Saturday, December 16, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 16, 2006

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Diplomat's Suppressed Document Lays Bare the Lies Behind Iraq War

By Colin Brown and Andy McSmith
The Independent UK
Friday 15 December 2006

The Government's case for going to war in Iraq has been torn apart bythe publication of previously suppressed evidence that Tony Blair lied overSaddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

A devastating attack on Mr Blair's justification for military action byCarne Ross, Britain's key negotiator at the UN, has been kept under wrapsuntil now because he was threatened with being charged with breaching theOfficial Secrets Act.

In the testimony revealed today Mr Ross, 40, who helped negotiateseveral UN security resolutions on Iraq, makes it clear that Mr Blair musthave known Saddam Hussein possessed no weapons of mass destruction. He saidthat during his posting to the UN, "at no time did HMG [Her Majesty'sGovernment] assess that Iraq's WMD (or any other capability) posed a threatto the UK or its interests."


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
Military Taking a Tougher Line With Detainees

GUANTÁNAMO BAY, Cuba, Dec. 10 - As the first detainees began moving lastweek into Guantánamo's modern, new detention facility, Camp 6, the militaryguard commander stood beneath the high, concrete walls of the compound,looking out on a fenced-in athletic yard.

The yard, where the detainees were to have played soccer and other sports,had been part of a plan to ease the conditions under which more than 400 menare imprisoned here, nearly all of them without having been charged. Butthat plan has changed.

"At this point, I just don't see using that," the guard commander, Col. WadeF. Dennis, said.

After two years in which the military sought to manage terrorism suspects atGuantánamo with incentives for good behavior, steady improvements in theirliving conditions and even dialogue with prison leaders, the authoritieshere have clamped down decisively in recent months.


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
On the Brink
In Raising the World's I.Q., the Secret's in the Salt

ASTANA, Kazakhstan - Valentina Sivryukova knew her public service messageswere hitting the mark when she heard how one Kazakh schoolboy called anotherstupid. "What are you," he sneered, "iodine-deficient or something?"

Ms. Sivryukova, president of the national confederation of Kazakh charities,was delighted. It meant that the years spent trying to raise publicawareness that iodized salt prevents brain damage in infants were working.If the campaign bore fruit, Kazakhstan's national I.Q. would be safeguarded.

In fact, Kazakhstan has become an example of how even a vast andstill-developing nation like this Central Asian country can achieve aremarkable public health success. In 1999, only 29 percent of its householdswere using iodized salt. Now, 94 percent are. Next year, the United Nationsis expected to certify it officially free of iodine deficiency disorders.


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
Global Warming Poses Threat to Ski Resorts in the Alps

KITZBÜHEL, Austria, Dec. 15 - How balmy has it been in the Alps these lastfew months? At the bottom of the Hahnenkamm, the famously treacherousdownhill course in this Austrian ski resort, the slope peters out into agrassy field. And it's just 10 days before Christmas.

Snow cannons are showering clouds of white crystals over the slopes, but bymidmorning each day, the machines have to be turned off because the mercuryhas risen too far for the fake snow to stick.

"Of course I'm nervous about the snow, but what am I supposed to do?" saidSigne Kramheller-Reisch, as she walked in a field outside her family'shotel, wearing suede shoes and a resigned expression. "We have classicwinters and we have nonclassic winters."


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
Senator Showing Weakness After Surgery

WASHINGTON, Dec. 15 - Senator Tim Johnson of South Dakota was showingweakness on his right side on Friday after surgery to relieve bleeding inhis brain, his office said, and will remain in the hospital until theswelling in his brain goes down.

"The surgery was considered a success," the office said in a statement.

Surgeons removed the blood during a procedure late Wednesday and stabilizedthe bleeding, the statement said, relieving the pressure on the brain.

Mr. Johnson, 59, remains in the intensive care unit at George WashingtonUniversity Hospital in critical but stable condition.


The New York Times

December 15, 2006
Researchers Find Surprise in Makeup of a Comet

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14 - Comets are not all made of interstellar dust and ice,but instead may contain material shot from the heart of the solar systemduring its tumultuous birth, scientists reported Thursday after examiningpristine particles of a comet that were brought back by the Stardustspacecraft.

The evidence suggests that comets did not form in isolation in the outerparts of the solar system as it coalesced from a swirling mass of primalmaterial, the researchers said. Instead, they said, some of the hot materialthat formed planets around the Sun seems to have spewed off into distantareas and become a component of distant comets.


The Washington Post

Testimony Helps Detail CIA's Post-9/11 ReachEuropeans Told of Plans for Abductions

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A01

MILAN -- A few days after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the CIA station chiefin Rome paid a visit to the head of Italy's military intelligence agency,Adm. Gianfranco Battelli, to float a proposal: Would the Italian secretservices help the CIA kidnap terrorism suspects and fly them out of thecountry?

The CIA man did not identify which targets he had in mind but was "expresslyreferring to the possibility of picking up a suspected terrorist in Italy,bringing him to an airport and sending him from there to a foreign country,"Battelli, now retired, recalled in a deposition.


The Washington Post

Women Lose Ground in the New Iraq
Once They Were Encouraged to Study and Work; Now Life Is 'Just Like Being inJail'

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A12

BAGHDAD -- Browsing the shelves of a cosmetics store in the Karrada shoppingdistrict, Zahra Khalid felt giddy at the sight of Alberto shampoo and MissRose eye shadow, blusher and powder.

Before leaving her house, she had covered her body in a billowing blackabaya and wrapped a black head scarf around her thick brown hair. She hadasked her brother to drive. She had done all the things that a woman livingin Baghdad is supposed to do these days to avoid drawing attention toherself.

It was the first time she had left home in two months.

"For a woman, it's just like being in jail," she said. "I can't goanywhere."


The Washington Post

Incoming Chairmen Ready to Investigate
Democratic-Led Panels to Probe Administration's Actions in War andCounterterrorism

By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A05

Incoming Democratic committee chairmen say they will hold a series ofhearings and investigations early next year to build the case for their callfor a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and for possible actionagainst defense contractors found to have wasted billions in federal funds.

The emerging plans to grill administration officials on the conduct of thewar are part of a pledge for more aggressive congressional oversight onissues such as prewar intelligence, prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib andGuantanamo Bay, and the government's use of warrantless wiretaps.

Among the most eager incoming chairmen is Sen. Carl M. Levin (D-Mich.), alawyer with a professor's demeanor and a prosecutor's doggedness. As head ofthe Senate Armed Services Committee, Levin, 72, will be his party's pointman on the Iraq war and on the Democrats' call to begin withdrawing troopsin the coming months.


The Washington Post

Feinstein Criticizes DHS on Foreigner Exit Program

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A09

Supporters of the troubled US-VISIT program warned yesterday that thedecision to suspend a crucial part of the national security program launchedafter the 2001 attacks will leave the nation vulnerable to terrorism.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said the government will be left with noway of knowing whether all visitors leave the country after theadministration decided to drop a plan to track departures at land bordersbecause of technical and cost problems.

Feinstein called the decision a "very serious failure" on top of multipledelays since the system was proposed in 1996.


The Washington Post

Panel Seeks Consensus On U.S. Nuclear Arsenal

By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A08

A prestigious Defense Department advisory panel has determined there is nonational agreement on what the nation needs in the way of nuclear weapons inthe post-Cold War period.

In a recently released declassified version of a report on U.S. nuclearcapabilities completed earlier this year, the Defense Science Board reportedthat its task force on the subject concluded "there is a need for a nationalconsensus on the nature and role of nuclear weapons, as well as a newapproach to sustaining a reliable, safe, secure and credible nuclearstockpile."

The task force found "most Americans agree that as long as actual orpotential adversaries possess or actively seek nuclear weapons or otherweapons of mass destruction, the United States must maintain a deterrent tocounter possible threats and support the nation's role as a global power andsecurity partner." Beyond that, however, it found "sharp differences."


The Washington Post

The Curtain Is Drawn On the Rumsfeld Era

By Ann Scott Tyson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 16, 2006; A08

After a parade of military regalia and a 19-gun salute that echoed acrossthe Potomac, Donald H. Rumsfeld stepped down yesterday as secretary ofdefense, delivering a warning to those who contemplate "graceful exits fromthe agonies and . . . ugliness of combat."

Surrounded on the Pentagon mall by the architects of the Iraq war -- fromPresident Bush and Vice President Cheney to former deputy defense secretaryPaul D. Wolfowitz and former undersecretary of defense Douglas J. Feith --Rumsfeld ended his six years in office with a forceful, even defiant, tone."Our country has taken on a bracing and difficult task. But let there be nodoubt: It is neither hopeless nor without purpose," he said.


The Washington Post

Redirecting Christmas From North Pole to Bethlehem

By Adelle M. Banks
Religion News Service
Saturday, December 16, 2006; B09

Standing next to plastic figures of Mary, baby Jesus and Joseph, twoministers and three members of Congress took turns at a microphone thismonth to announce a new initiative called "Project Nativity."

"Our hope and prayer is that over the next three to four years, hundreds ofnativity scenes will begin to dot the landscape of America once again," saidthe Rev. Patrick J. Mahoney, director of the Christian Defense Coalition. Hesaid he hoped the temporary nativity scene on a terrace of the Capitol wouldserve as a "template" for similar efforts.

His project, which encourages Christians to seek permits for nativity scenesin front of public buildings, is just one example of multiple efforts to"take Christmas back." In recent years, there have been rumors of a "War onChristmas" and actual skirmishes over the use of the word in the publicsquare and at the retail counter.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Dec. 16, 2006

'Compassionate' Christian leaders fight for the religious right

Associated Press

LONGWOOD, Fla. - The Rev. Joel Hunter thinks everyone should replace oldlight bulbs with energy-saving fluorescents, and he's passionate about jobtraining for the poor.

Those aren't revolutionary ideas until you consider the self-identifiedconservative is pastor of a suburban Orlando megachurch, and was untilrecently president-elect of the Christian Coalition.

Hunter, head of Northland, A Church Distributed, is among a handful ofincreasingly high-profile evangelical leaders preaching new politics. Theyare less fire and brimstone than compassion and concern, less interested inconservatism than what they call Jesus Christ's broader message, and utterlytired of partisan name-calling.

They could also be a new force in American politics.


Republican Sen. Specter plans Syria trip
By Anne Plummer Flaherty, Associated Press Writer

December 15, 2006

WASHINGTON --Sen. Arlen Specter, a 26-year Senate Republican, said he willvisit Syria despite loud objections by the Bush administration, contendingthe situation in Iraq is so dire that it is time Congress step up to theplate and see what it can do.

Specter, R-Pa., said in an interview late Friday that he is planning a tripto the Middle East that will include Israel and Syria. The senator said heand other Republicans are concerned that the administration's policies inthe Middle East are not working and that other GOP members may follow in hisfootsteps.

"I've talked to my Republican colleagues, and there is a disquiet here,"Specter said.


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Farewell, Dense Prince

James Baker ran after W. with a butterfly net for a while, but it is nowclear that the inmates are still running the asylum.

The Defiant Ones came striding from the Pentagon yesterday, the troika ofwayward warriors marching abreast in their dark suits and power ties. W.,Rummy and Dick Cheney were so full of quick-draw confidence that they mighthave been sauntering down the main drag of Deadwood.

Far from being run out of town, the defense czar who rivals Robert McNamarafor deadly incompetence has been on a victory lap in Baghdad, Mosul andWashington. Yesterday's tribute had full military honors, a color guard, a19-gun salute, an Old Guard performance with marching musicians - includingpiccolo players - in Revolutionary War costumes, John Philip Sousa music andthe chuckleheaded neocons and ex-Rummy deputies who helped screw up theoccupation, Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith, cheering in the audience.


The New York Times

December 16, 2006
Guest Columnist
Democrats Arrive at the Heart of the Matter

The Democrats are positioned to make a down payment to the voters who gavethem majority control of the House and the Senate. Their ability to pay infull is another question.

House Democrats, more than their Senate colleagues, can set certain partisanmarkers: a minimum-wage hike, ethics reform, reduced student loan interestrates and changes in labor law, which will make union organizing lessdifficult.

As the majority, Democratic leaders and committee chairs can focus publicattention on job, pension and health care security issues; publicizeevidence of decreased mobility on the economic ladder; and spotlight thegrowing vulnerability of middle-income families to sharp and sudden downwardfinancial swings.

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