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News Briefs

San Francisco Allows Gay Marriages

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- SAN FRANCISCO

Two lesbians who have been living together for more than 50 years were married Thursday morning at City Hall, leading the way for a host of other same-sex marriages and sparking a heated debate over the legality of the ceremony.

California family law states that “only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” Nonetheless, the San Francisco county clerk issued the women, Phyllis Lyon, 79, and Del Martin, 83, an official marriage certificate and said the act was legal. They were married by the county assessor.

“The marriages will be recognized in San Francisco but I can’t say how they will be viewed anywhere else,” said the county clerk, Nancy Alfaro.

By noon, three other gay and lesbian couples had been married, and dozens of others, some dressed in wedding gowns and dark suits, were waiting their turn.

Martin and Lyon, longtime lesbian activists, met in 1953.

“It was exciting” to get married, Lyon said, even though the couple had no ring and learned only Wednesday night that the ceremony could move forward.

“It’s of crucial importance for the movement,” Lyon said. “We are fairly well united behind this because it’s being fought against so hard by the other side. If we let them beat us down on this one, it will be a longtime before we make other advances.”

Greenspan Wants Lost Tax Revenues Made Up

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

Alan Greenspan, the Federal Reserve chairman, said on Thursday that Congress should make President Bush’s tax cuts permanent only if it makes up for the lost revenue with cuts in spending or other tax increases.

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee, Greenspan provided modest political support for one of Bush’s top priorities but explicitly disagreed with the president’s proposals on how to pay for it.

Permanently extending the tax cuts that Congress passed in 2001 and 2003 would increase projected deficits by $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Bush’s budget proposal does not address that shortfall in detail, but it does call for Congress to adopt new spending rules that would restrict its ability to increase spending on discretionary domestic programs.

Greenspan, who expressed increased alarm this week about the prospect of large budget deficits for years to come, called for reinstating congressional restraints that were in force during much of the 1990s and required lawmakers to offset new tax cuts and spending proposals.

U.S. May Support Israeli Proposal For Withdrawal

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Bush administration, signaling a major shift of policy on the Middle East, has indicated that it may support Israel’s new proposal for a unilateral withdrawal from parts of Gaza and the West Bank, according to administration and Israeli officials.

A senior U.S. official said that the administration is “taking a close look” at the policy, and that the president would send three senior aides to Israel next week to get questions answered before the proposal is endorsed. But administration and Israeli officials say they expect a favorable U.S. response.

In the past, the administration has maintained that peace can be achieved in the Middle East only by reciprocal concessions agreed upon in negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Embracing Sharon’s plan would depart from that principle by accepting the idea that such negotiations are not possible, at least for now.

Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage said Thursday that a pullout from Gaza would be “a step in the right direction.” Another official said the withdrawal plan, if implemented properly, “could reduce friction between Israelis and Palestinians and improve Palestinian freedom of movement.”

The Israeli policy, outlined in recent weeks by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, proposed withdrawing Israeli troops and dismanting settlements in parts of Gaza and smaller portions of the West Bank. U.S. officials have expressed concern that it would in effect abandon the idea of negotiating with the Palestinians to achieve final statehood.

Iran Acknowledges It Received Pakistani Centrifuge Plans

THE NEW YORK TIMES -- WASHINGTON

The Iranian government, confronted with new evidence obtained from the secret network of nuclear suppliers surrounding Abdul Qadeer Khan, has acknowledged that it possesses a design for a far more advanced high-speed centrifuge to enrich uranium than it previously revealed to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The centrifuge, called a “Pak-2” because it marked Pakistan’s second-generation design, would allow Iran to produce nuclear fuel far more quickly than the equipment that it reluctantly revealed to the IAEA last year. But it is unclear whether Iran succeeded in building the new equipment, which is the type that the Khan network sold to Libya in recent years.

Some details of Iran’s shift were reported in Thursday’s editions of the Financial Times. Iran’s new statements to the IAEA, which last year compelled the country to open to fuller inspections, are important for two reasons. They mark the first evidence that Iran did not tell the full truth when it turned over to the IAEA documents that it said described all the important elements of its program to enrich uranium.