Hispanic gang members helps build the case for the new law.

Green Bay Area Chamber of Commerce President Paul Jadin said there is a problem with illegal immigration. Jadin, who served for eight years as Green Bay's mayor, estimates that as many as half of the area's immigrants are undocumented.

"Given the demographics, we are certainly in need of that workforce," Jadin said.

But this is a matter for Washington, not local governments, to address, he added. "Without the cooperation with the federal government, this ordinance has no teeth."


Germany fears terror strike because of role in Afghanistan

Germany fears terror strike because of role in Afghanistan
By Mark Landler
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune and The New York Times
Published June 23, 2007

FRANKFURT, Germany -- Germany faces a heightened threat of terrorist attacks because of its military involvement in Afghanistan, security officials here said Friday. The danger, they warned, is comparable to that in the months before the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Three German residents believed to be radical Islamic militants have been arrested in Pakistan in recent days, said the Federal Criminal Police. Officials here suspect them of traveling to the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan to join terrorist training camps.

"This tells us that German interests are in danger of being attacked, for example, by suicide bombers," a spokesman for the Interior Ministry, Christian Sachs, said by telephone.

Sachs said the authorities do not have concrete evidence of a terrorist plot being planned in Germany. But the police have tightened security at the borders and are scrutinizing people traveling to and from Pakistan and Afghanistan.

German soldiers and civilians in Afghanistan face the most immediate threat, officials said, citing an attack last weekend on a convoy outside Kabul that included vehicles from the German Embassy. No one was hurt.

Authorities gave few details about the German residents arrested in Pakistan, saying two had been under surveillance while at home and were viewed as potentially dangerous.

The authorities said they feared that the detained residents might have planned to return to Germany to carry out attacks. "We are following up all leads, and therefore I don't think there is any reason to panic," the deputy interior minister, August Hanning, said in Berlin. "But I do think that increased vigilance is needed."

Hanning likened the atmosphere to that in the summer before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in the United States, "when obscure threats surfaced, which, as we know, became reality."

Several of the hijackers in that attack hatched their plot while posing as students in Hamburg.

The latest warning, which was amplified in public statements by the interior minister, Wolfgang Schaeuble, and by the head of the Federal Criminal Police, Joerg Ziercke, is likely to fan the country's debate about its military operations, which now range from Africa to Central Asia.

Germany has 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, part of the NATO force that has battled a growing Taliban insurgency.

Casting himself as reformer, Obama treads well-worn path

Casting himself as reformer, Obama treads well-worn path
By Mike Dorning
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2007

WASHINGTON -- Democrat Barack Obama claimed the mantle of reformer for his presidential campaign on Friday, pledging to impose new ethics and lobbying rules to blunt the influence of powerful business interests that he contends have fostered a "second Gilded Age" through dominance of Washington.

Speaking at a technical college in the early primary state of New Hampshire, the Illinois senator argued that undue influence of corporations has contributed to the income gap between rich and poor and has frustrated attempts to address issues such as high prescription drug costs and global warming.

"The people I've met across this country don't just want reform for reform's sake," Obama said. "They want reform that will help pay their doctor's bills, or ensure that their tax dollars are spent wisely, or put us on the path to energy independence. They want real reform and they're tired of the lobbyists standing in the way."

The reform proposals underscore a theme of discontent with Washington that has a long history in American politics and that Obama's campaign already has tapped into with the candidate's much-publicized refusal to accept campaign contributions from federal lobbyists.

Recent reformers vanquished

But even as the cause of reform has demonstrated political appeal -- the message provided powerful support for Republicans in seizing control of Congress in 1994 and Democrats in winning it back in 2006 -- it also has shown limitations in recent presidential politics.

Democrats Gary Hart in 1984, Paul Tsongas in 1992, Bill Bradley in 2000 and Republican Sen. John McCain in 2000 all faltered with presidential campaigns espousing reform. Successful presidential candidates have included reform as a component, as George W. Bush did in 2000, touting his record as governor of Texas with the slogan "Reformer with Results."

But the last presidential candidate to win on a campaign based primarily on reform was Jimmy Carter in 1976, shortly after the Watergate scandal and President Nixon's resignation.

In the current field, Obama has been the most aggressive in positioning himself as an agent of reform, and his ethics proposals bolster that identity.

The package includes a ban on gifts to executive branch officials from lobbyists. In an effort to reduce conflicts of interest in the "revolving-door" career path of many officials between government posts and lobbying jobs, presidential appointees would be barred for two years from working on regulations or contracts related to a former employer. Those who left their jobs before the end of an Obama presidency would be barred from lobbying for the duration of his term, he said.

Obama's Democratic rivals have incorporated calls for reform in their campaigns. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) offered her package of ethics reforms in April, also in New Hampshire. And former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) declared he would not accept campaign contributions from federal lobbyists or political action committees.

Still, the theme is more prominent in Obama's campaign. On the stump, he has regularly promoted his role in drafting ethics legislation for the Illinois legislature and the U.S. Senate. He has taken a perceived weakness -- his lack of national political experience after two years in the Senate -- and presented it as evidence that he has not been captured by the political establishment.

The 45-year-old lawmaker has been aided by his relative youth, newness on the political scene and mixed-race heritage -- all of which mark him as an outsider. His long relationship with Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who was indicted in an unrelated political corruption investigation, may give pause to some but so far has not taken on great significance to a national audience.

At the moment, the electorate appears unusually dissatisfied with the political status quo. Recent polls have shown public approval of both Republican President Bush and the Democratic-controlled Congress below 30 percent.

But in the past, calls for cleaner government have not resonated with voters in the same way as appeals on bread-and-butter economic concerns or anxieties over national security.

'Morally offensive laws'

Obama's campaign also has stressed issues of more immediate concern to voters, particularly his opposition to the Iraq war and support for expanded access to health care. In his speech Friday, he sought to make the case that the culture of influence in Washington affects the pocketbooks of Americans in myriad ways, from drug prices to student-loan interest rates -- both of which, he argued, are inflated through industry manipulation of public policy.

"What's most outrageous is not the morally offensive conduct on behalf of these lobbyists and legislators, but the morally offensive laws and decisions that get made as a result," Obama said.

In addition to stricter rules on lobbying, Obama promised he would reverse Bush administration policies limiting the public disclosure of government records and deliberations.

Criticizing the administration's refusal to release records of energy industry officials' roles in advising the White House, Obama promised to disclose all communication between White House staff and outsiders over regulatory policies. He said he would make a list of "every single tax break and earmark" available to the public on the Internet.


Bush Pick for No. 3 at Justice Withdraws

Bush Pick for No. 3 at Justice Withdraws
Copyright © 2007, The Associated Press
Published June 23, 2007, 3:05 AM CDT

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's pick to be the No. 3 official in the Justice Department asked to have his nomination withdrawn Friday, four days before he was to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Bill Mercer sent a letter to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales saying it was unlikely that the Senate would confirm him as associate attorney general, a post he has held on an interim basis since September. He plans to leave Washington and turn his full attention to his work as U.S. attorney for Montana.

"With no clear end in sight with respect to my nomination, it is untenable for me to pursue both responsibilities and provide proper attention to my family," Mercer wrote.

The Judiciary Committee had scheduled a hearing on Mercer's nomination for Tuesday. A spokeswoman for the committee had said senators needed the facts from an investigation into the firings of several federal prosecutors before he could be confirmed.

"The White House has found many ways to keep sunlight from reaching some of the darker corners of the Bush Justice Department, but this is a new one," Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said in a statement. "With a confirmation hearing looming next Tuesday, they have withdrawn this nomination to avoid having to answer more questions under oath."

Mercer is the sixth senior Justice Department official to leave the tight-knit circle of Gonzales' advisers in the wake of the firings of eight U.S. attorneys last December. He is the only of the group, however, to remain with the Justice Department.

Mercer said in his letter to Gonzales that he believes he would not be confirmed promptly, if ever, "in part by statements suggesting that some senior Justice nominees will not be voted upon until the Senate receives e-mails and witnesses it has demanded from the White House."

In an interview with The Associated Press, Mercer noted that Judiciary Committee staff interviewed him for six hours in April about the prosecutor firings. He would not comment on the timing of his request to withdraw the nomination, but he said it was his decision.

"It's been a wonderful opportunity for 10 months and I'm saddened I won't be able to continue," he said.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said it was unfortunate that the Senate has indicated it will not act to confirm nominees.

Mercer's name comes up at times in thousands of pages of e-mail exchanges between Justice Department and White House officials discussing the firings. The panel had authorized a subpoena for Mercer as part of its investigation.

The demise of his nomination points up the difficulty Bush faces as he tries to fill the top ranks of a Justice Department wilting under the weight of the Democratic-led congressional investigation into whether the White House, in effect, runs the agency.

Several lawmakers, including Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, have said the department is so dysfunctional and that it suffers with Gonzales still at the helm. But with Bush's support behind him, Gonzales shows no signs of resigning. He has said he plans to stay in the post until the end of Bush's term, virtually ensuring that majority Democrats will push ahead with their investigations of his stewardship.

Montana's two Democratic senators, Jon Tester and Max Baucus, have criticized Mercer for working two jobs and have called for him to resign as the state's U.S. attorney or give up his Justice Department post. In his letter, Mercer said he "heard the call" from the senators and said the change would address their concerns.

But a spokesman for Tester said Mercer's request for withdrawal "was too little, too late and something doesn't smell right."

"He decided to sneak out the back door only days before having to face, under oath, tough questions that he's been avoiding for months," said the spokesman, Matt McKenna.

Baucus appeared more forgiving.

"Max respects Mr. Mercer's decision," said Baucus spokesman Barrett Kaiser. "Montanans deserve a full-time U.S. attorney."

In a statement Friday, Gonzales praised Mercer as the No. 3 official at Justice and said he was "very pleased that the department will continue to benefit from his leadership, talent and experience through his role as U.S. attorney in Montana."

Documents released as part of the congressional inquiry of the firings indicate Mercer was not intimately involved in planning the firings, but he tried to quell the controversy they created.

Two days before the firings, former Gonzales chief of staff Kyle Sampson sent Mercer a short e-mail to make sure the department's third in command was aware they were about to happen.

"Wanted you to know in case you get some calls from the field and so you can help manage the chatter that may result," Sampson wrote in the e-mail.

The documents show that one of the fired prosecutors, Daniel Bogden of Nevada, claimed that Mercer told him the day he was fired that the dismissals were to make room for others to gain experience to let the Republican Party stack federal judgeships with loyalists.


Associated Press writers Laurie Kellman and Lara Jakes Jordan contributed to this report.

Glucose may affect more pregnancies

Glucose may affect more pregnancies
By Robert Mitchum
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Published June 23, 2007

Expectant mothers are warned frequently of the dangers of gestational diabetes. Now, doctors say a wider range of pregnant women may need to be concerned about high blood-sugar levels.

Researchers at the annual meeting of the American Diabetes Association in Chicago on Friday presented data showing that even a moderately elevated glucose level during pregnancy was associated with more cesarean sections and heavier babies, among other complications.

Although most expectant mothers in the United States are tested for glucose levels, only women with blood sugar above a certain point and with no history of diabetes are officially diagnosed with the gestational diabetes. The condition affects about 4 percent of pregnant women.

If gestational diabetes is not treated through diet or insulin, large amounts of glucose can be transmitted to the fetus via the placenta.

In addition to higher birth weight and increased risk of birth complications, high fetal glucose also can trigger increased production of insulin in the fetus, which scientists link with obesity and diabetes as the baby grows up.

The new study sought to establish the effect of less severe levels of blood sugar during pregnancy.

"One of the issues is where on the spectrum of normal to abnormal does glucose in pregnancy begin to have a clinically significant effect on the outcome of the pregnancy," said Boyd Metzger, principal investigator of the study and professor of medicine at Northwestern University. "That's the big unanswered question."

To help answer it, researchers measured glucose levels and pregnancy outcome in nearly 25,000 women from nine countries, including the United States.

They found that women with the highest measured blood glucose were six times more likely to have an overweight baby and 10 times more likely to have a newborn with elevated blood insulin than women with the lowest levels of glucose.

However, women in a range just below established criteria for gestational diabetes were still two to four times more likely to deliver a baby with high birth weight or elevated insulin levels.

"This study will finally give us the chance to reach a consensus in all countries on how to diagnose diabetes in pregnancy," said one of the authors, Dr. Moshe Hod, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Tel Aviv University.

Metzger said more discussion will be necessary before any changes are made to guidelines for diagnosis of gestational diabetes and treatment of high glucose levels.

"You can't point to [a] number and say this is obviously the point" of diagnosis, he said.


Financial Times Editorial Comment: Different but not dangerous

Financial Times Editorial Comment: Different but not dangerous
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 22 2007 22:00 | Last updated: June 22 2007 22:00

There is an anecdote about Lionel Nathan de Rothschild, a keen gardener and very wealthy banker of the 1930s: “No garden, however small,” he said to the City Horticultural Society, “should contain less than two acres of rough woodland.” It is clearly rather nice to be super-rich and the creation of wealth is good for society. But to avoid a backlash billionaires must show that they earned their money fair and square.

This week the US private equity group Blackstone raised $7.7bn in a public offering that made billionaires of founders Stephen Schwarzman and Peter Peterson. But politicians did not congratulate the executives on their business success. Instead they are considering the abolition of a tax break that helps private equity partners and hedge fund managers. In the UK, where a group of buy-out executives were mauled by a parliamentary committee, the story is similar.

Populist attacks on successful financiers and entrepreneurs are dangerous and wrong. Entrepreneurs take risks, and from them come new products, new jobs and higher standards of living. Financiers allocate capital and, if they do it well, there are huge gains in economic efficiency and wealth. Most businesses fail, but people keep starting them because of the possible rewards: punish those who succeed and businesspeople will either stop trying or escape offshore.

We should allow the rich to be rich, but there is a caveat, which is that the competition to become rich should be fair. Income from different sources should be taxed equally, monopolies should be broken down and, most of all, wealth should be earned. Those who make their money through privilege or inside connections taint the whole system.

Private equity plays fair. It performs an important economic role and its leading lights deserve to be very rich indeed, but on both sides of the Atlantic it does seem that the tax system may be having unintended consequences. Taper relief on capital gains tax, introduced by Britain’s Labour government in 1998, was meant to help entrepreneurs, but also slashed the tax rate for private equity partners. A review of that system makes sense.

There are going to be more and more super-rich: the most recent data in the UK show that the top 1 per cent of UK taxpayers are pulling away from the rest, and the incomes of the top 0.1 per cent are growing even faster than that. In scalable businesses such as finance, where investing $10bn needs little more effort than investing $10m, the most talented can reap a disproportionate share of the total rewards.

Fiddling tax systems against private equity would have unforeseen consequences. A political witch-hunt could also have dangerous effects, not least encouraging the public to believe all business gains are ill-gotten. It is time to think about what financiers do, not just how much they make.

The one-man coalition

The one-man coalition
By Christopher Grimes and Edward Luce
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 23 2007 03:00 | Last updated: June 23 2007 03:00

Most politicians view their party affiliation as something they will have for life, like their eye colour or an old tattoo. Not Michael Bloomberg. New York's mayor has had three party designations in the past six years, which must be some kind of record for a leading American politician. His latest switch came this week, when he ditched the Republican party to become "unaffiliated", a move that many believe was his first step toward a bid for the US presidency as an independent candidate.

There is precedent here: Mr Bloomberg began his campaign for mayor in 2001 by abandoning the Democratic party - he would have faced a crowded field for the nomination - to become a Republican. It was a shrewd move. After spending $75m (£38m) of his own money and a timely endorsement from Rudolph Giuliani, Mr Bloomberg defied conventional wisdom by being elected New York's 108th mayor.

Only someone with Mr Bloom-berg's wealth - his fortune is estimated as high as $13bn, thanks to the success of Bloomberg LP, the financial information group he founded - could flout the political parties the way he has. Throughout his brief political career his fortune has let him disregard the will of campaign donors - a message New Yorkers appear to be hearing: his approval rating has hovered around 70 per cent for nearly two years. Despite his almost technocratic style, Mr Bloomberg has impressed the electorate as manager of the once "ungovernable" city. Now halfway through his second (and final) term Mr Bloomberg is weighing whether his non-partisan, managerial message will play off Broadway.

Mr Bloomberg still insists that he "is not a candidate", often defusing that question with a deftly crafted piece of self mockery about his unlikely prospects: "I'm a white billionaire, Jewish, pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-gun and anti-Creationism. How do you phrase that? It is a new coalition - of five people."

But he and his aides have encouraged the speculation for over a year, which has raised Mr Bloomberg's national profile. Even if he decides not to run, his skill at drawing attention to his agenda has shown that Mr Bloomberg is no longer the political novice who came to City Hall in January 2002. "He's gotten tremendous at the political game," says Ed Koch, New York's mayor from 1978-1989. "I believe he is running and, while he is an underdog, I believe he can win."

Mr Bloomberg, born in 1942, grew up in a modest household in Medford, Massachusetts, the son of a book-keeper for a dairy company. He was an overachiever from the beginning, earning his Eagle Scout badge before entering Johns Hopkins University, where he was the first Jew admitted to his fraternity. While he was away at college, his father, William, died; his mother, Charlotte, went to work after years of being a housewife. (Bloomberg still calls his mother every morning.)

After a graduate degree from Harvard Business School, he went to work at Salomon Brothers in New York, where he quickly figured out how to have a good time as a single man on a Wall Street salary. He had "a girlfriend in every city, skied in every resort, ate in every four-star restaurant, and never missed a Broadway play," he wrote in his 1997 autobiography Bloomberg by Bloomberg. The fun ended briefly when he was forced out of the bank in 1981 with a $10m payoff, used to found Bloomberg LP. After business success came, Mr Bloomberg, who is amicably divorced with two grown daughters, relished the role of the single billionaire. (He now has a steady girlfriend, Diana Taylor, the former New York banking commissioner.) But despite his swinging image, friends say he never forgot his father's lessons about charity. "Long before he was mayor, I could always call Michael if I was raising money for some charitable cause," said Georgette Mosbacher, a Republican fundraiser and friend.

Discussing life after City Hall, Mr Bloomberg says he expects to devote his time to giving away his fortune. "The most likely scenario is that I will run the second or third-largest foundation in the world," he told the FT last year, focusing on "public health and education and the arts."

But some wonder whether he will be satisfied with a life of philanthropy and golf. "The foundation will be fabulous, but it's not full-time work," said one long-time friend. "The man has more energy than anybody you will ever meet in your life."

Does that mean he will run for president, something he mentioned he might do in his autobiography? Some friends say that even he does not know yet.

Most of the Washington cognoscenti have written off a potential candidacy as quixotic. The last time an independent candidate took a large chunk of the vote was in 1992, when the Texas billionaire Ross Perot shook up the contest between then-president George HW. Bush and challenger Bill Clinton. One Repub-lican consultant contends: "Bloomberg is a much stronger and saner figure than Perot."

Mr Bloomberg's prospects may be better than is assumed, says Charlie Cook, a veteran political analyst in Washington. Independent candidates fare best when the public's mood is worst. By almost every polling metric the public is in a state of high dissatisfaction with one recent poll showing three-quarters believe the country is on the wrong track. Disapproval ratings for Congress, and each of the national parties, are close to all-time highs.

Aides to Mr Bloomberg say he would only run if several conditions were met. He plans to wait until after the party primaries next January and February to assess whether the other nominees were sufficiently damaged to permit space for a third party bid. He would also require 70 per cent of Americans still to agree that the country was "on the wrong track". He is already positioning himself as the sage outsider to Washington, which he described last weekas "sinking into a swamp of dysfunction".

Finally, some analysts question whether he has the charisma to win a national campaign. "If Bloomberg lacks the personality then what do you say about Gore or Kerry?" says Mr Cook. "They got half and just under half of the national vote."

Mr Bloomberg is aware that independent candidates have not historically won elections - rather they generally help someone else lose. Friends speculate he would not run only to spoil the chances of someone he believes would make an effective president. Whatever he decides, he will play a role, either as a kingmaker or a man who thinks he has a shot at being king.

Candidates wait for news of Bloomberg

Candidates wait for news of Bloomberg
By Christopher Grimes in New York and Andrew Ward in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 20 2007 22:47 | Last updated: June 21 2007 03:04

Michael Bloomberg’s decision on Tuesday to leave the Republican party will have sent a chill through the campaign headquarters of presidential candidates from both main US parties.

The announcement provided the strongest sign to date that the multi-billionaire mayor of New York is seriously considering a run for US president next year.

His entry, as a self-financed independent candidate, would add further uncertainty to a presidential race that is already considered the most open for more than half a century.

As a political moderate who left the Democratic party to run for mayor as a Republican in 2001, Mr Bloomberg could siphon support from both main candidates if he decides to run.

His vast wealth would also increase pressure on rivals to raise funds for what is already certain to be the most expensive presidential election in history. Mr Bloomberg’s entry could pit him against his predecessor as mayor if Rudy Giuliani, currently the leading Republican candidate, wins his party’s nomination.

Both occupy similar political territory, holding moderate views on social issues such as gun control and abortion, and have reputations as competent leaders.

A lifelong Democrat, he joined the Republican party in 2001 to run for New York mayor in place of Rudy Giuliani. As mayor, his hallmarks have been managerial expertise, balanced budgets and a relative social liberalism.
Without the burden of having to raise funds, Mr Bloomberg can afford to wait until early 2008 to enter the race formally. Friends who have spoken to him say his decision will be based on whether voter disillusionment with both parties continues to be strong, and if the front-runners in each party appear vulnerable.

Many political analysts say Mr Bloomberg has little chance of winning as an independent. The US system presents a number of challenges for third-party candidates, starting with the time-consuming process of getting on the ballot in all 50 states. Mr Bloomberg could be forced to go to court in some states to get on the ballot.

But Scott Rasmussen, president of Rasmussen Reports, a polling firm, says Mr Bloomberg could win enough support to deny the main parties a clear victory. A recent Rasmussen poll found 27 per cent of US voters would be likely to support Mr Bloomberg.

“These numbers suggest that if Bloomberg can find a message that resonates, he might win some states and deny either major party candidates a majority in the Electoral College,” said Mr Rasmussen. In the absence of a clear majority, the constitution mandates the House of Representatives to choose the president – something that has not happened since the 19th century.

Matthew Towery, chairman of Insider Advantage, a polling firm, said there was an opportunity for an independent to exploit widespread disenchantment with the existing choice of candidates in 2008.

While Mr Bush’s approval rating is close to record lows, polls show public approval of the Democratic-controlled Congress is even lower – indicating danger for both parties from a candidate challenging their political duopoly.

“There are very serious people in Washington who feel the time is right for a third-party candidate,” said Mr Towery.

N Korea vows to axe reactor quickly

N Korea vows to axe reactor quickly
By Anna Fifield in Seoul
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 22 2007 06:02 | Last updated: June 22 2007 21:56

North Korea has pledged to shut down its main nuclear reactor promptly and carry out its obligations under the February 13 deal, Christopher Hill, US chief negotiator, said on Friday after a visit to Pyongyang.

The International Atomic Energy Agency later announced that senior UN inspectors will arrive in North Korea on Tuesday to work out details in verifying the shutdown of Pyongyang’s nuclear weapons programme.

Mr Hill, who is also assistant secretary of state, was optimistic that the six-party process aimed at convincing North Korea to give up the project was moving again after the resolution of the Banco Delta Asia debacle.

But he realised how difficult the process would be. “I came away from these two days of meetings buoyed by the sense we are going to be able to meet our objectives. But I am burdened by the realisation that we are going to have to spend a great deal of time and effort in achieving them,” he told reporters in Seoul.

“[North Korea] indicated that they are prepared to promptly shut down the Yongbyon facility,” Mr Hill said. But they had to “work out details”.

Mr Hill is the highest-level official to visit North Korea since 2002, when the current crisis began. The visit was an attempt to kickstart a process that had been bogged down over the return of $25m in North Korean funds from Banco Delta Asia in Macao to the Foreign Trade Bank in Pyongyang, via Russia.

Under the February agreement, North Korea must shut down the Yongbyon reactor and discuss all its nuclear programmes. Mr Hill said he reminded North Korea of its responsibility to provide a list of all nuclear programmes, “and when I say all, I mean all”.

Visa sets up litigation fund ahead of IPO

Visa sets up litigation fund ahead of IPO
By David Wighton in New York
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 23 2007 02:52 | Last updated: June 23 2007 02:52

Visa, the world’s biggest credit card network, on Friday unveiled plans to set up a litigation fund to protect investors in its forthcoming initial public offering from legal claims.

Under the plan, Visa’s US member banks will take on responsibility for the outstanding legal actions and will contribute billions of dollars from their flotation proceeds to an escrow account to pay claims.

Visa, which is owned by its member banks, is facing legal actions from US merchants and rivals Discover and American Express alleging anti-competitive practices.

The move by the US banks to take responsibility for the outstanding claims is designed to reassure potential investors in Visa’s IPO planned for next year.

Demand is expected to be strong following the dramatic performance of rival Mastercard’s share price since its IPO last May. The stock has more than quadrupled, valuing the company yesterday at almost $23bn. Visa, which is planning to sell half its shares, is likely to be valued at more than $25bn, according to Craig Maurer, an analyst at Calyon Securities.

Visa on Friday gave details of a restructuring that will see the creation of Visa Inc, combining all its operations outside Europe, which is the entity that will be floated.

Visa Europe is to remain separately owned by its European member banks, which its board believes will leave it better positioned to deliver a borderless payment market in line with the European Commission’s vision of a Single Euro Payments Area.

A document filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday showed Visa Inc’s pro forma net income rising 13 per cent to $526m in the year to March 31 2007 on operating revenue of $2.36bn.

Bear Stearns raises subprime exposure

Bear Stearns raises subprime exposure
By Ben White and Saskia Scholtes in New York and James Mackintosh in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: June 22 2007 21:09 | Last updated: June 23 2007 01:29

Bear Stearns raised its exposure to subprime mortgages on Friday, confirming it would extend $3.2bn (£1.6bn) in secured loans to one of its two in-house hedge funds suffering from bad subprime bets.

The announcement drove down shares in Bear and other investment banks, helping push the Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index down about 1.3 per cent.

The news came at the end of a week in which Bear struggled to satisfy creditors who have seized some of the funds’ assets.

Banks including Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan and Cantor Fitzgerald have sold some of the collateral. Under the terms of the loan, first reported by the Financial Times, Bear agreed to provide a $3.2bn credit line to its High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Fund.

The loan did not address problems faced by the closely related but larger High-Grade Structured Credit Strategies Enhanced Leverage Fund, which borrowed at least $6bn from banks to make bets on the subprime market.

The enhanced leverage fund is down about 23 per cent this year to the end of April, according to people familiar with the matter. Bear is continuing to work with creditors to that fund.

The rescue package does not cover Barclays Bank, which is understood to have financed $200m-$300m of extra leverage for investors who wanted more gearing than Bear’s funds provided.

Barclays remains in negotiations with Bear, but market sources said it was likely to consider legal action.

Barclays said its loss was “not material” and declined to say more.

Sam Molinaro, Bear Stearns chief financial officer, said the bank was comfortable that the $3.2bn loan was over-collateralised by assets held by the fund.

However, he acknowledged that the value of those assets had declined significantly in recent weeks, making it unclear whether Bear could recoup the entire $3.2bn.

Bear Stearns shares fell 1.6 per cent to $143.45.

Joseph Mason, a professor at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said the outlook for subprime mortgages and securities based on them was bleak with defaults expected to increase with higher interest rates and lower house prices.

The A-Gays - Some take a different view of the Center on Halsted

The A-Gays - Some take a different view of the Center on Halsted
By Sukie de la Croix
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
June 20, 2007

The state of Chicago’s GLBT community is encapsulated in the building at 3656 N. Halsted, a structure called the Center on Halsted whose purpose is as baffling to me as the monolith surrounded by excited apes in “2001: A Space Odyssey.” I’ve been trying to figure out what the Center on Halsted is for?
I’ve asked friends and nobody else seems to know either—the general consensus being “it’s a place for ‘other people’ to use, but not me.

Now that we’ve assimilated into the community at large—be careful what you wish for—the mere idea of a gay community center seems archaic and quaint. It smacks of 1970’s Gay Liberation: one imagines a smoky office with a battered typewriter and an open frayed copy of Troy Perry’s “The Lord is my Shepherd and He Knows I’m Gay,” a womyn-only space where feminists pass “the talking stick” and where hippie gay guys wander aimlessly around between touchy feely rap sessions.

One long time Chicago Gay activist told mew, “Of course, The Center was paid by the A-gays, though they won’t be using the place themselves.”

He’s right, of course those darned A-gays who attend annual AIDS benefits that most of us can’t afford to go to have orchestrated and built the Center on Halsted for reasons known only to themselves. Perhaps if the A-Gays had come down from their cave-dwellings along Lake Shore Drive and asked us street-level B to Z-Gays what we thought, we would have informed them that there is no gay community anymore—it disappeared with tubs of hair gel and Depeche Mode. Ironically, it was the A-Gays charging $300 to attend an AIDS benefit, cutting the rest of us off from the joy of donating money to charity, that put the last nail into the coffin of any sense of “community.”

I suspect that if there’s a controlled epicenter the great unwashed masses of B to Z-Gays will be easier to control and influence—they’ve thrown us a bone and we should be grateful. I can’t wait to see how that works for them.

The problem is that the A-Gays who built the Center on Halsted still have financial and political interest on Lakeview and the rest of us have been priced out and are living openly gay lives in other areas. We’ve moved on.

Even though I don’t know who or what the Center on Halsted is for, I do hope it works out for the people who created it. It must have taken a lot of work and hours—months even—of political ass licking to get it open. And if it flops, it doesn’t matter as we can all carve our names into the façade like the Vietnam War Memorial, lay flowers outsode every Proide Parade and collectively sing “Y. M. C. A.” just for old times sake.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Letters the Editor - On Iraq

Letters the Editor - On Iraq
Copyright by The Chicago Free Press
June 20, 2007

There is a revelatory lesson in all this urban warfare and jihadist violence: From Baghdad to Beirut and from Gaza to Kabul, these recruits to the ultimate in reactionary cults threaten the existing states in the Muslim world far more than America or its Western allies. They are one side in a conflict centered within the Muslim world. Contrary to President George W. Bush’s notion, this is not America’s long war against terrorism but the Islamic world’s conflict with itself.

The recent world events point to what most of the intelligence agencies refuse to share with the American people. Just like we were lied to about the weapons of mass destruction and the connection between Saddam Hussein with Al Qaeda, we are now being lied to, perhaps because they are unable to tell the truth, but most likely because of the stubbornness of the commander in chief (who talks to God the Almighty) that we are at war with the terrorists. After all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the opponents of the war for lack of patriotism—exposing the country to greater danger.

Let’s suppose that we bring all the troops home from Iraq tomorrow. Would the retaliatory strike against Sunni Arabs be any different? Just like Hamas on Gaza, the two factions—Sunni and Shiite—will fight their civil war until one side wins. It is a crime against our brave American troops to place them in the crossfire of a civil war that will not be resolved through military intervention by an outside party. The only way to avoid further bloodbath in Iraq requires a political solution. The problem is that just like Hamas and Fatah, these conflicts have persisted for centuries. America, just like the British before, should remember the history of the region. It is not like a civil war is something we don’t comprehend. If my memory serves me right, we fought one from 1861 to 1865. What would you think would have happened if the British or the French would have tried to mediate it?

The only difference is that America’s incompetent leaders initiated Iraq’s civil war. Instead of sacrificing our young armed forces, I would put on trial the people responsible for crimes against humanity and get our soldiers out of harms way.

Carlos T Mock

American Episcopal Church defies anti-gay bishops

American Episcopal Church defies anti-gay bishops
By Rachel Zoll
Copyright by The Associated Press

NEW YORK—A key Episcopal panel defied conservatives June 15, saying that Episcopal leaders should not cede authority to overseas Anglicans who want the church to halt its march toward full acceptance of gays.

The Episcopal Executive Council said that Anglican leaders, called primates, cannot make decisions for the American denomination, which is the Anglican body in the United States.

“We question the authority of the primates to impose deadlines and demands upon any of the churches of the Anglican Communion,” the council said in a statement, after a meeting in Parsippany, N.J.

The worldwide Anglican Communion has moved toward the brink of splitting apart since the Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop, V. Gene Robinson of New Hampshire, in 2003.

In February, Anglican leaders demanded that Episcopalians allow a panel that would include Anglican conservatives from other countries to oversee conservative Episcopal parishes in the U.S. Episcopalians also were given until Sept. 30 to unequivocally pledge not to consecrate another openly gay bishop or authorize official prayers for same-sex couples.

The Executive Council did not speak directly to the other demands in its statement, but said it has struggled “to embrace people who have historically been marginalized.”

“Today this struggle has come to include the place of gay and lesbian people and their vocations in the life of the church,” the council wrote.

The document approved by the 38-member panel of clergy and lay people is not the final word from the U.S. church. Episcopal bishops will give the denomination’s official response during a meeting Sept. 20-25 in New Orleans. The prelates strongly indicated at a March gathering that although they wanted to stay in the communion, they considered the demands unacceptable.

The 77 million-member communion is a loose association of churches that trace their roots to the Church of England. Each Anglican province is self-governing and the communion’s spiritual leader, Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, has no direct authority to force a compromise.

But in a series of emergency summits and private negotiations over the last four years, Williams has worked to prevent a schism. Under pressure from Episcopal leaders, he has agreed to attend the bishops’ meeting in New Orleans.

Last month, he announced that neither Robinson nor conservative Bishop Martyn Minns, head of a group of breakaway U.S. Episcopal parishes aligned with the Anglican Church of Nigeria, would be invited to a once-a-decade Anglican assembly called the Lambeth Conference. Minns’ group, the Convocation of Anglicans in North America, was formed by Nigerian Archbishop Peter Akinola to counter the liberal-leaning U.S. denomination on its home turf.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, Williams said a split isn’t inevitable. But he said the communion “feels very vulnerable and very fragile, perhaps more so than it’s been for a very long time.”

A split would be a financial hardship for the communion. The small but wealthy Episcopal Church provides a significant chunk of the communion’s budget. Even with a schism, Episcopal leaders say they are committed to maintaining their missions work with overseas Anglicans.

New Jersey becomes latest state to protect transgenders

New Jersey becomes latest state to protect transgenders
By Geoff Mulvihill
Copyright by The Associated Press

MOUNT LAUREL, New Jersey—Effective June 17, New Jersey joined eight other U.S. states in making it illegal for employers and landlords to discriminate against transgendered people.

The law, which sailed through the New Jersey Legislature in December, has received little attention in a state that is gaining a reputation for being welcoming to lesbian, gay and transgendered people. Earlier this year, New Jersey began allowing same-sex couples to unite in civil unions.

Advocates hope the new law will lead to more acceptance and awareness of people who are born one gender but live as the opposite gender. Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center of Transgender Equality in Washington, said she expects more states to follow, including a handful in 2007 and 2008.

“It’s really simply a reaction to there being more (transgender) people who are out,” Keisling said. “As more people transition, it becomes safer to transition.”

The law makes it illegal for a landlord to evict a tenant because of his or her gender status, and companies cannot refuse to hire people because they are transsexual, cross-dressers, asexual, of ambiguous gender or simply not traditionally feminine or masculine. The law also bans discrimination in credit, business contracts and public accommodations such as stores or restaurants.

Labor law posters at work places notifying workers of their rights will include the transgender protection. Violators could be subject to up to 90 days in jail or fines up to $500.

The first such state law was adopted in Minnesota in 1993. Rhode Island, New Mexico, California, Illinois, Maine, Hawaii, Washington and the District of Columbia have adopted similar measures.

By January, laws also will be in effect in Iowa, Vermont, Colorado and Oregon.

New Jersey gay and transgendered rights leaders said passage of the transgender bill was as much a priority for them as the state’s civil unions law, which took effect in February.

“I have never had an easier time lobbying than for this bill,” said Steven Goldstein, chairman of Garden State Equality, an advocacy group that pushed for the law.

Despite the legal protections, transgendered people say discrimination happens too frequently.

Coy Gordon, who was born a man but has lived as a woman since high school nearly 30 years ago, said she believes she has been rejected for work because she is transgendered.

“To them (employers), I’m still a freak,” said Gordon, 43, an unemployed counselor.

Unable to get jobs, she said, transgendered women often have little choice but to turn to prostitution.
Jillian Todd Weiss, an assistant professor of law and society at Ramapo College, who is also a transsexual, said the law might make people treat transgendered people better, but it will not necessarily change attitudes or beliefs.

“It’s very difficult to legislate away prejudice,” she said.

Gay candidate loses historic mayoral bid in Dallas

Gay candidate loses historic mayoral bid in Dallas
By Jeff Carlton
Copyright by The Associated Press
June 20, 2007

Choosing a wealthy retired businessman over an openly gay city councilman, voters elected Tom Leppert as Dallas mayor June 16 by a safe margin to lead the nation’s ninth-largest city.

Capping a swift rise from political unknown to the city’s top office, Leppert won the most expensive mayoral race in Dallas history. He received about 58 percent of the vote in the final but unofficial results of the runoff, beating Ed Oakley by more than 13,000 votes.

“I understand the trust and confidence they’ve placed in me,” said Leppert, 53. “I am eager to fulfill that trust and confidence.”

Oakley fell short of making Dallas the largest city in the country to elect an openly gay mayor.

“I can’t tell you what it’s been like…to serve Dallas, change Dallas and put Dallas on a path of greatness,” said Oakley, who received 42 percent of the vote. “I truly believe I’ve been part of that.”

Leppert, who never ran for elected office and never voted in a Dallas mayoral election until this year, is the former CEO of construction giant Turner Corp.

He acknowledges he had scant name recognition when he decided late last year to enter the race to replace outgoing Mayor Laura Miller, who was not seeking re-election.

Nearly 86,000 voted in the runoff, up from 71,400 voters in the May 12 general election in which Oakley and Leppert emerged from a crowded 11-candidate field.

The runoff pitted a city council insider against a big business outsider. Oakley and Leppert were the top fundraisers before the May 12 election.

Oakley had raised about $685,000 from early May to early June. Leppert raised $855,000 and spent about $1.1 million in that period, compared to about $833,000 for Oakley.

“Never bet against the money,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “Leppert went from a standing start to an easy win and it was very impressive.”

Oakley lost despite a large influx of money from the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a national fundraising group that supports gay candidates. Oakley received about $220,000 from donors who contributed through the fund, plus another $20,000 from the group’s political action committee.

Victory Fund spokesman Denis Dison said the fact that Oakley reached the runoff indicates gay candidates are making strides in politics.

“This would have been historic,” Dison said. “For the ninth-largest city in the country, and in one of the reddest states in the country—it would have obviously been an amazing achievement.”

06/20/2007 (No. 40)

In the Life Examines Doctors and Anti-Gay Bias

In the Life Examines Doctors and Anti-Gay Bias
By Charlsie Dewey
Copyright by The Windy City Times

“Voices of Pride, In the Life’s Pride month episode, scheduled to air in Chicago on WTTW-11, on June 25 at 12:30 a.m., asks the question, “Can religious belief serve as a justifiable mechanism for discrimination?”

The episode examines the case of Guadalupe Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, which is now before the California Supreme Court, and could serve as a national precedent as to whether doctors may refuse to treat gay people equally with other people based on religious belief.

Benitez and her partner, Joanne Clark, claim to have experienced discrimination 11 years ago when the couple set out to have children. Benitez approached the North Coast Women’s Care Group, the only service provider offering the necessary fertility treatments covered by her insurance, expecting to be treated just like any other woman wanting to have a child. However, she realized very quickly in the office of Dr. Christine Brody that she was a lesbian who wanted to have a child.

When Brody learned of Benitez’s sexuality, she told Benitez that if it came to intrauterine insemination, she would be unable to perform the procedure due to her beliefs. She also assured Benitez that someone else in the office would be able to do the procedure.

After failed attempts to become pregnant, intrauterine insemination did become necessary, but no doctor within the North Coast Women’s Care Group would perform the procedure because of religious objections.

Clark told Windy City Times that the couple never once considered giving up their dream of starting a family and, eventually, they did have a son Gabriel, followed by twins. They also ended up in a legal battle involving religion as grounds for discrimination.

Clark had not experienced discrimination before and she commented, “I had no idea the depths that it reaches. Personally and psychologically, it destroys you.”

As far as how the couple’s life has changed specifically, Clark explained, “I’ll tell you what we do. We make sure that people understand we’re gay right up front, and we watch their body language, we watch what they do. … We’re more up front with who we are.”

The couple has not fully gotten over what they had to go through and is hoping to win their case so that others will not have to experience the same hurtful discrimination. Clark wants to see the gay community stand up and continue to take strides against discrimination.

Lambda Legal is representing Benitez, and Windy City Times spoke with Jennifer Pizer, senior counsel with Lambda Legal, about the case.

Windy City Times: Legally, what are the important elements in this case as far as what was wrong with North Coast Women's Care Medical Group's handling of the situation?

Jennifer Pizer: North Coast offers specialty treatment for infertility as well as general OB/GYN care. The clinic’s staff is required to treat all patients equally based on medical need and not treat some better and some worse based on sexual orientation or other irrelevant personal characteristics that are placed off-limits by California law, as well as medical ethics.

The defendant doctors in the case told Lupita [ Benitez ] they would not treat her the same as other patients because she is a lesbian; that was bad enough. They also misled and manipulated her by promising that other medical staff would provide the treatment she needed ( intrauterine insemination ) , and then delaying that treatment for months and months, having her undergo unnecessary and sometimes painful tests and spending needless time taking powerful fertility drugs, all to avoid doing the simple procedure they perform routinely for other patients.

WCT: If Lupita Benitez wins her case, what will the ramifications be for LGBT folks in the future considering their medical care? What about beyond the LGBT community?

JP: The California Supreme Court has focused its inquiry on whether religious beliefs can be an excuse for discriminating against lesbian and gay patients, but the civil rights law in question also prohibits discrimination based on race, national origin, sex, age, marital status, disability, religion and other personal characteristics. If the doctors do have a right to discriminate as some form of protected exercise of religion, there’s every reason to think that a similar religious right to discriminate would exist for those who have religious reasons for wanting to discriminate based on any of those other characteristics. Thus, the potential consequences are enormous for everyone who’s vulnerable to discrimination based on others’ religious views about them.

WCT: Why do you think this is an important In the Life episode for Pride Month in particular?

JP: First, from a positive direction, it shows how much lesbian and gay couples have the same aspirations to be parents and to create families as heterosexual couples have, and the ways they are seeking medical help to deal with the same medical problems that many women have irrespective of sexual orientation. Second, from a less positive perspective, Lupita and Joanne’s story is about the threat posed to basic civil rights by religious conservatives who believe the rules that apply to society generally should not apply to them.

In recent years, there has been a worrisome increase in the number and wealth of the religious/political advocacy groups that are working to eviscerate civil rights protections for LGBT people. Only by increasing community education about these aggressive reactionary groups, and the terrible stakes for our pluralistic society if they continue to succeed, can we hope to build clear and strong resistence to their tactics.

Giannoulias Extends Domestic-Partner Benefits

Giannoulias Extends Domestic-Partner Benefits
Copyright by The Windy City Times

In a move that seemed particularly appropriate during Gay Pride Month, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias held a press conference and reception on June 17 at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, to announce domestic-partner benefits for employees of his office.

Since Gov. Rod Blagojevich extended health benefits to same-sex partners of state employees last year, the office of the treasurer—which, until recently, was headed by Judy Baar Topinka—was the only of the constitutional state offices to not follow suit. Now, same-sex domestic partners of all employees in Giannoulias’ office can receive medical, dental and vision benefits.

“This is health care coverage for families, plain and simple,” Giannoulias said, as officials ranging from State Reps. Greg Harris and Sara Feigenholtz to Roosevelt University President Charles Middleton stood behind him. “This isn’t an added bonus or an employee perk. It’s about providing all employees with equal access to health care benefits.”

Giannoulias then introduced one of his employees, Sharon Garchitorena, to the audience. Garchitorena, a financial educator who has worked in the treasurer’s office for over five years, always wanted to put her partner of nine years, Tina, on her insurance plan but could not, Giannoulias explained. Now, the treasurer said, Sharon and Tina ( in lower pic, with Sharon on the right ) —who co-own a home and co-parent the latter’s two sons—will now be able to enjoy the advantages of domestic-partner benefits.

“I just want to thank the treasurer for giving us the opportunity to have health benefits, which have been a long time coming,” Sharon said. She also thanked one of her sons, Henry, and her mother-in-law, Gloria, for attending the press conference.

According to a release from Giannoulias’ office, the Commission on Government Forecasting and Accountability; the Executive Ethics Commission; the House Republicans; the Illinois Board of Examiners; the Judicial Inquiry Board; and the Senate Republicans have not yet extended domestic-partner benefits. Photos and text by Andrew Davis

Windy City Times' 30 under 30

Windy City Times' 30 under 30
Copyright by The Windy City Times
June 21, 2007

Ashley “Rhett” Lindsay, a native of Mill Creek, W. Va., came to Chicago in 2000 after graduating with a degree in public relations from West Virginia University. Since his arrival in the Windy City, he has served as trade-show coordinator for a large trade-show management company; account executive for a public relations agency; and coordinator of student orientation programs at a local college.

He currently serves as the development associate/special events manager for Test Positive Aware Network (TPAN), and has played an integral part in the creation of TPAN’s newest fundraising event, Chicago Takes Off, which debuted in February 2007. He also coordinates the logistics and fundraising efforts for TPAN’s Ride for AIDS Chicago and annual gala. In addition to major events at TPAN, he also coordinates and serves on TPAN’s program events committees, including Man Alive, a gay men’s health summit; Women Living, an HIV/AIDS event for women; PULSE at NorthEnd and Positively Aware at Hydrate, two social events hosted by TPAN; and other outreach programs and events.

Rhett is also the new director of Chicago’s award-winning Righteously Outrageous Twirling Corps (ROTC), a campy, all-male, 30-member volunteer, rifle-precision drill troupe that performs at Chicago’s LGBT events. This is his third year of performing with the group. As director, he manages the group’s visual design group (choreography), fundraising efforts, scheduling, membership recruitment and retention and represents the group at events such as Chicago’s Pride Fest, the Pride Parade and Northalsted Market Days. The group has also performed in cities throughout the United States and Canada, and plans to join other U.S. gay color guards for Sydney, Australia’s Mardi Gras in March 2008.

DID YOU KNOW? Rhett has also volunteered for Chicago Human Rights Campaign’s gala dinner, working primarily with production and logistics. He has also been employed part-time at Banana Republic since 1999.


A Bronx native, Christina Santiago has been working for the Lesbian Community Cancer Project and Howard Brown Health Center as the women’s health patient navigator for the past year and a half doing exacly what she loves—working with lesbians to address their health needs. As a self-identified Puerto Rican lesbian and feminist activist, Christina tends to have many things she is passionate about: breast cancer advocacy, access to healthcare and empowering the lesbian community, just to name a few. Annually, she touches the lives of over 250 lesbian and queer women from the time they walk in the front door until after they receive their care.

Educated at the University of New York at Albany, Christina was very active in the feminist community and holds her degree in women’s studies and sociology. She is also a certified domestic violence advocate.

Christina is looking forward to continuing her work here in Chicago as a healthcare resource and guide for the LBTQ community.

DID YOU KNOW? Prior to going to college, where she inevitably “came out,” Christina considered becoming a nun.


Ryan Kerian serves on Center on Halsted’s board of directors and chairs the Center’s associate board. This board of young leaders serves the underrepresented 18-to-35-year-old LGBT community. The board hosts events, develops programming, raises money and promotes inclusiveness. Under his leadership, the associate board has raised over $75,000 since its March inception.

As a young lawyer at Latham & Watkins, one of the nation’s most LGBT-friendly legal employers, Ryan recruits LGBT candidates and coordinates meetings addressing LGBT issues. Through his efforts, Latham has become a major sponsor of Center on Halsted. Ryan was also recently featured in a Crain’s Chicago Business article on issues affecting openly gay professionals in the workplace.

Ryan began his activism by co-founding an LGBT support group in college. He later served as co-chair of Outlaw, the University of Chicago Law School’s first and only LGBT student organization. He promoted awareness of LGBT issues and helped develop the school’s efforts to increase student body diversity, leading to school initiatives to recruit gay and lesbian candidates. During his tenure, Outlaw hosted prominent speakers, including Kenji Yoshino, author of Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Human Rights.

Ryan also led a team of students who helped to write an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief supported a first amendment challenge to the Solomon Amendment, a regulation withholding federal funding from universities prohibiting campus military recruiting. Additionally, Ryan co-founded Bundle Up, a quarterly social event for LGBT graduate students that continues to bring students together today.

DID YOU KNOW? Ryan was a little sunburned following the Pride Parade last year after running from float to float shirtless and giving high fives to everyone who would let him. This summer he is soaking up the sun by training for the Chicago AIDS Marathon.


Erik Roldan was born and raised in Chicago and grew up in Lakeview. After graduating college in 2000, he has dedicated his daytime to social work, helping adults with disabilities and recently, doing outreach for people who live in public housing.

In September 2003, he launched Think Pink with co-host Alison McDonald as an outlet for his queer politics and love of music. (Since December 2006, Think Pink has been co-hosted with Ruth Batacan). His passion for sound has also led to rabid vinyl collecting—he owns over 3,000 records. Currently, he is trying to expand the scope of Think Pink through a queer music blog and promoting queer events in Chicago. Look for upcoming shows/events at amd spot him hosting the new monthly party at Kitty Moon in Rogers Park.

DID YOU KNOW? Erik’s parents immigrated to the United States from Guatemala, and Erik speaks fluent Spanish.


Luna is a queer Latina activist who is focusing her energy on creating positive change and awareness within and between the LGBTQ and Latino communities. She is the first administrative assistant for Amigas Latinas, an organization that empowers Latina lesbian, bisexual and questioning women by offering safe spaces and resources. She also is the bilingual women’s advocate for Sarah’s Inn, where she provides individual and group support and advocacy for victims/survivors of domestic violence.

Prior to her work with Sarah’s Inn and Amigas Latinas, Jacqueline was a case manager at Rainbow House, a domestic violence agency that provided shelter, until May of 2006, to survivors of domestic violence. During her time there she initiated several changes, including the beginning steps to transition the shelter to becoming transgender accessible.

Jacqueline graduated from DePaul University in 2004 with a major in psychology and a minor in Latin American and Latino/a Studies. She is an active member of the Chicago LGBTQ Immigrant Alliance (CLIA), was a volunteer Coordinator for Noche de Arco Iris: Queer Prom 2007 and is a member of the organizing committee for this year’s Chicago Dyke March.

Recently, she was accepted to University of Illinois at Chicago’s Jane Addams College of Social Work, where she will pursue her Master’s with a concentration in community health and urban development. During her first year, she will be interning for Center on Halsted’s Mental Health program. As a result of limited resources for queer people of color in the South Side of Chicago, Jacqueline and her best friend, Felicia Ramos, are in the beginning stages of creating a safe space for queer people of color that will be focused on health and healing.

DID YOU KNOW? She is also the proud mother of Freakin’ Cat and Mole, her two cats.


Jenny Urban is a leader in the culinary training field as Head Chef of the Greater Chicago Food Depository, and in previous jobs, where she trained the homeless and refugees. She brings diversity to each leadership position. Jenny created a gay-friendly atmosphere at the Uptown restaurant that she opened, Café Too. As executive chef, she created a partnership with the Gay Games to establish a meeting space for the Gay Games’ committees, as well as catering for the volunteers and employees of the event. During her time there, she helped Café Too become a gay brunch hotspot after winning the Free Press 2005 Golden Spoon Award, which named Café Too as the best neighborhood addition. Jenny’s work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, Windy City Times,, Time Out Chicago, The Chicago Tribune and The Chicago Sun-Times.

As a leading queer drummer, Jenny plays with 2005 Out Music Awards musician of the year Scott Free., with the Scott Free Trio playing at such venues as Jackhammer, Schuba’s and Homolatte. The Trio also played The Windy City Radio Show (Windy City Media Group) and on TV as the musical guest for OUT-TV’s Queer Eye with Jack E. Jett. When Jenny is not busy touring with the Trio, she can be heard playing as the founder of the lesbian-based Foster Avenue Beach Sunday drum circle.

DID YOU KNOW? Jenny was expected to be part of the opening act for the Chicago Gay Games on the night that her partner went into labor with their beautiful daughter, Isis.


Will Lockett is a young activist who is passionate about creating change, ending oppression and speaking out against injustices. He is interested in public demonstrations as a means for affecting change.

In addition to being a volunteer for Sankofa Way for over a year, Will is founder of the group Black LGBT & Allies for Equality, which advocates for the Black lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and same-gender-loving community. The group fight for justice, respect and human rights using education, grassroots organizing, non-violent direct action and awareness raising public demonstrations. Through his work, the membership of the group has grown from four to 40 members in roughly one year.

In the past year, through his group, he has demonstrated for justice and respect for Black lesbians and gays on Chicago’s South Side after a gunman opened fire at a gathering of mostly Black gay men. He has called out homophobic injustice from preachers, even in front of their churches on Sunday morning. Will has also protested the anti-gay lyrics of rapper DMX and reggae musician Buju Banton at their concerts.

In addition, he has petitioned Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., to speak out against the proposed Nigerian legislation to make gay people and their associates illegal, and helped scare off a racist hate group from completing an anti-gay measure at a local Black church. His group has also called out the media emperor, ClearChannel, and their anti-gay content on their Black radio stations. His work continues, calling out anti-LGBT hatred and exclusion in the African American community. Black LGBT & Allies for Equality has enjoyed victories and success, but the struggle continues.

DID YOU KNOW? Will’s favorite junk-food items are pizzas from Giordano’s and Home Run Inn.


Nick Rutan, who was born in Indianapolis, is the older brother to three sisters. While in high school, he started a men’s volleyball team. After graduation, Nick was recruited by Cardinal Stritch University to play volleyball, and this is where his activism began. At the university, LGBT students and allies had no group to turn to and, worse, they were becoming marginalized. It became his mission to start a support group for LGBT students in order to have a real pressence on campus.

Nick then wanted to get involved on a larger scale. He joined DignityUSA and, at a convention in Philadelphia, made a contact at the Human Rights Campaign that connected him to the organization’s Youth College program, which he soon joined. There, he worked on the campaign of Congressinal candidate Tammy Duckworth in 2006.

Soon, Nick moved back to Chicago to become involved in Richard J. Daley’s mayoral campaign. After meeting Alderman Vi Daley at an Equality Illinois dinner, he joined her runoff campaign. Nick feels that each candidate he has worked for has a passion for equality that the LGBT community has benefitted from.

DID YOU KNOW? Indianapolis’ Holy Rosary Street Festival, which Nick’s grandfather started in 1984, recently greeted over 35,000 people and grossed over $250,000.


Anne Huffman, has lived, worked and played in Chicago for the past 11 years. Thanks to her childhood love of Nancy Drew and Sherlock Holmes, she realized that she was destined to work in the criminal justice field. Huffman received her BA in Criminal Justice and Psychology from Loyola University of Chicago in 2000, and immediately began working for Con. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., where she developed her love of politics.

Huffman then worked in the child welfare and social service field at Maryville Academy and Uhlich Children’s Home and Treatment Center. For the last four years, she has worked as the GLBT and Hate Crime Specialist with the Victim Witness Unit for the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. She acts as an advocate for the GLBT community by attending court with victims and their families, writing orders of protection for victims of domestic violence and assisting all GLBT and hate crimes victims with the daunting challenge of maneuvering their way through the court system. In September, Anne will be speaking on two panels as an expert on GLBT domestic violence and on hate crimes at the Lavender Law Conference, a national conference dealing with the intersection of the GLBT community and the legal profession. Huffman is currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Forensic Psychology from the Chicago School of Professional Psychology.

DID YOU KNOW? Huffman sings loudly while driving, can say the alphabet backwards, plays a mean game of poker and is a self-professed parallel parking champion.


Kevin Hauswirth got his start in LGBTA activism in the frat houses of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign by forming an organization to react to the assault of a fellow gay fraternity member on campus. The organization, Greek Allies, got the attention of The Advocate and Kevin is now a regular contributor and the most published member of the magazine’s Gen Q Editorial Advisory Board. His activism and work with the Advocate earned him the Human Rights Campaign Chicago’s College Student of the Year Award in 2006.

After interning with a United Nations organization in Switzerland, and at Fleishman Hillard Communications’ Asia-Pacific Headquarters in Hong Kong, Kevin earned his BA from the University of Illinois and returned to Chicago to become a political activist.

In 2006, he hit the campaign trail as a regional field director for Con. Melissa Bean, D-Ill. Working in the district’s largest county, he built a county-wide field operation from the ground up and ran a winning election day operation. Kevin also supported fundraising and LGBT outreach activities for City Clerk Miguel Del Valle.

Currently, Kevin is an associate at O’Malley Hansen Communications and serves as a member of the Illinois LGBT Advisory Committee for Obama for America and Sen. Dick Durbin’s Professional Steering Committee, and is co-chair of Bean’s Young Professionals Finance Committee. He also drives policy and community outreach initiatives as a member of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s Junior Board.

DID YOU KNOW? Kevin recently launched to sell shirts he made in college to draw awareness of National Coming Out Day and raise money for LGBT non-profits.


Matt Streib has always felt that a major stumbling block in correcting the ills perpetrated against gay people worldwide is that the void created by lack of information is often filled with prejudice and conjecture. To fix this, he has started a career in international journalism, working to shed light on the global gay community.

He began working in journalism when he wrote the first gay column in a major college newspaper at Cornell University in 2003. After college, he moved to Baltimore, where he worked as the news editor for Baltimore OUTloud, Maryland’s largest gay newspaper, for almost two years. Before coming to Chicago, Matt spent six months working in an editorial capacity for a news service in Beirut. He is currently working towards a Master’s degree in journalism and religion at Northwestern University.

Matt’s columns and articles have appeared in publications in numerous countries and languages. His favorite to this day is a column critical of Turkey, which the Turkish prime minister’s office translated and lambasted on its Web site. He has covered the gay experience in places such as Morocco, Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and France. Most recently, he visited the Netherlands, where he focused on the experiences of gay immigrants from the Middle East, examining how they deal with the transition into one of the world’s most liberal cultures, and what they miss about their homelands. Later this year, he will travel to Bangladesh, where he will undertake a similar exploit.

In the future, Matt would like to work for a major international news organization, where he can cover the momentous events shaping our world. Hopefully, he’ll be able to make sure that gay issues are incorporated in ways that current media lack.

DID YOU KNOW? Matt is 25, and still can’t drive.


Andrew Walensa has been working with Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association (OPALGA) since he stumbled into their youth group at the age of 16. With the help of Susan Abbott (Youth Program Director) and OPALGA, Andrew has grown from a shy, closeted drop-in group participant to a strong, gay leader. He is an intricate part of the OPALGA Youth and Young Adult Network. Currently, Andrew is the weekly facilitator of Spectrum, OPALGA’s 18 and up drop-in group.

Andrew is also one of the founders and leader of OPALGA’s OUTspoken, a creative art group where youth and young adults use art to show the world from a LGBTQ perspective. The OUTspoken workshop experiments with different mediums of art (poetry, creative writing, visual art and acting) to share their stories and make social comments on society. The OUTspoken workshop prides itself in creating a community of LGBTQ artists that inspire each other to create and share their artistic work. Since its creation in 2004, OUTspoken has performed at numerous events, established a quaterly underground magazine called the OUTspoken ZINE and has held several showcases.

In 2005, Andrew was honored with a leadership award form National Youth Advocacy Coalition for the work he has done with OPALGA and the GLBTQ community. Additionally, he is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where he is majoring in advertising art direction, and is ready to dive into the exciting world of the visual communication industry. His goal is to impact the world through art and advocacy.

DID YOU KNOW? Andrew is afraid of needles and blood, and once passed out at a piercing parlor.


The Rev. Dan Rodriguez-Schlorff is an activist and ordained minister. As an activist, he crusades for marriage equality, ballot fairness, media democracy and single-payer universal healthcare. He has broken several glass ceilings in Illinois politics, as the youngest person to run for Illinois State Treasurer; the first openly gay candidate to run for any statewide office in Illinois; the first person of Asian descent to run for a statewide executive office in Illinois; and, by gaining well over 150,000 votes in the general election, helping the Illinois Green Party become a constitutionally “established” party in spite of the state’s fear-based election laws.

From 2003-2006, Dan co-chaired the Religious Coalition for the Freedom to Marry Chicago. As a political activist and financial resource, Schlorff has appeared on radio and television programs, including News at Noon ( WGN-9 ) ; Chicago Tonight and Candidate Free Time ( WTTW-11 ) ; and Chicago Public Radio.

As a minister, Dan marries same-sex couples, preaches across the Midwest and serves Broadway United Methodist Church as a candidate for authorized ministry. While already recognized by the Congregationalist movement as an ordained minister, Dan also seeks fellowship with both the Unitarian Universalist Association and Metropolitan Community Church.

Dan holds degrees from Meadville Lombard Theological School and Olivet Nazarene University. He is a certified senior advisor and is soon to complete his training towards becoming certified also as a financial planner. Dan sings with the Windy City Gay Chorus and resides in Lakeview. He works with Bradford Community Church ( Unitarian Universalist ) as Director of Religious Education and with Adair Associates as Director of Resource Development.

DID YOU KNOW? Dan once felt called by God to marry outside his gender and travel across the country with his wife and seven children, preaching the “purifying” gospel of Jesus Christ.



Justin Hill’s interest in HIV/AIDS and its impact on marginal communities stems from his work with AIDS activist/academician Dr. Cathy J. Cohen, the Black AIDS Institute and the Human Rights Program at the University of Chicago ( U. of C. ) .

After graduating from the U. of C. with a degree in law, letters and society, Justin worked as the psychosocial coordinator for Test Positive Aware Network ( TPAN ) . There, he tracked and monitored clients who utilized the psychosocial support and, from this data, drafted Ryan White Title 1 reports. In addition, his work with HIV-positive clients with a history of substance abuse emboldened his belief in the need for responsive activism, policy and advocacy. He now works for AIDSCare, helping the agency analyze the link between homelessness, HIV/AIDS and poverty-stricken communities.

Justin, 23, has facilitated or been a part of several HIV/AIDS conferences, projects and events. He is an executive board member of Leaders in the Fight to Eradicate AIDS ( LIFEAIDS ) . As a part of the board, he helped host the 3rd Annual Teach-In and Town Hall meeting for students at Tuskegee University. At the 2006 Toronto International AIDS Conference, Justin served as both a community rapporteur and a youth delegate. He has also served on the International AIDS Conference’s Scholarship Working Group as well as their Youth Advisory Committee.

Most recently, Justin helped found 4 Brothers Chicago, a networking group for young gay Black men in Chicago. In addition, he is also working with academician Yvonne Welbon, along with U. of C. graduate students, on a Black Queer Media Maker project.

DID YOU KNOW? Justin secretly aspires to be the lead protagonist voice in a Disney animated feature.




Figueroa, 24, is a dedicated community activist who has worked in the HIV/AIDS field for 10 years. At the tender age of 14, she began engaging and educating the Belmont youth community around sexual health issues. She also took her experience of being a child of HIV-positive parents to local elementary and high schools to educate youth and adults around HIV/AIDS, proudly becoming known as the “condom girl.” Through her volunteer work at Children’s Place and Chicago House, working with children and families impacted by HIV, she was inspired to pursue a life of work in social activism. While in college, Natalie continued her work with Chicago House through the National AIDS Fund Americorps team. She had the opportunity of working with mothers and children who lived at Chicago House, helping with daily activities, conducting sex education classes with their children and holding seminars specific to the needs of the mothers.

Figueroa spends a few weeks during her summer with the families at Camp Getaway, providing social and emotional support to children impacted by the virus. She also has begun to volunteer with the Leftist Lounge-Chicago to promote awareness around the interconnected social justice issues, and makes it a point to integrate and speak out for HIV/AIDS issues, as well as queer and women’s rights.

Last year, she ran the Chicago Marathon and raised $4,000 for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. Professionally, Figueroa is working at Howard Brown Health Center as a youth case manager with the PATH program, which serves the needs of HIV-positive youth ages 13 to 24. She provides case management to HIV-positive youth ages 16 to 24. She is currently working on a BA in social work from Loyola University Chicago.

DID YOU KNOW? Natalie’s guilty pleasure is singing along to R. Kelly songs!



Gasch hails from Cleveland, Ohio, where he studied choreography and sociology at Case Western Reserve University. As a contracted teacher, he designed and taught literacy through fine arts in low-income neighborhoods as part of an initiative to bridge the socioeconomic gap between surrounding residential areas. He also has seven years experience teaching competition and exhibition choirs and drill teams at several area high schools.

Upon moving to Chicago, Ken taught basic gymnastics and movement,;worked as a puppeteer and interpreter at the Shedd Aquarium; and danced with the Boofont Sisters cabaret. In 2004, he choreographed “Africa & Plumbridge: The Musical,” premiering at the New York Fringe Festival, and served as dance captain for an independent musical film by SpeakProductions tht has played at over 40 festivals around the world and has won awards at festivals such as OutFest 2004 and the Sydney Mardi Gras Film Festival.

Ken is the artistic director for HouseHold Arts Collective, a multidisciplinary non-profit that produces dance concerts, art galleries and other public events to benefit local charities such as the Center on Halsted, one if its first beneficiaries in 2004.

He is also currently helping to develop a youth dance program for Horizons GLBT Youth Group; assisting the Association of Latino Men for Action in managing production of special events; choreographing the opening entertainment at Human Rights Campaign’s annual gala; and has volunteered for two years at International Mr. Leather. Additionally, he plays on the only gay team in a co-ed recreational soccer league and plans on returning to the Chicago Riptide water polo team in the fall.

DID YOU KNOW? As a kid, Ken liked to see how many times he could jump rope off the back of his parents’ couch; his favorite K-Tel record was Goofy Greats; and his nickname was “Fudgebucket” ( for reasons we won’t go into ) .



Vea Cleary is a feisty and passionate young woman who currently works at the Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ) as a project coordinator for the new Life Skills Program, which works with young transgender women, where she helped developed the curriculum and works as an intervention specialist. While at BYC, she has also worked on the re-invention of the Transwomen Informing Sister Transwomen about AIDS ( TWISTA ) curriculum. At BYC, Vea has also been responsible for coordinating a federally-funded HIV prevention grant targeting trans youth of color.

Prior to her work at BYC, she worked with the Poor People’s Economic Human Right Campaign, as well as with Project Safe. Vea received her B.A. in socioeconomics and gender studies from Sarah Lawrence College.

DID YOU KNOW? This spicy Cancerian is looking for her husband, so if you’ve met him, please introduce her!



Jeremy Gottschalk is a graduate of Marquette University and Loyola University Chicago School of Law. At Loyola, Jeremy focused on pediatric law, which is the representation of abused children and victims of domestic violence, and intellectual property law. Currently, Jeremy practices intellectual property and corporate law at one of Chicago’s top law firms, Bell, Boyd & Lloyd LLP.

Aside from his law firm practice, Jeremy focuses on bridging the gap between the legal community and the LGBT and HIV/AIDS community. Specifically, as the coordinator of legal programs for Howard Brown Health Center, he has established a network of law firms that provide pro bono legal representation for clients of Howard Brown’s Ryan White Case Management Program. Jeremy also designs and executes various direct-service legal programs, including legal seminars and workshops for the community.

Under his leadership of the Lesbian and Gay Bar Association of Chicago, various scholarships will be awarded to law students interning at Lambda Legal. The scholarship funding comes from Lawyers for Diversity, which is a fundraising program Jeremy created to channel money from Chicago’s largest law firms to local LGBT organizations, including the Center on Halsted, PFLAG and Equality Illinois. Later this year, he will lead a team introducing the ABA-endorsed, nationally-recognized HIV Legal Check-Up Project, which will offer legal needs assessments to individuals living with HIV/AIDS.

In addition to his involvement in the legal community, Jeremy is active in expanding LGBT civil rights in Illinois as a board member of Equality Illinois ( EI ) and its education project. For the last two years, Jhe has chaired the organization’s annual gala and has been instrumental in various fundraising efforts to raise money for EI in support of its mission to secure, protect and defend equal rights for LGBT people in Illinois.

DID YOU KNOW? Jeremy took tap dance for a few years at Marquette. Also, as a kid, Donny Osmond was the only famous person he ever wanted to meet ( and eventually met him ) .




Andrew Walensa has been working with Oak Park Area Lesbian and Gay Association ( OPALGA ) since he stumbled into their youth group at the age of 16. With the help of Susan Abbott ( Youth Program Director ) and OPALGA, Andrew has grown from a shy, closeted drop-in group participant to a strong, gay leader. He is an intricate part of the OPALGA Youth and Young Adult Network. Currently, Andrew is the weekly facilitator of Spectrum, OPALGA’s 18 and up drop-in group.

Andrew is also one of the founders and leader of OPALGA’s OUTspoken, a creative art group where youth and young adults use art to show the world from a LGBTQ perspective. The OUTspoken workshop experiments with different mediums of art ( poetry, creative writing, visual art and acting ) to share their stories and make social comments on society. The OUTspoken workshop prides itself in creating a community of LGBTQ artists that inspire each other to create and share their artistic work. Since its creation in 2004, OUTspoken has performed at numerous events, established a quaterly underground magazine called the OUTspoken ZINE and has held several showcases.

In 2005, Andrew was honored with a leadership award form National Youth Advocacy Coalition for the work he has done with OPALGA and the GLBTQ community. Additionally, he is a senior at Columbia College Chicago, where he is majoring in advertising art direction, and is ready to dive into the exciting world of the visual communication industry. His goal is to impact the world through art and advocacy.

DID YOU KNOW? Andrew is afraid of needles and blood, and once passed out at a piercing parlor.



Leticia Martinez, a.k.a. Letty, works as a health educator at the Broadway Youth Center. Her duties include health dducation and testing for HIV and STDs.

In the early ‘90s, she began working in prevention at the age of 13 as a volunteer peer educator at Stop AIDS Chicago and Teen Living Programs. Letty then began working at Howard Brown as an outreach worker and case finder, and continues to work at the Broadway Youth Center as lead health educator. She has a fierce dedication to educating all young people about HIV, prevention, education, resources and community. She hopes to one day become a medical provider so that she can help better serve young LGBTQ people and promote sex-positive messages and healthier decision making.

Letty has worked on and off with Howard Brown for over 10 years, wandering off to pursue other interests, such as cosmotology school, the U.S. Navy, retail and phlebotomy, but she always returns to the work she loves—education. She has always considered Howard Brown her home away from home.

DID YOU KNOW? Letty is a marksman with an M-16 rifle.




Ebonii Warren-Watts, a South Side native, is a fierce female illusionist by night and a Howard Brown Health Center employee by day. Currently, she supports the Broadway Youth Center’s drop-in program for homeless, runaway and LGBTQ young people as a program assistant. She is also a facilitator for BYC’s TWISTA group, an HIV prevention program for trans women of color.

Recently, Ebonii—otherwise known as “Ms. Mercedes Bonet”—finished first runner-up at the Miss Windy City Continental 2007, and will be competing for the Miss Continental 2007 title this fall. She was named K.C. Production’s Best Female Illusionist Newcomer in 2006 and Best Dressed Female Illusionist in 2007. She began her transition at the age of 16 and was featured in Blacklines about her transition and trans activism in high school. She was later featured in a Human Rights Campaign documentary about her life and experiences with an adopted LGBT family.

DID YOU KNOW? Ebonii can be found talking on her cell phone and working the neighborhood with her 30-inch ball python, Boe-Boe.



Jeff Souva grew up in rural northern Michigan, learning the importance of community involvement from his active and hardworking parents. In college, he took those lessons to heart and was extremely active in student organizing at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. For two years, Jeff co-chaired the LGBT Commission of the Michigan Student Assembly, organizing annual new student welcome picnics, National Coming Out Week and Queer Visibility Week festivities.

After studying abroad in London, Jeff returned to campus and co-facilitated a semester-long intergoup dialogue course between LGB and heterosexual students; volunteered for the HIV/AIDS Resource Center ( HARC ) doing safer sex outreach with the MSM population; and traveled during spring break to New York City to volunteer for God’s Love We Deliver, preparing and delivering meals to PWAs and other homebound clients.

In June 2005, after graduating with a degree in sociology and sub-concentration in social inequality, he moved to Chicago to work with Center on Halsted. During his time at the Center, Jeff has been a member of the development team, organizing fundraising events and managing agency volunteers. Now that the Center is open, Souva looks forward to his newest role as Manager of Volunteer Programs and spending more time working with our diverse and talented community in Chicago.

DID YOU KNOW? A city dweller now, Jeff grew up a country boy, raising prize-winning sheep.



Nadia Carrasco was born in Mexico, and her family came to the United States in 1994. Brought up in a politically active family, she organized at school and helped to form the group Students for Immigrant Rights at University of Illinois at Chicago, which organized for both the May 1 march and the March 10 Rally for Immigrant Rights, bringing people out through banner drop-offs, forums and speak-outs on campus. Through this work she became involved in La Coalicion 10 de Marzo and the International Socialist Organization.

Nadia believes in the importance of connecting struggles and exploring the intersections of oppressions like those based on ability, gender, class, race, sexual orientation, economic status and immigration status. A student of Gender and Woman's Studies at UIC, she got involved in an HIV prevention peer-education program with CALOR, organizing workshops to talk and share knowledge with other youth about HIV, STIs and sex. She is currently conducting interviews with different members of her community to further explore the particular realities youth face in relation to sex.

A volunteer for Homofrecuencia, she is head of the GSA Public High School Outreach Committee. She also worked on communication outreach for Queer Prom, and is currently a part of Arte y Realidad, an artist collective in Little Village.

DID YOU KNOW? Carrasco is currently learning Kendo, and twirling other things soon to be lit on fire.



Brent Caburnay is a former professional dancer. He continues to participate in numerous benefit dance performances including Dance for Life, which raised over $2 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and care programs. In addition, he was in the cast of “Dance Divas” and “Who’s That Girl?,” and has performed in events for Center on Halsted, Chicago House, Howard Brown Health Center and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, all benefiting programs that support Chicago’s LGBT community.

After retiring from professional dance, Brent co-created and co-chaired Center on Halsted’s First Bloom, a champagne brunch and French market, raising over $30,000 for Center on Halsted’s community and cultural programs. He served on Center on Halsted’s Human First Gala committee and worked as the Lakeview Citizens’ Council’s Community Development Director and as a volunteer for both the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and Central Lakeview Merchants Association. Currently, Brent is an event manager for the Resurrection Development Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Resurrection Health Care.

DID YOU KNOW? Brent danced with the prestigious Joffrey Ballet of Chicago for four years, and later went on to dance independently with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago and Dance Chicago.



Philip Dawkins is a playwright and educator from Phoenix, Ariz. A graduate of Loyola University Chicago, Philip’s play, Not Even the Children, was produced as part of their 2001/2002 season. Other productions include Ugly Baby; A Still Life in Color; The Man With A Shattered World; Jacks: A Beanstalk Blockbuster; and the forthcoming Perfect at the Side Project. Philip is a fellow of the Hawthornden Castle International Retreat for Writers in Scotland, and was the proud recipient of a 2006 CAAP Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council. He was the only self-identified gay male in Esquire magazine’s 2006 profile of 51 25-year-old men across the country.

His writing has been published in The Stranger, and his short plays and readings have been featured at Around the Coyote, Chicago Dramatists, Collaboraction, Estrogen Fest, HealthWorks, The Metropolis Centre for the Performing Arts, The Side Project, Straw Dog and Victory Gardens. He is currently working on the libretto for an opera with composer Eric C. Reda. Dawkins is the ARTS program director for Pegasus Players, through which he places Artists in Residence in Chicago Public Schools. As an associate artist of Chicago Dramatists, he also teaches playwriting in multiple Chicago schools.

DID YOU KNOW? Dawkins was literally born in the closet—a supply closet!



A native Southerner—from Huntsville, Ala.—Toby Eveland moved to Chicago in 2000 expecting to be here for only nine months while he served as spokesperson and consultant for his undergraduate fraternity, Sigma Chi. Seven years later, after having fallen in love with the city's diversity, warmth and neighborhood feel, he calls it home.

A graduate of Loyola University Chicago School of Law, Toby is an attorney with the law firm of Arnstein & Lehr LLP. His practice focuses on complex insurance coverage and contractual disputes, products liability defense and commercial litigation. Eveland also counsels a number of non-profit organizations in the city. He serves as chair of the Chicago Bar Association’s Committee on Legal Rights for Lesbians and Gay Men, and he was recently appointed to the Illinois State Bar Association’s Committee on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

Toby is also the founding president of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Junior Board, a group of 40 young professionals committed to increasing awareness and advocacy for HIV/AIDS-related issues. He serves on the Gala Committee for Equality Illinois and is also an instructor for Loyola University’s Moot Court program.

In his spare time, Toby enjoys running. He participated in the 2003 AIDS Marathon Training Program and ran the 2005 Chicago Marathon for Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation.

DID YOU KNOW? Eveland is a self-described NASCAR?fanatic, and raced stock cars professionally through 2000. He was also a test driver and sports marketing director for a NASCAR?team.


Reporter Alex Perez joined the award-winning NBC-5 News team in July of 2005. Before NBC-5, he was a reporter at KVIA-TV in El Paso, Texas. Perez has also worked at WBKB-TV in Alpena, Mich., and WICD-TV and WPGU-FM, both in Champaign, Ill.

As a general assignment reporter, Perez covers a wide-range of issues. While in Michigan, he helped create the area’s first Crimestoppers program. In New Mexico, he was one of the first reporters to cover the controversial Minuteman Project along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Perez is a Chicago native, born and raised in the city’s Pilsen neighborhood. He attended St. Laurence High School in Burbank, and holds a BA in journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.

Alex has received several community awards for his work. He has worked with minority and LGBT journalism organizations, and also volunteers for various community-based groups. During his time with NBC-5—which recently withdrew its sponsorship for a local festival because a singer known for his anti-gay lyrics was scheduled to appear—Alex has come out to his colleagues and family.

DID YOU KNOW? Perez is Cuban and Puerto Rican and, at one point in his life, weighed 356 pounds.



Kelsey Pacha is a rising senior at Northwestern University, majoring in human development and psychological aervices. Her activism began at her Catholic high school in Iowa City, Iowa, when she wrote a series of scathing editorials on the school’s administration. Her piece in favor of gay marriage resulted in a ban on all subsequent articles contrary to church teaching. She has been involved with NU’s undergraduate LGBT group, Rainbow Alliance, since the fall quarter of her freshman year and is currently serving her second year as co-president. During her three years of involvement with Rainbow Alliance, she spearheaded visibility campaigns for National Coming Out Day and Rainbow Week. She also helped start a weekly LGBT Bible study, Claiming the Promise, as well as an annual spring program dealing with LGBT issues in Christianity.

In the summer of 2006, she attempted to enlist in the Army Reserve as an openly lesbian woman in conjunction with a nationwide campaign to protest the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy. After being rejected, she staged a sit-in at the Clybourn/Division recruitment center and was arrested. This spring, she participated in the second annual Soulforce Equality Ride, a two-month long tour of Christian colleges and universities with policies that prevent students from coming out as LGBT. As a rider, she co-organized the West Bus’ first stop to the University of Notre Dame, where she and nine others were given lifetime trespassing notices for attempting to speak with students on campus.

Her future plans include attending graduate school in counseling psychology and seminary with a concentration in LGBT spirituality. Her dream job would be the head counselor of a Christian outreach organization for LGBT youth.

DID YOU KNOW? Though Kelsey attends Northwestern, she is a die-hard University of Iowa Hawkeye fan.



Gilberto Soberanis, a.k.a. Beto, started his activism at Noble Street Charter School, when he and a group of students raised around $10,000 for the Heartland AIDS Ride 2002, a 650-mile charity bike ride from Minneapolis to Chicago that raised money for agencies that provide services for people with HIV/AIDS. He was also a member of his school’s AIDS Action Club.

At age 19, Gilberto began his work with Howard Brown Health Center as a health educator for Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ) , a program that serves homeless, queer and at-risk youth. He has also served many other roles at Howard Brown, such an HIV peer educator and research associate for an LGBTQ youth HIV prevention study. He is now the testing coordinator for BYC.

Gilberto is the facilitator for the Socials group, a group designed for HIV-positive youth to form friendships and create a place where they can meet people with similar status in a more social setting. Later, these bonds can be used to benefit themselves at another more formal support groups. At BYC, he also provides program support to the services offered to LGBTQ and homeless youth, including daily drop-in and Friday at Broadway.

Gilberto was also with Advocates for Youth as an online peer educator, where youth would e-mail him with their problems, issues and questions. He would give provide them resources to obtain more information regarding HIV/STI facts and sexual health

DID YOU KNOW? One of his college professors tried to pronounce his last name and mistakenly called him Sober-anus?



Brian Lobel is a writer and performer whose plays, “BALL” and “Other Funny Stories About Cancer,” have been performed in 40 cities worldwide. Brian has called Chicago home since 2004, when he worked as an artistic apprentice at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. His plays have been performed at Bailiwick Repertory Theatre and Live Bait Theater; Warehouse Theater in Washington, D.C.; Makor and Galapagos Art Space in New York City; the First Person Festival in Philadelphia; and at many universities in between. During this time, Brian has also had the distinct pleasure of being a smoothie-maker, jeans seller, transcriptionist, group conversation facilitator, workshop leader and substitute teacher all throughout this wonderful city.

Brian is a two-time recipient of the DCA’s CAAP Grant for New and Emerging Artists and has worked for Goodman Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre and Hell in a Handbag in various capacities. For three summers, he worked as the Program Coordinator at Seeds of Peace International Camp, working with youth from the Middle East.

In June, Brian will be attending Lincoln Center’s Director’s Lab in New York City before premiering new work at Fillet of Solo 2007. He is a lover of backgammon, Andersonville and challenging stories.

DID YOU KNOW? Brian spent three months in 2003 hula-hooping one hour every day in preparation for his play “BALL.” He remains a hula hooping champion.