Saturday, November 05, 2005

Dads' Rights Legal Expert: Courts Failed Baby Evan by Granting Mom Custody

CHICAGO, Nov. 5 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Evan Johnson, the four- year-old boy who earlier this year was at the center of a high- profile and controversial adoption case, was removed from the custody of his biological mother Friday after his stepfather was arrested and charged with battering the child.

A judge ordered that Evan, who had been residing in Glenview, Ill., be placed temporarily in the custody of his biological father, Stephen White, in Maine.

In January, a Florida judge had granted custody of Evan to his biological mother, Amanda Hopkins, who gave him up for adoption days after his birth, because the adopting parents, Gene and Dawn Scott, failed to obtain the father's consent. The controversial decision generated national media attention and highlighted the issue of fathers' rights in adoption.

"This is something that never should have happened - the system has failed Evan," said Jeffery M. Leving, a nationally- recognized domestic relations attorney and fathers' rights advocate in Illinois. "He has been bounced around from the would- be adoptive parents, to his mother, now to his father. At least now he is where he should have been from day one - in the care of his father, the birth parent who wanted him all along."

Leving believes that the Florida judge ruled correctly to block the Scott's adoption because they failed to seek the father's consent, but that they erred in granting the mother, who sought custody only after it appeared likely that White would be granted parental rights.

White had sought custody of Evan since the child was only a few months old, but the Florida courts debated the case for more than three years while Evan was in the custody of the Scotts. This set up a traumatic transition of custody, reminiscent of the Baby Richard case, when Evan was removed from the couple he had come to know as his parents.

"This whole situation could have been avoided had the father's parental rights been recognized from the start," said Leving. "Instead you have put this child through a very painful and very public tug-of-war that resulted in him being placed in abusive situation. The courts must do better than this to protect children like Evan."

Leving is available for interview or comment regarding the case and the topic of fathers' rights in adoption and custody disputes. Call Joe Englert 312-296-3668.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Washington, DC -- On October 2, the National Transportation Safety Board dispatched a team of investigators to the scene of the capsizing of the vessel Ethan Allen at Lake George, New York. Twenty passengers died in the accident. The following is an update of factual information collected by the Safety Board's team.

Cummins Inc., the manufacturer of the engine on the Ethan Allen, was offered and they have accepted party status. Cummins will provide expertise during the fact- finding portion of the investigation. They will provide technical input regarding the engine and will participate in the testing of engine components.

No toxicology testing was performed by local law enforcement immediately following the accident. The vessel master voluntarily provided samples for the NTSB for toxicology testing approximately 46 hours following the accident. Those samples were negative for alcohol and all drugs tested by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Civil Aerospace Medical Institute (CAMI) toxicology laboratory. The FAA-CAMI laboratory sent specimens to Northwest Toxicology, a commercial laboratory, for testing for urine ethanol glucuronide (EtG, ametabolite of ethanol). That testing was positive for urine EtG at a level of 5330 ng/mL. According to Northwest Toxicology, urine EtG testing can confirm the consumption of alcohol up to 80 hours after its elimination from the body. The master told Safety Board investigators that he had ingested alcohol the night before the accident, within 80 hours prior to the sample collection.

The investigative team continued to investigate witnesses and passengers after returning to the Washington, D. C. headquarters. The team continues to compile data for a stability analysis of the vessel, including information related to all post-construction alterations to the vessel that may have had an impact on stability. The Safety Board has not reached any conclusions about the cause of the sinking of the vessel.

Media Contact: Terry N. Williams (202) 314-6100

Gingrich Foundation Awards Grant to the Trust for Public Land

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The Gingrich Foundation has awarded a grant to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization.

The Trust for Public Land helps land owners, communities, state agencies, and national agencies conserve land for people to enjoy as parks, playgrounds and protected natural areas.

"The Trust for Public Land uses a common sense approach to land stewardship, as it preserves our natural, cultural, and historic heritage," said Callista Gingrich, president of the Gingrich Foundation, "Newt and I are delighted to be a part of their good work."

"We're very happy to have this generous contribution," said James Langford, Georgia state director for the Trust for Public Land. "This gift will help us significantly as we move forward to preserve new areas of green space across the country -- spaces that improve the quality of life for all Americans, whether they live in urban or rural environments."

The Trust for Public Land is dedicated to providing a full range of services to those individuals and organizations involved in conservation projects. The Trust has completed more than 2,700 land conservation projects in 46 states, protecting nearly two million acres of land.


The Gingrich Foundation is a domestic non-profit corporation founded by Callista and Newt Gingrich to support charitable purposes. Callista Gingrich is the chief clerk of the House Committee on Agriculture in Washington, D.C. Newt Gingrich is chairman of the Gingrich Group and founder of the Center for Health Transformation in Washington, D.C. and Atlanta.

Statement of U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao on October Employment Numbers

WASHINGTON, Nov. 4 /U.S. Newswire/ -- U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao issued the following statement on the October employment situation released today:

"Today's numbers show that despite the devastating battering of three recent hurricanes, the fundamentals of the economy are still strong. The unemployment rate fell to 5 percent, our economy still continues to add jobs, and average hourly earnings increased."

Thursday, November 03, 2005

NLPC Files FEC Complaint Against Rap Promoter for 2004 Vote or Die Campaign; Criticizes NAACP Legal Defense Fund for Honoring Sean Combs Tonight

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Peter Flaherty, president of the National Legal and Policy Center (NLPC), today announced that the group is filing a formal Complaint with the Federal Election Commission (FEC) against Sean Combs, the rap promoter also known as P. Diddy or Puff Daddy. Also named as a Respondent is Citizen Change, an organization founded by Combs that sponsored the Vote or Die Campaign during last year's presidential election.

Combs is to receive a "special award" tonight from the NAACP Legal Defense Fund at its National Equal Justice Award Dinner in New York City at the Hilton New York and Towers.

NLPC alleges that Combs and Citizen Change appear to have violated the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) and the Internal Revenue Service Code by promoting the election of John Kerry and the defeat of George Bush. Citizen Change purported to promote voter mobilization, consistent with the activities of a nonprofit organization, but engaged in prohibited electioneering activities,

The Complaint cites Citizen Change rallies where speakers called for the election of Kerry and the defeat of Bush, including an event on October 26, 2004 at Wayne State University where actor Leonardo DiCaprio urged the crowd to vote for Kerry, as did Detroit mayor Kwame Kilpatrick.

The Complaint notes that Citizen Change is at the same address as Combs' businesses, raising the possibility that corporate funds were illegally used in support of Citizen Change's activities. The Complaint also points to the campaign's emphasis on fashion, style and conspicuous consumption, and asks the FEC to investigate whether the real purpose of the Vote or Die campaign was to advance a commercial activity, namely Combs' line of clothing and/or his clothing company.

Of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund Award, Flaherty said, "Honoring Combs shows how badly the civil rights movement has lost its way. I think of the courage and decency of Rosa Parks, and then I think of what Combs represents."

Flaherty continued, "The Vote or Die Campaign was little more than a way for Combs to call attention to himself. In terms of effectiveness, it was a joke."

A pdf version of a copy of the Complaint is available at

NLPC has a track record of success before the FEC. On March 26, 2004, the FEC fined two leadership PACs associated with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a total of $21,000 in response to an NLPC Complaint. On Jan. 13, 2004, the FEC ruled in response to another NLPC Complaint that Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) illegally failed to disclose large loans to her campaign just prior to her 2000 Senate election.

An FEC Complaint filed by NLPC on April 18, 2003 resulted in a Conciliation Agreement under which Al Sharpton had to pay a $5,500 fine for late filing of disclosure documents. Another Complaint, filed on Feb. 2, 2004 and extensively amended on Feb. 5, 2004, asked the FEC to deny Sharpton taxpayer matching funds.

On May 13, 2004, the FEC ruled that Sharpton must return $100,000 that he has received in federal matching funds. This followed the FEC's April 29, 2004 ruling that payment on an additional $79,709, for which Sharpton had purportedly qualified, would not be made.

NLPC promotes ethics in public life, and sponsors the Government Integrity Project.

Few Prisoners Enroll in College Classes, Despite Research Indicating Its Effectiveness in Reducing Recidivism

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Despite mounting evidence that correctional education -- and postsecondary education in particular -- can be a cost-effective approach to reducing recidivism, fewer than 5 percent of prisoners nationwide are currently enrolled in college classes, according to a new report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

Recidivism -- the re-arrest, reconviction, or return to prison of former prisoners -- has contributed to a rapidly growing prison population in the U.S. that costs American taxpayers nearly $30 billion annually.

To better understand the status, funding, and implementation of postsecondary correctional education programs the Institute conducted a national survey that yielded input from correctional education administrators from 45 states and the Federal Bureau of Prisons. Results of the survey, along with additional data and analysis are detailed in the new report, "Learning to Reduce Recidivism: A 50-State Analysis of Postsecondary Correctional Education Policy."

In 2003-04, some 85,000 prisoners -- fewer than 5 percent of the total prison population -- were taking college courses, according to the report, representing just a small fraction of those who are prepared academically, eligible, and could benefit from access to higher education.

Interestingly, the vast majority of incarcerated students taking part in higher education -- 89 percent -- were enrolled in programs in 15 prison systems that awarded 96 percent of all degrees and certificates granted to prisoners nationwide. But contrary to popular perceptions, prison inmates have not been receiving free college degrees, even at the associate's level, in any significant numbers.

"Prisoners are serving longer sentences than in the past but are frequently released without the education or skills necessary to find productive employment," said Jamie Merisotis, president of the Institute. "Offering postsecondary education to inmates seems less 'soft on crime' and more a cost-effective means to reduce recidivism and gain control of the mounting tax burden."

The report calls for a national effort to build public support for postsecondary correctional education as an important means to reduce recidivism, and includes a series of recommendations and specific funding policy changes. The report also stresses the need for a strong state-level commitment, and profiles of policies in California, Minnesota, New Mexico, North Carolina, and Texas are provided as examples. For more information see

Pending Home Sales Index Close to Record: National Association of Realtors(r)

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Pending home sales, a leading indicator for the housing sector, eased slightly but is at the second highest level on record, according to the National Association of Realtors(r).

The Pending Home Sales Index (See Note Below), based on contracts signed in September, slipped 0.3 percent to a reading of 128.8 from a record of 129.2 in August, and is 3.3 percent higher than September 2004.

The index is derived from pending sales of existing homes. A sale is listed as pending when the contract has been signed but the transaction has not closed; pending home sales typically are finalized within one or two months of signing.

David Lereah, NAR's chief economist, said the index shows a lot of momentum. "We're still seeing a post-Katrina boost in home sales activity, where the needs of displaced residents are supplementing a fundamentally strong market," he said. "Aside from this temporary lift, the market is entering a period of transition in which we will see a somewhat slower but more sustainable pace of home sales-a period that is expected to be historically healthy. This will help to create a better balance between home buyer and sellers, so price appreciation should be cooler as well."

Many post-Katrina sales in the region surrounding the disaster zone were bulk sales by companies that were obtaining housing for employees; some of those sales closed quickly in September with others expected to be recorded in data for October and November.

An index of 100 is equal to the average level of contract activity during 2001, the first year to be examined. 2001 was the first of four consecutive record years for existing-home sales, with activity in that year being fairly close to the higher level of home sales projected for the coming decade relative to norms during the mid-1990s. A Pending Home Sales Index of 100 coincides with a historically high level of home sales.

Regionally, the highest PHSI was in the South where the index slipped 1.6 percent in September to 139.1 from a record in August, and was 6.3 percent higher than September 2004. In the Northeast, the index rose 1.8 percent to 110.4 in September and was 0.8 percent above a year ago. The Midwest index rose 0.3 percent to 119.7 in September, and was 0.4 percent below September 2004. The index in the West held even at a level of 136.7, and was 3.6 higher than a year ago.

The National Association of Realtors(r), "The Voice for Real Estate," is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.2 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.



The Pending Home Sales Index is based on a large national sample, typically representing about 20 percent of transactions for existing-home sales. In developing the model for the index, it was demonstrated that the level of monthly sales-contract activity from 2001 through 2004 closely parallels the level of closed existing-home sales in the following two months.

Existing-home sales for October will be released November 28; the next Pending Home Sales Index will be on December 6.

Information about NAR is available at . This and other news releases are posted in the Web site's "News Media" section in the NAR Media Center. Statistical data, charts and surveys also may be found in the NAR Media Center by clicking on Economic & Housing Statistics.

Obesity Action Coalition Calls on Wal-Mart to Renounce Discrimination Against Obese Employees

TAMPA, Fla., Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- On Nov. 2, the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC) issued a letter to S. Robson Walton, chairman of the board of directors of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., urging the company to renounce their proposed discriminatory healthcare statements in a recent memo, titled "Reviewing and Revising Wal-Mart's Benefits Strategy," which discusses projected changes to employee benefits and hiring practices.

Wal-Mart, with its significant influence in the marketplace, greatly contributes to the denial of employment and medical treatment to obese individuals. "Obesity is a complex disease that requires access to treatment to better the quality of health and life of those affected by this disease. Wal-Mart's proposals further perpetuate and exemplify the negative stigma and discrimination associated with obesity and morbid obesity. It is now time for Wal-Mart to take a leadership position in addressing this disease," said OAC President and CEO Joseph Nadglowski, Jr.

Obesity is a serious health epidemic targeting more than 93 million Americans. There are more than 30 medical conditions associated with obesity, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, sleep apnea and many more. Individuals who are obese are at risk of developing one or more of these serious medical conditions, causing poor health and/or early death.

The OAC stands ready to assist Wal-Mart in developing a comprehensive prevention and treatment program for obesity to better serve their current and future employees. To view the letter sent to Chairman Walton, please visit

The mission of the OAC is to elevate and empower those affected by obesity through education, advocacy and support. The OAC strives to educate patients, family members and the public on all types of obesity. In addition, the OAC will increase obesity education, work to improve access to medical treatments for obese patients, advocate for safe and effective treatments and strive to eliminate the negative stigma associated with obesity.

Black Activists Denounce Racialist Milwaukee Newspaper Editorial; Journal Sentinel Accuses Clarence Thomas of Not Representing Black America

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Members of the black leadership network Project 21 are condemning a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel editorial in which United States Supreme Court Associate Justice Clarence Thomas is said to need an "asterisk" next to his name with regard to his race because he "does not represent the views of mainstream black America."

In an editorial written by Greg Stanford that appeared in the October 31 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that was largely critical of the nomination of Judge Samuel Alito to the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court, Stanford also chose to take issue with Justice Thomas's racial allegiance. The editorial stated: "In losing a woman, the court with Alito would feature seven white men, one white woman and a black man, who deserves an asterisk because he arguably does not represent the views of mainstream black America."

Project 21 members strongly denounced the notion that there is a black way of thinking that is expressly liberal in nature.

"Agree or disagree with Justice Thomas, his personal journey -- from poverty in Pinpoint, Georgia to academic achievement at Yale Law School, to high-level service in several federal positions and on the nation's highest court -- is an admirable example of personal dedication and success, not an asterisk," said Project 21 member Deroy Murdock.

Murdock added: "Justice Thomas is not on the Court to represent 'mainstream black America' any more than Justice Antonin Scalia is supposed to stick up for Americans of Italian descent or Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is supposed to be the Court's voice of American Jewry. Is there a mainstream black view on so-called 'right to die' cases? What is the proper Jewish position on the Endangered Species Act's impact on property rights? Who knows? Justice Thomas represents the conservative judicial philosophy of the president who appointed him. So far, he is doing that quite well. If liberals want to affect the philosophical tone of the Supreme Court, they should consider winning the White House."

"It is apparent that Greg Stanford's attempt at sarcastic cute humor failed. He is representative of the left's unambiguous contempt for decency," said Project 21 member Mychal Massie. "It gives one cause to question the depth of moral turpitude liberals will plumb to case aspersions on blacks and women who do not subcribe to their perversion of reality."


Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization, has been a leading voice in the black community since 1992. For more information, contact David Almasi at 202-543-4110, ext. 11, email or visit Project 21's Web site at .

Interest Group Showdown Over Alito Likely to Trigger Major TV Air War; Data on Ads to Be Released by Brennan Center, Justice at Stake

WASHINGTON, Nov. 3 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A study of interest group reactions to this year's Supreme Court nominations shows that the pick of Judge Samuel Alito could well trigger the kind of confirmation battle not seen since Judge Robert Bork was voted down in 1987.

The data show many groups announcing their support or opposition much more quickly than for either the John Roberts or Harriet Miers nominations, leading analysts to believe that spending on TV ads over the Alito confirmation battle will far eclipse the estimated $2.4 million spent on the Roberts nomination.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law and the Justice at Stake Campaign have been teaming up this year to provide regular snapshots of the television advertising campaigns for and against the confirmations of Judge John Roberts, Harriet Miers, and Judge Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Positions on Judge Alito have hardened on both the left and the right very rapidly," said Deborah Goldberg, director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law. "These interest groups will be looking to exert influence over the process as it unfolds, and TV ads will be a major part of their strategy. The question is whether the American public will be exposed to a meaningful debate, or an exchange of code words and scare tactics."

Two major liberal groups -- People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice -- announced opposition to Judge Alito's nomination within hours. Each took more than a month before formally opposing the Roberts nomination, and neither announced an official position on Miers. circulated an email promising to place an ad in the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call if it garnered 500,000 signatures in a petition against Judge Alito.

Conservative groups have already begun television advertising campaigns. Progress for America, which ran four distinct ads urging an "up or down vote" for Roberts or Miers, was first out of the box again, with a new ad touting the President's re-do. Drumming the message, PFA's new spot says: "Urge the Senate to give Samuel Alito a fair up or down vote." The Family Research Council has announced plans to run spots charging that "activist judges are erasing God from our public square." The ad does not mention Alito, but the FRC announced how "encouraged" it was by his nomination at a press conference previewing the ad.

"Both sides are about to empty their war chests to stoke their bases and woo the center," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign. "In the coming weeks, the battle will play out in America's living rooms." Brandenburg added that running television advertising over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays is expensive, requiring these groups to put an emphasis on raising additional funds to remain visible.

The data for the project is gathered by TNS-Media Intelligence/CMAG, which tracks the nation's top 100 broadcast markets and provides estimates on the cost of each television spot. Data and previous news releases, as well as storyboards and streaming video of ads available to date, are available online at and Reporters who wish to receive e-mail updates as the data becomes available should contact Jesse Rutledge of Justice at Stake at 202-588-9454 or

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Bartenders: Please Stop Serving Jerry Kilgore-He's Had One Too Many, Says Brady Campaign

RICHMOND, Va., Nov. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- If Jerry Kilgore has his way, the phrase, "a shot and a beer" could get a whole new meaning.

Kilgore said yesterday that if he's elected governor, he'll embrace a proposal by the Virginia Citizens Defense League (VCDL) to broaden the state's concealed weapons laws to allow guns in bars and restaurants. He said it on the "Richmond's Morning News with Jimmy Barrett" show on Richmond news radio station WRVA.

The bar and restaurant industry in Virginia and many other states strongly oppose allowed concealed weapon permit holders to carry concealed handguns into bars.

"Somebody ought to tell Mr. Kilgore that encouraging people to bring firearms into bars is like encouraging people to pour gasoline into a fire," said Mike Barnes, President of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. "It's a stupid, stupid idea -- and that's why bar owners are so adamantly opposed."

VCDL is perhaps best known for organizing "open carry days" where its members gather in large groups and bring their firearms into family restaurants, parks, and other public places.

ISRA Calls for Resignation of Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent

SPRINGFIELD, Ill., Nov. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following was released today by the Illinois State Rifle Association (ISRA):

The ISRA is calling upon Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent to step aside in the wake of a burgeoning scandal related to the suicide of a State Police employee and the murder of the employee's girlfriend. The ISRA is also calling upon Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to initiate an investigation into the State Police's failure to confiscate firearms from that employee once it became clear that he posed a threat to his girlfriend and others.

On January 1, 2003, Illinois State Police employee Donald Dunkirk shot and killed his girlfriend, Faith Blanks, before turning the gun on himself. Just a week earlier, Dunkirk's supervisor had notified state police officials that Dunkirk had been threatening people and that he owned firearms.

Under Illinois law, the state police had the authority, and obligation to revoke Dunkirk's Illinois Firearm Owners Identification Card, and collect his firearms from him once it was clear that he was a danger to the public. Unfortunately, the state police failed to act before Dunkirk went on his rampage.

"Two people are dead," said ISRA Executive Director Richard Pearson. "In the past week, we've heard Illinois State Police Director Larry Trent blame everyone under the sun for the tragedy - except his own department. One state police spokesman even had the unmitigated gall to blame the victim because she failed to secure a restraining order against her killer."

"Well, blaming the victim in this case isn't going to fly," continued Pearson. "For goodness sakes, the killer was a state police employee who was known to own firearms, and who had threatened people while on state police property. They had this killer in the palm of their hand - yet they did nothing."

"The blame for this tragedy lies squarely with the state police," said Pearson. "Their demonstrated inability to enforce the law in this instance directly resulted in the death of an innocent victim of domestic violence. The buck stops on Larry Trent's desk, and he should be man enough to own up to the blunders committed by those who serve him. Larry Trent should step aside immediately so that a complete investigation of this incident may be conducted unimpeded."

"It's not clear at this point whether the state police's bungling of this case is an isolated event," continued Pearson. "Therefore, we're asking Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to investigate the department's handling of this matter and to determine whether the state police are capable of protecting innocent citizens from people like Donald Dunkirk."


The ISRA is the state's leading advocate of safe, lawful and responsible firearms ownership. For more than a century, the ISRA has represented the interests of law abiding Illinois firearm owners.

Rep. Markey: 'Backdoor Mechanisms to Create a Blackhole for Prisoners Must End'

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The following statement was released today by Representative Edward J. Markey (D-MA), in response to news reports of a network of secret prisons that are currently operated and maintained by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Little is known about these prisons, also known as "black sites", except that "the CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe...", according to today's Washington Post. Rep. Markey has been an outspoken critic of the practice of sending prisoners out of the U.S. to a network of secret prisons worldwide.

"This Administration is shaming our nation by seeking back door mechanisms to skirt our obligations to prevent torture," said Rep. Markey. "We cannot play games and devise creative legalisms to dodge our obligation to the U.N. Convention Against Torture, but that is exactly what Vice President Cheney and this Administration are determined to do. We must shut down this black hole for prisoners in which torture is allowed to thrive."

Representative Markey is organizing a group of lawmakers urging the House of Representatives to accept an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act that would establish clear guidelines for interrogating prisoners captured in war zones or counter- terrorism operations. Currently 57 House members have signed a letter in support of the McCain amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill which would clarify that cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment could not be used against any prisoner in U.S. custody, and the Markey amendment, which bars funds from being spent in contravention of the Convention Against Torture and certain laws and regulations aimed at implementing the Convention's prohibition against the transfer or rendition of prisoners to countries which practice torture.

Rep. Markey is the author of the Outsourcing Torture Prevention Act, a bill which would prohibit the practice of sending prisoners overseas to a network of prisons. He has also attached amendments to several appropriations bills to bar funds from being spent in contravention of the Convention Against Torture. For more information about his work to end extraordinary rendition and a copy of the letter from House Members check out:

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Houston Man Pleads Guilty to Federal Identity Theft Charges, Says Justice Department

WASHINGTON, Nov. 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Chad Hatten, 35, of Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to a five-count superseding indictment charging him with four counts of access device fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft, the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of Texas announced today. Hatten will be sentenced by U.S. District Judge Lee H. Rosenthal on February 28, 2006 in Houston, and faces up to 52 years in prison and fines of up to $1,000,000.

As part of his plea, Hatten admitted to being a member of the Shadowcrew criminal organization, an international criminal organization with numerous members that promoted and facilitated a wide variety of criminal activities including, among others, electronic theft of personal identifying information, credit card and debit card fraud, and the production and sale of false identification documents. As a member of the Shadowcrew criminal organization, Hatten used the Shadowcrew website ( to engage in credit card fraud and gift card vending (i.e., purchasing gift cards from retail merchants at their physical stores using counterfeit credit cards and reselling such cards for a percentage of their actual value). In addition to possessing and using stolen credit card numbers to obtain things of value, Hatten was also charged with possessing equipment used to encode counterfeit credit cards with stolen numbers.

Hatten's guilty plea represents a continuing effort to prosecute individuals targeted during Operation Firewall, a year- long investigation undertaken by the U.S. Secret Service, working in cooperation with the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of New Jersey; the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice; and other U.S. Attorneys' offices and law enforcement agencies. The undercover investigation led to the arrests of 21 individuals in the United States on criminal complaints in October 2004. Additionally, several individuals were arrested in foreign countries in coordination with the domestic arrests. For more information, visit:

This case was investigated by U.S. Secret Service and is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Jay Hileman and Kimberly Kiefer Peretti and Thomas Dukes from the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Department of Justice.

Dean to Campaign with NYC Democratic Mayoral Candidate Fernando Ferrer

Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean will join NYC mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer for a rally with New York City college students at the City College of New York on Wednesday.

Date: Wednesday, November 2

Time: 2:30 - 3:30 PM

Location: City College of New York, Campus Plaza, 138th Street & Convent Avenue, New York City, NY

For credentials or further information, please contact Christy Setzer at 212-684-2005.


Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

PFLAG Expresses Grave Concern Over the Supreme Court Nominee

To: National Desk

Contact: Ron Schlittler of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, 202-467-8180 ext. 226 or, Web:

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) expressed grave concern today over President Bush's nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court.

As a judge on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Alito has amassed a record of hostility towards cherished rights and freedoms such as civil rights, women's rights, privacy rights and separation of church and state, the group says. As recent as 2001, Judge Alito ruled unconstitutional a public school policy that would have protected students from harassment based on their sexual orientation.

"An initial review of Judge Alito's record does not offer much hope for the GLBT community and our chances for a Supreme Court free from extreme ideological activism," said PFLAG's executive director Jody Huckaby. "We were looking to the President to select a nominee that all of our family members, gay and straight, could count on to up-hold their basic rights and freedoms, but instead we got Samuel Alito."

"I urge the Senate to take their role in this process very seriously, and particularly my own Senator Arlen Specter, who chairs the Judiciary Committee," said Fran Kirchner, Pennsylvania PFLAG mom. "My daughter and the daughters and sons of all PFLAGers deserve more than just a rubber stamp."


Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is the nation's foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender persons. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has 200,000 members and supporters in more than 500 chapters throughout the United States. Web:

Dobson Rallies Support for Alito Nomination on Radio Show; Focus Action Founder Praises Nominee's Record of Distinction

To: National Desk

Contact: Christopher Norfleet of Focus on the Family Action, 719-548-4570 or; Web:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo., Nov. 1 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Focus on the Family Action founder and chairman James C. Dobson, Ph.D., will devote his daily radio broadcast today to the topic of Judge Samuel Alito's nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court. Joined by conservative leaders Tony Perkins and Chuck Colson, and legal expert Robert George, Dobson illuminates the pivotal opportunity Judge Alito's nomination represents to dramatically reshape the Supreme Court.

Praising President Bush for his selection of a proven conservative rather than a "stealth" nominee, Dobson states that Alito appears to be a strong advocate of judicial restraint and could be a decisive conservative vote on a closely-divided Supreme Court.

Most importantly, Dobson says, listeners should contact their senators to let them know of their support for Judge Alito. Dobson notes that there is already talk of a Democratic filibuster on Alito's nomination and stresses the importance of the judge being swiftly given a fair up-or-down vote.

"He deserves that - he should get it - and I think he will."

To listen to today's radio program online, please click on the "today's broadcast" link at

Focus' 30-minute daily radio program is aired on approximately 2,000 radio facilities each day across the United States; the ministry's programs are heard by over 25 million people each week.


James C. Dobson, Ph.D. is a psychologist, author, radio broadcaster and founder of Focus on the Family Action. Founded in 2004, Focus on the Family Action is an action organization dedicated to the preservation of the moral and cultural values upon which our nation was founded.

HNBA Responds to President's Refusal to Name Hispanic Supreme Court Justice

The Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA) expresses its profound disappointment that for the third time in the last six months President George W. Bush has ignored the estimated 41.3 million Americans of Hispanic descent in his choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy.

Today, in nominating Judge Samuel Alito, the President has missed an opportunity to create a historic legacy by nominating the first Hispanic to the Supreme Court. On June 6, 2005, the HNBA presented the President with a list of eight candidates who are highly qualified to serve on the High Court and among the brightest minds in the legal profession. The President's decision to overlook them is inexplicable.

"This nomination was critical for the Hispanic community, which now represents the largest minority group in our Nation. In this land of immigrants, it is crucial that America's Highest Court reflect the rich diversity of its citizens. The HNBA furnished a list of highly qualified Hispanic candidates to the President, as we have done with his predecessors. Once again, the President has ignored our recommendations and our community," stated HNBA President Nelson A. Castillo.

"The HNBA does not participate in partisan politics. Not being partisan, however, does not mean we take issues affecting our communities lightly. We intend to hold our political leaders accountable for the positions they take," concluded Castillo.

The Hispanic population represents the fastest growing and most dynamic demographic in the Nation. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that, with more than 41 million Hispanics in the U.S., one of every seven people in the U.S. is Hispanic. Hispanics are the country's largest minority group, accounting for one-half of the Nation's overall population growth in the last year. Nearly two million more Hispanics voted in the 2004 election than in 2000, representing an increase of 27 percent from the 2000 election, according to an analysis by the National Council of La Raza.

Although the rising influence of Hispanics in the U.S. is difficult to ignore, with today's nomination the President does just that. In 2004, 7.6 million Hispanics voted nationwide in the presidential election. In that close election, the Hispanic vote made the difference.

Unfortunately, as our country moves forward with an ever- changing America, the Supreme Court will not be representative and instead, will be devoid of the unique perspective and the invaluable contributions a Hispanic jurist could make. Without a Hispanic Justice, the Supreme Court's "robust exchange of ideas" during important deliberations and decisions simply cannot reflect the America we live in today.

The HNBA calls on its membership, on the members of all Hispanic organizations, and on all citizens to contact the White House and Members of Congress regarding the President's decision to overlook so many highly qualified Hispanic candidates for the Supreme Court seat vacated by Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

The HNBA is a non-profit, non-partisan national association that represents the interests of over 27,000 Hispanic American attorneys, judges, law professors, law students and legal professionals. Its continuing mission is to improve the study, practice and administration of justice for all Americans by ensuring the meaningful participation of Hispanic American legal professionals.

Monday, October 31, 2005

Howard Dean on the Nomination of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean today issued the following statement on the nomination of Samuel Alito to the U.S. Supreme Court:

"President Bush shouldn't try to use the nomination of an extreme conservative to distract from the ethical problems his White House is facing. Three days after a top White House official was indicted, President Bush continued his troubling pattern of playing to his right-wing political base in times of political trouble. In an indication of his weakened political position, Bush has nominated Samuel Alito, a conservative activist judge, to replace Justice O'Connor, who has been a voice of moderation on the Court for a generation.

"A lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court of the United States is too important to be sacrificed on the altar of short-term political gain. President Bush's nomination of Alito is not leadership, it is capitulation.

"Alito's record suggests an activist judicial philosophy bent on rolling back the rights and freedoms that all Americans value. Alito has sought to limit the rights of women and people with disabilities in discrimination cases, demonstrated an open hostility to women's privacy rights even in basic reproductive health matters, has a record of hostility toward immigrants, and tried to immunize employers from employment discrimination cases. It is particularly troubling that President Bush would nominate a judge who would reverse American progress and make the Supreme Court look less like America on the same day that most Americans are honoring the life and legacy of Rosa Parks.

"Now, as Alito goes before the Senate Judiciary Committee, he must demonstrate that he will be a Supreme Court Justice who uses his position on the highest court in the land to protect and advance the fundamental rights and personal freedoms of all Americans. Alito must prove that he is not a captive of the radical right-wing, and the White House must provide the Senate with all the information it needs to thoroughly evaluate Alito's nomination."


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Judge Alito is 'Truly Excellent Choice' for Supreme Court, Supreme Knight Says

NEW HAVEN, Conn., Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson said today federal appeals court Judge Samuel Alito is "a truly excellent choice" for the United States Supreme Court. President Bush nominated Alito this morning to replace retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

"Judge Alito is a man of exceptional background and experience," Anderson said. "His 15 years a judge on the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Philadelphia, together with his service as the top federal prosecutor in New Jersey and as a Justice Department lawyer arguing cases before the U.S. Supreme Court make him one of the most qualified persons ever nominated for our highest court."

"Judge Alito's record as an appellate court judge is especially encouraging. His dissent in the Third Circuit's decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey was a model of well- reasoned jurisprudence, and was cited by Chief Justice Rehnquist when the case reached the Supreme Court. Judge Alito made a very strong argument for upholding restrictions on abortion that had been adopted by the Pennsylvania legislature, and in the end, the Supreme Court agreed with him on all but one provision."

"In other cases, Judge Alito has demonstrated a clear and proper understanding of the religion clauses of the First Amendment, writing majority opinions in cases rejecting the ACLU's attempts to ban manger scenes from public property at Christmastime, and upholding the religious rights of Muslim police officers in Newark," Anderson noted.

"Judge Alito is every bit as qualified to serve on the Supreme Court as Chief Justice Roberts, and their backgrounds and intellects are equally impressive. The Senate Judiciary Committee should give him prompt and expeditious consideration, followed by a timely up-or-down vote on the floor of the Senate. Given his long service as an appeals judge, and the fact that his views and written opinions are voluminous and well known, there is no excuse for delay or obstruction," Anderson concluded.

Supreme Knight Carl A. Anderson heads the Knights of Columbus, the world's largest lay Catholic organization with more than 1.7 million members worldwide.

DNC: Bush Should Hold His Administration Accountable...To His Own Standards; New DNC Web Video Reminds Bush of His Promise on Ethics

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- In the wake of last Friday's indictment of I. Lewis Libby on charges of perjury, obstruction of justice, and making false statements, the Democratic National Committee unveiled a new web video to remind President Bush of the standard that he himself set for conduct in his administration. DNC Chairman Howard Dean issued the following statement calling on President Bush to apologize for his Administration's actions, fire Karl Rove, and adhere to the ethical standards he professed during his campaign:

"Given the serious nature of the charges against Scooter Libby, and the significant questions that remain regarding the actions of Karl Rove and the White House Iraq Group, President Bush should take responsibility for this lapse in conduct. He should start with an apology to the American people for those in his Administration who acted on his behalf to manipulate intelligence to win support for the war in Iraq, smear opponents of that war, and cover up that smear campaign. President Bush must also keep his promise to fire anyone involved in the outing of Valerie Wilson by terminating Karl Rove and anyone else in the White House Iraq Group who participated in this conspiracy.

"During his campaign for president, Bush promised to hold himself and his aides to the highest ethical standards, promising to 'put conscience above what the lawyers tell us.' But, in handling the most serious national security decisions, the Bush White House has dramatically failed to meet the standard they set. Despite hosting numerous White House photo-ops vowing to uphold the highest ethical standards, the Bush White House has blatantly compromised our moral code by placing its political agenda ahead of America's national security. America deserves better than empty rhetoric and meaningless photo-ops. The President must hold himself and his administration accountable."

For a new DNC web video showing the ethical standards President Bush set for himself and his Administration go to

Paid for and authorized by the Democratic National Committee, This communication is not authorized by any candidate or candidate's committee.

Bush Short-Changes Gulf Small Businesses Again, Says Sen. John Kerry of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Today Sen. John Kerry criticized the Bush Administration for sending up a third Hurricane relief proposal that is out of touch with the needs of the estimated 200,000 small businesses struggling to stay in business or reopen after the disasters.

"This is the White House's third funding request for Hurricane Katrina relief, and all three cheat small businesses and the people who work for them," said Kerry, top Democrat on the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship. "How long will it take before this Administration realizes that the key to the Gulf Coast's recovery is rebuilding the small business economy?"

Two weeks ago, Kerry wrote a letter with Sens. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), and David Vitter (R-La.) to the head of the Office of Management and Budget asking the Administration to redirect to small businesses $720 million of the $42 billion sitting idle at FEMA. In this latest Hurricane Katrina funding request, the Administration agreed to redirect some money, but ignored the Senators' comprehensive solution.

Of the $17 billion redirected from unused Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, the Administration only requested money for the SBA's disaster loan program. That funding is insufficient to meet the needs of small businesses, which are also clamoring for contracting assistance, SBA counseling, and bridge funding from the states.

Kerry joined Snowe in introducing bipartisan legislation to fund small business assistance programs that have been neglected by the Bush Administration's Hurricane Katrina requests. The Small Business Hurricane Relief and Reconstruction Act, S.1807, would authorize bridge grants and loans, defer payments on existing small business loans, and increase funding for disaster loans for small businesses in the damaged areas. The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Landrieu, Vitter, Evan Bayh (D-Ind.), Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), and Jim Talent (R-Mo.). The Senate voted 96-0 to pass a similar version of the bill as part of the Commerce, Justice, Science (CJS) FY2006 Appropriations Act, which is now in conference

Alito Nomination Quickly Galvanizes Interest Groups on Both Left and Right; Battle Lines Crystallize Earlier Than with Either Roberts or Miers Nominations

WASHINGTON, Oct. 31 /U.S. Newswire/ -- A new study of interest group reactions to this year's Supreme Court nominations shows that today's pick of Judge Samuel Alito may trigger the kind of confirmation battle not seen since Judge Robert Bork was voted down in 1987. The data show many groups announcing their support or opposition in record time -- a certain prelude to unleashing war chests they've been amassing for years.

"When John Roberts was nominated, many interest groups moved deliberately in choosing sides," said Bert Brandenburg, executive director of the Justice at Stake Campaign. "Now both sides are rushing to close ranks. The TV air wars are about to begin."

Interest groups combined to spend about $2.4 million on TV ads during the Roberts confirmation skirmish; only about $100,000 was spent on the Harriet Miers nomination. With few exceptions, interest groups refused to take positions on the nomination of Miers before her Oct. 27 withdrawal.

Two conservative groups that failed to endorse the nomination of Miers moved quickly to back Judge Alito. The Judicial Confirmation Network issued a statement saying that "Judge Alito is the best, in terms of legal credentials, judicial experience, intellectual ability, fairmindedness, and faithfulness to the Constitution." Concerned Women for America announced its "wholehearted support." Both groups also issued day one declarations of support for Roberts. A new conservative group, Americans for Better Justice, also immediately called for "for the speedy confirmation of Judge Samuel Alito."

People for the American Way and the Alliance for Justice, two major liberal groups, both announced formal opposition to Judge Alito's nomination within hours. Each took more than a month to formally oppose the Roberts nomination, while neither had announced a formal position on Miers prior to her withdrawal.

Justice at Stake and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law will be continuing to provide regular snapshots of the television advertising campaigns in the U.S. Supreme Court nomination battles. The groups regularly collaborate on analyses of interest group advertising in state Supreme Court elections.

More resources and information are available on Justice at Stake's website at

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Army Corps of Engineers Public Release of Data on New Orleans Levees and Floodwalls

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will begin publicly releasing available data relevant to the performance of the hurricane and storm protection system around New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

The current releasable data will be posted on a publicly accessible web site, Additional data will be added to the web site as it becomes available.

Because the Corps of Engineers wants to find out what happened from an engineering perspective to the New Orleans protection system to ensure optimum designs for its reconstruction and for future projects, the Chief of Engineers commissioned an Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force (IPET) to perform the engineering evaluation. The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) is supporting with an External Review Panel, which will provide an independent oversight of the IPET evaluation.

The IPET is gathering data and will perform the analysis. All other groups, including the National Science Foundation (NSF) (comprised of the University of California - Berkeley), are working to learn what they can about the levee system and what can be applied to levee systems in California and elsewhere.

The data released will include design memorandums, dating back to the 1960s, and the associated reports for the Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana and Vicinity High Level Plan, which includes 17th Street Outfall Canal and London Avenue Outfall Canal.

This information being released includes the project plan, hydrology and hydraulics, geology, foundation investigation and design (including the field exploration, soil borings, and laboratory testing) and the structural design.

The IPET and several other engineering and professional organizations are studying the performance of the levees and floodwalls during Hurricane Katrina. Hopefully, the data that is being publicly released will help all interested organizations in reaching engineering-based conclusions as to how the protective structures performed during the hurricane.

Eventually, all releasable documentation from the New Orleans protection system will be available on the web site.

Much of the pre-Katrina documentation on the New Orleans levees and floodwalls was done before digital office equipment became available and includes large design and construction drawings and reams of paper related to contracts and other records. IPET personnel are working to digitally scan the documentation as quickly as possible.

The data collection teams have also been doing field work in the New Orleans area to secure as much data as possible related to the performance of the levees and floodwalls. Data collection efforts have been ongoing to gather as much data as possible before it was covered or destroyed by cleanup or reconstruction efforts.

The IPET is collecting pre-Katrina documentation (design and construction drawings, soil sample records, etc.), post-Katrina documentation (hydrographic surveys, soil samples, concrete cores, etc.) and other performance data (eyewitness accounts, photographs, etc.).

The data collection effort included teams from IPET, ASCE, NSF (comprised of the University of California - Berkeley) and additional members from Louisiana State University. IPET will use collected data, laboratory testing, and modeling activities in its analysis. Their final report will be released in June 2006. However, any important findings will be continually shared with those doing the New Orleans levee and floodwall reconstruction work.

The Secretary of Defense has also directed the Secretary of the Army through the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works to convene an independent panel of national experts under the direction of the National Academies to perform a high-level review and issue findings based on the IPET, ASCE panel and other data. This panel will release its report in July 2006.