Monday, December 25, 2006


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Religion does more harm than good - poll
82% say faith causes tension in country where two thirds are not religious

More people in Britain think religion causes harm than believe it
does good, according to a Guardian/ICM poll published today. It shows
that an overwhelming majority see religion as a cause of division and
tension - greatly outnumbering the smaller majority who also believe
that it can be a force for good.

The poll also reveals that non-believers outnumber believers inBritain by almost two to one. It paints a picture of a scepticalnation with massive doubts about the effect religion has on society:82% of those questioned say they see religion as a cause of divisionand tension between people. Only 16% disagree. The findings are atodds with attempts by some religious leaders to define the country asone made up of many faith communities.

Most people have no personal faith, the poll shows, with only 33% ofthose questioned describing themselves as "a religious person". Aclear majority, 63%, say that they are not religious - including morethan half of those who describe themselves as Christian.


The Washington Post

The Slaves in Our Midst

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A21

Last Tuesday morning, one mile north of the White House, I sat in theupstairs dining room of a Dupont Circle cafe having a cup of tea with aslave. Well actually she's now a runaway slave who's living in theWashington area home of a good Samaritan.

But yes, she could have been considered a slave, if you define that as beingbound to a specific area of land, forced to work without compensation,stripped of her passport and left at the absolute disposal of a master.

She is African. However, unlike her ancestors who arrived in America onslave ships, she came here voluntarily. She was, however, deceived about herworking conditions, and she began her involuntary servitude once she enteredher master's suburban Maryland household.


The Washington Post

Schwarzenegger Remakes Himself as Environmentalist
Governor Challenges GOP on Global Warming

By John Pomfret
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A01

SACRAMENTO -- Arnold Schwarzenegger is not the type of guy you wouldnecessarily associate with tree hugging. When he bought a Hummer in theearly 1990s, it kicked off a nationwide craze for the gas-guzzlingbehemoths. His lighter-fluid-dowsed action flicks and protein-packed chestbespoke more of American excess than environmentalism, more violence thanvegan.

But as governor of California, Schwarzenegger has engaged in a savvymakeover, befitting a Hollywood star. He retooled one of his four Hummers torun on alternative fuels and is quickly fashioning himself into one of themost aggressively pro-environment governors in a state known for leading thenation on that issue.


The Washington Post

Saudi Lawyer Takes On Religious Court System
Rights Cases Used To Press for Change

By Faiza Saleh Ambah
Washington Post Foreign Service
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A01

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Saudi human rights lawyer Abdul-Rahman al-Lahem saidhe had been waiting years for a case like this: A woman and her daughter,both accused of promiscuity, were followed by the morals police as they lefta private residence on the outskirts of the capital.

The police, who enforce adherence to Saudi Arabia's strict religious laws,beat up the women's driver and drove off with them locked in the back of thecar. When the car broke down half an hour later, the officers abandoned themin the stranded vehicle.

The police assumed that the women had been visiting male friends. But thetwo had been at the home of female relatives. And unlike the thousands whohad previously been intimidated into dropping their grievances, theyinsisted on taking their kidnappers to court. The case, which goes to trialnext week, will give Lahem a chance to finally confront the powerful moralspolice, whom he considers the country's worst human rights offenders.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Mr. President, you're no Harry Truman
Friday, December 22, 2006


WASHINGTON -- President Bush has taken to talking a lot about formerPresident Truman these days, implying that like Truman -- vilified in the1950s for the Korean War but vindicated by history -- he, too, will grow instature as the Iraq mess fades.

This is a political insult to Truman of epic proportions. President Bush hasa lot of gall.

It registers, in fact, at about the level of Sen. Dan Quayle's comparinghimself to Sen. (and later President) John F. Kennedy. That exaggerationprompted Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, Quayle's Democratic vice presidential rival in1988, to deliver one of the most famous comebacks in politics: "I knew JackKennedy, Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine" Bentsen said. "Senator, you'reno Jack Kennedy."


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Democrats' Pledge to End Individual Financing of Pet Projects May ChangeLittle

WASHINGTON, Dec. 20 - The Democrats taking over the Congressionalappropriations committees next year have boldly pledged to place amoratorium on earmarks, the pet spending items that individual lawmakersinsert into major spending bills behind the scenes.

But like much resolute talk in the Capitol, the declaration may not have thesweeping effect that the plan's backers have suggested and its critics havedenounced. Although earmarks figured prominently in some recentCongressional bribery scandals, they have also become cherished instrumentsof political power, used by party leaders to reward or punish members and byincumbents to buy good will among their constituents.

So the Congressional reaction was swift and vigorous when the two newappropriations chairmen, Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia andRepresentative David R. Obey of Wisconsin, said in a joint statement that"there will be no Congressional earmarks" in the resolution they draft tobridge over the unfinished spending bills for the 2007 fiscal year,declaring "a moratorium on all earmarks until a reformed process is put inplace."


The New Yrok Times

December 23, 2006

Fear and Bigotry in Congress

Besides Santa Claus, the Christmas season usually brings some reminder thatthe worst way to acknowledge the importance of religious faith in America isby demanding that the entire nation follow one particular theology. Lastyear it was the war over the nonexistent "war on Christmas." This year, it'sthe flap over whether one newly elected member of Congress can use the Koranrather than the Bible next month in a private ceremony.

Keith Ellison, who converted to Islam when he was in college, will be thefirst Muslim member of the House of Representatives come January. He and hisnew colleagues will take the oath of office as a group, and then repeat itin private for the benefit of family and friends. It is only in that secondceremony that the Bible comes into play, and to the extent that it has asignificance, we suspect Mr. Ellison's constituents in Minnesota would liketo see him using a book that best represents his religious beliefs.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Toyota Is Poised to Supplant G.M. as World's Largest Carmaker

DETROIT, Dec. 22 - After 75 years, the world automobile industry is about toget a new No. 1.

The Toyota Motor Company of Japan issued a 2007 forecast Friday that wouldmake it first in global sales, ahead of General Motors, which has been theworld's biggest auto company since 1931.

Toyota, which had not even built its first automobile back then, expects tosell 9.34 million vehicles next year. That would exceed the 9.2 millionvehicles that G.M. expects to sell worldwide this year.

G.M. has not issued its own forecast for 2007, but it is on a downwardtrajectory, closing factories and eliminating thousands of jobs, both in theUnited States and Europe.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

Is Your Blog Exposing You to Legal Liability?

Lawrence Savell
Special to
December 22, 2006

The growth of streamlined Web sites presented primarily in journal form,known as "Web logs" or, more succinctly, "blogs," operated and populated byindividuals as well as businesses, continues to be nothing short ofexplosive. But as usually is the case with such rapid adoption of technologyand communication ability, there is the potential for legal liability.

This article will provide a brief overview of some of the major legal issuespresented to and which must be considered by those who are or whocontemplate operating a blog. Although this article focuses on U.S. law, theglobal reach of the Internet means that the laws of many jurisdictions maypotentially apply, which may not be as protective of certain relevant rightsas our law is.



The New York Times

December 23, 2006
On the Brink
A Joint Attack on Many Perils of Africa's Young

PONYAMAYIRI, Ghana - In this poor, dusty village of 550 people, four babiesdied of malaria in October, among them 11-month-old Yire Are. As word spreadthat the government would be handing out mosquito nets that prevent malaria,his uncle made sure he was there with his own children, their heads shavedin mourning.

"I came to claim a mosquito net," the uncle, Konyiri Doorkono, said firmly,his 3-month-old son clasped in his arms.

But when he and many of the village's families lined up beneath thespreading arms of a neem tree, they got much more. Children gulped downpolio vaccine, vitamin A and deworming medicine. They howled at the prick ofa measles shot.

They had joined a campaign to better children's odds of surviving past theirfifth birthdays. It reached into even the most remote communities in Ghanaover five days in November. Similarly monumental drives unfolded in eightother countries across Africa this year, with the mosquito nets aloneexpected to save the lives of 370,000 children over the next three years.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006

Watching the Exits

In 1996, Congress ordered immigration officials to create a system to trackeveryone who enters the country and everyone who leaves. That sensibledirective lay on a back burner until 9/11. The Department of HomelandSecurity then hastened to set up the U.S. Visit program, which requirespeople to be photographed and fingerprinted at ports of entry for checkingagainst databases of terrorists and other undesirables.

That system has been running since 2004, and has plucked hundreds of badpeople from the huge visitor stream without horribly disrupting tourism andbusiness travel. But news came last week that the other half of theprogram - monitoring foreign travelers when they leave - has been abandoned.


China's pipeline to genocide
December 23, 2006

FUTURE generations will not understand why today's great powers chatteredaway at the United Nations over the genocidal annihilation of hundreds ofthousands of African villagers in Darfur, but took no effective action tostop it. And now, in this holiday season, attacks on aid workers in thatregion of Sudan and the spillover of horrors into neighboring Chad raise thespecter of millions of new victims perishing in the near future. For this issurely what will happen if the great powers go on lamenting the Darfurmassacres while refusing to rescue the men, women, and children who aremarked for death in the coming year.

The diplomatic gestures of the UN concerning Darfur are an elaboratepretense. A Security Council resolution from last August, softened by Chinato require approval by the National Islamic Front regime in Khartoum, callsfor UN peacekeepers to join the ineffectual contingent of 7,500 AfricanUnion monitors currently in Darfur. The new peacekeeping force is supposedto total 22,500 and to have a mandate to protect civilians and reliefworkers.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Op-Ed Contributor

The Way to Keep House
Harpers Ferry, W. Va.

CORRUPTION was widely considered a principal cause of Republican losses inNovember. Now that Democrats are preparing to take charge of the House ofRepresentatives for the first time since 1994, they would do well to adopt areform agenda that will help keep the new majority out of ethical trouble -and its members out of jail.

However, if the new Democratic majority functions anything like the old one,they - and we - are in for trouble. The Democrats' previous administrationof Congress was amazingly dysfunctional - an operation that allowed theleast ethically inclined members to rob the place blind, as both the HouseBank and Post Office scandals confirmed. Less heralded problems were perhapseven more telling.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Talks End on North Korea's Nuclear Weapons

BEIJING, Dec. 22 - Talks to end North Korea's nuclear weapons program endedFriday without tangible progress, and Pyongyang quickly renewed threats to"improve its nuclear deterrent."

American and Asian diplomats said that during five days of negotiations inBeijing, the North Korean delegation had declined to discuss disarmament informal sessions, insisting it would do so only after the United Statesremoved financial measures that have further isolated North Korea from theinternational economy.

China, the host for this and previous rounds of the inconclusivenegotiations, said the participants in the talks - the United States, China,North Korea, South Korea, Japan and Russia - had agreed to "reconvene at theearliest opportunity." An American official involved with the talks saidthey could resume early next year.


The Washington Post

Pelosi Aims To Recast Self, Party
New House Speaker Plans a 4-Day Fete

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 22, 2006; A01

On a scale associated with presidential inaugurations, Nancy Pelosi isplanning four days of celebration surrounding her Jan. 4 swearing-in as thefirst female speaker of the House. She will return to the blue-collarBaltimore neighborhood where she grew up, attend Mass at the women's collegewhere she studied political science, and dine at the Italian Embassy as TonyBennett sings "I Left My Heart in San Francisco."

But the hoopla is more than just a party.

Pelosi is grabbing the moment to present herself as the new face of theDemocratic Party and to restore the party's image as one hospitable toethnic minorities, families, religion, the working class and women.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Romney Set for Presidential Announcement
Filed at 12:21 a.m. ET

BOSTON (AP) -- Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is making plans for hiscampaign for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination in two phases earlynext month, a top adviser told The Associated Press on Friday.

The Massachusetts chief executive is expected to file paperwork as early asJan. 2 with the Federal Election Commission, establishing a presidentialcampaign committee and permitting himself to begin raising money for hisrace on the first business day of the new year. Romney will leave office onJan. 4.

As soon as the week of Jan. 8, Romney will hold a ceremony to officiallydeclare his candidacy, said the adviser, a top aide who spoke on conditionof anonymity in advance of the official filing.


The Washington Post

How Free Trade Hurts

By Byron Dorgan and Sherrod Brown
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A21

Fewer and fewer Americans support our government's trade policy. They see ashrinking middle class, lost jobs and exploding trade deficits.

Yet supporters of free trade continue to push for more of the same -- morejob-killing trade agreements, greater tax breaks for large corporations thatexport jobs and larger government incentives for outsourcing.

Last month voters around the country said they want something verydifferent. They voted for candidates who stood up for the middle class andwho spoke out for fair trade. They did so because they understand what's atstake.

Over the past 100 years, Americans have built a thriving middle class. It'sthe envy of the world, and it didn't come easily.


Forwarded from Victoria Lavin
Daily Queer News

A Bigot in Congress
One Muslim congressman is one too many for Virgil Goode.

Friday, December 22, 2006; A32

BIGOTRY COMES in various guises -- some coded, some closeted, somecolossally stupid. The bigotry displayed recently by Rep. Virgil H. GoodeJr., a Republican who represents a patch of south-central Virginia, fallssquarely in the third category. Mr. Goode, evidently in a state ofxenophobic delirium, went on a semi-public tirade against the looming periland corrupting threat posed by Muslim immigration to the United States. "Ifear that in the next century we will have many more Muslims in the UnitedStates if we do not adopt the strict immigration policies that I believe arenecessary to preserve the values and beliefs traditional to the UnitedStates of America," he wrote in a letter to constituents.


Black 'saints' cannot deliver whites from racial inertia
By Derrick Z. Jackson | December 23, 2006

IN MASSACHUSETTS, there is a new Saint Patrick. Up in New Hampshire, curiouspeople recently treated Barack Obama like a saint. It is uncertain if ablack person in the bully pulpit means the pews are open to all.

We interrupt your regularly scheduled program, "The Black Savior," to bringyou this special denouncement. The possible presidential run of IllinoisSenator Obama and the election of Deval Patrick as governor means nothing inAmerican race relations if the acceptance of an individual does not inspireacceptance of black America.

Patrick made history as the second elected African-American governor in thenation's history. But he was elected in an era no one thought we would be ina half century after the civil rights movement went into full swing.


Probes of Bush policies in works
Mass. lawmakers to launch hearings
By Rick Klein, Globe Staff | December 23, 2006

WASHINGTON -- Massachusetts lawmakers are set to launch a blizzard ofinvestigations in the new Congress, probing issues such as wartimecontracting, post-Katrina housing assistance, and the Bush administration'srelationship with Cuba and other countries in Latin America.

In what could be closely watched proceedings, two members of theMassachusetts delegation -- representatives William D. Delahunt of Quincyand Martin T. Meehan of Lowell -- are planning joint committee hearings toexamine the administration's Iraq war policies, particularly the reasons forthe military's lagging efforts to train Iraqi troops. Delahunt is in line tobecome chairman of the House International Relations Committee'ssubcommittee on oversight and investigations, and Meehan will take over thesame subcommittee on the House Armed Services Committee.


The Washington Post

Why Doesn't White Adopt Black?

By David Nicholson
Sunday, December 24, 2006; B07

Whenever I see a white couple with an Asian or Hispanic child, I can't helpwondering whether adoption -- like the personal ads -- is one of the lastareas of American life where naked expressions of racial preference areacceptable.

I know that sentiment seems ungenerous. Most of the children I see wouldhave grown up in dire circumstances if they hadn't been adopted, and manywill find me mean-spirited for gainsaying any child a chance at a happy andsuccessful life.

All the same, I can't understand why so many white American couples gooverseas to adopt, ignoring the plight of black children in the UnitedStates, such as the hundreds in the District of Columbia, Maryland andVirginia awaiting adoption.


The Miami Herald

Posted on Sat, Dec. 23, 2006

Right to know truth about the Holocaust


These are excerpts from a letter sent by the Greater Miami Jewish Federation
to South Florida's congressional delegation last week.

On Nov. 25, Arthur Max, of the Associated Press, published an astonishingreport about the massive and previously closed collection of informationfrom Nazi death camps under the jurisdiction of the International Red Crossnow located at Bad Arolsen, Germany. The scope of the records reported isbreathtaking, as are the moral and policy implications of the revelation.

Fate of loved ones

South Florida is home to the second-largest concentration of Holocaustsurvivors in the United States and the third-largest in the world outside ofIsrael. According to Max's report, survivors and their families have beenunjustly denied access to many of the records at Bad Arolsen regarding theirown experiences in the camps or those of their family members.

We are mandated by history and morality to remember that this greatest crimeagainst humanity was, in fact, millions of crimes against millions of humanbeings, all of whom have the absolute right to receive all of theunvarnished truth about their fate and the fate of their loved ones.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Guest Columnist

A Holiday for Us All

Christmas seems to bring out the worst in America's culture warriors. TheChristian right continues its crusade against those waging "war againstChristmas." Multiculturalists have nearly banished "Merry Christmas" and"Silent Night" from the public domain and are now going after outdoorChristmas trees. Atheist activists like Sam Harris are goaded into defendingthe outing of their Christmas trees with the argument that it's all secularanyway.

Harris is only partly right. The whole truth about Christmas is far moreinteresting and reveals why all can enjoy it. It is the perfect example ofAmerica's mainstream process, a national rite that dissolves the boundariesbetween sacred and secular, pagan and civilized, insiders and outsiders.

From the very beginning Christians have always had a tenuous hold on theholiday. The tradition of celebrating Jesus' birth on the 25th of Decemberwas invented in the fourth century in a proselytical move by the ChurchFathers that was almost too clever. The pre-Christian winter solsticecelebrations of the rebirth of the sun, especially the Roman Saturnalia andIranian Mithraic festivals, were recast as the Christian doctrine of there-birth of the Son of God. Like many such syntheses, it is often not clearwho was culturally appropriating whom. Certainly, throughout the MiddleAges, Christmas festivities like the 12 days of saturnalian debauchery, theveneration of the holly and mistletoe, and the Feast of Fools were allcontinuities from pagan Europe.


The New York Times

December 23, 2006
Op-Ed Columnist
Trump Fired Up
Donald Trump gives me an interview, though he has his doubts.

"I would like the interview to be in the Sunday paper," he says.

He can't be worried about his exposure, so it must be his boundless appetitefor bigger/taller/glitzier that makes him yearn for the larger readership ofSunday.

"Me, too," I reply. "But the only way that's going to happen is if I giveFrank Rich my notes and let him write the column."

"I like Frank Rich," he says, his voice brimming with appreciation for a manwhose circulation is bigger than mine.

"Me, too," I say.

Kurt Andersen, who jousted with the Donald as an editor at Spy, celebratesthe "Daffy Duck" of deal-making in New York magazine this week as one of the"Reasons to Love New York," calling him "our 21st century reincarnation ofP. T. Barnum and Diamond Jim Brady, John Gotti minus the criminalorganization, the only white New Yorker who lives as large as the blingiest,dissiest rapper - de trop personified."


The Washington Post

How to Make Christmas Less About Shopping
Ideas for Cutting Back on Holiday Consumerism

By Kristen Campbell
Religion News Service
Saturday, December 23, 2006; B09

Suzanne Phillips gasps when recalling her son's attitude.

"No matter what I did, it was never enough," she said.

So after hearing, "Where's this?" and, "I wanted that," Phillips decidedthat she and her son, Dylan Baker, now 11, would spend Christmas Day servingthe homeless and others in need at a shelter in Mobile, Ala.

"It really made an impression on him," said Phillips, of Atmore, Ala. Now,when Dylan offers his Christmas list, he presents the items simply asoptions.

"He appreciates what he gets," she said. "He appreciates what we do have."

What's more, serving at the shelter on Christmas has become a tradition forthe pair. "We got hooked after the first one," she said.

Phillips is not alone in her quest to avoid the crushing consumerism ofChristmas. While merchants continue to urge people to model the gift-totingMagi, some Americans are seeking kinder, gentler holidays either byeschewing traditional gift-giving or by placing present exchanges in aspiritual context.


The Washington Post

3 Crises Face U.S., With Risky Options
Iran, Sudan, N. Korea Tactics Stall, But New Directions Hold Pitfalls

By Glenn Kessler
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 23, 2006; A14

On three key flash points -- North Korea, Iran and Sudan -- the Bushadministration confronts the possibility that its current diplomaticapproaches have reached the end of their effectiveness, forcing it toconsider potentially riskier "Plan B" alternatives, administration officialsand outside experts said.

Six-nation talks on ending North Korea's nuclear programs ended in failureyesterday, suggesting the format could be scrapped after more than threeyears of inconclusive results. Today, after months of negotiations, the U.N.Security Council may finally approve a relatively weak resolutionsanctioning Iran for its pursuit of nuclear power, freeing theadministration to try a more unilateral approach to punishing Tehran.


Forwarded from Ron Mills:

Posted On

Most outrageous comments of 2006

How extreme were conservative commentators in their remarks this year? Howabout calls to nuke the Middle East and an allegation that a "gay ... mafia"used the congressional page program as its own "personal preserve."

Right-wing rhetoric documented by Media Matters for America included thenonsensical (including Rush Limbaugh's claim that America's "obesity crisis"is caused by, among other things, our failure to "teach [the poor] how tobutcher a -- slaughter a cow to get the butter, we gave them the butter"),the offensive (such as right-wing pundit Debbie Schlussel's question about"Barack Hussein Obama": is he "a man we want as President when we arefighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?"),and the simply bizarre (such as William A. Donohue's claim that someHollywood stars would "sodomize their own mother in a movie"). Since therewere so many outrageous statements, we included a list of honorable mentionsalong with the top 11, which, if not for Ann Coulter, we might have limitedto 10.

The top 11 (in chronological order):
William A. Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Religious and CivilRights: "Well, look, there are people in Hollywood, not all of them, butthere are some people who are nothing more than harlots. They will doanything for the buck. They wouldn't care. If you asked them to sodomizetheir own mother in a movie, they would do so, and they would do it with asmile on their face." [2/9/06]


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