Monday, January 08, 2007

Smith Reintroduces the Global Online Freedom Act

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) announced today that he has reintroduced legislation which aims to promote free expression and a free flow of information on the Internet by preventing U.S. companies from aiding regimes who restrict access to the Internet. "American high-tech firms have produced the technology and know-how that has led to a modern-day information revolution. However, instead of working to allow everyone to benefit from these advancements, these same high-tech firms are colluding with dictators to suppress the spread of information and punish pro-democracy advocates," said Smith. The "Global Online Freedom Act of 2007" will strengthen the federal government's new strategy to promote online freedom by prohibiting U.S. Internet companies from cooperating with repressive regimes that restrict information about human rights and democracy on the Internet and use personally identifiable information to track down and punish democracy activists. The bill would make it a crime for Internet companies to turn over personal information to governments who use that information to suppress dissent. "American companies should not be working hand-in-glove with dictators. By blocking access to information and providing secret police with the technology to monitor dissidents, American IT companies are knowingly-and willingly-enabling the oppression of millions of people," Smith said in reference to companies who are complicit in helping dictators restrict free access to the Internet. Smith first introduced his legislation just days after he convened a landmark seven-hour hearing at which representatives from major tech Internet firms Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems testified that they have complied with censorship laws and/or provided personally identifiable information about Internet users to repressive regimes in countries where they do business. The bill was approved by the House subcommittee that had jurisdiction of human rights during the 109th Congress, but the session ended before the bill could be brought before the full House for a vote. Authoritarian regimes including China, Belarus, Cuba, Ethiopia, Iran, Laos, North Korea, Tunisia and Vietnam are all known to block, restrict and monitor the free flow of information on the Internet. In some of the more egregious cases, democracy activists have been tracked down and incarcerated for their online communications. American IT companies Microsoft, Google, Yahoo! and Cisco Systems have assisted repressive regimes who censor information, monitor Internet usage and punish political dissidents. "By helping dictators stifle free speech and spy on dissidents, American IT companies are putting profits before principles," said Smith. Smith said he felt positive about the prospects for Congressional approval of the "Global Online Freedom Act of 2007" in the 110th Congress, especially in light of recent efforts by shareholders to pressure these companies to change their business practices with repressive countries. Last November, 29% of Cisco Systems shareholders voted for an unprecedented resolution that would have forced the company to account for its activities in repressive countries. "Investors are taking notice of the repressive business practices of these Internet companies and are starting to voice their opposition in masses. Corporations need to heed these concerns and understand that it is good business to promote human rights, not suppress them," said Smith. Specifically, the "Global Online Freedom Act of 2007": * Prohibits US companies from disclosing to foreign officials of an "Internet Restricting Country" information that personally identifies a particular user except for "legitimate foreign law enforcement purposes;" * Creates a private right of action for individuals aggrieved by the disclosure of such personal identification to file suit in any US district court; * Prohibits US internet service providers from blocking online content of US government or US-government financed sites; * Authorizes $50 million for a new interagency office within the State Department charged with developing and implementing a global strategy to combat state-sponsored internet jamming by repressive countries; * Requires the new Office of Global Internet Freedom to monitor filtered terms; and to work with Internet companies and the non-profit sector to develop a voluntary code of minimum corporate standards related to Internet freedom. * Requires Internet companies to disclose to the new Office of Global Internet Freedom the terms they filter and the parameters they must meet in order to do business in Internet Restricting Countries; * Requires the President to submit to Congress an annual report designating as an "Internet Restricting Country" any nation that systematically and substantially restrict internet freedom; * Establishes civil penalties for businesses (up to $2 million) and individuals (up to $100,000) for violations of the new requirements; * Mandates a feasibility study, by the Department of Commerce, to determine what type of restrictions and safeguards should be imposed on the export of computer equipment which could be used in an Internet Restricting Country to restrict Internet freedom. Contact: Patrick Creamer of the Office of U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, +1-202-225-3765.

U.S. Income Inequality Has Not Increased: New Cato Study Demonstrates Weaknesses of Popular Data

WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- It's become an unquestioned part of the conventional wisdom that income inequality is rising steadily and has been for two decades. In a new policy analysis, "Has U.S. Income Inequality Really Increased?" Cato Institute senior fellow Alan Reynolds shows that these claims are wrong in both their premises and their conclusions. "The widespread impression that the United States has experienced a large and continuous increase in income inequality since the 1970s is almost entirely dependent on the disingenuous practice of using estimates," writes Reynolds, "which are highly misleading, because of dramatic changes in the tax rules and tax reporting in recent decades." "The top 1 percent's share [of national income] jumped from 9.1 percent in 1985, when the top tax rate was 50 percent, to 13.2 percent in 1988 when the top tax rate dropped to 28 percent," Reynolds explains, but the change was not due to "a sudden two-year spurt in inequality. It was a sudden increase in the amount of high income reported on individual income tax returns rather than being concealed, deferred, or reported on corporate income tax returns." Reynolds notes that taxpayers are very responsive to changes in the law, so "a substantial reduction of top tax rates should be followed by a very substantial increase in the amount of income reported on tax returns. And [since 1986] that is exactly what happened." Once these facts are considered, Reynolds concludes, "There is no clear evidence of a significant and sustained increase in the inequality of U.S. incomes, wages, consumption, or wealth since the late 1980s." Policy Analysis Paper no. 586: Cato Institute: Contact: Alan Reynolds, senior fellow,, Samuel R. John, media relations manager, 202-789-5236, Evans Pierre, director of broadcasting, 202-789-5204, The Cato Institute is a nonpartisan public policy research foundation dedicated to broadening policy debate consistent with the traditional American principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets, and peace.

Monday, October 16, 2006

President of National Black Pro-Life Union Says Take Abortion Off the Table in Comments on Philadelphia Murder Trial

10/16/2006 7:59:00 AM
To: National and State desks
Contact: Day Gardner of National Black Pro-Life Union, 202-834-0844
WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In Philadelphia, the trial has begun for a man who is charged with killing a pregnant woman and her unborn child. Local authorities say Stephen Poaches, the father of the baby, has admitted to killing his girlfriend, Latoyia Figueroa, because she refused to have an abortion.
"To think that Latoyia Figueroa and her baby were killed because she refused to kill her own child is nauseating, said Day Gardner, president of the National Black Pro-Life Union and director of Public Relations for National Pro-Life Action Center on Capitol Hill. "I can't help but wonder what that beautiful young mother was thinking as her life was being brutally strangled out of her. Both she and her unborn little one suffered the same terrible fate."
Investigators have told reporters that Poaches admitted he strangled Figueroa in rage when she told him she didn't agree with having an abortion.
"Abortion is a vicious attack on unborn children and also hurts women," said Gardner. "We are seeing more and more horror stories like this where there is total disregard for human life - - which is why it's imperative that we get abortion off the table. The killing of a child should never be thought of as an option. Latoyia and her baby were both deserving of life."
Figueroa was also the mother of a seven-year-old daughter.
/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Feminists for Life of America Responds to Attack on Susan B. Anthony

10/14/2006 10:32:00 AM

To: National Desk
Contact: Valerie Schmalz of Feminists for Life, 415-571-8373
WASHINGTON, Oct. 14 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following is a statement by Feminists for Life of America President Serrin M. Foster in response to an Oct. 13 New York Times guest opinion piece by Stacy Schiff, "Desperately Seeking Susan," which questions whether Susan B. Anthony's pro-life feminism would continue in the 21st Century:
At Feminists for Life of America, we proudly claim Susan B. Anthony as one of our feminist foremothers.
In her Oct. 13 New York Times opinion piece, Stacy Schiff admitted that Susan B. Anthony opposed abortion and devoted herself to fighting for women's rights: "There is no question that she deplored the practice of abortion, as did every one of her colleagues in the suffrage movement."
Schiff's summary of the early feminists' beliefs parallels my own statement: "Without known exception, the early American feminists condemned abortion in the strongest possible terms."
Our feminist foremothers sought to consistently defend human beings through their efforts for suffrage and for abolition of slavery. The basic tenets of feminism, which we have received from the early feminists, are nondiscrimination, nonviolence, and justice for all. Abortion violates all three.
The spirit of FFL's mission to create holistic solutions to the challenges faced by pregnant women and parents is perhaps best expressed in Anthony's own words: "Sweeter even than to have had the joy of caring for children of my own has it been to me to help bring about a better state of things for mothers generally, so their unborn little ones could not be willed away from them." (Susan B. Anthony, quoted in Frances Willard's Glimpses of Fifty Years: The Autobiography of an American Woman, Chicago: Women's Temperance Pub. Assoc., 1889, 598)
As Mattie Brinkerhoff wrote in Anthony's newspaper: "When a man steals to satisfy hunger, we may safely conclude that there is something wrong in society—so when a woman destroys the life of her unborn child, it is an evidence that either by education or circumstances she has been greatly wronged." (The Revolution, 4(9):138-9 September 2, 1869)
Feminists for Life's goal is to eradicate the root causes that lead to abortion, because women deserve better.
Schiff's portrayal of Anthony as a "killjoy" and as "the drillmaster of the suffrage movement" seems to be personality rather than philosophical analysis, irrelevant to Anthony's views.
Today Feminists for Life is proud to continue the tradition of our feminist foremothers, including Anthony. Since we opened our office in Washington, D.C, in 1994:
-- FFL was the only pro-life group active in a unique coalition of women's groups to successfully fight child exclusion provisions in welfare reform. (The "family cap" was later tested on poor women and teens in New Jersey and proven to significantly increase abortions.)
-- FFL was the only pro-life and women's group to actively champion the New York state model program to help working poor pregnant women receive prenatal care through the State Child Health Insurance Program (SCHIP).
-- FFL was the only pro-life group to successfully advocate for the Enhanced Child Support Enforcement Act.
-- FFL was the only pro-life group in the National Task Force on Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence to work successfully for the Violence Against Women Act.
-- FFL was the only feminist group to support Laci and Connor's Law, also known as the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
-- FFL was a charter member of a coalition against sex trafficking.
Susan B. Anthony devoted her life to improving American society for its most disempowered members -- slaves, women and children. No revisionist history or claims of not knowing what a historical figure would think about a current issue, no matter how amusingly worded, will erase the clear legacy of this heroic woman.
/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/

Congolese Military Judge Calls for the Prosecution of Former Anvil Mining Staff for Complicity in War Crimes

10/15/2006 10:38:00 PM

To: National and International Desk Contact (Oxford, UK): Patricia Feeney of Rights & Accountability in Development (RAID), Office: plus-44 (0) 1865-515-982; Mobile: plus-44 (0) 779-617-8447 or
LUBUMBASHI, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Oct. 15 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In an unprecedented move, a Congolese military judge has recommended the prosecution of three former Anvil Mining employees for complicity in war crimes and of Colonel Ademar Ilunga and eight of his subordinates for breaches of the Geneva Convention and its Additional Protocols.
The judge's 12 October decision follows a lengthy investigation into extrajudicial killings, torture, rape and looting carried out by the Congolese Armed Forces two years ago in the town of Kilwa, which is located in the mineral rich Katanga Province, DRC. The crimes occurred during an operation to suppress a small-scale rebellion in Kilwa.
The former Anvil Mining employees include the following individuals:
-- Pierre Mercier, a Canadian national, who was the General Manger of Anvil's Congolese subsidiary, Anvil Mining Congo, and also the Deputy General Manager of the Perth-based company, Anvil Mining NL. He is now believed to be working for First Quantum Minerals, which operates the Sakania mine near the Zambian border.
-- Peter Van Niekerk and another man identified only as Cedric, both South Africans, who were responsible for security at Anvil's remote Dikulushi copper/silver mine at the time of the incident. Anvil no longer employs its own staff to protect the mine; security has been outsourced to a South African company.
The former employees are accused of having "voluntarily failed to withdraw the vehicles placed at the disposal of the 62nd Brigade in the context of the counter offensive of 1/815-18 3/8 October 2004 to recapture the town of Kilwa" and of having "knowingly facilitated the commission of war crimes by Ilunga Ademar and his men".
The most serious crime, which was carried out by the Congolese Armed Forces, was the summary execution of 20 men and 5 women, none of whom took part in the small-scale rebellion that was the impetus for the military's counter-offensive.
The Military Prosecutor has issued a "decision de renvoi" which combines the indictment and the decision to place the accused persons in the hands of a military trial court judge. It indicates that the prosecutor has ended his investigation and concluded that there is sufficient evidence to support the charges.
After Australia's flagship current affairs programme, Four Corners, exposed Anvil Mining's role in the Kilwa incident, the company confirmed that it provided "logistical assistance" to the Congolese Armed Forces, but claimed that its vehicles were "requisitioned" and that it effectively had no choice but to comply. Before the expose, Anvil Mining never informed any authorities of the scale and gravity of the incident. The World Bank Group's Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency provides the Dikulushi project with political risk insurance.
In June 2005, Australian law firm, Slater and Gordon, acting on behalf of RAID and Congolese non-governmental organizations called on the Australian Federal Police to investigate whether there was evidence of Anvil's complicity in the commission of crimes against humanity or war crimes under Chapter 8 of the Australian Criminal Code Act of 1995. Australia's law mirrors the International Criminal Court. In September 2005, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police (AFP). Their investigation is ongoing.
RAID welcomes the military judge's decision to recommend that Colonel Ademar Ilunga and the other defendants should stand trial for war crimes. It is a significant step in the struggle to end impunity in the DRC.
"A trial conducted in accordance with international standards should proceed as this is the only way of bringing justice to the victims of the Kilwa massacre", said Patricia Feeney, executive director of RAID. "The precise circumstances in which Anvil provided 'logistical support' used by the Congolese military in the terrible events that occurred in Kilwa must be fully investigated and resolved".
Further information:
Background brief:
RAID's web page for the Kilwa incident:
RAID's June 2005 press release: "Anvil Mining's Complicity in Congolese Massacre Exposed by Australia's Flagship Current Affairs Program; Groups call on World Bank to Withdraw Support for the Dikulushi Copper/Silver Mine".
/© 2006 U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/