Sunday, 11 October 2009

Obama earns plaudits from the LGBT community

From El Pais, Spain, 11 October 2009

US President and Peace Nobel Prize Barack Obama, tried on Saturday (Sunday at dawn in Europe) to reassure the LGBT community with an impassioned defence of his commitment for equality. "My commitment with you is unswerving, do not doubt the advances that we're going to make, I'm here with you in that fight", Obama reassured during a speech at the Human Rights Campaign, the biggest organisation defending LGBT rights in the United States.

The community, which decisively backed Obama in last year's elections - and that repeatedly expressed frustration for what they consider has been minimal progress to favour their cause- replied to his words with an ovation. Joe Solmonese, President of the Human Rights Campaign, went as far as defining the night as "historic".

Like he'd stated on previous occasions, Obama reiterated his pledge to end the ban on homosexuals serving openly in the military. The current policy, passed under Bill Clinton in 1993 and known as "Don't Ask Don't Tell", allows homosexuals to serve in the armed forces as long as they don't disclose their sexual orientation.

Regarding the thorny issue of same-sex marriage, the president - who last June timidly granted certain rights to LGBT public servants - vowed to repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, which discriminates against homosexuals as regard the legality of same-sex unions and other rights. "I'll end all that", he insisted, "and the moment will come when we as a nation will finally recognise that relationships between two men or between two women are as right, real, and admirable as those between men and women".

[note: the article originally appeared in Spanish. This is my translation]

"Change we can't believe in"

Extracts from Mehdi Hasan's article from the New Statesman (UK), Oct 8 2009.

"Barack Obama promised a sharp break from the Bush era, yet he seems to have stepped into the shoes of his disgraced predecessor. As the anniversary of his election approaches, Mehdi Hasan investigates what went wrong".

"The distance between Obama and Bush on a host of policies is not as great as many people might hope or have expected - and it appears to get narrower by the day. This should not, perhaps, come as a huge surprise. One reason for continuity between US presidents - even those who are, on the surface, as different as Bush and Obama - is the nature of the modern imperial presidency, at the apex of a bloated national-security state. As the historian Garry Wills pointed out recently in the New York Review of Books, the president 'is greatly pressured to keep all the empire's secrets . . . he becomes the prisoner of his own power . . . a self-entangling giant'".

Click here to read the article in full.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Obama wins 2009 Nobel Peace Prize

From BBC News Online, 9 October 2009

US President Barack Obama has won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize.

The Nobel Committee said he was awarded it for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples".

The committee highlighted Mr Obama's efforts to strengthen international bodies and promote nuclear disarmament.

There were a record 205 nominations for this year's prize. Zimbabwe's prime minister and a Chinese dissident had been among the favourites.

The laureate - chosen by a five-member committee - wins a gold medal, a diploma and 10m Swedish kronor ($1.4m).

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future," the Norwegian committee said as the prize was announced.

"His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population."