Wednesday, January 31, 2007

GLAAD announces nominees for its Media Awards

GLAAD announces nominees for its Media Awards
Copyright by Gay Cicago Magazine
January 30, 2007

PARK CITY, UT - The Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) announced the nominees and honorees for its 18th annual GLAAD Media Awards. Among the nominees: critically acclaimed films Little Miss Sunshine and Quinceañera, the summer blockbuster Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, ABC’s new hit shows Ugly Betty and Brothers & Sisters, NBC’s hit sitcom The Office, the episodes “Where the Boys Are” from Grey’s Anatomy and “Blind Date” from 30 Rock, Project Runway, Nightline, CosmoGIRL!, two episodes of The Tyra Banks Show, and Spanish-language nominees Tierra de Pasiones, Ultima Hora, TV y Novelas USA, and

“These bold projects, images and voices have once again raised the bar for excellence in media representations of our lives,” said GLAAD president Neil G. Giuliano. “As we continue to fight against forces that threaten our progress toward equality, it’s gratifying to be able to celebrate the creative accomplishments of those who are committed to sharing the truth of our lives and our stories.”

The GLAAD Media Awards ceremonies will be held in New York on March 26 at the Marriott Marquis, in Los Angeles on April 14 at the Kodak Theatre, in San Francisco on April 28 at the Westin St. Francis and in South Florida on May 10 at the JW Marriott Miami.

For the third consecutive year, the GLAAD Media Awards will be televised on Logo, MTV Networks’ cable channel for LGBT viewers and their allies. The Logo airdate for the GLAAD Media Awards is April 21.

In addition to 122 nominees in 26 English-language categories, and 61 Spanish-language nominees in 16 categories, GLAAD also announced that it will recognize Special Honorees Patti LaBelle and Tom Ford at the New York ceremony, Martina Navratilova at the Los Angeles event, and Jaime Bayly in South Florida. Additional Special Honorees for Los Angeles, San Francisco and South Florida will be named at a later date.

In the competitive categories, broadcast networks led the way this year with 18 nominations, with the cable networks following with 12 nominees. Among the broadcast networks, ABC came away with eight nominees, while CNN led cable networks with four nominations.

For more information, call 877-519-7904 or visit

The County Budget: The Unkindest Cut

The County Budget: The Unkindest Cut
Copyright by The Windy City Times
by Andrew Davis

Speaking about his proposed budget cuts, Cook County Board President Todd Stroger has said that “sometime [ s ] there’s gonna be some pain felt, but we are not going to do anything that would put anyone at risk.”

However, lots of people would beg to differ. Stroger’s budget, which goes to the County Board of Commissioners with a Feb. 28 deadline to pass the proposals, would ( among other things ) eliminate 16 community health care clinics and cut the Bureau of Health by more than $100,000. Sheriff Tom Dart’s department will receive $20 million less for police and court services, and programs for female prisoners will be eliminated.

Windy City Times recently spoke with Dr. Dan Lustig, vice president of Haymarket Center ( ) —which employs comprehensive alcohol and drug treatment programs—about the how the cuts affect it and the agency’s Department of Women’s Justice Services ( DWJS ) program, which helps female offenders at Cook County Jail who are incarcerated for drug-related offenses.

Windy City Times: Tell me about the program.

Dan Lustig: It’s under the sheriff’s department. Women who are pre-sentenced receive substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment and HIV services. These are actually a very chronic and high-need population that uses these clinics.

To give you a better idea of what we’re talking about, 72 percent of the women in that program had sex while under the influence of alcohol or drugs within the past year. Sixty percent of them had unprotected sex in the last year. Forty-two percent traded sex for drugs or money, and 28 percent of them had multiple sex partners within [ that time span ] . Seventy percent enter the criminal justice system reporting a drug or alcohol problem. [ The budget ] would eliminate all those services and those ingredients in reducing recidivism in that chronic-need group.

WCT: Well, I can imagine what your greatest fear is.

DL: Yes. And one of our programs here at Haymarket is the MOMS program; those are pregnant women who deliver drug-free infants and [ includes ] individuals who are not out on the streets, where there are HIV risk factors. Since the program started in ‘99, they have produced 185 drug-free infants. When the program ends on Feb. 28, all pregnant women will be released back into the jail to deliver their children in the general population.

WCT: So they have nowhere to go, essentially.

DL: No, and they will lose custody of the children that they have inside the program here.

But the big piece [ involves ] a research study we did. By the county board cutting $4.4 million out of the budget, it will cost the county $17 million per year for programs and services. For every dollar that’s invested in this program, it’s saving the county four dollars.

Also, by eliminating the program, it’s close to a loss of $2 million out of Haymarket’s budget.

WCT: And what was the justification for cutting this out entirely?

DL: [ It’s ] because the county is $500 million in debt, and they’re looking at cutting costs. And Todd Stroger believes that the sheriff should be in the business of detainment, not treatment. Actually, Haymarket Center is doing the treating, but we’re addressing those indicators that will reduce recidivism. [ DWJS ] is comprehensive and gender-specific in that we address the substance-abuse, educational and mental-health pieces.

WCT: So what would you say to Todd Stroger if you had five minutes with him?

DL: I’d like to tell him that he needs to listen. He needs to take a clear look at his constituents’ needs—and they need services that he’s cutting.

There’s a lot of bloat in the hospital. The county hospital isn’t even collecting insurance from people who have it. There are hundreds of millions of dollars in that category. [ If they did collect, ] there would be more money in the county for services.

I don’t know what Todd Stroger’s thinking, but this certainly isn’t in the best interest of individuals and human lives.

See for more about Haymarket Center.

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine and its partner, Bennison’s Bakery's Initiative to Help Vital Bridges

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine and its partner, Bennison’s Bakery's Initiative to Help Vital Bridges
Copyright by The Windy City Times

Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine and its partner, Bennison’s Bakery, have teamed to launch an initiative that will benefit Vital Bridges as well as the Lincoln Park Community Shelter.

In launching “Our Daily Bread,” Pastoral ( in conjunction with Bennison’s ) will donate part of the proceeds for each loaf of bread sold during February to Vital Bridges/Groceryland. ( March’s proceeds will go to the shelter. )

At a Vital Bridges event that will take place at Pastoral, 2954 N. Broadway, on Sun., Feb. 18, 1-4 p.m., representatives from Groceryland will be present to accept donations of non-perishable meals and explain how the organization serves the local community. Additional financial donations will also be accepted in the store or online.


Clark’s on Clark to Remain Open

Clark’s on Clark to Remain Open
Copyright by THe Windy City Times

The owners and staff of Clark’s on Clark, 5001 N. Clark, have announced that the popular bar will remain open until further notice. On Jan. 25, owner Gary Werle arranged a temporary deal with building owner Chuck Renslow to extend the lease, allowing the bar to maintain normal operations on a month-by-month basis. At this time, it is uncertain how long this arrangement will remain intact.
The 19-year-old bar was scheduled to celebrate its final last call on Jan. 28.

“We don’t want to close,” Werle said in a statement. “Hopefully, we will be able to stay open long into the future. Since announcing plans to close, community response and support has been tremendous. I feel it is because of this that the building owner decided to extend our lease.”

Clark’s on Clark is one of the few remaining neighborhood bars with a 4 a.m. license.

US visa policy to come under attack

US visa policy to come under attack
By Edward Luce in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 30 2007 23:37 | Last updated: January 30 2007 23:37

US private-sector bodies will on Tuesday criticise the Bush administration for persisting with strict visa policies that they say are damaging the country’s reputation around the world and harming US business interests.

The group, which includes bodies representing US universities, business exporters, student associations and think-tanks, will urge the White House and Capitol Hill to make rapid changes to the US visa regime.

These would include steps to expand the number of countries that benefit from the US visa waiver programme and ending the requirement that all visa applicants to the US must submit to a personal interview at US consular offices.

The National Foreign Trade Council estimated that US businesses lost more than $30bn in the two years before mid-2004 because of the visa restrictions imposed after the 2001 terrorist attacks. That figure is likely to be much larger now.

“American businesses now routinely hold training seminars, conferences and sometimes even board meetings outside of the US,” said Bill Reinsch, head of the NFTC. “At the same time you see foreign universities attracting more students by advertising the fact that they don’t have a US-style visa regime.”

The State Department says it has responded to private sector criticisms by employing more than 500 new consular officers, increasing the use of electronic visa processing and cutting down the waiting time for scientists to obtain a visa.

“We recognise the critical importance for the US economy and American public diplomacy of making it easier for students and business travellers to get visas,” Dina Habib Powell, US assistant secretary of state, told the FT in a recent interview. For example, the number of visas granted to foreign students last year stabilised at 565,766 after consecutive years of decline, she said.

However, private sector groups say the Bush administration has not done nearly enough to address the seriousness of the problem. “US agencies must recognise that the conduct of visa policy and the treatment of visitors at ports of entry is public diplomacy,” says the private sector statement that will be issued today.

Last year the Discover America partnership – a coalition of travel and tourist groups – found that two-thirds of the 2,011 international business travellers it surveyed thought the US was “the worst country in the world” in the way it treated foreign visitors at the border.

Similar proportions said they feared mistreatment at the hands of US immigration officials. There was no difference in response between visa waiver countries, such as France and Germany, and those requiring visas, such as China and India. Discover America will separately today issue a recommended “blueprint for change” to persuade 10m more foreign visitors to visit the US.

Bush ‘distorted’ climate change reports

Bush ‘distorted’ climate change reports
By Stephanie Kirchgaessner in Washington and Fiona Harvey in London
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 31 2007 01:39 | Last updated: January 31 2007 01:39

The Bush administration has routinely suppressed or ­distorted communication of climate change science to the public, a climate specialist at Nasa’s Goddard Institute said on Tuesday.

The accusation, before the chief oversight committee in the House of Representatives, was reinforced by claims by Democratic lawmakers that the White House was withholding documents proving that Philip Cooney, a former Bush administration official who now works as a lobbyist for ExxonMobil, regularly edited climate reports for political reasons.

“We know that the White House possesses documents that contain evidence of an attempt by senior administration officials to mislead the public by injecting doubt into the science of global warming and minimising the potential dangers,” said Henry Waxman, the Democratic chairman of the oversight committee.

In one instance of political interference described by Drew Shindell, the Nasa specialist, a press release he drafted in 2004 about future warming in Antarctica was “repeatedly delayed, altered and watered down” by Nasa headquarters. After being told to soften the title of the proposed press release, officials altered the title of the document from “Cool Antarctica may warm rapidly this century” to “Scientists predict Antarctica climate changes”.

Rick Piltz, a former government official who co-ordinated and edited reports on climate change, said he resigned from his post in 2005 in protest against the Bush administration impeding communication on ­climate science and its implications.

Mr Piltz testified that the administration systematically attempted to “bury” a “national assessment” report that had been published during the Clinton administration that analysed the consequences of climate variability on the US.

He also accused Mr Cooney of editing reports that had already been drafted and approved by scientists in a way that added an “enhanced sense of scientific uncertainty about global warming”.

ExxonMobil said on Tuesday that Mr Cooney was not giving interviews.

The testimony risks embarrassing the Bush administration ahead of the release on Friday of a landmark report on climate change science that will say there is a 90 per cent certainty that human activity is changing the world’s climate and temperatures will rise by 3 degrees Celsius by 2100. It paints the most dramatic and comprehensive picture yet of a future of heatwaves, droughts and floods.

The report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientific body convened by the United Nations, is based on research carried out over six years by more than 2,500 scientists.

The White House has been accused of attempting to weaken or change crucial wording on the state of climate science in this and previous IPCC reports, which form the basis of international climate change policy.

US GDP grows 3.5% in fourth quarter

US GDP grows 3.5% in fourth quarter
By Eoin Callan in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 31 2007 14:39 | Last updated: January 31 2007 14:39

The US economy expanded at a fast pace last quarter as consumer demand and exports rose while inflation cooled, government figures published on Wednesday showed.

Gross domestic product increased by 3.5 per cent in the last three months of 2006 after a gain of 2 per cent in the previous quarter, while rises in core prices slowed to a rate of 2.1 per cent from 2.2 per cent, the commerce department said.

The stronger-than-expected performance comes as investors and economists are radically upgrading their assumptions about the trajectory of the economy to bring them into line with the confident outlook of the Federal Reserve.

The Fed is expected to keep interest rates on hold when it wraps up its monetary policy meeting later on Wednesday, while warning that it remains wary about the risk of rising inflation in the coming year.

Drew Mathus, an economist at Lehman Brothers, said: “The growth figure shows us that 2006 ended with a bang. It also tells us that the first quarter is not likely to be exceptionally weak. We can also see that inflation remains a modest risk.”

“On balance the Fed is more likely to raise rates than cute rates this year, although we’re currently expecting the Fed to stay on hold for the rest of the year,” the economist added.

The figures sent waves through financial markets as the dollar gained against the euro and yen and bond yields rose to five-year highs.

The yield on the 30-year long-bond rose to more than 5 per cent while the yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury bond rose to 4.9 per cent.

The positive economic data released on Wednesday is broadly in line with the central bank’s internal assessment of the economy and is unlikely to alter significantly its outlook for interest rates.

Much of the accelerated growth is attributable to a sharp 4.4 per cent rise in personal consumption, as Americans continue to spend despite the correction in the housing market.

The economy was also strengthened by a 10 per cent rise in exports, compared with an increase of 6.8 per cent in the third quarter.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The guns of Florida

International Herald Tribune Editorial - The guns of Florida
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 30, 2007

Twenty years ago, the Florida Legislature cravenly decided to allow "law abiding" citizens to carry concealed weapons merely by declaring their preference for self-defense. Then last July, at the prodding of the gun lobby, state lawmakers proved to be even more corrupt and cowardly by deciding to make the list of gun-toting Floridians a secret.

Fortunately, a local newspaper has given residents of the state a final look at their representatives' gruesome handiwork. When the law was first enacted, there were fewer than 25,000 licensed gun holders. Since then, the state roll has boomed to 410,000 and counting. As the veil descends on this dangerously macho part of the public record, enterprising articles in The Florida Sun-Sentinel are laying bare the fact that more than 1,400 people easily got gun licenses despite pleading guilty or no contest to felonies that included manslaughter, burglary and child molestation.

Sampling records just before the law took effect, the newspaper uncovered hundreds of tales of mayhem, official indifference and glaring loopholes in criminal justice protection. Those permitted to pack concealed weapons include 216 people with outstanding criminal warrants, 128 under domestic violence injunctions and six registered sex offenders.

The gun lobby, predictably enough, is blaming "bleeding-heart, criminal-coddling judges and prosecutors" for this grim state of affairs. The truth is that the National Rifle Association has succeeded too well in herding legislators to do its dangerous bidding. Lawmakers in 38 states have approved bills allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons.

As in some of those states, Florida's legislators take the position that it's no fun to have a gun if you can't use it. So they loosened the laws on self-defense to allow a civilian to stand and use deadly force "if he or she reasonably believes it is necessary." If lawmakers had any sense of shame, they would undo these lethal threats to their constituents.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Canada's good example

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Canada's good example
Copyroght by The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 30, 2007

Canada set an important example of decency when it offered a formal apology and compensation worth millions of dollars to a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who was a victim of President George W. Bush's use of open-ended detention, summary deportation and even torture in the name of fighting terrorism.

The announcement last week by Prime Minister Stephen Harper came more than four years after the nightmare began for the Canadian, Maher Arar, a 36-year-old software engineer. On his way back from a family vacation, he was detained by U.S. officials at Kennedy Airport on the basis of unsubstantiated information from the Canadian police. After being held in solitary confinement in a Brooklyn detention center and interrogated without proper access to legal counsel, he was sent to Syria, where he was imprisoned for nearly a year and tortured.

It was all part of a legally and morally unsupportable practice known as extraordinary rendition, the deportation of terrorism suspects to countries where the regimes are known to use torture and to disdain basic human rights protections.

Four months ago, a Canadian government panel concluded that Arar had never had a terrorism connection, and that Americans had misled Canada about their plans for him. The Bush administration stonewalled the inquiry. It has responded to a new Canadian request to remove Arar from a U.S. security watch list by telling Canada, its democratic northern neighbor and strategic ally, to mind its own business.

Not only has the White House refused to apologize to Arar, but Justice Department lawyers are also brandishing a dubious claim of state secrets and fighting a lawsuit brought by Arar in the United States.

Bush administration officials insist that they have "new intelligence" that justifies keeping Arar on the watch list. That intelligence has not been disclosed, but Canadian officials who have reviewed the information are unpersuaded.

Questioned about the case at a recent Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has provided no specifics that would explain Arar's continued presence on the watch list. The committee's chairman, Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, is right to demand that the administration face up to its bad behavior in this case and renounce its renditions policy.

This is not just about doing the right thing by what appears to be an innocent man. It is a matter of trying to restore America's reputation as a protector of human rights.

Former New York Times reporter contradicts Libby - Testimony focuses on agent's identity

Former New York Times reporter contradicts Libby - Testimony focuses on agent's identity
By David Stout
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 30, 2007

WASHINGTON: A former reporter for The New York Times testified Tuesday that I. Lewis Libby Jr. disclosed the identity of a CIA agent to her more than two weeks before he has said he learned of the woman's identity.

The reporter, Judith Miller, said that Libby, who was then the chief of staff for Vice President Dick Cheney, made the disclosure in a June 23, 2003, meeting in the Old Executive Office Building near the White House.

Miller described having two conversations with Libby about Valerie Plame, the CIA agent — before Libby told investigators he was surprised to learn about her from a television journalist, Tim Russert.

Libby was "agitated and frustrated and angry" during the June 23 meeting, she testified, because he thought the Central Intelligence Agency was beginning to "back-pedal to try to distance itself" from discredited assessments of Saddam Hussein's weapons capabilities in the build-up to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The CIA was waging "a perverted war of leaks," Miller said Libby told her.

Miller's account could be devastating to Libby, who is on trial for obstruction and perjury and has sworn that he first learned the identity of Plame from Russert on July 10, 2003.

But Miller testified in federal court that, in addition to discussing the CIA agent on June 23, Libby also discussed Plame again on July 8, when she and Libby met at a Washington hotel.

On June 23, Miller said Libby discussed how "a clandestine guy" had gone to Africa in the winter of 2002 to investigate reports that Saddam was trying to buy uranium from Niger to further its nuclear programs. Then Libby began to refer to the "clandestine guy" by name — Joseph Wilson 4th, who is Plame's husband — according to Miller's account.

Miller was asked by Patrick Fitzgerald, the prosecutor who is trying to prove that Libby aimed to impede a federal investigation into who leaked Plame's name, whether Wilson's wife was mentioned at that June 23 session.

"Yes," Miller answered. "He said that his wife — referring to Plame — worked in 'the bureau.'"

"The bureau?" Fitzgerald asked.

Miller said that she thought "bureau" meant the Federal Bureau of Investigation, but that she soon realized "he was referring to the CIA" and that the allusion was to "the nonproliferation bureau" in the spy agency.

Miller spent 85 days in jail in 2005 for refusing to testify about her discussions with Libby, agreeing to do so only after he released her from a pledge of confidentiality, she has said. She left The Times soon afterward.

The June 23 discussion occurred amid a growing controversy about intelligence failures leading up to the war in Iraq. After his trip to Niger, Wilson wrote in an opinion essay in The New York Times that some of the intelligence used to justify the U.S. invasion was false and that Vice President Dick Cheney should have known it.

Journalism groups have criticized Fitzgerald for calling reporters as witnesses and demanding they discuss conversations with sources. Miller's notes probably will be used as evidence, and Fitzgerald is expected to call two other reporters — Russert and Matthew Cooper of Time magazine.

Earlier Tuesday, David Addington, who served as Cheney's legal counsel during the scandal, described a September 2003 meeting with Libby around the time that an investigation into the leak began.

"I just want to tell you, I didn't do it," Addington recalled Libby saying. "I didn't ask what the 'it' was," Addington added.

Scientists take a second look at biofuels - Dutch efforts turn into nightmare

Scientists take a second look at biofuels - Dutch efforts turn into nightmare
By Elisabeth Rosenthal
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 30, 2007

AMSTERDAM: Just a few years ago, politicians and green groups in the Netherlands were thrilled by the country's early and rapid adoption of "sustainable energy," achieved in part by coaxing electricity plants to use some biofuel — in particular, palm oil from Southeast Asia.

Spurred by government subsidies, energy companies became so enthusiastic that they designed generators that ran exclusively on the oil, which in theory would be cleaner than fossil fuels like coal because it is derived from plants.

But last year, when scientists studied practices at palm plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia, this green fairy tale began to look more like an environmental nightmare.

Rising demand for palm oil in Europe brought about the razing of huge tracts of Southeast Asian rain forest and the overuse of chemical fertilizer there. Worse still, space for the expanding palm plantations was often created by draining and burning peat land, which sent huge amount of carbon emissions into the atmosphere.

Factoring in these emissions, Indonesia had quickly become the world's third-leading producer of greenhouse gases that scientists believe are responsible for global warming, ranked after the United States and China, concluded a study released in December by researchers from Wetlands International and Delft Hydraulics, both in the Netherlands.

"It was shocking and totally smashed all the good reasons we initially went into palm oil," said Alex Kaat, a spokesman for Wetlands, a conservation group.

Biofuels, long a cornerstone of the quest for greener energy, may sometimes produce more harmful emissions than the fossil fuels they replace, scientific studies are finding.

As a result, politicians in many countries are rethinking the billions of dollars in subsidies that have indiscriminately supported the spread of all of these supposedly "eco-friendly" fuels, for use in power vehicles and factories. The 2003 European Union Biofuels Directive, which demands that all member states aim to have 5.75 percent of transportation fueled by biofuel in 2010, is now under review.

"If you make biofuels properly, you will reduce greenhouse emissions," said Peder Jensen, of the European Environment Agency in Copenhagen. "But that depends very much on the types of plants and how they're grown and processed. You can end up with a 90 percent reduction compared to fossil fuels — or a 20 percent increase."

"Its important to take a life cycle view," he said, and not to "just see what the effects are here in Europe."

In the Netherlands, the data from Indonesia has provoked soul searching, and prompted the government to suspend palm oil subsidies. A country that was a leader in green energy in Europe has now become a leader in the effort to distinguish which biofuels are truly environmentally sound. The government, environmental groups and some of the "green energy" companies in the Netherlands are trying to develop programs to trace the origin of imported palm oil, to certify what is produced in an eco-friendly manner.

Krista van Velzen, a member of Parliament, said the Netherlands should pay compensation to Indonesia for the damage palm oil has caused. "We can't only think, 'Does it pollute the Netherlands?'"

Biofuels are heavily subsidized throughout the developed world, including the European Union and the United States, and enjoy tax breaks that are given because they more expensive to produce than conventional fuel.

In the United States and Brazil most biofuel is ethanol, derived from corn and used to power vehicles. In Europe it is mostly local rapeseed and sunflower oil, used to make diesel fuel. But as many European countries push for more green energy, they are increasingly importing plant oils from the tropics, since there is simply not enough biomass at home.

On the surface, the environmental equation that supports biofuels is simple: Since they are derived from plants, biofuels absorb carbon while they are grown and release it when they are burned. In theory that neutralizes their emissions.

But the industry was promoted long before there was adequate research, said Reanne Creyghton, who runs Friends of the Earth's anti-palm oil campaign in the Netherlands. "Palm oil was advertised as green energy, but there was no research about whether it was really sustainable."

Biofuelswatch, an environmental group in Britain, now say that "biofuels should not automatically be classed as 'renewable energy.'" It supports a moratorium on subsidies until more research is done to define which biofuels are truly good for the planet. Beyond that, the group suggests that all emissions rising from the production of a biofuel be counted as emissions in the country where the fuel is actually used, providing a clearer accounting of environmental costs.

The demand for palm oil in Europe has skyrocketed in the past two decades, first for use in food and cosmetics, and more recently for biofuels. This versatile and low-cost oil is used in about 10 percent of supermarket products, from chocolate to toothpaste, accounting for 21 percent of the global market for edible oils.

Palm oil produces the most energy of all vegetable oils per liter when burned. In much of Europe it is used as a substitute for diesel oil, though in the Netherlands, with little sun for solar power and little wind for turbines, the government has encouraged its use for electricity.

Supported by hundreds of millions of euros in national subsidies, the Netherlands rapidly became the leading importer of palm oil in Europe, taking in 1.5 million tons last year, a figure that has been nearly doubling annually. The Dutch green energy giant Essent alone bought 200,000 tons, before it agreed to suspend new purchases until a better system for certifying sustainably grown palm oil could be developed. The company now has replaced the palm oil it used with conventional sources of energy and local biofuels.

But already the buoyant demand has created damage far away. "When you drastically increase the demand for agricultural products, that puts new pressure on the land and can have unintended consequences and hidden costs," Jensen, of the European Environment Agency, said.

Friends of the Earth estimates that 87 percent of the deforestation in Malaysia from 1985 to 2000 was caused by new palm oil plantations. In Indonesia, the amount of land devoted to palm oil has increased 118 percent in the past eight years.

Oil needed by poor people for food was becoming too expensive for them. "We have a problem satisfying the Netherlands' energy needs with someone else's food resources," said Creyghton of Friends of the Earth.

Such concerns were causing intense misgivings about palm oil already when, in December, scientists from Wetlands International released their bombshell calculation about the global emissions that palm farming on peat land caused.

Peat is an organic sponge that stores huge amounts of carbon, thereby helping to balance global emissions. Peat land is 90 percent water. But when it is drained, those stored gases are released into the atmosphere.

To makes matters worse, once dried, peat land is often burned to clear ground for plantations. In recent years Indonesia has been plagued by polluting wildfires so intense that they send thick clouds of smoke over much of Asia.

The Dutch study estimated that the draining of peat land in Indonesia releases 600 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere a year and that fires contributed an additional 1,400 million tons annually. The total, 2000 million tons, is equivalent to 8 percent of all global emissions caused annually by burning fossil fuels, the researchers said.

"These emissions generated by peat drainage in Indonesia were not counted before," Kaat, of Wetlands International, said. "It was a totally ignored problem." For the moment Wetlands is backing the certification system for palm oil imports, to make sure it is grown and processed in a sustainable manner.

But some environmental groups are convinced that palm oil cannot be produced sustainably at reasonable prices. Part of the reason palm oil is now relatively inexpensive is because of poor environmental practices and labor abuses, they say.

Still, some Dutch companies like Biox, a young company fully devoted to producing energy from palm oil, are confident there will be a solution and are banking on this biofuel.

Biox has applied to build three palm oil power plants in the Netherlands; the first one gained approval just last week. It is currently auditing its plantations and refineries in Indonesia for sustainability.

"Yes, there have been bad examples in the palm oil industry," said Arjen Brinkman, a company official. "But it is now clear that to serve Europe's markets for biofuel and bioenergy, you will have to prove that you produce it sustainably — that you are producing less, not more CO2."

Who can fix county Dems? BY CAROL MARIN

Who can fix county Dems? BY CAROL MARIN
Copyright by The chicago Sun-Times
January 31, 2007

Hey, did you hear about the election Thursday? The one to pick the new chairman of the Cook County Democratic Party? Probably not.
And if you had heard and went searching for some information about it on the Cook County Democratic Party's sad little Web site, you were out of luck. "There are no events posted at this time," it read Tuesday afternoon. "Please check later!" Even the Cook County Dems know the election of a new chairman doesn't qualify as "an event," not even to them.

Once upon a time, the Cook County Democratic Party was a powerhouse. It had structure, discipline and money. But that was back in the days when Richard J. Daley, Ed Vrdolyak and George Dunne took turns at the helm. Believe me, I'm not going all gooey-eyed about how great it was back when those guys ran things with an iron fist. But it was, for better or worse, a genuine organization that accomplished its stated goals. It endorsed people for office and then actually got them elected.

From then until now, there has been a steady erosion of relevance of the Cook County Dems. The current mayor, Richard M. Daley, rebelled against the regulars in 1980, when then-Mayor Jane Byrne and the party endorsed 14th Ward Ald. Ed Burke for state's attorney in the primary. Daley, the non-slated candidate, won with 63 percent of the vote.

From that day forward, Daley relied on his own get-out-the-vote groups to keep getting elected and installed a weak leader, Tom Lyons, to "run" the regulars into the ground.

Three politicians are lining up, pledging to resuscitate county Dems: 29th Ward Ald. Isaac Carothers; Board of Review Commissioner Joseph Berrios, and state Rep. Lou Lang of Skokie.

They will make their pitch to an assembly of 50 Chicago ward committeemen and 30 suburban committeemen over at the Allegro Hotel at 11 a.m. Thursday. (Just in case their Web site never gets around to posting it, I thought you should know.)

Lang thinks it's high time for the chairman of the party to come from the suburbs. That, however, overlooks the fact that the last chairman, Lyons, a 45th Ward committeeman, despite an official city address, really lived in the suburbs for decades though he denied it.

Lyons, who died this month, had a law practice that flourished because of his Democratic connections, but the party itself certainly did not. The year 2000 was the last time Lyons even tried to flex some muscle. That year he gave his personal backing to his 45th Ward protege, Ald. Pat Levar, who was running for clerk of the Circuit Court. Democratic committeemen, following Lyons' lead, dutifully slated Levar.

And you know what happened?

An unslated candidate by the name of Dorothy Brown ate him for lunch. She has been the clerk of the Circuit Court ever since, the same Dorothy Brown who is now running for mayor.

And in the years since, it has only gotten worse. I remember sitting in the November 2005 slate-making session. Committeemen filed in, pretending to listen to candidates seeking their support. Some candidates were running for judge. Some for sheriff. Even Forrest Claypool, candidate for president of the Cook County Board, showed up, though he knew he didn't have snowball's chance of being anointed.

Everybody knew the deals had already been made. "Slating is decided when you walk in the door," Carothers told me Tuesday. But woe to some of those slated that day. Two candidates for Metropolitan Water Reclamation District who got the party's blessing, James Harris and Barrett Pedersen, got the voters' boot. Debra Shore and Patricia Horton, two who were not slated, today are in office instead. And when it came to judges, Joy Cunningham, candidate for the appellate court, beat the ward bosses' choice, David Anthony Erickson.

So can Berrios, Carothers or Lang turn this battleship of a party around? Do they, all longtime party regulars, have the vision and leadership?

"Not that I have seen," said Cindi Canary, executive director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, "but I can always be surprised."

We could use that kind of political surprise.

The leadership of the Cook County Democratic Party is mostly men, mostly white and mostly old school.

It's time for a change.

Now that the alternative get-out-the-vote organizations that Daley created to circumvent the ward bosses, most notably the Hispanic Democratic Organization, are under U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's microscope, there is a void that this party can really fill.

And now that Illinois has a favorite son presidential candidate, Barack Obama, who is going to be headquartered in Chicago, there's even more reason to breathe some life, some youth and some real diversity into the leadership of this sickly organization.

I know it's a real long shot. But here's hoping.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Profound climate changes in store, experts say

Profound climate changes in store, experts say
By James Kanter and Andrew C. Revkin
Copyright By The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 29, 2007

PARIS: Scientists from across the world gathered Monday to hammer out the final details of an authoritative report on climate change that is expected to project centuries of rising temperatures and sea levels unless curbs in emissions of carbon dioxide and other gases that trap heat in the atmosphere are put in place.

According to scientists involved in writing and reviewing the report, the fourth since 1990 from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body overseen by the United Nations, the paper is nearly certain to conclude that there is at least a 90 percent chance that human-caused emissions are the main cause of warming since 1950.

The report, according to several authors, who spoke on condition of anonymity because details could still change, will describe growing evidence that warming is likely to profoundly transform the planet.

Three large sections of the report will be forthcoming during the year, with the summary for policy makers and sections on basic climate science coming Friday.

Among findings in recent drafts are that the Arctic Ocean could largely be devoid of sea ice in summers in this century; the Mediterranean shores of Europe could become barely habitable in summers while the Alps shift from snowy winter destinations to summer havens from the heat; growing seasons in temperate regions will expand, while droughts will further ravage semi-arid regions of Africa and southern Asia.

"Concerns about climate change and public awareness on the subject are at an all time high," the chairman of the climate change panel, Rajendra Pachauri, told delegates Monday.

"It would perhaps be no exaggeration to suggest that, at no time in the past, has there been a greater global appetite for knowledge on any subject as there is today on the scientific facts underlying the reality of global climate change," Pachauri said.

But scientists involved in the effort warned that squabbling between teams and representatives from governments of more than 100 countries over how to portray the most probable rise in sea levels during the 21st century could distract from the basic finding that a warming world will be one in which retreating coasts are the new norm for centuries to come.

Jerry Mahlman, an emeritus researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, who reviewed the report's single- spaced, 1,644-page summary of climate science, said that most of the leaks to the press so far had been from people eager to find elements that were the scariest or most reassuring.

He added in an interview that such efforts distract from the basic, undisputed findings, saying that those point to trends that are very disturbing.

He pointed to recent disclosures that there was still uncertainty about the pace at which seas will rise due to warming and melting of ice over the next 100 years. That span, he said, was just the start of a process of a rise in sea levels that would then almost certainly continue for 1,000 years or so.

The latest draft of the panel's summary highlights the hazardous consequences of "business as usual," finding that reaching twice the pre-industrial concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will probably warm the climate 3.5 degrees Fahrenheit to 8 degrees Fahrenheit, or 6.3 degrees Celsius to 14.4 degrees Celsius, with a greater than one- in-ten chance of higher temperatures.

Even the midrange projection for warming, say many climate experts and biologists, will powerfully stress ecosystems and disrupt longstanding climate patterns related to water supplies and agriculture.

Many economists and energy experts long abandoned any expectation that the world can avoid a doubling of pre- industrial carbon dioxide concentrations given the growth of human populations; use of fossil fuels, particularly coal; and deforestation in the tropics.

As a result, a significant focus of the summary coming this week and of other sections of the report will be the necessity to bolster the resilience of agriculture and water supplies to inevitable shifts, while trying to slow and, as soon as it can be affordably done, reverse the century-long climb in releases of the heat-trapping gases.

Many experts involved in drawing up the report said there was hope that with a prompt start on slowing emissions, the chances of seeing much great warmer and widespread disruption of ecosystems and societies can be cut.

Outside experts agreed.

"We basically have three choices — mitigation, adaptation and suffering," said John Holdren, the president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and an energy and climate expert at Harvard University. "We're going to do some of each. The question is what the mix is going to be. The more mitigation we do, the less adaptation will be required and the less suffering there will be."

One key point of controversy in recent drafts of the summary is a smaller rise in sea level than the last report projected. In the next several days, scientists relying on field observations and computer models of ocean and ice behavior in a warming world will struggle to find a consensus.

Some scientists say that the figures used in the new report are overly conservative because they leave out recent observations of instability in some ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland.

Ice loss in those regions has been very sudden in some cases, implying a more rapid rise in sea levels than projected by some computer models.

Another possible point of contention during the four days of closed-door sessions in Paris this week could be assertions in early drafts that the recent warming rate was blunted by particle pollution and volcanic eruptions.

Some scientists say the final report should reflect the assumption that the rate of warming in coming years is likely to be more pronounced that in previous decades.

The report will not outline measures to tackle global warming. Instead, it will concentrate on the latest evidence that the phenomenon is under way.

But Achim Steiner, executive director of the United Nations Environment Program, said the findings to be presented Friday should lead decision makers to accelerate efforts to slash carbon emissions and to help people in vulnerable parts of the world prepare for climate change.

"These findings should strengthen the resolve of governments to act now to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and put in place the medium to longer term strategies necessary to avert dangerous climate change," Steiner said.

In a new report issued on Monday, UNEP said the most recent evidence from mountain glaciers showed they were melting faster than before, or 1.6 times more than the average of the 1990s and three times the loss rate of the 1980s. UNEP warned that the trend was likely to continue because 2006 was one of the warmest years on record in many parts of the world.

Also Monday, there were new concerns about climate change from low- lying parts of the world. Indonesia could lose about 2,000 islands by 2030 because of warming, Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said.

Over the past year, international concern over what to do about global warming has grown along with concrete signs of climate change in developing regions like Africa, where water is running low, and in developed regions, like Europe, where there was a marked lack of snow at Alpine ski resorts in early January.

Even so, political leaders are groping for ways to tackle the problem. Europe has adopted a program that caps the amount of emissions from industrial producers.

But the world's largest emitter, the United States, is still debating whether to adopt a similar policy and developing countries like China are resisting caps on the grounds that the industrialized world contributed about 75 percent of the current volume of greenhouse gases and should make the deepest cuts.

That situation has hampered the chances of an effective solution, which experts say will require all countries to cut emissions or become more energy efficient.

The second section of the new report, which focuses on the impacts of and ways of adapting to climate change, is scheduled for publication in April, while a section on mitigating climate change is to be made public in May.

A synthesis of all three parts for policy makers is expected in November.

Andrew C. Revkin reported from New York.

Monday, January 29, 2007

"Unid@s announces its first Board of Directors"

PRESS RELEASE                                                                     FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contacts:          Ruby Corado                                                     Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano
(202) 270-0944                                                   (512) 791-8752                                  
"Unid@s announces its first Board of Directors"
January 29, 2007 – Unid@s, the National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Human Rights Organization announced today the selection of its first Board of Directors. Looking to fill the void of a national organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Latinas/os, a group of Latina/o lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) leaders met in Seattle on October 2004 to create a Steering Committee to develop the organizational base for this effort. After several months of preparation, the Steering Committee opened the process to recruit members for the initial Board of Directors of this new organization. Through a democratic, transparent and open voting process via the internet, Latino/a LGBT community members selected the new board members.
"After an inclusive, thorough and transparent process, we have laid the groundwork for the first Board of Directors that will have the task of building this organization. We are grateful of the participation of LGBT Latinas/os in this process. This grassroots effort has set the stage for a national Latina/o LGBT organization that represents everyone and stands as a powerful and effective voice in the struggle for equal rights and liberation," said Ruby Corado, co-chair of Unid@s Steering Committee.
The transition of leadership from the Steering Committee to the new Board of Directors of Unid@s will take place throughout February. The first Board of Directors of Unid@s will take-on the leadership of the organization on March 1, 2007. The Board of Directors of Unid@s will be comprised of 13 members, seven from each geographical region and six members from states with larger concentration of Latinas/os. The regions are: North East, South East, Puerto Rico, North Central, South Central, Mid West and West. The following states: New York, Illinois, Texas, California and Massachusetts, as well as the District of Columbia, will have an additional slot to address density of LGBT Latinas/os.
The Steering Committee developed guidelines to ensure that we created a Board that represents as many experiences and the diversity of identities including gender, class, ethnicity, age, immigration history and sexual orientations. In an effort to ensure balanced participation of all members of our community, there are four slots for lesbian and/or bisexual women, four slots for gay and/or bisexual men, four slots for transgender people and one slot that can be filled with someone from any of the above communities. At the same time, there will be an innovative leadership composition of three chairs: one transgender, one lesbian or bisexual woman, and one gay or bisexual man.
During this voting process, 11 board members were elected, but due to our demographical and geographical guidelines, the Board has two vacant slots. To comply with the demographical guidelines, these two slots must be filled with one transgender person and one lesbian or bisexual woman. To comply with the geographical guidelines, these two additional members must be one from California and one from Illinois. These vacancies will be filled by the elected Board.
"We are hopeful of the future of Unid@s. The commitment of our Latina/o LGBT community is inspiring. The Board selection process has been transparent, agile, democratic and inclusive. We worked to guarantee the participation of everyone in our Latina/o LGBT community. We invite everyone to keep invested in the future of Unid@s. Together we can make a difference", finalized Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, co-chair of Unid@s Steering Committee.
The elected Board members are:
North East : One member will represent these states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island , Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland. One member will represent New York and one member will represent Massachusetts.
Gael Gundin Guevara, New York, trans
Gael Gundin Guevara is trans-identified boi born and raised in Panamá City, Panamá. Gael is a collective and the Community Organizing Coordinator at the Sylvia Rivera Law Project, an organization that provides free legal services to low-income and people of color that are trans, intersex, and gender non-conforming. Gael is also a working group member of Trans Justice, a New York City based community organizing working group of the Audre Lorde Project created by and for trans and gender non-conforming people of color. Gael has been part of the steering committee of Sigamos Adelante, since its beginnings and continues to support the national efforts to create a strong and unified Latino/Hispanic LGBT voice.
Wilfred Labiosa, Massachusetts, gay

Wilfred Labiosa was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Received his Bachelor's degree in Psychology and Latin American Studies from Boston University and his Master's Degree in Counseling Psychology from Northeastern University; working towards completion of his PhD in Applied Psychology. He is currently the Program Director of the Relapse Prevention & Outpatient Services of Casa Esperanza, Inc.; also an adjunct professor in the Liberal Arts Department of Cambridge College. He has vast experience in working in the public health and mental health fields locally and nationally. He has served in different capacities in local, national, and international organizations.  He is co-founder and member of the Board of Directors of Somos Latinos/as LGBT Coalition of Massachusetts and the annual Latino Pride Celebration. He is committed in working with others in the advancement of Communities of Color including LGBT people, as well as in their inclusion and recognition by mainstream LGBT and Latino organizations.  
Pedro Julio Serrano, North East, gay

Pedro Julio Serrano, born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, is currently the Communications Coordinator for the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. He is a well-known and respected Latino/a LGBT movement leader. With studies in communications from the University of Puerto Rico, he worked for the Puerto Rican Health Department and as communications manager for LLEGO. In 1998, he became the first openly gay political candidate in the history of Puerto Rico to run for office. In 1999, he became the political and media director for the Human Rights Foundation of Puerto Rico. Most recently, he worked as communications associate and Voices of Equality coordinator for Freedom to Marry. He also founded Puerto Rico Para Tod@s (Puerto Rico for All), an organization that advocates for social justice and the inclusion of the LGBT community in the social project of the island. He is a member of the Steering Committee of Unid@s , an effort to construct a new national Latina/o LGBT voice, and co-chair of the National Latina/o Coalition for Justice, which fights to end discrimination in marriage. He lives by Gandhi's words: "Be the change that you want to see in the world."
South East : One member will represent these states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida and D.C. One member will represent Washington , D.C.
Sandra Telep, South East, lesbian

Sandra Telep is an organizer with Pride At Work, AFL-CIO and specializes in relationship recognition. She is working to gain support in the Labor movement for marriage equality and working with unions to ensure that their collective bargaining protects their LGBT workers and families. Sandra is also co-chair of the National Latin@ Coalition for Justice, the national Latin@ organization working for marriage equality.  In the past she has worked for the Human Rights Campaign and the American Civil Liberties Union. She has been with her partner Jessica for five years and they are they proud parents of two dogs.
Ruby Jade Corado, D.C ., trans
Ruby Jade Corado was born in San Salvador, El Salvador. She is 35 years old and has lived in Washington, D.C. for the past 17 years. After working with organizations such as the Whitman Walter Clinic and La Clínica Del Pueblo, Ruby realized that there weren't any safe spaces for transgender Latin@s. That prompted her to create, with a group of friends and activists, the group "Creando Espacios", sponsored by La Clínica Del Pueblo, where for the past five years, many transgender activists have learned advocacy, public speaking and outreach skills. Ruby has collaborated with national organizations such as LLEGO, the National Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Organization, in which she worked to create the First Leadership Congress for Transgender Latin@s in Washington, D.C. She has worked also with national organizations such as GLAAD, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Center for Transgender Equality and Latin@s en Acción, among others. Ruby has collaborated with data recollection governmental programs in D.C. and Virginia, but her most outstanding contribution if the creation of El Proyecto "Casa Ruby". Casa Ruby is a home and work center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people that are homeless and/or jobless because of being rejected by their families or by society.

Puerto Rico: One member will represent Puerto Rico.
Ada M. Conde Vidal, Puerto Rico, lesbian

Ada M. Conde Vidal was born in Puerto Rico, from a Puerto Rican father and a Cuban mother. She has a 20-year old daughter. Ada has been a lawyer for 20 years and in the past 10 years she has devoted most of her time to the fight for LGBT equality and to end sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination. As president of the Fundación de Derechos Humanos, she managed to get a sexual orientation and gender identity inclusive hate crimes bill into law in Puerto Rico and has authored many pieces of legislation. She is also a photojournalist.

North Central: One member will represent these states: Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska.
Gabriel González, North Central, gay

Gabriel González was born and raised in Puerto Rico. He graduated from a Talented Student in Science and Math program in High School, and received scholarships to attend various universities. He attended the Metropolitan University of Puerto Rico. While at this institution, he was given the opportunity to work on research with the U.S. National Laboratories. After his second year in college, his family moved to the U.S., in the fall of 1998 to Salt Lake City, Utah. Shortly after the move, Gabriel relocated to Lincoln, Nebraska, where he pursued studies in Christian theology at Union College, a small Seventh-Day Adventist liberal arts college. After graduating from Union College, he came to terms with his homosexuality and became an advocate for students on the campus. In 2005, he began his master's in social work at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and should be finished with this degree in December, 2007. While pursuing diverse careers, he has continued to develop his professional and civic involvement. He has served in diverse boards and chaired some of these. Currently Gabriel is on his second year of serving as the president to the gay group on campus "Alphabet Soup." He is happily partner with a Caucasian male from Alabama.

South Central: One member will represent these states: Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New México, Texas and Oklahoma. One member will represent Texas.
Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano , South Central, gay

Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano is a Queer-identified Xicano born in San José, California and raised between his birthplace and southern Chihuahua, México. He has dedicated his professional, academic and artistic career to looking at the intersections of social justice movements. He is the author of the Lambda Literary Award-nominated Santo de la Pata Alzada: Poems from the Queer/Xicano/Positive Pen (Evelyn Street Press, 2005); editor of Queer Codex, a radical queer people of color cultural arts anthology series published in collaboration by Evelyn Street Press, a progressive feminist publishing house, and ALLGO; and is scheduled to publish his second collection of poetry, Promesas y Amenazas (Xorizote Press) in September of 2007. Lorenzo Holds a Master in Liberal Arts from St. Edward's University, and is currently in the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership & Ethics program at the same academic institution.
Cristina E. Martinez, Texas, lesbian
Cristina E. Martinez was born on November 12, 1961, and raised in Mexico until the age of 14. She graduated from high school in Houston, Texas and attended the University of St. Thomas. She joined the military (Army) and served for 8 years. Currently she is the CEO of Mad Clik, Inc., publisher of the Gay & Lesbian Rainbow Pages and president of MD Marketing & Advertising. Extremely active in the non-profit sector of the GLBT community in several organizations, Cristina is looking to grow Latino/a organizations. Feeling a void in this country for Latino LGBT organizations and events ergo, Cristina created the first ever Latino Gay Orgullo Week last year in Texas. The second annual Latino Gay Orgullo Week will be June 2007 culminating with a Black Tie Dance.
Mid West : One member will represent these states: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Ohio. One member will represent Illinois (VACANT).

Jorge Alexandro Cestou, Mid West, gay
Jorge Alexandro Cestou is a latino gay activist in the city of Chicago, Illinois. He was born in Laredo, Texas. At the age of 24, he migrated to the city of Chicago, where he is active in organizations and the Illinois Latino/a LGBT community. He has a master's degree in business administration (MBA). His participation in human rights organizations is of great importance to him, specially the ones dealing with LGBT equality.

West : One member will represent these states: Hawaii, Alaska, Washington, Oregon and California. One member will represent California (VACANT).
Yoseñio V. Lewis, West, trans
Yoseñio V. Lewis is a dark skinned Latino female to male transsexual who has been an activist since 1973. A health educator, speaker, writer, performer, trainer, facilitator and spiritual hugger, Yoseñio is a member of the Board of Directors of The Woodhull Sexual Freedom Foundation and of Tenderloin Health (in San Francisco). He was most recently on the Board of Directors of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF).  Yoseñio is also a co-founder of Big Boys' Ink™ Productions, a theatrical writing and performing company.  Yoseñio is also a co-founder of "The TransAms", a barbershop quartet composed of transsexual men. Yoseñio has been a subject of several documentaries, including Christopher Lee's "Trappings of Transhood" and the television channel A&E's "Transgender Revolution."

Financial Times Editorial - A legacy for Bush

Financial Times Editorial - A legacy for Bush
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 29 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 29 2007 02:00

President George W. Bush may have lost much of his power base in the last election - but paradoxically, in the process, he may have gained a legacy. Much of the programme he outlined in last week's State of the Union message seems unattainable: on Iraq or healthcare or global warming, it is hard to imagine the newly empowered Democrats handing Mr Bush many triumphs.

For power in Congress is divided by only a hair's breadth: that fact could force the two sides to compromise - but with the 2008 presidential election already looming implausibly large on the horizon, it is more likely to force Congress into gridlock.

Still, there is one ray of hope in this vision of partisan paralysis - immigration reform, one of Mr Bush's favourite issues but also one on which there is already a large measure of bipartisan consensus. Mr Bush has been pleading for reform virtually since he became president and last week he urged Americans once again to "uphold the great tradition of the melting pot" and tackle the problem of illegal immigration. This week Senate sub-committee hearings on the issue will begin and legislation could be introduced in the Senate to tackle the problem within a month or so.

The last election improved the chances of a compromise on this issue. For the clear message of that poll was that a hard line on immigration does not win many votes. The anti-immigrant platform of some Republicans clearly lost the party votes among Hispanic-Americans, whom Republicans need to cultivate for the future of their party. The shift in power to the Democrats has removed some immigration hardliners from positions of power where they could block bipartisan progress.

That does not mean success on the issue is a slam-dunk certainty: far from it. Democrats have said they will need a large chunk of Republicans in the House to vote with them or there will be no deal. There are still many areas of disagreement: how can the 12m illegal immigrants already living in America be legalised, without inviting more immigrants to enter illegally in future, hoping they too can become legal after the fact? US businesses are worried that the burden of enforcing new immigration rules will fall largely on them: will they have to verify the legal status of all workers, including arm's-length contractors?

Whatever the hurdles, Congress should not waste this opportunity to strike a historic deal that will guarantee an adequate flow of legal workers to staff the US economy (especially as baby boomers begin retiring next year) and give millions of hard-working immigrants a legal path to the American dream. Time is short: by autumn, presidential politicking may blight all hope of progress. Now is the moment for Congress to give American voters what they say they want: bipartisanship - on this issue, if nowhere else.

Iraq is rapidly sliding into an all-out civil war that is likely to spill over into neighbouring countries

Iraq is rapidly sliding into an all-out civil war that is likely to spill over into neighbouring countries
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 28 2007 20:07 | Last updated: January 28 2007 20:07

Iraq is rapidly sliding into an all-out civil war that is likely to spill over into neighbouring countries, resulting in mass deaths and refugee flows, serious disruption of Gulf oil supplies and a drastic decline in US influence in the region.

This grim forecast is set out in Things Fall Apart, a 130-page report released on Monday by the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center for Middle East Policy that also recommends how the US might contain the disastrous consequences of “spillover”.

The Washington think-tank distils what it says are the lessons learned from other civil wars, laying out the case histories of Afghanistan, Congo, Lebanon, Somalia and Yugoslavia.

Kenneth Pollack, a former Clinton administration official and CIA analyst who co-authored the report with Daniel Byman, told the FT they were looking for a “Goldilocks solution” – somewhere between “stay the course” and “getting all out”.

“It was arrogance in the face of history that led us to blithely assume we could invade without preparing for an occupation, and we would do well to show greater humility when assimilating its lessons about what we fear will be the next step in Iraq’s tragic history,” the report says.

Brookings identifies six patterns from other civil wars that are already manifesting themselves in Iraq: large refugee flows, the breeding ground of new terrorist groups, radicalisation of neighbouring populations, the spread of secessionism, regional economic losses, and intervention by neighbours. Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Kuwait and Turkey are said to be “scrambling to catch up” with rival Iran.

Among the report’s recommendations are “don’t try to pick winners”, as proxies often fail or turn against their masters; avoid active support for partition; “don’t dump the problem on the United Nations”; pull back from Iraqi population centres despite the horrific consequences; bolster regional stability by revitalising the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; set up an international contact group including Syria and Iran; and consider setting up “safe havens” for refugees along Iraq’s borders.

Brookings estimates that 50,000 to 150,000 Iraqis have died already since the US invasion in 2003 and cites United Nations figures of 1m Iraqis who have subsequently fled their country.

Mr Pollack, who previously was an outspoken proponent of the invasion, says the lessons of past full-blown civil wars reveal nearly all efforts by states to minimise or contain spillover have failed.

The report will be read with deep concern by the US administration, which is projecting an increasingly discordant picture of how it evaluates Iraq, even while speaking of the serious consequences of failure. President George W. Bush calls it the “nightmare scenario”.

Analysts outside Brookings say officials are working on “what next?” strategies in the event that the 21,500 troop reinforcements announced this month fail to halt the sectarian chaos.

Mr Bush has conceded that the US is not winning the war. In contrast, Dick Cheney, his vice-president, asserted last week that the US had achieved “enormous successes” in Iraq. Both reject assertions that Iraq is in a state of civil war.

Mr Cheney told Newsweek that by sending a second aircraft carrier group to the Gulf, the US demonstrated to its allies it would stay in the region and had the capabilities, working with international organisations, “to deal with the Iranian threat”.

But Mr Pollack is concerned that the US is stoking a wider conflict and is “careening” into provoking a war with Iran. Even in his “best-case scenario” for Iraq, Mr Pollack fears hundreds of thousands of deaths.

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Bush's bait-and-switch

International Herald Tribune Editorial - Bush's bait-and-switch
Copyright by The International Herald Tribune
Published: January 28, 2007

We often wonder whether there is a limit to the Bush administration's obsession with secrecy, its disdain for Congress, its willingness to con the public and its refusal to heed expert advice or recognize facts on the ground. Events of the past week suggest the answer is no.

In his State of the Union speech, Bush stuck to his ill-conceived plans for Iraq, but at least admitted the situation was dire. He said he wanted to work with Congress and announced a bipartisan council on national security. That lasted a day. By Wednesday evening, Vice President Dick Cheney was on CNN contradicting most of what Bush had said. We were left asking, once again, Who exactly is running this White House?

While Bush has been a bit more forthright lately about how badly things have gone in Iraq, Cheney spoke of "enormous successes" there and refused to pay even curled-lip service to consulting Congress. Whatever votes Congress takes on Iraq, Cheney said, "it won't stop us."

Whenever the vice president does this sort of thing, Americans face an unpleasant choice: Are Bush and Cheney running a bait-and-switch operation, or does the vice president simply feel free to cut the ground out from under Bush?

All of that was distressing enough. But in Friday's Times, Adam Liptak gave an account of the way the administration — after grandly announcing that it was finally going to obey the law on wiretapping — is trying to quash lawsuits over Bush's outlaw eavesdropping operations by imposing outrageous secrecy and control over the courts.

Justice Department lawyers are withholding evidence from plaintiffs and even restricting the access of judges to documents in cases involving Bush's decision to authorize the warrantless interception of e-mail and phone calls. In one suit, Justice Department lawyers tried to seize computers from the plaintiffs' lawyers to remove a document central to their case against the government.

In response to these and other serious concerns, the Justice Department offered only twisted excuses. Given how widely one document sought by government lawyers has circulated, a federal judge asked a Justice Department lawyer from whom it was being kept secret. The answer: "Anyone who has not seen it."

Bush and Cheney claim that they are protecting the powers of the presidency. But by abusing the government's legitimate right to claim secrecy in court hearings, they will make it harder for other presidents to do that when it is actually justified. And with that switch, they have done grievous harm to the credibility of the Oval Office and the country.

Black pols see Obama as threat to their clout

Black pols see Obama as threat to their clout
January 29, 2007

For America's black leadership, Barack Obama is both an enigma and a pain in the posterior. Just ask the Reverends Jesse L. Jackson and Al Sharpton and Charles Rangel, Maxine Waters, Andrew Young, Donna Brazile and Julian Bond.

They don't know what to do with him.

From the Chisholm Trail, over the Jackson Rainbow, to the Sharpton Road Show, black presidential candidates historically have honed in on black voters and leaders. U.S. Rep. Shirley Chisholm made history when she ran for president in 1972. Jackson followed with bids in 1984 and again in '88.

This one is different. It's for real. Like Oprah Winfrey in the mornings, Obama is the first African-American contender with serious crossover appeal. We have crossed over all the other roads. We have crossed over in music, movies, sports, business, and international affairs. Two African-American coaches will face off in Super Bowl '07. African-American men run Merrill Lynch, Time Warner, American Express, Aetna, and Darden restaurants. The time for the ultimate crossover has come.

In politics, crossover is the key to success. Until now, African-American leaders have tended to their own gardens. They cultivate black voters exclusively and make little serious effort to extend their attention beyond the base. This is one big reason why black politicians usually crash and burn when they seek office in districts where blacks are in the minority.

In the 2006 elections, Harold Ford is an exception to the rule. The congressman from Tennessee came as close as anyone in memory to snaring a U.S. Senate seat in the South. If he had run as an unabashedly black candidate, he could not have even made it out of the Tennessee Senate primary. He knew to get that office he had to run as a moderate and appeal outside his base. You haven't heard the last from him.

Enter Obama. He brings a black constituency to a larger progressive coalition and energizes younger voters who see him as a "new voice." It's a potent concoction -- and one that no black politician has seen the likes of before.

He won't have to fuss with the black vote. He knows race appeals turn off voters who have wearied of the "race men." Obama will be playing pragmatic politics -- the only kind that will put a black man in the White House.

That means, of course, that the black political establishment will see Obama as one thing only -- a threat. A threat that undermines and erodes their political clout.

Unlike previous black presidential contenders, Obama won't have to run on a shoestring. His fund-raising machine is impressive and well-oiled.

He's got the bucks of the black bourgeoisie. Donors like investment managers John Rogers and Jim Reynolds, and publishing magnate Linda Johnson Rice. Funders like that didn't exist in the eras of Jesse Jackson and Shirley Chisholm. Funders like that looked askance at Sharpton's rough edges.

His ties to white liberal wealth stretch from Hollywood to Chicago's North Shore to the Empire State: Mega-director Steven Spielberg; Playboy Enterprises CEO Christie Hefner and her husband, real estate developer and restaurateur Bill Marovitz; movie mogul Harold Ramis; real estate big shot Neil Bluhm, and philanthropist George Soros. That kind of moolah will make Hillary shake and Biden bake.

No bake sales or lemonade stands, natch, for the Obamarama. The entire political establishment will be stupefied at his next fund-raising report, due in March. It's much more than the money that appeals. Obama is not from the South, or the ghetto. He's not a preacher and he didn't march. He went to Hah-vaad, my dear.

So they don't know what to do with him. Some will go with Hillary. Some will play coy. Others will cut self-serving deals.

Still others will scoot down to Obama's announcement Springfield on Feb. 10 to get in on the camera action. Memo to Obama's handlers: Get ready for some serioudium management.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Hillary Clinton launches White House bid: 'I'm in'

Hillary Clinton launches White House bid: 'I'm in'
Copyright by CNN News
POSTED: 1:27 p.m. EST, January 20, 2007

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Sen. Hillary Clinton jumped into the fray as a 2008 presidential candidate with the words "I'm in" posted on her Web site.

"And I'm in to win," she added in a statement, announcing she has set up an exploratory committee that can gauge opinions and raise money for a presidential campaign.

Clinton's announcement comes two years to the day the next president will be inaugurated: January 20, 2009.

The former first lady and Democratic senator from New York is considered her party's front-runner in what has become a diverse Democratic field. (Watch Clinton's offer to chat with voters as she launches her White House campaign )

Should she win, she would be the first woman to serve as president of the United States -- and the first presidential spouse to do so as well. President Bill Clinton served two terms from 1993 to 2001.

On Tuesday, Democrat Sen. Barack Obama announced that he was filing papers to form a presidential exploratory committee, a bid to become the first African-American president. (Full story)

And on Sunday, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, also a Democrat, is expected to announce his bid, one that could make him the first Latino president.

Live 'Web chats' start Monday

Bringing "the right end" to the war in Iraq, reducing the deficit, making the country energy independent and health care affordable were issues Clinton touted in her announcement, speaking on a video posted on her site.

"After six years of George Bush, it is time to renew the promise of America," she said.

"I grew up in a middle-class family in the middle of America, and we believed in that promise," the 59-year-old Chicago native said.

"I still do. I've spent my entire life trying to make good on it, whether it was fighting for women's basic rights or children's basic health care, protecting our social security or protecting our soldiers."

In the video, she invited Americans to join her in a three-night series of live video Web chats beginning Monday.

"So let's talk. Let's chat, let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine, because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think?"

She'll travel next weekend to Iowa and later to New Hampshire, two kickoff states for the Democratic presidential nominating process in 2008, according to her campaign organizers.

When Clinton launched her Senate bid in New York in 1999, she began a "listening tour" around the state to explore views on education, business and health care issues.

Her Republican opponent, Rick Lazio, called her a "carpetbagger" because she had not previously lived in New York. But she beat him, becoming the first sitting first lady to win an elected office, and was re-elected last year with 67 percent of the vote.

A crowded field

Clinton's announcement puts her in a big Democratic crowd of candidates.

In a statement released Saturday, Obama said: "Senator Clinton is a good friend and a colleague whom I greatly respect. I welcome her and all the candidates, not as competitors, but as allies in the work of getting our country back on track."

In addition to Obama and Richardson, the field also includes former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina, the party's 2004 vice presidential nominee, who declared his candidacy late last year; Rep. Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, a liberal critic of the war in Iraq; and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack.

Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware and Chris Dodd of Connecticut have also said they will seek the nomination, and other Democrats mentioned as possible candidates include the party's 2004 presidential candidate, Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts; retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark, and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Clinton wants troop cap, is wary of al-Maliki

Clinton, who just returned from a trip to U.S. military facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq and Germany, has urged the Bush administration to return its focus to Afghanistan.

She has proposed a bill to cap troop levels in Iraq and require congressional approval before the president may send more troops.

She has also been highly critical of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, saying Washington should cut off financial support to the Iraqi government unless it shows commitment to stemming the sectarian violence there.

"I don't have any faith," she said of al-Maliki, when asked by CNN if she had any faith in him.

In 2002, Clinton was among the majority in Congress who voted in favor of authorizing Bush to attack Iraq if Saddam Hussein refused to give up weapons of mass destruction as required by U.N. resolutions.

In a 2005 letter to constituents posted on her Senate Web site, she said that she took responsibility for her vote, which she said she made "on the basis of the evidence presented by the administration."

In turn, she said, "I, along with a majority of Americans, expect the president and his administration to take responsibility for the false assurances, faulty evidence and mismanagement of the war."

CNN's John Roberts contributed to this report.

Cuba After Fidel - The Waiting game

Cuba After Fidel - The Waiting game
By Simon Kuper and Pamela Druckerman
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007
Published: January 20 2007 02:00 | Last updated: January 20 2007 02:00

Andy Gomez left Cuba at the age of five, in 1961, three days before the Bay of Pigs invasion that failed to unseat Fidel Castro. Like many of the 700,000 Cubans in Miami-Dade county, Gomez still speaks English with a Cuban accent, and like most of them he has prospered in the US. He earned degrees from Harvard, raised children, grew a distinguished moustache, and became the University of Miami's foremost expert on Cuba.

His office is housed in the Casa Bacardi, a building sponsored by the Cuban rum family, on the university's sunny campus. In one corridor hang photographs of the family home in Havana, taken by Gomez on a working visit to Cuba. You can see sewage running on the street outside. "If my parents saw it they would be really disappointed," says Gomez.

The house is now inhabited by a government official's family, but Gomez's father still keeps the deed in a safe in his bedroom in Miami. That was the dream of exiled Cubans - el exilio - here: to reclaim lost Havana. But Gomez says it will never happen. "Dad turns 80. It's very sad. My brother and I were talking about the deed yesterday. What is it worth? Nothing."

While Fidel Castro, also recently 80, is ailing or dying, the exiles are giving up their old dreams. Most know they will never again live on the island 90 miles across the Florida straits, not even if it goes democratic after Castro's death.

The traditional image of the exile - an angry former plutocrat, armed, and obsessed with Fidel - is out of date. Most exiles now accept that their decades of fist-waving at Castro - the Bay of Pigs, countless attempts to assassinate him, the American economic embargo - achieved nothing. Before illness forced Castro to hand over to his brother Raul last July, he had become the world's longest-lasting leader. "No Fidel, no problem," bumper stickers in Miami once said, but most exiles now realise that Cuban communism might outlive him.

The leaders of Miami's exiles, on the other hand, still see his impending death as an opportunity, but as one they must not bungle. "There might be a temporary window of opportunity to get it right," says the Cuba Study Group, a collection of Cuban-American business moguls. Francisco "Pepe" Hernandez, president of the Cuban American National Foundation, says, sitting below a map of Cuba in his Miami office: "The countdown for reform in Cuba starts exactly the day Castro dies. From then it will be months, perhaps a year, a year and a half, but we do not believe it will be years."

In the crucial year 2007, Cuban-Americans are trying a new tack. While Cuba awaits a revolution, Cuban Miami is experiencing one of its own. Many people here want to loosen the US's embargo against Cuba, talk to Raul Castro and start persuading the regime to reform. Unlike hardliners before them, they want to do whatever they must to free the island at last.

I think a man should not live beyond the age when he begins to deteriorate, when the flame that lighted the brightest moment of his life has weakened," wrote Castro in a Cuban prison cell in 1953. He was first reported dead in 1956, supposedly killed by troops of Cuba's US-backed dictator Fulgencio Batista. Ever since he seized power, rumours of his death have periodically buzzed around Miami. "Time and again the Cuban leader was said to be suffering from a galloping inoperable cancer," wrote the Miami author and columnist Carl Hiaasen in 1998. Now even John Negroponte, the US's deputy secretary of state nominee, publicly predicts Castro will die in 2007. Cuban Miami is ready. One warm December afternoon in "Calle Ocho", the main drag in the neighbourhood known as Little Havana, where many Cubans lived on coming to Miami and some remain, a grocer shows off an empty room he has rented to CBS News; the moment Castro officially dies, a crew will fly here to film the celebrations.

When Castro overthrew Batista, Miami was the obvious haven for his opponents. Fifty-five minutes by plane from Havana, it was practically its twin city, with the same climate, flora and fauna. Before Castro, rich Cubans holidayed on Miami Beach - sometimes accompanied by personal shoppers - while Miamians loved Havana nightclubs. Ex-presidents of Cuba died in exile in Miami long before Castro's ascent.

Nor was the link merely one of merriment. It was on a visit to Miami in 1955 that Castro persuaded the ousted Cuban president Carlos Prio Socarras to fund his rebellion against Batista. Castro used the money to buy the yacht Granma, on which he, his brother Raul, Che Guevara and 79 others landed in Cuba's Oriente province, on the east coast of the 745-mile long island, in 1956. Few Miamians noticed. The city was then such a sleepy, provincial, Anglo town that Batista's fall in Havana in 1959 did not make the front page of the Miami Herald.

The first Cubans to flee after Castro seized power were mostly rich, white professionals and business people. Many had worked for Batista's regime, or owned or managed companies or land that Castro nationalised. Unlike most immigrants in American history, the 220,000 Cubans who came to Miami between 1959 and 1962 were not poor, huddled masses. Some even managed to take their money with them.

But they did have to start afresh in a foreign language and an American backwater. "Havana was three times Miami then," recalls Guillermina Hernandez, a pretty, elderly woman making orange juice in the grocery store owned by her son - CBS News's landlord. "There were no malls here. You had to go downtown to buy anything." She says it in Spanish: in 45 years here she has never acquired English.

Early days were tough. "Men who had been bank presidents in Havana had eked out livings as bookkeepers then," writes David Rieff in The Exile: Cuba in the Heart of Miami, "and talented doctors and lawyers had swept up in fast-food restaurants." But most exiles made good. Carlos Saladrigas was sent to Miami by his parents as a 12-year-old, with $3 in cash. Now he sits in an office above the bank he co-founded, a rich entrepreneur and chairman of the Cuba Study Group.

It's a common story among the early exiles, known as los historicos. Most eventually prospered in Miami. However, says Rieff, many families never forgave Castro the early humiliation of their patriarchs, mighty men in Havana who would sit jobless in poky Miami homes. Prio Socarras forever rued having financed Castro, and after some financial setbacks committed suicide in Miami Beach in 1977.

Furthermore, the exiles could never forget the ease of life for the wealthy in pre-revolutionary Havana. In their minds the lost city became like a Bacardi advertisement: 1950s Cadillacs, beautiful women in linen dresses, men in white suits, long drinks in colonial hotels. It was as if Fidel had exiled them from paradise, writes Rieff. Although many of their families had immigrated to Cuba from Spain in the early 1900s - as Castro's father had - and had thus spent barely 50 years on the island before being exiled, Cuban nationalism was their creed. "I was raised by Puerto Ricans and Cubans," says the comedian Angel Salazar one night at the Miami Improv theatre. "Half the people talked about the stuff they don't have, half the people talked about the stuff they used to have."

As the exiles made money, they also made Miami. By 1978, when Cuban-Americans had become the richest Hispanic group in the US, they owned more companies in Miami than the total number of companies that existed in the city in 1959. The Miami they built was a sort of tribute to old Havana. Just as pre-revolutionary Cuba used to reproduce American landmarks like Coney Island, many Cuban landmarks were later rebuilt in Miami. Schools, funeral homes and restaurants crossed the straits from Cuba with their names and sometimes their personnel intact. In Miami supermarkets you can buy Cuban beer and condensed milk that haven't been sold on the island for decades. At Cuban coffee windows all over town people drink the cafe cubano that is almost unavailable in Havana now. Miami and Havana have swapped places: Miami has old Havana's glitzy nightlife, plus more money and air conditioning than Havana ever had.

The Cubans made Miami bilingual, and probably the richest city in the Spanish-speaking world. That lured immigrants from other Latin American countries. Miami became the "gateway to Latin America".

Though they prospered, Miami Cubans remained much more political than other Americans. The early exiles, encouraged by the CIA, took a hard line on Cuba. Their intransigence became part of their identity, what it meant to be Cuban-American. In Miami in the 1960s and 1970s, people were blown up with car bombs just for advocating dialogue with Castro. In 48 hours in December 1975, 13 bombs exploded in the city. But the worst atrocity came in October 1976: the bombing of a Cuban plane over Barbados, killing all 73 people on board.

This terrorism alienated many Americans from the Miami Cuban cause, particularly after Miami leaders refused to condemn - or even protected - suspects in the bombings of the plane. In the US, Cuban-Americans have often been viewed as zealots with political influence that far exceeds their size. Human Rights Watch issued a report in 1994 saying that in public discussions about Cuba in Miami, "only a narrow range of speech is acceptable, and views that go beyond these boundaries may be dangerous to the speaker". But the Miami Cubans' biggest public relations debacle was then still to come: the case of the five-year-old Cuban boy Elian Gonzalez in 1999.

The exiles long sought an invasion of Cuba, a second Bay of Pigs. They demonstrated in Miami to chants of "War! War! War!" But the US never complied. Perhaps Washington preferred Cuba as a sealed Castroite fiefdom than as a free island leaking poor people to the US. The Mariel boatlift of 1980 was an awful warning of what could come: Castro let disaffected Cubans cross the straits, and sent prisoners and mental patients with them. A fifth of the 125,000 Marielitos who entered the US had criminal records. The chaos helped discredit Jimmy Carter, as no US president has forgotten. Bill Clinton lost re-election as governor of Arkansas after Marielitos rioted in a local prison. Under Clinton's presidency, refugees were returned to Cuba if their boats - or rafts, or inner tyres, or surfboards - were intercepted in the straits. Before the Guantanamo Bay naval base became a Muslim gulag, the US interned Cuban refugees there.

On Cuban policy, the exiles achieved little more than the economic embargo. But they had energy left over to shape American politics, almost always on the Republican anti-communist right. Cuban- Americans became Miami's political establishment. "We've got two senators, four people in the House of Representatives, and the secretary of commerce," boasts Pepe Hernandez of the Cuban American National Foundation. "And all are people that have been very close to the foundation."

He might have added that senator Mel Martinez has been nominated to chair the Republican National Committee - because Cuban political influence goes way beyond Florida. Of the five burglars caught in the Democratic National Committee's offices in the Watergate building in 1972, three were Cuban-Americans, while a fourth, the American Frank Sturgis, had served in Castro's revolutionary army before later turning against Castro and training Cuban exiles for the Bay of Pigs. Later, Cuban-Americans helped to smuggle arms to the Nicaraguan Contras. In 2000, they became probably the group most responsible for sending George W. Bush to the White House. In Florida, the crucial state where Bush's margin of victory was just 537 votes, they gave him 250,000 more votes than they gave Al Gore. Moreover, Cuban-American demonstrators in Miami-Dade intimidated electoral officials into abandoning the recount. It was the latest of many favours they had done the Bush family. The elder George Bush could always count on the Cuban vote. His son Jeb moved to Miami at the start of the 1980s, was given a job by the Cuban- American developer Armando Codina, and soon had a 40 per cent stake in the Codina Bush Group. As governor of Florida and brother of the president, Jeb is close to Miami's main Cuban leaders.

All this has encouraged the impression that all Cuban-Americans are hardline right-wingers. That was never true. In the 1980s, several founders of the Cuban Communist Party who had quarreled with Fidel were discovered living in Hialeah, the mostly Cuban enclave outside Miami. And the Cubans who have come here since 1980 are rarely political at all. Gomez says, "They are mostly if not all economic refugees."

These later arrivals now account for a majority of Cubans here. Cuban Miami is now a very diverse "community" that even includes several close relatives of Fidel himself: his sister Juanita, two of his daughters and their children. Most of the family work quietly in mundane Miami jobs.

The later arrivals are often overlooked. Television reports on Cuban Miami traditionally take in Versailles, a 1950s-style Cuban restaurant on Calle Ocho, itself the imitation of an old restaurant on the island. Every time Castro is rumoured to be dead, historicos wearing the guayabera shirts popular in pre-revolutionary Cuba are interviewed outside Versailles's coffee-window. But these old men are no longer representative: the exiles who arrived before 1980 now account for perhaps a third of Miami Cubans. Versailles might die with its customers.

More typical of Cuban Miami today is the coffee-shop El Louvre, in a strip-mall in Hialeah, where a young blonde woman who left Cuba three months ago serves traditional Cuban milkshakes. Outside, her colleague Isabel Lage takes a cigarette break. "I love everything in the US," she says in Spanish. "In Cuba I had nothing."

The 20,000 or so Cubans who manage to cross the straits each year tend to be much poorer than the historicos. Most head not for wealthy Coral Gables, where many early exiles live, but for drab Hialeah. More than 90 per cent of Hialeah's inhabitants speak Spanish at home, the highest proportion in any American city with more than 100,000 residents. Specifically, they speak Cuban Spanish: kids use Cuban expressions such as "¨Que vuelta?" or "¨Que bola?", rather than "¨Que pasa?", for "What's up?"

Raul Fernandez is a fairly typical Hialeah Cuban. He arrived 20 years ago, at 17, from "one of the lowest-class neighbourhoods in Havana", and for his first 11 years in Florida worked seven days a week in two jobs. Now a building inspector, he lives with his Honduran wife and American daughter in a spotless bungalow with a garden and two cars in front. "I never dreamed of having all the things I have right now, like computers or TV or air conditioning," he says. "I can say that I live in the American dream."

Fernandez and his friends in Miami don't share the early exiles' "dream of return" to Cuba, because they don't feel they lost a paradise. The Cuba they knew was Castro's Cuba. They are more likely to call themselves "Americans" - or "americanos" - than "exiles". Many of them, like Fernandez, have married non-Cubans.

The exiles' children are nostalgic not for old Havana but for Miami's "Little Havana" as it was before the Nicaraguans came. And in Florida International University's "Cuban poll" this March, only 22 per cent of Miami Cubans named Cuba as their most important political issue, well below Iraq and the "war on terror". "If you had asked this last question five years ago, the answer would have been Cuba for the majority," says Jessica Lavariega Monforti, one of the poll's researchers.

Yet the early exiles, in spite of their small numbers, still dominate Miami Cuban politics. That is because they are much more likely than the newcomers to be American citizens, and because 90 per cent of them vote (compared with little more than half America's overall population). They kept Cuban-American politics hardline for decades. When little Elian Gonzalez was picked up floating on an inner tube off the coast of Florida in 1999, after a shipwreck that killed his mother and 10 others, Miami Cubans insisted that he should stay in the US rather than be returned to his father in Cuba. Gonzalez spent five months in the home of his relatives in Miami's Little Havana while courts argued over what should be done. Miami Cubans formed a human chain around the house to stop immigration agents taking him away, and some local officials refused to co-operate with the federal government. Eventually, armed federal agents broke into the house to return the boy to Cuba.

But the affair - for a while the biggest news story in the US - hurt the image of Miami Cubans in the US. Most Americans said in polls that Elian should be sent to his father, and there was little sympathy for Miami officials fighting the federal government over their own ethnic cause. Even some Miami Cubans were upset by the kneejerk hardline reaction of their leaders.

Perhaps it was then that el exilio first began to rethink its politics. But the shift only became visible very recently, and quite suddenly. In the last month of 2006, many changes came at once. In Cuba, Castro missed his own eightieth birthday party, and his brother called for negotiations with the US. In Miami, 20 Cuban-American organisations, united as Consenso Cubano, petitioned Washington to ease some restrictions on travel and on sending money and aid to the island. Their wish may be granted this year. Later in December, 10 members of Congress, the largest congressional delegation to visit Cuba since 1959, spent a weekend in Havana talking to communist leaders. Few in Miami objected. Pepe Hernandez, who heads the Cuban-American National Foundation, which was once famously hardline, says the delegation's visit did not upset him "at all": "I think it's a good time to provide some sense."

Most Miami Cubans now favour talk over violence. This is quite a shift from the days when dialogo was a dirty word in Miami. A bumper sticker here in the early 1990s read, "The Only Dialogue We Want With Castro: Do You Want a Blindfold, Yes Or No?" Saladrigas never thought he would find himself calling for dialogue. "I come from the hardline," he explains in his office above his bank. When the archdiocese of Miami wanted to send a cruise liner full of pilgrims to Cuba for the Pope's visit there in 1998, Saladrigas was "the leading responsible person" for preventing it. He says, "I regret that deeply. If you're really smart, after 47 years of banging your head against a brick wall, you see it is not a good idea."

The first page of a new PowerPoint presentation prepared by Saladrigas's Cuba Study Group is frank:

- Our bottom line - lack of results. What have we achieved in 47 years?

- Our negative international and domestic perception and image.

- The lack of international support.

- Our inability to close rank behind significant opportunities for change.

- Splintering of the internal opposition.

- The intolerance and lack of democratic values in many of our own.

The obvious spur for this soul-searching was Raul Castro's smooth ascension to power. "It may be, Fidel dies, long live Raul," says Guillermo Grenier, an expert on Cuba at Florida International University (FIU). That the regime could outlive Fidel should long have been obvious, as other communist governments have survived even deified leaders such as Stalin, Mao and Kim Il-sung. But the exile community had begun to rethink its position even before Castro fell ill. An earlier spur had been America's failure in Iraq. The mission to spread democracy by force had failed there. Why should it work in Cuba, a country with only the briefest history of democracy? "Iraq was a hell of a lesson for us," says Saladrigas. In FIU's poll in March, just a third of Cuban-Americans said they would support a military invasion of Cuba, down from 60 per cent in 2004.

Another lesson came from the world's many other transitions to democracy since the 1970s. On Saladrigas's desk, beside his American passport, is a book in Spanish called The Path to Democracy in Spain, 1931 and 1978. Cuban Miami buzzes with discussion of Belorussia's failure or the Chinese model or the role of Poland's Catholic church. Examples from Russia to Venezuela have taught Miami Cubans that elections don't necessarily create democracies. The Cuba Study Group commissioned a study of post- communist transitions. "Non-violence," says Saladrigas, "has been shown to be the most important element in determining whether the transition is successful or not."

That is a radical thing to say in Miami. Violence has been central to the exile's ideology since the Bay of Pigs. By one estimate Castro has survived 638 assassination attempts - probably more than any other politican in history - featuring every weapon from an exploding cigar to a pen-syringe. A nostalgia for violence still smoulders in Miami. When a freelance cartoonist stormed the newsroom of the city's El Nuevo Herald newspaper with a toy gun in November, complaining that "they laugh at exiles here", local Cuban radio stations sympathised. However, only fringe groups still advocate violence. The day after Consenso Cubano presented its petition, says Saladrigas, "somebody in some hardline Cuban radio station said that anyone who participated in yesterday's press conference was a traitor to the motherland and would be tried in a free Cuba. But who listens to that garbage anymore?"

Saladrigas and Pepe Hernandez want the US to give Raul Castro an incentive to reform. If that means allowing him and his colleagues to seek exile in, say, Venezuela, so be it. Hernandez explains, "If they make elections and they lose, we can make a deal: you can take your families to go wherever you want." The one place Raul presumably wouldn't go is Miami.

Now that the dialogo with Havana has begun, Miami Cubans have a new fear: that Washington will freeze them out of the talks. President Bush doesn't want exiles interfering with Cuba's transition, complains Hernandez. For all the Cuban members of Congress, he says, Cuban-Americans have less influence now than 20 years ago.

Even so, they will inevitably acquire great influence in a changing Cuba. They are much richer than the 11 million islanders put together and, unlike the islanders, are spending time and money planning Cuba's post-Castro future. Once Fidel is dead, communism has fallen and Cuba is just another poor central Caribbean country, the Miami Cubans will be among the few people outside the island paying it much attention.

What Miami Cubans want to happen after Cuba's transition is no longer what they used to want. No longer do they see Cuba as a potential home. Rather, they regard it as a business opportunity.

On a Saturday morning in a French bakery in Coral Gables, three young Cuban-Americans discuss reclaiming the old family home on the island: "As long as we have a deed." However, this sort of talk is becoming rare. Most Miami Cubans understand what reclaiming their lost property would entail: rich American citizens throwing poor Cubans out of the rooms they have inhabited for decades in order to acquire run-down holiday homes. This prospect "scared the shit out of people on the island who might otherwise have been quite sympathetic to them", says Grenier. It also helped the Castros to portray the Miami Cubans as bogeymen. Instead Miami Cubans may ask a future Cuban government to compensate them for their lost homes and businesses. Again, there are foreign models. Most eastern European states have worked out compensation (and sometimes restitution) for at least some of the owners whose property had been confiscated under Nazism or communism.

For most people here, the loss happened too long ago to make much of a fuss over property. Maria Brenteson, who came to Miami as a teenager in 1960, says her family cannot even find the piece of paper on which her father listed the family's former Cuban properties. He died soon after reaching Miami, "a wreck" weighing 80 pounds, says Brenteson. Many of his exiled peers are dead too. "The group from the 1960s is not going to go down there and live under those conditions. I guarantee you that," says Brenteson.

Cuba is no longer the Cuba that the early exiles knew. One thing that has changed is skin colour: almost all the Cubans who left were white. "Always forgotten, and that's a very key factor," says Gomez. "Eighty-six per cent of the Cuban-American community is Caucasian. Sixty-two per cent of Cubans on Cuba are black. These are the guys who were promised the most by the Castro revolution."

The memory of racism is strong on the island. In other ways, too, 48 years of separation have created two Cuban peoples. Leticia Collazo, a beautician who came to Miami as a Marielita, says: "The mentality of the people there is different - even my family. They have no discipline to work. There are no more Cubans. We are Cuban- Americans and they are the Russian Cubans." Collazo sends hundreds of dollars a month to relatives on the island. "Look how funny the exile is," she says. "We are against Castro but we are the ones who support the economy."

If Cuba's regime falls, the flow of migrants is likely to go not from Miami to Cuba but from Cuba to Miami. A drill in December by American authorities to rehearse for Castro's death focused on keeping Cubans out of the country. Gomez says: "We cannot absorb what we estimate in the first year: half a million Cubans in south Florida."

The relationship that most Miami Cubans will want with a free Cuba is one appropriate to the age of globalisation: a place where they can fly in and out, buy holiday homes and do business. For decades they have attended conferences in Miami hotels with titles like "Investment Opportunities in a Post-Castro Cuba". Now that Washington politicians are talking of relaxing the embargo against Cuba, Miami Cubans are more excited than ever.

The embargo is not one law but a grab-bag of prohibitions on trade, investment and travel. There are gaps: already, American farmers can sell agricultural goods to Cuba. Robert Muse, a Washington lawyer specialising in Cuban issues, warns against expecting much change while the Castros and President Bush remain in power. "There will be no rescission of the embargo based on the argument that it hasn't worked for 47 years," he says. "Congress will stolidly pursue for a generation policies that don't work. There is very little appetite in Washington to attack the embargo frontally." Muse expects only "targeted, incremental relaxations of the embargo". President Bush would veto anything broader, he says.

But Thomas Herzfeld, a money manager in Miami, thinks the embargo will be scrapped in 2007 in return for concessions from Cuba. Herzfeld has already registered his "Cuba Fund" for when that moment comes. Other business people in Miami are ready, too. One leader of Cuban exiles, on the phone to a caller from political Washington, tells him: "All of a sudden the corporate community is getting very interested in this. They are saying, 'We don't want to be left out of the game. If we don't get there early, Europe, China, Latin America are going to eat our lunch.'"

Some Miami Cubans aren't even waiting for the end of the embargo. Herzfeld says: "Young Cuban-Americans will tell you off the record they're already doing business there." Grenier explains: "Some rich folks here buy cigar factories in Spain, or leather-goods manufacturers in Spain, and they do business with Cuba. Other folks do it through Venezuela."

Poor as Cuba may be, many in Miami see it as a tasty morsel. Over a game of tennis in suburban Miami, a senior executive in the cruise industry says all cruise lines are waiting for Havana to open. "For Americans, it's like forbidden fruit. We want to see it again." Herzfeld adds that half the cruise industry's revenues come from the Caribbean basin, and that Cuba lies exactly between the eastern and western Caribbean cruises. An even bigger treasure may be buried off Cuba's coasts, where the regime has recently begun drilling for oil.

Every Miami Cuban entrepreneur seems to have plans for the island. Lombardo Perez, a car dealer who left Cuba in 1965, says Ford has already approved him for a future dealership there. That would continue a family tradition: his relatives sold Fords in pre- revolutionary Cuba. At first, Perez admits, he will mostly deal in used cars because Cubans can't afford new ones, but the business will grow.

Perez is 67. Cuba's transition may happen too late for him as it has for so many already. El exilio is dying and becoming a Miami tribe: just another American ethnic group with roots in a messed-up country and Americans for children. Fidel Castro can die knowing that just as he is falling victim to the "biological solution", so is the generation he banished. and