Morning Report: January 18, 2005

Rice confirmation hearings begin. Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice faces questioning by the US Senate in preparation for the vote on her confirmation, CNN reports. The incumbent National Security Advisor stressed the importance of diplomacy in today's world. (CNN)

Mosul archbishop abducted, released. The Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, abducted near his church in Mosul, Iraq, on Monday, was released Tuesday without the payment of any ransom, Fox News reports. Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa said he did not believe his kidnapping was meant as an attack on the Christian church. Syrian Catholics make up a small portion of Iraq's 3-percent Christian minority. Dreams Into Lightning readers are also encouraged to visit Star from Mosul and Citizen of Mosul. Because it's not all about kidnappings. (Fox, Star from Mosul, Citizen of Mosul)

Iraqis brace for election violence. Iraqis are steeling themselves for an onslaught of election-season terrorist attacks, but are resolved to go forward with their transition to democracy, says Ali of Free Iraqi. 'I've been hearing less gun shots and explosions lately and I think that's due to two reasons. First the ING and IP have spread all over Baghdad lately with only few hundred meters separating checkpoints in some places. The other possible reason is that the terrorists are probably saving their efforts to the election day and there are many reports that show that they are planning for a wide scale sophisticated and coordinated attacks. ... We've been waiting for the moment when we can decide our future all our lives and now it's happening and I can't tell you how excited that makes me and all freedom loving Iraqis. I feel like after voting I would not care what would happen to me. I would say my word, voice my will loud and clear in public for the first time in my life and that means almost everything to me. The terrorist can kill me and many of the Iraqis who are going to vote, but we would die proud.' (Free Iraqi)

Gay conservatives welcome Bush remarks on marriage. President Bush recently stated that he considers the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) to be sufficient protection for traditional (i.e. heterosexual) marriage, and therefore sees no need for a constitutional amendment such as the proposed Federal Marriage Amendment (FMA). Patrick Guerrero of Log Cabin Republicans says, "Log Cabin is hopeful that the President's comments recognizing the lack of support for the anti-family Federal Marriage Amendment will result in a second term agenda that can concentrate on much needed reform: reform of social security, reform of the tax system, reform of immigration, and reform of our approach to combating HIV/AIDS." Andrew Sullivan says, "Thank you, Mr. President." GayPatriot responds here and here and here. Still awaiting reaction from Right Side of the Rainbow. (various)

We can be heroes. If we support the new legislation to increase survivor benefits to American military families, says Blackfive. The HEROES Act, sponsored by Senators Joe Lieberman (D - Conn.) and Jeff Sessions (R - Ala.), would increase compensation to surviving family members of US servicemembers killed in the line of duty. It's about time. US citizens, please contact your Senators, and then your Congressional Representatives, to vote YES on this bill. (Blackfive)