Wednesday, September 06, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 6, 2006


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Sep. 06, 2006

Detroit and its mastodons


Everything you need to know about American automakers was in four recent newspaper clippings.

. First, in the Aug. 25 USA Today, a review of the 2007 Cadillac Escalade and GMC Yukon Denali said they had ``many improvements, lavish presentation, but seating and space utilization are compromised despite large overall size.''Hit the brakes! How could it be that General Motors makes two metallic mastodons that are each over 5,600 pounds, nearly 17 feet long, 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, and still do not have enough space?

. Second, on the same day, The Wall Street Journal reviewed the Chevrolet Suburban and three-ton Ford Expedition Extended Length. ''With their big gas tanks, a fuel stop can be jarring,'' the Journal said. ``It cost $97 to fill the Suburban, making it necessary to fish out a second AmEx card when we exceeded a station's $75 charge limit per credit card.''

You must be kidding. For the fourth straight Labor Day, American soldiers are dying in a botched war in an oil-rich land. Big oil is exploiting wartime uncertainty by gouging Americans at the pump for record profits. Real wages for Americans have dropped since the invasion of Iraq.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Wed, Sep. 06, 2006

Why poor people vote conservative


Until fairly recently, the main threat to electoral processes in Latin America came from the right, specifically from military coups. The military usually received political support from middle-class and upper-class groups that were eager to prevent the lower classes from obtaining political power.

During the past few years, however, the main threat to electoral processes in the region has come from the left, specifically from populist, charismatic leaders who claim to represent the poor. And in a kind of mirror image of earlier right-wing military coups, the leftist mass mobilizations are increasingly challenging the legitimacy of rightist presidents to govern. As a result of this dynamic, presidents in Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador have been driven from office during the past decade.

Electoral transparency

The current political crisis in Mexico is part of this trend. A series of electoral reforms put into place over the past decade has given Mexico one of the most transparent presidential electoral systems in Latin America. The July election, however, was very close, with the apparent winner, Felipe Calderón, getting about 225,000 votes more than the second-place candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, out of a total of 41.6 million votes cast. Understandably and legitimately, López Obrador asked for a recount in a number of electoral districts that had given Calderón big majorities. The electoral authorities agreed to do so.


The New York Times

September 6, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

New Themes for the Same Old Songs

W. and Katie were both on TV at 6:30 last night, trying to prove they were a man.
Katie won, by a whisker.

The president and the anchor were on a big push this week to prove they could be the daddy at the helm, trustworthy authority figures who could guide America through tumultuous times. She wanted to prove that she was a commander; he wanted to prove that he was an anchor.

The fate of a network, and the fate of a republic, would appear to hinge on gender issues.

W., Dick Cheney and Rummy are on a campaign to scare Americans into believing that limp-wristed Democrats will curtsy to Islamic radicals and Iranian tyrants, just as Chamberlain bowed to Hitler, and that only the über-manly Republicans can keep totalitarianism, fascism and the Al Qaeda "threat to civilization'' at bay. If they were women, their rhetoric would be described with adjectives like shrill, strident, illogical and hysterical. But since they are men, we'll just call it Churchill envy.


The Washington Post

No News Not the Best News For Katie Couric's Debut

By Tom Shales
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; C01

A title change would seem to be in order. Maybe "The CBS Evening No-News." Or "The CBS Evening Magazine." Or "30 Minutes."Whatever it was, Katie Couric did a brisk, engaging job of getting the strange new show off the ground last night as, at long last -- and after one of the most relentless hype hurricanes in history -- she debuted as the first woman to be solo anchor of a major network newscast. K-Day had come at last!

Couric occupied a chair that once belonged to Walter Cronkite and, later, Dan Rather, both of whom did newscasts that were much, much newsier. Yesterday, though, was apparently a no-news day in the opinion of Executive Producer Rome Hartman, the staff and Couric herself, since the half-hour began with a "60 Minutes"-style piece on the resurgence of the Taliban in

The real purpose of this report was to show off Lara Logan, the intensely telegenic reporter who serves as foreign correspondent. She went undercover in Afghanistan, much as Rather had done many many years ago. But as a woman, Logan said, her Taliban hosts "insisted I cover everything but my eyes."


The Washington Post

In Darfur's Death Grip
Villagers Tell of Three Days of Brutality and Killing As Sudanese Troops,
Allies Step Up Attacks in Region

By Craig Timberg
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; A01

EL FASHER, Sudan, Sept. 5 -- Adouma Ahmed Khames, 35, had no illusions of
heroism that July morning. When gunmen appeared by the hundreds in his
village, riding on camels and horses and in sleek Toyota trucks, he dived
for cover under a rotting, stinking pile of grass, he said.

By the time he climbed out, night had fallen and the village, in Sudan's western Darfur region, was full of dead young men, dispatched in their own huts with bullets to their heads. Khames counted 58 bodies from the rampage, which he and other witnesses said was carried out by a former rebel faction, along with Sudanese troops and government-allied militiamen called

Over the next several hours, he and his wife, Kaldoum Adam Ahmed, 32 and nearly due to deliver their sixth child, helped dig mass graves to bury their friends, neighbors and relatives. Then as dawn approached, Khames returned to his hiding place -- the grass gathered months earlier to feed the family's donkeys -- and burrowed under in hopes of living another day.
He did, remaining in hiding long enough to see his village -- called Deker -- looted and to learn of at least four rapes.


The Washington Post

The Rise of the Lincoln Democrats

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; A19

PHILADELPHIA -- The North will rise again.

If Democrats win control of the House of Representatives in November, that inversion of an old slogan is likely to be a central factor in their victory.

Although no one anticipates a Democratic sweep in November on the order of the Republicans' 1994 triumph, the forces that were at work 12 years ago are in play this year -- but in reverse.

One key to the Republican takeover of the House under Newt Gingrich was the completion of a long-term realignment to the GOP in the South. White Southerners started supporting Republican presidential candidates in large numbers as long ago as 1952, but many of them did not bring their congressional voting habits in line with their presidential votes until 1992 and, with a vengeance, 1994.

But a quiet counter-realignment has been under way in the Northeast and Midwest. Post political writer Dan Balz was one of the first to notice after Bill Clinton's 1996 reelection that longtime Republican suburban bastions in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, New York and New Jersey were moving the Democrats' way.


The Washington Post

In Iran, Searching for Common Ground

By David Ignatius
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; A15

TEHRAN -- During the decades when the United States and the Soviet Union were threatening to annihilate each other with nuclear weapons, they at least had embassies in each other's capitals, cultural and economic exchanges, and a communications "hot line" so that the two leaders could talk to each other and avoid the kind of miscalculations that can lead to war.

The United States and Iran have none of these confidence-building links to maintain dialogue amid their current confrontation. Public discourse is pretty much limited to invective from both sides. But despite this political chasm, some courageous doctors and scientists on both sides have been reaching out to collaborate on important projects.

Over the past 10 days, I visited the Iranian leaders of two of the most interesting and unlikely exchanges -- one involving HIV-AIDS treatment and the other research on chemical weapons victims. These two scientific bridges give me hope that some day rational people on both sides will figure out ways to solve the larger problems that have obstructed U.S.-Iranian relations for 27 years.


The Washington Post

Mexico: Democracy Under Threat

By Enrique Krauze
Tuesday, September 5, 2006; A19

To get a sense of the danger hovering over Mexican democracy, consider these numbers: In the 681 years between the founding of the Aztec empire in 1325 and the present day, Mexico has lived for 196 years under an indigenous theocracy, 289 years under the absolute monarchy of Spain, 106 years under personal or party dictatorships, 68 years embroiled in civil wars or
revolutions, and only 22 years in democracy.

This modest democratic 3 percent of Mexico's history is divided over three periods, far separated in time: 11 years in the second half of the 19th century, 11 months at the beginning of the 20th century, and the past 10 years. In the first two instances, the constitutional order was overturned by military coups.

Scarcely 50 years ago, armed groups of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (known as the PRI, its initials in Spanish) attacked polling stations with pistols and submachine guns, gunning down suspect voters and stealing ballot boxes. Scarcely 20 years ago, the PRI -- which had refined its methods -- prided itself on being a nearly infallible machine. The government and the PRI (symbiotic entities) controlled every step of the elections, from the preparation of voting rolls and the discretionary issuing of voter registration cards to the counting of votes. Many bureaucrats and members of worker and peasant organizations were carted to polling stations where they were instructed to vote in mass for the official candidate chosen by the outgoing president. The voters were given sandwiches and gifts; their leaders were given government posts, sinecures and money. Many times the ballots were marked in advance and stuffed days before the election into "pregnant" ballot boxes; the establishment of secret polling places was
common, and some people were registered many times over.


The Washington Post

Pakistan Reaches Peace Accord With Pro-Taliban Militias
Deal Arouses Alarm in Afghanistan

By Pamela Constable
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; A09

KABUL, Afghanistan, Sept. 5 -- The government of Pakistan signed a peace accord Tuesday with pro-Taliban forces in the volatile tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, agreeing to withdraw its troops from the region in return for the fighters' pledge to stop attacks inside Pakistan and across the border.

Under the pact, foreign fighters would have to leave North Waziristan or live peaceable lives if they remained. The militias would not set up a "parallel" government administration.

Reached as Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, prepared to visit the Afghan capital Wednesday, the accord aroused alarm among some analysts in Afghanistan. They expressed concern that, whatever the militias promise, a Pakistani army withdrawal might backfire, emboldening the groups to operate more freely in Pakistan and to infiltrate more aggressively into Afghanistan to fight U.S. and allied forces there.

"This could be a very dangerous development," said one official at an international agency, speaking anonymously because the issue is sensitive in both countries. "Until recently there has been relative stability in eastern Afghanistan, but now that could start to deteriorate."


The Washington Post

How We Dummies Succeed

By Robert J. Samuelson
Wednesday, September 6, 2006; A15

If you're looking for the action in education, forget the Ivy League. Talk instead to Anthony Zeiss, president of Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte. It has six campuses and 70,000 students taking classes in everything from remedial English to computer networking. With about 12 million students, the nation's 1,200 community colleges help answer this riddle: Why do Americans do so badly on international educational comparisons and yet support an advanced economy?

At this back-to-school moment, the riddle is worth pondering. Those dismal comparisons aren't new. In 1970, tests of high school seniors in seven industrial countries found that Americans ranked last in math and science. Today's young Americans sometimes do well on these international tests, but U.S. rankings drop as students get older. Here's a 2003 study of
15-year-olds in 39 countries: In math, 23 countries did better; in science, 18. Or consider a 2003 study of adults 16 to 65 in six advanced nations: Americans ranked fifth in both literacy and math.

In trying to explain the riddle, let me offer a distinction between the U.S. school system and the American learning system .The school system is what most people think of as "education." It consists of 125,000 elementary and high schools and 2,500 four-year colleges and universities. It has strengths (major research universities) and weaknesses -- notably, lax standards. One reason that U.S. students rank low globally is that many don't work hard. In 2002, 56 percentof high school sophomores did less than an hour of homework a night.