Sunday, December 17, 2006

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST December 17, 2006

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The New York Times

December 17, 2006
The World
How Iran's Leader Keeps the West Off Balance

A POPULAR joke in Iran has someone asking the conservative former president,Hashemi Rafsanjani, what the superhighway under construction north from thecapital Tehran to the border will be called.

"Shaheed Ahmadinejad Highway," he responds.

Now President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is very much alive, while shaheed, or"martyr," is the Islamic honor bestowed on anyone who dies fighting for Godand country. The joke is one small indication that the factions which governIran, riven by endlessly bitter rivalries, are finding the bellicosepresident tiresome.

There are other, more significant signs.


L A Times,0,6797537.column?coll=la-opinion-center


Is Obama the new 'black'?

The possible presidential candidacy of the biracial senator has sparked anilluminating debate on race.

Gregory Rodriguez

December 17, 2006

WE KNOW this: Barack Obama is a rising star. He's a powerful speaker and agifted writer. He is the only African American serving in the U.S. Senate.But is he black?

That's what New York Daily News columnist Stanley Crouch asked last month,and his answer was decidedly "no." No, Crouch wasn't just employing the old"blacker than thou" canard. Nor was he concerned with the fact that Obamawas raised by his white mother. Rather, he was treating blackness not justas a racial (shared biology) identity but as an ethnic (shared historicalexperience) one. And isn't that what the switch of terms from "black" to"African American" was all about?

Think back to the late 1980s, when the Rev. Jesse Jackson became the mostprominent black to call for the adoption of the term African American. "Justas we were called colored, but were not that," he said, "and then Negro, butnot that, to be called black is just as baseless.. Every ethnic group inthis country has a reference to some land base, some historical culturalbase. African Americans have hit that level of maturity." The problem, ofcourse, is that most black Americans are descendants of slaves who had theirAfrican cultural heritage brutally stripped from them.


St. Petersburg Times

When dry is wet
By CRAIG PITTMAN, Times Staff Writer
Published December 17, 2006

First of two parts

Over the past decade, a little-known industry has reaped a billion-dollarbounty by convincing lawmakers it is the answer to saving the nation'swetlands. The promise of the wetland mitigation banking industry - afree-market solution that's good for the environment - pleases politiciansof every stripe. "It's a great way to make a living," said Allison DeFoor,who works for a mitigation banker and is vice chairman of the FloridaRepublican Party. "We're doing the Lord's work and getting paid for it."

The theory goes like this:

Developers are required to replace any wetland they destroy, an expensivetask that often fails.

Enter the mitigation banker. He buys land that used to be a swamp andrestores it. Regulators calculate how many "credits" the banker can sell,each one equal to an acre of pristine wetlands.


The Sun-Sentinel,0,3727664.story?coll=sfl-yourmoney

Most low-wage workers going without sick leave
By Amy Joyce
The Washington Post

December 11, 2006

Broken foot? Ate some bad leftover turkey? Caught the flu? Want a day off?

For many, taking a sick day requires little thought. But by most estimates,nearly half of all private-sector workers in the United States do not have asingle day of paid sick leave. And more do not have a paid day off that canbe used to care for a sick child.

Low-wage workers are hit the hardest, with three of every four lacking anypaid sick leave. They also usually have no health-care coverage or work afull-time or more than full-time schedule of piecemeal, part-time jobs,making paid sick leave even more unlikely.

When workers without sick leave get a virus or an injury, they have todecide if they can take an unpaid day off and still make the rent. If not,they often return to their jobs as security guards, cooks, waitresses andcashiers -- decreasing their productivity and possibly getting others sick.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Dec. 17, 2006

Reid says ailing senator showing progress after brain surgery

Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Sen. Tim Johnson has shown significant improvement after brainsurgery and doctors say "everything is going to be just fine," SenateDemocratic leader Harry Reid said Sunday.

Yet when asked whether the 59-year-old South Dakota Democrat was conscious,Reid said in a television interview: "I'm not a doctor. I have heard andtalked to his family. You should talk to them. It's not appropriate to talkto me about that."

Reid, who has visited Johnson frequently after the surgery Wednesdayfollowing a brain hemorrhage, said "he's doing very well. ... Hisimprovement has been significant."


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sun, Dec. 17, 2006

Desperation in the White House


The power brokers in Washington spent the week carefully arranging figleaves and tasteful screens to cover the emperor's nakedness while he wasbusy pretending to listen hard to everyone with an opinion about Iraq whilehearing nothing.

Sometime early in the new year, President Bush will go on nationaltelevision to tell a disgruntled American public what he has decided shouldbe done to salvage ''victory'' from the jaws of certain defeat in the war hestarted.

The word on the street, or in the Pentagon rings, is that he'll choose tobeef up U.S. forces on the ground in Iraq by 20,000 to 30,000 troops byvarious sleight-of-hand maneuvers -- extending the combat tours of soldiersand Marines who are nearing an end to their second or third year in hell andaccelerating the shipment of others into that hell -- and send them into thebloody streets of Baghdad.


The New York Times

December 17, 2006
Unfinished Business

Some recent images from George W. Bush's war on terror:

¶Jose Padilla, the supposed dirty bomber, submitting while guardsblindfolded him and covered his ears for a walk from his cell to a dentist'schair.

¶Government lawyers arguing that a prisoner could not testify that he wastortured by American agents, because their brutality was a secret.

¶A judge dismissing another prisoner's challenge to his detention, after anew law stripped basic rights from those Mr. Bush has designated "illegalenemy combatants."

¶The White House scorning lawmakers' attempts to rein in Mr. Bush's illegaldomestic spying.

This is the legacy of a Republican Congress that enabled the president'simperial visions of his authority. It leaves the new Democratic majoritywith much urgent, unfinished business to restore due process, civilliberties and the balance of powers.

Military Tribunals


The New York Times

December 17, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

If You Love Lebanon, Set It Free

ONCE more, Lebanon is in political crisis. This time, we are told, it pits"Syrian- and Iranian-backed" Shiite parties (Hezbollah and Amal) and theChristian faction led by Michel Aoun against the "Western-backed" Christian,Sunni and Druze groups that support the government of Prime Minister FouadSiniora.

These very descriptions - citing one external backer or another as a mark ofpolitical identification - illustrate the fundamental problem Lebanon mustovercome. Call it the Lebanese Disease: rather than sorting out theirdifferences internally and addressing the fundamental injustices at theheart of their disputes, the Lebanese constantly look to outsiders to gainan advantage over their rivals.


The Washington Post

On 'Monday Night Football,' An Announcement From Obama

By Zachary A. Goldfarb
Sunday, December 17, 2006; A05

For first-term Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) to get the avalanche of mediaattention he did while addressing New Hampshire Democrats a week ago wasimpressive. To appear the following night on "Monday Night Football" waseven more so.

Obama's hometown Chicago Bears were playing the St. Louis Rams. The game wasbeing watched in 8.5 million homes, and Obama, widely seen at this earlystage as a potential top competitor to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.)for the Democratic presidential nomination, had all the viewers to himself.

Over the years, the show has had public figures make cameos on the nights ofbig games.


The Washington Post

Hearts, Minds and Schools

By Lawrence E. Harrison
Sunday, December 17, 2006; B03

The war in Iraq has produced many casualties. One lesser-noticed one may bethe death of an idea -- the idea that the culture of a nation or region canbe transformed quickly by well-intentioned foreigners. The recent report ofthe Iraq Study Group scarcely mentions the grand goals of bringing democracyto Iraq, and instead contemplates a drawdown of U.S. combat troops. It seemsthat the notion of transforming the political culture of the Middle East hasbeen drawn down as well.

"Are the people of the Middle East somehow beyond the reach of liberty?"President Bush asked in 2003. "Are millions of men and women and childrencondemned by history or culture to live in despotism? I, for one, do notbelieve it." As his audience applauded, he went on to criticize the"cultural condescension" of skeptics who believe that Islam and democracydon't mix.


The Washington Post

My Father Was an Anonymous Sperm Donor

By Katrina Clark
Sunday, December 17, 2006; B01

I really wasn't expecting anything the day, earlier this year, when I sentan e-mail to a man whose name I had found on the Internet. I was looking formy father, and in some ways this man fit the bill. But I never thought I'dhit pay dirt on my first try. Then I got a reply -- with a picture attached.

From my computer screen, my own face seemed to stare back at me. And justlike that, after 17 years, the missing piece of the puzzle snapped intoplace.

The puzzle of who I am.

I'm 18, and for most of my life, I haven't known half my origins. I didn'tknow where my nose or jaw came from, or my interest in foreign cultures. Iobviously got my teeth and my penchant for corny jokes from my mother, alongwith my feminist perspective. But a whole other part of me was a mystery.


The Washington Post

Congress's Inaction Threatens Funding
Avoiding Spending Bills, Hill Causes Crunch

By Jonathan Weisman and Lori Montgomery
Washington Post Staff Writers
Sunday, December 17, 2006; A01

The Republican-controlled Congress's decision to adjourn a week ago beforecompleting many of the spending bills that finance the federal governmentwill reverberate in ways large and small, such as understaffed's offices, delayed renovations at the University of Bridgeport inConnecticut and a scuttled global nuclear energy exchange.

Republican leaders left behind just enough spending authority to keep thegovernment operating through mid-February, less than halfway through the2007 fiscal year that began Oct. 1. Democrats have signaled that when theytake control of Congress in January they will extend that funding authorityfor the remainder of the year based largely on the previous year's spendinglevels, which will result in many cuts in programs.


The Washington Post

The President In the Room
Hillary Clinton's Biggest Issue? A Certain Someone in Her Background.

By Lynne Duke
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 17, 2006; D01

NEW YORK He stood far behind, hiding in plain sight, though his glowingwhite hair and ruddy complexion rendered him as inconspicuous as a face onMount Rushmore.

The spotlight was not Bill Clinton's. It belonged, instead, to Sen. HillaryRodham Clinton as she celebrated her reelection victory.

So Bill stood poker-faced. He clasped his hands. He held his head high. Heclapped when appropriate. He smiled ever so faintly. And he did not move.When Hillary offered thanks to him and turned around to acknowledge him, hedid not step forward, did not step to her side. He stayed put, several feetaway, as if taking pains to soak up not one ray of the spotlight he sodearly loves but that, now more than ever, must be hers and hers alone.


The Washington Post

Blocking Justice

By Emily Bazelon
Sunday, December 17, 2006; B02

On Wednesday, a federal judge dismissed the habeas corpus petition of SalimAhmed Hamdan, a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Latin for "you have thebody," habeas corpus allows detainees to ask a court to order their wardento explain the basis for their detention. Hamdan's petition was dismissedbecause of the Military Commissions Act, which Congress passed last fall totake away the habeas rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees. The MCA is aclassic example of "jurisdiction stripping." When the courts hand downrulings that Congress doesn't like, lawmakers sometimes retaliate by tryingto take away their power to hear certain kinds of cases, or by strictlylimiting what they can do.

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