Tuesday, January 16, 2007

NATIONAL & WORLD DIGEST January 16, 2007

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Forwarded from Kenneth Sherrill - Ken's List


Texas will consider death penalty for repeat sexual predators

Associated Press

AUSTIN - Texas lawmakers are talking tough about cracking down on sexualpredators who prey on children. Some propose the death penalty for repeatoffenders, potentially creating hundreds more death row inmates in a statethat already executes more than any other.

Other ideas include mandatory long sentences for first-time offenders oreliminating probation.

But opposition is flaring from unexpected sources: prosecutors and victimadvocates.

They fear some of the proposals would make it harder to get convictions and,perhaps, put children in even more danger by giving molesters incentive tokill the only potential witness to their crimes.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
Op-Ed Contributor
A Rifle in Every Pot
Knoxville, Tenn.

IT'S a phenomenon that gives the term "gun control" a whole new meaning:community ordinances that encourage citizens to own guns.

Last month, Greenleaf, Idaho, adopted Ordinance 208, calling for itscitizens to own guns and keep them ready in their homes in case ofemergency. It's not a response to high crime rates. As The Associated Pressreported, "Greenleaf doesn't really have crime ... the most violent offensereported in the past two years was a fist fight." Rather, it's a statementabout preparedness in the event of an emergency, and an effort to promote aculture of self-reliance.

And it may not be a bad idea. While pro-gun laws like the one in Greenleafare mostly symbolic, to the extent that they actually make a difference, itis likely to be a positive one.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
51% of Women Are Now Living Without Spouse

For what experts say is probably the first time, more American women areliving without a husband than with one, according to a New York Timesanalysis of census results.

In 2005, 51 percent of women said they were living without a spouse, up from35 percent in 1950 and 49 percent in 2000.

Coupled with the fact that in 2005 married couples became a minority of allAmerican households for the first time, the trend could ultimately shapesocial and workplace policies, including the ways government and employersdistribute benefits.

Several factors are driving the statistical shift. At one end of the agespectrum, women are marrying later or living with unmarried partners moreoften and for longer periods. At the other end, women are living longer aswidows and, after a divorce, are more likely than men to delay remarriage,sometimes delighting in their newfound freedom.


The Washington Post


Castro Reportedly in Grave Condition

The Associated Press
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; 2:00 AM

MADRID, Spain -- Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro is in "very grave"condition after three failed operations and complications from an intestinalinfection, a Spanish newspaper said Tuesday.

The newspaper El Pais cited two unnamed sources from the Gregorio Maranonhospital in the Spanish capital of Madrid. The facility employs surgeon JoseLuis Garcia Sabrido, who flew to Cuba in December to treat the 80-year-oldCastro.

In a report published on its Web site, El Pais said: "A grave infection inthe large intestine, at least three failed operations and variouscomplications have left the Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, laid up with avery grave prognosis."


The Washington Post


Burden Set to Shift On Balanced Budget
Bush Likely to Force Democrats' Hand

By Lori Montgomery and Nell Henderson
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A01

When he takes the House rostrum next week for the State of the Unionaddress, President Bush will list among his goals a balanced federal budget,a shift for a president who has presided over record deficits whileaggressively cutting taxes.

Politically, analysts say, the president is calling the bluff of Democrats,who won control of Congress in part by accusing Bush of reckless fiscalpolicies. While Bush now shares the Democrats' goal to erase the deficit by2012, the politically perilous work of making that happen -- cuttingspending or raising taxes -- falls to the Democratic-run Congress.

"The Democrats have assailed deficits under President Bush. The White Houseis telling Democrats to walk the walk," said Brian M. Riedl, a budgetanalyst at the conservative Heritage Foundation.


The Washington Post


Some at Guantanamo Mark 5 Years in Limbo
Big Questions About Low-Profile Inmates

By Carol D. Leonnig and Julie Tate
Washington Post Staff Writers
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A01

Shackled at the wrists and blinded by special goggles, the first captivesfrom the U.S. war in Afghanistan were ushered to makeshift prison cellsthousands of miles from the battle, at the U.S. naval station at GuantanamoBay, Cuba, five years ago last week.

Gholam Ruhani was among them, the prison's third official inmate, flown inby cargo plane with the first group of 20 men. The 23-year-old Afghanshopkeeper, who spoke a little English, was seized near his hometown ofGhazni when he agreed to translate for a Taliban government official seekinga meeting with a U.S. soldier.

Ruhani is still at Guantanamo, marking the fifth anniversary of the prisonand his own captivity. He remains as stunned about his fate, according totranscripts of his conversations with military officers, as he was when U.S.military police led him inside the razor wire on Jan. 11, 2002, and accusedhim of being America's enemy.




Law school deans sign letter condemning boycott
Pentagon official provoked outcry
By Lisa Wangsness, Globe Staff | January 16, 2007

The deans of Massachusetts' major law schools joined about 100 law deans insigning a letter condemning a senior Pentagon official's suggestion that UScompanies should boycott law firms representing detainees at Guantanamo Bay,Cuba.

The comments last week by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for DetaineeAffairs Charles D. "Cully" Stimson provoked outrage from the legalcommunity, and the Pentagon has distanced itself from the remarks.

The deans' letter, which was co authored by Emily A. Spieler , dean ofNortheastern University School of Law , denounces Stimson's comments as"contrary to the basic tenets of American law" and calls on the Bushadministration to "promptly and unequivocally repudiate" them.

"Our American legal tradition has honored lawyers who, despite theirpersonal beliefs, have zealously represented mass murderers, suspectedterrorists, and Nazi marchers," said the letter, which was sent to TheBoston Globe and The New York Times yesterday. "At this moment in time, whenour courts have endorsed the right of the Guantanamo detainees to be heardin courts of law, it is critical that qualified lawyers provide effectiverepresentation to these individuals."





Congressional casualties
January 16, 2007

ELECTION JITTERS last fall kept Congress from passing appropriations billsthat members feared could provide fodder for their opponents. Even duringthe lame-duck session after November, Congress failed to vote on the bills,resorting to a continuing resolution that keeps funding for programs at lastyear's level until mid-February. While this is adequate for some governmentservices, it is a prescription for disaster in areas like veterans'healthcare or efforts to combat AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis.

Congress based its appropriation for fiscal 2006 veterans' medical care on2005 casualty data. Since then, the number of wounded has increased sharply.According to Linda Bilmes , who teaches public finance at Harvard's KennedySchool of Government, the VA will have to go to Congress for emergencyfunding, as it has in the previous two years. The VA, she wrote in a recentop-ed in the Los Angeles Times, "is buckling under a growing volume ofdisability claims and rising demand for medical attention."




Another chance for Gore?
By Scot Lehigh, Globe Columnist | January 16, 2007

THE PRESIDENTIAL primary campaign is now underway, and though neither hasyet declared, the Democratic main event is already being framed as a contestbetween Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Each, however, comes with sizable drawbacks.

Although Clinton has proved herself a highly capable senator, worries aboundabout her electability. And then there's the recurring query that worriedDemocrats whisper to each another: Is Bill behaving?

Obama certainly qualifies as the next new thing, and as his December visitto New Hampshire demonstrated, he has generated real excitement at the grassroots. And yet, in the age of terrorism, it will be a tall test for afirst-term senator with no real Washington accomplishments to convince thecountry that he's ready to be commander in chief.





What's next -- war with Iran?
By H.D.S. Greenway | January 16, 2007

ONE OF the more far-reaching aspects of President Bush's new strategy washis stunning rebuke of the Iraq Study Group recommendation that the UnitedStates should try to "engage" Iran and Syria "constructively." Instead, thepresident has made more threats and promises more confrontation. He promisedto "seek out and destroy the networks providing advance weaponry andtraining to our enemies in Iraq," opening up the possibility of cross borderoperations.

Congress was quick to react. Senator Joe Biden, Democrat of Delaware, madeit clear that any move to expand the war into neighboring countries wouldneed congressional approval, and Chuck Hagel, a Nebraska Republican,compared the prospect with the invasion of Cambodia during the Vietnam War.

It is ironic that while Bush ramps up confrontation, the Iraqi government --presumably our ally -- is trying to make diplomatic efforts toward both Iranand Syria to explore areas of mutual interest.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007

Democrats Seek the Middle on Social Issues

WASHINGTON, Jan. 15 - The promise may not outlast their political honeymoon,but Democratic Congressional leaders say they are committed to governingfrom the center, and not just on bread-and-butter issues like raising theminimum wage or increasing aid for education. They also hope to bring thatphilosophy to bear on some of the most divisive social issues in politics,like abortion.

In their first days in session, Senate Democratic leaders reintroduced abill that they said was indicative of their new approach: the PreventionFirst Act, which seeks to reduce the number of abortions by expanding accessto birth control, family planning and sex education.

In the House last week, Democrats showcased a vote on expanding federalfinancing for embryonic stem cell research, which, despite fierce oppositionfrom many conservatives, has won bipartisan support among lawmakers - andvoters - who are otherwise divided on abortion.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
Energy Time

Al Hubbard, the economic adviser who's coordinating the administration'senergy strategy, recently promised that President Bush would produce"headlines above the fold that will knock your socks off in terms of ourcommitment to energy independence." Every president since Richard Nixon hastalked this way, while every year the country slides further intodependency. Mr. Bush's overpromising has included a forecast that we wouldall be buying hydrogen-fueled cars in 20 years and his pledge a year ago torid the country of its addiction to oil.

Still, we must hope that Mr. Bush is serious this time, because we simplycannot continue to hold our national security and the health of the planethostage to our appetite for fossil fuels.

America's closest allies, and increasingly its governors, know this. Lastweek, the European Union - shaken by Russia's threatened shutdown of oilpassing through Belarus - announced a menu of initiatives aimed at reducingEurope's dependence on unreliable suppliers while cutting greenhouse gasemissions with cleaner fuels and new technologies.


The New York Times


Jauary 16, 2007
Tracking Outsourced Bonanzas

The new Congress is promising far tighter oversight of Bush administrationspending programs, and few targets are more in need of scrutiny and daylightthan the outsourcing of government programs to private contractors. Thishighly lucrative world quietly ballooned by 86 percent - to $377 billionannually - during the first five years of the Bush administration, accordingto Congressional estimates. Outsourced spending, on Iraq, Katrina and otherbonanzas, has grown twice as fast as other discretionary spending, accordingto Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman ofthe oversight and reform committee.

Mr. Waxman is fairly itching to finally map the waste, fraud and abuse inprivate contracting that went largely ignored by the previous RepublicanCongress. Taxpayers should wish him well.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
Editorial Observer
A Bishop's Fall Provides a View on Soviet-era Collaboration

Stanislaw Wielgus had to step down as archbishop of Warsaw. The CatholicChurch played too central and heroic a role in the Polish resistance toCommunist dictatorship (think of Lech Walesa taking communion at the Gdanskshipyard, or Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, or Pope John Paul II) for anyone whois known to have collaborated with the secret police to have so prominent arole. Yet I find myself pausing to reflect for a moment about Bishop Wielgusand about how surviving in that world, especially for anyone in a positionof authority, presented excruciating choices, again and again.

There are huge numbers of names in those cursed secret-police archives leftbehind in Poland and all other police states past and present, and many arepeople whose only crime was that they were not heroes. In that sameCommunist Poland, a Polish friend once came to me, distraught. The secretpolice had come to him and had ordered him to serve as an informer; if hedid not, his only child would be expelled from the university. Just tellingme was an act of courage. In the end, my friend was saved by the demise ofCommunist rule. But his terrible dilemma was shared by millions of people inthe Soviet empire.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007

Buyers Scarce, Many Condos Are for Rent

WASHINGTON - David Franco's illuminated model of a proposed 10-storycondominium tower dominates a sales center that, in spite of the "NowSelling" banner still fluttering outside, is conspicuously closed forbusiness.

"We could have waited it out and kept pushing and pushing," Mr. Franco saidabout the decision to abandon plans to sell 180 luxury condominiums withfloor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the Washington Monument andCapitol Hill. "But it would have taken significantly longer."

After six weeks of failing to lure more than a couple of dozen buyers, Mr.Franco and his partner, Jeff Blum, joined the builders of nearly 6,000condominium units in the Washington metropolitan area who have decided inthe last three months to recast their projects as rental apartmentbuildings.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
Pakistan Destroys Suspected Militant Hideouts
Filed at 6:46 a.m. ET

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistan's army destroyed suspected al-Qaidahideouts in an airstrike near the Afghan border on Tuesday, killing 10people, officials said.

The army and a senior local official said the dead were militants, andincluded some foreigners, but a resident said the slain men were Afghanlaborers.

The raid in South Waziristan came days after the U.S. intelligence chiefsaid leaders of both al-Qaida and Afghanistan's former ruling Talibanmilitia were finding shelter in Pakistan's lawless frontier areas.

An army statement said intelligence sources confirmed the presence of 25 to30 foreign terrorists and their local facilitators occupying five compoundsin the area of Zamzola -- a village about two miles from the frontier.


The New York Times


January 16, 2007
Turning the Grief-Stricken Toward Organ Donation

There was barely a mark on her 9-year-old daughter's head, and when doctorstold Surangni Gunaratne that the girl she adored was brain dead, sheresponded with fury. "I yelled at them, I said they had no feelings," shesaid, "and I told them to get out."

But over the next few days, the people at St. Vincent's Hospital StatenIsland helped Mrs. Gunaratne accept that Tiffany was gone. Kathleen Atkinsonwas an especially persistent presence, doing a little of everything, fromfetching coffee and fending off paperwork to shooing away friends whosometimes crowded around Tiffany's bed.

Ms. Atkinson works for the New York Organ Donor Network, not the hospital,and her mission during that week last July was to persuade Mrs. Gunaratneand her husband, Ajantha, to donate their daughter's organs. Five days afterTiffany was hit by a car outside her family's house, her liver and kidneyswere transplanted, prolonging the lives of three strangers, one of them just7 years old.


The Washington Post


First U.S. Uterus Transplant Planned
Some Experts Say Risk Isn't Justified

By Rob Stein
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 15, 2007; A01

First came kidney, liver and heart transplants. Then a few doctors startedtransplanting hands. French surgeons even did a face.

Now, doctors are planning the first womb transplant in the United States.

A team based in Manhattan has begun screening women left barren by cancer,injuries or other problems who want a chance to bear their own children.

"The desire to have a child is a tremendous driving force for many women,"said Giuseppe Del Priore of the New York Downtown Hospital, who is leadingthe team. "We think we could help many women fulfill this very basic

But the planned operation, which Del Priore and his colleagues could attemptlater this year, is stirring objections among some transplant experts,fertility specialists and medical ethicists. They question whether theprocedure has been tested sufficiently on animals and whether the benefit ofbeing able to carry a pregnancy outweighs the risks for the woman and fetus.


The Washington Post


Ending an Opium War
Poppies and Afghan Recovery Can Both Bloom

By Anne Applebaum
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A19

Once, the British Empire fought a war for the right to sell opium in China.In retrospect, history has judged that war destructive and wasteful, ashameless battle of colonizers against the colonized that in the end helpedneither one.

Now, NATO is fighting a war to eradicate opium from Afghanistan. Allegedly,the goals this time around are different. According to the Britishgovernment, Afghanistan's illicit drug trade poses the "gravest threat tothe long term security, development, and effective governance ofAfghanistan," particularly since the Taliban is believed to be the biggestbeneficiary of drug sales. Convinced that this time they are doing themorally right thing, Western governments are spending hundreds of millionsof dollars bulldozing poppy fields, building up counternarcotics squads andfinancing alternative crops in Afghanistan. Chemical spraying may begin asearly as this spring. But in retrospect, might history not judge this war tobe every bit as destructive and wasteful as the original Opium Wars?


The Washington Post


A Dark Horse's War Edge

By E. J. Dionne Jr.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A19

Mike Huckabee, who just stepped down as Arkansas governor, is the brighteststar among Republican presidential dark horses.

It's not just because he, like a certain other Arkansan, has ties to a towncalled Hope, or because he lost 105 pounds and has written a popular dietbook. And it's not only because he is mastering a conservative form oftriangulation blending religious conservatism with policy pragmatism.

Huckabee, if he chooses to run for president in 2008, has another asset:While front-runners John McCain and Rudy Giuliani have placed large bets onthe success of President Bush's Iraq policy, Huckabee has maintained whatyou might call loyal distance.

This is what Huckabee said in an interview last week when I asked him aboutthe surge: "The honest answer for me is that I'm not subjected to the samepiles of military and diplomatic information and intelligence that he has,and I'm going to have to trust that the advice that he's based his decisionon as commander in chief is good. I don't honestly know. I hope it's right.I have to hope that, because there are going to be people from my state thatare going to be asked to go and make it right."


The Washington Post


Our Tunnel Vision

By Richard Cohen
Tuesday, January 16, 2007; A19

Some years ago, I accompanied John McCain to Vietnam. For him, it was yetanother trip to the place where he had been a prisoner of war, but for me itwas a first. After we visited Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (the formerSaigon), McCain and the rest of his party went home. A colleague and Istayed behind to visit the famous Cu Chi tunnels. To the Vietnamese, theyare a monument to a lesson they taught us. To us, they are a monument to alesson we never seem to learn.

Experience -- reporting, we call it in my business -- can be vastlyoverrated. I went to Bosnia and Croatia during the war there and came awayconvinced that NATO, which was to say the United States, should stay out ofthat conflict. I was intimidated by the terrain and horrified by the ethnicenmity. I came away with precisely the wrong lesson. NATO went in and endedthe killing.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Tue, Jan. 16, 2007

Terror suspect was terrorized in a Navy brig


The accused was held in extreme isolation for 1,307 days. Held in anine-by-seven-foot cell. The only window blacked out. He was the loneprisoner on the two-tier cellblock. He was given food through a slot in thedoor. He slept on a steel mattress. No reading material. No calendar. Noclock. Nothing to connect him to the outside world.

But it was the short trip down the hallway for a dental examination thatcaptured the utter isolation and sensory deprivation inflicted on JosePadilla during his 3 ½ years in the Navy brig at Charleston, S.C.

Helmeted guards, their faces obscured behind dark plastic visors, manacledhis hands and feet through slots in his cell door. They covered his earswith sound-canceling headphones, covered his eyes with blacked-out goggles.


The Miami Herald


Posted on Tue, Jan. 16, 2007

Reduce poverty in America


The promise of America has been that if you work hard, you can provide abetter life for you and your family. Unfortunately, too many people in thiscountry are working hard, but falling further behind -- with their dream ofa better tomorrow detoured down a path to poverty.

Today, more than 37 million people are living in poverty in one of thewealthiest nations in the world. The numbers are rising, with increasingnumbers of people who are hungry, more children without health insurance andmore families without a decent place to live.

Poverty is a moral and social crisis for our country, one that threatens thehealth and economic well being of both families and our nation as a whole.

Throughout the great history of this country, our nation's leaders and itspeople have demonstrated a capacity to come together in times of greatcrisis to secure the common good of our nation.

The escalating number of people living in poverty is such a crisis, one thatdemands the attention and collective will of the country. Reducing povertywill help not only those in need but also our country as a whole.

That's why Catholic Charities USA is launching the Campaign to ReducePoverty in America to confront this challenge. Our goal is to cut thenation's poverty rate in half by 2020.


The St. Petersburg Times


Hard lessons for our teachers
School systems flock to learn from and adopt the ideas of educational"gurus" intent on retooling outdated curricula.
Published January 16, 2007

On a stage adorned with video screens as big as billboards, Willard R.Daggett moves back and forth with a preacher's zeal, a dose of humor and asling full of zingers.

"I guarantee you I will make everybody at some time in the next hour and 10minutes angry with me," he warns about 3,000 educators packed into aKissimmee ballroom.

English teachers, he says, are "academic elitists" who have helped dumb downcurricula. Math teachers, he says, have a "horrendously poor track record"of introducing concepts in ways that make sense to kids.

Tough assessments like those have helped make Daggett a rock star amongeducation "gurus," a small club that has grown in stature since governmentaccountability programs began pressing school systems to run harder.



The New York Times

January 16, 2007
Op-Ed Columnist
Car Washes and Genocide
Genocide may be the worst of crimes, but historically it has also brought
out the best in some people.

The Raoul Wallenbergs of 2007 speckle America and the globe. And I don't
just mean the aid workers - 13 of whom have been murdered for their efforts
in Darfur since last May - but also those ordinary Americans who have united
in a grass-roots campaign to try to stop genocide half a world away in

President Bush and other world leaders have dropped the ball on Darfur. But
that vacuum of moral leadership has been filled by university students,
churches and temples, celebrities like George Clooney and Mia Farrow, and
armies of schoolchildren.

Their arsenal - green armbands, phone calls to the White House, bake sales
to raise money - all seem pallid. How can a "Save Darfur" lawn sign in
Peoria intimidate government-backed raiders in Sudan or Chad who throw
babies into bonfires?




Through a Glass, Darkly
How the Christian right is reimagining U.S. history

Posted on Wednesday, January 10, 2007. Originally from December 2006. By
Jeff Sharlet.

We keep trying to explain away American fundamentalism. Those of us not
engaged personally or emotionally in the biggest political and cultural
movement of our times-those on the sidelines of history-keep trying to come
up with theories with which to discredit the evident allure of this
punishing yet oddly comforting idea of a deity, this strange god. His
invisible hand is everywhere, say His citizen-theologians, caressing and
fixing every outcome: Little League games, job searches, test scores, the
spread of sexually transmitted diseases, the success or failure of terrorist
attacks (also known as "signs"), victory or defeat in battle, at the ballot
box, in bed. Those unable to feel His soothing touch at moments such as
these snort at the notion of a god with the patience or the prurience to
monitor every tick and twitch of desire, a supreme being able to make a lion
and a lamb cuddle but unable to abide two men kissing. A divine love that
speaks through hurricanes. Who would worship such a god? His followers must
be dupes, or saps, or fools, their faith illiterate, insane, or misinformed,
their strength fleeting, hollow, an aberration. A burp in American history.
An unpleasant odor that will pass.

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