Senate Votes to Expand Federal Jurisdiction Over Hate Crimes
The Senate voted on Thursday to widen federal jurisdiction over hate crimes and to extend protections to people victimized because of sexual orientation, disability, gender or gender identity.
Under the measure, which the Senate approved as an amendment to the annual military authorization bill, Washington would have the authority to step in and prosecute hate crimes when local or state governments failed to do so.
It would authorize the federal government to assist state and local law enforcement agencies investigate and prosecute hate-crimes and provide grants of up to $100,000 a year to cover costs.
The House passed similar legislation in May, drawing a veto threat from the White House. Senate Republicans warned that the measure would endanger the larger military bill, which includes soldiers’ wage increases.
Sen. Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, and other supporters of the bill, said they did not expect a veto precisely because it was now part of the military bill, which includes provisions that President Bush favors.
Existing law applies protection to victims only of crimes based on race, color, religion or national origin and just in cases when the victim was engaged in certain protected activities like attending public school or serving on a jury. Existing law also provides stiffer sentences for federal crimes classified as hate crimes.
Defense Chief Favors Faster Troop Increase
Hoping to ease the strain of two wars, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said Thursday that he was likely to approve a $3 billion plan by the Army to accelerate by a full year the expansion of its active-duty force that President Bush approved in January.
Under the proposal, the Army would expand to 547,000 troops by 2011, one year sooner than under Bush’s plan. Army Secretary Pete Geren told reporters Thursday that he favored the faster expansion to relieve the strains of providing troops for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“I’m inclined to approve it,” Gates said of the Army proposal at a Pentagon news conference. “My questions have focused principally on whether they can do it in terms of recruitment and whether they can do so without lowering standards.” Gates said he would not allow the Army to reduce recruiting standards to get the higher force numbers. The Army has had intermittent problems this year reaching the higher recruiting targets needed to expand the overall force.
Bush approved a plan to increase the size of the Army in January when he decided to send more troops to Iraq as part of the “surge” to improve security in and around Baghdad. The plan called for increasing the active duty Army to 547,000 troops by 2012, from its authorized strength of 512,000, and for an additional 9,000 troops for the National Guard and Army Reserve.
Pope’s Death in 2005 Is Drawn Into Euthanasia Debate
The debate over the Vatican’s opposition to euthanasia is being played out here over an especially public and delicate case: the death of Pope John Paul II.
Over the past week, the Vatican and Lina Pavanelli, an Italian anesthesiologist, have sparred over the doctor’s accusation that John Paul should have been fitted earlier with a feeding tube. Pavanelli argued in a magazine article, then again this week in public, that the failure to do so before March 30, 2005, when the Vatican announced that John Paul had been fitted with a nasal feeding tube, deprived him of necessary care and thus violated church teachings on euthanasia. He died, at 84, on April 2 that year.
In an article in the magazine, Micromega, Pavanelli argued, “When the patient knowingly refuses a life-saving therapy, his action together with the remissive or omissive behavior of doctors, must be considered euthanasia, or more precisely, assisted suicide.” She did not examine the pope or have access to his medical records.
Musharraf Files Papers For Election in Pakistan
Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, filed his nomination papers for re-election on Thursday amid continuing uncertainty over his eligibility to compete in the Oct. 6 vote.
On Friday, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on two petitions challenging Musharraf’s eligibility on the grounds that is it unconstitutional for him to serve as both president and army chief of staff.
Two senior lawyers close to the case said they were prepared for the court to return a verdict in Musharraf’s favor. But even if it did, lawyers and political parties said they were gearing up to make further legal challenges over the next week in a last-ditch effort to derail the election.
An opposition alliance, the All Parties Democratic Movement, upped the ante on Thursday by announcing that its members would resign en masse from the national and provincial assemblies that will conduct the presidential election.
The move, which the opposition hoped would undercut the credibility of the vote, would occur Oct. 2, just days before the Oct. 6 election. It could force the provincial assembly and government in the North-West Frontier province to dissolve, leaving the electoral college incomplete.
Meanwhile, Musharraf’s supporters in the governing coalition say he has enough seats in the various assemblies to secure his victory.
So far Musharraf faces two opponents: a former Supreme Court judge, Wajihuddin Ahmed, 68, who is backed by the lawyers campaigning against military rule; and Makhdoom Amin Fahim, the vice chairman of the Pakistan People’s Party, which is led by the former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.