Thursday, September 07, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST September 7, 2006


A Challenge From Bush to Congress

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - In calling for public war-crime trials at Guantánamo Bay, President Bush is calculating that with a critical election just nineweeks away, neither angry Democrats nor nervous Republicans will dare denyhim the power to detain, interrogate and try suspects his way.

For years now, Guantánamo has been a political liability, regarded primarilyas a way station for outcasts. By transforming Guantánamo instead into thenew home of 14 Qaeda leaders who rank among the most notorious terrorsuspects, Mr. Bush is challenging Congress to restore to him the authorityto put the United States' worst enemies on trial on terms he has defined.

But the gambit carries with it a potential downside by identifying Mr. Busheven more closely with a detention system whose history has been marked bywidespread accusations of mistreatment.


British PM Tony Blair Says He'll Resign
POSTED: 10:54 pm EDT September 6, 2006
UPDATED: 10:37 am EDT September 7, 2006

LONDON -- Tony Blair is quitting -- but not just yet.

The British prime minister is promising to resign within a year. Hisannouncement comes one day after eight members of his government quit toshow their displeasure with him. They were among 15 members of Blair's ownpolitical party who signed a letter demanding he step down.

Blair said Thursday that he would've preferred to do this his own way. Hehad hoped to keep the time frame for his resignation private, and stillisn't setting a specific date. But he said this month's Labor Partyconference will be his last. The next one is scheduled a year from now.

Blair led Labor to a third consecutive victory last year, and he had earliersaid this would be his last term. The next election is expected in 2009, and he can stay until then if he wants.


Report Finds U.S. Students Lagging in Finishing College

The United States, long the world leader in higher education, has fallen behind other nations in its college enrollment and completion rates, as theaffordability of American colleges and universities has declined, accordingto a new report.

The study, from the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education,found that although the United States still leads the world in theproportion of 35- to 64-year-olds with college degrees, it ranks seventhamong developed nations for 25- to 34-year-olds. On rates of college
completion, the United States is in the lower half of developed nations.

"Completion is the Achilles' heel of American higher education,'' saidPatrick M. Callan, president of the center, a nonprofit,nonpartisan organization based in San Jose, Calif., and Washington.

One particular area of concern, Mr. Callan said, is that younger Americans -the most diverse generation in the nation's history - are laggingeducationally, compared with the baby boom generation.


Musharraf Denies Pakistan Is Helping Taliban
Filed at 6:15 a.m. ET

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharrafacknowledged Thursday that al-Qaida and Taliban militants were crossing fromPakistan to launch attacks in Afghanistan, but denied his government'spowerful military intelligence agency was helping them.

''You blame us for what is happening in Afghanistan,'' Musharraf said in anaddress to Afghan government and army officials and lawmakers at the ForeignMinistry in Kabul. ''Let me say neither the government of Pakistan nor ISI(Directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence) is involved in any kind ofinterference inside Afghanistan.''

Musharraf's speech, attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai, came a dayafter the two leaders resolved to cooperate to fight the ''common enemy'' ofterrorism and extremism.


Behind disclosures, GOP political agenda

By Michael Tackett
Tribune senior correspondent

September 7, 2006

WASHINGTON -- President Bush's surprising concessions about secret CIAprisons, military tribunals and harsh treatment of terror suspects werestartling, yet had an air of defiance. His justifications were stark, bluntand emotional, yet had an air of authority.

Given that many see him and the Republican Party limping into a midtermelection season burdened by the grimness of the war in Iraq and a growingsense among Americans that the threat of another terrorist attack has notbeen diminished, Bush showed he still has a sense of the bold.

And he demonstrated a willingness--again--to make the election fortunes ofhis party a referendum on his effectiveness in fighting the war onterrorism, a tactic that almost certainly secured his second term in theWhite House. The risks of such tactics no doubt rise the further the publicmind is removed from the day Bush grabbed a bullhorn at ground zero in New York; the public now listens with a far more skeptical ear.


South Florida Sun-Sentinel Editorial Board

September 7, 2006

ISSUE: Congress back in "inaction."

The 109th Congress is back at work for one of its last sessions before a newCongress convenes in January. But, how much work it'll get done ahead of themidterm election is questionable.

When it first assembled in January 2005, the 109th Congress had an ambitiousagenda to match White House talk of "political capital." The list includedSocial Security reform and tackling the tax code. Late last year, Congressalso tacked on another major domestic agenda item, overhauling immigrationlaws.

Yet, for all the hype and bluster, this Congress could enter the midtermelections without a heck of a lot to show for its efforts, its time and themoney that taxpayers spent on these federal representatives.


Book says Rove ordered office exorcism


September 7, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Karl Rove says he's not The Exorcist.

Rove, the Bush political shaman Democrats love to demonize, enlisted a trioof clergymen to exorcise Hillary Rodham Clinton's left-wing spirit when hemoved into her West Wing office in 2001, according to an unflattering newbiography.

"I talked to Karl; he said it's not true and, beyond that, he will have nocomment," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Clinton smiled and shook her head in disbelief Wednesday when asked aboutthe tale, which appears in "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan forAbsolute Power," by James Moore and Wayne Slater.

"I'm speechless," she finally said, heading toward a Senate elevator.


WMD: Weapons Of Mullah Destruction

by Wayne Besen

We already knew that George W. Bush was losing the war in Iraq, but a NewYork Times article reveals that he may also be losing the war on drugs. Inhis bloodlust to avenge Saddam's attempt to kill Poppy, Bush invaded Iraqand left the Afghan poppy fields in the hands of a resurgent Taliban. The President's failure to smack down the black turbans has led to a 50 percent spike in smack production, accounting for more than 92 percent of theworld's opium supply on the black market.

Having mastered the law of unintended consequences, Bush's bungling inAfghanistan has somehow led to the proliferation of both syringes and Sharia(Islamic Law). Sadly, this new OPEC (Opium Producing Exporting Countries) isthe only industry that seems to be working in the forgotten country thatactually had something to do with 9-11.

Now that the duel distractions of the Israeli/Hezbollah war and John Karrhave subsided, the public is once again focused on the Iraqi debacle in therun up to midterm elections. With pundits pontificating about a Democratictakeover of the House, Bush gave a cynical speech once again tying Osama binLaden to the quagmire in Iraq. Trying to confuse Americans, Bush sounded
alarms about Osama working to create a caliphate based in Baghdad.


Our magnificent isolation

It's hard for Americans to visualize our country's collapse.
If the president turns out to be a shallow fool, we still expect to survive it.

By Garrison Keillor

Sep. 06, 2006 | Growing up in the '50s, we imagined our country defended byguided missiles poised in bunkers, jet fighters on the tarmac and pilots inthe ready room prepared to scramble, a colonel with a black briefcasesitting in the hall outside the president's bedroom. But Sept. 11 gave us aclearer picture. We have a vast array of hardware, a multitude of colonels,a lot of bureaucratic confusion, and a nation vulnerable to attack.

The FAA has now acknowledged that the third of the four planes seized by the19 men with box cutters had already hit the Pentagon before the FAA finallycalled there to say there was a problem. The FAA lied to the 9/11 Commissionabout this, then took two years to ascertain the facts -- a 51-minute gap indefense -- and released the finding on the Friday before Labor Day, anexcellent burial site for bad news.

So America is not the secure fortress we grew up imagining. Perhaps it neverwas. What protects us is what has protected us for 230 years: ourmagnificent isolation. After the disasters of the 20th century, Europe put nationalism aside and adopted civilization, but we have oceans on eitherside, so if the president turns out to be a shallow jingoistic fool with asmall rigid agenda and little knowledge of the world, we expect to survive it somehow. Life goes on.


Forwarded from Ken's List <>

High court to get 'Bong Hits 4 Jesus' case?
POSTED: 5:17 p.m. EDT, August 29, 2006
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) --

Former Whitewater special counsel Kenneth Starr petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to take up Alaska's "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, a disputeinvolving a high school student, a banner and a tough school policy.

Starr, who gained national prominence while investigating formerPresident Clinton's Whitewater land deal and relationship with MonicaLewinsky, filed the petition Monday on behalf of the Juneau SchoolDistrict in response to a March ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The appeals court sided with a high school student who displayed abanner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" during an Olympic torch relay in2002. It ruled former Juneau-Douglas High School principal Deborah Morseviolated former student Joseph Frederick's free speech rights.


The Washington Post

September 7, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist

The Populist Myths on Income Inequality

There are two schools of thought on income inequality. Members of the first school - populist politicians and a few economists - say the key issue is economic power.

The haves exercise more power over the have-nots. As a result, corporate profits soar, while wages stagnate. Money-drenched politicians push through shareholder-friendly trade deals that outsource American jobs while job insecurity skyrockets. C.E.O.'s get absurd salaries while the 99 percent of earners enjoy few benefits from productivity gains. Unions are weakened while manufacturing wages tumble and the middle class suffers.

In short, populists argue, the market is broken. The rules are rigged. The reigning ideology in Washington must be upended. Unions must be revived. Globalization needs to be reorganized.

The problem with this narrative is that it doesn't really fit the facts. First, workers over all are not getting a smaller slice of the pie. Wages and benefits have made up roughly the same share of G.D.P. for 50 years. Second, offshore outsourcing is not decimating employment. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, outsourcing is responsible for 1.9 percent of layoffs, and the efficiencies it produces create more jobs at better wages than the ones destroyed.


The New York Times

September 7, 2006

Democrats Force a Debate, but Can't Get a Vote on Rumsfeld

WASHINGTON, Sept. 6 - Senate Democrats failed Wednesday to force a vote on a resolution calling for the dismissal of Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld after an extended debate that served as a proxy for a partisan clash over the war in Iraq.

Republicans blocked the proposal, which called for President Bush to replace Mr. Rumsfeld as an acknowledgment that the administration sees a need to change strategy in Iraq. They accused Democrats of a political assault on a man they credited with capably running the war effort and advising President Bush.

"He has been, I think, a very impressive secretary of defense,'' said Senator Ted Stevens, Republican of Alaska. "I can think of no one who has worked harder as secretary of defense than Donald Rumsfeld.''

Democrats, who entered the fight expecting to be denied a vote, used the opportunity to castigate Mr. Rumsfeld not only for what they said was gross mismanagement of the Iraq effort, but also for what they said were ugly attacks on his critics.

"Secretary Rumsfeld's speech in Utah was a low point,'' said Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, referring to an address last month in which the secretary compared critics of Bush terror policy to those who appeased Hitler before World War II. "We got a lot of name-calling, more slogans, but for all the hype, we didn't get any new policies.''