the next week, being my pay week, i went on a retail bender at ellenton that will inspire at least a monthly trip from now until i can no longer afford it as the sale at banana republic had such severe markdowns that i left with so many clothes for so little money that by the time i got to saks fifth avenue, the woman greeted me with a "well you look like you're having a good day" greeting which convinced me to spend even more there. and thank goodness, i went shopping as my social calendar quickly filled up where the next friday, i went with the p.r. girl to late night happy hour at cassis and i had a wonderful time despite my brokeness -- too much shopping tends to keep me from overindulging in other ways -- but before i met her i noticed that agora had opened right up the street from me so that became a wonderful surprise. well, the cassis bar scene that night lived up to my best expectations with testosterone for days and red lights for a pre-valentine's glow and drinks so cheap that the bartender told me to keep the prices to myself as she was making so much money from the former that she didn't want to ruin it. after too many cocktails there, we headed to cafe alma in a cloud of drunkeness and it did not live up to my previous time there -- i mean, does it ever? whenever one goes out with the intent of recreating a good night, it never happens -- and so we decamped about half past one. well, not content with leaving well enough alone, i hopped into my car (mistake) and went to the only bar in town (good idea) and immediately saw an old friend and then proceeded to make out with this muscle bound older something or other (mistake) who took off my shirt (GIANT mistake) which proceeded to prompt me to leave (good idea) by driving back home (mistake) only to receive a phone call from this older something or other asking to come over (such a big mistake that even in all of my drunkeness i declined) only to somehow weasel my way over to this something or other's condo in the signature (and this is where the blackout begins). now. from what i remember, i know nakedness occurred. i know fluids got exchanged. but i don't know much else. my next memory came when i got awakened with the brightest sunlight i have ever seen coming in through the floor-to-ceiling windows in this fantastic apartment. well, clearly, i didn't remember how ridiculous this apartment was. seriously, marble floors throughout. clearly designed by a professional. spa bathrooom in the bedroom and another bathroom in the main living area that's nicer than my entire apartment. the apartment had fabulous appliances that all went unused. the only thing in the refrigerator was muscle milk and food for a dog which i don't remember either. once again, however, i felt my body going through the chicago hangover so i asked to go immediately home (and had to endure the most shameful walk of shame through that spectacular lobby) and once i got home, proceeded to deal with that hangover in the only way i know how: vomiting, sleeping, weeping (repeat). i still felt so bad by three in the afternoon that i almost begged off going to the gasparilla night parade with the p.r. girl, but once i got her on the phone, i could not decline so i got ready and went and despite not having as much fun -- this time, i wasn't drunk enough -- as i did before, i did have a wonderful dinner at streetcar charlies with a gorgeous little server far too young, but cute enough to make up for it, especially since i had just slept with someone too old just the night before. i had the crab cake which tasted sublime and enjoyed laughing at the p.r. girl's friend who came with who ate a huge chunk of wasabi thinking it a piece of broccoli. that's the level of drunkenness of the friend meanwhile i'm courting a headache i'm so sober. but after a chicago hangover, it's very difficult to get me to drink. especially on a budget. if i can order specialty cocktails all night, it's one thing, but when i only have the money for vodka soda, it's a rough road.
well, the next week proved quite the transformative one as i received my first bonus from my job this week. ever since i got back from peru, i have counted on receiving this bonus but i have not counted on it much. i expected a couple of hundred bucks realistically and maybe more based on the profitability of the company. well, i got overwhelmed with surprise when the amount of my bonus actually came in at more than my bi-weekly pay check. so, good for me, i didn't blow it on a pair of shoes or two pairs of jeans or any other big ticket purchase as i would normally in times past (i cling so much to my budget, it's insane), but i invested in those things that actually make me happy. namely, travel. so i booked a trip to miami and new york. but, because life always happens all at once, this much happiness got brooched by even more happiness. on the night of my bonus, i went out to dinner at a new sushi restuarant called vue and had a tasty meal of sashimi and these fizzy specialty cocktails (some elderberry cocktail). but the next day, a let down of sorts, i went shopping at my favorite malls with just no luck with deals -- even with a bonus, i didn't want to go overboard -- but it did feel good to have the money to spend with abandon but to constrain myself with an eye on better opportunity by going out of town to shop, etc. so while i did pick up the odd piece here and there -- and inadvertedly got offered a job at pottery barn -- i just didn't find anything that captured my imagination. i went to international plaza and stopped in crate and barrel and j.crew (where i'm almost duty bound to buy something every single time), and then went to my optician who actually obtained the wrong pair of tom ford frames for me which really let me down, but did free up lots of money to do other things like pay for the hotel in boston, and set all my bills in order. and after my advertures that day -- including a impromptu stop by agora -- i came home needed to take a nap so that i could work the next day in good working order. but, because happiness breeds happiness, who sends me a text message but THE STOCKBROKER! and the stockbroker wanted to hang out and catch up. music, music, music to my ears. the perfect palate cleanser for not only the longhorn, but for my thrashing about. so we went to the only bar in town where i again saw my old friend and had to cringe with people remembering my antics from the weekend prior but eventually, after the stockbroker had reminisced with a bunch of friends from when the stockbroker lived here, but then we went to the queenshead. there we had one of those issues-inducing perfect dates where the stockbroker strokes every part of my ego and i attempted to stroke every part of the stockbroker. but of course, because aaron spelling continues to script my life from beyond the grave, who walks into the queenshead but the musclebound something or other from the week before with the signature condo. so. awkward city, but i made niceties and introduced the two of them. and, honestly, the muscle bound so-and-so did not look bad in wine drunkeness either, but the stockbroker, in assholic glory, said the muscle bound so-and-so looked hiv-infected. so that was that. after dinner, the stockbroker and i spent a few minutes on the sidewalk making out as if it were old times, and then i went home sated with happiness.
the weekend sped by and the next wednesday i returned to citrus park to pick up a last minute calvin klein shirt i spied a couple of weeks before and basically packed before catching the train the next morning. the train found itself delayed and i didn't arrive until after nine o clock. my old coworker and her fiance who i went to peru with had bought a cake and we all went to the w hotel bar -- which, for all intents and purposes, was a gay bar -- for some debauchery and then we went to the wall -- which, for all intents and purposes, was a douche bar -- where the music really sucked, but then went to the soft opening of a club called the treehouse which actually surprisingly delighted, but the night ended calmly enough, which is just fine as i'm an old man, and the next morning (that is one o' clock in the afternoon) my friend and i lunched and then went shopping all day where in my old man excitement i bought five candles for absolutely no reason from casaideas (which there was one in peru, ironically) and z galerie (where i saw this captivating horse painting). somehow, it magically became half past four, i had to scramble to try to get to bal harbour shops before seven (harder than it sounds given friday rush hour/weekend traffic to miami beach island). so i showered, packed, hopped the train, and spent an hour and a half on one bus (an actually lovely experience minus the schizophrenic because it showed me some of that really old miami which reminds me of home), and then i met up with my good friend sara at bal harbour where we went to ever store and i found cute trainers at brioni and d & g, and she bought a balenciaga weekender in ardoise after declining the two-toned reversible chanel. i, of course, felt woefully underdressed although i wore $400 sneakers, $200 jeans, $100 t-shirt, and $100 belt. so, in short, one of the best days of my life. i forgot the thrill of the luxury shopping and resolved to do more of it myself. perhaps before toronto or in toronto. i'm still, after all, allured by prada camo. and the dolce animal print lace ups (currently only for women) would make a nice addition. or even that leopard (or was it ocelot) gucci briefcase or horsebit loafers, or even the white leopard ysls.
the next day, i came home by train and went to dinner with my parents at st. pete brasserie where i once again fell under the allure of great wine and a too young server. the food also pleased as well. it's definitely in the rotation now. on sunday, i went to an oscars' party at the p.r. girl's apartment with her coworkers, her new beau, and one of her friends who i found myself previously attracted to who works for armani. we'll see. this wednesday, i had another one of those rhapsodic shopping experiences at ellenton where i only have regrets about not picking up a $20 calvin button down, a $20 polo long sleeve tee shirt (as undergarments), and a $10 green sweatshirt from banana republic that honestly looked balenciaga-esque. but i'll be back. perhaps right before new york. we'll see. which i'm going to for st. patrick's day.
now, with all of that covered, nothing earth shattering, i know, but that's my life right now. it's never really dramatic when it's good, you know? i'm back on my movie buying binge, besides, with recent acquisitions of "the american," "easy a," "please give," "dorian gray," "wall street: money never sleeps," "the kids are all right," "rope," "strangers on a train," and "two moon junction." yes, just like the old days. the only thing that would make this more like old times would come in sunday nights at the resort, a new romantic interest. it's time to make myself into a new man.
"We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Statement of the Attorney General on Litigation Involving the Defense of Marriage Act
WASHINGTON – The Attorney General made the following statement today about the Department’s course of action in two lawsuits, Pedersen v. OPM and Windsor v. United States, challenging Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which defines marriage for federal purposes as only between a man and a woman:
In the two years since this Administration took office, the Department of Justice has defended Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act on several occasions in federal court. Each of those cases evaluating Section 3 was considered in jurisdictions in which binding circuit court precedents hold that laws singling out people based on sexual orientation, as DOMA does, are constitutional if there is a rational basis for their enactment. While the President opposes DOMA and believes it should be repealed, the Department has defended it in court because we were able to advance reasonable arguments under that rational basis standard.
Section 3 of DOMA has now been challenged in the Second Circuit, however, which has no established or binding standard for how laws concerning sexual orientation should be treated. In these cases, the Administration faces for the first time the question of whether laws regarding sexual orientation are subject to the more permissive standard of review or whether a more rigorous standard, under which laws targeting minority groups with a history of discrimination are viewed with suspicion by the courts, should apply.
After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a more heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in such cases. I fully concur with the President’s determination.
Consequently, the Department will not defend the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA as applied to same-sex married couples in the two cases filed in the Second Circuit. We will, however, remain parties to the cases and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation. I have informed Members of Congress of this decision, so Members who wish to defend the statute may pursue that option. The Department will also work closely with the courts to ensure that Congress has a full and fair opportunity to participate in pending litigation.
Furthermore, pursuant to the President ’ s instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.
The Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense. At the same time, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because – as here – the Department does not consider every such argument to be a “reasonable” one. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute in cases, like this one, where the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional.
Much of the legal landscape has changed in the 15 years since Congress passed DOMA. The Supreme Court has ruled that laws criminalizing homosexual conduct are unconstitutional. Congress has repealed the military’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy. Several lower courts have ruled DOMA itself to be unconstitutional. Section 3 of DOMA will continue to remain in effect unless Congress repeals it or there is a final judicial finding that strikes it down, and the President has informed me that the Executive Branch will continue to enforce the law. But while both the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate, this Administration will no longer assert its constitutionality in court.
U.S. says DOMA ban invalid (UPDATED)
The Obama Administration, switching positions, decides not to continue to defend the constitutionality of the 1996 law that bars all federal benefits to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law. The law will be enforced, but its invalidity will be argued by federal lawyers in several federal courts.
UPDATE 1:35 p.m. The government’s switch in position led swiftly on Wednesday to a plea by same-sex couples in California for the Ninth Circuit Court to clear the way, immediately, for them to marry under a federal judge’s ruling striking down the ban against their marriage under the state’s Proposition 8. The Circuit Court had stayed the judge’s ruling while it weighed an appeal. In asking that the stay be lifted, the same-sex couples’ lawyers cited the Holder letter (discussed below), as well as the delay of up to a year that now faces the courts’ ruling on Proposition 8 as a result of a review of a procedural issue by the California Supreme Court. The motion to lift the stay can be read here. The same-sex couples also have asked the California Supreme Court to move up the hearing on that issue to May instead of September; the motion to shorten the schedule in that proceeding is here.
With the approval of President Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., notified Congress on Wednesday that the federal government will now argue in court that it is unconstitutional to withhold all federal benefits from same-sex couples who are legally married under their own state’s law. While the government will continue to enforce that part of the Defense of Marriage Act of 1996, Holder said a new evaluation has convinced officials that it violates the Constitution’s guarantee of legal equality. The new position will be advanced first in two new cases pending in federal courts in New York and Connecticut, but also will be put forth in other DOMA cases elsewhere. (A Justice Department news release discussing the new development is here.)
In two previously filed cases that the Administration has appealed to the First Circuit Court in Boston, its lawyers had defended the constitutionality of DOMA’s Section 3. That clause says that any act of Congress that deals with “marriage,” including any benefits for spouses, “means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife,” and that the word “spouse” in the law refers only to a husband or wife of the opposite sex. A federal judge in Boston had struck down the withholding of a number of benefits from same-sex couples legally married in Massachusetts, and those cases are now unfolding in the First Circuit Court.
The Administration, the Attorney General said Wednesday, reconsidered its position because it was facing two new lawsuits filed in a federal circuit — the Second Circuit — that now has no existing precedent on what level of constitutional scrutiny is to be applied to laws that treat people differently based on sexual orientation. The First Circuit, by contrast, has existing precedent that a law providing such differing treatment need satisfy only the minimum level of review — rational basis. The government’s defense in the Boston cases was based on that approach.
Facing a March 11 deadline for taking a position on the new New York and Connecticut cases (those states are in the Second Circuit), Holder said he had conducted a new review and concluded that laws treating people differently based on sexual orientation must satisfy a higher constitutional standard — “heightened scrutiny.” Applying that approach to DOMA’s Section 3, Holder said, he and the President had decided that it will not survive that level of scrutiny. Holder suggested in his letter to Congress that if lawmakers wished to take a different position, they were free to file briefs in pending cases to say so.
A federal law requires the Attorney General to notify Congress when the government will not defend in court the constitutionality of one of Congress’s enactments. That explained Holder’s letter Wednesday.
The letter noted that the Supreme Court has never settled the issue of what level of court scrutiny should be applied to laws treating people differently based on sexual orientation. But, Holder went on, the Court has issued a number of rulings that “set forth the criteria that should inform this and any other judgment as to whether heightened scrutiny applies.” He went on to say that “each of these factors counsels in favor of being suspicious of classifications based on sexual orientation.”
The DOMA ban on benefits for same-sex married couples is sweeping in scope. One vivid example of that is that, while Congress late last year repealed the 1963 law that barred gays and lesbians from serving openly in the U.S. military (“don’t ask/don’t tell”), that repeal law kept intact the ban on spousal benefits for gays and lesbians who remain in the service or retire, based upon the DOMA ban.
Even while telling the courts from here on that the government has switched position and now finds the DOMA ban invalid, Holder said that the President had required that the ban continue to be enforced by federal agencies, “unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law’s constitutionality.”
Meanwhile, in the courts, Holder told Congress, the Justice Department will urge the courts to give Congress’s members “a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in fhose cases.” Presumably, individual lawmakers would be allowed to file friend-of-court briefs, not enter the case directly as parties. In his public statement discussing the switch in position, the Attorney General conceded that “the wisdom and the legality of Section 3 of DOMA will continue to be the subject of both extensive litigation and public debate.”
DOJ Backs Away Again From DOMA
February 25, 2011
The Department of Justice followed Wednesday’s withdrawal from two DOMA cases in the Second Circuit, including GLAD’s Pedersen v. OPM by notifying the clerk of the First Circuit that they will also “cease to defend” the two consolidated DOMA cases, Gill v. Office of Personnel Management and Massachusetts v. HHS.
The DOJ has not sent a letter to the Congress declining to defend DOMA in toto in the Gill case, so its determination may only apply to the extent the court determines that heightened scrutiny is the proper standard of review for DOMA’s constitutionality. No matter what happens, the case will proceed with DOJ as the attorneys for the government defendants.
“It is increasingly clear to everyone what has been clear to gay and lesbian families for years - that DOMA’s denial of protections available to all other married families is discriminatory, harmful, and unjustifiable,” said Mary L. Bonauto, GLAD’s Civil Rights Project Director and lead attorney on both Gill and Pedersen. “DOJ’s acknowledgement of this is momentous. At the same time, we know this isn’t the end of the road.”
In a letter to the court Assistant Attorney General Tony West writes that “the Department will cease its defense of Section 3” in cases including Gill and Massachusetts. DOJ also “notifies the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation of those cases”, and that “we will remain parties to the case and continue to represent the interests of the United State throughout the litigation.”
GLAD filed Gill, in which it represents 8 married couples and three widowers, in the U.S District Court in March 2009, and in July 2010, won a ruling that DOMA Section 3 is unconstitutional from U.S. District Court Judge Joseph L. Tauro. With the case now pending on appeal in the First Circuit, Congress will have an opportunity to decide whether it wants to have its voice heard in the appeal.”
Consistent with their February 23 letter to Speaker of the House John Boehner, the DOJ seeks to provide Congress “a full and fair opportunity to participate” in the case. All of the parties, including GLAD, agree that Congress should be given this opportunity, and will request an extension from the court on the briefing schedule to accommodate Congress’s decision-making.
House Dems To Push Legislative End To DOMA
First Posted: 02/24/11 09:47 AM Updated: 02/24/11 10:42 AM
WASHINGTON -- In light of the Obama administration's decision to drop its legal support for the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that the president considers it unconstitutional, Democrats will be launching a renewed effort to formally overturn the federal gay-marriage ban through congressional action.
Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), a senior Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee, told The Huffington Post that he will be introducing the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA, "very soon" and with "quite a few cosponsors."
The idea is to take advantage of the headwind created by the Department of Justice's Wednesday announcement and push for a permanent solution over the legality of laws that prohibit gay marriage. Until Congress acts, or the Supreme Court issues a ruling, DOMA -- which prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriages performed in states -- continues to be enforced.
"The president's move is another step in the increasing realization that there is no conceivable justification for DOMA, that it is motivated, was motivated, purely by irrational considerations and fear and that there is no rational basis that will stand up to a constitutional challenge," said Nadler. "Hopefully, that will make it somewhat easier to pass legislation in Congress."
But the climb remains steep. House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas) criticized the administration's decision not to defend DOMA in a statement shortly after the announcement was made, calling it "irresponsible." And as chair of the committee, Smith has wide latitude over what bills get a hearing.
And yet the reaction to the DOMA news within the Republican Party has been fairly muted. House Speaker John Boehner's office put out a statement that skirted the substance of the issue, instead hammering the president for trying "to stir up a controversial issue that sharply divides the nation." And while Smith himself offered strong support for the philosophical foundation of the law, his office said it did not have ultimate say as to whether they'd step in to defend the law in court -- that would fall on Boehner.
UPDATE: Sen. Dianne Feinstein's (D-Calif.) office emailed The Huffington Post to note that she plans to offer similar legislation in the Senate to effectively end DOMA.
"As a Member of the Judiciary Committee, it is my intention to introduce legislation that will once and for all repeal the Defense of Marriage Act," Feinstein said in a prepared statement. "My own belief is that when two people love each other and enter the contract of marriage, the Federal government should honor that. I opposed the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. It was the wrong law then; it is the wrong law now; and it should be repealed."
Emilio Pucci /Fall 2011 RTW by Mark Holgate
Just how smoldering can the hot chick Peter Dundas is designing for at Emilio Pucci get? Positively volcanic, it seems. Except, it’s another kind of topographical phenomenon Dundas is surveying this autumn—the peaks and valleys of the Tyrolean mountains (not to mention, the kind of fantastical landscapes that belong in the land of Grimm’s fairy tales, apparently). It explains why, amongst all the brilliant embroidered, encrusted, and generally all-around embellished knee-length lace and velvet dresses that mapped the body out in contoured, corseted lines (a hyper-glam take on evening that has been noticeably absent almost everywhere else this season), Dundas can manage to make the dirndl, that full skirt beloved of hausfraus from Innsbruck to Linz, look pretty darn hot, too. It came high at the waist in loden suede, with an Austrian mountain sweater sporting some nontraditional corset lacing at the back; or in black, worn with a soft, romantic black silk and lace blouse with billowing sleeves, making for a surprisingly effortless, not to mention chic, way to dress for night. Dundas went walkabout in the Tyrol in daylight hours, too, with loden coats encrusted with jet beading and a belt punctuated with ebony cameos, or worn with a damson bow-neck shirt and lean magenta crop pants, part of the strong color story—robin’s egg blue, burgundy, a golden yellow—he was telling here.
Occasionally, it has to be said, he looked like he might stumble down from the summit. Only Prince Charming can ever pull off—or should pull on, for that matter—velvet breeches. And the collection didn’t need the styling trick of the traditional feathered loden hat to locate his inspiration; high on a hill, a lonely goatherd is surely missing his. Yet, those aside, what really came through here is the genuine frisson of sexed-up glamour that was once the sine qua non of Milan and now seems in rather short supply in this city; in Dundas’s capable hands, Pucci absolutely sizzles with it. And he has managed to turn up the temperature even more by deftly incorporating the house’s print heritage—rendered particularly well on velvet, as well as the trademark silk jersey—into his vision of what and where Pucci should be. Which is to say, at the very peak.
Emilio Pucci Fall 2011 Ready-to-Wear
MILAN, February 26, 2011
By Nicole Phelps
Peter Dundas gave the hippie-deluxe look he's made his signature during his two years at Emilio Pucci the old heave-ho tonight. Call it a case of quitting while you're ahead: Sales for Spring and orders for pre-fall are way, way up. But the designer has already moved on to new inspirations. For Fall he's thinking along more refined yet altogether decadent lines. Before the show he rattled off a list of reference points: hunters; Tyrolea; winter palaces; Romy Schneider as Sissi; Victoire de Castellane, the designer of Dior's haute joaillerie; and a Parisian figure known for flaunting her very belle poitrine. That's right, a bare leg may have reigned supreme at this Florence house since Dundas' arrival, but no longer. This season, the bust is it.
He framed it with corseted hourglass dresses that had long sleeves and a little collar or a bow, and sometimes both, at the neckline—one part temptress, the other part decorous. These came in all manner of materials, from practically humble loden wool to positively sumptuous black velvet embellished with crystals arrayed in diamond patterns, as well as in the familiar Pucci prints. Well, make that not so familiar. To emphasize the rustic, raw part of the story, he reintepreted the prints in hand-painted renderings.
As for all those sharp-shouldered, double-breasted Pucci blazers in the front row? There were still some rigorously tailored examples on today's runway, but they were part of the capsule collection for men that Dundas was debuting alongside his womenswear. His female fashion fans, on the other hand, will have to do some updating before next season. His new jackets come with a little puff at the shoulders. A suede version with leather appliqués worn with matching knickers edged into costume territory, but it was a rare misstep in a terrific collection. The Hollywood set that's gone gaga for Dundas will be looking for red carpets to wear his dresses on all year long.
Libyan police stations torched
Clashes reported across the country, as security forces and government supporters confront demonstrators.
Last Modified: 16 Feb 2011 09:06 GMT
Activists demanded an end to Gaddafi's 41-year rule [Outside photo: Quryna newspaper]
Hundreds of protesters have reportedly torched Libyan police outposts in the eastern city of Beyida, while chanting: "People want the end of the regime."
"All the people of Beyida are out on the streets," said 25-year-old Rabie al-Messrati, who said he had been arrested after spreading a call for protests on Facebook.
Online calls of dissent have been growing rapidly over the past few days, with Facebook groups calling for "Uprising on February 17" doubling in popularity between Monday and Wednesday.
In the southern city of Zentan, 120km south of Tripoli, hundreds of people marched through the streets and set fire to security headquarters and a police station, then set up tents in the heart of the town, as a wave of unrest spread south and westwards across the country.
Activists had earlier clashed with government supporters and police, who reportedly shot rubber-coated steel bullets and used water cannon in Benghazi city.
Demonstrators gathered in the early hours of Wednesday morning in front of Benghazi's police headquarters and chanted slogans against the "corrupt rulers of the country", Al Jazeera's sources said.
Chants including "No God but Allah, Muammar is the enemy of Allah," can be heard on videos of demonstrations uploaded to YouTube. Independent confirmation was not possible as Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's administration keeps tight control over the movements of media personnel.
Police reportedly fired tear gas and violently dispersed protesters, arresting 20. Families of those arrested are planning to gather outside the city's security directorate to demand their release, our source tells us.
Al Jazeera is understood to have been taken taken off the state-owned cable TV network, but is still reportedly available on satellite networks.
Meanwhile, protesters have taken to Twitter to spread details on how to bypass internet clampdowns. Social media sites were reportedly blocked for several hours through the afternoon, but access was restored in the evening.
The crowds of demonstrators included some armed with rocks and petrol bombs, reported the online edition of Libya's privately owned Quryna newspaper, which is based in Benghazi - some 1,000km east of the oil-exporting country's capital.
At least 38 people were injured in the clashes, including ten security officials.
Benghazi's residents have a history of distrust of Gaddafi's rule, and many of the people jailed for membership of banned political groups are from the city.
On Wednesday evening, 110 members of the armed - and outlawed - Libyan Islamic Fighting Group were due to be released from Abu Salim prison later on Wednesday, in a suspected move to quell tension in the city, believed to have been orchestrated by Gaddaffi's son, Seif al-Islam Gaddaffi.
There are just 30 members of the group remaining in prison.
The state has also offered to double the salaries of government workers, and co-ordinated a series of twelve pro-Gaddaffi rallies in cities across the country.
In a telephone interview with Al Jazeera, Idris Al-Mesmari, a Libyan novelist and writer, said that security officials in civilian clothes came and dispersed protesters in Benghazi using tear gas, batons and hot water.
Al-Mesmari was arrested hours after the interview.
'Day of rage' called
Anti-government protesters have also called on citizens to observe Thursday as a "Day of Rage". They are hoping to emulate recent popular uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia to end Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year-old rule.
The rare protests reportedly began after relatives of those killed in a prison massacre about 15 years ago took to streets. They were joined by scores of other supporters.
Benghazi residents have a history of distrust of Gaddafi
The relatives were said to have been angered by the detention of Fathi Terbil, human rights lawyer and official spokesman of the victims' families, who was arrested by the Libyan security forces, for no apparent reason.
However, Terbil was later released, according to reports.
Twelve-hundred prisoners were killed in the Abu Slim prison massacre on June 29, 1996, after they had objected to their inhumane conditions inside the prison.
Those killed were buried in the prison's courtyard and in mass graves in Tripoli. The families of the victims have been demanding that the culprits be punished.
Mohammed Maree, an Egyptian blogger, said "Gaddafi's regime has not listened to such pleas and continues to treat the Libyan people with lead and fire."
"This is why we announce our solidarity with the Libyan people and the families of the martyrs until the criminals are punished, starting with Muammer and his family."
Libyan state television reported that rallies were taking place all over the country early this morning “in support of the rule of the people by the people”.
A group of prominent Libyans and members of human rights organisations have also demanded the resignation of Gaddafi.
They said that the Libyans have the right to express themselves through peaceful demonstrations without any threat of harassment from the regime.
The demands came in a statement signed by 213 personalities from different segments of the Libyan society, including political activists, lawyers, students, and government officials.
Meanwhile, a local human rights activist told Reuters news agency that the authorities have decided to release 110 prisoners jailed for membership of banned organisation, the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
The prisoners to be freed on Wednesday, are the last members of the group still being held and will be set free from Tripoli's Abu Salim jail, Mohamed Ternish, chairman of the Libya Human Rights Association said.
Hundreds of alleged members of the group have been freed from jail after it renounced violence last year.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies
Protest wave grows: Bahrain, Yemen and now Libya
By HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press Wed Feb 16, 6:11 pm ET
MANAMA, Bahrain – The swelling protests against Bahrain's rulers gained momentum Wednesday with huge crowds calling for a sweeping political overhaul and the kingdom's stunned leaders appearing to shift tactics after attempts to crush the uprising stoked rage on the streets and sharp criticism from Western allies.
The widening challenges to the Arab world's political order — emboldened by the downfall of old-guard regimes in Tunisia and Egypt — also flared in Libya for the first time, with riot police battling protesters marching against the 42-year rule of Moammar Gadhafi.
In Yemen, the embattled president flooded the ancient capital of Sanaa with security forces to try to stamp out demonstrations that began nearly a week ago. They turned deadly Wednesday in the southern port of Aden, with two people killed in clashes with police.
"It's clear now that no Arab leader can truly feel comfortable," said Ali Fakhro, a political analyst and commentator in Bahrain. "Those days have been swept away."
It's also taken a big swipe at Western policy assumptions.
Tiny Bahrain has an outsized importance for Washington as home of the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet, a counterweight to Iran's military expansion in the Gulf. Yemen is a strategic battleground against Islamic militants inspired by al-Qaida.
Even Gadhafi — once an arch-foe of the West — has been gradually rebuilding international ties and remains a mercurial, but well examined, factor in Mideast affairs.
In many ways, Bahrain is mirroring Egypt's uprising on a smaller scale and with malls and conference centers as the backdrop instead of the faded glory of Cairo's Tahrir Square.
Protesters have turned a landmark square in the capital of Manama into their base camp, which was swollen with tens of thousands of people by nightfall Wednesday. Their chants literally reverberated off the buildings and bridges. They sang the Egyptian national anthem. Their next important move takes a page directly from the Egypt unrest: calling for a major march after Friday prayers to re-energize its followers.
The ruling Sunni dynasty — long accused of trampling the aspirations of Bahrain's Shiite majority — has retrenched after unleashing security forces in street clashes that left at least two dead since Monday. Riot squads have hung back as the crowds took control of Pearl Square, dominated by a 300-foot (90-feet) monument to Bahrain's history as a pearl diving center.
An emergency parliament meeting was called for Thursday, but it may only serve to show the country's divisions and reinforce its image as the most politically volatile in the Gulf.
The main Shiite opposition bloc, with 18 of the 40 seats, has said it will not return to the chamber until the protest demands are met.
It began Monday as a cry for the country's Sunni monarchy to loosen its grip, including hand-picking most top government posts, and open more opportunities for the country's Shiites, who have long complained of being blocked from decision-making roles or key posts in the military.
But the uprising's demands have steadily grown bolder. Many protesters are calling for the government to provide more jobs and better housing, free all political detainees and abolish a system that offers Bahraini citizenship to Sunnis from around the Middle East as a way to close the gap with Shiites, who account for 70 percent of the population. Many of the newly minted nationals get jobs in security forces to further cement the number of presumed loyalists protecting the ruling system.
Increasingly, protesters are also chanting slogans to wipe away the entire ruling dynasty that has led Bahrain for more than 200 years and is firmly backed by the Sunni sheiks and monarchs across the Gulf.
Although Bahrain is sandwiched between two of OPEC's heavyweights, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, it has limited oil resources and depends heavily on its role as a regional financial hub and playground for Saudis, who can drive over a causeway to enjoy Bahrain's Western-style bars, hotels and beaches.
As night fell in the square, a Shiite imam extolled Bahrain's young people as the lions of reform.
"This square is a trust in your hands and so will you whittle away this trust or keep fast?" the imam said. "So be careful and be concerned for your country and remember that the regime will try to rip this country from your hand but if we must leave it in coffins then so be it!"
Across the city, a caravan of cars from government supporters waved national flags and displayed portraits of King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa.
"Come join us!" they yelled into markets and along busy streets. "Show your loyalty."
Social networking websites also were abuzz with calls to press ahead with the protests. They were matched by insults from presumed government backers calling the demonstrators traitors and agents of Shiite powerhouse Iran. Some pointed out that Iranian hard-liners have called Bahrain the Islamic Republic's "14th province" because of its Shiite links.
But the head of the largest Shiite political bloc, Sheik Ali Salman, said there are no demands for an Islamic role in politics.
"We are not looking for a religious government like Iran's, but we demand a civil government" that represents Shiites and Sunnis, he told a news conference.
Bahrain's relative calm Wednesday was in stark contrast with other Arab political showdowns. But all share efforts to escalate protests this week.
In Libya, security forces fired rubber bullets and water cannons at hundreds of marchers in Benghazi, the second-largest city. Witnesses said some police stations were set on fire and one protester said he saw snipers on a roof of a security headquarters firing on protesters.
The unrest was triggered by the temporary detention Tuesday of an activist but quickly turned into a rare public challenge to Gadhafi.
Video clips posted on the Internet showed protesters carrying signs and chanting: "No God but Allah, Moammar is the enemy of Allah" and "Down, down to corruption and to the corrupt." Activists using Facebook and Twitter have called for nationwide demonstrations Thursday.
In Yemen, meanwhile, more than 2,000 police fanned out across the capital Sanaa after six days of Egypt-style demonstrations against President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has held power for 32 years.
The police fired in the air and blocked thousands of students at Sanaa University from joining thousands of other protesters in the capital of the Arab world's most impoverished nation. In the southern port of Aden, two people were killed when police fired on protesters.
A call spread via Facebook and Twitter urging Yemenis to join a series of "One Million People" rallies on Friday.
Dozens of Jordanians took to the streets outside King Abullah II's palace in the sixth straight week of protests, demanding that people be allowed to elect their prime minister.
Internet service in Bahrain was slow and spotty, but it appeared that authorities did not try to close it down fully.
But unlike vast Cairo, Bahrain is little more than a collection of towns and villages with just 500,000 native-born citizens and nearly the same number of expatriate workers. Word spreads easily by phone and from family to family.
Thousands turned out — without any special call to organize — for the funeral procession of 31-year-old, Fadhel al-Matrook, the second known fatality from the clashes. Later, in Pearl Square, his father Salman pleaded with protesters not to give up.
"He is not only my son. He is the son of Bahrain, the son of this nation," he yelled. "His blood shouldn't be wasted."
The bloodshed brought embarrassing rebukes from allies such Britain and the United States. A statement from Bahrain's interior ministry said suspects have been "placed in custody" in connection with the two protester deaths, but gave no further details.
In the past week, Bahrain's rulers have tried to defuse calls for reform by promising nearly $2,700 for each family and pledging to loosen state controls on the media.
Similar concessions have been made by leaders in the Gulf to try to pre-empt protests. In Oman, the ruling Sultan Qaboos Bin Said announced Wednesday an increase in the minimum monthly salary for private sector workers from 140 rials ($365) to 200 rials ($520).
As protesters in Bahrain settled in for another night in the square, the mood was more festive than tense. People sipped tea, snacked on donated food and smoked apple- and grape-flavored tobacco from water pipes. The men and women mainly sat separately — the women a sea of black in their traditional dress. Some youths wore the red-and-white Bahraini flag as a cape.
The leadership of the protesters is still unclear and disorganized. A few scuffles have broken out between some of the people in the main area near the speakers' platform. But many tried to downplay the idea that the revolt is primarily for Shiite rights.
"The needs of the people are populist and not sectarian. We are not Shiite, Sunni or liberals," said Jassem Jawad, 23, a musician and part-time civil servant. "I am not a political man ... But I know I want a chance to pick my own prime minister. How is it fair for a prime minister to hold power for 39 years? Its ridiculous."
Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.
Copyright © 2011 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.
February 28, 2011
Oman Protesters Block Port Road
Filed at 2:10 p.m. EST
SOHAR, Oman (Reuters) - Demonstrators blocked roads to a main port in northern Oman and looted a nearby supermarket on Monday, part of protests to demand more jobs and political reform that have spread to the sultanate's capital.
A doctor said six people had been killed in clashes between stone-throwing protesters and police on Sunday in the northern industrial town of Sohar. Oman's health minister said one person had been killed and 20 wounded.
Hundreds of protesters blocked access to an industrial area that includes the port, a refinery and aluminum factory. A port spokeswoman said exports of refined oil products of about 160,000 barrels per day (bpd) from the port were unaffected.
"We want to see the benefit of our oil wealth distributed evenly," one protester yelled over a loudhailer near the port. "We want to see a scale-down of expatriates in Oman so more jobs can be created for Omanis."
Peaceful protests spread to other cities, with hundreds gathering outside a state complex in the capital Muscat and elsewhere.
The unrest in Sohar, Oman's main industrial center, was a rare outbreak of discontent in the normally sleepy sultanate ruled by Sultan Qaboos bin Said for four decades, and follows a wave of pro-democracy protests across the Arab world.
The sultan, trying to calm tensions, on Sunday promised 50,000 jobs, unemployment benefits of $390 a month and to study widening the power of a quasi-parliamentary advisory council.
While hundreds of demonstrators blocked roads near the port, hundreds more were at the main Globe Roundabout, angry after police opened fire on Sunday at protesters.
Police fired tear gas as around 200 protesters near a police building, which demonstrators had set fire to a day earlier.
Graffiti scrawled on a statue said: "The people are hungry." Another message read: "No to oppression of the people."
"There are no jobs, there's no freedom of opinion. The people are tired and people want money. People want to end corruption," said Ali al-Mazroui, 30, who is unemployed.
"We want a change of constitution, an elected government, and ministers standing in the way of development to go," said Zakaria Mharmi, a doctor at Sultan Qaboos Hospital.
"We are also calling for the police not to repeat the violence they demonstrated on Sunday," said Mharmi, who was among around 250 protesters outside the Shura Council building. "Protesters must be peaceful. They are not serving our cause if they are violent."
LOOTING IN SOHAR
In Sohar, looters earlier rushed in to scavenge a smoldering supermarket set alight by protesters. Two government buildings were also set ablaze on Sunday.
One woman stacked up singed cartons of eggs, powdered milk, orange juice and cream cheese in the store, while others walked over shattered glass pushing trolleys loaded with food out of the door. The security forces were absent.
"There is no security. I want to live. It's normal," said 28-year-old Youssef, who is unemployed, as he left the market carrying 10 bottles of juice.
The unrest pushed Oman's main stock index 4.9 percent to a seven-month low, its biggest drop in over two years.
Sultan Qaboos, who exercises absolute power in a country where political parties are banned, shuffled his cabinet on Saturday, a week after a small protest in the capital Muscat gave the first hint that Arab discontent could reach Oman.
Mostly wealthy Gulf Arab countries have stepped up reforms to appease their populations following popular unrest that toppled the leaders of Tunisia and Egypt and is threatening Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's grip on power.
Oman is a non-OPEC oil exporter which pumps around 850,000 bpd, and has strong military and political ties to Washington.
Sultan Qaboos appoints the cabinet and in 1992 introduced an elected advisory Shura Council. Protesters have demanded the council be given legislative powers and on Sunday Qaboos ordered a committee to study increasing its authority.
* MARCH 3, 2011, 5:39 P.M. ET
Anti-Union Bills Introduced In At Least 12 States This Year
By Mark A. Stein Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES
Legislative efforts to strip public employees of collective bargaining and other rights in Wisconsin and Ohio are only the most visible of a range of similar efforts under way this year in at least 12 states so far.
Lawmakers in Florida, Idaho, Missouri, Tennessee and South Carolina also have introduced bills to reduce union power or make it more difficult for them to sign up workers. There is talk of similar measures even in labor-friendly California and New York.
Those efforts would build on bills already working their way through legislatures in Iowa, Kansas and, perhaps most surprisingly of all, the traditionally progressive state of Massachusetts.
Not all of the measures are identical in what they seek or how far they have advanced, nor are they equally likely to pass and be signed into law. But they do share an antipathy for labor unions amid concerns about state budget deficits and a national debate over public-sector pay and pensions.
Late last year, growing concern about local government finances combined with a bear market for Treasury securities to pummel the municipal-bond market. A benchmark index of 10-year triple-A rated muni bonds compiled by Municipal Market Data fell sharply from late August, sending borrowing costs up by 1.29 percentage points by mid January.
Since then, the market has regained some of the losses, rallying 36%. It has largely been unaffected by events in Wisconsin and Ohio.
The campaign to curb union power comes after recent election gains by conservative Republicans, particularly those associated with or sympathetic to the anti-tax Tea Party movement. It has met spirited resistance from union members and their traditional political allies, Democrats, and comes despite three national polls that found most voters support public-sector unions.
In Florida last Friday, three state legislators each introduced a bill dealing with labor unions. One would forbid state and local governments to deduct union dues from employee paychecks, forcing unions to bill members directly.
Another would require labor unions to seek recertification--that is, to run for re-election--each year if less than half of the workers they represent have formally joined. Since Florida is a right-to-work state, workers represented by a union are not required to join a union even if it negotiates on their behalf.
The third would require unions to send each member a reminder of how they can decertify, or fire, the union, along with an account of union spending, including political contributions.
In Idaho, the state Senate has taken up a bill to phase out tenure for teachers and restrict collective bargaining. In Tennessee, both houses are weighing a bill that would allow local school districts to refuse to negotiate with teacher unions.
Nebraska's legislature is considering a bill that would end collective bargaining for all state and local government workers. In Missouri, the state House of Representative has taken up a bill that would require labor unions to get written permission from their members in order to deduct dues from their paychecks.
South Carolina, which has long forbidden government workers to join together to negotiate pay, benefits or working conditions, took up legislation to allow private businesses to ignore a proposed federal rule that would required them to notify their workers that they have the right to form a union.
Legislators in California and New York, meanwhile, are considering bills to allow public-school districts to ignore seniority when deciding which teachers to lay off--a practice that teacher unions consider crucial to their members.
In Iowa, the state House of Representatives has passed a bill denying state employees the right to negotiate over health-insurance benefits or layoffs. In Kansas, the lower house of the Legislature approved a bill that would forbid public employees' unions to endorse candidates or spend members' dues on political activities and would end payroll deductions for union political-action committees.
A bill in Massachusetts would eliminate any union input into policies on hiring, promotions, drug and alcohol tests or the use of part-time workers.
Gross said Wisconsin workers had agreed to pay and benefits cuts sought by Gov. Scott Walker, but drew the line at giving up the right to bargain collectively in the future.
Mike Schrimpf of the Republican Governors Association said Walker and other officials were simply following through on their election mandates.
"Citizens support Republican governors for making the difficult decisions necessary to balance their budgets without raising taxes while also providing state and local governments the flexibility to solve their long-term obligations," he said. "It's what they were elected to do."
However, three recent national polls--by The Wall Street Journal and NBC News, The New York Times and CBS, and USA Today and the Gallup Organization--each found Americans oppose weakening collective-bargaining rights for unions by a two-to-one margin.
Lily Eskelsen, vice president of the National Education Association, another teachers union, said the flood of anti-labor legislation this year is not coincidental.
"Of course this is coordinated," she said. "Who could flip through the channels and not think so? You're going to hear the exact same words" from elected officials across the country.
Eskelsen couldn't say who would be behind such an effort. But the Republican National Committee has begun a fundraising campaign asserting that organized labor has raised millions of dollars for Democrats and that President Obama intends to tap unions for his re-election campaign next year.
RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said the fundraising effort was created after the union fight began, to capitalize on Obama's support of labor. She denied knowing about any coordination among Republican officeholders.
"The union legislation is happening because governors have deficits they need turn around and are looking to see what is on the table to make cuts," she said.
-By Mark A. Stein, Dow Jones Newswires; 212-416-2213;