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By United Press International   |   June 14, 2004 at 6:30 AM   |   Comments

Brazil: Gay pride marches break record

SAO PAULO, June 13 (UPI) -- More than 1 million people marched in Sao Paulo's gay pride parade Sunday, breaking the world record for such an event.

According to police estimates 1.1 million people flowed through the city's main thoroughfare -- Paulista Avenue -- waving rainbow flags and signs celebrating the 8th edition of the parade.

The parade's numbers surpassed in size all other gay pride marches, including the mass marches in New York and Toronto, among the world's biggest.

Sao Paulo's parade was attended by the city's Mayor Marta Suplicy and leader of the ruling Workers' Party Jose Genoino.


Saudis search for missing American

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, June 13 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabian officials confirmed Sunday an American missing since Saturday in Riyadh has apparently been kidnapped by Islamic militants.

Riyadh police officials said the man -- identified as Paul Marshal Johnson -- was kidnapped by a militant group calling itself the "Fallujah Squadron -- the Voice of Jihad of al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula."

An Islamic Web site carried a statement claiming the abduction was designed to "avenge the abuse of prisoners" in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by U.S. forces.

The statement said, "We have our legal right to treat (hostages) the same way they treat our people," and threatened to "publish more details about the kidnapped man and explain the mujahedeen's demands."

NBC reported both the Web site and Johnson's friends in Riyadh identified the kidnapped American as an aeronautical engineer working for the Lockheed Martin Corp and that he was a long-time Saudi resident.

The Web sites posted copies of Johnson's driver's license, Saudi and American identification papers and other documents to prove he had been taken hostage.

Johnson's son Paul Johnson III, broadcast a message to the militants, "Get my dad home safely." He said his father "doesn't deserve" to be kidnapped.


Special checks on Muslims at border to end

WASHINGTON, June 13 (UPI) -- The Bush administration has pledged to stop special security checks imposed on adult males entering the United States from mainly Muslim countries.

Those targeted are mostly from countries considered a risk for terrorism.

"Our long term goal", senior homeland security official Asa Hutchinson told Arab civil rights leaders Friday, "is to treat (all visitors) the same way, and not based on where you come from."

Hutchinson also distinguished the approach of the Department of Homeland Security from that of other parts of the administration, notably Attorney General John Ashcroft's Justice Department, United Press International reported.

Under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System or NSEERS, introduced in November 2002, male visa-holders coming to the United States from any one of 25 listed nations have had to undergo special screening, including being fingerprinted, photographed and interviewed at ports of entry.

The countries include Yemen, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Libya and Iran. Apart from North Korea, they are all majority-Muslim nations.


Texas GOP says U.S. is Christian nation

AUSTIN, Texas, June 13 (UPI) -- The Texas Republican Party has voted to reaffirm a plank that celebrates the United States as "a Christian nation."

"The Republican Party of Texas affirms that the United States of America is a Christian nation, and the public acknowledgment of God is undeniable in our history," said the platform, approved during a meeting earlier this month in Austin.

The statement said: "Our nation was founded on fundamental Judeo-Christian principles based on the Holy Bible. The party affirms freedom of religion, and rejects efforts of courts and secular activists who seek to remove and deny such a rich heritage from our public lives."

The Washington Times reported Sunday the Republican National Committee has refused to criticize the Texas party faithful.

The national party "doesn't control the state parties' platforms," said RNC Communications Director Jim Dyke. "Each state party determines what their state platform will say."

But others have been strongly critical of the move.

"This is part and parcel of who the GOP and their conservative base are," said David Harris, spokesman for the National Jewish Democratic Committee. "While this is nothing new, it certainly raises to new excesses the lengths this Republican Party is going to in order to tear down the wall separating church and state."

© 2004 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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