Monday, September 18, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 18, 2006


In Politics, Aim for the Heart, Not the Head

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, September 18, 2006; A02

In 1935, researchers from Columbia University fanned out around the city ofAllentown, Pa., and handed out leaflets ahead of local and state elections.What residents did not know was that they were part of an experiment inpolitical persuasion -- an experiment whose results came to mind last weekas Adrian M. Fenty stormed to victory in the District's Democratic primary.

Researchers first divided Allentown into sections. Five thousand campaignleaflets in some wards asked residents to answer a series of questions aboutpolicy matters. For example, it asked them whether they thought all childrenshould have access to higher education irrespective of income, whether banksshould be run on a nonprofit basis like schools and whether workers ought tohave more say in running their workplaces.


Migrating To Modernity

By Sebastian Mallaby
Monday, September 18, 2006; A17

After the terrorist attacks of 2001, voters understood that poor failedstates could hurt them. President Bush launched a smart new foreign aidprogram and multiplied the U.S. commitment to fighting HIV-AIDS, and richcountries around the world boosted development spending. But our approachtoward poor countries remains confined, idiotically, to the debt-aid-tradebox. People don't see that other policies in rich countries have a majorimpact on poor ones.

Consider immigration. Just about all rich countries are arguing about borderenforcement, employer sanctions and so on, but nobody relates this stuff tothe parallel arguments about development. Contemplating the noisyimmigration politics in the United States, Gawain Kripke of Oxfam confesses,"we've been mostly bystanders in the debate, and I really regret that."


An Endless Vacuum in the Middle East

Why There's No Jump-Starting the Peace Process

By Jackson Diehl
Monday, September 18, 2006; A17

President Bush once asked former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon why hehad proposed his bold plan to evacuate Israeli settlers and soldiersunilaterally from the Gaza Strip. "To fill the vacuum," Sharon franklyreplied. Before Sharon uncorked the idea in the fall of 2003, theIsraeli-Palestinian "peace process" was stalemated, and there was mounting
international pressure for progress.

Proposals from outsiders and would-be brokers were proliferating; Sharonfeared one of them would eventually gain traction and be imposed on him. So,with the flair that won him many a battlefield victory, he outflanked theincipient discussion.


Call Cruelty What It Is

By Tom Malinowski
Monday, September 18, 2006; A17

President Bush is urging Congress to let the CIA keep using "alternative" interrogation procedures -- which include, according to published accounts,forcing prisoners to stand for 40 hours, depriving them of sleep and use ofthe "cold cell," in which the prisoner is left naked in a cell kept near 50degrees and doused with cold water.

Bush insists that these techniques are not torture -- after all, they don'tinvolve pulling out fingernails or applying electric shocks. He even saysthat he "would hope" the standards he's proposing are adopted by othercountries. But before he again invites America's enemies to use such"alternative" methods on captured Americans, he might benefit from knowing abit of their historical origins and from hearing accounts of those who haveexperienced them. With that in mind, here are some suggestions for thepresident's reading list.


San Francisco Chronicle, CA, September 17, 2006

Dems pin hopes on candidate who's no liberal
Zachary Coile, Chronicle
Washington Bureau

** Chattanooga, Tenn. -- To win back the Senate in November, Democrats needa victory here by a candidate who voted for the war in Iraq, opposessame-sex marriage, backed a ban on a form of late-term abortion, wants tocut the estate tax and would allow prayer in schools.

Rep. Harold Ford Jr., a 36-year-old Memphis Democrat and charismatic blackpolitician who has been compared to a young Bill Clinton, is a far cry fromNancy Pelosi -- in fact, he challenged her for minority leader in 2002,claiming the San Francisco congresswoman was too liberal.

But Democrats nationwide now see Ford as a candidate who offers a primeopportunity for the party to win one of six seats they need to regaincontrol of the Senate. Recent polls show Ford running even with RepublicanBob Corker in the race to succeed Senate GOP Leader Bill Frist.


GOP talk of vibrant economy rings hollow
By Liz Sidoti, Associated Press Writer
September 18, 2006

FALMOUTH, Ky. --Used boots fetch $3 and old salt-and-pepper shakers bring in a buck at a makeshift flea market along Highway 27, presumably not whatPresident Bush and Republicans have in mind when they herald a vibranteconomy.

Times are "very good for the rich and very, very bad for the poor" who"can't afford to live," laments Larry Mitchell, 43, a now-and-then merchantpeddling his wares recently in a submarine sandwich shop parking lot. Hesays the middle class is "having a hard time."

In the Ohio River Valley, where people decry high gas prices, stagnantwages, lost jobs and factory closures, many don't buy the claim that theeconomy is humming along.

Seven weeks before the midterm elections, the gulf between Bush'sperceptions and that of voters form the political backdrop across thecountry as well as in a region with several competitive House races. Thisarea typically gets left out of national boom times and usually feels thepinch more than others during slowdowns.


Calif. Drivers Banned From Holding Cell Phones
POSTED: 7:57 am EDT September 18, 2006

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Drivers in California will need an ear piece or speakerto use their mobile phones while on the road under a bill signed Friday byGov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Motorists could face fines of up to $50 if they violate the law, which makesit an infraction to hold a cell phone while driving. It takes effect July 1,2008, and is similar to laws in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut andWashington, D.C.

Cell phone use is the top cause of accidents triggered by distracteddrivers, according to California Highway Patrol statistics dating to 2001.

"The simple fact is, it's dangerous to talk on your cell phone whiledriving," Schwarzenegger said. "So getting people's hands off their phonesand onto their steering wheels is going to make a big difference in roadsafety."


Article published Sep 18, 2006
Sep 17, 2006

Florida-style voting woes may hit U.S.

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - An overhaul in how states and localities record votes andadminister elections since the Florida recount battle six years ago hascreated conditions that could trigger a repeat - this time on a nationalscale - of last week's Election Day debacle in the Maryland suburbs,election experts said.

In the Nov. 7 election, more than 80 percent of voters will use electronicvoting machines, and a third of all precincts this year are using thetechnology for the first time. The changes are part of a national wave,prompted by the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 and numerous revisionsof state laws, that led to the replacement of outdated voting machines withcomputer-based electronic machines, along with centralized databases ofregistered voters and other steps to refine the administration of elections.

But in Maryland on Tuesday, a combination of human blunders andtechnological glitches caused long lines and delays in vote-counting. Theproblems, which followed ones earlier this year in Ohio, Illinois andseveral other states, have contributed to doubts among some experts aboutwhether the new systems are reliable, and whether election officials areadequately prepared to use them.


Iowa Democrats see contender in Obama

By Tim Jones
Tribune national correspondent

September 18, 2006

INDIANOLA, Iowa -- Most people would not choose to spend a Sunday afternoonat a damp county fairgrounds to hear the words of a politician who was notlikely to say what a lot of them wanted to hear.

Yet thousands of the most hardened political junkies Iowa has to offerturned out to hear Sen. Barack Obama, who is being urged by some Democratsto say yes to a presidential bid, altogether ignore those pleadings.

And they loved it.

"The sooner he runs, the better," is how Sheila Pottebaum, a Des Moinespsychologist, described her feelings about calls for the first-term IllinoisDemocrat to jump into the presidential race. "He has the personality and themoral convictions."

Obama, who was the featured speaker at Sen. Tom Harkin's annual steak fry,has repeatedly said he is not a presidential candidate for 2008 and that hehas no interest in running. Yet his invitation to speak at Harkin's showcaseevent has only elevated Obama's profile. Previous speakers have included anumber of Democrats who have run for president, including Bill Clinton(three times as speaker), current Democratic National Chairman Howard Deanand former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina.


An evening with Ann. and Lynn
Sunday, September 17, 2006, 04:45 PM
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Ann Coulter dinner speech to the Georgia Christian Coalition Saturday night
was one of the years hot tickets for conservatives even before an
after-dinner appeal to open up checkbooks to pay for this years voter guide,
the coalition had raised over $150,000 from the event, according to state
chairman Sadie Fields.

No doubt the sharp-tongued conservative author was the star of the show, asevidenced by the long line that formed for a book-signing afterwards. But ona night with no hecklers to egg her on, she wasnâ?Tt the newsiest item onthe program.

First, Coulter found herself in the uncharacteristic position of beingupstaged by her introducer, Mike Gallagher.

He told the audience he was fresh back from an hour-and-45-minute sessionwhich President Bush held in the Oval Office Friday afternoon with him andfour other conservative talk show hosts: Atlantaâ?Ts Neal Boortz, LauraIngraham, Sean Hannity and Michael Medved. Rush Limbaugh couldnâ?Tt make it,he said.

Though he said this session was supposed to be off the record, Gallagherdescribed it at some length, including Bush's observation to the right-wingradio jocks that the War on Terror has to be about right versus wrong,because if it's about Christianity versus Islam, we'll lose.


September 18, 2006

Teaching Math, Singapore Style

The countries that outperform the United States in math and scienceeducation have some things in common. They set national priorities for whatpublic school children should learn and when. They also spend a lot ofenergy ensuring that every school has a high-quality curriculum that isharnessed to clearly articulated national goals. This country, by contrast,has a wildly uneven system of standards and tests that varies from place toplace. We are also notoriously susceptible to educational fads.

One of the most infamous fads took root in the late 1980's, when many
schools moved away from traditional mathematics instruction, which requireddrills and problem solving. The new system, sometimes derided as "fuzzymath,'' allowed children to wander through problems in a random way withoutever learning basic multiplication or division. As a result, mastery ofhigh-level math and science was unlikely. The new math curriculum was a milewide and an inch deep, as the saying goes, touching on dozens of topics eachyear.

Many people trace this unfortunate development to a 1989 report by aninfluential group, the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics. Schooldistricts read its recommendations as a call to reject rote learning. Lastweek the council reversed itself, laying out new recommendations that willfocus on a few basic skills at each grade level.


September 18, 2006
A Show That Trumpeted History but Led to Confusion


It's little wonder that ABC's mini-series "The Path to 9/11" drew stingingcriticism earlier this month for its invented scenes, fabricated dialogueand unsubstantiated accounts of how the Clinton and Bush administrationsconducted themselves in the years encompassing the World Trade Centerattacks of 1993 and 2001.

A more puzzling question is why ABC spent $30 million on what, since itlacked commercials, amounted to a five-hour public service announcement.

While the two-night docudrama was shown without a sponsor, ABC did notalways intend it to be so. As recently as July, ABC was discussing thepossibility of running the program with limited commercials from one or twomajor sponsors.

The network also saw a potential market in schools. It hired ScholasticInc., the educational publisher, to create a study guide for high schoolteachers to go along with the mini-series, a move that implied the networksaw a future in DVD sales of the mini-series to schools.



South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

September 18, 2006

ISSUE: Professor claims hacking success.

There are reasons to distrust electronic voting machines, especially thosemade by Diebold Election Systems.

For one thing, there's the statement by Diebold's chief executive officer in2003 that he was "committed to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes tothe president next year," although there's no evidence he meant tamperingwith machines.

For another, the machines have no backup paper trail, drawing criticism frommany quarters, including U.S. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Boca Raton.

Even so, a new attempt to cast doubt on the machines' trustworthiness isfalling far short in its own drive for credibility.

Edward Felten, a Princeton University computer science professor, and two ofhis graduate students say they tested a Diebold machine and found they couldhack into it with software that could alter vote counts. They say they alsodeveloped a virus that could spread the damage from machine to machine.

Aha! A smoking gun!

But wait. It's only a smokescreen. It seems Felten, according to officialsat Diebold, never called the company for comment. If he had, Diebold says,he'd have learned that newer Diebold software and security systems preventhackers from altering results.



Workers' standard of living declines, surveys show

U.S. workers are increasingly disgruntled about their jobs, rising healthcare costs and their decreasing standard of living, according toseveral surveys.
Washington Post Service

Overworked, underpaid, facing higher bills

No, tell us how you really feel.

Workers are saying their biggest work problems are mostly economic. Theirpay is not keeping up with increasing healthcare costs or other increases inliving expenses. They are disgruntled enough to look for work on the job.Retirement ''security'' isn't secure.

These issues and more -- so many more -- are major concerns, according toseveral surveys.

''Three years ago, workers told us they felt overworked, but they werepatient. They realized the economy was getting better, and they would sharein the wealth ultimately,'' said Stuart Itkin, vice president of marketingfor Kronos, a workforce managementcompany that did a study about workers' feelings. ``Last year, the workimproved, but they are mad as hell. Their paychecks are no better.''


September 18, 2006

Paying the Freight for Polluting the Air: Europe Takes the Lead

WHEN HSBC, Europe's biggest bank, flies its executives around the world, itpays for the carbon dioxide emissions of every flight in the form ofoffsets, or investments in nonpolluting energy projects. The busyLondon-Hong Kong route, for example, produces 2.76 metric tons of carbondioxide per passenger, which the company offsets for roughly $4.45 a ton,adding around $25 to the ticket price. (The amount varies with the price perton of emissions.) Of the bank's total carbon emissions this year, 10percent will come from business travel, resulting in a fee of $310,000 inoffsets. HSBC will pay $3 million more in offsets to achieve carbonneutrality, the first major bank to do so.

Offsetting has its critics, who say that emissions must be reduced ratherthan offset, and that some companies have adopted the practice to make ashow of their green credentials. Nevertheless, offsetting is becoming increasingly popular.


The New York Times

September 18, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

King of Pain

A lot has been written and said about President Bush's demand that Congress "clarify" the part of the Geneva Conventions that, in effect, outlaws the use of torture under any circumstances.

We know that the world would see this action as a U.S. repudiation of the rules that bind civilized nations. We also know that an extraordinary lineup of former military and intelligence leaders, including Colin Powell, have spoken out against the Bush plan, warning that it would further damage America's faltering moral standing, and end up endangering U.S. troops.

But I haven't seen much discussion of the underlying question: why is Mr. Bush so determined to engage in torture?

Let's be clear what we're talking about here. According to an ABC News report from last fall, procedures used by C.I.A. interrogators have included forcing prisoners to "stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours"; the "cold cell," in which prisoners are forced "to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees," while being doused with cold water; and, of course, water boarding, in which "the prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet," then "cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him," inducing "a terrifying fear of drowning."

And bear in mind that the "few bad apples" excuse doesn't apply; these were officially approved tactics - and Mr. Bush wants at least some of these tactics to remain in use.


September 18, 2006

In a Blow to Merkel's Christian Democrats,
Far-Right Party Wins Seats in an East German State


FRANKFURT, Sept. 17 - A far-right party made further inroads in Germany'seconomically fragile east on Sunday, winning seats in a state election inMecklenburg-West Pomerania, a lonely land of farms and fishing villages that is the home constituency of Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The National Democratic Party, which openly espouses xenophobic and neo-Nazi views, was projected to win slightly more than 7 percent of the vote,according to preliminary results. That was less than analysts here hadfeared, but enough to clear the threshold of 5 percent for seats in thestate legislature.

Extreme-right parties will now be represented in three of Germany's sixeastern states - a trend that worries officials and underlines the dividebetween the country's eastern and western halves. Far-right parties havenegligible support in more-prosperous western Germany.


The New York Times

September 18, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Kafka Strategy

The president seemed about to lose it at times last week. He was fighting with everybody - tenacious reporters frustrated by the absence of straight answers about the treatment of terror suspects; key Republican senators who think it's crazy for a great country like the U.S. to become a champion of kangaroo courts and the degradation of defendants; even his own former secretary of state, Colin Powell, who worries that the world is coming to "doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

It seemed that the only people the president wasn't fighting with were the Democrats, who have gone into a coma, and the yahoos who never had much of a problem with such matters as torture and detention without trial.As Marvin Gaye once sang, "What's going on?"

The people at the top are getting scared, that's what's going on. The fog of secrecy is lifting, and the Bush administration is frightened to death that it will eventually have to pay a heavy price for the human rights abuses it has ordered or condoned in its so-called war on terror.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the Geneva Conventions apply to the prisoners seized by the administration, which means that abusing those prisoners - as so many have said for so long - is unquestionably illegal. And there is also the possibility that the Democrats, if they ever wake up, may take control of at least one house of Congress, giving them the kind of subpoena power and oversight that makes the administration tremble.