TV & Radio
Ottawa's distance from Washington
The Japan Times: Feb. 14, 2006
A new administration led by Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party, which won the general election Jan. 23, has been inaugurated in Canada. The Conservatives have not held the reins of government since November 1993.
In Canada, where progressives had continued to rule through the Liberal Party, attention now is focused on what kind of conservative politics this 46-year-old prime minister will develop. During the election campaign Mr. Harper was criticized by his opponents as a neoconservative leaning toward Washington.
Political analysts attribute his victory partly to voters' weariness of the perceived "injustice" that had crept into the long-term administration of the Liberal Party, which had been promoting structural reforms. On any well-intended reform agenda, changes tend to bring not only gains but pain. As a result, reigning for a long period does not always work to the advantage of such a party come election time.
The situation is rather similar to Americans' turning against the so-called vested interests of big government and voting, in 1980, for the late President Ronald Reagan, who was criticized for being too far to the right.
Born in the eastern city of Toronto, Mr. Harper became a conservative after he moved to the western province of Alberta. Like Bush, he is an enthusiastic Protestant evangelical. The composition of the new prime minister's political base in Alberta is very similar to that of the western part of the United States. Mr. Harper fought the election under the slogan of a "strong Canada."
The similarities with U.S. President George W. Bush are striking. Mr. Bush was born in the eastern state of Connecticut but built his base out West, in Texas, after he moved there with his father.
In Canada's general election, the Conservative Party did not gain seats in the major eastern cities of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver, or in large cities on the Pacific coast, but won much support in smaller cities and rural districts.
Similarly, the Republican Party in the United States lost in New York and the large cities of California but won the election on the strength of its base in the South and West.
Mr. Harper is positive about participating in Washington's missile-defense plans, which the Liberal Party administration had rejected, and is critical of terms in the Kyoto Protocol aimed at slowing global warming. He is also thinking of abolishing a law that recognizes same-sex marriage.
It would seem, therefore, that Mr. Harper and Mr. Bush are like two peas in a pod. Indeed, Mr. Bush reportedly was delighted by the Canadian election result and phoned Mr. Harper to congratulate him. This was in stark contrast to the sentiments expressed by the previous Liberal prime minister, who rejected the dispatch of Canadian troops to the Iraq war and criticized the Bush administration in general.
However, it seems unlikely that relations between Canada and the U.S. will change as much as Mr. Bush hopes. For one thing, the Conservative Party, while making spectacular gains in the election, fell short of winning a majority. Thus forced to maneuver as a minority ruling party, it will have to compromise with the Liberals and other parties in order to implement its policies.
Mr. Harper has already demonstrated an ability to flexibly adjust his positions to reality. Learning lessons from the 2004 election in which the progressives criticized him for rightist views, Mr. Harper has steered the right-leaning Conservatives toward the center. Since the election victory last month, he has subtly revised some statements he made during the campaign.
Despite the similarities with Mr. Bush, Mr. Harper is being likened in Canada to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who overhauled a Labor Party that had been unable for a long time to take control of the government.
The slogan of "strong Canada" suggests that Mr. Harper will not simply kowtow to Washington. Indeed, he has responded firmly, for example, to the territorial question involving waters of the Arctic.
For Canada, which shares a border with the superpower to the south, dealing with the distance between Ottawa and Washington is a matter that concerns its very raison d'etre. The world is watching to see whether Mr. Harper can govern Canada without being pressured into doing the bidding of the United States, which is led by a president with the same conservative background and similar beliefs. It is not an issue to which Japan can be indifferent, either.
Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006
A Pregnant Pause
A princess' surprise news spurs a ceasefire in the battle over Japan's Imperial succession
BY JIM FREDERICK
Japan seems to have averted the prospect of revolutionary change. In January 2005, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi appointed a panel to develop suggestions for warding off a looming succession crisis in the imperial family. By law and eons of tradition, the Japanese throne can pass only to males with emperors on the father's side. But no boys have been born into the family since 1965. Crown Prince Naruhito, 45, and his wife Masako, 42, have had only one daughter, 4-year-old Aiko. Naruhito's brother, Prince Akishino, 40, and his wife, Kiko, 39, have two daughters. So Koizumi's panel suggested that succession should pass to the Emperor's firstborn, regardless of gender. Assuming that Naruhito succeeds his father, Emperor Akihito, Aiko would then be in line for the throne. The panel's plan seemed wildly popular and Koizumi vowed to introduce a bill to modify the law this March.
But traditionalists, for whom the paternal line of succession is a defining characteristic of Japan's imperial legacy, started to protest. Echoing the shifting mood, on Feb. 4 the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's most liberal major newspaper, said that "Revision of the law must be considered through calm discussion." At a rally on Feb. 1, 173 Diet members signed a petition opposing a "premature submission of the bill."
Then came the shocker. On Feb. 7, news leaked that Princess Kiko was pregnant—11 years after she last gave birth. To many, the timing of the leak (just before the bill's submission) and that of the baby's conception (just after the panel's recommendation) seemed, well, like happy coincidences. Koizumi promptly tabled the bill. If the child is a boy, traditionalists will know that their prayers have been answered. And if it isn't? Then they'll just have to offer up some more.
With reporting by Toko Sekiguchi
From TIME Asia Magazine, issue dated February 20, 2006 Vol. 167, No. 7
Japan Times Editorial: The case for a baby princess
毎日新聞 2006年2月13日 19時27分
毎日新聞 2006年2月13日 19時27分
The case for a baby princess
The Japan Times: Feb. 12, 2006
No wonder the Crown Princess gets depressed. The spectacle of the chasm between the Imperial family and the 21st century has long been enough to depress anyone. But then, just when the princess must have thought the gap might be closing a bit, given the prime minister's efforts to win the right of succession for the family's female members, along comes an unexpected pregnancy to send everything back to square one.
It is not that the princess would not wish to congratulate her brother- and sister-in-law, Prince Akishino and Princess Kiko, on their joyous news. The whole nation does. It is just that she must dread having to explain to her 4-year-old daughter why people's joy seems to be so dependent on this new cousin being a boy. Whatever happened to the idea that girls are just as special, just as valued, as boys? How do you explain why some people think being a girl is such a crippling defect it automatically disqualifies you from a job that carries no power anyway? Or why it would still be empowering to women for a woman to accede to a position of such bizarre powerlessness?
Such questions and contradictions went to the heart of the Crown Princess's well-known uneasiness with the archaic system into which she had married. But now the fuss over Princess Kiko's pregnancy has thrown those contradictions into super-high relief. For a while, the world thought Japan was on the verge of letting its Imperial family edge into the modern age. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was pursuing a farsighted proposal for a legislative amendment that would permit female succession, and a majority of the public supported him.
Now, the possibility that the second-in-line to the throne may produce a male heir has shattered the impression that the country was about to take an important step forward. Mr. Koizumi himself appears to have determined not to make a rush about the issue of imperial succession in view of growing resistance to the idea of a female ascending to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
If Japan was truly ready for a female emperor, why is everyone so thrilled about this pregnancy? Television announcers all but wept breaking the news on Tuesday. And opponents of the prime minister's plan appear giddy with relief at the thought that a boy could yet appear and save the nation from the frightful prospect of a reigning empress who could be succeeded in turn by her own daughters.
That last clause has been a particular bone of contention, stirring echoes of the 16th-century Scottish theologian John Knox's notorious "First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women." There is not a sliver of difference between Knox's view of the place of women in 1558 and the view held by the old guard of the Liberal Democratic Party in 2006: "To promote a woman to bear rule, superiority, dominion or empire above any realm, nation, or city is repugnant to nature, contumely to God and the subversion of good order."
Unfortunately, the old guard may be right to think their cause has been boosted by Princess Kiko's pregnancy. Interviews in the street this past week suggest that much of the public support for Mr. Koizumi's proposal stemmed from the absence of a male heir; better Princess Aiko than no one, people hinted. Now that there is a chance of a boy, many appear to favor a wait-and-see approach.
That is a profoundly discouraging response, if not quite the virulent misogyny that has colored the campaign against Mr. Koizumi's plan in recent weeks. Some critics had become so desperate to keep a woman from the throne that they appeared willing not just to stall social advances but to reverse them. The Crown Prince and Princess could get a divorce, they said, thereby freeing the Crown Prince to "try again" for a son. No one explained what would happen if the Imperial couple did not want a divorce. Others advocated reviving the concubine tradition, of all things, or extending eligibility to male scions of dormant aristocratic "houses."
The public had not, by and large, embraced these retrograde suggestions. But the readiness of many people to see the new plan shelved or postponed suggests that the idea of equality has only shallow roots here: A woman is still second-best, a last resort. If Mr. Koizumi's proposal was the right thing to do last week, it still is this week, because women's equality must be seen as absolute, not relative.
Some might argue that this is all a tempest in a teacup, because the emperor system is purely symbolic, anyway. But that is exactly why it is important. What better vehicle than the monarchy to set a symbolic example on social issues? Last week's news has set that effort back -- but there is still room for optimism. The new baby might be a girl, thus putting this crucial debate back on track. Here's hoping.
The Japan Times: Feb. 12, 2006
Koizumi's succession bill looks set to wilt
The New York Times
February 13, 2006
Hawaii Agrees to Change Policies for Incarcerated Gay Youths
By JANIS L. MAGIN
HONOLULU, Feb. 12 — Under a settlement with the federal government, the state has agreed to make sweeping improvements at Hawaii's troubled youth prison in the next three years, but a civil liberties group that sued over the problems says the agreement does not go far enough to protect gay wards from harassment, abuse and discrimination.
The settlement with the Justice Department came last week as a federal district judge, J. Michael Seabright, issued a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit that was filed in September by the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. The judge described conditions at the prison, the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, as "chaotic" and called for the state to stop the abuse and harassment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender wards.
The lawsuit, coming after a Justice Department report last summer that described the 71-bed youth facility in Kailua as "existing in a state of chaos," was filed on behalf of an 18-year-old lesbian, an 18-year-old boy perceived by guards and other teenage wards to be gay and a 17-year-old male-to-female transgender girl. It says the teenagers were physically and verbally abused by staff members at the facility as well as by other wards because of their sexual and gender orientation.
"Everyone knew that the climate was pretty pervasive and nobody did anything about it," said Lois Perrin, legal director for the A.C.L.U. of Hawaii. Judge Seabright has scheduled a status conference on the case for Monday.
Hawaii's attorney general, Mark J. Bennett, said on Friday that the state planned to develop specific policies to deal with lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender wards, and that state officials would consult with the A.C.L.U. in doing so.
Ms. Perrin, who delivered a list of proposed injunctions to the court on Friday, said the A.C.L.U. wanted the changes done under a court order and more quickly than the three years the state had to comply with the federal agreement.
"We're asking that they are not allowed to discriminate, harass or abuse wards, based on actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender identity or sex," Ms. Perrin said. She said the A.C.L.U. also wanted the state to thoroughly investigate accusations of harassment and abuse, to stop using isolation to protect wards from abuse by other teens, and to provide a physically and psychologically safe environment.
The state's settlement agreement with the Justice Department imposes dozens of conditions on the youth prison, including the development of suicide prevention and intervention procedures, the protection of young wards from physical and sexual abuse, and the employment of enough staff members to adequately supervise and care for the wards. An independent monitor will oversee the state's changes.
The state also agreed to conduct criminal record checks within the next four months on all employees who worked directly with the youths.
"It certainly indicates that we need to make sure that the individuals who are employed at the facility who come in contact with youth are the right people to be working there," Mr. Bennett said.
He said the agreement, the result of four months of negotiations, did not include an admission of constitutional violations or other wrongdoing by the state. The state has three years to comply, or the Justice Department may refile its lawsuit.
"Obviously if we didn't think there were serious problems at the facility we wouldn't have entered into as comprehensive an agreement as this one was," Mr. Bennett said. "This agreement imposes substantial burdens on the state. It's going to be expensive and it's going to take time."
A number of Hawaii institutions have had trouble with the federal government. Thirteen years of federal oversight at Hawaii State Hospital in Kaneohe, the state's mental health facility, ended a little over a year ago. The Oahu Community Correctional Center operated under federal supervision from 1985 to 1999 under a consent decree that limited the number of inmates.
Judge Blasts Hawai’i Juvenile Detention Facility for Pervasive Harassment of LGBT Youth
The more they like sex, the more women like women
Bisexuality is on the rise - but only on one side of the gender gap
By Jonathan Owen
Published: 12 February 2006
Being highly sexed changes men's and women's sexual orientation in startlingly different ways, a major academic study has concluded.
The research, conducted by Dr Richard Lippa, an internationally renowned sex expert at California State University, shows highly sexed women to be no less than 27 times more likely than men to become attracted to their own sex. The survey, of more than 3,500 people, is published in this month's Psychological Science. It showed that 0.3 per cent of men were attracted to their own sex, as opposed to 8 per cent of women.
For most women, a high sex drive increases their sexual attraction to both men and women. The opposite occurs in men, where a high sex drive simply exaggerates existing sexual orientation.
Dr Lippa told The Independent on Sunday: "Sexuality is more complex than we want to believe. It is more common for women to change their sexuality. My personal sense is that there are very few bisexual men, but there are significantly more bisexual women out there."
Researchers are finding evidence that there is a key biological difference at play between the sexes, rather than sociological factors alone.
This conclusion comes as no surprise to the television personality Rebecca Loos, a lifelong bisexual. "I do find that a lot of my female friends find women and men attractive, whether or not they happen to be in relationships with men," she says. "Most women I know have been with other women. Men and women are completely different when it comes to sex: for men it's a lot more physical."
As more women develop an open-minded attitude, celebrities are once again leading the way in bringing sexual orientation out of the closet. Madonna, Angelina Jolie and Saffron Burrows are among those famous for their relationships with both sexes. In the 1990s the columnist Julie Burchill had a much-publicised affair with the writer Charlotte Raven, whose brother she later married.
Data from last year's Sex Survey conducted by the BBC is expected to show twice as many bisexual women (6 per cent) as lesbians (3 per cent) in the UK. Numbers of women who had tried lesbian sex more than doubled between 1990 and 2000.
The TV sex therapist Tracey Cox says: "Bisexuality is going to be very interesting - something to watch, particularly with women. They've done experiments where they wire up people and get them to watch porn, woman on woman, man on man and hetero, and women were aroused by all three.
"Nearly all the sex therapists I know, if I ask what's the top fantasy for women, [will say] sleeping with another woman."
Wangari Maathai （2004年ノーベル平和賞受賞者・ケニア）
Manuela Di Centa （クロスカントリー・スキー、1992年アルベールビル、94年リレハンメル、98年長野の3五輪大会で金2、銀2、銅3個のメダルを獲得・イタリア）
Maria Mutola （2000年シドニー五輪800メートル走の金メダリスト・モザンビーク）
Somaly Mam (AFESIP, Acting for Women in Distressing Situations代表・カンボジア)
Sophia Loren （女優・イタリア）
Isabel Allende （作家・チリ）
Nawal El Moutawakel （1984年ロサンゼルス五輪400メートルハードルの金メダリスト・モロッコ：アフリカ女性最初の金）
Susan Sarandon （女優・アメリカ）
Italy Schedules Elections for Early April
Saturday February 11, 2006 1:16 PM
By ALESSANDRA RIZZO
Associated Press Writer
ROME (AP) - Italy dissolved its parliament on Saturday and scheduled elections for early April, opening a campaign that pits Premier Silvio Berluconi against a strong center-left opponent.
The government set the date during a Cabinet meeting minutes after the Italian president signed a decree that dissolved parliament, ending a five-year legislature.
The election date had been agreed upon in previous weeks between Berlusconi and the president, Carlo Azeglio Ciampi. Opposition leaders had also signed off on the date.
Parliament ended two weeks later than originally planned, after Berlusconi negotiated a delay that allowed his government to rush through a flurry of last-minute legislation. It also allowed the premier to keep up a barrage of TV and radio appearances, which will be limited during official campaigning because of rules aimed at giving competing coalitions equal air time.
``I'll be able to rest a bit,'' Berlusconi said, speaking on a talk show late Friday.
Despite the media blitz, opinion polls have consistently indicated that the center-left bloc headed by Romano Prodi, a former premier and former European Commission president, is leading the race by some five percentage points.
Berlusconi, a key ally of President Bush in the Iraq war, has expressed confidence that his media campaign will bear fruit, saying his own pollsters indicate the two blocs are virtually level.
``I have absolutely no doubt over the fact that I will govern for another five years,'' he said Friday on the sidelines of a conference in Rome.
Among the measures approved in the final parliamentary sessions were funding for the Winter Olympics, which opened Friday in Turin, and for Italy's dwindling contingent in Iraq, where some 2,600 Italian troops are currently posted.
Berlusconi, a key ally of President Bush who was elected in 2001, has been plagued by legal troubles surrounding his Milan-based business empire since he entered politics. He has contended he is the victim of a campaign by left-leaning magistrates.
Center-left parties - which range from centrist moderates to communists and secular radicals - are divided over proposals for a quick pullout from Iraq and granting legal rights to same-sex couples.
Italy's parliament dissolved for April elections
Sat Feb 11, 2006 8:32 PM IST
By Philip Pullella
ROME (Reuters) - Italy's parliament was dissolved on Saturday, opening the way for April general elections which opinion polls say the centre-right coalition of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looks set to lose.
President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi signed a decree ending the current legislature after receiving parliament's speakers, raising the curtain on five stormy months for Italian politics.
After the election there will be nationwide mayoral ballots and a referendum on plans to reform the constitution. The new parliament will also have to choose a successor to Ciampi, whose mandate expires in May.
In the past few months political leaders have made sometimes vitriolic attacks on each other, and Ciampi appealed to politicians to try to keep the campaign fair and respectful and to keep the problems of the nation in sight.
The centre-left has accused Berlusconi of monopolising the airwaves unfairly as he appeared on almost every television and radio chat show since the New Year to talk up his achievements.
Latest opinion polls put the centre-left opposition, led by former European Commission President Romano Prodi, some five percentage points ahead of Berlusconi's coalition.
Hours after parliament was dissolved, Prodi presented the centre-left programme to a packed theatre in Rome and said Italy needed "radical reforms" to make its economy more competitive.
The economy grew at an average rate of just 0.8 percent per year under Berlusconi, near the bottom of the 12 nations in the euro zone and less than half the rate in the previous five years under the centre left.
Industrial output has also fallen in each of the last five years, and Italy's once export-led economy posted trade deficits in 2004 and 2005 for the first time since 1992.
Berlusconi shot back, saying Prodi, who is a former prime minister, was "inadequate" to lead Italy.
Prodi's alliance, ranging from hardline Communist parties to centrist Roman Catholic groups, has struggled to agree a platform, revealing divisions over everything from the Iraq war to same-sex unions and transport.
Berlusconi has managed to trim the opposition lead in opinion polls in recent weeks.
Berlusconi swept to power in 2001, securing the largest parliamentary majority in post-war Italy, but infighting among his centre-right partners has dulled the government's image.
Despite the feuding, Berlusconi managed to stay prime minister throughout the legislature, only the third person in post-war Italy to accomplish this feat.
He has blamed the country's problems on international events beyond his control, like the Sept. 11 attacks, but critics say he let Italy decline while his own businesses prospered.
(Additional reporting by Crispian Balmer)
The Financial Times
Italy’s centre-left question Prodi’s leadership skills
>By Tony Barber in Rome
>Published: February 9 2006 16:43 | Last updated: February 9 2006 16:43
The unity of Italy’s often bickering centre-left opposition parties will be tested from Friday when they launch their campaign to dethrone Silvio Berlusconi, prime minister, in the April 9 general election.
In a 274-page document considered too stodgy even by some centre-left strategists, the opposition, led by Romano Prodi, the former European Commission president, recently set out a draft programme for government.
It included promises to inject more competition into Italy’s rigid economy, simplify bureaucracy and gradually reduce the budget deficit – ideas to which Mr Prodi this week added an eye-catching pledge to cut Italian unit labour costs by no less than 5 percentage points, or about €10bn ($11.9bn).
But the programme, which centre-left leaders aim to approve this weekend, cannot conceal persistent divisions over issues ranging from same-sex civil unions and education to the environment and Italy’s military presence in Iraq.
These disputes, and Mr Prodi’s inability to settle them, are causing some centre-left activists to question whether he would last more than a year or two as prime minister if the opposition were to win the election.
“It is the great unspoken secret,” says one strategist. “We haven’t even won yet, but already some people are thinking about a post-Prodi government of the centre-left.”
Such speculation may not be so foolhardy. As a technocrat who belongs to no political party, Mr Prodi is in the same precarious position he occupied as premier from April 1996 to October 1998.
His government was eventually toppled in a parliamentary revolt orchestrated by Fausto Bertinotti, leader of Italy’s hardline Communist Refoundation party, and exploited by Massimo D’Alema, a centre-left rival who took the premiership.
To minimise the risk of similar future treachery, Mr Prodi staged US-style primary elections last October to pick the centre-left’s candidate for the premiership. He trounced all other contenders, winning 75 per cent of more than 4m votes cast.
At present, he seems well-placed in the battle against Mr Berlusconi: an opinion poll published by the Ekma research institute on Tuesday gave the centre-left a 52.5 to 46.5 per cent lead over the centre-right government.
But the same poll suggested that Mr Berlusconi’s Forza Italia party – humiliated by crushing defeats in regional elections last April – was regaining strength, accounting for half the centre-right’s overall support.
The narrower the margin between centre-right and centre-left, the greater the risk of a hung parliament in which neither camp controls both legislative chambers and neither can implement serious economic reforms.
One frustration for Mr Prodi is that his efforts to woo undecided voters – the 10 per cent or so of the electorate who, some pollsters say, will determine the election’s outcome – are frequently disrupted by his nominal allies on the far left.
This week the trouble has involved environmentalists and other demonstrators protesting against plans to build a high-speed Alpine rail link between Turin in northern Italy and the French city of Lyon.
“Certain demonstrations must be stopped,” said Mr Prodi, conscious that the protests might damage Italy’s image during the 2006 Turin Winter Olympic games, which start today.
Francesco Rutelli, leader of the moderate centre-left Margherita party, went further, denouncing “extremist infantile behaviour of the left which must be isolated”.
Another dispute unsettling the centre-left involves same-sex unions, where the opposition’s Catholic wing – including Mr Prodi – takes a cautious stance, at odds with the radical secularism of other activists who want full legal recognition for gay couples. On economic policy, many of Mr Bertinotti’s communist chieftains explicitly reject the Prodi rhetoric of market liberalisation.
Mr Berlusconi’s strategists are quick to seize on such differences, saying a Prodi government would be at best incoherent in its strategy and at worst a puppet of more extremist forces.
“The inadequacy of the centre-left’s leadership is being dramatically exposed,” says Fabrizio Cicchitto, Forza Italia’s deputy national co-ordinator.
福島県、先進企業に優遇金利 男女共同参画後押し (河北新報 2006/02/10)
シカゴの連邦裁判所で提訴されたこの訴訟は、かつては新聞が主な媒体であった項目別広告において、クレイグズリストの重要性が高まっていることを示している。現在、同サイトは２０カ国以上の１５０都市での広告を掲載している。連邦法は、宗教や人種、性別、既婚か独身かなど様々な理由にもとづいて借り手を差別することを禁じている。クレイグズリストのジム・ブックマスター最高経営責任者は、同社は差別的な広告を最小に抑える努力をしており、ユーザーの掲載した広告内容については法律的に責任を負わないと述べた。同リストは３週間前に、すべての住宅広告に黄色でハイライトしたリンクを付け加え、住宅関係の連邦法（Ｆｅｄｅｒａｌ ｆａｉｒ ｈｏｕｓｉｎｇ ｌａｗｓ）などの情報につながるようにした。
Posted on Thu, Feb. 09, 2006
Housing ads challenged
CRAIGSLIST ACCUSED IN SUIT OF POSTING DISCRIMINATORY ITEMS
By Sue McAllister
San Jose Mercury News
Craigslist, the Bay Area-based online community with global reach, was sued this week by a Chicago fair housing group that accused the company of allowing discriminatory housing ads on its site.
The Chicago Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law alleges that since July, more than 200 Chicago-area housing ads posted to craigslist have violated fair housing laws by discriminating against prospective tenants on the basis of race, religion, family size or other characteristics.
Ads mentioned in the suit contained language such as ``Christian single straight female needed,'' ``Muslim preferred,'' and ``Sorry, no kids, no pets.''
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Chicago, is a sign of craigslist's growing importance in classified advertising, a market newspapers once dominated. The site now offers listings in more than 20 countries and 150 cities.
Federal fair housing laws prohibit advertisers and landlords from discriminating against prospective tenants based on a variety of factors, including religion, race, gender and marital status.
Craigslist Chief Executive Jim Buckmaster defended his company's efforts to minimize the number of discriminatory ads, and said the company is not legally responsible for the content of user postings.
``Discriminatory ads on craigslist are actually exceedingly rare,'' he wrote in response to e-mailed questions Wednesday. He cited users' vigilance in flagging such ads for removal from the site, as well as the company's recently enhanced efforts to link fair housing information to housing-related postings.
In addition, he wrote, ``the law is pretty clear to the effect that sites like craigslist cannot be held legally liable for the content of postings submitted by end users.''
He said the company goes ``far beyond what is required by law in posting very prominent educational notices about fair housing throughout our housing section.''
Helped by Palo Alto-based Project Sentinel Fair Housing and others, craigslist three weeks ago added a yellow-highlighted link to every housing ad it posts. The links lead to information on the federal fair housing law, guidance on how to write ads that comply with the law and to a site with details about each state's fair housing laws.
``It's obvious that craigslist has exploded and become like a household name, and everyone goes to it for jobs or housing or other community needs,'' said Gabe Zwettler of Project Sentinel. He said the group is working with craigslist to make fair housing rules ``more in-your-face,'' and typically pursues landlords who appear to violate the law, not Web sites. ``We're just trying to help them set up as many obstacles as possible for people trying to post discriminatory ads.''
Craigslist began 11 years ago as an e-mail list for San Francisco-area residents to post ads, share information and meet others. In the past few years, however, it has extended its mix of ads and community-building to cities from Albuquerque, N.M., to Auckland, New Zealand. As the company grows, it is more likely to face the kind of scrutiny typified by the Chicago group's lawsuit, said Rob Enderle, a technology industry analyst with the Enderle Group in San Jose.
``Craigslist is not used to having to edit'' the content on its site, Enderle said, but depending on how the Chicago lawsuit goes, it may have to become more aggressive about policing content, the way printed publications have done since fair housing laws were passed more than three decades ago.
Elyssa Winslow of the Chicago Lawyers' Committee said her group felt it necessary to monitor craigslist and other Web sites with housing ads because ``there's not nearly the level of discriminatory ads, nowhere close, in print ads as there are in online ads.''
She said ads like the ones mentioned in the lawsuit ``mislead readers into thinking these types of ads are normal and acceptable and you can base housing decisions'' on things like tenants' religion or national origin.
Contact Sue McAllister at smcallister@ mercurynews.com or (408) 920-5833.
craigslist Disputes "Fair" Housing Lawsuit
A group of lawyers has alleged that a handful of housing ads posted by our users are disciminatory, demanding that craigslist use outdated and mistake-prone methods that if adopted would actually reduce fair housing opportunity, while eroding free speech rights. In reality, the craigslist community already excels at ensuring equal opportunity housing, earning praise from fair housing groups. This lawsuit will likely be dismissed, and the craigslist community will be recognized as the gold standard for promoting fair housing for all, while fully respecting each person's constitutional right to free speech and free association.
Background: (about craigslist)
The Chicago Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is suing craigslist for 100 allegedly discriminatory ads posted by our Chicago users in a 6 month period, out of 200,000 housing ads submitted to chicago.craigslist.org in that timeframe. Most were roommate ads involving constitutionally protected speech and the right to free association, such as "prefer christian roommate", or were ads containing incidental and harmless remarks such as "near St Gertrude's church." Some of the challenged ads simply celebrated the diversity and tolerance of the craigslist community ("vibrant southwest Hispanic neighborhood offering great classical Mexican culture, restaurants, and businesses"). Others sought to appeal to some groups without excluding anyone ("Great apartment for graduate students"). And for a few it is difficult to determine what protected classification is at issue ("wants one nice quiet person").
Although in all likelihood this suit will be dismissed on the grounds that internet sites can not legally be held liable for content posted by users, craigslist has no need to hide behind this well-established immunity. We are extremely proud of the extraordinary results the craigslist community has achieved in ensuring equal housing opportunity on an unprecedentedly massive scale, while fully respecting constitutionally protected free speech rights. Discriminatory postings are exceedingly uncommon, and those few that do reach the site are typically removed quickly by our users through the flagging system that accompanies each ad.
We have worked closely with several fair housing groups over the years on educating craigslist users about fair housing issues, and every page in our housing section has highlighted fair housing messages, linked to extensive educational materials and resources for learning more, and craigslist has been praised by fair housing advocates for our efforts in this regard.
Though well-intentioned, this lawsuit misguidedly demands that we regress to primitive, mistake-prone, and wholly inadequate methods (such as manual review by our staff of the 2 million free housing ads of unlimited length posted each month, a volume of ads greater than that received by all US newspapers combined), methods which would actually be less effective in catching discriminatory ads than what we have in place currently, and which would vastly reduce the number of legitimate non-discriminatory ads that the site could process.
Ironically, if this lawsuit were to succeed the net effect would be to deal a double blow to civil rights - by significantly reducing access to equal opportunity housing, and by undercutting our fundamental free speech rights - thereby doing a great disservice to the very persons these lawyers purport to represent.
Putting aside the fact that craigslist legally can not be held liable in this suit, we feel very strongly that the craigslist community of users is on the very highest moral high ground with respect to fair housing, setting an example more worthy of emulation than litigation.