Thursday, September 21, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 21, 2006


Power from Not-So-Hot Geothermal

This power system could make it feasible to generate cheap electricity from lukewarm geothermal sources.

By Prachi Patel-Predd

A large share of the geothermal resources suitable for powergeneration--those with temperatures higher than 300°F--are deep underground,beyond the reach of current technology. Lower-temperature resources, whichare common across the United States, are generally used for heating, butcould be a bountiful source of power as well, if researchers were able tofind an economical way to convert them into electricity.

Engineers at the United Technologies Research Center (UTRC), a unit ofUnited Technologies based in East Hartford, CT, say they have developed alow-cost system that can utilize low-temperature geothermal resources. Thetechnology could be particularly useful in generating electricity from wastehot water generated at oil and gas wells.


Time for dialogue to resolve nuclear crisis

For sheer brass, it's hard to top the performance of Iranian PresidentMahmoud Ahmadinejad before the U.N. General Assembly on Tuesday. Iran, lestwe forget, is in violation of a U.N. deadline to halt its uranium-enrichmentprogram -- a defiance that the United Nations apparently is powerless too over come. Yet Mr. Ahmadinejad had the nerve to criticize the SecurityCouncil for somehow failing to rein in the United States and those hederisively chose to call ``the big powers.''

Strive for unity

If Mr. Ahmadinejad had a decent respect for the United Nations and worldopinion, he might have explained exactly why Iran has failed to heedSecurity Council Resolution 1696, adopted by a vote of 14-1 on July 31.Better yet, he would simply comply. The resolution expresses ''seriousconcern'' over Iran's refusal to comply with International Atomic EnergyAgency orders to halt uranium enrichment that could lead to a nuclear bomb.


Democrats sit out detainee debate
By Anne Plummer Flaherty, Associated Press Writer
September 21, 2006

WASHINGTON --Congressional Democrats are sitting out an explosive debate onhow to treat the nation's most dangerous terrorism suspects, bypassing achance to challenge President Bush on a proposal that has infuriatedinternational law experts and human rights groups.

The reasons are fraught with politics: They don't have to join in, and theycould regret it if they did.

With November elections for control of Congress just weeks away, Democratsare letting a handful of Republican senators battle the Bush administrationover the legal fine points of the White House detainee plan in hopes the GOPwill bloody itself on the top-tier issue of security.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday that Democratswere "on the sidelines watching the catfights" among Republicans onterrorism legislation. He said they had little choice until the GOP settledon its position.


Poor Report Card For U.S. Healthcare

Sep 20, 2006

(WebMD) In high school, 66 percent earns a "D" - not quite bad enough tofail, but still dismally below average.

And 66 is exactly the score the U.S. health system received in the mostcomprehensive grading to date of areas such as access to care, quality,cost, and efficiency.

The score comes from the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan health policythink tank in Washington.

The group evaluated more than three dozen different measures to come up witha composite score for American health care in relation to top-performingnations - or, in some cases, individual states.

The categories included areas such as long, healthy, and productive lives(the U.S. scored a 69 on this), quality (71), access (67), efficiency (51),and equity (71).

"Some might ask if it is a 'C,' [is it] an 'F'?" says James Mongan, MD,chairman of the commission that issued the report. "To me the message isclear. We can do much better and we need to do much better."


September 21, 2006
It's the Bushes and Clintons, Finding Common Ground

It's not often that you see a current American president and his predecessorin New York City, on the same morning, trying to foster peace in the Muslimworld, and trying to burnish their own legacies as statesmen.

Nor is it common to have the wife of one of them on hand to help out theother guy.

But there was President Bush meeting with the Palestinian president, MahmoudAbbas, at the Waldorf-Astoria. And there was former President Bill Clintonconvening a conference on global concerns at a nearby Sheraton, andlistening to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan chastise Pope BenedictXVI for the pope's remarks about Islam. And there was the first lady, LauraBush, giving the Clinton conclave some juice by announcing a new project todeliver clean water to 10 million Africans by 2010.

Mr. Musharraf, echoing an old slogan of Mr. Clinton's, could have beenreflecting the ethos of the Midtown diplomacy - not to mention the Bushesand the Clintons - when he told the conference that in dealing with allreligious faiths, "This is a time to build bridges and not burn bridges."


September 21, 2006

In Massachusetts, a Race That's Anything but Typical

BOSTON, Sept. 20 - The major candidates for governor here have signatureattributes of generations of Massachusetts politicians. They have Irishsurnames and Harvard degrees, and both rose to financial prosperity fromhumbler origins.

But this election bears little resemblance to a classic Massachusetts race.

If elected, the Democratic candidate, Deval L. Patrick, who headed theJustice Department civil rights division under President Bill Clinton, wouldbecome the state's first African-American governor, and the second blackgovernor in the country.

The Republican, Lt. Gov. Kerry Healey, would be the first woman elected tothe state's highest position.


Clinton global conference begins in NYC
By Deepti Hajela, Associated Press Writer
September 20, 2006

NEW YORK --World political leaders discussed the need for Palestinian peace,religious sensitivity and clean water in Africa on the opening day of theClinton Global Initiative conference Wednesday.

Former President Clinton's second summit brings together government,business and nonprofit sectors to come up with tangible solutions to globalproblems.

It was expected to draw diverse voices such as Afghanistan President HamidKarzai, Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, cyclist Lance Armstrong, CBS Newsanchor Katie Couric, actor Don Cheadle and U.N. Secretary-General KofiAnnan.

Some of the world's religious and ethnic conflicts were addressed from thestart with Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf stressing the importance ofPalestinian peace.


Abramoff Associates, Bush Aides Met Often

Associated Press
Thursday, September 21, 2006; A11

Former associates of disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff had dozens ofappointments with Bush administration staff members, according to SecretService visitor logs the White House released yesterday to settle a lawsuitby the Democratic Party and an ethics watchdog group.

Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed, political allies ofPresident Bush and longtime Abramoff associates, totaled more than 100visits to the Bush White House. Abramoff, a former GOP lobbyist, has pleadedguilty to fraud and is cooperating with prosecutors in an influence-peddlinginvestigation. White House officials said they believe all their meetingsthat included Bush were group events, such as Christmas parties or policybriefings for GOP supporters.

Among others who visited White House staff members are two former Abramofflobbying associates who have also pleaded guilty in the ongoing lobbyingprobe. Neil Volz, an aide to Rep. Robert W. Ney (R-Ohio) before joiningAbramoff's lobbying team, had 18 appointments with White House aides. TonyRudy, an aide to then-Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), visited the Bush White House 13 times.


Chavez taunts 'dictator' Bush

By Gary Marx
Tribune Foreign Correspondent

September 20, 2006, 11:12 PM CDT

HAVANA -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez came to the United Nations in New York on Wednesday and showed precisely why the Bush administration isworking hard to make sure his country doesn't win a seat on the SecurityCouncil next month.

Chavez, fresh from meeting with some of the United States' other ardentadversaries last week in Cuba, denounced President Bush as "the devil" and a"world dictator" when it was his turn to address the UN General Assembly, aday after Bush made a speech from the same lectern.

"Yesterday, the devil came here," Chavez said, drawing giggles from theaudience as he crossed himself, looked toward the heavens and said the spot"still smells of sulfur today."


Plan to Break Up 9th Circuit Court Faces Opposition

Judges, politicians and law professors line up against the move that some conservatives seek.

By Henry Weinstein
Times Staff Writer

September 21, 2006

A broad array of judges, law professors, bar associations and politicalleaders came out Wednesday against splitting the U.S. 9th Circuit Court ofAppeals in San Francisco, as the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washingtontook up the thorny issue.

The overwhelming majority of the circuit's judges, led by Chief Judge MaryM. Schroeder of Phoenix, signed a letter reiterating their opposition to thebreakup. Schroeder, Carlos Bea of San Francisco, Consuelo Callahan ofSacramento and four other 9th Circuit judges - Alex Kozinski, a Reaganappointee from California, Sidney Thomas, a Clinton appointee from Montana,Johnnie Rawlinson, a Clinton appointee from Nevada, and Richard Clifton, aGeorge W. Bush appointee from Hawaii - attended the hearing to express theiropposition.


The Washington Post

Search Narrows For Source Of E. Coli

By Michael S. Rosenwald and Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writers
Thursday, September 21, 2006; A01

Health officials in New Mexico positively identified a deadly strain of E. coli in a bag of spinach yesterday, providing a crucial clue that investigators say can be used to trace the source of an outbreak that has sickened 146 people.

Until now, the evidence implicating spinach has been circumstantial. By confirming the presence of the germ in a bag of spinach eaten by one victim, investigators can begin tracing it back to a farm in California, a step toward clearing the sale of fresh spinach from other parts of the country, David W. Acheson, a top FDA food safety expert, said.

"Yesterday, we narrowed it to California," he said. "Today, we narrowed it down to three counties. We're hoping to narrow it down to a field and . . . to a spinach leaf."


The New York Times

September 21, 2006

Wal-Mart to Test Price Cuts on Range of Generic Drugs

Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, will test a program to sell generic prescription drugs to its workers and customers at sharply reduced prices, according to people briefed on the plans.

The giant discount chain, which has used its size to knock down the costs of toys, clothing and groceries, will sell generic versions of about 300 widely prescribed drugs for as low as $4 for a standard prescription, these people said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose details of the new program. On average, generic drugs cost between $10 and $30 for a 30-day prescription.

The company, which is frequently criticized for its employee health benefits, is expected to announce the program today. A company spokeswoman declined comment.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006

Judge Voids Bush Policy on National Forest Roads

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - In the latest round of legal Ping-Pong over the future of 49 million roadless acres of national forests, a federal judge in California on Wednesday reinstated Clinton-era protections against logging and mining on the land and invalidated the Bush administration's substitute policy.

The judge, Elizabeth D. LaPorte of Federal District Court in San Francisco,
said the new policy had been imposed without the required environmental safeguards.

The reversal, however, does not cover nine million acres of the Tongass National Forest in Alaska because a separate set of legal opinions determines their use.

Judge LaPorte ruled in a suit filed by a coalition of environmental groups and states that objected to the decision last year to scuttle what was widely known as the "roadless rule" of 2001.

The administration replaced that rule with a policy of state-by-state management under which governors submit recommendations for the use of national forest lands within their borders.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006

Measures Seek to Restrict Detainees' Access to Courts

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 - Although the effort has been partly obscured by the highly publicized wrangling over military commissions for war crimes trials, the Bush administration and its allies in Congress are trying to use the same legislation to strip federal courts of their authority to review the detentions of almost all terrorism suspects.

Both the legislation introduced on behalf of the administration and the competing bill sponsored by a group of largely Republican opponents in the Senate include a provision that would bar foreigners held abroad from using the federal trial courts for challenges to detention known as habeas corpus lawsuits. If the provision was enacted, it would mean that all of the lawsuits brought in federal court by about 430 detainees at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, would be wiped from the books.

On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee rejected an effort by opponents to strike that provision from the House bill by a party-line vote, with all 15 Republicans present voting to leave it in and all 12 Democrats voting against it. Then, after some initial difficulty in getting approval for the bill, the committee passed it on to the full House.


The Boston Globe

The deadly hole in global security
By Óscar Arias | September 21, 2006

INTERNATIONAL SECURITY will be at the top of the agenda at the UN General Assembly meeting this week in New York. For many leaders, enhancing security involves spending more money on weapons for themselves and their allies. The five years since 9/11 have seen a boom in the conventional weapons trade, accompanied by a new willingness to turn a blind eye to human rights abuses committed in the pursuit of the war on terrorism. Yet the focus on the production and distribution of weapons to allies, whatever their human rights record, does not enhance global security.

International terrorism and nuclear proliferation, in particular, are not problems that can be solved simply by a show of military strength by the United States, or any other country. Too many governments still think in terms of this kind of Cold War-era strategy when trying to address the security challenges of today.

The Cold War-mindset endorsed proxy wars, leading the United States to train and equip mujahideen like Osama Bin Laden in its fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan. The Cold War-mindset promoted arming regimes with questionable human rights records for ``strategic" reasons, resulting in US forces eventually having to face enemies armed with US-made weapons in Panama, Somalia, Haiti, and Iraq.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Women's E-News

Jailing Pregnant Women Raises Health Risks

Run Date: 09/20/06 By Ehrlich and Paltrow
WeNews commentators

Pregnant women with untreated drug or alcohol problems are getting arrested and jailed for child abuse. Our commentators say this goes against the best medical advice and subverts the intentions of child-endangerment laws.

Editor's Note: The following is a commentary. The opinions expressed are those of the author and not necessarily the views of Women's eNews.

(WOMENSENEWS)--In recent months, pregnant women have been arrested and jailed in South Carolina, New Mexico, Arizona, Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Missouri, North Dakota and New Hampshire, among other states, based on the claim that pregnant women can be considered child abusers even before they have given birth.

Women targeted for these arrests are usually those with untreated drug or alcohol problems.

Other women have also been arrested for endangering the fetus by not getting to the hospital quickly enough on the day of delivery and by not following doctor's advice to get bed rest. One woman who suffered a stillbirth was arrested for murder based on the claim that by exercising her right to medical decision-making and postponing a Caesarean section, she caused the death of her child.

Law enforcement officials often justify the application of criminal laws to pregnant women by claiming that the arrest and imprisonment of pregnant women will protect fetuses and advance children's health.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News


Inside the Feds' Secret Wiretapping Rooms

By Jeffrey Klein and Paolo Pontoniere, New America Media

Posted on September 20, 2006, Printed on September 20, 2006

Although it may appear as if Congress is about to put restraints on the Bush administration's wiretapping programs, the three "reform bills" now up for a vote all paint a deceptive picture of the massive domestic surveillance programs that the government has up and running. Because several ongoing invasion-of-privacy lawsuits could expose the extent of the illegal wiretapping, the administration is seeking via these bills to shunt the lawsuits into a secret court, where they will die.

Earlier this year Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (R-Pa.) accused President Bush and the National Security Agency (NSA) of breaking the law by authorizing wiretaps without seeking a judicial warrant. Vice President Cheney quickly went to the Hill to work out a compromise with Sen. Specter. The so-called Specter-Cheney bill would give the president the option -- not the requirement -- to submit his electronic surveillance programs for review by the special secret court created by FISA, the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

A contrasting bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) affirms that FISA court approval for eavesdropping is the "exclusive" means for authorizing wiretaps in domestic terrorism and espionage cases. And a third proposal by Sen. Mike DeWine (R-Ohio) requires only that the administration notify Congress when it conducts wiretaps without a warrant.


The Washington Post

Georgia Law Requiring Voters to Show Photo ID Is Thrown Out

Judge Says Some Would Be Disenfranchised; State Plans Appeal

By Darryl Fears and Jonathan Weisman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, September 20, 2006; A06

A state judge yesterday rejected a Georgia law requiring voters to showgovernment-issued photo identification, writing in his decision, "This cannot be."

Fulton County Superior Court Judge T. Jackson Bedford Jr. said the law,pushed by Gov. Sonny Perdue (R) to fight voter fraud, violates the stateconstitution because it disenfranchises citizens who are otherwise qualifiedto vote.

State officials vowed to appeal Bedford's ruling to the Georgia SupremeCourt before the Nov. 7 general election.


The Washington Post

Independence Days

By David S. Broder
Thursday, September 21, 2006; A25

American politics reached a critical turn last week. The revolt of severalRepublican senators against President Bush's insistence on a free hand intreating terrorist detainees signaled the emergence of an independent forcein elections and government.

This movement is not new, but the moral scale of the issue -- torture -- andthe implications for both constitutional and international law give it anepic dimension, even if it is ultimately settled by compromise.

The senators involved -- John McCain, Lindsey Graham and John Warner -- werealso instrumental in forming the "Gang of 14," the bipartisan bloc thatseized control of the Senate last year and wrote the compromise thatprevented a drastic change in the filibuster rule that otherwise would have triggered a bitter partisan divide.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Torture of Liberty

After traveling to Ottawa to interview Maher Arar last year, I wrote: "If John Ashcroft was right, then I was staring into the malevolent, duplicitouseyes of pure evil ... But all I could really see was a polite, unassuming,neatly dressed guy who looked like a suburban Little League coach."

It turns out John Ashcroft was wrong. After an exhaustive investigation, agovernment commission in Canada ruled definitively and unequivocally thisweek that Maher Arar was no terrorist. He was nothing more than a quietfamily man who found himself sucked into a vortex of incompetence, hysteriaand a so-called war on terror that has gone completely haywire.

He's lucky he survived. Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen who was born in Syria,was snatched by American authorities as he waited for a connecting flighthome from Kennedy Airport in September 2002. The Americans apparently wereacting on bad information fed to them by Canadian investigators.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

Lessons From U.N. Week

One of the lessons of this past week is that the international system isbroken. The world community might make declarations - on preventing Iranianand North Korean nukes, disarming Hezbollah, or preventing genocide inDarfur - but when it comes to actually uniting to take action, words andresolutions lead nowhere. Thanks to a combination of American errors,European escapism, and Russian and Chinese greed, the worst people in theworld now drive events while the best people do nothing.

The second big lesson of the past week is that five years after 9/11 we arefarther from reaching a consensus on the nature of the threat than everbefore. Instead of clarity, there is a cacophony of theories that attempt toexplain the extremists - emphasizing religion or ideology or feelings ofhistoric humiliation or some combination of all three.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006

Keep Christ Out of the Christmas Tree

Taxpayers may find it hard to believe that the must-pass $500 billiondefense budget could be held hostage to a mischievous amendment empoweringevangelical chaplains to speak in the name of Jesus at nonreligious militarygatherings. But that is the case in Congress, where hard-right Republicanshave held up passage of the defense bill in an attempt to license zealotchaplains to violate policies of religious tolerance at secular ceremonies.

Despite the firm opposition of the Pentagon and ecumenical chaplain groups,House Republicans have been defending this egregious pro-evangelical thumbon the scale in negotiations with the Senate.


The New York Times

September 21, 2006

Keep Away the Vote

One of the cornerstones of the Republican Party's strategy for winningelections these days is voter suppression, intentionally putting up barriersbetween eligible voters and the ballot box. The House of Representativestook a shameful step in this direction yesterday, voting largely along partylines for onerous new voter ID requirements. Laws of this kind areunconstitutional, as an array of courts have already held, and profoundlyundemocratic. The Senate should not go along with this cynical, un-Americanelectoral strategy.

The bill the House passed yesterday would require people to show photo ID tovote in 2008. Starting in 2010, that photo ID would have to be somethinglike a passport, or an enhanced kind of driver's license or non-driver'sidentification, containing proof of citizenship. This is a level of identification that many Americans simply do not have.